Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski of the Cape Caution. Photo courtesy of Discovery.
Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski’s year started tragically.
A Navy veteran, Wichrowski is one of the captains on “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel series about Alaska’s crab industry. He was close friends with two of the five men who died when the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat, went down in icy, turbulent conditions in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. Two crew members survived.
The Coast Guard’s 20-hour search for survivors will be featured on “Deadliest Catch” at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern time).
“It’s hard to drum all this up again, really,” Wichrowski said. “You lose friends. You lose family. And the part that sticks is that any time, it could be you.”
Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski is in the wheelhouse at the helm of the Summer Bay.
The episode of the long-running reality series follows the Coast Guard’s role from the time it received a distress call until the search, which covered 1,400 square miles, was suspended.
Although Wichrowski was not in contact directly with the Coast Guard during that time, he followed the rescue mission’s progress closely.
“They’re our lifeline,” Wichrowski said. “Some of the stuff they do with the helicopters and the C-130s and the ships and the hard-bottom inflatables [boats] is truly amazing. The Coast Guard’s our last chance for survival when we’re having trouble.”
The investigation into the Scandies Rose disaster is ongoing and could last “many months,” said Scott McCann, the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer for the 17th District.
Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski stands proudly on deck of his boat.
Wichrowski’s own ties to the military began early.
His father, Charles Thomas Wichrowski, was a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina during the Korean War. The youngest of three brothers, Wichrowski said he did not always appreciate his strict upbringing in Pennsylvania.
“I probably didn’t really like [my father] that much at the time, but he was training me to be a leader from Day One,” Wichrowski said. “In his eyes, there was only one place to be, and that was in charge.”
Wichrowski’s tour in the Navy happened almost by accident.
Before he wrecked his father’s new car on homecoming night, he had planned to go to school and study business administration. The cost of the repairs, along with other financial constraints in his family, prompted Wichrowski to enlist in 1975.
Armed with a love of the ocean, he headed West. He served as an electrician’s mate at naval stations in California, Idaho and Washington State.
Wichrowski enjoyed the camaraderie and travel in the military and proved to be invaluable in stressful situations. He recalled one time a typhoon in Taiwan knocked out a generator. Wichrowski ran to the other end of the tossed ship on a wall, hurdling people along the way, to work on it.
On another occasion in San Diego, Wichrowski was about to go on liberty when a transformer caught fire. He was not on duty, but he restored the power anyway, then left suddenly to meet his girlfriend before other potential issues arose.
“When I got back, the XO [executive officer] on the bridge, he had seen the whole thing,” Wichrowski said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get my butt reamed.’ But he said he was pretty amazed about how quickly I reacted.”
Wichrowski said the bonds of boat crews are similar to those in the military. Photo courtesy of Discovery.
Wichrowski, who served for four years, said what he learned in the Navy resonates today.
“It’s the whole reason why I’m successful,” he said.
The bonds formed among boat crews are not unlike those developed in the military. That’s why the sinking of the Scandies Rose hit Wichrowski hard. He knew the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr., and engineer, Art Gacanias, well, but thankfully the loss of life was not worse.
Landon Cheney, Wichrowski’s No. 2 man on the Summer Bay, used to work on the Scandies Rose and considered returning before it sank.
“I’m pretty certain that if he was on board, he wouldn’t have made it,” Wichrowski said.
As painful as the loss of the Scandies Rose remains, Wichrowski intends to watch Tuesday night.
“I hope to,” he said. “… It should never be forgotten, but it’s still tough to review over and over.”
Fighter aces — those pilots responsible for taking down at least five other aircraft — are almost as old as aviation itself. Since World War I, young men have been willing to risk death to earn glory and become “knights of the air” or the “cavalry of the clouds.” There have been thousands of pilots who achieved ace status, many whom have racked up far more than five downings. None, however, have ever managed the singular feat of becoming a fighter ace on both sides in the same war.
That is, none except one…
Pierre Le Gloan was from Brittany, born in the Breton town of Kergrist-Moelou on June 1, 1913. He joined the French Armee de l’Air in 1931 as soon as he was old enough to enlist. Before his death in 1943, he achieved ace status in both the French Air Force and under the collaborationist Vichy regime after the fall of France in 1940. With 18 kills to his name and as France’s fourth-highest-scoring ace of World War II, he remains the only pilot in history to become an ace on both sides of the same conflict.
When war came, he was flying a Morane-Saulnier MS.406. On Nov. 23, 1939 he claimed his first kill, a Dornier DO.17 reconnaissance aircraft. Another DO.17 fell to his guns on March 2, 1940.
Pierre Le Gloan with his famous D.520.
All pilots in Le Gloan’s squadron were then re-equipped with the newer and better Dewoitine D.520. Le Gloan lost no time in taking full advantage of the use of a better fighter. During the Battle of France in the summer of 1940 he had a hot streak. In June he shot down four German and Italian bombers: two Heinkel 111 planes and two Fiat BR.20 bombers.
It didn’t end there. The highlight of Le Gloan’s career was to come on June 15. His squadron met a squadron of Italian CR.42 fighters. Attacking with enthusiasm, he shot down no less than three of them. Encountering another CR.42 and a BR.20 on his way back to base, Le Gloan attacked and shot down both of them.
Taking down five aircraft in one day has seldom been achieved by even the highest-scoring fighter aces, and Le Gloan was justly rewarded. His five-kill streak brought him up to 11 kills, well above the five required for ace status. He was also promoted to 2nd Lieutenant to acknowledge his remarkable feat.
On June 20, his squadron was transferred to Algeria, then a French colony. With the fall of France and the installation of Marshal Petain’s Vichy puppet government, the French forces in North Africa were under Vichy command. To Le Gloan, it made no difference. He’d flown, fought, and killed for France. Now, he would do the same for Vichy.
His second fighting streak came in June and July of 1941. Fighting for Vichy and taking on Britain’s Royal Air Force, Le Gloan shot down five of the RAF’s Hurricane fighters, a Gloster Gladiator, and another aircraft that remains unidentified. He’d taken down 11 for France and had added another seven for Vichy. At the war’s end, only Jean Demozay (21 kills), Marcel Albert (23 and two probables), and Pierre Clostermann (33 kills) ranked higher among French aces. Le Gloan’s career would not, however, last much longer.
Neither would his life.
The Allies launched Operation Torch in November 1942. With Allied forces liberating North Africa and Field-Marhsal Montgomery’s famous ‘Desert Rats’ pushing westward after the victory at El Alamein, the Vichy regime’s days were numbered. So were Pierre Le Gloan’s.
Soon, all former Vichy forces were siding with the Allies, including Le Gloan’s fighter squadron. Reequipped in May 1943 with the American P-39 Airacobra, a new fighter might have given the newly promoted Capitaine Le Gloan another winning streak. Might have, if not for a design feature on the Airacobra that wasn’t on the Morane-Saulnier or the Dewoitine: an external fuel tank mounted under the belly meant to be jettisoned when empty or if about to enter a dogfight.
Le Gloan had never flown a fighter with a drop tank. Over the sea on a routine patrol on September 11, 1943 he began to experience mechanical problems. As the Airacobra was not the finest fighter ever built — this wasn’t unusual for pilots who had to fly them. Comparing the Airacobra to the legendary Supermarine Spitfire or P-51 Mustang was like comparing a rent-a-wreck with a Ferrari. With smoke streaming from his aircraft, Le Gloan decided to return to base and land, forgetting to jettison the drop tank. It was a fatal mistake.
Le Gloan, in the midst of severe mechanical difficulties, might have been safer bailing out than trying to land, even if he had remembered to jettison the extra tank. As it was, he attempted to land. It would have been a difficult landing at the best of times in a malfunctioning aircraft and, his mind on other things, Le Gloan forgot to drop the tank. As he touched the ground, the undercarriage collapsed.
The drop tank, still full, ruptured instantly. As the Airacobra screeched along the runway, the mixture of aviation fuel and sparks caused the plane to erupt into a fireball. Pierre Le Gloan, 18-kill ace, only pilot ever to become an ace on both sides in the same war, was burned alive.
Today, his name is largely forgotten except to history buffs, aviation enthusiasts, and the townsfolk of Kergrist-Moelou. Deciding to either forget or gloss over his having flown, fought, and killed in the service of Vichy, the residents of Le Gloan’s hometown named a street after him. Even so, as time passes, fewer people who use it remember either the man or his remarkable place in military history.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford reiterated on Nov. 17, 2018, that reconciliation is the only way forward in Afghanistan and that political, economic, religious, and military pressure must be maintained on the group.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized to Yalda Hakim, a foreign correspondent of BBC World News, that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and that the struggle in that country will require all aspects of government.
The chairman was participating in a Halifax Chat as part of the 10th annual International Security Forum here.
“Success in Afghanistan is an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” Dunford said. “That requires us to have political pressure, social pressure and military pressure. In the military dimension, our task is to make sure the Taliban realize that they cannot win on the battlefield.”
NATO and partner nations are working closely with Afghan national security forces to keep the pressure on the Taliban. At the same time, other agencies are working to improve economic conditions in the country. In addition, Islamic organizations are working to encourage the Taliban to talk with and ultimately join the Afghan government. Religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan have issued fatwas calling on the Taliban to lay down their weapons and talk peace, Dunford said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is interviewed by BBC World News correspondent Yalda Hakim in Canada during the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, Nov. 17, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Part of the pressure was the recent elections in Afghanistan. “The elections that just took place, [were] largely successful and less violent, certainly, than people predicted,” he said. “And I think political transition in 2019 will also be critical in putting pressure on the Taliban.”
All this will combine to convince Taliban leaders that their future lies with reconciliation, the general said.
“But the key to success is to combine all of that pressure to incentivize the Taliban for, again, that Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” he said.
Undergirding everything in Afghanistan is the South Asia Strategy. A key provision in that is its conditions-based approach. The Afghan government and Afghan people know that the world is with them in trying to move through this constant state of war. “And I would also say that the decision by NATO and partner nations to support the Afghan national defense security forces through 2024 absolutely affects the Taliban’s calculus,” Dunford said.
This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.
After ten years of silence, the Pentagon has offered a lukewarm confirmation on the exoneration of a group of special operations Marines wrongfully accused of committing war crimes during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2007.
Even though it ostensibly appears to be a gesture of goodwill from the Pentagon towards the falsely accused Marines, it has done little to mitigate the public humiliation these elite commandos have endured in the decade since a routine mission went horribly wrong in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
On the morning of March 7, 2007, a platoon of MARSOC Marines of Task Force Violent was dispatched to Shinwar District within Nangarhar to meet with local elders and build rapport. What the Marines of Violent didn’t know was that they were rolling into a carefully-planned ambush and would soon find themselves in a fight for their lives.
Upon moving into town, a suicide bomber in a van drove into the column of Humvees, his vehicle packed with explosives. Within seconds, gunmen hidden in nearby houses and on rooftops began raking the convoy with small arms fire. Quickly getting themselves out of the kill box, the MARSOC element drove off in a hurry, returning fire to cover their egression to safety.
Before the Marines had even made it back to their forward operating base, a grim and chilling story emerged of an intoxicated American fighting force brutally slaughtering civilians — children, women, and elderly men — at random in Shinwar.
MARSOC, short for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was the newest addition to US Special Operations Command in 2006. TF Violent, made up of 120 Marines from MARSOC’s Fox Company and helmed by Maj. Fred Galvin, would be sent overseas to Afghanistan the following year for its initial deployment.
With operators drawn from the remnants of the Marine Corps’ Force Reconnaissance units, MARSOC boasted highly-trained asymmetric warfare specialists, capable of taking on and executing missions analogous to those carried out by the US Navy’s SEAL teams or the Army’s Special Forces.
Just as Galvin and the platoon made it back to their post, tall tales abounded of American troops entering homes and shooting indiscriminately in a frenzied fury. Death tolls varied with some capping off at 19 or 20 civilians killed in cold blood by Marines.
The situation rapidly disintegrated into a mess. Galvin was relieved of command and TF Violent was recalled to the United States. USSOCOM leadership, worried about another My Lai Massacre on its hands, went on record saying that there was nothing to support the veracity of TF Violent’s account of the ambush and attack.
In essence, USSOCOM had just publicly admitted that one of its own had committed a major war crime before any form of investigation or inquiry had proven their guilt. Galvin and his fellow officers were relieved and shuffled around. The Marines of Violent were held in limbo, their futures uncertain. If found guilty, they would face dishonorable discharges and a lengthy incarceration at Fort Leavenworth’s military detention facility.
In record time, negative press, including an article from the New York Times likening Shinwar to the infamous killings at Haditha, worsened matters for the shamed members of Violent. Public opinion slanted against all Americans present at Shinwar that fateful day.
Then-Lieutenant General Frank Kearney, Deputy Commander of USSOCOM at the time, lashed out against TF Violent, taking legal actions against its members after determining that they apparently did not come under fire from enemy irregulars in Shinwar. Kearney would quickly be accused of unlawful command influence in his efforts to discredit TF Violent.
However, in the following months, the prevailing story surrounding Shinwar began to crumble. Preliminary investigations convened by the military determined that the Marines of TF Violent used excessive force and appeared, at a first glance, to be very guilty of the war crimes they were accused of committing.
An ensuing NCIS investigation and a court of inquiry convened by none other than then-Lieutenant General, James Mattis, absolved the Marines of TF Violent of any wrongdoing. There was little evidence to support that they had carried out a massacre of the civilian populace. Conflicting accounts from Afghan locals in Shinwar derailed the narrative and Navy investigators determined that only a handful of military-aged males were killed. A woman and a young boy did sustain minor injuries, but none as horrible as stories coming out of Shinwar claimed. Nevertheless, the Marines of Violent and the United States were the subject of weighty condemnations by the Afghan government, the United Nations, and Amnesty International.
Of the 120-strong complement of TF Violent, seven Marines, including Galvin, were singled out for charges and punishment, each due to their perceived role in what occurred in March 2007. Known as the MARSOC 7, these Marines were subject to threats, coercion, and even attempts at forced confessions through blackmail.
But by 2008, the Marines of TF Violent were released of any suspicion and absolved of all wrongdoing. The crimes they were accused of simply did not hold any water. Even after being declared innocent, in the past decade, the MARSOC 7 have suffered considerably from the stigma of being falsely accused of war crimes.
Unable to find jobs in the civilian world as a result of being labeled war criminals and faced with dead-end military careers, many were left to fend for themselves by a Corps that seemed to care more about its public image than its warfighters.
Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina has led a bipartisan effort to get these Marines a public apology and exoneration to once and for all put down the ghosts of Shinwar, so that the Marines can move on with their lives. Maj. Galvin, now retired after 30 years of service in the Corps, has been instrumental in getting the Pentagon to issue confirmation of Violent’s pardon.
To that end, the Pentagon quietly confirmed to Jones that Galvin and his men had been found to be fully in the right on that fateful March day in 2007, and had executed the mission to the best of their training. Even still, this confirmation seems to be far less than what the Marine Corps and the Pentagon could do to fully clear the names of these MARSOC Marines.
Even with this latest move by the Pentagon, albeit a quiet and almost unnoticeable action, why was the Marine Corps so reticent about fixing the tarnished reputations of its most elite commandos?
The answer may lie within the considerable friction between MARSOC and the Army-led Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A), its overseer during its initial deployment. According to a Marine Corps Times series on the Shinwar affair in 2015, TF Violent’s Marines were generally under-supplied and ill-prepared for the environment they were thrust into.
While MARSOC Marines had to live a spartan lifestyle, feasting on packaged Meals Ready to Eat and going without replacement uniforms and gear, other special operations units operating under CJSOTF-A’s umbrella were provided with hot meals and well-stocked logistics and a supply chain.
During the March 7 attack itself, CJSOTF-A officers were seemingly unconcerned that a MARSOC platoon had been hit by an IED and was taking heavy fire. Though it was later recommended that officers manning the CJSOTF-A’s command post be charged with dereliction of duty, they were left uncharged.
By the end of 2007, public opinion was firmly against the actions of TF Violent and the MARSOC 7 were faced with a worsening uphill battle, nearly impossible to win.
In the wake of Shinwar, the higher echelons of MARSOC appeared to be concerned with petty issues surrounding Violent and Fox Company’s officer leadership. Some critics argue that the leaders of the fledgling special ops outfit were trying to save face.
In doing so, they turned the MARSOC 7 and the Marines of TF Violent into scapegoats.
Galvin and Jones have spearheaded an effort over the years to publicly restore the names of the Marines of Violent and, to that end, Jones has introduced a Congressional resolution that would permanently set the record straight on Shinwar and the actions of Fox Company’s warfighters.
Between 2007 and the present day, MARSOC has evolved into a highly competent and effective special operations asset. Now referred to as the Raiders — a tribute to the Marines’ WWII-era unconventional warfare force — with their own special insignia, they undergo deployments around the world as directed by USSOCOM.
Though the first of the new Raiders, Galvin and the MARSOC 7 have neither been awarded the title nor the insignia, largely due to the false allegations that just won’t go away.
Officers from both MARSOC and CJSOTF-A who were involved in attempting to wring confessions out of the MARSOC 7 and discredit their actions were allowed to continue their careers with their respective branches with no mark or mention on their record noting their at-all-costs crusade against the Marines of TF Violent.
While the Pentagon’s quiet confirmation of TF Violent’s innocence has been the most these Marines have had to alleviate some of the burden of the past ten years, there is still far more the Department of Defense and Marine Corps can do to right this wrong.
Dog Tag Bakery is justly renowned for its butterscotch blondies and buttery cinnamon buns. But the Washington, D.C., shop has a mission that goes far beyond turning out stellar baked goods. In partnership with nearby Georgetown University, Dog Tag runs a nonprofit fellowship program that operates as a living business school for post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities, as well as for military spouses and caregivers.
Twice a year, between 14 and 16 fellows go through the five-month program, which combines academics and hands-on small business experience. Fellows take seven courses that cover business basics, including finance, strategy, marketing, management and communications. Those courses are taught by Georgetown faculty in a classroom above the bakery. Meanwhile, on the floor of the bakery itself, fellows learn a wide range of practical skills, like how to decorate a cake, interact with customers, and manage a budget. For their capstone project, fellows are required to create and present a fully-vetted business plan, complete with operations, marketing, logistics, and financial projections, to help solidify the value of an entrepreneurial mindset.
Wellness is a cornerstone of the fellowships with daily workshops in mindfulness, journaling, nutrition and yoga. And, to relieve financial barriers to participating in the program, fellows receive a $1,400 monthly stipend, as well as a laptop for use during the program.
Claire Witko. Photo by Richie Downs Photography.
Claire Witko, Dog Tag’s director of programs, says the fellowship is designed to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. “That includes,” she says, “understanding that failure is an unavoidable part of forging a successful path forward, and that learning how to rebound and find creative solutions to challenges are essential skills.”
The aim of the program, however, isn’t to groom the next Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey.
“We don’t define success,” Witko said. “Our fellows discover their own definition of success. It’s about finding purpose and voice.”
Fellows who complete the program earn a Certificate of Business Administration from Georgetown. Many find themselves transformed.
“Alumni often emerge completely different people,” Witko said. “They have new confidence; they know what they want and how to pursue it.”
That was certainly the case for Adela Wilson, a 2019 Dog Tag fellow. The wife of an Air Force veteran who was medically retired in 2007, the 51-year-old mother of three sons had resettled her family in several cities in the Middle East and Europe during her husband’s 15-year military career. In each new city, she’d forged a career for herself in sales. But back home in Virginia, acting as her husband’s full-time caretaker, she felt she’d lost her sense of identity and, she says, her “edge.”
“Getting accepted into the fellowship was lifechanging,” Wilson said. “The program is like drinking through a firehose. It’s so intense and fast-paced.”
She loved every minute of it, from the improv workshops and a visit to Capitol Hill where the Dog Tag fellows had meetings with Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Senator Mark Warner of Indiana, to “living labs” where executives from corporations like Boeing, Nestle and Capital One mentor fellows on soft skills like delivering an elevator pitch or understanding your personality style.
Today, Wilson works as a career transitions specialist at the Wounded Warrior Project, helping veterans overcome barriers to employment.
“I feel like I’m really making a difference and I absolutely love my job,” she said.
A favorite word at Dog Tag, Wilson says, is “pivot”— fellows are encouraged to be flexible and open to new goals as their circumstances and passions change. When COVID-19 struck, the organization had to do some pivoting of its own, taking the fellowship classes and workshops virtual.
“We’ve learned how to bring the experience of being in the kitchen to Zoom,” Witko said. “The fall fellowship will be completely virtual and we’re beginning to explore hybrid models — a combination of in-person and remote elements — for the post-COVID world.”
Meanwhile, the bakery itself has reopened for business. Featured on the menu is a specialty created by some recent fellows as their capstone project: freshly baked bread pudding topped with homemade caramel and a drizzle of chocolate. Success, as the saying goes, is sweet.
By the numbers Since it began its fellowship program in 2014, Dog Tag Inc. has enrolled 148 Fellows across 12 cohorts, or classes. Here’s a look at who these fellows are: Age (at time of enrollment) 18-24: 3% 25-31: 24% 32-38: 24% 39-45: 22% 46-52: 22% 53 and older: 5% Gender Male: 41% Female: 59%
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will appear in court next week to enter an expected guilty plea to charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009.
The Army announced that Bergdahl will enter a plea Oct. 16 at Fort Bragg. The news release didn’t elaborate on what his plea would entail, but two individuals with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press last week that Bergdahl is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. They were not authorized to discuss the case and demanded anonymity.
Prosecutors aren’t saying whether they have agreed to limit Bergdahl’s punishment. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while the desertion charge is punishable by up to five years.
A lawyer for Bergdahl didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Oct. 12.
His trial had been scheduled to begin Oct. 23, but those dates are expected to be used for sentencing now. While guilty pleas allow Bergdahl to avoid trial, his sentencing is still likely to include dramatic testimony about service members injured searching for him.
Legal scholars say it will be revealed at the Oct. 16 hearing whether Bergdahl struck a deal with prosecutors, or is simply pleading guilty with hopes of leniency from the judge. His five years of imprisonment by the Taliban and its allies could be a factor in his sentencing in either scenario.
Military judges are supposed to make unbiased decisions, so if prosecutors have proposed a more limited punishment, this judge won’t know exactly what they’re calling for until after he decides on a sentence. Military jurisprudence calls for Bergdahl to ultimately be sentenced to the lesser of the two punishments, legal scholars said.
Because the defense has lost several pretrial rulings, government prosecutors have a strong hand to pursue punishment and little to gain from a lenient plea deal, said Rachel Van Landingham, a former Air Force lawyer who teaches at Southwestern Law School in California.
“The Army has gone after this case with a vengeance – why not continue that pursuit by asking for a stiff punishment?” she said. “But who knows, this case has been quite topsy-turvy.”
Bergdahl could admit guilt without a plea agreement — known colloquially as a “naked plea” — which would be a risky move with some possible benefits. Such a plea wouldn’t require Bergdahl to agree with prosecutors on certain facts of the case, as he would under a deal, said former Army lawyer Eric Carpenter, who teaches law at Florida International University.
But, Carpenter said, “The military judge can sentence you to whatever he wants, so that’s the real risk that they would be taking.”
Prosecutors gained leverage when the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, decided to allow evidence of serious wounds to service members who searched for Bergdahl at the sentencing phase. The judge said a Navy SEAL and an Army National Guard sergeant wouldn’t have wound up in separate firefights that left them wounded if they hadn’t been searching for Bergdahl.
The defense also was rebuffed in an effort to prove President Donald Trump had unfairly swayed the case with scathing criticism of Bergdahl, including suggestions of harsh punishment. The judge wrote in a February ruling that Trump’s campaign-trail comments were “disturbing and disappointing” but did not constitute unlawful command influence by the soon-to-be commander in chief.
Defense attorneys have acknowledged that Bergdahl walked off his base without authorization. Bergdahl himself told a general during a preliminary investigation that he left intending to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit. He was captured soon after by the Taliban and its allies.
But the defense team has argued that Bergdahl can’t be held responsible for a long chain of events that included many decisions by others on how to conduct the searches.
The military probe of Bergdahl began soon after he was freed from captivity on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed he jeopardized the nation’s security with the trade, but Obama said: ” The United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”
Bergdahl, who’s from Hailey, Idaho, has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base pending the outcome of his legal case.
Recently, Starbucks, the Schultz Family Foundation and JP Morgan convened in Washington, D.C., to explore impactful ways to empower veterans. This meeting at its core was centered on finding a solution to corporate philanthropy – how can organizations work to produce social change in a chosen area, while still ensuring a return on investment? Across sectors, collective impact has emerged as the answer.
As it relates to the world of nonprofits, collective impact is a framework by which organizations can accomplish more through partnerships with others with shared values, than they can by going alone. Ten years ago this month, I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and in the military, I learned the phrase “one team, one fight,” which perfectly summarizes this concept. Pair this idea of cooperation, not competition, with the generous financial backing of corporate donors, and you have the foundation for real change.
Here is a real world example: To raise awareness for breast cancer research and domestic violence, the Avon Foundation gives grants to nonprofits to strengthen the work they do on the ground. Corporate partnerships are a key component of amplifying the work of nonprofits, but for companies looking to invest in social change, how do you find the right home for your dollars? For those looking to empower veterans and military families, the Got Your 6 campaign has perfected the solution.
Over the last three years, Macy’s has raised $6.7 million dollars for the national veteran campaign Got Your 6 through its annual American Icons campaign. These funds have gone to national programs and events as well as to Got Your 6’s coalition of nonprofit partners in the form of grants, in efforts to advance the veteran empowerment movement.
By vetting each nonprofit partner within its larger coalition, Got Your 6 ensures that corporate funding will go to organizations creating real change in communities across America. From the great work of Macy’s through American Icons, and the generosity of the American people, Got Your 6 was able to give 35 grants over three years to nonprofit partners such as The 6th Branch, a veteran-run nonprofit that utilizes the leadership and operational skills of military veterans to accomplish community service initiatives. Last year, Got Your 6 granted The 6th Branch $93,000, supporting a year’s worth of service to transform abandoned lots in Baltimore into urban farms and safe spaces for youth recreation. Last month, members from team Got Your 6 participated in an urban greening event with The 6th Branch at the Oliver Community Farm in Baltimore; a veteran-created community resource designed to provide fresh produce in response to a lack of healthy food options in the area.
From my time as a cadet at West Point to the 17 months I spent in Baghdad during the height of the surge, I’ve seen first-hand the power of collective impact and how critical it is to success, regardless of the mission. To continue supporting a resurgence of community in America, Macy’s is again working with Got Your 6 on this year’s iteration of American Icons. Veterans will directly benefit the more people know about this: Americans can shop at Macy’s for Got Your 6 Weekend on Friday, May 13 through Sunday, May 15 to donate $3 at the register or online at Macys.com to receive a special savings pass, with 100% of all donations going directly to Got Your 6 and its coalition of nonprofit partners.
I have been leading teams my entire life, in and out of the Army, and I couldn’t be more proud of Got Your 6 as we lead the veteran empowerment movement, leveraging a “one team, one fight” approach. Companies looking to support social change should seriously consider the collective impact mindset. As exemplified by Macy’s and Got Your 6, measurable impact can occur when all parties work together.
Serving your country as part of the armed forces is easily one of the greatest accomplishments you can achieve. Simply raising your right hand, signing on the dotting line, and joining a branch is a selfless act, regardless of your actual job.
Right out of the gate, many have no idea what to expect — this is normal. There are certain days, however, that will always be shrouded in particular mystery and confusion. Just because joining the military is an admirable choice doesn’t mean it’s a path free of doubt or misunderstanding. It’s a blazed trail that many have walked before you, but every service member experiences these days that require serious adjustment.
Day one in service? Yea, it’s a big, fat WTF moment
(Photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)
The day you begin service is a special one — and we don’t mean “special” like when the moon shines perfectly over a still, beautiful lake, as if positioned just for you. It’s the kind of special that screams directly into your face with a kind of fury you’ve never seen before.
Sure, those who join from military families may have different expectations from those who had never seen a military uniform before meeting a recruiter. But no matter what you think your first day will be like, you’re going to be wrong.
Expect the unexpected.
What should be a joyous day can get really weird, really quick
The day you become a supervisor
This is a day that truly changes your military career, particularly for the enlisted. On this day, you ascend from the ranks of the Junior Enlisted and make your way to the glorious land of the NCO.
The birds are singing, you’re feeling like a million f*ckin’ bucks, and all is right in the world. Then, you’re forced to exercise your rank and authority either by general necessity or constitutional requirement. Nothing’s wrong with that, really, except that when this happens early on in your life as an NCO, your actions and decisions will be highly scrutinized. You are being watched.
It’s a weird place to find yourself in. You’re expected to make decisions and have some “know better” in your system, but you aren’t initially trusted with the unquestioned support we thought would come with the post.
This is what it feels like to get that glorious DD 214
Photo via Parade.com
The day you get out
There is a safe, happy post-service life waiting for all of us after we get that DD214, right? Well, maybe. But also, maybe not.
Even if you’ve prepared for the day you leave service for your entire career, when that day finally comes, adjusting isn’t always easy. You’ve been living a highly structured, organized life for the last several years and now it’s time to take the reigns 100%. But don’t fret; while getting your DD214 may be one of the most confusing days, it’s also one of the sweetest.
A single man earned the nickname “wilderness ninja” after he successfully evaded more than 1,000 uniformed police officers, helicopters, and vehicles in Pennsylvania – not unlike the character of John Rambo in the movie First Blood. Unlike Rambo, however, Eric Frein wasn’t just minding his own business. He’s a convicted terrorist and murderer who killed a state trooper and wounded another before he was apprehended.
Frein was a war re-enactor who loved the Balkan Conflict.
There’s no mistaken identity in this case. In 2017, Eric Frein was convicted of murdering a Pennsylvania state trooper while wounding another. He was sentenced to die in a decision that was upheld three times. Frein was an avid war re-enactor, self-taught survivalist, and expert marksman who had extensive firsthand knowledge of the Poconos, where he eluded law enforcement officers. He even managed to avoid being tracked with heat-sensitive cameras. The war gamer was driven by his beef with law enforcement, who called in every available agent to assist in the hunt.
U.S. Marshals, the ATF, FBI, and state and local police scoured county after county for the man they say spent years planning the murder of police officers as well as his escape into the forests and hills. Many survival specialists told the media that Rein seemed to be an expert-level survivalist who was likely hiding in caves and below dense underbrush to hide his movement.
U.S. Marshals injured Frein’s face during his apprehension.
But Frein was no genius. On Sept. 12, 2014, he opened up on the Pennsylvania State Troopers Barracks in Blooming Grove, Pa. with a .308-caliber rifle, killing Cpl. Byron Dickson III and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass. He was living in his parents’ home at this time and driving his parents’ Jeep. While speeding away from the scene, he lost control of the vehicle and drove it into a nearby swamp. He escaped and walked home, leaving his Social Security Card and shell casings from the incident inside the Jeep. It was discovered by a man walking his dog three days later.
By then, Frein was long gone.
The shooter escaped into the Poconos of Northern Pennsylvania for nearly two full months, evading capture, leaving booby traps and pipe bombs, and using the terrain to his advantage. He was almost caught on a few occasions, including a visit to his old high school. He managed to stay free until Oct. 30, 2014, when U.S. Marshals chased him down in a field near an abandoned airport.
Frein was arrested with the handcuffs of Byron Dickson, the officer he killed.
Eric Frein, of course, pled not guilty to all the charges slapped on him, including first-degree murder and attempted murder. It didn’t matter though, but after some legal wrangling, Frein was convicted of all charges, including two counts of weapons of mass destruction in April 2017. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection and awaits his sentence to this day.
Well, here’s your sobering thought for the day: The War on Terror has officially turned seventeen years old today, which also happens to be the minimum age required to enlist in the armed services. Take that as you will — it’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s simply a thing.
For troops in earlier wars, the circumstances were a little more straightforward. We declared war against our enemies (or the enemies of our allies) and the resulting conflict ended when one side conceded or declared victory. A war against an insurgency, however, is inherently different. There isn’t a clear opposition over which to declare victory.
But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, an entire generation of kids that learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center from history books instead from live television — in much the same way as we learned of the events of the American Cold War — is now capable of raising their right hand and taking an oath of enlistment.
You know those troops are going to get mocked relentlessly — or just make all the senior NCOs depressed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
The official rules of enlistment state that someone must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien, must be 17 years of age with parents’ consent or 18 without, must have a high school diploma (with very few exceptions), and must pass a physical medical exam.
While it’s not uncommon to receive a high school diploma at the age of 16, it’s unlikely that such an early achiever would apply their child-prodigy skills by enlisting as a young private when nearly any university would snatch them up in a heartbeat. However, if an applicant is from one of the seven states that 16-year-olds to test for a GED, can manage to swing a slot reserved for GED-holders, and they pass the ASVAB, well, they’ll officially be the first post-9/11 baby to serve in the post-9/11 military.
They’ll get their chance again, if the war on terror doesn’t end within the next two years…
(U.S. Marine Corps)
It’s a fairly tough pill to swallow — a kid enlisting to serve in a war they were born into — but it’s not the only significant milestone. There are some troops who have enlisted and served into retirement, all in support of the Global War on Terror.
That’s right, troops who opted into the early retirement system that allowed troops who’ve served for over 15 years to take an early exit could have started and ended their career fighting the same insurgency. The program ended last December, but a handful of troops who enlisted right after 9/11 managed to squeeze into that “early out.”
There’s no word yet when the first post-9/11 baby will fill in the ranks, but I’m sure there will be plenty of pomp and circumstance around their enlistment. We’ll just have to wait and see.
A third Chinese aircraft carrier is in development at a domestic shipyard, Chinese state media revealed Nov. 25, 2018, confirming for the first time long-held suspicions.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency explained that while the country’s first domestically-produced carrier — the Type 001A — is going through sea trials, an unnamed “new-generation carrier” is being built and is on schedule, the government-controlled China Daily reported Nov. 26, 2018.
China’s first aircraft carrier — the Type 001 Liaoning — is a Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” that China acquired in the late 1990s, upgraded and refitted over roughly a decade, and commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012.
The flagship of the Chinese navy was declared combat ready in 2016. It has since sailed around Taiwan, through the disputed East and South China Seas, and into the Western Pacific.
The Liaoning, primarily a training vessel as China attempts to better understand complex carrier operations, also served as a template for China’s second carrier.
Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning.
While the Type 001A is improved in certain places, it is decidedly similar to its Soviet predecessor. The vessel does, however, feature a new radar, a slightly larger flight deck, and a smaller island. The ship also includes a number of technological upgrades.
The carrier has undergone at least two sea trials, possibly a third. Observers expect the carrier to be commissioned into the PLAN in October 2019 for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
There is speculation among expert observers that China’s newest aircraft carrier, which some refer to as the Type 002, will be a marked improvement over the Type 001 and Type 001A.
While the first two use ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, which are less effective, the new carrier may be a ship with a flat flight deck and a catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch system, as this is certainly something China aims to eventually achieve.
The development of a carrier with a CATOBAR launch system would be a significant step forward for the Chinese navy, as it would improve the operational effectiveness of the ship. Leaked images from the company tasked with building China’s carriers suggested that this may be where China is heading.
An advanced fleet of aircraft carriers supported by new Type 055 Renhai destroyers and other upgraded escort ships would greatly improve China’s ability to project power in its neighborhood.
Chinese state media has confirmed that a third carrier is in the works, but it has yet to provide any specific details on the new ship.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon says U.S. military commanders were told by their Russian counterparts that there were no Russians in a paramilitary force whose attack on a base in eastern Syria early February 2018 led to a massive counterstrike by U.S. forces.
The comments by Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White on Feb. 22, 2018, add another piece to the puzzle surrounding the Feb. 7 incident, which Moscow said this week caused dozens of casualties among fighters from Russia and other former Soviet republics but did not involve uniformed Russian troops.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other U.S. military officials have repeatedly said that U.S. military commanders were in contact with their Russian counterparts at the time of the clash. But White’s comments are the clearest to date that the U.S. military was told there were no Russians in the attacking force.
“The strike in Syria — our strikes were done out of self-defense. We were very clear about that. We saw those — that group moving towards us. We still don’t know, and I won’t speculate, about the intentions or the composition of that group,” White said.
“What I can tell you is that we used our deconfliction phone line, and we used it before, during, and after the strike. And we were assured by the Russians that there were no Russians involved,” she said.
The clash in Deir al-Zor Province appears to be the first time that U.S. forces engaged directly with Russians in Syria, where Russian forces are backing President Bashar al-Assad’s government in a devastating seven-year civil war.
The revelation that Russian mercenaries were killed stoked fears of an outright hostile confrontation between Russians and U.S. forces. But the Russian government has distanced itself from the incident and its public comments have been subdued.
The United States has said that air and artillery strikes launched after as many as 500 pro-government forces attacked a base housing U.S.-backed opposition forces and U.S. military advisers killed about 100 of the attackers.
No Russian official directly acknowledged that Russian citizens were involved until Feb. 15, 2018, when Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that about five people who were “presumably Russian citizens” may have been killed.
On Feb. 20, 2018, the Russian Foreign Ministry said “several dozen” citizens of Russia and other former Soviet republics were wounded in the lopsided exchange.
With accounts from relatives and acquaintances of Russian fighters in Syria mounting, some open-source researchers and media reports have said that dozens or hundreds of Russians were killed.