MIGHTY CULTURE

Once a Marine, always a Marine

His weathered hands, aged by war and time, brushed across the fuselage of an aircraft. Like a gust of wind, old memories washed over him.

Stepping out from the hangar, the 99-year-old Marine took a firm grasp of his grandson’s hand as a Marine from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, escorted them onto Camp Pendleton’s flightline.

Nearly a century of experience, coupled with more than 20 years of military service, visibly weighed on his frame. Here was a man who had danced with death above the skies and oceans of the world and lived to tell the tale.


Now, on the day of his birth, Dick Cropley, a retired dive bomber, wanted nothing more than to breathe in the air with the Marines who faithfully carried on the legacy he helped shape.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)

On May 31, 2019, his wish was granted.

“I can’t believe the Marine Corps would do something like this for me,” said Cropley while fighting back tears. “You get out or retire, and it just feels like the world forgot about you. I can’t express how much this means to me.”

Cropley started flying in 1942 and spent more than 20 years in the Marines. The retired Marine Corps Major operated a dive bomber during World War II and conducted operations across the globe in support of his Marine Corps family.

“The planes I flew could fit inside here,” said Cropley as he motioned toward one of the massive engines of an MV-22B Osprey.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)

It was a far cry from the small, single engine airplanes he had trained on and fought in during World War II.

The years seemed to fall from his shoulders as he peered across the flight line. Hundreds of aircraft, aviation equipment and sensors welcomed him to the air strip with a rare and peaceful silence. He was home.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)

It was an emotional welcome for a Marine. Especially in a service that is typically seen as unflinching, hard, calm and calculated war fighters. It was a different and loving feeling on this day. The men watching Cropley soaked it all in and could only smile as they helped fulfill this Marine’s birthday wish.

“Aircraft change, aviation changes,” said Capt. Ross Studwell, the flight equipment and ordnance officer in charge at VMM 164. “But Marines never change. Cropley is a fine example of the commitment the Marine Corps is famous for.”

An endearing and welcoming attitude formed out of pure respect was extended to Cropley, who was invited as an honored guest to a change of command ceremony and a guided tour of VMM-164’s hanger for an inside and personal look at modern day Marine Corps aircraft.

What he didn’t expect was the surprise birthday celebration planned by the Marines. The “Knightriders” presented the former pilot with a cake, celebrating his 99th birthday, honoring his more than 20 years of service.

Semper Fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “Always Faithful.” The motto has been a guiding principle and the foundation on which every Marine is made. Marines have always and will always stay true to that foundation and show it through their actions.

“This is a true honor for VMM-164, but it’s just keeping with the fundamentals of Marine Corps tradition,” said Lt. Col. Joseph DiMambro, the squadron’s commanding officer. “We always remember our brothers and sisters and take pride in caring for our own. Keeping the standards of brotherhood set by Marines like Maj. Cropley means a lot to us and to the Marine Corps.”

The Marines of VMM-164 were honored to celebrate Maj Cropley’s birthday with him and many of them were enamored with his Flight Logbooks and WWII keepsakes from places like Guadalcanal and Bougainville.

Once A Marine Always A Marine

Cropley’s voice broke as he held back tears. His words echoed in the small room as he thanked the Marines and expressed his pride in sharing the title United States Marine — a title few earn.

His parting words were brief, but carried the weight of hundreds of years of tradition. “Semper Fidelis.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Panama actually started its war with the United States

On Dec. 20, 1989, President George H. W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama. The goal was to oust Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and maintain the neutrality of the Panama Canal while protecting American citizens there. Some 27,000 U.S. troops toppled Noriega’s regime in just over a month and they started it – just like the U.S. planned.


Some people would swear that a small Central American dictatorship with a patronage-based military starting a war with a world superpower is a terrible idea. Those people would be correct, especially considering the superpower already controlled a huge chunk of the country, and staged military units from inside that zone of control.

Until 1979, it was known as the Panama Canal Zone. By 1989, that area was full of U.S. military personnel.

Just a sliver. No big deal.

At the time, the United States still controlled the canal. The terms of the Carter-Torrijos Treaty stated that Panama would gain full control of the canal on Dec. 31, 1999. But even after the canal was given to Panama, the U.S. retained the right to defend the canal to keep it a neutral lane for all ships of all countries. So, the United States already had 12,000 combat-ready forces in the country before the invasion even began.

Still, the United States worked to provoke the Panamanians into committing overtly hostile acts toward U.S. troops. The Americans gave money to the campaign of Guillermo Endara, a politician in direct opposition to Noriega’s regime. When Endara won the national election over Noriega’s chosen candidate, the dictator ruled the vote invalid and then declared himself the sole ruler of Panama.

Drug and human trafficker-in-chief, Manuel Noriega.

Alarmed at Noriega’s shocking display of power, the U.S. military began stepping up its provocation efforts, staging military exercises in former Canal Zone areas, driving through Panamanian territory, and challenging the Panamanian Defense Forces to stop them from moving as they pleased. The Bush Administration also expanded sanctions on Panama and even funded a coup attempt against Noriega.

On Dec. 15, 1989, Noriega even declared war on the United States — but even that didn’t precipitate the invasion. The next day, four military officers were stopped by the Panamanian military on their way to dinner at the Marriott in downtown Panama City. The four officers were driving in a private vehicle when they hit a roadblock and were suddenly surrounded by PDF troops. The Panamanians fired at the vehicle, hitting Marine Capt. Richard E. Hadded in the foot and wounding Marine 1st Lt. Robert Paz, who was rushed to the hospital, where he died of his wounds.

Two Americans, a Naval officer and his wife, witnessed the event. They were detained and beaten by the PDF. That’s when President Bush called down the thunder.

Cue the Van Halen song.

The Panamanian Defense Forces got hit hard. In the middle of the night, tens of thousands of American troops using mechanized infantry, Special Forces, and even airborne assaults, made a move to cripple the Panamanians and capture Noriega. It was the largest combat operation since the Vietnam War, an invasion of an area the size of South Carolina.

By one in the morning on Dec. 20, 1989, U.S. troops installed Endara as Panama’s new President. Meanwhile, Army helicopter gunships and USAF F-117 Nighthawks were hitting targets around the country and the U.S. Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, and U.S. Marines hit the ground in full force. They first captured special military targets, like the PDF’s La Comandancia and the Bridge of the Americas over the canal itself. SEALs destroyed Noriega’s personal boat and jet as the dictator took refuge inside Vatican City’s diplomatic mission in the capital.

He would not be there long.

Netflix, here’s your next season of Narcos.

Noriega hid under the protection of the Holy See as the United State military cleaned up the remnants of the Panamanian Defense Forces. Meanwhile, the Americans blasted rock and heavy metal music at the mission in an attempt to force Noriega to leave the building and face justice.

Related: Listen to the playlist that ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega

He finally did on Jan. 3, 1990. Noriega was flown back to the U.S., where he faced indictments for drug trafficking in Miami. The onetime dictator would spend the rest of his life in prison.

Articles

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.


A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.

June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.

Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.

Russian Air Force Sukhoi T-50s. Photo by Toshiro Aoki.

“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”

Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”

Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.

 

Army photo by Sgt. Shiloh Capers

Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.

Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.

Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.

Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.

The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.

In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.

In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.

This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.

 

A US Army Patriot battery deployed to Southeast Asia (Photo US Army)

Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.

“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.

“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

The U.S. military says one of its soldiers was wounded when insurgents launched an attack in eastern Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.


Capt. Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press one U.S. service member was wounded and in stable condition in what he would describe only as “active ground engagement.” He refused to give further details including whether it involved a local militia.

Also Read: Marines and Air Force just iced one of the most wanted Taliban kingpins

In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.

The Taliban claimed the attack Jan. 11 was carried out by two insurgent disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mormon colonies are fighting drug cartels in Mexico

Early one morning in Galeana, Mexico, a series of pickup trucks pulled up to a small, unassuming house. It was like many houses in the state of Chihuahua, except this one was occupied by the family of a man who decided to stand up to the drug cartels that had for so long terrorized his friends and neighbors. The man (along with a friend who had come by to check on the commotion) were dragged away at gunpoint. The narcos drove them down the street and shot them.


That was the last straw. Now there’s a new force standing up to the cartels terrorizing the people and government of Mexico, a resistance is coming from what you might think of as an unlikely source: The Mormon Church.

The war on drugs in Mexico has seen an uptick in violence in recent years. When the government switched its tactics to take down the higher-ranking members of the cartels, their successes left power vacuums in their wake, which sparked wars for dominance among individuals inside the cartels. As a result, the drug-related violence has only gotten more widespread and more intense as time wore on. The violence is ten times deadlier in Mexico than in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Vice reporter and founder Shane Smith drove down to Chihuahua to talk to the long-established Mormon colony run by the Lebaron family, descendants of the first Mormon settlers in the region. The Lebaron family, like most who stand up to bullies, were just pushed around once too often, as a result of kidnappings, extortion, and ultimately, murder.

Vice founder Shane Smith with the Mexican Federal Police at a Chihuahua road block.

(Vice News)

Mormons first came to Mexico in 1875 to escape persecution from the U.S. government for their beliefs, specifically plural marriage – also known as polygamy. Those who refused to adhere to the United States’ demand to end the practice came to Mexico where they could continue what they saw as not only a divine right, but a commandment. Their descendants still live there to this day, just south of the border.

The murders in Galeana were the result of the Mormon colonies who put pressure on the cartels through their political partners in the Mexican government. After one of their own was kidnapped, they told the government to do something about it, or they would do it themselves. The kidnapped child was returned unharmed, but shortly after, the Mormons paid the price with the lives of Benjamin Lebaron and his friend Luis Widmar.

Firearms smuggled from the United States into Mexico and captured by the Federales.

(Vice News)

That changed the game. The Mormons went through the process of getting gun ownership rights in the country, no small feat. Then they called in the Federales, who use their colony – a known safe haven from narcos – as a base of operations, intercepting drug smugglers on major highways in Chihuahua, conducting patrols and raids, and watching the traffickers as they work. The Mormons themselves have also joined the fight, they have adopted the tactics of U.S. troops fighting insurgents in the Iraq War, setting roadblocks and observation posts of their own.

Word got around to the narcos, eventually. Rumor has it the Mormons employ scouts and snipers to defend their colonies. The drug traffickers are all known to the Mormons now, their vehicles and faces easily identifiable to Church leaders, who work in close concert with the Mexican federal police. Their enduring vigilance has led to an uneasy stalemate in violence and kidnappings. They still occur, but with much less frequency.

For now.

Articles

Marines arrive in Syria to support assault on ISIS capital

U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.


Marines with the 11th MEU train in Djibouti. Leathernecks from the 11th MEU reportedly just deployed to Syria to bolster an assault on Raqqa. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The Marines reportedly from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in San Diego will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the Post notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.

Read More: STRYKER combat vehicles roll into Syria

Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.

The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.

New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.

“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Future Army artillery so strong it needs better muzzle brakes

The U.S. Army is asking defense firms to develop prototypes for a new, lightweight artillery muzzle brake that’s designed to work with the service’s future extended-range cannons.

The Army has made long-range precision fires its top modernization priority under a bold plan to field new, more capable weapons systems by 2028.

In the short term, Army artillery experts are working to develop a 155 mm cannon capable of striking targets to 70 kilometers, a range that doubles the effectiveness of current 155s.


As part of this effort, the Army recently asked the defense industry to develop “novel muzzle brake structures for extended range cannon artillery systems” that are 30 percent lighter than conventional muzzle brakes, according to a solicitation posted on www.sibr.gov, a government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The M109A6 Paladin.

(US Army photo)

“Given the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires priority, a need exists for novel and innovative muzzle brakes capable of supporting the new extended range cannons and sabot, direct, and indirect munitions currently under development,” the solicitation states.

“High pressure waves produced within gun barrels during projectile acceleration have negative impact upon the surrounding environment due to muzzle blast … exiting the barrel,” it adds.

Muzzle brakes are also subjected to “material degradation due to collisions with small particles exiting the gun barrel, such as solid propellant grains that did not undergo combustion,” the solicitation states.

Because of this, current muzzle brakes tend to be heavy.

The effort “seeks to develop novel muzzle brake aerodynamic designs and structures which minimize the overall mass of the artillery system without compromising performance,” according to the solicitation.

Interested companies have until Feb. 6, 2019, to respond to the Nov. 28, 2018 solicitation.

The first phase of the solicitation asks companies to model and simulate the operational performance of proposed muzzle brake designs that meet the weight-reduction requirements and simulate mechanical wear over the life cycle of the brake.

The M109A6 Paladin.

(US Army photo)

Companies will then produce at least one prototype for Phase Two, which will be tested on a large-caliber Army platform identified during the Phase One effort, according to the solicitation. Companies will document “recoil, acoustic and optical signature, and muzzle blast” and make refinements on the prototype design, it says.

Companies then will conduct a live-fire demonstration of their final prototype in an operational environment with involvement from the prime contractor for the weapon system, according to the solicitation.

Meanwhile, under the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, or ERCA, the Army plans to fit M109A8 155 mm Paladin self-propelled howitzers with much longer, .58 caliber gun tubes, redesigned chambers and breeches that will be able to withstand the gun pressures to get out to 70 kilometers, Army officials said.

The service also is finalizing a new version of a rocket-assisted projectile (RAP) round that testers have shot out to 62 kilometers. Artillery experts plan to make improvements to the round by fiscal 2020 so Army testers can hit the 70-kilometer mark, service officials said at the 2018 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is ready for Russia’s new stealth fighters

After watching an F-22 Raptor twist and turn during an impressive demonstration at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, we asked the 1st Fighter Wing’s commander if he’s worried about Russia’s new Su-57 stealth fighter.


“It’s always good to be chased,” Col. Jason Hinds, commander of the 1st Fighter Wing, told Business Insider. “When people are trying to beat you, you know you got an impressive airplane.”

Russia has touted its new Su-57 as superior to the U.S.’ F-22 Raptor, but the Su-57 is still undergoing testing and has yet to be mass-produced.

Also Read: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

While many have called into question its stealth capabilities, Moscow claims the Su-57 is a fifth-generation fighter and that it hopes to turn it into a sixth-generation fighter.

“I don’t know what they’re trying to call it,” Hinds said. “I can tell you that anytime you’re going into combat, you got to be concerned about whatever the adversary brings, whether it’s a fourth-gen airplane or a fifth-gen plane — you got to be ready for both.”

Hinds said what’s most important for the “entire operational kill chain” is their own training and the maintenance of the plane and its weapons.

A Russian Su-57 in flight. Wikimedia Commons photo by Alex Beltyukov.

“You really can’t be focused on the adversary — you got to be focused on yourself,” Hinds said.

“You’ll train on the adversaries, you’ll train against everything you need to be ready for — and we got to be ready for all of it.”

While analysts have criticized some of the Su-57’s capabilities, many have also maintained that the Su-57 is highly maneuverable — perhaps even more so than the F-22.

“I’m not concerned — I’ll tell you that,” Hinds said.

Articles

The Coast Guard could have the solution for a bigger US Navy

With the push for a 350-ship Navy as a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many wonder how the U.S. can expand its surface fleet quickly and without breaking the bank.


The Coast Guard may have an answer — or at least a starting point for the answer — with its Bertholf Class National Security Cutters. A Dec. 30, 2016, release from Huntington Ingalls noted that a ninth cutter of what was originally planned as an eight-ship class had been ordered.

U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter Bertholf

However, at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, Huntington Ingalls displayed a model of the FF4923, also known as the Patrol Frigate. Using the same basic hull and propulsion plant as the Bertholf-class cutters, the FF4923 adds a lot more teeth to the design.

According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” a Bertholf Class cutter carries a Mk 110 57mm main gun, a single Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, and some .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad for a patrol ship — and roughly comparable to the armament suite on a littoral combat ship.

A closer look at the biggest visible difference (aside from the paint job) of the FF4923 as opposed to the Bertholf-class national security cutter: The 76mm gun and 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System. (Photo by Huntington Ingalls)

The FF4923, though, offers a 76mm gun, a 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, two Mk 141 quad mounts for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, and a half-dozen machine guns. In this ship, the Mk 41 VLS would only use RIM-66 SM-2 missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs.

The 76mm gun, incidentally, offers the option of using guided rounds like the OTO Melara’s Vulcano for surface targets and the DART round against aircraft and missiles.

The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57) at Pearl Harbor. The FF4923 patrol frigate displayed at SeaAirSpace 2017 could be a true replacement for these vessels. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico)

This is not the only offering that Huntington Ingalls has made. According to an April 2012 report from DefenseMediaNetwork.com, in the past, HII offered the FF4921, which used a Mk 56 Vertical-Launch System for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile that is best known for its use on Canada’s Halifax-class frigates, and the PF4501, a minimal-change version of the Bertholf.

Even if the United States Navy doesn’t order some of these Bertholfs with teeth, export orders could find American workers very busy – even after the larger-than-planned Bertholf Class order for the Coast Guard is fulfilled.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Toys for Tots became an official mission of the Marine Corps

Christmas is a time for giving. Yeah, family and friends share gifts with one another, but the spirit of Christmas is also about giving to those in need. Every year, you’ll find boxes placed by Toys for Tots, waiting to catch donations of new, unwrapped presents from giving, good-willed samaritans. These gifts go toward brightening up a less-fortunate child’s Christmas morning.

Though you might not know it, this gesture of good will is made possible by the Marine Corps Reserves. Since 1995, Toys for Tots has been listed as an official mission of the Marines to be conducted around the holidays.


I know the Marines were there, accepting toys with a smile, but a salty Gunny knife-handing civilians who didn’t donate would arguably be more effective.

(Official Marine Corps Photo)

Toys for Tots got its start in the winter of 1947, when Diane Hendricks, wife of Maj. Bill Hendricks of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, wanted to gift a bunch of homemade dolls to kids in need. Diane made the dolls with the hope of giving a happy holiday to some less-fortunate girls — but she quickly realized that there was no such organization to help her help others.

Maj. Hendricks, inspired by his wife’s generosity, gathered his fellow Marine Corps Reservists buddies and placed giant boxes outside of movie theaters across Los Angeles to help attract others to their cause. Off-duty Marines were to accept donated gifts in their Blues and personally thank each donor.

The first Christmas was a massive success. Their small team gathered 5,000 toys and gave them to the children of Los Angeles. It was such a success, in fact, that they were able to elevate the charity to the national level the very next year.

Doing every little bit to make Santa’s job a little easier this Christmas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Re-Essa Buckels).

Even as the movement gained national recognition, it remained a fairly small-scale operation, done by Marines reservists between drill weekends — but this mission of good will was eating into the time that the Marines needed to spend being Marines.

By 1980, the stipulation that stated gifts had to be “new and unwrapped” was added because the young Marines spent way too much time refurbishing all of the used toys parents didn’t want anymore.

Toys for Tots had grown far bigger far faster than anyone imagined. The Marines knew they needed to expand the program to keep giving toys to children that needed them, but they couldn’t do it at the expense of being Marines. So after 44 years of being an unofficial program of Marine Reservists, they sought official recognition from the Pentagon to keep going. In 1991, The Marine Toys for Tots finally became an actual charity.

So, help out your fellow Marines and donate a toy or two when you see their boxes. It really will go a long way.

(Air Force Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lloyd)

This new recognition came with many perks — and one huge drawback. First, it allowed the charity to work with organizations to take on large-scale donations and financial assistance. It also meant that people could now mark off any given resent as a “charitable donation,” which comes in handy just before tax season. New employees, outside of the Marines, could come handle some of the legwork. And, to top it all off, the organization was able to use funds to get needed materials, like boxes and wrapping paper, without the Marines spending their personal money on it.

But this all came in direct conflict with the military’s stance on staying out of the public sector. Despite being a program made by Marines, carried out by Marines for 44 years, and having “Marine” in the title (its full name is the “Marine Toys for Tots Foundation”), the United States military is not supposed to endorse any civilian organization, company, or charity.

This awkwardness needed to be addressed and, in 1995, the Marine Toys for Tots Organization became the one and only organization to earn an exception when Secretary of Defense William J. Perry added “assisting the Toys for Tots” as an official mission of the United States Marine Corps.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This 87-year-old grad still enjoys marching with new cadets

Through 20 years of March Backs, Wallace Ward has seen it all.

In the beginning, the march was 15 miles, now 20 years later it is only 12. Over the years it has moved from taking place in the middle of the night to starting in the morning. There has been rain and thunderstorms that soaked and threatened the marchers. There was a hamstring injury that slowed him down, but couldn’t stop him.

No matter the obstacle, the distance or the weather, since members of the Long Gray Line were invited to the March Back 20 years ago, Wallace Ward has completed every single one.

This year, as he stepped off from Camp Buckner before dawn with India Company, Ward, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in the Class of 1958, earned the distinction of being the oldest graduate to participate in the annual tradition.


He first joined the March Back at 67 and now aged 87 he once again walked the entire way from start to finish.

“I come back to March Back every year because I love to run,” Ward said. “I’ve participated in 10 marathons and one ultramarathon that was 62 miles. I have been running and walking all my life so when they said they wanted people to hike back with the plebes I thought that was a great opportunity since I love being outside running and walking.”

Retired Lt. Col. Wallace Ward, USMA Class of 1958, marches back with the Class of 2023. Ward, 87, was the oldest grad to participate in the 2019 March Back.

(Photo by Brandon OConnor)

The decision brought him full circle as it was running that first introduced Ward to West Point.

A track athlete in nearby Washingtonville, New York, Ward competed at a regional track meet at West Point as a high schooler. He entered the meet with a single goal — earning the one point he needed to secure his varsity letter for the season — and determined to do whatever it took to secure it.

With the finish line nearby and his goal within reach, Ward dove across the line. His last bit of effort earned him his letter, but it also left shrapnel in his left elbow that has served as a, “reminder of West Point for the rest of my life.”

It would prove to be the first of many marks West Point would leave upon him as the track meet set him upon a path that eventually allowed him to enter West Point as a prior service cadet after he was not accepted directly from high school and enlisted in the Army in 1951.

“I’d never been to West Point,” Ward said of that track meet roughly 70 years ago. “I got there and saw this great fortress over the Hudson River and said, ‘Wow, this is fantastic. I’d sure like to be able to go there for school.'”

His time at West Point changed the course of his life after being abandoned along with his brothers in a Brooklyn flat by his mother. They bounced through different foster homes before finding stability and discipline after moving near Washingtonville.

West Point continued the process of instilling discipline and helped to keep him from becoming, “a kid in New York, running the streets, stealing and things like that, getting in all kinds of trouble,” Ward said.

Retired Lt. Col. Wallace Ward, USMA Class of 1958, marches back with the Class of 2023.

(Photo by Brandon OConnor)

He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1979 after a career as an air defense officer. Now 61 years after his graduation from West Point, Ward uses his time with the new class during March Back to encourage them and teach them about the place that means so much to him.

“We spend half the time (talking), except when we are going uphill. I always tell them, ‘Cut if off, wait until we get to the top of the hill. Then we can resume the conversation,'” Ward said. “When we are walking and having a conversation with the plebes we tell them it is going to be a tough year, stick it out, keep your nose clean and work hard and things will come out alright and you will be proud of the fact you went to West Point.”

With 20 years and more than 200 miles of March Backs under his belt, Ward hasn’t decided if he’ll be back for number 21. He said he will have to, “think about it,” before lacing up his sneakers and hiking through the woods with another class seven decades his junior even though he enjoys his time spent with the plebes and talking with them as they traverse the hills.

“I get the enthusiasm of going back to West Point every year and seeing that great fortress on the Hudson River, meeting old friends and comrades and enjoying the atmosphere,” Ward said of why he has come back for the last 20 years.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines are now flying these new F-35 variants

This Is The First F-35C Carrier Variant Joint Strike Fighter For The U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-314.

Marines are also getting the F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Lightning II. Here’s their first Carrier Variant Jet in VMFA-314 markings.

Along with flying the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft, that operates from amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Marine Corps is transitioning to the F-35C, the CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (also known as CV – Carrier Variant), that can operate from U.S. Navy’s flattops (the Nimitz-class ones, until issues with the Ford-class carriers are fixed).

Indeed, the Corps plans to operate 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs to replace three types of aircraft: the F/A-18A++/C/D “Legacy” Hornet, the AV-8B Harrier II and the EA-6B Prowler.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, is the first Marines squadron that will replace the “Legacy” Hornet with the brand new F-35C.


The first F-35C delivered to a USMC squadron, VMFA-314, at NAS Lemoore.

Photo by United States Marine Corps

At the time of writing, VMFA-314 has already started training alongside the U.S. Navy’s VFA-125, the F-35’s only Fleet Replacement Squadron, based at NAS Lemoore, California. The plan is to complete the preparation by next Spring.

By the time the Marine Aircraft Group 11 commander officer will certify the squadron as “safe for flight” and ready to operate independently of the FRS, VMFA-314 will have returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the F-35C was declared on Feb. 28, 2019, after the first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, conducted aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received its Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.

“In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS). Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office (JPO), industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations,” the Navy added in an official statement.

Also read: F-35, once beaten by F-16s, shows stunts older jets can’t touch

VFA-147 will conduct the first deployment with the F-35C integrated into the Carrier Air Wing 2, aboard the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 will conduct the second F-35C carrier deployment.

Interestingly, at least one F-35C already sports full VMFA-314 markings. The first photos of CF-35/169601, modex VW-434, including those that you can find in this article, were posted three weeks ago by Col. Simon Doran, MAG 11’s commanding officer. More shots have started circulating on the Internet after the aircraft, with just a handful flying hours, made a public appearance at Tinker AFB Air Show, on Jun. 1, 2019.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the “Hercules of the American Revolution”

Peter Francisco was born into a wealthy family in June, 1760, on an island in the Azores archipelago of Portugal. When Francisco was just 5 years old, he was abducted by pirates. The future patriot was ripped from his home and carted off to a nearby ship. Approximately six weeks later, a dock worker saw a boat maneuver up the James River in Virginia. There, the pirates dropped off the young Francisco and left as quickly as they’d arrived.

Nobody’s entirely sure why the abductors snatched him up only to later drop him off without seeking payment, but historians have their theories. Some say that Francisco’s father orchestrated the kidnapping in order to spare Peter from the wrath of his family’s political enemies.

Whatever the case, locals took the abandoned Francisco to a nearby orphanage soon after he arrived. There, he was taken in by Judge Anthony Winston. He took the young boy back to his plantation to learn English. Due to his dark, Mediterranean complexion, however, Francisco lived near the slaves and never received a proper education.

Francisco spent many of his early years working on Judge Winston’s plantation, learning how to be a blacksmith. Winston invited Francisco to join him at the Second Virginia Convention in 1775, where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry were all in attendance. After several days of intense debate between loyalists and patriots, Patrick Henry delivered his famous quote,

“Give me liberty or give me death.”

As the teenage Francisco watched through a window, he chose liberty.


Nearly a year and a half later, Francisco finally convinced Winston to allow him to join the Continental Army. At just 16 years old, Francisco was officially a member of the 10th Virginia Regiment and stood six feet, six inches tall and weighed 260 pounds — truly a giant of his era.

Soon after, Francisco fought in several famous battles, including Brandywine and Valley Forge. During the Battle of Stony Point, George Washington recruited 20 elite troops to be first in line to assault the British fort. Francisco was selected as one of those men.

The Continental Army defeated British troops at Stony Point with a well-planned nighttime attack.

Francisco was tasked with scaling a 300-foot wall and reaching the fort’s flagstaff. Of the 20 who led the charge, 17 were either killed or wounded — a large slash across the abdomen put Francisco among them. Despite his injury, he killed his adversaries and reached his destination. He lay, wounded, at the base of the flag as the British surrendered. From then on, Francisco was known as the “Hercules of the American Revolution.”

During the Battle of Camden, Francisco noticed a 1,100-pound cannon in a field next to some dead horses. According to legend, he managed to lift the canon and take it, saving it from falling to British hands. For this courageous act, the U.S. Postal Service design a stamp in Francisco’s honor.

Stamps were expensive even in 1975…

As Francisco continued to fight the war, he continuously remarked on the tiny size of the swords with which they fought. Eventually, Washington gave Francisco a six-foot broadsword — not unlike the sword famously used by William Wallace in his own battles against the English.

By the time Francisco was done serving, he had been wounded six times, but never stopped fighting. He was later elected by the Senate to work as the sergeant-at-arms.

Later, Francisco died from appendicitis. He was 71-years-old.