Where Are They Now? An update on the "Taliban 5" exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl - We Are The Mighty
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Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

The Taliban Five are not the reigning champions of Afghanistan’s Got Talent. They are five long-term prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a controversial move, the Obama administration released the five in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal struck by the Emir of Qatar in 2014. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years.


The Taliban Five were among those the Administration deemed too hot to transfer to prison on the U.S. mainland, but not hot enough to remain in Gitmo. This is our rundown on where they came from, and an update on where they are these days.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

Mohammed Fazl: Deputy Defense Minister in Afghanistan under the Taliban and senior military commander in the North during the American invasion. He was outside of Mazar-e Sharif when the prisoners of war held there revolted against their Northern Alliance captors. The Obama administration’s review of his case in 2010 says he may have been responsible for CIA agent Mike Spann’s death at Mazar-e Sharif. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan. Fazl is also responsible for killing ethnic minorities in the country and is connected to the killing of Iranian diplomats.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

Norullah Nori: Nori was with Mohammed Fazl at a fortress near Mazar-e Sharif in Northern Afghanistan and may have been involved in Spann’s death. He is also responsible for massacring Shia Afghans, something he admitted to while at Gitmo.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Abdul Haq Wasiq: Wasiq was the head of Taliban intelligence and is responsible for torturing and murdering Afghan civilians. He is connected to al-Qaeda.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

Khirullah Khairkhwa: Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province under Taliban rule and was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is believed he helped found the Taliban in 1994. He met with officials from Iran and was a friend of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

Mohammed Nabi Omari: A Taliban official who helped smuggle weapons into Afghanistan after the American invasion, Omari is connected to both the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terror group the Haqqani Network. While in captivity, Omari was deemed a risk to his captors.

In 2014, the five were transferred to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl and are being monitored by the Qatari and U.S. security services, according to the Omani Tribune. The Obama Administration demanded strict monitoring as part of the deal because the first time the U.S. released a Taliban POW, Abdul Qayyum Zakir (released by the Bush administration in 2007), he returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting Coalition forces, eventually becoming the overall Taliban military commander.

He has not yet received his reward of a U.S. military drone strike.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Yet.

The five are also currently fighting a travel ban with the government of Qatar, who are under pressure from the United States to help keep the five men from posing a threat to Americans or American interests.

According to CNN, the men will remain in Qatar under house arrest, until long-term solutions can be made. Where they want to go is unclear, as neither Pakistan or Afghanistan will take them. Some believe Fazl would likely attempt to join ISIS if he leaves Qatar, while two others want to rejoin the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Taliban negotiators and other representatives of the Afghanistan-based insurgent group are based in Qatar, where their every need is met in wealth and splendor. Until the world figures out what to do with the five, they will remain in Doha’s lap of luxury, with other Taliban diplomats.

NOW: 17 Laws every Taliban militant needs to follow

OR: 4 of the most famous deserters in U.S. military history

Articles

See how the Sri Lankan navy rescued this cute elephant

On July 11, 2017, the Sri Lankan navy was conducting operations nine miles out to sea and spotted something surprising: an elephant swimming in the deep ocean.


Elephants are actually excellent swimmers for land animals, using their powerful legs to propel themselves forward and breathing through their trunk. But they aren’t true endurance swimmers or deepwater experts.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
(Photo: Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to Avinash Krishnan, a research officer for conservation group A Rocha who spoke to the Guardian, swimming out nine miles isn’t horribly rare for elephants. But saltwater bothers their skin and they burn a lot of energy while swimming, making rescue necessary.

Luckily for the little pachyderm, the Sri Lankan sailors were happy to assist. They used ropes, divers, and their ships to pull the elephant close to shore over the course of a 12-hour rescue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVZPLVkzt-c
Oddly enough, this wasn’t an isolated event. The very next week, the navy spotted two elephants in distress 1.5 miles from the coast. The animals were barely keeping their trunks above water when a patrol craft spotted them. They were also rescued by boats pulling them to shore with ropes attached by divers.
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Here’s where the term ‘Bravo Zulu’ comes from

Everyone’s a critic. After you complete a job, someone is going to tell you how you did. If you messed up, you’re gonna hear about it.


In the military, if you did good work, you may have heard the term “Bravo Zulu,” which means “well done,” — but…why?

Since the Navy has strong traditions, motivated sailors tend to uphold those traditions and use nautical terms in their everyday dialogue. But why not just say “well done,” right?

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

According to the Navy, the popular term comes from the Allied Naval Signal Book created by NATO as a system of signals displayed by either a flag hoist or voice radio to communicate and relay messages back and forth between various naval vessels.

The system is comprised of letters and/or numbers that are represented by flags and pennants which have meaning either by themselves or in different combinations.

Related: Here’s the history behind ‘Reveille’

The Navy uses a system of 68 flags covering the 26 letters of the alphabet, 10 numeral, 10 numeral pennants, 4 substitutes, and 18 special flags and pennants.

When a ship wants to relay a message like “well done,” they will hold up the two flags like shown below.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

If a vessel wants to communicate another message like “action is being carried out” they would hang up the “Bravo Alpha” flag or “action is not being carried out” the “Bravo India” flag will get hoisted.

A hoisted “Bravo” flag by itself means the vessel is “carrying dangerous cargo” which is far different than doing a job “well done.” For more nautical messages click here.

You’re welcome, America.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Our Forgotten Heroes: Why don’t we talk about World War I?

During the “Great War”, the United States of America lost over 116,000 of her troops in a span of only 19 months. While initially remaining neutral and refusing to enter into World War I when it began in 1914, that changed after repeated attacks on America’s ships. In 1917 the U.S. entered into the fray, declaring war against Germany.

It can be argued that without American’s force beside the allies, the war wouldn’t have ended in victory, but a stalemate. History has documented this impressive and vital piece of our story. So why don’t we talk about it and those incredible heroes that turned the tide for an entire world in the name of democracy?


Why don’t we discuss how more Marines were killed or wounded in the battle of Belleau Wood than their service’s entire history at that point? That battle alone claimed over 10,000 American casualties in just three weeks. It should also be known that France refused to enter into this particular battle because they felt it was too dangerous. Instead, they insisted that the Americans do it.

We did, but it came at an extremely heavy cost.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

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In September of 1918, 1.2 million American troops entered into the deadliest battle in its history. Many were undertrained and not yet battle-tested – but their sheer numbers and grit did what other armies could not in four years. It was an incredible offensive effort as the Expeditionary Forces of the United States actually caught Germany completely by surprise with their attack.

America’s troops took an area that had been held for four years in just two short days. This battle ended the war, but America lost 26,277 of their own to win it. We also had 192,000 casualties. It was this specific battle at Meuse-Argonne, or The Battle of Argonne Forest, that pushed Germany into literally pleading for an end of World War I. America brought Germany to its knees.

This war was pivotal for so many things that have occurred in the last hundred years. We need to remember those lost their lives in the name of democracy. Let us also not forget the ones that died slowly years following World War I due to the effects of the lingering bullets, “shell shock” (now called post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of poison gas exposure.

Those who survived through all of that though? Their personal war at home was just beginning.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

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When service members returned home following the end of World War I, they were celebrated with parades – if they were white. The African American men who returned home after fighting alongside their brothers’ in arms were treated with open hostility and disdain. Some were killed.

The years following the “Great War” were not kind or easy to digest but need to be remembered. They matter.

Following the war, the Great Depression and race riots wreaked havoc on the United States, leading many to question what they fought for. Not only did they question their sacrifice – but they were deeply suffering after their service for their country.

Veterans received just with an honorable discharge. Although they received monetary allotments if they had a disability through the War Risk Insurance Act, it wasn’t enough. They were also required to maintain insurance for care and paid a premium that came out of that allotment, reducing their income even more. Many were too severely disabled to work to make any extra income and the money they received from the government didn’t cover living any kind of quality life.
Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

media.defense.gov

High unemployment, lack of quality medical care and poor housing was the “thanks for your service” that these veterans received – if they were white.

The African American veterans were often denied housing or any kind of equality – leaving them homeless and destitute. This terrible choice for America to treat these brave men in such an abominable way would go on to pave the way for the next seventy years of struggle, advocacy, and racial tension that the country had ever seen.

The government failed all of its returning servicemen.

America failed its heroes by avoiding that chapter in its history.

Our World War I veterans did fight, suffer, and die for our freedom. Let us not forget it.

Articles

These vintage photos prove the military has always worked hard (and played harder)

Pictures of off-duty soldiers capture the everyday, mundane moments of what life is really like on the front lines. Much of a soldier’s time in the field doesn’t involve combat or danger, but rather, ordinary tasks, down time, and simple boredom. No matter where the war is or what it’s about, troops in the field often have a lot of time on their hands, not much to do, and a lot of alcohol around. This leads to some great candid moments, and when cameras are around, great pictures.


Soldiers going on leave would often take photos to remember the good times they had, or to memorialize their comrades. There were also performances, bands, and card games to wile away the time, and this is true on all sides of every war. There are as many pictures of German soldiers smiling and goofing off as there are British and American. These photos humanize wars and the people who fought them.

Here are some of the best pictures of soldiers off-duty, taken all over the world.Vote up the best vintage photos of off-duty soldiers below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.

Vintage Photos of Off-Duty Soldiers

Articles

The Olympics for special operators just got underway

The Summer Olympics Games may be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but all eyes are on Peru this week as security forces from 20 nations compete at Fuerzas Comando, a friendly military skills competition where the top special operations forces and police forces from the Western Hemisphere compete for the coveted Fuerzas Comando Cup.


Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Special Operations Forces from 20 nations take part in opening ceremonies for Fuerzas Comando 2016 outside of Lima, Peru. (U.S. Army photo)

Along with the U.S. and Colombian delegations, teams from the nations of Argentina, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay will compete in this year’s event. The U.S. team is represented by elite Green Berets from the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group.

The U.S. is looking to finally bring home the gold after coming in second place each of the previous two years, losing to the Colombian special operations team. Colombia has won the last three Fuerzas Comando competitions and has won seven times overall since the games were established in 2011.

Sponsored by U.S. Southern Command and executed by U.S. Special Operations Command South, the annual event aims to improve cooperation, knowledge, and interoperability between participating countries. It’s broken down into two parts: an assault team competition and a sniper team competition.  Each event is scored and evaluated by judges from each of the 20 participating nations to provide a fair and balanced evaluation of all the participating nations.

The team who wins each event wins 200 points. The team with the most points by the end of the week-long event wins the title of Fuerzas Comando champion. These are the events in which the teams will be judged:

Physical Fitness

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christine Lorenz)

This event consists of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 2-mile run.

2016 Competition Update: The Guatemala Team place 1st in this event and were awarded 200 points. They were followed by Mexico and Honduras. The U.S. team placed 14th in this event.  

Marksmanship

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier fires at a 100-meter range July 16, 2015, during Fuerzas Comando competition held in Poptun, Guatemala. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christine Lorenz)

A series of tests assessing the marksmanship abilities of the assault team members using both rifle and pistol from various distances. Each of the events is timed.

Stress test

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
A member of the U.S. team pulls an evacuation sled loaded with a 250-pound mannequin to a range during the Fuerzas Comando Stress Test event. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Wilma Orozco Fanfan)

Competitors must run long distances with heavy objects and drag large mannequins across various stations on a firing range and then engage stationary targets. The team with the most successful hits wins 200 points.

Aquatics

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Peruvian team members swim down a creek while pulling their gear during last year’s Fuerzas Comando. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Andrew Kuhn)

This event consists of getting across a large body of water in a raft, run 3 miles with their rucks, swim with full military gear and weapons, and then sprint to a pistol marksmanship range and engage targets.

Obstacle Course

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Haitian competitors navigate an obstacle during Fuerzas Comando 15. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Menegay)

The obstacle course consists of a series of stations such as a rope climb, horizontal ladders, wall climbs, and rappelling tall towers to test each individual’s strength, endurance, and balance.

Ruck March

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Chilean competitors race to complete a 20-kilometer road march during last year’s Fuerzas Comando competition held in Poptun, Guatemala. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite)

Competitors compete in a 12-mile ruck march with full military equipment. Team with the fastest time wins the event.

Combat Assault (Shoot House)

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Members of the Uruguayan assault team breach a doorway during a live-fire shoot house. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

Each nation’s assault team moves through a shoot house to clear several targets. Teams must eliminate all threats located inside and rescue a hostage dummy. Each team must carry their hostage back to the finish line to successfully complete the event.

Sniper concealment and Mobility

Move within a range observe and engage a target while remaining undetected. They must return to the starting point without being seen by the judges. The teams have 90 mins to complete this event.

Sniper Unknown Distance Shoot

 

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
The Panamanian sniper team scans for targets during a live-fire exercise as part of last year’s Fuerzas Comando. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

Competitors engage targets from various distances, 300 to 800 meters. The team who hits the most targets wins the event.

The exercise ends with a multinational friendship airborne jump. To stay updated on the day-to-day results and scores on the competition, follow https://www.facebook.com/USSOCSOUTH/

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

DoD tests cyber warriors in deployment-like conditions

Exercise Patriot Warrior featured airmen, sailors, and soldiers practicing their cyber defense skills in highly challenging environments.


“We have to stay ready at all times to defend our networks at home and abroad,” said Air Force Senior Airmen Christopher Hillen, an exercise participant. “This exercise is so important, once we get deployed and experience different situations we’re going to lean on the training we received here and apply it to real world situations.”

One part of Patriot Warrior enabled Air Force and Army personnel to interact and train together in realistic scenarios providing both services with a unique perspective on the exercise and future missions.

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Staff Sgt. Michael Bigee and Airman Steven Hilton, 265th Combat Communications Squadron cyber operations specialists, work on systems at Fort McCoy, Wis., June 12, 2015.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea Salazar)

Challenging Scenarios

“These scenarios provide our soldiers and also the airmen with a very realistic outlook on what both entities could expect in the real world,” said Army Maj. Robert Bell, 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade operations and plans officer. “Everyone learns great lessons in trainings like this, it develops different skills that each other has learned and also builds confidence in our airmen and soldiers.

The exercise was comprised of joint forces from around the country to showcase deployment capabilities and was hosted here. The exercise hosted Army, Navy and Air Force personnel from 22 different bases.

“Working with other services is an invaluable experience for our Airmen and their development as cyber operators,” said Air Force Maj. Bennett Reid, director of operations.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

Airmen and Soldiers gather during Exercise Patriot Warrior for cyber defense training on Aug. 8, 2018 at Fort McCoy, Wisc. Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint partners in the combat support training exercise.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Xavier Lockley)

Cyber Combat Support Training

“With this being the first time that we’ve integrated with the Army in a cyber combat support training exercise, it allowed us to see areas in which we aren’t as strong and fix the issue as team,” Reid said. “We got to work with a network we’d never seen before, and we had to learn how to get plugged into our weapon system which we had to learn but it helped us understand how to operate other networks outside of our comfort zone.”

Exercises like Patriot Warrior provide critical contingency oriented skills for all members who participate, but there is also a bigger picture in mind.

“The way the fight is won nowadays is through cyberspace,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Christian Coleman, a reservist from the 911th Communications Squadron cyberspace operations controller and member of the Cyber Mission Defense Team.

“All branches continue to evolve as the battlefield changes and now the World Wide Web is where we have to maintain dominance,” Coleman added.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Wreckage of ship sunk in WW2 was just found in Coral Sea

The expedition crew aboard the late Paul G. Allen’s research vessel (R/V) Petrel discovered wreckage from USS Wasp (CV 7), which was sunk in 1942.

Wasp, found Jan. 14, 2019, was sunk Sept. 15, 1942, by four Japanese torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-19 while escorting transports carrying the Seventh Marine Regiment to Guadalcanal as reinforcements. Of the 2,162 on board, 176 were killed as a result of the attack. The sunken aircraft carrier was found in the Coral Sea, 4,200 meters (nearly 14,000 feet) below the surface.

“Paul Allen’s passion for U.S. history lives on through these missions. He was dedicated to honoring the brave men who fought for our country,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan Inc. “Paired with the discovery of USS Hornet announced in February, we’re excited to start out the year with these momentous discoveries.”


In 1941, Wasp was assigned to ferry vital army planes to Iceland, supplementing for a lack of British aircraft to cover American landings. The P-40 planes that Wasp carried provided the defensive fighter cover necessary to watch over the American forces. Wasp also aided two very important missions to Malta, a location being hit daily by German and Italian planes. After Wasp’s first mission to Malta, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, fearing that the nation would be “pounded to bits,” asked President Roosevelt to allow Wasp to have “another good sting.” Aside from providing vital enforcements in WWII, Wasp was the first ship to launch U.S. Army planes from a U.S. Navy carrier, paving the way for future collaboration between the armed forces.

Deep sea explorers discover WWII aircraft carrier USS Wasp

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Wasp represented the U.S. Navy at the lowest point after the start of WWII. Her pilots and her aircrew, with their courage and sacrifice, were the ones that held the line against the Japanese when the Japanese had superior fighter aircraft, superior torpedo planes and better torpedoes,” said Rear Adm. (Ret.) Samuel Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. “The first year of the war, it was touch and go. Those who served at that time deserve the gratitude of our nation for holding the Japanese back.”

In its final battle, Wasp was hit in arguably the most effective spread of torpedoes in history by a Japanese submarine I-19, which fired six torpedoes. USS Hornet, USS North Carolina and USS O’Brien were all hit and either crippled or sunk as well.

Although the torpedoes that hit Wasp caused a massive inferno on the ship, men showed reluctance to leave until all remaining crewmates were safe. Only when satisfied that the crew had been evacuated did Capt. Forrest P. Sherman abandon the ship. He later became the youngest Chief of Naval Operations to ever serve in the position. Another survivor, Lt. David McCampbell went on from being Wasp’s signal operator to becoming the number one navy ace pilot flying the hellcat fighter.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

USS Wasp burning after receiving three torpedo hits from the Japanese submarine I-19.

(US Navy photo)

“The crew of the WWII Wasp exhibited the bravery, toughness and resolve that our crew today strives to emulate. We are humbled by the sacrifice of those Wasp sailors, especially those who paid for our freedom with their lives,” said Capt. Colby Howard, commanding officer of USS Wasp (LHD 1). “We hope this discovery gives remaining survivors and their families some degree of closure. I would like to sincerely thank the entire R/V Petrel crew, whose commitment and perseverance led to the discovery.”

The crew of R/V Petrel has also found the wreckage of USS Hornet, USS Juneau, USS Ward, USS Lexington, USS Helena and perhaps most famously, the USS Indianapolis over the past few years. PBS aired Jan. 8, 2019, a new documentary titled, “The USS Indianapolis: The Final Chapter,” which highlights the 2017 shipwreck discovery by the crew of the R/V Petrel of what remains the US Navy’s single greatest loss at sea.

Additional past Allen-led expeditions have resulted in the discovery of USS Astoria, the Japanese battleship Musashi and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere. His team was responsible for retrieving the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honor of its heroic service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to honor Vietnam veterans

The following is an Op/Ed written by Ken Falke. The opinions expressed are his own.


There’s an important day of commemoration on March 29th — or in some U.S. States, March 30th — that goes unnoticed until the nightly evening news or a stumble on social media. This very special day is Vietnam Veterans Day, or in some states, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”

In 1974, President Nixon established this commemoration to recognize the contributions of the men and women who served during this unpopular war and tumultuous time in our history.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Vietnam War memorial. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | InSapphoWeTrust)

While many will rightly mark the day with speeches, tributes, and celebrations fitting for this great generation, there is a more meaningful way to honor our Vietnam veterans and all veterans. That honor is to provide them new and innovative ways to improve their mental wellness and reintegration into their communities.

Approximately 2.7 million young men and women served in Vietnam — about the same number that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001. While all serving since 9/11 volunteered, few realize that almost two-thirds of Vietnam veterans volunteered to serve as well.

Even though Vietnam was an unpopular war, 91 percent of Vietnam Veterans said they were glad they served in the war, and one-quarter said they would do it again. What these numbers show is the incredible commitment to service that our Vietnam-era veterans share with the post-9/11 veteran generation.

But there are disturbing similarities as well. The current veteran suicide rate of 20+ per day is well publicized; though that the average age of the veteran is 55 years old is less known. PTSD rates from both generations hover around 30 percent.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
An American Green Beret (right), and a South Vietnamese soldier assist wounded Vietnamese soldier to medivac helicopter following fighting near the Special Forces camp at Duc Phong, 40 miles north of Saigon, Sept. 9, 1969. South Vietnamese spokesmen said government casualties reached a two-month high 502 dead and 1,210 wounded. It was the highest casualty toll since the week ending June 14, which saw 516 dead and 1,424 wounded. (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka)

Additionally, Vietnam veterans struggled — and many still do — with the same challenges that today’s veterans face: PTSD, anxiety, drug, and alcohol dependency, and family and work stability. By a percentage comparison, of the 591 Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs) only 4 percent had symptoms of PTSD.

So why did POWs who experience what would be considered the most traumatic experiences seem to fare so well?

Many suggest the leadership of Admiral James Stockdale while a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton.” His leadership provided purpose, mission, and direction as a team to “return with honor.”

Often, the sense of purpose provided by leadership during transitions facilitates growth to occur. While the DOD, the VA, and other organizations work hard to care for our veterans, the element of leadership seems to be lost after service and veterans fall into a “no-man’s land” that lacks wellness, a clear mission, and renewed purpose.

Why have we made so little progress in mental wellness for our returning warriors?

Many experts, including the Journal of American Medical Association, suggest that our reactive approach to combat related stress such as PTSD doesn’t work. Indicators show that our current approach has made little progress since the Vietnam War, and some suggest since World War I.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Understanding PTSD is critical military veterans and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

We are repeating minimally effective practices where veterans are offered medication, which largely attacks symptoms and leaves them as diminished versions of themselves, or talk-therapy provided by well-intended but often ill-equipped therapists, and cased in stigma.

Though the VA has announced plans to hire 1,000 additional mental health professionals, more therapists will not fix the inadequacies of the current approaches.

How can we do better?

First, expand public-private partnerships. The private sector and nonprofit organizations have developed new approaches to veteran wellness and reintegration that could be expanded. These approaches leverage training (which is compatible with military personnel and veteran culture) and new technology that could “triage” veterans and provide skills to facilitate Post-traumatic Growth before the need for medication or therapy.

Second, we need to recognize and address the stigma associated with therapy. While veterans — and civilians — can gain some benefit from talk-therapy and medication, one can only grow by learning the skills associated with growth. This requires a holistic training approach that veterans understand and allows them to thrive, not just survive.

Finally, innovation costs money. The President’s proposed budget has a 6 percent increase to the VA’s budget; much of it to focus on health care. While this is positive, we need to use new funds to create innovative solutions, not further outdated practices. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue and future threats remain, veteran mental health issues will likely worsen.

This March 29th and 30th we will stop to honor and welcome home our Vietnam veterans. While speeches, ceremonies, and commemorations will recognize their sacrifice, to truly honor their service — and the service of those that follow — we should facilitate growth and purposeful lives they truly deserve and welcomes them home.

Recognized as one of We Are The Mighty’s 25 veterans to watch in 2017Ken Falke is a 21-year service-disabled combat veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired Master Chief Petty Officer and is the CEO of organizational improvement solutions company Shoulder 2 Shoulder, Inc. He is also the founder and Chairman of Boulder Crest Retreat.

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This World War II vet may receive the Medal of Honor for holding off hundreds of Germans and six tanks

The true story of Garlin Murl Conner’s heroism in the face of a Nazi onslaught might have gone to the grave with the soft-spoken Kentucky farmer if not for a chance phone call from another military man trying to piece together the last days of his uncle’s life.


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Conner’s close friends say he never talked about the war, but a box full of medals and old records brought his story back to life. Photo: Courtesy Conner family

That call — and the heartbreaking developments that followed — left Richard Chilton with no answers, but gave the tenacious former Green Beret a cause: Seeing that Conner, who on one day in 1945 killed 50 German soldiers and saved his storied battalion on the front lines in France, is recognized with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

“This man may have been the greatest soldier of our time,” said Chilton, whose bid to get Conner the Medal of Honor began in 1998, wended its way through a series of military panels and federal courts, and now stands closer than ever to fruition. “I owe it to him to fight like hell to make damn sure the Army gives him what he earned.”

After a series of denials that led Chilton and advocates including retired Air Force Col. Dennis Shepherd, an attorney for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, to turn to the federal courts for help, the effort took a leap forward last week. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records bucked its own staff and ignored a federal judge’s ruling that the statute of limitations barred consideration and recommended Conner for the award, which can only be bestowed by the president.

The bravery of Conner, who died in 1998 at the age of 79, is well-documented. The first lieutenant, who was wounded seven times, earned an incredible four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his World War II heroism. But it was what he did on Jan. 24, 1945, near Houssen, France, that elevated his courage to mythical status.

And the story would have remained in obscurity, alive only in Conner’s mind and packed away in a cardboard box near his Albany, Ky., home, were it not for Chilton.

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Lt. General Alexander M. Patch awards Garlin Murl Conner the Distinguished Service Cross, Feb. 10, 1945 for extraordinary heroism in action.

Chilton, a veteran of the Korean War who later trained Israeli fighters during the Gulf War, wanted to learn more about his uncle, Army Pfc. Gordon Wesley Roberts. All he knew was that the brave man he remembered from his boyhood had served in the 3rdInfantry Division and had never made it home from World War II. It was 1995, and Chilton, now 82, started tracking down men from the division, which included movie star Audie Murphy – himself a Medal of Honor recipient – and which lost more men than any other in the war.

“I’d called about 200 men, and no one really was able to tell me much about my uncle,” Chilton recalled. “I was ready to give up but I tried one more. I left a message with Garlin Murl Conner.”

A few days later, Chilton got a cryptic message on his answering machine.

“I knew your uncle,” Conner said. “I was with him the night he died. He died from small arms fire. More to follow.”

But that was the last Chilton heard from Conner. When he finally mailed a letter to him, Conner’s wife, Pauline, wrote back to say her husband had had a stroke days later and could no longer speak. Chilton, who lives in Genoa City, Wis., drove more than 500 miles to Conner’s home in the desperate hope that a face-to-face meeting might yield information.

But it did not. As a dejected Chilton was walking out the door of the Conner home, Pauline suggested he look through her husband’s records. Maybe there would be a clue about his uncle there, she said. She emerged from a back room with a box full of medals, commendations, yellowed newspaper clippings and faded photographs.

Chilton found nothing on his uncle, but his amazement grew as he spent the next few hours digging through the box.

“I discovered the most decorated soldier I’d ever heard of,” Chilton said. “I was blown away. I’ve never seen a man with four Silver Stars.”

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Chilton, a Green Beret who served in the Korean War, knew a brave soldier when he saw one. Photo: Courtesy Richard Chilton

Through the pictures, medals and testimony of Conner’s superior officers, including legendary Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, the story of Conner’s heroic actions more than 50 years earlier in France came back to life. Earlier that day, Conner, who had been badly wounded in the hip, sneaked away from a field hospital and made his way back to his unit’s camp. His commanding officer was seeking a volunteer for a suicide mission: Run 400 yards directly toward the enemy while unreeling telephone wire all the way to trenches on the front line. From that point, the volunteer would be able to call in targeting coordinates for mortar fire.

Conner grabbed the spool of wire and took off amid intense enemy fire. He made it to the ditch, where he stayed in contact with his unit for three hours in near-zero-degree weather as a ferocious onslaught of German tanks and infantry bore down on him.

“My God, he held off 600 Germans and six tanks coming right at him,” Chilton marveled. “When they got too close, his commander told him to vacate and instead, he says, ‘Blanket my position.'”

The request meant Conner was calling for artillery strikes as he was being overrun, risking his life in order to draw friendly fire that would take out the enemy, too.

Circumstances conspired to thwart Chilton’s initial effort to have Conner awarded the Medal of Honor, which 471 men received for their efforts in World War II. His commander did not fill out necessary paperwork, an oversight he later apologized for. Records, which included testimony from fellow soldiers, were lost with millions of others in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. But perhaps most of all, Conner never told his story.

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Conner’s story was revealed when Chilton, shown here as a boy with his uncle, Army Pfc. Gordon Wesley Roberts, sought to find out what happened to his relative. Photo Courtesy Richard Chilton

Chilton’s application in 1997 on behalf of Conner was rejected. An appeal supported by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs three years later was similarly nixed. But Shepherd and his team, with the help of Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., managed to find duplicate documents in which soldiers attested to Conner’s exploits in the National Archives.

Shepherd’s team took those papers and the recommendation of Ramsey, now 96, to federal court in 2009, seeking to have the Army re-examine the application. District Judge Thomas Russell rejected the motion, noting the seven-year Statute of Limitations had passed since the last appeal. But his reluctance was clear in his decision, in which he said a technicality should not diminish Conner’s “extraordinary courage and patriotic service.” Shepherd said Russell’s words helped set the table for an appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a dramatic proceeding in the Cincinnati court, the three-judge panel heard all the testimony about Conner’s actions, and the courtroom was stunned when Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill told the judges her own father served with Conner.

For Shepherd and Chilton, the difficult part is getting someone to listen to the evidence.

“Anytime I’ve been able to put the facts regarding Garlin Conner in front of someone, we get results,” said Shepherd. “As soon as these judges saw what he had done that day, they didn’t care about the statute of limitations.”

The 6th Circuit ordered both parties into mediation, which led to last week’s ruling by the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. That recommendation will likely carry weight with the Senior Army Decorations Board, though it could take “several months” for a decision.

If the decorations board recommends the award, the Senate Armed Services Committee takes up the case and makes its own recommendation to the president.

If the words written by Ramsey, who went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam, where he commanded the Americal Division, when Conner’s bravery was fresh in his mind, hold sway, Conner’s ailing wife and numerous supporters could yet help repay an American hero.

“I just sent one of my officers home,” Ramsey, then a lieutenant colonel, wrote to a colleague in Kentucky in 1945, when Conner was discharged. “I’m really proud of Lt. Conner. He probably will call you and, if he does, he may not sound like a soldier, will sound like any good old country boy, but, to my way of seeing, he’s one of the outstanding soldiers of this war, if not THE outstanding.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran tries to blame U.S. for horrible terror attack

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley rebuked comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that blamed US support for a terror attack on a military parade Sept. 22, 2018, that killed 25 people and wounded 60.

Haley waved off Rouhani’s condemnation of America, and said in the aftermath of the attack, “he needs to look at his own home base.”

“The Iranian people are protesting,” Haley said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sept. 23, 2018. “Every ounce of money that goes into Iran goes to his military. He has oppressed his people for a long time.”


Haley continued: “He can blame us all he wants, but the thing he’s got to do is look in the mirror.”

Rouhani lashed out at America’s support for mercenary countries in the Persian Gulf, saying it helps to “instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes.”

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose relevant sanctions crippled the economy and drew ire from leadership, Haley said.

“They don’t like the fact that we’ve called them out,” Haley said. “We have called them out for ballistic missile testing. We’ve called them out for their support of terrorism. We’ve called them out for their arms sales. And they don’t like it.”

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Despite the tensions, Haley contradicted Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani‘s claims from a day earlier the US was seeking a regime change and promised Trump would remain strict with Iranian leadership.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted immediately after the attack Sept. 23, 2018, to blame regional countries and their “US masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, trained armed and paid” by foreign powers, raising tensions in the region amid the unclear future of Tehran’s nuclear deal.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter Sept. 23, 2018.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to “Fox News Sunday” before Rouhani’s statement, calling Zarif’s comments “an enormous mistake.”

“The loss of innocent life is tragic, and I wish Zarif would focus on keeping his own people secure rather than causing insecurity around the world,” Pompeo said.

Haley said the September 2018 United Nations General Assembly would be a chance for countries to sort out tension, but Trump isn’t planning on a meeting with Iranian leadership, as Rouhani “has to stop all of his bad behavior before the president’s going to think he’s serious about wanting to talk.”

Haley added: “There is no love for Iran here in the United States, and there’s no love for the United States in Iran.”

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

Articles

15 photos that show how the Coast Guard fights drug smugglers and pirates

It’s ironic that the Coast Guard’s derogatory nickname is “puddle pirates” since it’s one of the few agencies in the U.S. that actually gets called on to fight modern pirates.


Anti-piracy, along with anti-narcotics missions, are often handled by the Coast Guard’s Law Enforcement Detachments, or LEDETS, and Tactical Law Enforcement Teams, or TACLETs.

These Guardians are deployed on Coast Guard cutters as well as U.S. or allied Navy ships. From there, they are sent to board and search vessels where the crew are suspected of committing a crime, generally piracy or the smuggling or drugs, humans, or money.

Here’s how the Coast Guard catches the bad guys on the high seas:

1. Once Navy or Coast Guard intelligence has identified and approached a suspect vessel, LEDET or TACLETs move in.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

2. The law enforcement teams are vulnerable while bunched up on their craft, so they have to approach quickly and carefully.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

3. The team members control the suspect crew while they search for evidence of illegal activity. If nothing is found, the crew is released.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

4. In this case, the crew was arrested on piracy charges and their craft was destroyed. Ships can also be towed to port when necessary.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

5. Larger vessels can pose a greater danger since the teams are forced to scale the side of a potentially hostile craft.

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Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

6. The Coast Guard practices with partner law enforcement agencies and other military forces to make the boarding as quick and safe as possible.

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Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

7. If the crew fights the boarding, the Coast Guard TACLET or LEDET members are prepared to defend themselves and force their way in.

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Photo: US Coast Guard PA2 Allyson Taylor Feller

8. Larger vessels allow more room to hide illegal activity, but the Coast Guard has learned to search thoroughly.

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Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

9. They’ve had a lot of experience, after all.

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Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

10. Particularly enterprising smugglers have created special vessels, like “Go-fast boats” or submarines to smuggle illicit goods.

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Photo: Youtube/U.S. Coast Guard

11. The Coast Guard maintains mobile labs that can be used to test suspect substances. (Like powdered substances hidden in garbage bags crammed into secret compartments are ever flour.)

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Photo: US Coast Guard PA1 Telfair Brown

12.  Any evidence collected is moved off the vessel to facilitate prosecution later.

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Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

13. When the Coast Guard cutters return from long tours, the total evidence collected can be literal tons of drugs.

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Photo: US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo

READ MORE: A single Coast Guard ship captured 15 tons of cocaine this year

14. Sometimes, the traffickers ditch their boats in an attempt to escape.

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Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard

15. The drugs are cast out, forcing the Coast Guard to search for and recover as much evidence as they can before it dissolves or sinks.

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Photo: Courtesy US Coast Guard

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why this generation’s Lance Corporals are different

If noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the Marine Corps, then lance corporals are the muscles that keep it moving. As all enlisted Marines and warrant officers know — not to mention the Mustang officers who ascended the enlisted ranks before earning a commission — lance corporals hold a special place in the heart of the Corps.

Gone are the days of “Lance Corporal don’t know,” and the “Lance Corporal salute.” Today’s Marine Corps E-3s are smarter, faster, stronger, and more tech savvy than the old salts from years gone by. They are the iGeneration, seemingly raised with a cell-phone fused to their fingers at birth. They are more familiar with Snapchat and Instagram than cable TV and VHS tapes. They are a digital generation, and they fit uniquely and seamlessly with the Marine Corps’ vision of a connected ‘strategic corporal,’ ready to fight and win America’s battles as much with technology and ingenuity as with bullets and pure grit. The bedrock for tomorrow’s Marine leaders is the ability to make sound and ethical decisions in a world flipped on its head during the past two decades.


Enter the “Lance Corporal Leadership and Ethics Seminar.”

The weeklong training is required for all lance corporals vying for a blood-stripe and much-coveted place in the NCO ranks. The Marine Corps’ Enlisted Professional Military Education branch instituted the program in 2014 to “bridge the gap between the initial training pipeline and resident Professional Military Education,” according to the seminar’s Leader Guide. The seminar prepares junior Marines to face the challenges of an evolving, uncertain and dangerous world 19 years into the 21st Century.

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Lance Cpl. Antonio C. Deleon, an aircraft ordnance technician with Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“Our lance corporals are the gears that keep this machine moving,” said Sgt. Maj. Edwin A. Mota, the senior enlisted Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan. “The Lance Corporal Seminar is vital to their success this early in their careers. Whether an enlisted Marine stays in for four years or 30, they will never forget the leadership lessons they learned — both good and bad — as a lance corporal.”

Each seminar has a cadre of NCO and staff NCO volunteers who lead small groups through physical training, guided discussions and scenario-based training. The idea is to get lance corporals to think critically, both on and off duty, to help prepare them for a leadership role as a corporal, sergeant and beyond.

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Lance Cpl. Celestin Wikenson, an airframer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), maintains the skin of a MV-22B Osprey helicopter Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“As a lance corporal in the infantry during the 90s, it was a completely different Marine Corps than it is today,” said Mota. “We took orders and we carried them out without a lot of questions. Our NCOs, staff NCOs and officers didn’t expect us, as lance corporals, to understand the strategic-level significance of our training and operations back then. But today, the Marine Corps cannot afford for our lance corporals to not know how they affect our mission at the tactical, operational, strategic, and diplomatic levels.”

Enlisted PME is a central component for measuring an enlisted Marine’s leadership potential and their fitness for promotion, regardless of rank. The seminar is usually a first term Marine’s introduction to formal military education and sets the tone for future PME courses as NCOs and staff NCOs. The guided discussions and scenario-based training is designed to help junior Marines to think critically before acting instinctively, according to 19 year old Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess, a mass communication specialist with the 31st MEU and a student in a recent seminar.

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Lance Cpl. Richard T. Henz, a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crewman with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit sits alongside a CH-53E helicopter at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cameron E. Parks)

“As a lance corporal, we are expected to follow orders and get the job done, regardless of our job,” said Hess, a native of Vacaville, California who enlisted in September 2017 after graduating from Will C. Wood High School. “During the seminar, we were challenged to rethink our role as junior Marines. In today’s Marine Corps, especially here in Japan, everything we do is a representation of all American’s stationed here and the seminar helped us better understand why the decisions we make, on and off duty, are so important as ambassadors to our hosts here in Okinawa.”

The lessons learned during the seminar will help tomorrow’s leaders refine their leadership ability, according to Hess.

“Today’s generation joins the Marine Corps for many different reasons, but our commitment to the Marine Corps is the same as any other Marine from past generations. Many of the junior Marines today don’t remember 9/11, don’t remember the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re still committed to always being prepared for our next battle, and the Lance Corporal Seminar definitely gives us a better understanding of leadership challenges and opportunities as we grow into the NCO ranks.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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