Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins - We Are The Mighty
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Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

A team of six Air Force men and women bested the Army and Navy to capture the first-ever Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Final Battle held at Retama Park on the outskirts of San Antonio Nov. 17, 2018.

Capt. Mark Bishop of Air Mobility Command, Capt. Noah Palicia of Pacific Air Forces, Capt. Jennifer Wendland of Air Force Global Strike Command, 1st Lt. Stephanie Frye of PACAF, 1st Lt. John Novotny of AMC, and Senior Airman Stephanie Williams of U.S. Air Forces in Europe completed the course in 2:17:33 to win the championship, a 110-lb trophy and armed forces bragging rights for the next year.

Fashioned after the popular American Ninja Warrior TV competitions, Alpha Warrior tested the competitors’ strength, coordination and endurance through more than 20 obstacles.


The two-day event featured Air Force finals on Nov. 16, 2018, and the inter-service finals the next day. Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center and the Air Force Services Activity hosted the event.

In kicking off the finals Nov. 17, 2018, Maj. Gen. Brad Spacy, AFIMSC commander, talked about how teammates would pull each other through.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

Capt. Mark Bishop nears the end of the bridge obstacle of the proving rig during the first Inter-service Alpha Warrior Final Battle Nov. 17, 2018, Retama Park, Selma, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon)

“These young soldiers, sailors, and airmen are going to push through this course and they’re going to get to a point somewhere where they think they can’t make it, and they’re going to get through it and their teammates are going to get them through it. In the end, someone will be the winner, but they’re all going to win together,” he said.

It wasn’t too surprising the previous day’s Air Force Final Battle first place male and female athletes, Palicia from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Williams from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, came out on top again in the individual category. Palicia finished with the overall fastest time at 16:57.9. Williams finished at 24:03.2.

“The competition was really tough but I’m really pumped that the Air Force is able to do this,” Palicia said. “It feels incredible to be part of the first inter-service battle.”

He said the team walkthroughs and understanding proper technique really helped them complete the obstacles.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Bareng, who is no stranger to fitness programs, said the atmosphere motivated him.

“I wasn’t only getting motivated by my teammates but actually had Air Force and Army guys rooting me on,” he said. “It’s been one team-one fight mentality this whole time and it’s been inspiring to be alongside our sister services.”

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

Senior Airman Stephanie Williams, women’s category winner, tackles the rings obstacle of the proving rig during the first Inter-service Alpha Warrior Final Battle Nov. 17, 2018, Retama Park, Selma, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Debbie Aragon)

The finals provided an opportunity for friendly competition while building camaraderie and esprit de corps among the competitors, said Army Sgt. Cameron Edwards.

“The event was challenging,” Edwards said. “It was the first event that I’ve been around Navy and Air Force together. It was a very unique time together. We competed not only against — but with — each other through the end.”

The program expanded from an Air Force-only event in 2017 to include Army and Navy competitors in its second season.

“This event has been a year in the making,” said Col. Donna Turner, AFSVA commander. “Airmen had to compete at the installation-level and regionals where the top two male and females were selected to compete in the Air Force Final Battle. The top six male and females moved on to our first inter-service battle.

“We have a phenomenal partnership with Alpha Warrior, to be able to bring this type of training and tactical fitness to our armed forces,” she said.

“This is the new way to train. This is functional fitness put into a complex environment where airmen have to think, as well as be fit and strong. We call it the revolution in fitness and this is the way of the future,” Spacy said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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These were the real-life Wonder Women who fought in the world’s bitterest wars

By now, many of us have seen the new Wonder Woman movie. If you haven’t, you probably know the basics anyway: Amazon warrior-princess who braves the battlefields of 1918 to save humanity from the depredations of Ares, God of War. It’s a fun movie, even if I had to set aside my critical military historian’s eye for a couple of hours (not like that’s a rare occurrence where Hollywood is concerned). You may also know that the title character is portrayed by one Gal Gadot, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces, so it has that going for it, too.


One thing I particularly liked about the movie was the theme that Diana (Wonder Woman’s real name, in case you haven’t seen the movie or ever read a comic book), though an elite, hard-ass warrior, only fought because she believed it was necessary. The Western Front in Belgium was represented fairly realistically as the muddy, bloody, ruinous Hell that it was. Diana fought not because she liked fighting, but to end that Hell once and for all.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I won’t go any further, but, like those who fought in the “War to End All Wars,” Diana’s outlook undergoes a change as the movie progresses. Significantly, though she is reluctant, Diana never loses her conviction that violence is sometimes necessary to prevent greater evil from wreaking havoc on the world.

One of the more humorous elements of the movie is the innate sexism Diana encounters as she moves forward. She is constantly forced to prove herself on and off the battlefield. Of course, being an immortal Amazon princess, with its attendant abilities, helps. But super powers are not required to be a warrior, whether one is male or female.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (2017). Screengrab from YouTube.

There’s a lot of controversy these days about the role of women in the US armed forces, specifically, whether women should serve in combat units. Recent months have witnessed the first two female graduates from Ranger School, and the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have put females clearly in the line of fire for well over a decade.

Female warriors, however, are not a new phenomenon, nor are they only the stuff of legend or Hollywood fancy. They’ve been around for literally thousands of years. Without taking a position on the role of females in combat (other people here are far more qualified than I to speak on that subject), here’s a look at some women who fought, and fought well, from the American Revolution through the Global War on Terror. This list is by no means complete, or even close to being so. It’s merely intended to offer a glimpse of women in combat over the last 240-odd years.

The American Revolution

Records for female soldiers who fought in the Revolution are scarce. That many women, usually disguised as men, did fight is beyond question. Most of their names and deeds are lost to us thanks to their enforced anonymity, but a few records survive. The most common theme for the service of these women is that they followed their husbands to war, passing themselves as teenage boys, which were not uncommon in the ranks. Some women volunteered for the bounty paid to enlistees or just in the hope of steady meals. Some didn’t like sitting at home and wanted to fight for their country, like the first soldier on our list.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Battle of Long Island

Deborah Samson enlisted on 20 May, 1782, at age 22, in Captain George Webb’s company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment of Foot, a light infantry unit. She gave her name as Robert Shurtliff. Rising to the rank of corporal, she fought with the Continental Army in several engagements, including the Battle of White Plains.

Samson was wounded several times. In a skirmish near Tarrytown, she took a saber cut to the head. When her unit was ambushed by Loyalists near East Chester, Samson was hit by two musket balls in the thigh. Probably afraid of discovery if she sought medical aid, Samson crawled into the woods and removed one ball herself. The other was left in the leg while she soldiered on.

Samson was finally revealed as a female while serving as a clerk for General John Patterson in Philadelphia. She became sick and was treated by Dr. Barnabas Binney. Dr. Binney outed her to General Patterson, who recommended to General George Washington that Samson be discharged due to being a female. Deborah Samson was honorably discharged in October, 1783. In 1792, along with other veterans, Samson received back pay due her for her service. In 1805, Samson was awarded a veteran’s pension by the Massachusetts legislature, which stated “that the Said Deborah exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier.” She received that pension until she died in 1827.

The legend of Molly Pitcher is hard to pin down. According to the story, she was carrying pitchers of water to the soldiers, one of whom was her husband, serving a cannon at the 1778 Battle of Monmouth. When her husband collapsed, Molly immediately took his place, swabbing the barrel and helping reload the gun.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

It appears that “Molly Pitcher” is a composite figure built on the stories of Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley and Margaret Corbin. Mary Hays (as she was known at the time) was present at Monmouth and a witness claimed that a British cannonball bounced right between her legs while she was serving the American gun, ripping away part of her petticoat. She supposedly quipped that it was lucky the ball wasn’t aimed a little higher and went on with her work.

Hays remained with the Continental Army until the end of the war, though it seems that she served in a support role, as many women did. After her husband’s death, she married a former Continental soldier named John McCauley. She died in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1832, where a monument commemorates her valiant service.

Margaret Corbin’s story is similar to the better-known Mary Ludwig Hays. At the 1776 Battle of Fort Washington, Corbin was carrying water to her husband’s gun crew when he fell. She stepped into his place and helped keep the cannon operational by swabbing and helping to reload. During the battle, Margaret was hit by grapeshot in the arm and chest, disabling her for life.

Corbin was one of the first members of the Invalid Corps, created by Congress in 1777 to care for wounded and disabled soldiers. She was granted a pension in 1779, the first American woman to receive a disabled veteran’s pension.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Image under Public Domain.

Anna Maria Lane followed her husband to war in 1776, when he enlisted in the Connecticut Line under General Israel Putnam. Records of her service are sketchy, but it is known that she fought in the Battle of Germantown in October, 1777, where she was severely wounded. After the war, Anna and her husband John moved to Virginia, where they were both recognized for their service by the Virginia legislature and granted soldiers’ pensions.

The American Civil War

The story of female soldiers in the Civil War is akin to those who fought in the Revolution. Women disguised themselves as men and marched off to war for pretty much the same reasons as their forebears. Women served in both the Union and Confederate armies, and most seem to have gone undetected, but we do know the stories of a few.

Sarah Emma Edmonds was a Canadian by birth. To escape an abusive father and an arranged marriage, she disguised herself as a man and fled to the US, where she found work in Hartford, Connecticut as a travelling Bible salesman. When the war broke out in 1861, Edmonds was in Michigan and promptly volunteered for the 2nd Michigan Infantry Regiment on a three-year enlistment. She used the name Franklin Thompson, which had been her assumed name for the previous couple of years.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Sarah Emma Edmonds. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Edmonds was nearly captured at First Manassas when she stayed behind to care for the wounded when the Union Army retreated. In 1862, Edmonds served in the Peninsula Campaign, the Battle of Second Manassas, and the Battle of Fredericksburg as a courier, often braving long solo rides through contested territory. Her horse was shot from under her at Second Manassas, forcing her to ride a mule, which subsequently threw her, breaking her leg.

Edmonds’ memoirs claim that she performed espionage missions behind Confederate lines, disguised as a male Irish peddler, though there is no official record of those missions.

The 2nd Michigan was sent to Kentucky in the spring of 1863, where Edmonds came down with malaria. Afraid of discovery, she requested convalescent leave as opposed to seeing a military doctor. Her leave request was denied. Feeling she had no choice, Edmonds deserted and never returned. “Franklin Thompson” was charged with desertion, though no further action was taken. Following her recovery, Edmonds served as a female nurse until the end of the war.

Edmonds, now known as Sarah Edmonds Seelye, attended a reunion of the 2nd Michigan in 1876, where she was welcomed by her former comrades. They helped her have the charge of desertion expunged from her records and supported her pension application, which was approved in 1884. Seelye was the only female to receive a soldier’s pension from the Civil War. In 1897, a year before her death, she became the only female member of the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1901, she was reburied with full military honors in Houston’s Washington Cemetery.

Jennie Hodgers (a.k.a. Albert D.J. Cashier) is remarkable not only for her wartime service, but for the fact that she continued to live as a man for the rest of her life. Hodgers was born on aChristmas Day, 1843, in Ireland. Little is known about her life from then until she enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry under the name Albert D.J. Cashier.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Jennie-Hodgers AKA Albert-D.J. Cashier. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Hodgers fought in over forty engagements, including the Vicksburg Campaign, the Battle of Nashville, the Red River Campaign, and the Battles of Kennesaw Mountain and Jonesborough. An account exists of her escaping capture by overpowering a Confederate guard. She mustered out on 17 August, 1865.

Living as a man apparently agreed with Hodgers, and “Albert Cashier” worked several jobs, voted in elections, and drew a soldier’s pension. Hit by a car in 1910, “Cashier’s” true gender was discovered by the local hospital, which, remarkably, agreed not to give away her secret. She was sent to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois to recover. It was here, in 1913, that dementia finally caused her to be revealed as a woman. Sadly, she was sent to an insane asylum where she was forced to wear a dress.

On the plus side, when the story was published in the local newspapers, Hodgers’ former comrades protested her treatment and defended her service. Upon her death in 1915, Hodgers was buried in full uniform and her grave was marked with the name Albert D.J. Cashier and her service dates. A second marker with the name Jennie Hodgers was placed beside the original in the 1970s.

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman is another whose story is well-known, thanks to her family’s preservation of her letters. With her father in debt and no prospects of marriage, the nineteen-year old Wakeman left home in 1862 to seek work as a man. While working as a laborer, she met recruiters from the 153rd New York Infantry Regiment, who offered a $152.00 enlistment bounty. Wakeman accepted and enlisted on 30 August, 1862 under the name Lyons Wakeman.

The 153rd New York saw action during the Red River Campaign of 1864 and Wakeman stood on the firing line at the Battles of Pleasant Hill and Monett’s Bluff. The Red River Campaign featured marches of hundreds of miles through muggy heat and disease-ridden swamps, which Wakeman endured as well as her male counterparts.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Before the campaign, Wakeman had written home, “I don’t know how long before I shall have to go into the field of battle. For my part, I don’t care. I don’t feel afraid to go.” Wakeman finally succumbed to disease in May, 1864 and died on 19 June. She is buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in New Orleans. The grave marker bears the name “Lyons Wakeman.” No record exists of her sex ever being discovered.

Mollie Bean is a bit more elusive than Sarah Edmonds and Jennie Hodgers, and, in her anonymity, is likely more representative of the majority of female Civil War soldiers. In fact, Mollie Bean may not have been her name at all.

Mollie was arrested on 20 February, 1865 while hitching a ride on a railroad car near Danville, Virginia. Riding a military rail car required permission from the provost marshal so, when she was discovered, the guard demanded her papers. Mollie replied, “I’ve got no papers and damn if I want any.” She was arrested and, shortly thereafter, discovered to be a female dressed as a soldier. Mollie claimed to have enlisted in the 47th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in 1863 and to have been twice-wounded in battle. She was sent back to Richmond and imprisoned in Castle Thunder. The story was picked up by newspapers in Richmond and Charlotte. Mollie was portrayed sensationally and her claims of service were discounted, with at least one paper describing her as “manifestly crazy.” The general opinion was that she could not have served for over two years without her true sex being discovered. Upon her imprisonment, Mollie vanishes from history. There are no records of her incarceration and examinations of the 47th North Carolina’s muster rolls reveal nothing. The census records of females with the surname “Bean” provide no real evidence. “Mollie Bean” may well have been a made-up name given to the authorities upon her arrest.

RELATED: These badass historical women cross-dressed so they could fight with the boys

She does, however, make a fanciful reappearance in the alternate history novel The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove. If you haven’t read it, and you’re into that sort of thing, it’s very well-done. The premise is built around South African time-travelers who provide Robert E. Lee’s army with AK-47s in the winter of 1864. Don’t be deterred by the fantastical scenario; Turtledove is a serious historian. The book is outstanding and thought-provoking.

Two more female soldiers from the Civil War merit our attention, though we don’t, and likely never will, know their identities. The remains of a Confederate private were discovered on the Gettysburg battlefield on 17 July, 1863 by a burial detail from the Union II Corps. The private was female. She was likely killed while taking part in Pickett’s Charge on 3 July. Finally, a 1934 excavation of a mass grave on the Shiloh battlefield revealed the remains of a female with a minié ball lodged in her pelvis, likely her death wound. Plainly, females not only served in the Civil War, they were in the thick of battle and some were killed. Due to the nature of their service, we’ll never know how many.

World War I

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Photo from the Smithsonian Institute

By the time the First World War rolled around, medical exams for prospective soldiers were more thorough. It was far more difficult for would-be female soldiers to disguise themselves. As far as we know, only one, 20-year old Dorothy Lawrence, actually pulled it off. Lawrence was a British journalist who managed to join a tunneling outfit of the British Expeditionary Force for ten days. At that point, she gave herself up out of a desire to report on the horrible conditions under which her fellow soldiers worked. Lawrence was treated rather poorly by the British authorities, who accused her of being a camp-follower (AKA prostitute). Still, two female soldiers, one British and one Russian, stand out for their wartime service.

Flora Sandes was the daughter of an Irish priest. As a child, she read and re-read Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade and dreamed of being a soldier. As an adult, she traveled throughout Europe, North America, and Egypt, working as a typist to fund her adventures. She was an experienced rider and, according to her family, “a capital shot with the big service revolver.”

Upon the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia on 28 July, 1914, the 38-year old Sandes volunteered as a nurse for a Serbian ambulance unit. Serbia was overrun in late 1915 by the combined forces of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria. The Serbian Army forced marched across the mountains to Albania, where Sandes enlisted in the Serbian Iron Regiment.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Flora Sandes. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

A year later she was a sergeant major and had published an English language book about her exploits to raise money and support for the Serbs. At the end of 1916, Sandes was involved in the vicious hand-to-hand combat in the mountains of Macedonia, where she was wounded by a grenade. Forced to retire from combat duty, she spent the rest of the war running an army hospital and conducting public relations tours to promote Western awareness of the plight of the Serbs. After the war, Sandes remained with the Army, eventually retiring as a captain. In 1917, she was awarded the Order of the Star of Karađorđe, Serbia’s highest combat decoration.

Sandes rode out the Second World War in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Though aged 65, she was recalled to active duty. She was willing, but the Germans overran Yugoslavia before she could do anything. She was arrested by the Gestapo as an enemy alien and imprisoned with fourteen other women. One of Sandes’ fellow prisoners later said “She possessed a wonderful fund of Serbian swear words which she launched at the guards with such devastating effect that they behaved almost respectfully.” She was eventually released, but had to report to the Gestapo weekly until the war ended.

ALSO READ: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

Sandes finally left Belgrade following the passing of her Serbian husband a few months after the war. She was nearly 70, but went to Rhodesia to stay with her nephew, who was a Rhodesian police officer. She was unpopular with the colonial authorities, however, who complained about her “fraternizing with the African peasant population, sitting around an open fire and drinking beer made from sorghum.” Flora Sandes returned to England, where she died in 1956.

Maria Bochkarevka was a Siberian peasant girl who survived an abusive father and two abusive husbands to join the Russian war effort in 1914. Women were not allowed to serve at that time, but Maria wrote a personal letter to Tsar Nicholas II asking for special permission. Her request was granted and Bochkarevka was sent to the front in 1915.

Her first combat saw Maria, despite being hit in the leg, pull dozens of wounded men from No-Man’s Land, for which she was decorated. She was soon promoted to corporal and began leading 30-man patrols into No-Man’s Land. On one of her patrols, she killed a German soldier with her bayonet. In the spring of 1916, Bochkarevka was wounded three times, including taking a piece of shrapnel near the base of her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. Determined to fight, she learned to walk again and returned to the front, where she was promoted to sergeant. She was captured not long afterward, but she escaped, killing ten Germans in the process with grenades. She was decorated again.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Maria Bochkareva. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Bochkarevka is most famous for raising and training the Women’s Battalion of Death in 1917. The battalion was an all-female combat unit designed to shame the male soldiers of the Russian Army into fighting harder. The Russians were reeling from the fall of the Tsar and repeated defeats at the hands of the Germans, and desperately needed a morale boost. Buchkarovka started with 2000 women, but her iron discipline soon whittled it down to around to around 250.

The battalion participated in the summer offensive of 1917, going over the top with the men. Led by Buchkarovka, now a captain, they penetrated three German trench lines before being repulsed. After the battle, the women’s morale was reportedly far better than their male comrades, and their casualties lower, though they had spearheaded the assault in their sector.

In October, the battalion defended the Tsar’s Summer Palace in Petrograd against the Bolshevik revolutionaries. They were ultimately overrun and Buchkarevka was captured. Through the machinations of some friends, she was released and allowed to leave the country. She traveled to the US and England, where she met with Woodrow Wilson and King George V, who promised to aid the White Russians against the Bolshevik Reds. Buchkarevka was captured in 1919 while fighting the Bolsheviks and convicted of being an “enemy of the people.” She was executed by firing squad on 16 May, 1920.

World War II

The Second World War provided more opportunities for women to serve, but female combat soldiers were few and far between. Many women served with the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services, but, due to concerns about length, I’m staying as close to the front lines as possible. With that in mind, one woman stands out above all others.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the deadliest of the scores of female snipers deployed by the Red Army in World War II. In just under a year of combat, Pavlichenko notched 309 confirmed kills, after which, she was pulled from the front and sent to the US and Great Britain to drum up support for a second front against Germany.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Pavlichenko was a university student in Kiev when the Germans invaded in June, 1942. She immediately enlisted in the Red Army. She had won medals in a civilian marksmanship program and applied for the infantry. Nonetheless, the recruiter tried to convince her to become a nurse. Pavlichenko’s insistence on becoming a rifleman caused the army to test her. She was taken to the front, handed a rifle, and told to shoot two Romanian soldiers. Two shots: two kills. Pavlichenko was trained as a sniper and attached to the 25th Rifle Division. She never claimed the first two kills as part of her official count, since she said it was a test, not real combat.

Pavlichenko served in Moldavia and in the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean Campaign. She was known for tying the occasional strip of cloth to surrounding trees and brush to distract the eyes of enemy spotters. She also planted mannequins to serve as bait. Her first 75 days of combat yielded 187 kills. By the time she arrived at Sevastopol, she was known as “Lady Death” and the Germans starting targeting her with counter-snipers. She once made the mistake of climbing a tree to get a better view and was grazed by a German sniper round. She allowed herself to fall twelve feet to the ground, lying still for hours, before crawling away after dark. She eventually won every sniper duel in which she was engaged, accounting for 36 German snipers.

Pavlichenko became so famous, thanks in no small part to Soviet propaganda, that the Germans started addressing her directly by loudspeaker. They tried to lure her to defect, offering her honors and chocolate (seriously). When that failed, they threatened to catch her and tear her body into 309 pieces, one for each kill.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

In a later interview, Pavlichenko laughed, saying how delighted she was that the Germans knew her score. She was evacuated from the Sevastopol by submarine before the city fell in July, 1942. She was awarded the USSR’s highest honor, Hero of the Soviet Union, and sent on her PR trip, where she became fast friends with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She told one reporter that “Every German who remains alive will kill women, children, and old folks. Dead Germans are harmless. Therefore, if I kill a German, I am saving lives.” Upon her return, Pavlichenko was assigned to train snipers and boost morale on the home front. She even had her own postage stamp, issued in 1943. After the war, she returned to university, earning her degree in history. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Pavlichenko in Moscow in 1957. Pavlichenko died in 1974. A movie of her exploits was released in 2013. As far as I know, it’s only available in Russian, titled “Battle for Sevastopol,” and in Ukrainian, which is called “Indestructible.” There’s an English language trailer on YouTube.

Afghanistan and Iraq

The asymmetrical nature of the Global War on Terror has blurred the lines between the combat and non-combat roles of troops deployed to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Troops who are technically slated for the support role have been thrust squarely into the line of fire. As a result, the US ban on women in combat units has not spared females from being tested under fire. Here are a few of the many who passed with flying colors.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Rebecca Turpin. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Marine 2LT Rebecca Turpin was leading her logistics convoy through 80 miles of desert in the Helmand Province when they were ambushed in a small village between Camp Bastion and the FOB at Musa Qala. They had hit an IED earlier in the march and were slowed by the necessity to tow the damaged vehicle and by maneuvering through a hamlet with no real streets. While moving through the hamlet, Turpin saw men herding women and children into the houses. “I had this sinking feeling,” she said later. Then an RPG hit her refueling truck, cuing a hail of small arms fire and grenades. Marshaling her convoy to provide cover, Turpin called for air support, which came in the form of two Cobra attack helicopters. Once the enemy fire was suppressed, the Cobras moved off and Turpin turned her column around to an alternate route. When they were hit again during the turnaround, Turpin called the Cobras back and directed a fighting exit from the hamlet. Going by a different route, her convoy arrived safely at Musa Qala with no serious injuries. Despite her insistence that “What I did was my job,” Turpin was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” for her leadership under fire. Lt. Colonel Michael Jernigan, Turpin’s battalion commander, said “She could have made bad decisions, and perhaps Marines would have died. But she didn’t and they didn’t.” Turpin left the Corps as a captain in 2011.

On 20 March, 2005, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester was escorting a supply convoy on a run east of Baghdad as a vehicle commander in the 617 Military Police Company, a Kentucky National Guard unit. When the vehicle in front of hers was hit by an RPG, Hester led her vehicle through the kill zone into a flanking position. She and her team then took the enemy positions under fire with an M203. Hester and her squad leader then assaulted the dug-in insurgents, clearing two trench lines. Hester personally killed three insurgents with her M4. After the 45-minute fight, 27 insurgents were killed, six wounded, and one was captured. All US personnel survived. Hester and her squad leader, SSG Timothy Nein, were awarded the Silver Star. Hester became the first female Silver Star recipient since World War II and the first ever for actions in direct combat.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Leigh Ann Hester. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Being under fire was nothing new for Hester, who, predictably, claims she just did what she was trained to do. According to all accounts, Hester is a bit embarrassed by the fact that she has her own action figure and a wax likeness at the Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee. Hester left the Guard in 2009 and became a cop near Nashville, Tennessee, but missed being a soldier and reenlisted in the Tennessee National Guard in 2011. In 2014, she deployed to Afghanistan for 18 months as part of a Cultural Support Team. She is now an E-7 with the Tennessee National Guard.

First Lieutenant Ashley White-Stumpf was part of the first class of the Cultural Support Teams sent to Afghanistan to support special ops troops. Assigned to the 75th Rangers, White-Stumpf served two months in Afghanistan before being killed by an IED in an ambush on 22 October, 2011. She was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. I was unable to find much on her activities in Afghanistan, perhaps because of her association with special ops forces. But there is a book about White-Stumpf and the CSTs called Ashley’s War, which looks to be pretty good. Still, I felt that she merited inclusion here.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Ashley White-Stumpf. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Private First Class Monica Lin Brown was the second woman, after Hester, to earn the Silver Star since World War II. Brown was a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province in 2007. On 25 April, she was part of a convoy which was ambushed on its way to a meeting with tribal leaders. One HUMVEE hit an IED, sending it into a wadi and igniting its fuel load. Brown moved to the wreck and treated the soldiers wounded in the blast, shielding them with her body from small arms fire and the 15 mortar rounds which impacted near her. By this time, the ammo in the HUMVEE began to cook off, prompting Brown to shield the wounded once more while continuing treatment.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Monica Lin Brown. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Brown’s platoon sergeant arrived, amazed to see Brown still alive. Seeing the danger from the engulfed HUMVEE and continuing enemy fire, he loaded Brown and the wounded onto an Afghan Army truck and moved them to a safer location. An enemy mortar shell impacted on Brown’s former position just seconds later. All the while, Brown treated the wounded soldiers, continually shielding them from falling brass and enemy fire until the MEDEVACs arrived. Brown’s actions earned her the Silver Star. They also resulted in her being removed from her assignment because of the ban on females in combat.

As I said, I’m not taking a position on women in combat. Honestly, I’m not qualified to offer an informed opinion on the subject. It is clear, however, that women have served, and served well, in combat environments throughout history. So, taking advantage of the publicity from the Wonder Woman movie, here’s an opportunity to raise a glass to all the women who have answered the call and laid it on the line. Thanks for your service.

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For military veterans, finding a job is one thing — staying in it is another

Tommy Diaz was looking to make a career move after graduating community college in 2008, so he joined the U.S. Army. In 2010, he was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he worked in military intelligence.


“I talked with high-level Taliban members,” Diaz said. “I did over 400 debriefings. The euphemism is debriefings. They’re really interrogations.”

The job was high pressure, but Diaz knew it mattered. He picked up important skills, but he struggled to put those skills to work when he came home to Southern California. He got his first full-time job tracking inventory for an aircraft parts supplier.

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DoD Photo by Noriko Kudo

“I did that for about 10 months, but I just got bored of it,” Diaz said. “It just felt like a dead end. It wasn’t clicking. I was just hashing out reports, and I wanted to do more.”

So, he left. And Diaz isn’t alone. A 2016 survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 44 percent of veterans left their first post-military job within a year.

The unemployment rate for U.S. military veterans is down from nearly 9 percent back in 2010 to just above 4 percent today. Thanks to a big push from the federal government and a bunch of corporate initiatives, U.S. companies have done a good job hiring veterans in recent years, but keeping them is another story.

Many leave because they have trouble matching military skills to job requirements or finding a sense of purpose in the job. But for many vets, the very experience of being in an office causes problems.

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Photo Courtesy of the DoD

“It just becomes kind of a minefield of how to interact with people,” said Emily King, author of “Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing and Retaining Veterans.”

King has been hired by companies to help integrate veteran employees. She said it’s hard for them to reorient from the military way of doing things.

“An attitude where the mission comes first and interpersonal communication and effectiveness come second is not usually effective in a civilian environment where they tend to pay as much attention to how you do something as to what you do,” King said.

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DoD Photo by Lt. Col. Angela Wallace

Some veterans’ service providers say the recent push to get companies to hire veterans has actually unwittingly played into the turnover problem.

“They’re looking more into quantity than they are into quality,” said Mark Brenner, of Los Angeles nonprofit Veterans Career XChange. “If you have to put 40 people to work, they’ll put them to work wherever they can.”

So, vets are thrown into jobs they’re not prepared for, or jobs they don’t see a future in. Brenner said if we need people to volunteer to fight wars, helping them find meaningful careers when they get back is crucial.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy says it has top-secret information about UFOs

The Navy has said it has top-secret information about unidentified flying objects that could cause “exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States” if released.

A Navy representative responded to a Freedom of Information Act request sent by a researcher named Christian Lambright by saying the Navy had “discovered certain briefing slides that are classified TOP SECRET,” Vice reported last week.

But the representative from the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence said “the Original Classification Authority has determined that the release of these materials would cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States.”


The person also said the Navy had at least one related video classified as “SECRET.”

Vice said it independently verified the response to Lambright’s request with the Navy.

Lambright’s request for information was related to a series of videos showing Navy pilots baffled by mysterious, fast objects in the sky.

The Navy previously confirmed it was treating these objects as UFOs.

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An image from a 2004 video filmed near San Diego showing a UFO.

(CNN/Department of Defense)

The term UFO, along with others like “unidentified aerial phenomena” and “unidentified flying object,” does not necessarily mean the object is thought to be extraterrestrial. Many such sightings ultimately end up having logical and earthly explanations — often involving military technology.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon had also previously told The Black Vault, a civilian-run archive of government documents, that the videos “were never officially released to the general public by the DOD and should still be withheld.”

The Department of Defense videos show pilots confused by what they are seeing. In one video, a pilot said: “What the f— is that thing?”

The Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Gough said this week that an investigation into “sightings is ongoing.”

Joseph Gradisher, the Navy’s spokesman for the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, told The Black Vault last year: “The Navy has not publicly released characterizations or descriptions, nor released any hypothesis or conclusions, in regard to the objects contained in the referenced videos.”

According to The Black Vault, Gradisher said the Department of Defense videos were filmed in 2004 and 2015. The New York Times also reported that one of the videos was from 2004.

You can watch the 2004 video here, as shared by To the Stars Academy, a UFO research group cofounded by Tom deLonge from the rock group Blink-182:

FLIR1: Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release

www.youtube.com

One of the videos was shared by The New York Times in December 2017, with one commander who saw the object on a training mission telling The Times “it accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Another pilot told the outlet: “These things would be out there all day.”

Pilots told The Times that the objects could accelerate, stop, and turn in ways that went beyond known aerospace technology. Many of the pilots who spoke with The Times were part of a Navy flight squadron known as the “Red Rippers,” and they reported the sightings to the Pentagon and Congress.

“Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” the Times report said.

Scientists also told The Times they were skeptical that these videos showed anything extraterrestrial.

Gough, the Pentagon spokeswoman, would not comment to Vice on whether the 2004 source video that the Navy possessed had any more information than the one that has been circulating online, but she said that it was the same length and that the Pentagon did not plan on releasing it.

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An image from the 2015 video.

(NYT)

John Greenewald, the curator of The Black Vault, told Vice in September that he was surprised the Navy had classified the objects as unidentified.

“I very much expected that when the US military addressed the videos, they would coincide with language we see on official documents that have now been released, and they would label them as ‘drones’ or ‘balloons,'” he said.

“However, they did not. They went on the record stating the ‘phenomena’ depicted in those videos, is ‘unidentified.’ That really made me surprised, intrigued, excited, and motivated to push harder for the truth.”

US President Donald Trump said in June that he had been briefed on the fact that Navy pilots were reporting increased sightings of UFOs.

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

MIGHTY FIT

Urban Outfitters is now selling the famous PT belt

Troops everywhere know PT belts are the height of military fashion. At one point, they were second only to the BCG. But then the military did away with those and knocked everyone’s favorite reflective plastic belt to the top of the list of uniform items that are both beautiful and utilitarian.

It’s hard to be this cool both inside and outside a gym, but somehow military members worldwide do it every day.


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Which is why troops and their supporters appreciate the important fashion industry nod given recently by Urban Outfitters. Now, you don’t need access to the exchange’s Clothing and Sales shop or the PX to participate in this important military fashion movement.

Instead, you can just hit up their site and shell out plus shipping.

Forget defending freedom. America should be thanking the troops for THIS.

“Reflective training belt from Rothco perfect for night-time visibility,” the site says of the accessory. “Complete with slide adjustment buckle + side release buckle closure.”

Honestly, though, Urban Outfitters isn’t doing this item the justice it deserves. They only show it being used as a belt for pants. But what of its place on a ruck?

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U.S. Soldiers adjust a rucksack during the Third Annual Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Paul Airey Memorial Ruck/March/Run, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, June 1, 2018.

( (U.S. Air Force photo by Elizabeth Baker)

What of its use as a cross-body reflective sash?

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Sgt. Jason Guge of Billings, Mont., a Black Hawk helicopter mechanic, wears several physical training belts in a hanger at Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq in 2009.

(U.S. Army photo)

Or for your dog? Or for your kid?

You’re welcome, America.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 exciting future weapons the Army needs next

Within a decade, if not sooner, leap-ahead technologies like lasers, hypersonic weapons, mobile and secure networks, and unmanned/autonomous air and ground vehicles will likely reside in combat formations, said the Army’s secretary.

Peer threats from China and Russia — nations also developing these technologies — make fielding these systems absolutely necessary, said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, who spoke May 16, 2018, at the Center for a New American Security here.


The secretary provided a glimpse into some of these new capabilities that the Army is developing, in partnership with industry, as part of its six modernization priorities.

1. Long-range precision fires

“The Army is looking at hypersonics as game changer in its No. 1 modernization priority: long-range precision fires,” Esper said.

Hypersonic weapons can fire rounds or a projectile hundreds of miles, he said. “That gives us an incredible ability to reach out and hurt an adversary or at least to hold him at bay,” he said. Further, it would buy time for maneuver forces to secure objectives on the battlefield.

Projectiles of hypersonic weapons travel at speeds of Mach 5 or more using a supersonic combustion ramjets. Mach 5 is a speed well above high-performance jets that cruise at Mach 3 or 4 at their fastest. Experts say that cruise missiles or even unmanned aerial systems could eventually be modified to make them hypersonic.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper, speaks at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2018.
(Photo by David Vergun, Army News Service)

2. Next generation combat vehicle

The second modernization priority, a next generation combat vehicle, will replace the aging Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which no longer have the power or space to haul modern communications gear or advanced weaponry, he said.

For development of the NGCV, the Army is not averse to opening the competition up to foreign partners as well as American companies, he added. The Stryker, a highly successful vehicle, wasn’t made in America.

Stryker vehicles are produced by General Dynamics Land Systems of Canada.

While NGCV is the second priority in modernization, the Army will need to continue to improve upon its current fleets of tactical vehicles until a complete phase-in of NGCV occurs, which will be further down the road.

Right now, some Bradleys have been test-configured in a leader-follower formation, allowing them to run semi-autonomously. Eventually, Bradleys will be able to run completely autonomous. And the NGCV will be designed from the ground up to operate that way, and it will also be able to team with manned vehicles.

The difficulty in doing that is the vehicles will need to avoid obstacles in the terrain, operate without GPS and move while under attack, something current driverless car technology cannot yet accomplish, he pointed out.

But the time will come when that’s possible, aided by such things as artificial intelligence, he said.

Not NGCV specific, but on another vehicle-related matter, the secretary said that a production decision on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will be made later this year. JLTV is a replacement for the Humvee.

3. Future vertical lift

The Army expects to get a future vertical lift prototype, its third modernization priority, in the 2020 timeframe, Esper said.

There are some demonstrators now, with industry shelling out $3 or $4 dollars to every dollar the Army puts up, which is good value for taxpayers, he noted.

Having said that, the Army’s current aviation fleet is in good shape and will continue to get upgrades.

The dream of FVL, he said, is to get much more range, lift and speed over what the current rotor fleet can provide. That will enable aviation to provide Soldiers with the lift, surveillance and firepower they will need on battlefields of the future.

4. Army network

The fourth priority is building a network that can move with the maneuver force and enable secure communications, Esper said.

Even when this development occurs, Soldiers will still need to be able to operate against a peer threat who could disrupt communications at best or deny communications at worst.

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(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Tremblay)


Soldiers at the combat training centers are now training to operate without GPS or communications. It’s the type of training the Army used to do but had gotten away from, he added.

5. Air and missile defense

The fifth modernization priority is air and missile defense.

Russian and separatist activities in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine was a wakeup call for the need to improve air and missile defense, Esper said. In 2014, drones were used to surveil and target Ukrainian mechanized units with rockets.

Opposition forces at the combat training centers are now employing unmanned aerial systems as part of training, he said.

By 2020, the Army will field a battery of Strykers in Europe that will be fitted with interceptors to shoot down enemy aircraft as well as UAS, he said. But that’s only an interim measure.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to fit Strykers and NGCVs with directed energy weapons like lasers. Directed energy weapons also include microwaves and particle beams.

The advantage in using directed energy weapons, Esper said, is that they have an unlimited magazine as long as they are being powered, and, “you can’t get caught by the enemy while you’re re-loading missiles on the rails.”

Hypersonic weapons could also be employed in air and missile defense, he added.

6. Soldier lethality

The Army’s final modernization priority is Soldier lethality.

In areas of modernization, there is a lot of research going on with things like improved night vision goggles and synthetic training, Esper said.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

However, there are ways in which the Army can make Soldiers much more lethal outside of the scope of research going on in the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Cross Functional Teams, he said.

For instance, Congress has provided the Army with enough funding to increase CTC rotations, he said. In coming years, the Army will be able to do 20 rotations per year, which include four involving the Reserve components.

These rotations involve the high-end, maneuver warfare fight and also asymmetric warfare where, for example, role-players standing in as refugees are scattered on the battlefield. “We don’t want to forget the hard-won lessons of the past,” he said.

If it sounds like the battlefield of the future will be complex as well as lethal, it will be, Esper said. The battlefield of the future will require an intelligent type of Soldier who can carry on with minimal guidance. To get there, the Army is keeping its recruiting and retention criteria high.

The Army will also soon launch its Integrated Pay and Personnel System, which will identify Soldier’s knowledge, skills, attributes and desires. This will allow the Army to place Soldiers in the right jobs and locations, he said, and that will increase readiness.

In another effort to improve readiness, the Army is actively engaged in removing tasks Soldiers do that don’t involve readiness and is not congressionally mandated, like certain training, he said.

“The goal is to get Soldiers away from their computers, out of their offices and into the field,” he said.

Lastly, to improve the fitness of Soldiers, and reduce injuries and non-deployability, “we are planning and budgeting to put into all of our maneuver battalions a nutritionist, a sports trainer and a physical therapist. Some units are doing that already. The game plan is to treat our Soldiers like professional athletes,” he said.

During a recent visit to Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division, Esper said he met with leaders who said that after these health professionals were added, injuries went down and fitness levels noticeably increased because of how they adapted their training.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force lab on Mars-like island is straight out of sci-fi movie

Space has been the center of conversation in the news and entertainment. There was even a movie about future human inhabitants on Mars! But how would that happen? How would we be able to sustain growing food? Mars, a dry and dusty planet, would not be able to support human life organically.

And just like the case would be on Mars, the food choices on Ascension are very limited and depend completely on what supplies are flown to the island.

“If you’ve ever been to Ascension Island, or even looked at photos online, the island doesn’t differ much from Mars,” said Cathy Little, Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield agricultural specialist.


Supplies, including food, are flown to the island because Ascension’s water cycle, soil and topography make it very difficult for anything to grow on the island — what does grow, you cannot or would not want to eat, until recently.

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The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

Introducing Ascension Island’s own personal ‘garden’, the hydroponics laboratory.

Hydroponics, or the process of growing plants in sand, gravel or liquid instead of soil, can be seen in the movie “The Martian.” Though it seems like something only a screenwriter could come up with, the agricultural team on Ascension Island has taken the idea and run with it.

“The hydroponics lab isn’t a laboratory in the traditional sense,” Little said. “Our facility is an 8,721 square foot greenhouse that has two vine crop bays and one leaf crop bay.”

In the greenhouse, the team on Ascension uses two different systems to grow fresh produce on the volcanic island. For vining crops, like tomatoes and peppers, they use a nutrient injection system, bucket system and Perlite, which is a naturally occurring volcanic glass that has a relatively high water content. For leafy crops, like lettuce and herbs, they use a nutrient film technique, where a very shallow stream of nutrient-filled water is re-circulated past the bare roots of the plants.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

Though the lab has grown over the years, hydroponics is not new to Ascension Island.

“During World War II, the shipping of fresh vegetables overseas was not practical and remote islands where troops were stationed were not a place where they could be grown in the soil,” said Rick Simmons, hydroponics expert, in a 2008 article. “In 1945, the U.S. Air Force built one of the first large hydroponic farms on Ascension Island, using crushed volcanic rock as a growing medium.”

“Growing conditions haven’t changed since World War II; therefore, the need for hydroponics still exists,” Little said. “Just as it was in 1945, shipping fresh vegetables to a remote island is not cost effective and with the lack of arable soil on the island. We face the same dilemma as our forebears — how to reduce costs and meet the nutritional needs of the troops and contractor personnel stationed here.”

With the revitalization of the hydroponics lab, Little thinks a shift could be on the horizon for Ascension Island.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

The 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield looks quite similar to Mars, per its physical characteristics. Food must be flown in because the topography of the island isn’t able to grow food organically. However, a team from the 45th Mission Support Group’s Detachment 2 has revamped the hydroponics lab so that fresh vegetables can be grown and consumed by the 700 inhabitants of the volcanic island.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Cathy Little)

“In addition to having a virtually limitless supply of fresh produce and reducing the cost of transportation, morale is greatly improved knowing that produce, picked that very day, is awaiting everyone in the base dining hall,” Little said. “Hydroponics allows us to meet demands, reduce costs and provide nutritional value for our personnel.”

As the team continues to experiment with different crops, they hope to expand the size of the lab and the list of what they’re able to grow.

“If we were to operate at a full greenhouse capacity, we could produce enough fresh produce to feed the entire population of Ascension Island,” Little said. “That’s about 700 people.”

For the 45th Space Wing’s Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield, neither the sky, nor Mars, is the limit.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways veterans can be just as boot as their first enlistment

Just because someone has their very own DD-214 in their hands doesn’t mean that they are now exempt from all of the same boot mistakes they once made when they were young privates. Chances are they’re not going to be walking around the local mall with their dog tags hanging out of their shirt anymore, but they’ll do nearly all of the same crap that got them mocked by their peers a few years prior.

The only differences between then and now is that they no longer have a squad leader around to say, “dude… what the sh*t are you doing?” and their college classmates must now thank them for their service for every little thing they do.

Some vets look on and cringe as others have their boot behaviors reinforced and dive head-first into checking every box on this list. We’re not saying every vet exhibits these behaviors — far from it — but we all know that guy…


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Your college classmates, including the other veterans who aren’t as self-proclaimed “dysfunctional” as you, will thank you for not bringing it up every other sentence.

Mentioning to everyone that you’re a veteran

How can people thank you for your service if you don’t let them know that you served every ten seconds? It doesn’t matter what the situation is, your service needs to be brought into the conversation.

This kind of behavior is totally acceptable in, say, a foreign politics class at a university when the professor brings up somewhere the vet has been. That vet’s service can bring another perspective to the table. But it’s not really needed when the conversation is about the latest episode of some TV show…

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The overly-moto tattoo you got when you were fresh out of training is enough.

Dressing way too moto

Some veterans hang up their serviceuniform and jump right into another one that, for some odd reason,still includes the boots they wore while serving.

If you spot anyone trying to look operator AF while wearing a backwards cap with a Velcro American flag on it, Oakley shades that were never authorized for wear in uniform, an unapologetically veteran t-shirt, khaki cargo pants, the aforementioned combat boots, and dip in their mouth,then you’ve got full rights to mock them for being a boot vet.

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It just opens up the possibility for you to seem like you’ve stolen valor (when you haven’t), which is a topic for another article, entitled “why in the ever loving sh*t do people keep wanting to steal valor?”

Wearing uniforms when it’s not really appropriate

The moment most troops get off duty, they’ll get out of their uniform faster than Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty. Being caught off-duty and in-uniform is basically letting every NCO know that you’re willing to pull CQ. Yet, for some odd reason, boot vets pull their uniform out of the toughbox in the garage just so they can wear it to the store.

There’s a good argument that could be made for veterans who’d like to walk their daughter down the aisle in their old service uniform, so moments like those get a pass, but you really shouldn’t wear it to anything politically related.

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This is how you sound when your check for “up to and including your life” doesn’t save you 50 cents.

Making a scene if somewhere doesn’t offer a discount

There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a military or veteran discount when it’s offered. Hey, a dollar saved is a dollar earned, right? The polite response is usually to thank the person who gave you a deal and, especially at a restaurant, tip them what you would have otherwise paid. Returning kindness with kindness leaves a positive impression of the military community and maybe inspire places to take a financial loss to help vets.

If they don’t offer the discount, just joke “well, it was worth a shot” and move on. Don’t be that asshole who yells at some teenager for a policy they didn’t make because you had to pay for a burger instead of .50.

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I have the vaguest feeling that this Marine is probably the dude who merges into the freeway at the last possible second, cuts off everyone in traffic, and then thinks everyone is honking at him because they “hate ‘Murica.”

Branch decals on everything

Everyone should have a bit of pride for the men and women that they served with. Putting an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on the back of your truck is modest way to show everyone that you served in the Marines and flying a U.S. Army flag under Ol’ Glory is a great way to let your neighbors know you were a soldier.

Not everything you owns needs to be covered in military decals. There’s a certain point at which it stops being “just a little tacky” and hits full-blown obnoxious levels of bootness.

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But if you overly elaborate your skills at a job interview and mention me as a reference. I, personally, will vouch for every bullsh*t lie if it means you get the job.

Talking up your skills at every possible moment

The military teaches troops how to do a lot of things well. From properly making the bed in the morning to playing beer pong in the barracks, vets picked up a few things here and there. If you’ve got the talent to back up you claims, by all means, boast away. But just because you PMCSed a Humvee a few times doesn’t make you the greatest mechanic in the world.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Is COVID-19 over yet? 4 horrible events that went faster than the pandemic

Here we are, on quarantine day X-teenth, wondering when the world will once again open. Some states have already announced that certain businesses are open with restrictions, but for the overwhelming majority of the United States, we’re still operating from a distance. Kids are schooling from home, even parts of military training have been put on hold; soldiers are sheltering in place and working remotely.

Industry experts and politicians agree that the pandemic has been unprecedented, most notably by the fact that we don’t know when this thing will blow over.

Take a look at unpleasant events from the past, all of which were over in less time than the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Hurricane Katrina

The category 5 hurricane that hit New Orleans back in 2005 was a devastating event. It’s one that had a particular effect on Marine forces in the area. Today, Katrina is being used as one of the biggest comparisons for economic turmoil, albeit still on a lesser scale.

The entire hurricane’s lifespan lasted eight days, while landfall lasted one, August 29of 2005. Hurricane Katrina was a deadly, horrific occurrence, but with an impact that was felt far longer than the disaster itself.

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9-11

Another comparison of the effects of the pandemic are the months following 9-11. The dastardly terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers caused widespread loss and injury, as well as a trickling economic impact. But that’s not the only unfortunate similarity; New York City has become the epicenter for COVID-19, as were the 9-11 attacks.

The main events of September 2001 took place in less than two hours, while its horrific aftermath lasted far longer.

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Pearl Harbor

Another cruel attack that famously took place on U.S. soil is the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the day in 1941, which FDR famously said will live in infamy. Though it led to the United States joining World War II, the actual event, brought on in two waves by the Japanese, lasted a single morning.

The war itself, its heartache and gruesome side effects lasted far longer, including years of involvement by the United States.

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San Francisco Earthquake

In 1906, the city of San Francisco was hit by one of the strongest earthquakes in modern history. Its location and magnitude, striking miles of the California coast, was grim for San Francisco in particular. The quake also caused massive fires to start and tear through the city, eventually destroying 80% of the entire town.

The quake itself was short lived, while the fires lasted for three days. Its devastation was felt for years following this single natural event.

The U.S. has seen its fair share of disasters. Together, we band and lift one another up to get through some truly awful times. Don’t forget all we’ve overcome in a time of pandemic and that as a country, we, again, can pull together and thrive.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Philippines draw red line in already tense South China Sea

Amid a simmering trade war, the US and Chinese militaries have exchanged tit-for-tat measures with each other in and above the South China Sea.

In early October 2018, a US Navy destroyer sailed close to Chinese-occupied territory in the area, a freedom-of-navigation exercise meant in part to contest Beijing’s expansive claims.

During that exercise, a Chinese destroyer approached the US ship — reportedly as close as 45 feet — in what Navy officials called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.”


“The tension is escalating, and that could prove to be dangerous to both sides,” a senior US official told Reuters on Sept. 30, 2018, after China canceled a meeting between its officials and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — the second senior-level meeting called off in a week.

The encounter between the US and Chinese ships took place near the Spratly Islands, at the southern end of the South China Sea. Farther north, at Scarborough Shoal, the US, the Philippines, and China have already butted heads, and their long-standing dispute there could quickly escalate.

The Philippines took over Scarborough after its independence in 1946. But in 2012, after a stand-off with the Philippines, China took de facto control of the shoal, blocking Filipino fishermen from entering.

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Map showing territory claimed by the Philippines, including internal waters, territorial sea, international treaty limits, and exclusive economic zone.

Chinese control of Scarborough — about 130 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon and about 400 miles from China’s Hainan Island — is an ongoing concern for the Philippines and the US.

Given the shoal’s proximity to the Luzon, if “China puts air-defense missiles and surface-to-surface missiles there, like they have at other South China Sea islands, they could reach the Philippines,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in late August 2018.

That would be “the most direct sort of pushback on the Philippines’ attempt to assert control over Scarborough Shoal,” said Clark, a former US Navy officer.

Beyond a challenge to Manila, a military presence on Scarborough could give China more leverage throughout the South China Sea.

Scarborough would be one point in a triangle edged by the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, both of which already house Chinese military outposts.

While China can use shore-based assets in the air-defense identification zone it declared over the East China Sea in 2013, the eastern fringe of the South China Sea is out of range for that, Clark said.

“So their thought is, the Chinese would really like to develop Scarborough Shoal and put a radar on it so they can start enforcing an ADIZ, and that would allow them to kind of complete their argument that they have control and oversight over the South China Sea,” Clark said.

Given Scarborough’s proximity to bases in the Philippines and the country’s capital, Manila, as well as to Taiwan, a presence there would extend China’s intelligence-gathering ability and maritime-domain awareness, said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“But above and beyond the military implications … China has a political interest in establishing control over all the waters and airspace within the nine-dash line, in both peace and war,” Poling said in an email, referring to the boundary of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.

‘What is our red line?’

After 2012, Manila took its case to the Permanent Court for Arbitration at The Hague, which ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, rejecting China’s claims and finding that Beijing had interfered with Philippine rights in its exclusive economic zone, including at Scarborough. (EEZs can extend 230 miles from a country’s coast.)

Ahead of that ruling, the US detected signs China was getting ready to reclaim land at the shoal, and then-President Barack Obama reportedly warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of serious consequences for doing so, which was followed by China withdrawing its ships from the area.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

That warning was followed by increased Pentagon activity in the region, including flying A-10 Thunderbolts, which are ground-attack aircraft, near Scarborough a month later.

Tensions between China and Philippines eased after the ruling was issued, however, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in July 2016, pursued rapprochement.

The Philippines said in February 2017 that it expected China to try to build on the reef, which Manila called “unacceptable.” The following month, Chinese authorities removed comments by an official about building on Scarborough from state-backed media, raising questions about Beijing’s plans.

More recently, the Philippines warned China of its limits at Scarborough.

“What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal],” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in May 2018.

Cayetano said the other two red lines were Chinese action against Philippine troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys and the unilateral exploration of natural resources in the area. He said China had been made aware of the Philippine position and that Beijing had its own “red line” for the area.

In July 2018, the acting chief justice of the Philippine supreme court, Antonio Carpio, said Manila should ask the US make Scarborough an “official red line,” requesting its recognition as Philippine territory under the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which obligates each to come to the aid of the other in case of attack.

“Duterte himself has reportedly said that Chinese construction of a permanent facility at Scarborough would be a red line for the Philippines,” Poling said.

The Philippines’ “one real option” to try to prevent Chinese construction on Scarborough would be to invoke that defense treaty, Poling said.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 2016.

It’s not clear if the treaty applies to the shoal, Poling added, “but the treaty definitely does apply to an attack on Filipino armed forces or ships anywhere in the Pacific.”

“So Manila would probably need to send Navy or Coast Guard ships to interfere with any work China attempted at Scarborough … and then call for US intervention should China use force.”

That could cause China to back off, as Obama’s warning in 2016 did, Poling said.

While China has pulled back from previous attempts to build on the shoal, “they’ve got ships floating around the area just waiting for the chance,” Clark said in late August 2018. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if China tries to restart that project in the next year to … gauge what the US reaction is and see if they can get away with it.”

That would almost certainly force the hand of the US and the Philippines.

“If China’s able to start building an island there and put systems on it, and the Philippines doesn’t resist … all bets are off,” Clark said. “China feels emboldened to say the South China Sea is essentially a Chinese area.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an F-22 pilot told the Iranian Air Force to go home

The opening few minutes of the movie Top Gun make for, arguably, one of the coolest aerial scenes ever caught on film. There’s a reason it’s the enduring air power movie of the 1980s. Too bad for the Air Force that Top Gun featured the Navy.

Except Air Force pilots do that sh*t in real life.


In 2013, two Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantoms moved to intercept an MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace near the Iranian border. The two IRIAF fighters were quickly shooed away by two F-22 Raptors who were flying in escort.

Except, they didn’t just get a warning message, they were Maverick-ed. That’s what I’m calling it now.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

How an F-22 Raptor intercepts a Russian-built bomber.

The two F-22 Raptors were escorting the drone because of an incident the previous year in which two Iranian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 close air support craft attempted to shoot down a different Air Force MQ-1. In the Nov. 1, 2012, incident, the drone was 16 miles from Iran, but still in international airspace. Iran scrambled the two Su-25s to intercept the drone, which they did, using their onboard guns.

The fighters missed the drone, which captured the whole incident with its cameras. The drone returned to base, completely unharmed. Not surprising, considering the Su-25 isn’t designed for air-to-air combat.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom fighters.

The following year, another drone was being intercepted by Iranian aircraft. This time, however, it had serious firepower backing it up. The Iranians came at the drone with actual fighters, capable of downing an aircraft in mid-flight. The F-4 Phantom could bring what was considered serious firepower when it was first introduced – in the year 1960. These days, it’s a museum piece for the United States and most of its Western allies. Not so for the Iranians, who still have more than 40 of them in service. When the F-4s came up against the MQ-1, they probably expected an easy target. That didn’t happen.

One of the F-22 Raptor pilots flying escort for the drone flew up underneath the Iranian Phantoms. According to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, the Raptor pilot checked out the armaments the Iranian planes were carrying, then pulled up on their left wing and radioed them.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

It wasn’t like this, but it could have been.

“He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home’,” Welsh said.

They did.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this video of Russian gunships in action

Aviadarts is an yearly Russian all-Army competition attended by units of the Aerospace Forces, four military districts and the Northern Fleet (and invited foreign air arms, such as China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force – PLAAF, that took part in the previous editions). During the games, the best aircrews compete on different military specialties and conduct live firing exercises “to reinforce international military and technical military cooperation of the Contest participants; to raise the prestige of military service; to raise the level of training of the Contest participants; to demonstrate combat capabilities (military performance) of modern models of equipment, of weapons and military equipment.”


Once the qualifying rounds (or “preliminaries”) are completed, Aviadarts contest is carried out in three stages:

  1. Physical training: with main and backup crews involved in physical exercises, pull-ups, freestyle swimming etc.
  2. Visual aerial reconnaissance, that also includes formation flying
  3. Combat employment against ground targets: during which combat planes and helicopter engage ground targets while military transport aircraft conduct cargo airdrops.

The All-Army Stage of the Aviadarts 2019 Competition is currently underway in Crimea. From May 24 to June 9, 2019, Aviation crews of the Aerospace Forces, 60 crews flying MiG-29SMT, Su-27SM3, Su-30SM, Su-35, Su-34, Su-24M, Su-25, Tu-22M3, Il-76MD and Mi-24, Mi-35 as well as Ka-52 and Mi-8 helicopters will take part in the drills.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

A Russian Air Force MiG-29SMT.

Dealing with the helicopters, crews of Ka-52 Alligator, Mi-8 AMTSH Terminator, Mi-35 and Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopters perform ground attacks using 80-mm unguided missiles and firing 30-mm cannons at more than 70 targets (divided into 12 types for various types of weapons) at the Chaud range in Crimea.

The following video, released by the Russian MoD, shows some of the Russian gunships in action during Aviadarts 2019. The gunner seat view is particularly interesting.

Боевое применение авиации на всеармейском этапе конкурса «Авиадартс-2019»

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

The Mission Continues hits the ground in LA to give a grade school a facelift

It’s an overcast, slightly rainy day in the South LA neighborhood of Watts. Twenty-five volunteers — veterans and civilians — show up to help The Mission Continues’ 3rd Platoon Los Angeles revamp the athletic areas of Samuel Gompers Middle School. This project is the third for Gompers. Allison Bailey, TMC’s Western Region City Impact Manager, is worried that some of those who signed up might be no-shows because of the rain.


Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

“We definitely can’t paint the lines on the field,” she says.

Bailey is an Army veteran and reservist with a tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan under her belt. She started as a Mission Continues volunteer and now works for TMC full time.

The Mission Continues doesn’t just go out and do random projects; they want to make a lasting impact with tangible results. To do that, they forge long-term relationships with local communities.

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A “platoon” launches when The Mission Continues determines there are enough veteran volunteers to support one. Platoons are dedicated to one geographic area. That’s why 3rd Platoon LA is often at Gompers; they are devoted exclusively to Watts school. That’s part of its “operation.” An operation is a focused effort for a platoon.

In Watts, TMC works with the Partnership for LA Schools. 3rd Platoon has been in this operation for over a year. Bailey does a lot of prep work for the three platoons and two operations in the LA area.

“The goal is to feel dedicated,” she says. “We’ve done a lot of projects here at Gompers Middle School and we try to get the staff and students involved as much as possible so they take ownership of the projects we do.”

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

Elizabeth Pratt, the principal of Samuel Gompers Middle School, is here with the volunteers. She’s worked with the veterans of The Mission Continues before. Students from the school are usually present, but since school is now out for the summer, there aren’t any around today. Still, Pratt is eager for things that will benefit the next school year.

“My students will have the ability next year to have an actual baseball field and soccer field,” Pratt says. “So not only will it enhance after school play, but it will also enhance our current P.E. program.”

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

The first time Allison came to Gompers, she walked the grounds with Principal Pratt. They talked in depth about the possibilities for the school and the projects TMC could work on. Since then, the two have exchanged a few ideas for what to improve. The last time they cooperated, Gompers got a beautiful outdoor gardening area.

“The students were so excited,” Pratt recalls. “The students and their families all came out. It gave everyone a real sense of pride.”

When the veterans from 3rd Platoon first came to Gompers, they shared some of their experiences as veterans with the students. They shared a lunch and answered the children’s probing questions. The two groups shared a lot with each other. Curiosity became cooperation and the veterans from TMC have returned to Gompers three times (to much fanfare from the student body).

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

The volunteers spend much of this otherwise gloomy Saturday on the Gompers campus. No one notices the weather.  They turn an open patch of grass and a mound of dirt into a baseball diamond and soccer field. They pull four large bags of garbage off the playground. They build benches, a basketball backboard, and two soccer goals from wood and PVC piping, then reline the courts. No one complains and everyone hungrily eats their well-earned pizza lunch. After only six hours, these twenty-five people have completely transformed the quality of the school grounds.

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

Daniel Hinojosa, an Army veteran and native of the LA area’s San Fernando Valley, now lives in downtown Los Angeles. This is his second visit to a TMC volunteer event.

“The progress is amazing,” he says. “It’s a neighborhood that definitely needs help and It feels good to help out. It gives me a sense of purpose. Everyone has a reason but for me, it’s not about money. Giving back to people is the most fulfilling goal I could possibly have.”

“It’s not about a connection to the school or the neighborhood,” Principal Pratt says. “People want to give to a place that needs the help. It brings people together in a very constructive way. It doesn’t just build up a part of the school; it builds school pride, neighborhood pride. It doesn’t matter if that neighborhood is Watts or Beverly Hills.”

Branches compete in physical challenge; Air Force wins

If you live in the LA area and want to volunteer with a TMC platoon, check out the TMC LA website. Go The Mission Continues’ website to find out how to report for duty in your community.

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