This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross - We Are The Mighty
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This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.


Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.

Entering Shok Valley

The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.

The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.

Combat breaks out

After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.

The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.

“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”

The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.

Three-story explosion and sniper warfare

As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.

“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”

The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.

Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.

Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.

Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.

Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

Planning to leave

American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.

Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.

Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.

Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire

Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.

Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.

Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.

One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.

After the battle

Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.

In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.

NOW: Medal of Honor: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

OR: The definitive guide to US special ops

MIGHTY CULTURE

The luckiest duty stations worldwide

Luck has quite a diverse meaning within the military community. It’s sarcastically used to laugh at impossible situations, it can take years to ponder why it was on your side that day or is just used to define coveted situations or duty stations a few of us fall into. With Saint Patrick’s Day fast approaching, we’re looking at some of the luckiest duty stations worldwide through the many different definitions of the word.


This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Lucky to be a part of such a prestigious assignment

U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brussels-Schinnen is one post where you’ll feel you have a finger on the pulse of the world. That’s because NATO headquarters, located less than ten minutes away, is there. Special status cards, ID’s and privileges may apply to service members and their families depending upon the assignment. With Brussels being the administrative center for the European Union, it can be an exhilarating and fast-paced atmosphere.

The city boasts 14th-century architecture, and the opportunity to rub elbows with top business and government figures of today. As such a unique experience both culturally, and as an assignment within the military, lucky is exactly the feeling you’ll have if stationed here.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Lucky to experience such a remote location

U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll‘s location requires several zooms in if you’re searching on Google Maps. Home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, turquoise waters, and coral reefs for miles. With its ultra remote location, the cultural history of The Marshall Islands is something you’ll remember experiencing forever.

Ancient skills like “wave piloting” have been studied by anthropologists for some time now and are stories or skills families can see firsthand. Remote island life happiness hinges on acclimation. It’s important to remember you won’t be marooned forever and begin to embrace as much sailing, snorkeling or scuba diving as humanly possible between shifts.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Lucky to stand on such historic ground

Hawaii tops many duty station lists for its beautiful location, but an assignment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is much more than a vacation. It’s the chance to stand at the center of one of history’s most iconic moments in time.

With the Pearl Harbor National Memorial essentially in your back yard, it’s time to take that deep dive into the pages of history. Those assigned here should feel lucky to inherit the legacy of this location and do their best to carry on the stories of those forever immortalized in her waters.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Lucky to live in a vacation destination

The Naval Air Station Pensacola is located along the pristine shorelines of the Florida panhandle, a year-round tourist destination. What caught our eye was the opportunity to not just live in a beach town but living oceanfront is made possible via affordable condo living. Who needs a gym membership when your daily swim can be in the Gulf of Mexico?

Another appealing feature of an assignment here is the potential to dive into the military landlord market. Rental opportunities are expanded to include vacation renters in addition to the military crowd.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Lucky to have a “home base” to experience Asia from

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is located on the main island of Japan, near the Yamaguchi Prefecture. If you’d have trouble pinpointing that on a map, you’re not alone. Cities like Hiroshima, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul are all major metros within the geographic area. Flying from the United States to Asia is not cheap, making travel either costly, lengthy (to get it all done in one trip) or both. Being stationed halfway across the world has a major travel perk. What used to be a 12-hour plane ride is now two. Becoming conversationally fluent in the many Asian languages is also much easier while you’re completely immersed within it. We’re confident you’ll feel lucky to have such a unique and culturally rich experience in your life.

Articles

The White House is letting researchers study whether pot helps with PTSD

The White House has lifted a major obstacle long standing in the way of studies into the use of pot to treat victims of post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments.


The Health and Human Services Department has published in the Federal Register its announcement eliminating Public Health Service reviews of marijuana research projects not funded by the government.

“The significance is that the Obama Administration is making formal a decision that they made informally more than a year ago,” said Rick Doblin, executive director of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which plans to conduct a study whose test subjects include 76 veterans.

The Veterans Affairs Department estimates that between 11 and 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD.  For veterans of the Persian Gulf War, the estimate is 12 percent, and for Vietnam veterans, 15 percent.

The Public Health Service granted review approval to the association in March 2014, but also noted in its letter that what it had previously set down as requirements for approval were now suggestions.

The latest move, Doblin said, signals “the Obama Administration is open to ending federal obstruction of privately-funded medical marijuana drug development research.”

HHS in a statement said it was aware that the Public Health Service review “is perceived to be an obstacle to non-federally funded research” and so eliminated it as a requirement.

“The Department expects the action … will help facilitate further research to advance our understanding about the health risks and any potential benefits of medications using marijuana or its components or derivatives, as well as the health implications of other uses of marijuana,” the statement said.

HHS took the step after its officials, along with those of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, concluded that there was enough “overlap” between the two reviews as to make unnecessary the Public Health Service requirement, which has been in place since 1999.

According to Doblin, the reviews offered nothing to advance the kinds of studies his association and others might undertake.

“The PHS reviewers come from the world of basic science, seeking knowledge about how things work. The FDA reviewers come from the perspective of drug development, where you don’t need to know how things work, you just have to prove safety and efficacy,” Doblin said.  “There was a mismatch between the approaches of the different reviewers which ended up with the PHS reviewers rejecting multiple FDA-approved protocols.”

Doblin said another important step that must be taken is to end the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s monopoly on the production of Drug Enforcement Agency-licensed marijuana that can be used in FDA-regulated research.

The move helps clear the way for an oft-delayed study into the use of marijuana in treating veterans with PTSD, Doblin said.

The administration’s decision also comes one month after a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell demanding an end to the requirement for a review by the Public Health Service.

Marijuana is the only Schedule 1 drug for which independent research had required such a review, according to Americans for Safe Access, a group dedicated to ensuring safe and legal access to pot for medical research.

Though the government approved the MAPS study well over a year ago, research has been delayed, in part because the University of Arizona, designated as one of two testing sites, without explanation fired lead researcher, Dr. Suzanne Sisley shortly after it won approval.

The university reportedly terminated Sisley under pressure from Arizona lawmakers opposed to the study.

In a statement released on Monday, Sisley said the government “has systemically impeded marijuana efficacy research, and the PHS review has played a large role in that stonewalling … To see the government finally eliminate this waste of taxpayer dollars is a triumph and hopefully represents another historic shift in drug policy reform.”

Doblin said there is still one more hurdle: ending the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s “monopoly” on the production of marijuana that can be used in Food and Drug Administration-regulated research.

He said the marijuana made available by NIDA can be used for research, “but not for prescription use,” which means the pot will not meet FDA requirement that “studies be conducted with the exact same drug for which marketing approval is being sought.”

He said MAPS will soon begin working in July with Lyle Craker, a professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, to apply to the DEA for a license to grow marijuana specifically for federally regulated research purposes.

Craker has been trying for about a decade to get that permission from the DEA, so far without success.

–Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

Articles

DOD rescinds policy that allowed pro athletes to defer service

The U.S. Department of Defense has rescinded a year-old policy that allowed military service academy athletes such as Keenan Reynolds to play professionally immediately upon graduation.


Athletes will have to serve two years of active duty before applying for reserve status to pursue a pro career. It’s unclear how the order, signed April 29 by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, will affect former Navy standouts such as Reynolds. The wide receiver, entering his second year with the Ravens, is expected to attend the team’s rookie minicamp this weekend.

“Our military academies exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and the lethality of our military services. Graduates enjoy the extraordinary benefit of a military academy education at taxpayer expense. Therefore, upon graduation, officers will serve as military officers for their minimum commitment of two years,” Pentagon chief spokesman Dana W. White said May 1 in a statement.

White added that the Defense Department “has a long history of officer athletes who served their nation before going to the pros including Roger Staubach, Chad Hennings, and David Robinson.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was named most valuable player after throwing for 130 yards and a running the ball in for a touchdown in the Army Navy football game, 2012. (Department of Defense photo by Marv Lynchard)

The policy change was an unexpected blow to NFL prospects not only in Annapolis but also at the Air Force Academy and West Point. Midshipman wide receiver Jamir Tillman was not taken in last week’s NFL draft, but his agent had said he’d drawn interest from NFL teams. The Navy athletic department declined to comment on the policy reversal.

Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette, who led the NCAA in yards per catch last season and is on track to graduate this month, was expected to be a midround selection but wasn’t chosen after academy officials were told April 27 that the Air Force wouldn’t allow him to go straight to the NFL.

Robinette was informed of this decision about an hour into the three-day, seven-round draft. The academy said it wanted to let NFL teams know about the policy’s reversal so teams would know he won’t be available until 2019.

Also read: 5 sports stars who saw heavy combat in the US military

Robinette led the country with 27.4 yards per catch in 2016 and was the first Air Force player ever invited to the East-West Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine. Starting in January, he maintained a full class load while commuting 100 miles six days a week to train with other hopefuls, including top-10 pick Christian McCaffrey, in suburban Denver.

Robinette had prepared for the draft believing he’d be allowed to play in the NFL right away because of a Defense Department decision in the summer of 2016.

After the Ravens drafted Reynolds, a record-breaking triple-option quarterback, in the sixth round in 2016, the department changed its policy for service academy athletes who are offered the opportunity to play professionally, saying they could receive reserve appointments upon graduation and start their pro careers immediately. (All applications for the ready reserve were reviewed on a case-by-case basis.)

Neither the Pentagon nor Reynolds could be reached May 1 to comment on the new order’s effect on his military status. Former Navy fullback Chris Swain and former Air Force tight end Garrett Graham, who spent most of last year on NFL practice squads, also were allowed under the previous policy to defer their active duty last season.

Defense Department officials announced the new order May 1; the Air Force football team arrived in Washington the same day. The Falcons were scheduled to receive the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy at a White House ceremony on May 2.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what a Mexican cartel has done to up its drone game

A Mexican drug cartel, the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG, has been caught with a kamikaze-style drone, marking an escalation of the threat posed by the non-state actors. The drone was discovered when Mexican police arrested four men in a stolen pickup truck.


This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
The seized 3DR Solo quadcopter drone, rigged with a remote-detonated improvised explosive device. (Mexican Federal Police photo)

According to a report by the Washington Times, the cartels have been using drones to smuggle drugs into the United States in recent years, but this marks a move to the type of armed drones used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The drone captured by Mexican police was equipped with an improvised explosive device and remote detonator.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
ISIS is using drones more and more in their warfighting tactics.

An analysis by Small Wars Journal noted that the drone appeared to be a 3DR Solo quadcopter drone. This drone is available for purchase on Amazon.com for $229. Small Wars Journal reported that the takedown took place in an area of Mexico contested by multiple cartels, including the Sinaloa cartel, the Zetas, and CJNG.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
A 3DR Solo quadcopter drone. (Photo from Amazon.com)

The United States has been pursuing a number of counter-UAV technologies. One, the Battelle DroneDefender, can end drones running back to their home base. This could prove a nasty surprise for some bad guy using a drone with an IED. Nammo has developed programmable ammo to shoot down enemy drones. Another promising approach had been to use lasers. Last month, Lockheed and the Army tested the ATHENA laser system against five MQM-170C drones.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
The Battelle DroneDefender. (Photo from Battelle)

In any case, some of those counter-drone systems could very well find themselves being deployed on the southern border of the United States to counter the threat of cartel drones. The scary thing is, the cartels may not be the only folks using drones.

Articles

Afghanistan commander says new rules allow U.S. troops to go on the offensive

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan revealed July 12 he’s been using new rules of engagement that allow his command to deploy American and NATO forces to aid Afghan troops who are on the attack.


The new policy marks a sharp departure from previous authorities for the use of force that restricted U.S. and allied combat power to last ditch efforts to save Afghan troops from defeat.

Afghan mission commander U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson said in a press briefing in Kabul that now U.S. and NATO forces can use airpower and other troops “so that the Afghan Army can assume the offensive against the enemy.”

“As we focused on it this year, we used our in-extremis authorities that we had at the time to help prevent a strategic defeat. … It was in a defensive, reactive kind of manner,” Nicholson said. “With the new authorities that we have now, as of June, we’re able to then provide combat enablers to assist the Afghans … taking the initiative against the enemy and their staging areas.”

The new authority comes on the heels of a stinging Pentagon report that showed special operations forces trying to help Afghan troops fight off a Taliban takeover of Kunduz in 2015 were hamstrung over rules of engagement that left them confused over when they could fight.

According to the report obtained by Reuters, commandos who radioed back for clarification of the ROEs were left hanging by superiors in the rear.

“Sadly, the only sounds audible were the sounds of crickets … though those were hard to hear over the gunfire,” one special operator said in the Pentagon report, according to Reuters.

Nicholson launched a reassessment of the Afghanistan operation, dubbed “Resolute Support Mission,” when he assumed command in February. And in June he was given new authority to help Afghan troops on offense.

In one battle, Nicholson explained he was able to sortie F-16s to strike Taliban positions outside Tarin Kowt to help Afghan forces clear roads cut off by insurgents.

“Since that operation … we’re using our new authorities so that the Afghan army can assume the offensive against the enemy in Maiwand District, Band-e-Timor area, which is a well-known staging area. So it’s offensive,” Nicholson said.

President Obama announced last week he would keep about 8,500 American troops assigned to Afghanistan to fight the continued Taliban insurgency and fight terrorist groups.

Nicholson said during his press conference that about 3,000 U.S. troops would be assigned to continue training and advising Afghan troops, with another 3,300 “enablers,” including helicopter and fixed wing aircraft crews, assigned to give the Afghans a little extra combat punch.

The force also includes about 2,150 troops dedicated to the counterterrorism mission and about 400 troops based in other countries but helping with the Resolute Support mission.

MIGHTY FIT

5 motivational videos will make you run out and join a gym

You need to be motivated to get and stay in shape. Whether that inspiration is rooted in making money, being attractive, or simply maintaining good health, everyone needs a reason to continue to push themselves to their physical limits.

Unfortunately, more than half of those who start a workout routine will give up on it in just a matter of weeks. We’ve seen it hundreds of times: On January 1st, the gym is packed. On January 14th, that surge of newcomers has completely tapered off. This is especially troubling because, according to Army veteran and fitness expert Jennifer Campbell, “veterans have a 70 percent higher chance of developing obesity than the general public.”

So, to help our fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms find the motivation they need to build, complete, and maintain a routine, we put together a collection of videos that will get you hyped on your journey of returning to military shape.


Also Read: 4 reasons why veterans make the best fitness trainers

www.youtube.com

“Effort is so important’ — C.T. Fletcher

This U.S. Army veteran is considered by many to be the godfather of the YouTube fitness community. His commanding presence has motivated a countless number of veterans to get back in the gym. He’s out to inspire self-confidence and help you put 100% effort into every workout.

Remember, you are your biggest critic — overcome self-doubt.

www.youtube.com

WWE training with John Cena

This wrestler-turned-actor is known for his roles in military films, like The Marine and The Wall. When Cena isn’t killing bad guys on the silver screen, you can usually find him at Hard Nock’s Gym, where he constantly trains his body to reach its full potential.

Cena gains motivation his failures. He continuously strives to beat the obstacles that once defeated him.

www.youtube.com

‘Wonder Woman’ — Cassandra Martin

For all of our sisters looking to get into shape, we present to you Cassandra Martin, one of the prime figures in the world of female bodybuilding. Her strong work ethic and constant drive to be better than she was yesterday shows as she battles each rep to the very end.

Martin’s strength and strict workout routines motivate countless aspiring women and men on their journeys to reach their fitness goals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1H_fL_IFUgw

www.youtube.com

The Rock’s ultimate workout motivation

Known for his outstanding charm and sense of humor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has motivated countless people of all ages to make goals and smash through them. Johnson’s constant workout routines are what enable him to do some insane stunts for his films. His amazing career and top-tier physique remind us that hard work does pay off.

www.youtube.com

Marky Mark will inspire you

It’s no secret that Mark Wahlberg is a staunch military supporter — he’s visited troops all over the world in his downtime. Although he’s not a young as he once was, Wahlberg continues to hit the gym and prove that age doesn’t mean sh*t — it’s all about your drive.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking care of people is key to success on battlefield

Gen. James McConville smiled as he reminisced of when he was chosen to lead the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), before he became its longest-serving commander.

It was the same week in 2011 he commissioned his eldest son into the Army after he graduated as an ROTC cadet from Boston College.

But perhaps the most proud was his father, a former enlisted sailor who had served in the Korean War and then spent nearly 50 years working at the Boston Gear factory.

At the ceremony, his father, Joe, was asked by a local newspaper how he felt about his family’s generations of military service.


Sixty years ago, he told the reporter, he was a junior seaman on a ship. And today, his son was about to command a famed Army division and his grandson was now a second lieutenant.

“‘What a great country this is,'” McConville recalled his father saying. “I don’t think I could have said it better.”

McConville, who was sworn in as the Army’s 40th chief of staff on Aug. 9, 2019, said he credits his father for inspiring him to join the military.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

(Photo by Spc. Markus Bowling))

After high school, McConville left Quincy, a suburb of Boston, and attended the U.S. Military Academy, where he graduated in 1981. Since then his 38-year career has been marked with milestones and key assignments.

McConville has led multiple units in combat before most recently serving as the 36th vice chief of staff under Gen. Mark Milley, who will be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also oversaw the Army’s G-1 (personnel) and legislative liaison offices.

The idea of serving the country was sparked by his father, who, now nearing 90 years old, still passionately shares stories of his time in the military.

“I was always amazed that a man who I had tremendous respect for, who had tremendous character, just really loved his time serving in the Navy,” the general said.

Currently with three children and a son-in-law in the Army, McConville and his wife, Maria, a former Army officer herself, are continuing the family business.

People first

The sense of family for McConville, though, extends beyond bloodlines.

As a father and a leader, McConville understands the importance of taking care of every person in the Army, which he calls the country’s most respected institution.

“People are the Army,” he said of soldiers, civilians and family members. “They are our greatest strength, our most important weapon system.”

Fine-tuning that weapon system means, for instance, providing soldiers with the best leadership, training and equipment through ongoing modernization efforts.

As the vice chief, McConville and current acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy supervised the development of Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams.

Designed to tackle modernization priorities, the CFTs revamped how the Army procures new equipment. The teams allow soldiers to work directly with acquisition and requirements experts at the start of projects, resulting in equipment being delivered faster to units.

Modernization efforts are also changing how soldiers will fight under the new concept of multi-domain operations.

“When I talk about modernization, there are some that think it is just new equipment,” he said. “But, to me, it is much more than that.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

The family of Gen. James McConville poses for a photo during a promotion ceremony in honor of his son, Capt. Ryan McConville, in his office at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., May 2, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

He believes a new talent management system, which is still being developed, will help soldiers advance in their careers.

As the Army pivots from counterinsurgency missions to great power competition against near-peer rivals, the system could better locate and recognize soldiers with certain skillsets the service needs to win.

“If we get them in the right place at the right time,” he said, “we’ll have even a better Army than we have right now.”

The talent of Army civilians, which he says are the “institutional backbone of everything we do,” should also be managed to ensure they grow in their positions, too.

As for family members, he said they deserve good housing, health care, childcare and spousal employment opportunities.

“If we provide a good quality of life for our families, they will stay with their soldiers,” he said.

Winning matters

All of these efforts combine into a two-pronged goal for McConville — an Army that is ready to fight now while at the same time being modernized for the future fight.

“Winning matters,” he said. “When we send the United States Army somewhere, we don’t go to participate, we don’t go to try hard. We go to win. That is extremely important because there’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”

Readiness, he said, is built by cohesive teams of soldiers that are highly trained, disciplined and fit and can win on the battlefield.

“We’re a contact sport,” he said. “They need to make sure that they can meet the physical and mental demands.”

To help this effort, a six-event readiness assessment, called the Army Combat Fitness Test, is set to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been around since 1980.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Gen. James McConville, the Army vice chief of staff, swears in recruits during a break in the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The new strenuous fitness test, which is gender- and age-neutral, was developed to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks and reduce injuries. It is expected to be the Army’s fitness test of record by October 2020.

Soldiers also need to sharpen their characteristic traits that make them more resilient in the face of adversity, he said.

Throughout his career, especially in combat, McConville said he learned that staying calm under pressure was the best way to handle stress and encourage others to complete the mission.

In turn, being around soldiers in times of peace or war kept McConville motivated when hectic days seem to never end.

“Every single day I get to serve in the company of heroes,” he said. “There are some people who look for their heroes at sporting events … or movie theaters, but my heroes are soldiers.

“My heroes are soldiers because I have seen them do extraordinary things in very difficult situations,” he added. “I’m just incredibly proud to serve with them.”

And given his new role overseeing the entire Army, he is now ultimately responsible for every single one of those “heroes.”

“I know having three kids who serve in the military that their parents have sent their most important possession to the United States Army,” he said, “and they expect us, in fact they demand, that we take care of them.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What US Navy’s visit to WWII hub means for war in the Pacific

When the USS Emory S. Land, one of the Navy’s two submarine tenders, sailed into the Ulithi Atoll on Dec. 7, 2019, it was a return to a major hub for US operations in World War II and yet another sign the US military is thinking about how it would fight a war in the Pacific.

Only four of the atoll’s 40 small islands are inhabited, but they all surround one of the world’s largest lagoons, which was a vital jumping-off point for the Navy as it island-hopped closer to the Japanese mainland during the war.

“It was the logistical hub for the invasions in the Philippines, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa — all of those operations were launched from the base at Ulithi,” Capt. Michael Luckett, commanding officer of the Emory S. Land, said in a release. “At the height, there were as many as 700 ships anchored there in the lagoon, including dry docks, repair ships, tenders, battleships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and sea planes.”


The Philippines, which includes Leyte Gulf, and the Japanese islands, including Okinawa, are part of the Pacific’s first island chain, of which Taiwan is also part.

Farther east is the second island chain, comprising Japan’s volcanic islands, which include Iwo Jima, and the Mariana Islands, which are administered by the US and include Guam, where the Land and fellow tender USS Frank Cable are stationed.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

The approximate boundaries of the first and second island chains in the western Pacific.

(US Defense Department)

The island chain strategy has been around for some time, developed with the Soviet Union in mind. It has gained renewed attention as China’s influence has risen.

The first island chain is now within reach of Chinese naval and land-based weapons, while the second island chain is an important strategic line of defense for the US. Ulithi, west of Guam, has an important place between the two.

“It’s a convenient place to operate that’s relatively close but not so close that you’re going to be exposed to large numbers of either Chinese forces or Chinese missile attack, potentially,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

While underway replenishment is common for the Navy today, calm waters inside atolls like Ulithi still make them valuable spots to resupply submarines and surface ships.

“One thing you can’t do while you’re underway is rearming. So a ship that launches a bunch of missiles … they can’t just send the missiles over and reload them at sea,” said Clark, who was a Navy submariner and led development of strategy as special assistant to the chief of naval operations.

“You pretty much have to pull into port” to rearm, Clark said. “So this would be a way to have the ship pull into the atoll, have the tender load up the missiles in the [vertical launching system] magazine, and then the ship can go back out rearmed,” Clark added.

In a conflict, the release said, Ulithi “could again represent a logistical hub capable of supporting the fleet.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Sailors aboard submarine tender USS Emory S. Land look on as submarine tender USS Frank Cable departs Apra Harbor in Guam for sea trials, December 16, 2019.

(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class Heather C. Wamsley)

Not just submarines

The Land and Cable, usually working out of Guam or Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, provide maintenance and logistical support to US ships in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.

“They’re designed mainly for submarines because submarines have more maintenance requirements, but they actually do maintenance on surface ships as well,” Clark said.

They mostly do minor repairs, but they can work on more complex systems like nuclear reactors. Tenders also have dive teams that can do perform repairs on the hull and its coating in the water.

“They can do welding. They can do hull repair. They can do replacement of components. They can remove interference that’s in the way of replacing a pump or something,” Clark added. “So they can do lots of relatively heavy maintenance that just doesn’t require dry-docking.”

These kinds of fixes can extend how long a warship is suited for combat before it must return to an industrial hub for an overhaul.

The Land’s visit to Ulithi was meant “to demonstrate the submarine tender’s ability to return to Ulithi and successfully anchor within the lagoon,” the release said. Luckett said it showed the Land could “do all of the things needed inside the lagoon without any support from external sources.”

“The idea,” Clark said, is that the tenders would provide support “not just for submarines but also for surface ships. That’s probably the the bigger purpose of putting it into the atoll … to support surface combatants.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a 5-pound payload to the the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii during a training exercise off the coast of Oahu, October 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)

Keeping the fight going

The Pentagon’s shift to “great power competition” with Russia and China has put renewed emphasis on logistics networks in Europe and the Pacific, the latter of which, a vast ocean dotted with far-flung islands, presents a particular challenge for resupply and reinforcement.

The Navy has “been putting time and research into how you might do it. They actually haven’t been making that many investments changing how they do the logistics,” Clark said, but there have “been analyses and studies and some technical research on different techniques.”

One of those was illustrated in October, when sailors used a small drone to deliver a 5-pound package to a sub about a mile off the coast of Oahu in Hawaii.

“What started as an innovative idea has come to fruition as a potentially radical new submarine logistics delivery capability,” a Navy officer said at the time. “A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than 5 pounds, so this capability could alleviate the need for boats to pull into ports for parts or medical supplies.”

The drone’s payload and its range put limits on the additional capability it can provide to the fleet right now, Clark said.

But it would still provide some safety benefit and save time by obviating the need for a sub to sail into port to get those supplies — and in a conflict in the western Pacific, where China could sortie a lot of subs quickly, timing could make all the difference.

Plus, success with a small drone now could lead to bigger advantages in the future.

“If you take that and extrapolate,” Clark said, “a larger drone could cover a longer distance and maybe do the same operation, so now I do get a more distributed supply network.”

“If you had a bigger UAV, like a Fire Scout or something, that could go for three hours and might cover a couple of hundred miles. Well, then maybe … that’ll allow you to spread out your logistics networks,” Clark added, referring to an unmanned helicopter the Navy wants to use aboard littoral combat ships.

“Now the ship with a couple of Fire Scouts can cover a lot more area than it could if it was just doing it by itself.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Rebels in Syria fought with rare, expensive Nazi-made rifles

World War II history buffs are going to lose their minds. A Syrian rebel faction called the al-Tawhid Brigade stumbled on an arms cache of 5,000 German WWII-era Sturmgwehr 44 (STG-44) rifles.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EsCle4ooM0

The STG-44 was designed to increase the volume of fire for German infantry units fighting on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army. It accomplished this mission but was developed too late in the war to make an impact.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
A German soldier demonstrates a Sturmgwehr equipped with a scope during testing in 1943.

The rebels thought they’d found a cache of Ak-47s. The two don’t look that much alike, but it’s understandable how the ill-armed and ill-equipped group would get excited at their find anyway.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
AK-47 vs. STG-44

Besides, there’s little reason to see how 5,000 Nazi-built rifles worth an estimated $30,000 apiece ended up in the Syrian desert.

The al-Tawhid Brigade was an Islamist faction originally allied with the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Coalition against the government of Bashar al-Asad. In 2013, the al-Tawhid Brigade along with 11 other factions, would leave the Coalition and join al-Qaeda. That same year, its head commander died of wounds sustained in a Syrian government air strike and the group’s membership would defect to the various other groups fighting pro-Asad forces. The group is now defunct.

There is no word on what happened to the rare, expensive Nazi relics. For those keeping tabs at home, that’s a $150 million dollar loss.

Keep an eye out for those STG-44s. They’ve shown up in state-sponsored gun buybacks in California and Connecticut.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 boring details a Space Force private will get stuck on

The Space Force is presumed to be exactly like our current military. Over-the-top recruitment videos will only lead to utter disappointment, just like any other branch. “You’ll get to see the world,” the recruiter will promise, but we all know you’ll probably just be seeing it from a desk back on Earth. Even in many years when the need for space infantrymen comes up, it’ll still be filled with all the same BS that happens down here.

Think about it. There will still be NCOs and officers who will still need to bide their time until closeout formation. The only difference will be that it’ll take place 254 miles above the Earth’s surface. And how will latrines work? Who will clean them?!

You know the answer.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

That’s just from man-made stuff… then you have to worry about the stardust

(NASA)

1. Literally cleaning the ship absolutely spotlessly

Remember those novelty “space pens” that you can find at souvenir shops? The joke on the back is that America spent a butt load of cash trying to get a pen that could write upside-down and with zero-G’s but those crafty Russians just used a pencil. Hate to burst that bubble but no one uses pencils in space for a very specific reason.

Any bit of dust or flakes caused by just regular everyday things, like pencil shavings, could mess with electrical systems while it’s floating around in space.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

You can’t honestly expect lieutenants to clean up after themselves when there are privates available, now can you?

2. Vacuuming all that stardust

Of course no one down here can see it, but space is actually pretty filthy. There’s plenty of dust on the outside the atmosphere from when the universe was formed and we can’t go around with an unclean space ship. Most of it is microscopic but NASA astronauts regularly have to clean the dust or else it gets everywhere.

Any spacewalk done will suck in plenty of that minuscule specs of dust whenever the bay-doors open. When the astronaut comes back into the oxygen-filled area, the dust will follow. And some poor space private will have to vacuum all that up.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

I want this globe spotless or no one is being released.

(NASA)

3. Police calling space debris

All of this is just to clean up the inside of ship — there’s also the outside. Satellites and other man-made debris deteriorate eventually and even a 1cm paint flake could zoom low orbit faster than a bullet. Those flakes can rupture panels and cause all sorts of hell on the ship.

This problem is magnified with even larger pieces of debris, like a baseball sized scrap of metal hitting anything at 4.76 miles per second. To prevent Newton’s Second Law (force is equal to the mass times acceleration) from obliterating everyone on board, it’s up to the space privates to handle it.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Good luck finding that ONE serial number for the change of command layout.

(NASA)

4. Container organizing… but in zero Gs

At first, it seems like this would be so much easier in space. You wouldn’t have to lift heavy things because it’s near weightless now. And astronauts are notorious about taking only what they need into space. But that’s the silver-lining. Trying to tie things down and organizing things to take up as little space as possible is the real problem.

A space private’s Tetris skills will be checked as there isn’t any room for open space.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Imagine losing a wrench and sending it soaring into Earth’s atmosphere.

(NASA)

5. Repairing the exterior of the ship

There is a diminishing return on enjoyment. The first time you go on a space walk, it’ll be beyond your wildest expectations. Your 1,348th time going on a space walk to scrub the stardust off the window because the Colonel is coming won’t be as great.

Even more high-stress would be making repairs on the spaceship. Any minor mistake and either you die alone or everyone gets sucked into the vacuum of space.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the military is starting to crack down on the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’

Recently, a new “challenge” trend has emerged on the internet. This time around, people are eating single-load Tide Pods and, with this reason-defying phenomenon, comes a wave of memes defending the pods and even videos of teenagers actually eating them.


It’s called the “Tide Pod Challenge.” What started out as a joke about how the colors and smells of a Tide Pod are candy-like (kind of like a larger version of a Fruit Gusher) quickly got swept away, following Poe’s law, by idiots. A large majority of people who defend eating them are just trolling. They — and others — understand that eating laundry detergent is f*cking toxic.

And yet, there’re at least a few dumbasses that don’t get the joke and are actually eating the damn things.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

The Duffel Blog released a satirical article about Marine Corps leaders telling Marines to stop eating Tide Pods. Their article was a great piece of satire, joking that the officials feared an uptick in sick Marines as others “pass on troublesome rumors that they can eat Tide Pods to give them more energy on hikes or give them a boost in upper body strength.”

But in at least one Army AIT, they actually are cracking down on Tide Pods. Posted on The Salty Soldier Facebook page, someone sent in proof that their sergeants were taking away their laundry pods.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
(Image via Salty Soldier)

If you do a little digging, you’ll find that there are other users on social media talking about how, usually in Basic or AIT, other privates are eating them. We’re dumbfounded, but don’t be surprised if this Friday’s safety brief includes a reminder to not eat toxic chemicals, no matter what you read on the internet.

Besides, if you eat one and post it to YouTube, your video will be taken down and you’ll basically just poison yourself for nothing. To everyone who thinks this is an actual problem, you can relax knowing that it’s just a terrible joke that will die down sooner or later.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What do Air Force fighter pilots do?

Welcome to our newest Sandboxx series: Air Force Fighter Pilots with U.S. Air Force F-35 pilot instructor and Sandboxx News contributor, Major Justin “Hasard” Lee.

In this series, Justin will be taking us through every facet of the fighter pilot lifestyle, breaking it down for you in a way that you’ve never seen before.


In this first edition, Justin explains what Air Force fighter pilots do, and it entails a whole lot more than just flying an aircraft. Fighter pilots are responsible for the planning, the execution, and then the debriefing for each sortie.

Air Force Fighter Pilots | Ep. 1: What do Air Force fighter pilots do?

www.youtube.com

Here’s Major Justin “Hasard” Lee to explain… What do Air Force fighter pilots do?

Do you want to learn more about life as an F-35 pilot? Click here and you can check out Justin Lee’s advice now how to conserve your mental energy like jet fuel, whether you’re in the sky or not.

Then you can click here to see what pulling 9Gs in a fighter jet can do to Justin’s face.

Want to know more about dogfighting? Justin’s covered that here.

You can also click here to learn more about developing mental discipline in the same ways that pilots do.

And of course, click here to read the story of Justin’s top-speed flight in a stripped-down dragster of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

If you still haven’t had enough fighter pilot in your day, then make sure you check out Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook! Each week, he brings on experts and gurus from the Fortune 500 to Navy SEAL BUDS training and helps you get to know what makes people successful in any venture.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.