Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter was accompanying a 50-man joint Special Forces team as they moved forward in Taliban-ridden Kunduz Province on Nov. 2, 2016.


As they snaked through an alleyway during the night mission in search of a high-value target in Boz Qandahari village, the U.S.-Afghan team came upon a barrier, “a large metal fence, that blocked the way, and it wasn’t supposed to be there,” according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

That’s when the first enemy grenade was launched, and bullets started to spray during the ambush, said Wilson, who presented the Air Force Cross — second only to the Medal of Honor for valor in combat — to Hunter, a combat controller, on October 17 for his steadfast decisions and courage during the U.S. Army-led mission in Afghanistan.

Wilson said Hunter, assigned to 23rd Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, kept his position, never faltering as he called in “danger-close” airstrikes from AC-130 Spooky gunships and AH-64 Apache helicopters within 20 meters of their position.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
Photo: US Army Spc. Glenn M. Anderson

Danger-close refers to strikes coming within 100 meters of friendly personnel. The firefight lasted for eight hours.

“What was truly extraordinary as I reviewed this story was the amazing precision and professionalism of the team,” she said, speaking before the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron; Air Force Special Operations Command commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb; and the AFSOC community at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Hunter managed to position himself between the insurgents and his team, “shielding the wounded with his body, while providing suppressive fire with his rifle,” according to the citation.

After clearing the compound, and taking cover with a few team members, Hunter exposed himself to gunfire again as he heard calls for help in the distance, “dragging a wounded teammate 30 meters to safety,” the citation states.

For the next four hours, the airstrikes kept coming from the AC-130 “Spooky 43” gunship crew and the helicopters, including multiple 105mm rounds within as little as 13 meters from his location.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

“Doesn’t an insurgent fear, more than the sound of a jet fighter, the sound of an AC-130 gunship?” Wilson said.

In all, 1,787 munitions rained down on the enemy’s position, which included 31 “danger-close” engagements, the citation said. More than 50 lives were saved, and 27 Taliban fighters were killed.

“Every [Joint Terminal Attack Controller], aircraft commander and ground force commander knows the risk of a danger-close mission,” Wilson said.

“But 31 without a single fratricide [by friendly fire] on the ground is just astounding,” she said.

“Thanks to [Staff] Sgt. Hunter, and his efforts to always be closest to the enemy, to put himself in the rear when everyone else got out of the way. To make sure his team was safe. He risked his own life and put himself in position to maintain tally on the target,” Wilson said.

The secretary honored two Army Green Berets killed in action that day: Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer and Maj. Andrew Byers. Byers was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in February.

“Special operations is a force that we call when we really need the absolute best,” Wilson said.

She added, “There’s no better friend — and no worse enemy — than the United States special operations forces.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin says Russian Navy’s newest ship will carry hypersonic missile

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Oct. 31, 2019, that the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile will “certainly” be onboard the Russian Navy’s newest corvette, set to enter service next month, according to RT. The Zircon missile, while reportedly still under development, cannot be intercepted by any defense systems currently in use, according to Russian state media outlet TASS.

Putin toured the corvette Gremyashchi on a visit to the northwestern Russian city of Kaliningrad last Thursday. “It will certainly have Tsirkon,” Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoyu.

The Zircon missile reportedly travels at nine times the speed of sound; the term “hypersonic” is generally understood to mean an object travels at least five times the speed of sound. The missile was still under development as of February 2019, when Russia-1, the state television station, threatened five US positions including the Pentagon, saying that the Zircon missile could hit the targets in less than five minutes.


Also in February 2019, Putin claimed in his Address to the Federal Assembly that the missile’s development was progressing according to schedule.

Putin used the missile to threaten the US should it deploy any new nuclear missiles closer to Russia as the INF treaty began to unravel in February 2019.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2TTTi30ve4
Russia’s most lethal weapon hypersonic ZIRCON missile!

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“You work it out: Mach nine, and over 1,000 km,” Putin told Russian media at the time, Reuters reported.

While the claims of Russian state media and Russian leadership are impossible to verify, Putin has said that the Zircon can destroy both sea and land targets.

The Zircon, or Tsirkon, is compatible with the Kalibr missile systems, which are already aboard the Gremyashchiy corvette, according to the Center for Strategic International Studies’ Missile Threat project. TASS reports that the Gremyashchiy is the first corvette in the Pacific Fleet to carry the Kalibr missiles.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the Zircon could potentially be deployed next year.

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The first American air-to-air kill in 20 years wasn’t a manned aircraft

On June 8, 2017, an American pilot scored one of the first American air-to-air kill since the 1999 Kosovo War, shooting down an armed drone being used by the Syrian government. Details of what plane scored the kill and how it was executed were not immediately released.


According to a statement released by the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the drone — said to be similar in size to the MQ-1B Predator — had “dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS” prior to the coalition aircraft downing it.

Previously, a U.S. aircraft reportedly shot down an Iranian surveillance drone in 2009 over Iraq.

The statement also reported that in an incident earlier that day, two “armed technical vehicles” were destroyed after entering a “de-confliction zone” and approaching coalition troops.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
A MQ-1B Predator from the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom here July 9, 2008. Through the use of advanced capabilities, focused doctrine and detailed training the predator provides integrated and synchronized close air combat operations, to include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Johnson)

“Coalition forces have been located at At Tanf for more than a year. The garrison is a temporary coalition location to train vetted forces to defeat ISIS and will not be vacated until ISIS is defeated,” the allied statement added.

This was not the first incident near the base. A statement released the day before the strike by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve headquarters reported that pro-Assad forces in Syria had sent troops toward the temporary coalition base at At Tanf that included a tank, artillery, and 60 personnel. After repeated warnings via an emergency communication line were ignored, coalition forces carried out strikes that destroyed two artillery pieces and an anti-aircraft gun, while damaging a tank.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

“As long as pro-regime forces are oriented toward Coalition and partnered forces the potential for conflict is escalated,” the statement by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said.

Despite the incidents, the release from the headquarters did not seek a fight with the Assad regime or those backing it. However, the statement declared said Syrian army probes “continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”

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9 things we miss from our Afghanistan deployments

With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.


Related: 7 items every Marine needs before deploying

Thanks to the Facebook page “Bring the Sangin Boys Back” for contributing.

1. Afghan naan bread

Regardless of the rumors how the bread is pressed (by Afghans’ feet) it was delicious.

Here they’re just mixing the bread. (image via Giphy)

2. Band of Brothers

The lifelong friends you made in combat are priceless, and there’s nothing else like it.

Yup. (images via Giphy)

3. Awesome nights

With a lack of electricity, there was no artificial illumination to spoil the night sky, it made the stars pop even more.

Not an Afghan night sky, but you get the point. (images via Giphy)

4. Low responsibility

You went on patrol, pulled some time on post, worked out, slept and…pretty much that’s about it.

woke right up when sh*t went down. (images via Giphy)

5. You got to blow sh*t up  

The best part of the job while serving in the infantry was delivering the ordnance.

3/5 Get Some! (image via Giphy)

6. Firefights

Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.

It was that fun. (images via Giphy)

7. Getting jacked

When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.

1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)

8. Movie night

Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.

And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really.  (images via Giphy)

Also Read: How to make a movie theater with your smartphone on deployment 

9. Making memories

Although you we experienced some sh*tty times, nothing beats looking back and remembering the good ones while having a beer with your boys.

To the good times! (image via Giphy)

Bonus: The emotional homecomings

Leaving your family to deploy sucks, but coming home to them — priceless.

We salute all those who serve. Thank you! (images via Giphy) WATM wishes everyone to stay safe and watch your six. That is all.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran admits it has US Navy veteran in custody

Iran says it is holding a U.S. Navy veteran, confirming media reports about a case that risks further escalating tensions with Washington.

The New York Times reported on Jan. 7, 2019, that Michael White, 46, was arrested while visiting Iran and had been held since July 2018 on unspecified charges.

On Jan. 9, 2019, Iranian state news agency IRNA carried a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi that confirmed the arrest, but did not specify when it had happened or what crime he was accused of.


Qasemi was quoted as saying that Iran had informed the U.S. government about White’s arrest within days of when he was taken into custody in the city of Mashhad “some time ago.”

The spokesman added that White’s case was going through the legal process and officials will make a statement at the appropriate time.

The U.S. State Department said it was “aware of reports” of the detention but did not provide further details, citing privacy considerations.

U.S. Navy veteran Michael White reportedly jailed in Iran

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The New York Times has quoted White’s mother, Joanne, as saying she learned three weeks ago that her son was being held at an Iranian prison.

She said her son had visited Iran “five or six times” to see an Iranian woman she described as his girlfriend.

White’s incarceration was also reported on Jan. 7, 2019, by Iran Wire, an online news service run by Iranian expatriates.

White’s imprisonment could further worsen relations between Washington and Tehran, longtime foes.

Tensions have been high since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed crippling economic sanctions against Tehran in 2018.

At least five Americans have been sentenced to prison in Iran on espionage-related charges.

Among them is Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University student, who was given a 10-year sentence for espionage. He was arrested in August 2016 while conducting research for his dissertation on Iran’s Qajar dynasty. Both Wang and the university deny the claims.

Baquer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, and his son Siamak, an Iranian-American businessman, were sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the U.S. government. The charges were denied by the family and dismissed by U.S. authorities.

Bob Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, vanished on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 while on an intelligence mission. Tehran has said it has no information about his fate.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first Muslim Green Beret was also in Iran’s Special Forces

The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.

He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.


Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
Master Sergeant Changiz Lahidji in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He was the first Muslim Green Beret and longest-serving Special Forces soldier in history with 24 years of active service. (Changiz Lahidji)

The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.

He was on his way back to Iran.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
Changiz Lahidji standing guard during the Shah’s celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. (Changiz Lahidji)

In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.

The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
Master Sgt. Changiz Lahidji, U.S. Army. (Changiz Lahidji)

After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.

He writes about all of his worldly adventures in some 33 countries in his memoir, Full Battle Rattle: My Story as the Longest-Serving Special Forces A-Team Soldier in American History. In it, you can read about him helping to bust drug rings in Spain, capture the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, and what it was like on the ground during the “Black Hawk Down” debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia. He was there for all of it.

But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.

Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.

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101-year-old British D-Day vet breaks skydiving record

A 101-year-old D-Day veteran has become the oldest person in the world to skydive.


Bryson William Verdun Hayes completed a tandem skydive from 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) with members of his extended family on Sunday at an airfield in Honiton, southwestern England.

Among those jumping were Hayes’ son, grandson, great-grandson and great-granddaughter.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
Bryson William Verdun Hayes broke the Guinness World Record for oldest skydiver by three days. (AP photo via NewsEdge)

At the age of 101 years, 38 days, Hayes broke the Guinness World Record held by Canada’s Armand Gendreau, who jumped in 2013 at 101 years, three days.

When he landed, Hayes said he was “absolutely over the moon” at the achievement. The jump raised money for the Royal British Legion, a veterans’ organization.

Hayes said he had wanted to try skydiving when he was 90, but was talked out it at the time by his late wife. He jumped for the first time last year at 100.

Hayes served in the British Army during World War II, and was awarded France’s Legion of Honor for his heroic actions.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Delta Force operator who helped rescue 70 prisoners from ISIS to receive Medal of Honor September 11

An Army Ranger assigned to the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command will be awarded the Medal of Honor Sept. 11 for his actions in a 2015 raid that rescued approximately 70 prisoners from Islamic State militants in Iraq, according to the Associated Press.

President Donald Trump will award the nation’s highest award for military valor to Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne in a White House ceremony set for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.


Payne will receive the medal for his actions Oct. 22, 2015, as a member of an American and Kurdish raid force that sought to rescue 70 prisoners — including Kurdish peshmerga fighters — from a compound in the town of Huwija, Iraq, roughly 9 miles west of Kirkuk. The Kurds and Americans had reliable intelligence reports that ISIS was planning to kill the prisoners.

“Time was of the essence,” Payne said, according to the AP. “There were freshly dug graves. If we didn’t action this raid, then the hostages were likely to be executed.”

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

Fast rope training with US Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment forces. US Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite.

When ISIS militants opened fire after Kurdish forces attempted and failed to breach the compound with an explosive, Payne and his unit climbed over a wall, entered the compound, and quickly cleared one of the two buildings where the prisoners were held, the AP reported.

Clearing through the building, the team used bolt cutters to break locks off prison doors and free nearly 40 hostages.

After other task force members reported they were engaged in an intense firefight at the second building, between 10 to 20 soldiers, including Payne and Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, maneuvered toward the second building, which was heavily fortified and partially on fire.

“The team scaled a ladder onto the roof of the one-story building under a savage fusillade of enemy machine-gun fire from below. From their roof-top vantage point, the commandos engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire,” the AP reported. “Payne said at that point, ISIS fighters began to detonate their suicide vests, causing the roof to shake. The team quickly moved off the roof to an entry point for building two.”

As ISIS fighters continued to exchange gunfire with the raid force as they entered the building, Payne worked to open another fortified door, cutting the first lock before heavy smoke from the fire forced him to hand off the bolt cutters to an Iraqi counterpart and retreat out of the building for fresh air.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

Rangers pull security while conducting a night raid in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

After the Iraqi partner had to retreat for fresh air, Payne grabbed the bolt cutters and reentered the building to cut off the last lock. After kicking open the door, the commandos escorted about 30 more hostages out of the burning building, which was about to collapse and still taking enemy gunfire.

Payne reentered the building two more times to ensure every prisoner was freed, having to forcibly remove one of the prisoners who had been too frightened to move during the chaotic scene, according to the AP.

Payne joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman and has deployed several times to combat as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and in various positions with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for a wound he sustained in Afghanistan in 2010, according to the AP report. Payne also won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition as a sergeant first class representing USASOC in 2012. He is married with three children and is stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is from the South Carolina towns of Batesburg-Leesville and Lugoff.

The news of Payne’s Medal of Honor comes just nine days after another soldier was recommended for the extraordinary honor.

In a letter to lawmakers Aug. 24, Defense Secretary Mark Esper endorsed a proposal to upgrade to a Medal of Honor the Silver Star Medal Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe was awarded after he died of the catastrophic burns he suffered while pulling six soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Iraq, on Oct. 17, 2005.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

Dozens dead after 3 suicide bombings rock Istanbul’s international airport

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey | Yazar Mertborak/Wikimedia Commons


Dozens were killed after three suicide bombers blew themselves up at Turkey’s largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, on Tuesday.

The Associated Press, citing senior Turkish officials, said that nearly 50 people have died.

The attack, which occurred at around 10 p.m. local time and appeared to be coordinated, left at least 60 others injured, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

The “vast majority” of victims were Turkish nationals, Reuters reported, but foreigners were also among the casualties, the wire service said, citing an official on Wednesday.

The Associated Press said that initial indications suggest that ISIS is responsible for the attack.

“The assessments show that three suicide bombers carried out the attacks in three different spots at the airport,” Vasip Şahin, Istanbul Province’s governor, said.

The suspects apparently detonated the explosives at the security check-in at the entrance to the airport’s international terminal as they exchanged gunfire with police, a Turkish official told Reuters.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that at least one of the attackers opened fire on the crowd using a Kalashnikov rifle before detonating himself.

It is still unconfirmed who is responsible for the attack, but ISIS and Kurdish groups have claimed multiple attacks in Turkey in the last year. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is waging an insurgency against the Turkish government, but primarily targets military and security personnel in the country’s southeast.

The Ataturk attack “fits the ISIS profile, not PKK,” a counterterrorism official told CNN, adding that the PKK doesn’t usually go after international targets.

Some flights to the airport have been diverted, an airport official told Reuters.

Ataturk is the 11th-busiest airport in the world, with at least 61 million travelers passing through in 2015. Many have noted that Turkey had assigned extra security to the entrance of Ataturk in the wake of numerous ISIS-linked terrorist attacks in Istanbul in the past several months.

Airport-security workers recorded the surveillance-camera footage of the moment the explosion ripped through the airport:

Footage has emerged of panicked travelers running away from the scene of the explosions:

Lisa Monaco, assistant to the US president for homeland security and counterterrorism, has briefed US President Barack Obama on the attack, according to a White House official.

All scheduled flights in both directions between the US and Istanbul have been temporarily suspended, a senior US official told ABC. The airport will be closed until 8 p.m. on Wednesday local time.

The US State Department renewed its three-month-old travel warning for Turkey on Monday, noting that “Foreign and US tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations,” in a warning posted on the department’s website.

The US consulate is working to determine if US citizens are among the airport attack’s victims, the State Department tweeted.

Many passengers are now stranded outside of the airport:

ISIS has claimed responsibility for multiple terrorist attacks on Turkish soil since mid-2015.

In January, 13 people were killed and 14 injured in a suicide bombing in a popular central square in Istanbul. The perpetrator was identified as Nabil Fadli, an ISIS follower from Syria.

Last July, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in southeastern Turkey that killed 33 young activists. Three months later, a n ISIS-linked suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara killed over 100 people.

Michael Weiss, co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” noted on Twitter that ISIS has a “lot of motives for attacking Ataturk airport, including the imminent loss of Manbij [in Syria], Turkish shelling of ISIS, and of course Turkish-Israel rapprochement.”

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons — a breakaway faction of the PKK — claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Ankara in February that killed 29 people and another in March that killed 37. A car bomb claimed by Kurdish separatists ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul on June 7 during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university, and the mayor’s office.

Articles

This video shows the insider attack that killed 3 US special operators in Jordan

The Jordanian government released a video on July 24 depicting an insider attack that killed three US Special Forces in Jordan.


The video shows the soldiers pulling up to the King Faisal Air Base to participate in a training exercise in November. Upon reaching the entrance, Jordanian guard Cpl. M’aarek Abu Tayeh opened fire on the trucks carrying the soldiers. Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Sgt. First Class Matthew Lewellen was wounded, later dying from his injuries.

Staff Sgt. James Moriarty was in the truck behind the first, and was able to exit the vehicle, along with another soldier from a different truck. The soldiers attempted to speak with Tayeh in Arabic, but were ignored. Tayeh kept firing, eventually killing Moriarty before the fourth soldier was finally able to shoot the assailant.

WATCH:

 

None of the Jordanian soldiers nearby appeared to aid the Americans. The video clearly shows one man who opened the gate running away as soon as shots were fired.

Jordan, a US ally in the ongoing war on terrorism, initially denied responsibility for Tayeh’s attack, placing blame on the US for failing to follow proper protocols when entering the base. US Special Operations Command found “no evidence that US forces failed to fully comply with Jordanian base procedures.”

In fact, SOCOM reported that the troops “demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism” in taking down Tayeh, who was armed with an M-16 rifle and body armor. The Special Forces soldiers had only sidearms.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
DoD photo by Sgt. Christopher Bigelow

The families of the dead soldiers vocally condemned the Jordanian government in March for its failure to properly look into the incident.

The government eventually charged Tayeh with murder in June. He was found guilty and received life in prison with hard labor, though some relatives of the deceased were hoping for a death sentence.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The Chinese military’s exploitation of the coronavirus pandemic

In Davos in 2017, Xi Jinping painted a vision of a China-led globalist world. The Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic gives us a taste of Chinese global leadership: it includes a breathtaking degree to which other nations, desperate for transparency and reciprocity in the form of detailed information and medical supplies, have been left in a lurch, and therefore vulnerable to Chinese coercion. This is not an opportunity for cooperation with China. This is not a moment for a reprieve in America’s competition against the communist regime; it is a harrowing foreshadowing of what is at stake if we lose.

Competition with China spans the spheres of economics and diplomacy, but undergirding the entire effort is American hard power. It is our military, both our military capabilities as well as our willingness to employ them, that keeps Chinese territorial expansion at bay. And even during a global pandemic of Beijing’s making, Beijing’s military has been very busy. It is why the United States must follow through with the Pentagon’s plans to recapitalize our strategic deterrent and other military plans meant to deter Chinese aggression.


Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the United States and its partners to pause wargaming exercises that are meant to reassure allies and bolster readiness to protect the health of its military members. In contrast, China has not slowed down provocative, offensive military maneuvers. Beijing just days ago conducted naval drills near Taiwan’s shores, has continued to buzz Taiwan’s airspace, it sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in international waters, and according to State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, the Chinese government has continued to make developments on military bases China built on reefs and islands on which it erroneously claims sovereignty.

Defense officials have repeatedly warned that the first island chain is vulnerable to Chinese aggression. Nested in that first island chain are Taiwan and Japan, valuable allies, and who will be critical allies in the U.S. effort to weaken China’s leverage and expose its malign behavior. They are among others in the larger Indo-Pacific region to include India and Australia that will anchor our cooperative efforts to defend national sovereignty against CCP authoritarianism.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said the Pentagon is committed to mission readiness during the pandemic. He also told Congress in February that the “highest priority remains China, as its government continues to use — and misuse — its diplomatic, economic and military strength to attempt to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in its favor, often at the expense of others.”

While deterring China and assuring allies entails much more than our strategic deterrent, the cornerstone for deterring military aggression of the worst kind is our nuclear arsenal. The nuclear modernization strategy laid out in the Trump Nuclear Posture Review must continue to move forward on time, and the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be a pretext for delays.

The cost of the entire nuclear enterprise is roughly 5 percent of all national security spending devoted to the recapitalization, sustainment, and operations. The Obama administration began the modernization effort, and the Trump administration has determined to carry it through while adapting it based on the actions of China as well as Russia.

Defense officials have warned that in addition to Russia, China presents formidable nuclear challenges, and the trends are not headed in the right direction. Although China refuses to be transparent about its nuclear program, the United States knows China has significant capabilities that leverage cutting edge technology and assesses China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear arsenal by the end of the decade. Additionally, China’s nuclear weapons are central to China’s military plans and intentions.

Despite the significant continuity between administrations about nuclear modernization, there will be efforts to cancel or delay some components of the force, and dealing with pandemics will be used as a pretext. For years, ideologically motivated groups have focused on the intercontinental ballistic missiles, or “land-based leg” of the triad, specifically, as an opportunity to find financial savings. Some have argued against eliminating the leg altogether while some argue it makes more sense to continue to extend the life of the current fleet, the old Minuteman IIIs with Cold War era technologies, rather than pursue its replacement called the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). But military leaders have repeatedly warned that the decades’ old Minuteman IIIs would have trouble penetrating future air defenses, and the cost to pursue GBSD will not be more expensive than another life extension program that would leave the United States underprepared. Now is not the time to delay the next generation of our nuclear weapons.

Conventional weapons are also necessary to deter Chinese aggression. Remember, the aim is to deter the aggression in the first place, rather than respond once China decides to act on its malign intention to attack U.S. bases or territory of a sovereign nation. The United States can do this if it convinces Beijing it has the will and capability to retaliate defensively in response to an offensive act of aggression such that Beijing will regret the decision.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

So, in addition to the nuclear program, there are meaningful changes underway. For example, the U.S. Marine Corps is focused on deploying a force in the Indo Pacific theater in cooperation with our allies, which is inside the range of China’s massive missile force. This force would be so formidable and with so many targets distributed throughout the region that it allows the U.S. military a high degree of resiliency. The USMC also wants offensive long-range missiles, drones, and rocket artillery, and lots of them. Notable, now that President Trump withdrew from the dated INF Treaty due to Russian cheating, the USMC can have the range of missiles it needs. The United States will also need a mix of defensive systems with the ability to intercept the first rounds of missile attacks to preserve the U.S. ability to respond and with more options at its disposal. This offense-defense mix that includes passive and active defenses will complicate Beijing’s calculations and will dissuade an initial move and preserve peace.

The current COVID-19 pandemic will impact all areas of the U.S. government and reshuffle initiatives and divide attention. But it’s vital to appreciate the severity of China’s actions, that China is the cause of this historic crisis, and that its military is exploiting it to gain an advantage over the United States in the near and long term. The United States must work to ensure they fail.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

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This is how Marines pay their respects to our veterans in hospice

It’s been six years since 1st Lt. Kimberly Colby, a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, made her first visit to a dying veteran as part of the Honor Salute program.


It still sticks out in her mind.

He was a Marine infantryman during Vietnam and had earned the Purple Heart while overseas. He was dying of colon cancer.

During the visit, she and a fellow comrade, both in their service blues, saluted the Marine and thanked him for his service.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
USAF photo by Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson

“He was stoic throughout the ceremony despite being in immense pain,” Colby said.

When she was about to leave he said, “You know what? That’s the first time I have ever been thanked for my service.”

At the time, Colby was a cadet (midshipman) in the Naval Academy and was one of the first volunteers to sign up as a project leader with Honor Salute, then known as Final Salute. The program began in 2010 at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Pasadena, Md., for young military members at the beginning of their careers to pay tribute to veterans at the end of their lives.

“The program struck a chord with me,” said Colby, whose father and grandfather were in the military. Her grandfather was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and her father served in the Marine Corps during the post-Vietnam era.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Patrick J. DeGeorge, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs

Now after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, Colby has become instrumental in honoring San Diego-area veterans as a volunteer with the Escondido-based Elizabeth Hospice and the Carlsbad-based Hospice of the North Coast.

Colby has visited veterans at their homes and in senior living communities across the county and has spearheaded efforts to recruit fellow Marines as volunteers at the nonprofit hospices.

The hospices conduct pinning ceremonies throughout the year to recognize aging veterans and thank them for their military service. Ceremonies are held in dining halls of area senior living communities and at bedside for hospice patients. The ceremony includes a “Final Salute” where an active-duty service member salutes the veteran.

Since 2012, The Elizabeth Hospice has recognized more than 2,300 veterans.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nolan Kahn

Colby and the other Marines from Camp Pendleton who participate in the ceremonies spend time talking with the veterans. Some patients are able to share stories and some put on their old uniforms for the occasion, while others depend on family members to share the memories.

“It is especially meaningful for those who were never welcomed home or thanked for their service,” said the hospice’s veterans specialist Lisa Marcolongo, whose husband served in the Marine Corps.

“Kimberly’s smile lights up a room as she shakes the hand of a veteran,” Marcolongo said.

For Colby, the best part are the stories and instant camaraderie that can be built. The hardest part is saying goodbye to the veteran and his family and friends.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

“Honoring veterans is something I consider a sacred obligation for those of us who wear the cloth of our nation,” Colby said.

Colby’s advice for current service members: “Go out of your way to honor veterans. It is within our lifetime that we will lose all WWII and Korean War veterans. Their stories and sacrifices should be honored.”

The Elizabeth Hospice is looking for veterans and active-duty service members to participate in its veteran pinning ceremonies.

For information on The Elizabeth Hospice, visit elizabethhospice.org and on Hospice of the North Coast, visit hospicenorthcoast.org

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8 parting thoughts from one of the Marine Corps’ ‘Chosin Few’

“Consider that, first of all, you are a United States Marine. That is the beginning,” Joseph Owen said just days before his death in August 2015.


He said it as if he were addressing all Marines.

“You are something beyond ordinary people. Now you want to take a step up from there. If you’re not the best, you’re gonna be. If you’re not trying to be the best the Corps has, you’re not worth a sh*t. Why are you here?”

Owen commanded a mortar platoon as a 2nd lieutenant in Baker Company, 1-7 Marines during the Korean War. Owen enlisted during World War II but saw the bulk of his service in Korea. As an officer, he was charged with turning an undisciplined group of reservist mortarmen into a force to confront the enemy.

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
Owen near Seoul, ca. 1950. (provided by Joseph Owen)

Related: ‘Anyone trying to kill me, I’m going to kill them’

“You always have to perform to your limit,” he said. “Myself and a fellow officer, we used to sit around and talk about leadership all the time. Combat leadership doesn’t mean a goddamn thing unless you have Marines that will continue the fight no matter what.”

Becoming an officer changed his world.

“I’m not bragging, I’m just saying the facts: two Navy Crosses and a Silver Star – we know what the hell we’re talking about,” he said.

1. His most vivid memories:

“The North Koreans had much more initiative,” he said. “They would come on you tenaciously and keep on the attack until you killed them. And in defensive positions, they were aggressive and used offensive tactics. Even pinned down they would get out and come at you. I had great respect for them. They fought with their brains individually. The Chinese were only tenacious because there was no going back.”

“Some of the Chinese front line soldiers didn’t even have weapons, they had stakes. They would try to get in close and kill you with that. The ones who came after them would try to pick up the burp guns of the first wave. If they got killed the third wave would come and pick up the weapons.”

“The Chinese were wearing sneakers in 30-below-zero temperatures,” he remembered. “Sometimes we came up on them, and some of them would still be in position, frozen solid. They’d put their hands up to surrender. We would take them, pull them out, and find they were just stumbling around on frozen feet.”

2. On racial integration of the military:

“Two Southerners came to request to be in my platoon when they received a black squad leader, a Sgt. Long. When Sgt. Long was killed during a night fight with the Chinese, those two Marines requested to carry Long’s body, because they wanted to pay proper respect to ‘the best damn squad leader in the Corps.’ When the fighting started, everyone was a Marine.”

3. His take on modern American warfare:

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan

“Today’s troops cannot fight the way I know how to fight. You have to take the battle to the enemy and kill them. These days you have to go through rules of engagement, which ties the hands of soldiers behind their back. You have to keep on going and do not stop. Keep going and kill those bastards. No pity, no mercy, just kill them. As many as you can.”

4. On North Korea today:

“We fought them to a defeat and now they have risen back and are – in effect –  giving us the finger and getting away with it. What are we gonna do? We shouldn’t let that little son of a bitch play around with atomic weapons. That pisses me off.”

5. On harboring ill will toward an enemy:

“Hell no. They were fighting under the same orders I had. They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them. Hell no. I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”

6. Why he wrote a book:

“I had been thinking for a long time something should be done to honor the Marines I fought with,” Owen said. “I knew if I wrote about Baker Company it would also cover Able Company. We were all the same, formed up by the numbers, and we bonded very quickly. If I said Baker was the best, they’d say ‘F– you, we’re the best.’ We were the same. So I quit my business and wrote the book. This was a story that needed to be told.”

Combat Controller receives Air Force Cross for valor in Afghanistan
1st Lt. Joseph Owen (Retired) bows his head during the invocation of his Silver Star ceremony, 59 years after the actions where he earned it, April 24, 2009. (Marine Corps photo)

“What I wrote about getting to Fox Company after they were under fire for five nights… we came up to Fox Company’s positions. They had stacks of Chinese bodies set up as protective walls against enemy fire. They were using those walls to put down fire on the oncoming Chinese. When we came up on them, I was able to walk 50 yards on just Chinese bodies. There must have been hundreds of them thrown against Fox Company. This is the kind of thing I needed to write.”

7. On life after the Corps:

“Stay active, be proud of what you do. What I say about the pride of being a Marine. That’s all over the place — the rest of your life, make it a good one. Do good things for people to the best of your ability. I had a hell of a life, way beyond the Marine Corps. I look back at night before I go to sleep… I got millions of great, great memories. I remember everything. I think ‘son of a bitch… you were able to get away with that!’ ”

8. Advice for anyone, military or civilian:

“If you’ve never been scared sh*tless, what kind of life have you led?”

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