Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

The House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee heard testimony from Defense Department personnel chiefs on diversity in recruiting and retention.

Testifying were: Army Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, deputy chief of staff for personnel; Navy Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr., chief of naval personnel; Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.


Army diversity efforts

“People are the starting point for all that we do. Today, the total Army is more diverse — the most talented and the most lethal force in our nation’s history,” said Seamands.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

An important tool the Army has is the new talent management system, which amplifies diversity, he said.

Trends are pointed in the right direction, he noted. For example, in the last five years, the percentage of Hispanic soldiers went from 12.5% to 14.6% and female representation went from 16.6% to 18.8%.

Also, the first female graduate of Ranger School went on to become the first female infantry company commander, and she then deployed to Afghanistan.

“We want our Army to look like our nation and to reflect what’s best of our citizens,” he said. “As the country has become more diverse, so has the Army.”

He added that service members are not only diverse in race and gender, but they’re also diverse in thought, talent, knowledge, skills and experience.

Navy diversity efforts

The Navy is promoting diversity and inclusion, said Nowell. “We have increased participation in diverse talent and outreach events and marketing materials.”

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Spencer Fling)

Nineteen percent of the recruiting media budget focuses on multicultural and female prospects, he said. Navy ROTC scholarships are also offered to minorities, he said.

More than 25% of this year’s U.S. Naval Academy accessions were female or minority, he said.

Air Force diversity efforts

“The Air Force considers diversity a warfighting imperative,” said Kelly. “As such, the Air Force set a goal for our force to mirror and be representative of the population of Americans eligible to serve by race, gender and ethnicity.”

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick)

The Air Force currently consists of 22% women; 15% African Americans — including 6% in the officer corps; and 13% Hispanics — including 7% in the officer corps. Those demographics have increased over the last 10 years, he added.

Marine Corps diversity efforts

“Diversity remains critical to the Marine Corps,” said Rocco. “It is our responsibility to ensure the Marine Corps is comprised of the best and brightest from every segment of the diverse society.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

(Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian A. Tuthill)

“Diversity must be included in meaningful ways in order to take advantage of a wide array of aptitudes and perspectives necessary to maintain our current and future warfighting excellence,” he continued.

Diversity in the Marine Corps is increasing, he said. In 2010, 30% of Marines identified as minorities. Today, that number is more than 40%. “We expect these numbers to continue to rise.”

In 2010, 6.7% of the Marine Corps was female. It’s now almost 9%. These numbers should also continue to rise, he said.

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The Marine Corps is looking for suppressed weapons, flexible body armor and all these other goodies

Marine Corps System Command today gave defense industry representatives a glimpse of the service’s new equipment wish list that includes lighter, more flexible body armor, more comfortable individual equipment and rifle barrels with built-in suppressors.


Col. Michael Manning, who oversees weapons and equipment programs for MCSC, told industry that Marine equipment is still not integrated as much as it could be.

It used to be that the Marine Corps selected weapons, accessories and equipment and just expected Marines to carry it, Manning told an audience at Modern Day Marine 2017.

“We said ‘you know what, if it adds 10 more pounds, so be it. Get over it,'” Manning said. “It’s time for all of you to help me stop getting over it. Ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.

“When you can throw it on top of an already 70- ton tank, then that is one thing. When you throw it on top of a 200 pound marine, it’s completely another.”

The U.S. Military has come a long way in the development of individual body armor in the past 20 years, Manning said.

“We have come a long way in the past five years, when it comes to technologies that can defeat multiple rounds,” he said.

But ceramic rifle plates have not changed that much, Manning said.

“We have dropped ounces off of everything we carry, but we haven’t dropped weight on ceramic plates,” Manning said. “There are other technologies out there. Maybe we don’t have to defeat threat whatever multiple times. Maybe it’s only a one or two hit in this caliber.”

Ceramic plates are also too rigid, Manning said.

“Our current plates — you can’t shape them; you can’t mold them to the individual Marine and we all know that,” Manning said. “Let’s get to the next step. Let’s figure out how to mold them.”

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
Massachusetts Congresswoman Niki Tsongas joins Marine Corps Systems Command acquisition experts aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, July 11, for a sneak peek at the latest gear for the 21st Century Marine. In a series of ongoing efforts, the Corps and the Army are collaborating to develop, test and deliver ever-better capabilities for Marines and Soldiers. From left: Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, MCSC commander; Lt. Col. Chris Madeline, program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment; Rep. Tsongas; and Mackie Jordan, an engineer in PM ICE. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Emily Greene)

The Marine Corps also wants better knee and elbow pads, Manning said.

“The issue is not that we don’t have them out there; the issue is Marines won’t wear it if it’s not comfortable or it falls off or it’s a pain to get over top of everything they are already wearing,” Manning said.

“They fall off, they slide around, so we tear ourselves apart.”

Marines are also working on a Squad Common Optic.

“In the last 10 years we have done a lot of technology improvements, but what we haven’t done is merge all of those improvements into singular optics,” Manning said.

“So now we have infantry squads that are carrying multiple optics. We need to merge thermal, we need to merge I-squared, we need to merge all those technologies together” without adding extra weight.

The current technology for individual weapon suppressors also needs improving, Manning said, explaining that Marines need built-in suppressors.

“Get rid of the suppressor on the end of the barrel … so now when we have a 14.5 inch barrel or a 16 inch barrel, you just added four or five inches and I am right back to 20 inches,” Manning said.

“There are a couple out there now that integrate with the weapons themselves, that is really where we want to go.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The relatable joys of having back pain under 30​

Back pain is something that 80% of adults are expected to experience at some point in their life. For some, it comes much, much earlier — and the advantages are endless!

It’s no secret that those who engage in manual labor from a young age are more susceptible to back pain. It makes sense then, that young vets are oh-so-lucky enough to be some of the chosen few with significant back pain while barely being young enough to crack open a cold one (legally).

Here are some of the fun benefits young back pain sufferers all experience!


Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

You know what kinda day it’s gonna be the night before!

Most people have to spill coffee on themselves or pour a bowl of cereal before realizing they don’t have milk before they know they’re going to have an awful day. With chronic back pain, there’s no need to wait until 7am to figure that out — you’ll know by 2am at the latest! Your unending nightmare of discomfort will let you know that tomorrow will, in fact, suck.

What a treat to know in advance!

You’ll accrue advanced stretching knowledge!

Most under-30-year-olds know how to touch their toes. Maybe they’ll occasionally grab a foot and stretch out their quads before a run. Not those with chronic back pain! Those lucky sons of guns have advanced knowledge of stretches so intricate and strange-looking it would make the author of the Kama Sutra blush.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

You’ll never need another excuse to avoid helping your friend move!

This one goes without saying. Gone are the days of saying, “Oh, uh, actually dude, I have to pickup my uncle from the airport” or “I would, but I actually told my girlfriend I would take her to shop for potted plants” or the vintage classic move of waiting until the day after and hitting them with, “I JUST got this text — still need help?” Nope. Now you can just tell them straight up you can’t help. Not you “won’t.” You physically cannot.

You get a desirable “dad bod” without even trying!

Okay so there’s not a lot of people that try to have a “dad bod.” But for those who do — it can be difficult. Luckily, with chronic back pain, you can get a dad bod before you even have children! Spend hours not being able to get out of your rolly chair. Be unable to go on light jogs without immediately experiencing immobilizing muscle spasms. Then, eat away your feelings through endless bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. It’s like having the opposite of your own personal Hollywood trainer.

You get the best seat in the house to watch your friends have fun!

You’re playing basketball with your friends, you drive in for a layup, nobody touches you, and then wham: your back completely locks up on you for no reason whatsoever. Now you can’t walk, let alone play. Sucks, right? Wrong.

Now you get to sit and watch all your friends air ball uncontested 3s — from the front row! Sound too good to be true? Don’t worry, it’ll happen plenty more times!

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

You can do a perfect impression of the AT-ATs from ‘Star Wars!’

Impressions are hard. Star Wars impressions are especially hard. Don’t believe me? Ask literally anyone to do an impression of Yoda. It will be terrible.

But with insane chronic back pain, you can constantly walk like an AT-AT! The lumbering, stiff, slow movement will wow all your friends. You’ll get the posture of C3P0 for free, too.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

Oh my goodness.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Pilot brings his father’s remains home after Vietnam War

A pilot with Southwest Airlines flew a particularly meaningful flight on Aug. 8, 2019, when he returned his father’s remains home from Vietnam.

Southwest Capt. Bryan Knight was five years old in 1967 when he last saw his father, Col. Roy Knight. He and his family made a trip to Dallas Love Field Airport from their home in North Texas to see his father off as he left for the Vietnam War. The elder Knight, an A-1E fighter pilot with the US Air Force, was shot down a few months later.

There was a search-and-rescue attempt, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, but Knight could not be found, and the search was called off because of intense hostile fire at the time. He was declared missing and officially presumed dead in 1974.


Earlier this year, human remains were discovered near the crash site. In June 2019, those remains were confirmed to be Knight’s.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

(Southwest Airlines)

When the younger Knight learned that his father’s remains had been found, he began the process of repatriating them. They were flown to Honolulu, where they were transferred to a Southwest flight heading to Oakland, California.

From there, Knight successfully coordinated his schedule with the airline to make sure that he could be the one to fly his father home. He was assigned as the pilot in charge of flight WN 1220, from Oakland to Love Field in Dallas.

An honor guard from the Air Force met the plane at Love Field along with Southwest crew members, who took a moment to pay their respects. The plane was also met with a water-cannon salute by the airport’s fire department after it landed.

“Our Southwest Airlines family is honored to support his long-hoped homecoming and join in tribute to Col. Knight,” the airline said in a statement, “as well as every other military hero who has paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the armed forces.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy finds smoking gun that points to Iran in latest tanker attack

The US is accusing Iran of carrying out attacks on two tankers just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway through which more than 30% of the world’s seaborne crude oil passes, and the US Navy has reportedly discovered an unexploded mine that may very well be evidence of Iran’s culpability in June 13, 2019’s attacks.

The USS Bainbridge, a US warship deployed to the Middle East, spotted a limpet mine on the side of one of the two tankers hit on June 13, 2019, CNN reported, citing a US defense official. Another defense official confirmed the discovery to Fox News, telling reporters that “it’s highly likely Iran is responsible.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said June 13, 2019, that Iran was responsible for the attacks, an announcment that briefly spiked US West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures up to $52.88 per barrel, or 3.4% from the day’s start.


He did not provide specific evidence for the accusations but said US conclusions were “based on the level of expertise for the execution, and recent attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

The limpet mine spotted by the US Navy was reportedly discovered on the Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers targeted. Twenty-one sailors rescued from the damaged ship are aboard the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that was operating nearby and called in to assist.

A limpet mine is an explosive with a detonator that can be attached to the hull of a ship using magnets, and Iranian forces are believed to have used these weapons in an attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May. While the US has blamed Iran for the attacks, Tehran, Iran’s capital, has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The UAE determined an unnamed “state actor” was behind the tanker attacks and concluded “it was highly likely that limpet mines were deployed.”

There has been some debate about who was behind the latest attacks, with one official telling ABC News that “we’re not pointing to Iran, but we’re not ruling anything out at this time.” Another official asked the media outlet, “Who else could it be?”

U.S. Blames Iran for Tanker Attacks in Gulf of Oman

www.youtube.com

Iran used mines heavily during the Tanker Wars in the late 1980s.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who may have been briefed on the situation, was quick to pin the blame on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, telling reporters: “I saw some press accounts today sort of saying it’s not clear who did it. Well, it wasn’t the Belgians. It wasn’t the Swiss. I mean, it was them. They’re the ones that did it. We’ve been warning about it.”

In early May 2019, the US began deploying military assets to the Middle East as a deterrence force in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was planning attacks on US interests. The US has so far sent a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, a missile-defense battery, and a number of other capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility.

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

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How some special operators are turning to illegal drugs to deal with deployment stress

They have achieved cult hero status for their exploits since 9/11, but their success on the battlefield is taking a personal toll on Navy SEALs and members of other US special operations elite forces.


Reports of rampant illicit drug abuse by special operators — while on deployment and at home — have prompted congressional lawmakers to call for an accountability review of the “culture” inside special operations units.

Drug and alcohol use by some members of special operations units is nothing new to the culture within the teams, who see such behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the unforgiving tasks these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been asked to carry out.

“They are pretty much out there on a daily basis in very dangerous situations and working with [partners] who you don’t know if they are going to put a bullet in your back,” one former team member with knowledge of personnel issues told The Washington Times. “The level of stress these people are experiencing is off the charts,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The unprecedented pace and tempo in which US special operations forces have been used in the post-9/11 global war on terrorism, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban and now encompassing Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other groups, has exacerbated those stress levels, leading to even riskier coping behaviors.

“Kill/capture” missions by US special operations units combined with clandestine drone strikes formed the backbone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism doctrine. Six months into his term, President Trump has shown little sign of abandoning that strategy. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States is entering an era of global conflict defined by protracted small wars with extremist militant groups.

“This is going to be a long fight,” Mr. Mattis said.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

Aside from deploying hundreds of special operations military advisers to the front lines of the Islamic State fight in Syria and Iraq, the Trump administration has ordered the expansion of US Special Operations Command’s mission in Africa, battling the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.

“You see our forces engaged in that from Africa to Asia. But, at the same time, this is going to be a long fight. And I don’t put timelines on fights,” Mr. Mattis told CBS News.

‘Something has to give’

The operational tempo for Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other “Tier One” US special operations forces units, which spend a majority of their time overseas on deployment, is a vicious cycle but a prerequisite for the job, the former team member said.

“We’re not talking about 18-, 19-year-old kids. You have to have a level of resilience to get where they are,” he said. But even with the most seasoned and battle-hardened veterans, “something has to give” from the relentless demands to deploy.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed

A pair of random, command-wide drug screenings conducted from November through February uncovered a total of 59 cases of illicit drug use among sailors serving in Naval Special Warfare Command.

Seven command members tested positive for illicit drug use from among more than 6,300 subjected to a sweep of random tests late last year, according to figures that command officials provided to The Times. The command also uncovered 52 cases of illegal drug use among 71,000 tests carried out since August 2014.

Of the 52 command members who tested positive for illegal drug use during the most recent round of tests across the Navy command, 10 were SEAL team members. Command officials could not confirm how many SEAL members were part of the seven positive drug tests found during a round of testing in November and December.

Drug abuse, domestic abuse, or other behaviors tied to the seemingly constant rotations to conflict zones are “endemic of what these people are going through,” the team member said. “These are your franchise players. They want to be the best of the best. It’s a quality you need but also makes it hard to disengage. A lot of it is just coping just the physical toll [the job] takes on you. You have to find an outlet.”

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
USAF photo illustration by Senior Airman Chad Strohmeyer

The problem of drug use within the special operations community gained unwanted attention in April when news leaked of a closed-door speech by Capt. Jamie Sands, head of all East Coast-based Navy SEAL teams. The captain warned all 900 Navy special operators in the command about cracking down on the use of illicit drugs — including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy — among the SEAL teams that went public.

One active-duty SEAL attached to the East Coast teams told CBS News at the time that a number of his team members had tested positive for illegal drugs multiple times but remained on active duty since the Navy was unable to monitor their drug usage on a regular basis. Their frequent, extended deployments overseas allowed team members to avoid regular drug screenings.

Capt. Sands said that would no longer be a loophole in the command.

“We’re going to test on the road,” the officer said. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, then you will be caught.”

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
DoD Photo by Maj. Will Cox

Accountability review

Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in June pushed for legislation requiring US special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate to conduct an accountability review of the military’s elite units amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the teams.

The review was included in the House draft version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which sets aside $696 billion for military programs and operations. The full House overwhelmingly approved the defense spending package this month.

The measure would require Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as well as top brass from Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, “to provide a briefing regarding culture and accountability in [special operations forces].”

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley Gardner

Critics say the Pentagon’s policies do not properly address the problem of illicit drug use among special operators, a claim US Special Operations Command officials vehemently deny.

“No one has turned a blind eye to the challenges special operations forces face after a decade and a half of continuous combat operations,” command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said in a statement to The Times.

Command officials and their counterparts in the services’ special operations directorates formed a task force to address issues such as drug use and other symptoms related to prolonged deployments of the elite US troops. The task force takes a “takes a holistic, integrated approach” to post-deployment issues unique to Special Forces units “designed to maximize access to treatment and minimize any stigma associated with seeking help,” Mr. McGraw said.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Despite the command’s task force and other associated efforts, lawmakers are pressing command officials on the problem of drug use inside the teams.

Ms. Speier’s office declined repeated requests for comment on the legislation and the level of cooperation House members are receiving from command officials and the Pentagon. But her characterization of the need for accountability within the special operations teams to address drug use is the wrong way to view the problem, the former team member said.

“I do not know if this is an accountability issue. It is not just about bad people. I think a lot of it is just what they have been through,” he said. “You have to realize you are not going to eradicate this [problem]. You cannot eradicate those experiences” of war.

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Army developing robots to remove casualties from combat

The Army is working on engineering unmanned systems and tactical robots that can both help and evacuate casualties from the battlefield by transporting injured soldiers out of dangerous situations, service officials said.


“We are evaluating existing and developmental technologies that can be applied to medical missions,” Phil Reidinger, spokesman for the U.S. Army Health Readiness Center of Excellence, told Scout Warrior.

The idea, expressed by Army leaders, is aimed at saving lives of trained medics to run into high-risk combat situations when soldiers are injured. For example, medical evacuation robots could prevent medics from being exposed to enemy gunfire and shrapnel.

“We have lost medics throughout the years because they have the courage to go forward and rescue their comrades under fire,” Maj. Gen. Steve Jones, commander of the Army Medical Department Center and School and chief of the Medical Corps, said in a written statement. “With the newer technology, with the robotic vehicles we are using even today to examine and to detonate IEDs [improvised explosive devices], those same vehicles can go forward and retrieve casualties.”

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

The Army has operated thousands of cave-clearing, improvised explosive device-locating robots in places like Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade.  The majority of them use sensors such as electro-optical/infrared cameras to detect and destroy roadside bombs and other explosive materials.

“We already use robots on the battlefield today to examine IEDs, to detonate them,” Jones said. “With some minor adaptation, we could take that same technology and use it to extract casualties that are under fire. How many medics have we lost, or other Soldiers, because they have gone in under fire to retrieve a casualty? We can use a robotics device for that.”

Jones said unmanned vehicles used to recover injured Soldiers could be armored to protect those Soldiers on their way home.

But the vehicles could do more than just recover Soldiers, he said. With units operating forward, sometimes behind enemy lines, the medical community could use unmanned aerial vehicle systems, or UAVs, to provide support to them.

“What happens when a member of the team comes down with cellulitis or pneumonia? We have got to use telemedicine to tele-mentor them on the diagnosis and treatment,” he said, adding that UAVs could be used for delivering antibiotics or blood to those units to keep them in the fight. “So you don’t have to evacuate the casualties, so the team can continue its mission.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This WWII veteran evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months

Some of our nation’s greatest treasures aren’t places, they are people. Leo LaCasse survived three crash landings and evaded 4,000 enemy troops during World War II. He now lives at a VA Community Living Center in Salem, Virginia. Here is his story:

Born on July 4, 1920, Leo LaCasse was one of five children–all of whom were born on birthdays of former presidents. At the age of 15, he joined the New Hampshire National Guard, and later the Army Air Corps, where he was assigned to a recruiting command. The private was soon promoted to corporal, then sergeant, as he traveled New England recruiting pilots from colleges and universities.

One day, Leo learned that he was accepted to flight school. It was a reward from his commanding officer who had submitted the application on his behalf. Despite never having gone to college, the Army sent Leo to college under an accelerated learning program, and when he graduated, he became a B-17 bomber captain.


Soon, flying planes “felt like home” to Leo.

“Some of them [planes] were cramped, but it didn’t make any difference to me because I was the pilot. When you’re packed in an aircraft and don’t have the room to move your body in the cockpit, any airplane you fly after that is good.”

In June 1943, Leo was assigned to the 8th Air Force, Bomb Group 548th in Suffolk, England, where he served under General Curtis Lemay.

Leo LaCasse flew 35 missions over Germany and other occupied countries, and survived three crash landings. During World War II, Leo evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months.

One of Leo’s crashes landed in France, which was then occupied by Germany. He instructed his crew to head for the front lines, to surrender and tell whoever interrogated them that he was headed for Berlin. Instead, Leo left for Luxembourg to meet up with the French Resistance, where he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains, and made his way to Portugal.

In all, he spent four months avoiding Nazi capture. When the war was over, he was sent to Berlin for debriefing. That’s where he met and befriended a German general who recognized Leo’s name and revealed there had been 4,000 German troops looking for him following the crash landing in France.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

Captain Leo LaCasse in front of his B-17 Bomber.

Leo retired from the military as a Brigadier General. For his service he has received numerous medals including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European and Middle East Campaign Medal, Army Air Force Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the American Defense Medal.

On June 5, 2016, Leo received the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest honor.

Leo now resides at Salem VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center located in Salem, Virginia.

On July 4, 2019, Leo will celebrate his 99th birthday.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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Congress passes Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act

Almost 42 years after the Vietnam War officially ended, veterans of that unpopular campaign in Southeast Asia will finally get some official recognition.


Thanks to the efforts of Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and his colleague, Indiana Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly, Congress recently passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, and it is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump soon.

On March 26, Toomey hosted a conference call with reporters to discuss his legislation.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner was awarded a Silver Star for his service as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

The Toomey-Donnelly bill also designates March 29 as “National Vietnam War Veterans Day.” March 29 marks the anniversary of the day that combat and combat support units withdrew from South Vietnam.

The Senate approved the bipartisan bill Feb. 8, and it was approved by the House on March 21. It’s now been on President Trump’s desk since March 23 awaiting his signature.

“In many cases, Vietnam veterans did not receive the warm welcome they deserved when they came home,” Toomey said. “It’s time we put a heartfelt thank you to Vietnam veterans into law.”

He added that all Americans should be grateful to those who served in Vietnam.

Related: How to honor Vietnam War Veterans

Toomey was joined on the call with Harold Redding, a Vietnam veteran from York who came up with the idea for the legislation, and John Biedrzycki, a Vietnam veteran of McKees Rocks and past national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Redding said he worked on getting the legislation passed for 27 months. He thanked Toomey for his efforts in seeing it through.

“I can’t tell you what this means to me and all Vietnam veterans,” Redding said.

Biedrzycki said the legislation was long overdue.

“Every day is Veterans Day,” he noted.

Toomey said he would like to see more public recognition for Vietnam veterans, such as at civic events. Those veterans should be emphasized in our classroom as well, he believes.

“Teachers should teach about the Vietnam War,” the senator explained. “These were difficult times in our history.”

In a news release issued by Toomey’s office after the Senate approved the measure, Donnelly said, “This bipartisan bill would help our country honor this generation of veterans who taught us about love of country and service and who deserve to be honored for their selflessness and sacrifice.”

Here’s what other veterans groups had to say about the legislation:

— Steven Ryersbach, past state Commander/AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania: “It’s outstanding that Sen. Toomey is working to support and honor our Vietnam vets. Sen. Toomey’s overall work on behalf of veterans is commendable and we thank Sen. Toomey for all his efforts.”

— Tom Haberkorn, president of Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America: ” The Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America supports the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which recognizes the service and sacrifice of those who answered our country’s call and served, with honor, in Southeast Asia.”

— Thomas A. Brown., Pennsylvania VFW State Commander: “All Vietnam War veterans deserve high honor and respect that many of them did not get when they returned home from war. Designating March 29 of each year to say ‘welcome home’ and ‘thank you’ to our Vietnam War veterans is a strong signal that America appreciates the service of these special patriots of freedom.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian businessman likely died of natural causes

A Russian businessman who was found dead in southern England six years ago likely died of natural causes, a British inquest has found.

Aleksandr Perepilichny collapsed while out jogging near his home south of London in November 2012, and there have been suspicions that he might have been murdered by poisoning.

“I am satisfied on the evidence I have heard I can properly and safely conclude that it was more likely than not that he died of natural causes, namely sudden arrhythmic death syndrome,” Nicholas Hilliard, who led the inquest into Perepilichny’s death, said on Dec. 19, 2018.


“There really is no direct evidence that he was unlawfully killed,” Hilliard added.

Perepilichny, a Russian tycoon and Kremlin critic who sought refuge in Britain in 2009, had been helping a Swiss investigation into a massive Russian money-laundering scheme. He also provided evidence against Russian officials linked to the 2009 death of anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail.

While police said at the time that there was nothing to suggest foul play, suspicions were fueled when an expert told a hearing that traces of a rare, deadly poison from the gelsemium plant had been found in his stomach.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

Aleksandr Perepilichny collapsed while out jogging near his home south of London.

His stomach contents were flushed away during the first post-mortem investigation, making further testing difficult, but scientists concluded the unidentified compound had no link to the gelsemium plant species and was found in cheese and meat.

Perepilichny had eaten soup containing sorrel for lunch the day he died, a fact that stoked speculation it had been replaced with gelsemium. But his wife Tatyana also ate the soup, and told the inquest she did not believe her husband was murdered.

Hilliard said that he could not totally rule out the use of poison, but that none of the evidence pointed to it.

Hilliard said that London police contacted him in December 2018 to confirm they were not conducting an investigation into Perepilichny’s death and that there was no evidence of “any hostile state actor” being involved.

He also said that he had considered the case in the context of the killing of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in London in 2006 with radioactive polonium-210.

A 2016 inquiry concluded Litvinenko’s murder was carried out by two Russians and was probably ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

In September 2018, Hilliard ruled that material about possible links between Perepilichny and British spy agencies would remain secret.

He said the material was “marginal” to resolving the question of how the businessman died and that releasing documents from British spy agencies MI5 and MI6 relating to Perepilichny could harm national security.

The British government earlier said police had completed a review of the Perepilichny case and 13 other deaths linked to Russia following the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in March 2018.

It concluded there was no need to reopen any investigation.

Britain blames the Russian government for the poisoning of the Skripals with the nerve agent Novichok. Moscow denies any involvement.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

You should have joined a military parachute team when you had the chance

Six military parachute teams from around the world are training together with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights to sharpen their skills and share lessons learned.

About 80 parachutists have been dotting the sky each day with colorful parachutes identifying them as Army, Air Force, Navy or one of the international training partners from the British Army.

“They learn from us. We learn from them,” said Lt. Col. Ned Marsh, commander of the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army Parachute Team. “We establish joint and combined interoperability. That familiarity boosts safety among parachutists in preparation for shows thousands of feet about the ground.”


Amazing Helmet Cam Footage From The U.S. Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights”

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Amazing Helmet Cam Footage From The U.S. Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights”

Joint training is a normal part of the Golden Knights’ annual certification cycle; however, in the past, each of the other teams have come separately for training. This is the first time all seven of these teams have come to train together at the same time. Throughout the week they are developing advanced skills and maximizing safety standards for combined military performances at show sites for the 2019 season.

In addition to the Golden Knights, the teams here for training include: the British Army’s Red Devils, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Black Daggers, the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs, the U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue, the U.S. Special Operations Command Para Commandos, and Fort Benning’s Silver Wings.

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

Talk about precision.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brandan Parra)

“It’s great to be over here and get some cross training,” said British Sgt. Maj. Dean Walton, who is one of 13 Red Devils who traveled to Homestead for the week. “Each team does things differently, and we can always improve. If we can improve and do things better and safer, it’s great to learn from each other how we can perform public displays.”

During the demonstration season, the Golden Knights perform with other U.S. and foreign military parachute teams at numerous events across the globe. Providing training for these teams is a key mission of the Army Parachute Team.

“There is no rivalry between the teams,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Hardy, USASOC paratrooper from the Black Daggers. “We all have good bases and we build off of that. If you look at the little targets on the drop zone, it’s a friendly rivalry to see who can land closest to the ‘X.'”

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

The Black Daggers use this training to perfect their demonstration team skills.

(Photo Credit: Lara HartmanPoirrier)

For the British Army’s Red Devils, the camaraderie is about much more than coming together to train each year. The team’s history with the Golden Knights dates back to the 1960s.

“When the Red Devils were originally formed, it was the Golden Knights that helped us get set up,” Walton said. “During the 1960s for an event, we actually jumped into Stonehenge with the Golden Knights.”

In June the Golden Knights will jump with the Red Devils for a demonstration in the United Kingdom.
“Personally, the best part is getting to train with these guys,” Walton said. “They are exactly the same as us. Similar sense of humor, similar experiences, and it’s great to meet up once a year. We have some quite good friends on the teams.”

The Golden Knights, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, are one of U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s key outreach teams dedicated to creating awareness about the Army and educating the American public about the opportunities and benefits of service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time an F-16 flyby lit up a highway patrolman’s radar

A California patrolman’s radar apparently flipped out on an empty stretch of highway in March 2019, which was odd because there wasn’t another car in sight, but then an F-16 Fighting Falcon came flying low and fast past his location.

A video taken by Officer Chris Bol and shared by California Highway Patrol station in the California desert suburb of Bishop shows the F-16 making a pass — not the first, as the officer filming has his camera ready to catch the fighter flying by his Ford Explorer.


The video, first reported by Popular Mechanics, was captioned: “When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you don’t see any cars on the road, look up!”


When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you …

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An F-16 can fly at speeds greater than Mach 2, more than two times the speed of sound. That means the fighter jet can hit in excess of 1,500 mph. The fighter in the video, however, was not going that fast.

These low-altitude flybys occur regularly in the area where the video was taken and are often picked up on radar. One California Highway Patrol officer at the Bishop station told Business Insider his radar once read out at more than 300 mph.

As for the video posted on March 9, 2019, Bol’s radar was going in and out, but it read 250 mph at one point. Several F-16s flew past his spot repeatedly while he was out there.

Popular Mechanics said that while the video was taken in Bishop, the aircraft in the video may have originated from the Arizona National Guard or Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, although it is hard to know for sure because there are a number of air bases nearby that use the area for training.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the recent strike on Syria might have been illegal

President Donald Trump’s administration for the second time ordered a military strike on the Syrian government without asking for permission from Congress, and it could indicate the legislature has lost its ability to stop the US president from going to war.

The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clearly states that the power to declare war lies with Congress, but since 2001 successive US presidents have used military force in conflicts around the world with increasingly tenuous legality.


Today, the US backs up most of its military activity using broad congressional legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The joint resolution, which Congress passed in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

This has essentially become a carte blanche for the US president to fight terrorism wherever it rears its head.

But on April 13, 2018, the Trump administration attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for an attack on a Damascus suburb the US says involved chemical weapons. Trump ordered a similar punitive strike a year ago, in April 2017.

At Harvard’s Lawfare blog, the law professors Jack Goldsmith and Oona A. Hathaway summed up all of the Trump administration’s possible arguments for the legality of the Syria strikes in an article titled “Bad Legal Arguments for the Syria Airstrikes.”

The article concludes that the US’s stated legal justification, that Article II of the Constitution allows the US to protect itself from attacks, falls short and that other legal arguments are a stretch at best.

Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who spoke with Secretary of Defense James Mattis hours before the strike, told Business Insider the strikes were probably illegal.

“The bottom line is I do not believe he has legal authority to conduct those strikes,” Garamendi said.

Congress ‘derelict in its duty’ as Trump doesn’t even try to get approval

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
The Laboon firing a Tomahawk land-attack missile.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)

Trump “could have and should have come to Congress and said these facilities and the use of poisonous gas is horrific, it is illegal based upon the international conventions, and I want to take military action,” Garamendi said, adding that he thought “a limited authorization to do that would have passed Congress in one day” if it had been written in a concise, limited way.

But Trump did not ask for permission, and it shows the incredible power of today’s US presidents to start wars.

“I think that Congress was derelict in its duty,” Garamendi said. “Congress clearly has abdicated one of its most crucial functions, and that is the power to take the US into a war. The Constitution is absolutely clear, and it’s for a very important reason.”

Fred Hof, a former US ambassador to Syria who is now at the Atlantic Council, said that while there was some reason for Congress to allow the president leverage in where and when he strikes, the two branches of government still needed to coordinate.

“Most, maybe all, in Congress would concede there are circumstances in which the commander-in-chief must act quickly and unilaterally,” Hof wrote to Business Insider. “But there are reasons why the Constitution enumerates the duties of the Congress in Article One, as opposed to subsequent Articles. I really do believe it’s incumbent on the executive branch to consult fully with the Congress and take the initiative in getting on the same page with the people’s representatives.”

Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who is an expert on maritime law, told Business Insider “the last declaration of war was in the course of World War II,” adding that Congress had “absolutely” given the president increased powers to wage war unilaterally.

Possibly illegal strikes create a ‘window’ for the US’s adversaries

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The US missile attack had questionable legality, but it wasn’t even Trump’s first time ordering strikes against Syria’s government, as a salvo of 59 cruise missiles targeted a Syrian air base in April 2017.

Before that, the US attacked Libya’s government forces in 2011. The US is also using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as justification for attacking Islamist militants in the Philippines, among other countries.

Garamendi said that by neglecting to request congressional approval, Trump had “given Syria, Russia, and Iran an argument that never should have happened.” He said by opening an internal US argument over whether the strike was legal, Trump had committed a “very serious error” and “opened a diplomatic attack that could easily have been avoided.”

Trump certainly did not start the trend of presidents ordering military action without congressional approval, and he has enjoyed wide support for his actions against chemical weapons use, but the move indicates a jarring reality — that the US president can go to war with thin legal justification and without even bothering to ask Congress.

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