After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross - We Are The Mighty
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After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

Hundreds of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, Army veterans, Pittsburgh-area officials, and Army leaders recognized U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his heroism April 5, 2019 — 16 years to the day after he was killed in action while serving in Iraq.

Booker’s mother and sister were presented with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor, during a ceremony at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood — near the University of Pittsburgh — as family, fellow soldiers, city officials and veterans watched.

“I am so honored … I am so proud of all my son accomplished,” said Freddie Jackson, Booker’s mother. “I didn’t realize how much my son did and how he inspired other people. Steve died for his country, not just for the Booker Family,” she said.


Booker died on April 5, 2003, while serving as a tank commander with Company A, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 34-year-old Apollo, Penn., native was killed in action near Baghdad while serving in Iraq during the “Thunder Run” mission as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Booker attended Apollo-Ridge High School, near Pittsburgh, and enlisted in the Army in June 1987, at age 19, shortly after his high school graduation. He was promoted to Army staff sergeant in February 2001 and deployed in March 2003 to Iraq.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, left, deputy commanding general of Forces Command, speaks in Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, during the presentation of the Distinguished Service Cross to Freddie Jackson, right, the mother of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his 2003 heroism while serving in Iraq.

(Photo by Mr. Paul Boyce)

“We’re here to honor his service, his sacrifice and his heroism … as well as his Family” said U.S. Army Forces Command Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson. “He gave his life for something bigger than himself; he gave his life for others. He’s a Pittsburgh hero, an Army hero and an American hero.”

Richardson attended Friday’s ceremony along with 3rd Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, the 3rd Infantry Division Band and two retired Army generals. Army and Air Force cadets from the University of Pittsburgh’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program participated and attended as well.

Veterans of Booker’s unit also travelled from across the United States to attend the medal-presentation ceremony, organized by the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga. The Army ceremony honored Booker for his heroic actions, personal dedication, and commitment to his fellow soldiers.

Booker’s platoon led a task force on April 5, 2003, along Highway 8 towards Bagdad International Airport. About 1.2 miles after the line of departure, the platoon came under heavy small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from enemy forces. Booker immediately communicated the situation to his chain of command, encouraged his crew, and returned fire with his tank-mounted machinegun.

“When both his and his crew’s machineguns malfunctioned, Booker, with total disregard for his personal safety, exposed himself by lying in a prone position on top of the tank’s turret and accurately engaged the enemy forces with his personal weapon,” according to the award’s summary. “While exposed, he effectively protected his platoon’s flank and delivered accurate information to his command during a critical and vulnerable point of the battle.”

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker.

(Facebook)

Booker’s “fearless attitude and excitement over the communications network inspired his platoon to continue the attack and assured them and leadership that they would defeat the enemy and reach their objective safely,” the award’s narrative explains. “As he remained exposed, Booker identified an enemy troop carrier which was attempting to bypass his tank, but within seconds engaged the enemy vehicle and destroyed it prior to the enemy troops dismounting. Along the five-mile route he remained exposed and continued to engage the enemy with accurate rifle fire until he was mortally wounded.”

Army Col. Andrew Hilmes, Booker’s former company commander in Iraq, said the heroic staff sergeant prepared his crew well for that day’s battle. “His ability to train his soldiers saved a lot of lives. Not just his actions on April 5, but the training he put his soldiers through prior to the 5th of April paid off for the unit.”

Booker’s sister echoed their mother’s comments during a media conference attended by Pittsburgh-area news media prior to the awards ceremonies, which included a plaque dedication in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial’s Hall of Valor. “He’d be very proud. He’d probably be pumping his chest right about now,” said Booker’s sister Kim Talley-Armstead. “It’s a bittersweet moment, but we are extremely proud.”

After giving careful consideration and reviewing the recommendations from the Senior Army Decorations Board, Army officials said, the Secretary of the Army made the determination that Staff Sgt. Booker be awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross. In recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty, 12 soldiers recently received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for their valor.

Previously recognized for their bravery by awards of the Silver Star, the Department of Defense upgraded the soldiers’ medals as part of a 2016-2018 comprehensive review of commendations for heroism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Four soldiers are still on active duty; three are posthumous awards; three recipients have since retired and two recipients previously separated from the Army.

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

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This is how Marie Curie saved soldiers’ lives in World War One

Marie Curie may be one of the world’s best-known scientists, but some of her most important work took place not in the laboratory, but on the front lines of battle during World War One.


Marie Sklodowska Curie started life in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, but in 1891, she left home to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne in Paris and it was in France that her reputation was built. In 1903, she and her husband, Pierre, having discovered the elements radium and polonium, shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with another researcher.

She would win another in 1911, this time for chemistry, but by that time, she was a widow; Pierre was killed in 1906 when he was run over by a horse-drawn carriage while crossing a busy Parisian street.

 

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
Pierre and Marie Curie. (Public Domain photo)

Curie’s pursuit of science had not been aided by the resentment and distrust of her male peers, who didn’t believe that a woman could possibly be their intellectual equal. The French Academy of Sciences had been unwilling to welcome her as a member for her scientific achievements.

Several year’s after Pierre’s death, she entered into an affair with a fellow scientist who was married. The spurned wife, who had letters that Curie had written to her lover, sent the letters to French newspapers, where they were published, and the public turned against Curie. In 1914, her Radium Institute was completed, but the year also brought the outbreak of World War I, which took her male laboratory workers off to fight.

She had one gram of radium to use for her research, not enough for her to experiment with during the war. She wanted to do something for the war effort. She was willing to have her Nobel Prize medals melted down to provide the gold that the French government needed, but the bank wouldn’t do it. So she donated the prize money she’d received and bought war bonds.

But she wasn’t satisfied.

Also read: Here is the heroine who was as awe inspiring as Wonder Woman

She couldn’t do the research that had made her reputation, so she opted to try something else: X-rays.

Knowing that war inevitably meant injuries that would require medical attention, Curie thought that X-rays could offer a new technology for the soldiers who were destined to be in harm’s way. X-rays on the battlefield could save lives.

She was named the head of the radiological services of the International Red Cross. She studied anatomy books. She learned to drive and how to fix automobiles. She taught herself how to use X-ray machines and trained medical professionals in the usage of the X-rays. She went on a fundraising campaign to raise money and by October, 1914, she had a traveling X-ray unit in a Renault van, the first of 20 that she would outfit.

The “Petites Curies” came with a generator, a hospital bed, and an X-ray machine. But once again, she had to sell the idea to the medical establishment, just as she had had to sell the science establishment on her qualifications as a researcher. Doctors were skeptical that radiology had a place on the battlefield.

So Curie headed to the Marne where a battle was raging to prove the value of the X-ray machines.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

She was able to detect the presence of bullets and shrapnel in soldiers who came to the van to be X-rayed, making the work of the surgeons on the front lines easier because they knew where to operate.

Curie was galvanized by the need for more X-ray units. In addition to the mobile vans, she wanted to add 200 stationary x-ray units. But the army was as dubious about her idea as they were about the new military technology like the tank and the machine gun.

Once again, Curie wouldn’t take no for an answer. She gave X-ray training to 150 women so that they could provide radiological diagnoses for the soldiers. Over a million French soldiers benefited from the Petites Curies and the accessibility of X-ray machines on the front.

When the war ended in 1918, Curie, like other celebrating Parisians, took to this streets, but with a difference. She was driving a Petite Curie.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
Public Domain photo

For Curie, service in the war was necessary.

“What seemed difficult became easy,” recalled the ground-breaking scientist and French patriot. “All those who did not understand gave in or accepted; those who did not know learned; those who had been indifferent became devoted.”

But ultimately, Curie’s sacrifice for science and for the war proved lethal. She didn’t know that the radiation was deadly and the years of exposure — she had the habit of carrying test tubes in her pockets and although she noticed the way they emitted light in the dark, she didn’t understand that the glow was an indicator of danger — led to health problems and ultimately leukemia, which killed her in 1934.

Even now, her notebooks are so radioactive that anyone wishing to view them where they are stored at the National Library in Paris has to put on protective garments and sign a waiver.

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This is how the Marine Corps plans to turn the MV-22 Osprey into a gunship

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, has been exploring the use of forward-firing rockets, missiles, fixed guns, a chin-mounted gun, and also looked at the use of a 30MM gun along with gravity drop rockets and guided bombs deployed from the back of the V-22.


In recent years, the Corps has been working on a study to help define the requirements and ultimately inform a Marine Corps decision with regards to armament of the MV-22B Osprey.

Adding weapons to the Opsrey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles, or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.

Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons, such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies, and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions, including surprise attacks.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Jesse Marquez Magallanes

The initial steps in the process of arming the V-22 includes selecting a Targeting-FLIR, improving digital interoperability, and designating Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment solutions. Integration of new weapons could begin as early as 2019 if the initiatives stay on track and are funded, Corps officials said.

Developers added that “assault support” will remain as the primary mission of the MV-22 Osprey, regardless of the weapons solution selected.

So far, Osprey maker Bell-Boeing has delivered at least 290 MV-22s out of a planned 360 program of record.

Laser-guided Hydra 2.75-inch folding fin rockets, such as those currently being fired from Apache attack helicopters, could give the Osprey greater precision-attack capabilities. One such program firing 2.75in rockets with laser guidance is called Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System.

Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps has been analyzing potential requirements for weapons on the Osprey, considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
Sgt. Austin J. Otto, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363, participates in an MV-22 Osprey tail gun shoot during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Becky L. Calhoun.

New Osprey Variant in 2030

The Marine Corps is in the early stages of planning to build a new, high-tech MV-22C variant Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to enter service by the mid-2030s, service officials said.

While many of the details of the new aircraft are not yet available, Corps officials told Scout Warrior that the MV-22C will take advantage of emerging and next-generation aviation technologies.

The Marine Corps now operates more than 250 MV-22 Ospreys around the globe and the tiltrotor aircraft are increasingly in demand, Corps officials said.

The Osprey is, among other things, known for its ability to reach speeds of 280 knots and achieve a much greater combat radius than conventional rotorcraft.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
Flight deck personnel conduct night operations with MV-22 Osprey aircraft aboard the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Oscar Espinoza.

Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment, and supplies – all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said.

A Corps spokesman told Scout Warrior that, since 2007, the MV-22 has continuously deployed in a wide range of extreme conditions, from the deserts of Iraq and Libya to the mountains of Afghanistan and Nepal, as well as aboard amphibious ships.

Between January 2007 and August 2015, Marine Corps MV-22s flew more than 178,000 flight hours in support of combat operations, Corps officials said.

Corps officials said the idea with the new Osprey variant is to build upon the lift, speed, and versatility of the aircraft’s tiltrotor technology and give the platform more performance characteristics in the future. While few specifics were yet available, this will likely include improved sensors, mapping, and digital connectivity, even greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics, and new survivability systems, such as defenses against incoming missiles and small-arms fire.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
An MV-22B Osprey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 (Reinforced) takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan B. Trejo.

Greenberg also added that the MV-22C variant aircraft will draw from technologies now being developed for the Army-led Future Vertical Lift program involved in engineering a new fleet of more capable, high-tech aircraft for the mid-2030s

The US Army is currently immersed in testing with two industry teams contracted to develop and build a fuel-efficient, high-speed, high-tech, next-generation, medium-lift helicopter to enter service by 2030.

The effort is aimed at leveraging the best in helicopter and aircraft technology in order to engineer a platform that can both reach the high-speeds of an airplane while retaining an ability to hover like a traditional helicopter, developers have said.

The initiative is looking at developing a wide range of technologies, including lighter-weight airframes to reduce drag, different configurations and propulsion mechanisms, more fuel-efficient engines, the potential use of composite materials, and a whole range of new sensor technologies to improve navigation, targeting, and digital displays for pilots.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
An MV-22 Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363 lands at Camp Wilson during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Becky L. Calhoun.

Requirements include an ability to operate in what is called “high-hot” conditions, meaning 95-degrees Fahrenheit and altitudes of 6,000 feet where helicopters typically have difficulty operating.  In high-hot conditions, thinner air and lower air-pressure make helicopter maneuverability and operations more challenging.

The Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program has awarded development deals to Bell Helicopter-Textron and Sikorsky-Boeing teams to build “demonstrator” aircraft by 2017 to help inform the development of a new medium-class helicopter.

The Textron-Bell Helicopter team is building a tilt-rotor aircraft called the Bell V-280 Valor and the Sikorsky-Boeing team is working on early testing of its SB-1 Defiant coaxial rotor-blade design. A coaxial rotor-blade configuration uses counter-rotating blades with a thrusting technology at the back of the aircraft to both remain steady and maximize speed, hover capacity, and maneuverability.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
Bell V-280 Valor. Image from Bell Helicopter.

Planned missions for the new Future Vertical Lift aircraft include cargo, utility, armed scout, attack, humanitarian assistance, MEDEVAC, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, land/sea search and rescue, special warfare support, and airborne mine countermeasures, Army officials have said.

Other emerging technology areas being explored for this effort include next-generation sensors and navigation technologies, autonomous flight, and efforts to see through clouds, dust, and debris described as being able to fly in a “degraded visual environment.”

While Corps officials say they plan to embrace technologies from this Army-led program for the new Osprey variant, they also emphasize that the Corps is continuing to make progress with technological improvements to the MV-22.

These include a technology called V-22 Aerial Refueling System, or VARS, to be ready by 2018, Corps developers explained.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USAF photo

The Marine Corps Osprey with VARS will be able to refuel the F-35B Lightning II with about 4,000 pounds of fuel at VARS’ initial operating capability and the MV-22B VARS capacity will increase to 10,000 pounds of fuel by 2019, Corps officials told Scout Warrior last year.

The development is designed to enhance the F-35B’s range, as well as the aircraft’s ability to remain on target for a longer period.

The aerial refueling technology on the Osprey will refuel helicopters at 110 knots and fixed-wing aircraft at 220 knots, Corps developers explained.

The VARS technology will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, F-18, AV-8B Harrier jet, and other V-22s.

The Corps has also been developing technology to better network Osprey aircraft through an effort called “Digital Interoperability.” This networks Osprey crews so that Marines riding in the back can have access to relevant tactical and strategic information while in route to a destination.

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The Air Force may offer a ‘fly only’ option to keep more pilots in its jets

The Air Force’s pilot shortage has leaders worried not only about filling gaps in the immediate future, but also how the military and civilian airlines may suffer without fine-tuned aviators in decades to come.


As a result, Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, if given permission, may start a small group tryout for pilots testing a new program in which aviators stay at their home-duty stations longer, thus increasing their longevity and likelihood to stay in service, the head of the command told Military.com in an exclusive interview.

“Should we go with a ‘fly-only’ track?” Gen. Carlton Everhart II said in an interview July 26.

Everhart said he envisions something like this: “You stay with me for 20 years, and I let you fly. You … could maybe [make] lieutenant colonel, but you may not make higher than that.”

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, left, Air Mobility Command commander, shakes hands with Chief Master Sgt. Chris Hofrichter, 514th Maintenance Operations Squadron. USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

“Then, [we] allow you to stay at your home station for three to four years instead of two to three, so you can get some longevity,” he continued. “Then, it’s not just [flying airlift cargo or tanker planes]. You could go to [Air Education and Training Command] and help out there for three to four years to help bring on new pilots.”

“To sweeten the deal, as you come into your career, maybe in the last four years, we allow you on a ‘dream sheet’ to put your top three choices, try to get you moved to there so you can establish your family and where you want to retire,” he said.

Everhart said the ‘fly-only’ effort would still encompass wing, squadron, and group duties and deployments but — bottom line — “it’s longevity.”

The same aviator retention bonuses would also apply, he said.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey

“The idea being explored is seeking airmen volunteers for a professional ‘fly-only’ aviator track comprised of anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the AMC flying force,” said Col. Chris Karns, spokesman for the command, in an email. “This small group of airmen would be linked to flying jobs throughout a career.”

AMC has nearly 49,000 active-duty members and civilians; 42,000 Air Reserve component military; and 35,000 Air National Guard members, according to the command.

RELATED: The Air Force is running out of pilots

The mobility Air Forces has roughly 8,500 total force pilots. Throughout the Air Force, active-duty mobility pilots total 5,125, Karns said. Active-duty pilots assigned to AMC installations total 2,866.

How airmen will be selected for the ‘fly-only’ program is still being determined, the officials said, as well as how many will be involved.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo

Everhart said his teams are looking at the program to establish more fixed methodology behind the effort, but would like to “look at it in the next three to four months” to begin a trial run.

“There’s certain things we have to do to code these folks … and I’ve introduced the notion and got a tentative nod from [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein],” he said. “I think there’s merit there, but I’ve just got to work all the way through it, then do the small group tryout and see where we go.”

“I’m not taking anything off the table because I need them with me, I need them to fly with me,” he said.

The Issues Wearing Out Pilots

Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson have said the service was 1,544 pilots short by fiscal 2016, which includes 1,211 total force fighter pilots — with the deficit expected to grow.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

Everhart said the Air Force stands potentially to lose 1,600 pilots who are eligible to separate from the service in the next four years.

He has been working with an AMC aviation retention task force for the past few months, trying to come up with recommendations as a result of airman feedback.

That feedback includes: Flying has become secondary to administrative duties; airmen desire more stability for themselves and their families; they lack support personnel; and they fear the impact of service politics on their career paths.

Airman feedback has resulted in one concrete move — the removal of additional duties, a common complaint.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USAF photo by Lt. Col. Robert Couse-Baker

In August, the service began removing miscellaneous responsibilities known as “additional duties” typically assigned to airmen at the unit level. It has since cut 29 of 61 additional duties identified under Air Force Instruction 38-206, “Additional Duty Management.”

Some duties were reassigned to commander support staffs, and civilians will be hired to take on some other duties in coming months.

ALSO READ: 23 terms only fighter pilots understand

Other areas are also getting scrutiny: Officials are looking at accession and promotion rates, giving commanders more freedom to think of creative solutions, and working with US Transportation Command to look at deployment requirements, Everhart said.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with headquarters Air Force A3 … so we don’t get in crossways with each other, and can we, as solution sets, put these across the entire broad perspective of the Air Force,” he said, referring to Lt. Gen. Mark C. Nowland, head of operations, plans and requirements.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USAF photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway

He’s also in communication with Lt. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, the Air Force’s chief of manpower, personnel, and services, and the Air Force Personnel Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, he said.

Lessons learned from these discussions and trial programs could then be applied to the fighter pilot community, Everhart said, but that’s still a ways out.

But the Air Force is not the only organization in crisis.

Working With Civilian Airlines

Boeing Co., the US’ largest aerospace company, on July 26 said it predicts that in the next 20 years, North American airline companies will need 117,000 new pilots to keep up with commercial demands, CNN reported.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USMC photo by Sgt. Keonaona Paulo

Everhart said this incentivizes both sides to work together.

Last May, the Air Force met with representatives from civilian airline corporations such as American Airlines and United; academic institutions such as Embry Riddle University, an aeronautical university; civil reserve airfleet institutions such as FedEx; and Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy.

The groups established working areas, Karns said, that need critical attention, such as exploring ways to make a career in aviation more desirable; finding ways to reduce the cost of earning a civilian aviation certification — for example, a debt relief program; looking at enhanced data analysis to establish a baseline for what is actually required to meet national pilot need; exploring potential alternate pathways to becoming a pilot — possibly by accelerating timelines; and improving the effectiveness of “shared resources” of pilots who fly for both the military and commercial airlines.

“We’ve got another airline meeting coming up in September,” Everhart said, in which leaders will discuss the secondary phases for these working areas.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

“We need to instill in the hearts of our American public what … aviation is all about,” he said.

Rotating Air Force Assets

AMC already employs a rotational system to keep its aircraft sustainable longer.

“In an effort to extend the life service of various mobility fleets and enhance aircraft availability, we’re looking to work with the Guard and Reserve to rotate aircraft more regularly and consistently to avoid disproportionate wear-and-tear on systems,” Karns said. “What has been known as enterprise fleet management is adjusting to what is called ‘Total Force effort to sustain and modernize the fleet.’ ”

The system rotates aircraft from the three components more often in order to “shrink … and no longer have that airlift gap,” Capt. Theresa Izell, a maintenance officer, said in March during an AMC media day at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Rito Smith

Could that system be applied to the pilot gap — moving pilots flying various platforms throughout, or qualifying pilots to fly more platforms?

“I think you’ve got something there,” Everhart said. “I think we already do that with cross training. We do some cross training for airframes as far as pilots flying tankers versus cargo, but I have to explore that more. I haven’t looked at it from the human dynamic prospect — and I think that’s something to pull back [on]. I love it.”

Love for Country

Everhart reiterated that time in service always comes back to the willingness to serve.

In June, the Air Force unveiled a new tiered Aviation Bonus Program, an expansion of Aviator Retention Pay that puts into place the cap authorized for the incentive under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.

Should they choose to stay, fighter and drone pilots, for example, are slated to receive the highest maximum bonus of $35,000 a year, while special operations combat systems officers would receive the least at $10,000. Officers have until Oct. 1 to decide whether they want to extend their service.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Alystria Maurer

The number of pilots taking the aviator retention bonus for AMC has also slightly declined, Karns said. In 2015, the “take-rate” of pilots choosing the bonus and choosing to re-up into the Air Force was 56 percent; in 2016, that number dropped to 48 percent, Karns said.

While bonuses matter, Everhart reiterated it’s not always about the money.

“They stay in the military because what’s in their heart, and their service to America. They really believe [in] an American fighting force. That’s why they stay,” he said.

“The bonus? Sure, that’s sweet. But that’s not why I stayed,” Everhart said. “I stayed because it’s service to the nation. And that’s what I’m finding out across the board” from other pilots.

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ALS is attacking military veterans in increasing numbers

There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.


After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
Roger Brannon deployed as part ofu00a0Operation Enduring Freedom. He now suffers from ALS.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.

Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
(Courtest of the Brannon Family)

“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.

What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.

“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the amazing life of the veteran with the most apt tattoo

There is perhaps no photo more iconic to the Post-9/11 generation of warfighters than the one that graced the cover of a Stars and Stripes article in 2011. The article, which was about how MEDEVAC pilots have a single hour to get wounded troops to medical facilities, went viral arguably because of the this photo. The powerful picture was of a critically wounded Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry and the tattoo across his ribs, which reads, “For those I love I will sacrifice.”

The photo quickly spread across both social and print media and his ink became the rallying cry for all American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.


After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

It just so happened that Stars and Stripes journalist Laura Rouch was also on this flight.

(Photo by Laura Rouch, Stars and Stripes)

Kyle Hockenberry had always wanted to serve in the U.S. Army. From the time he joined, he had one phrase in the back of his head that he felt compelled to have permanently etched on himself. He graduated basic training in January 2011 and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division’s 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment “Pale Riders” who would deploy to Afghanistan the following month.

As many troops tend to do right before shipping out, he got some ink. He had the iconic phrase tattooed onto his ribs. By February, he was at Forward Operating Base Pasab outside of Haji Rammudin.

Then, on the 15th of June, 2011, a pressure plate triggered an IED while Pfc. Hockenberry was moving to cover. It would take both of his legs above the knee and his left arm above the elbow. The blast would also take the life of his friend, Spc. Nick Hensley. He was immediately rushed to the medical facility at Kandahar Air Field.

Laura Rouch of Stars and Stripes was on-site with the crew of Dustoff 59 for her article. Saving Hockenberry was no easy feat.

“They began working on him immediately. They started cutting his clothing off and as they’re getting tourniquets on, they cut away his uniform and this tattoo emerged. I saw the tattoo and it just reached up and grabbed me.” explained Laura Rauch to the Marietta Times.

The severity of the blast and commitment of the flight medics were in constant conflict. Hockenberry’s heart stopped three times and each time the crew pulled him from the brink. He entered a coma as he reached the hospital. Rouch held hold onto the article until Hockenberry recovered enough to give his blessing for publication.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

And of course, the still proudly rocks the hell out of the greatest military tattoo.

(Vanilla Fire Productions)

Hockenberry was then transported to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas to begin walking the long road to recovery. In time, he would marry his loving wife, Ashley, and be promoted to corporal before being medically discharged in 2013. The pair welcomed a happy baby boy, Reagan, in 2016.

Recently, he has been working closely with documentary filmmakers Steven Barber and Paul Freedman on an upcoming documentary, World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route. The film is an inside look and history of Stars and Stripes. Heavily featured in this film is the iconic photo and the incredibly badass life of Kyle Hockenberry.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Marines offer former pilots up to $100K to come back to active duty

Attention Marine aviators: The Marine Corps needs you to return to active duty.

That’s the call the Marine Corps issued this week in its quest to get its former pilots to come back into the fold. The service is sweetening the deal by making selectees immediately eligible for bonuses of up to $100,000.


“The Marine Corps, like all services, has been challenged in the recent past with shortages in pilot inventory,” Capt. Joe Butterfield, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said. “… We designed the aviation bonus and Return to Active Duty opportunities to offset the deficits we have at the junior officer grades.”

Captains or majors who flew or commanded six Marine aircraft are eligible to return to active service, according to a service-wide message announcing the new policy. Aircraft include the AV-8B Harrier; F-35B Joint Strike Fighter; F/A-18 Hornet; MV-22 Osprey; KC-130 Hercules; and CH-53K King Stallion.

The Marine Corps wants the pilots to sign two-, three- or four-year contracts to return to active duty. Those selected will be automatically career-designated if they weren’t prior to leaving the service, and those willing to stay in longer could be given preference.

Return to Active Duty submissions are due by Nov. 6. Officers in the Selected Marine Corps Reserve, Individual Ready Reserve, and Individual Mobilization Augmentee Detachments could all be eligible. Aviators who had left the service completely could also qualify once they affiliate with a Reserve component, the administrative message states.

The service’s pilot crunch is largely due to challenges with producing new aviators while the Marine Corps is transitioning to new platforms, Butterfield said. The service is in the process of upgrading several of its aircraft as it transitions squadrons to the F-35 or CH-53K.

Going back on active duty could make pilots eligible for the Marine Corps Aviation Bonus Program for fiscal year 2021, which starts on Oct. 1. That bonus program, announced earlier this month, offers aviators in certain grades and communities expected to face personnel shortfalls up to 0,000 for another six years of service.

Since the Marine Corps wants former captains and majors to come back and fly for between two and four years, bonuses for those coming back in under those timelines would top out at 0,000.

The military has been struggling to retain pilots who’ve been able to pick up bonus options to go to commercial airliners in recent years. But the coronavirus pandemic has left some airlines struggling as travel declined, raising the possibility that military pilot retention will improve in coming years.

The Marine Corps has semi-annual Return to Active Duty boards, and since the start of the pandemic, Butterfield said the service has seen more applicants.

“We are aware of the pressures that come with current airline furloughs, and are offering this interim board with decreased obligations (24, 36, and 48-month) compared to previous RAD boards [with] 48-month obligations,” he said.

The Marine Corps didn’t answer questions about which of its platforms face the greatest shortages. The service has identified operational tempo and airline hiring as just two challenges the Marine Corps faces in keeping its pilots.

“This interim board gives the opportunity for those no longer on active duty to fly with the Marine Corps again and continue their service to the nation,” Butterfield said.

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

Articles

Japan to practice missile defense at US bases

Japan’s military will practice deploying anti-missile batteries at three US bases in Japan as concern grows about the North Korean missile threat.


The exercises will take place August 29 at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in western Japan. They will be repeated on September 7 at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
A PATRIOT Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement advanced missile defense system launches during a recent ballistic missile target test. Photo form US Army.

The US military says the drills will test the ability of Japanese and US forces to work together and assess firing locations at the bases. They will also allow Japan to practice rapid deployment of its PAC-3 anti-missile system.

North Korea has conducted a series of test launches to develop its missile capability and recently threatened to send missiles over western Japan and into waters near the US territory of Guam.

Articles

9 Ukrainian soldiers killed in bloodiest day of fighting in 2017

The United States is condemning an outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine, calling it the deadliest 24-hour period so far this year.


Ukraine’s military says nine soldiers have died in the east where Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels have been fighting for more than three years.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says that five deaths were in clashes that appear to have been initiated by what she described as Russian-led forces.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
Pro-Russian rebels shoot in the air at funeral of a fellow fighter killed in a battle for Marinka near Donetsk. Eastern Ukraine, 6 June, 2015. (Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)

Ten soldiers were also wounded and one was captured, according to the Ukrainian Ministry Defense. Two civilians were also reported wounded in Avdiivka on the morning of July 19.

Nauert said the US is asking the Russia-supported troops to abide by the terms of a ceasefire deal for eastern Ukraine that was signed in early 2015 but never fully implemented.

The US has called on those forces to allow international monitors to have “full, safe, and unfettered” access to the conflict zone, Nauert said.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross
Soldiers of Ukraine’s Internal Troops in riot gear and protesters clash at Bankova str, Kiev, Ukraine. December 1, 2013. (Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)

At least 20 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and at least 35 more have been wounded in the first 20 days of July, according to tweets from Liveuamap.

 

 

 

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Forces recover bodies from plane crash site in Afghanistan

Helicopter-borne U.S. forces have recovered the remains of the crew killed when a military aircraft went down in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

The Bombardier E-11A, used for military communications, went down in a snowy part of eastern Afghanistan on January 27.


Ghazni police chief Khaled Wardak said U.S. choppers landed at the site in the late afternoon and were reinforced by Afghan security forces on the ground during the operation. Earlier in the day, Afghan forces trying to reach the wreckage clashed with militants.

“Following the removal of the bodies, our forces have moved back to their bases. We don’t know where the foreigners have taken the bodies,” Wardak said.

Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, the head of the provincial council in Ghazni, confirmed the operation, saying the Americans took at least two bodies from the scene.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the remains of individuals from the aircraft had been recovered and said the military was in the process of identifying the remains. The Pentagon declined to comment.

The Pentagon only confirmed the aircraft belonged to U.S. forces, but dismissed Taliban claims it had been shot down. The military did not say how many people were aboard or if there were any casualties.

Earlier on January 28, coalition forces flew sorties over the site of the crashed jet with one aircraft firing flares as a crowd gathered nearby, according to witness reports.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

Wardak said after the plane went down Afghan security forces tried to reach the wreckage late on January 27 when they were ambushed by the Taliban and pushed back.

Ghazni police spokesman Ahmad Khan Sirat confirmed the incident, adding that at least one person was killed in the fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Afghan forces backed by U.S. military support tried to capture the area around the wreckage.

He said Taliban fighters on the ground counted six bodies at the site of the crash.

Unidentified U.S. officials were quoted as saying the plane was carrying fewer than five people when it crashed.

The crash comes as the Taliban and United States have been in talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The two sides had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

German doctors treating Pyotr Verzilov have said that the anti-Kremlin activist was probably poisoned, and a Moscow newspaper reports a possible connection with the killing of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) in July 2018.

The developments on Sept. 18, 2018, deepened the mystery surrounding the sudden illness of Verzilov, a member of the punk protest band Pussy Riot and the dissident art troupe Voina who was flown to Berlin for treatment three days earlier.

“The impression and the findings that we now have, as well as those provided by colleagues from Moscow, suggest that it was highly plausible that it was a case of poisoning,” Kai-Uwe Eckardt, a doctor at Charite hospital in Berlin, told a news conference.


Eckhart’s colleague, Karl Max Einhaeupl, said that there was so far no other explanation for Verzilov’s condition and no evidence that the activist, who was initially hospitalized in Moscow, was suffering from a long-term illness.

Eckardt said Verzilov’s condition was not life-threatening. He said the symptoms indicated a disruption of the part of Verzilov’s nervous system that regulates the internal organs, but that the substance responsible for the poisoning hadn’t yet been determined.

Verzilov, 30, fell ill on Sept. 11, 2018, after a court hearing in Moscow, and later suffered seizures while being taken to a hospital in an ambulance. Friends said he began losing his sight, speech, and mobility.

The Reuters news agency quoted Jaka Bizilj, the managing director of the Berlin-based Cinema for Peace human rights group, as saying his group had paid for Verzilov’s flight to Berlin and that Russia had been “cooperative.”

Bizilj said that Verzilov suffered seizures while being taken to a Moscow hospital by ambulance.

Verzilov’s ex-wife, Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, told the German newspaper Bild he believed he was “poisoned intentionally, and that it was an attempt to intimidate him or kill him.”

Footage posted by Tolokonnikova showed Verzilov sitting up in the plane on the tarmac in Berlin and he appeared to be alert.

In a Sept. 18, 2018 report the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta said that on the day he was hospitalized, Verzilov was to have received a report from “foreign specialists” investigating the killings in C.A.R.

Russian journalists Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko, were killed on July 30, 2018, in C.A.R., where they were working on a documentary about the possible activities there of a shadowy Russian paramilitary group with alleged Kremlin ties.

The Novaya Gazeta report, which cited sources it did not name, said that Verzilov was a close friend of Rastorguyev and had himself been planning to travel to C.A.R. with the trio but decided to remain in Russia to support jailed Kremlin opponents.

Verzilov is a co-founder of the website Mediazona, which reports on the trials of Russian activists, prison conditions, and other aspects of the Russian justice system. He has both Russian and Canadian citizenship.

In July 2018, he was sentenced along with other Pussy Riot members to 15 days in jail for briefly interrupting the July 15, 2018 World Cup final in Moscow between France and Croatia by running onto the field wearing fake police uniforms.

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

Pyotr Verzilov and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

Verzilov became known as a member of the Voina (War) art troupe in the late 2000s.

He performed with then-wife Tolokonnikova, who went on to form Pussy Riot with Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova founded Mediazona in 2014, with Verzilov becoming publisher.

Kremlin critics accuse the Russian authorities of poisoning several journalists, Kremlin foes, and others who have died or fallen mysteriously ill since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

Verzilov’s sudden illness came against the backdrop of outrage over what British authorities say was the poisoning by Russian military intelligence officers of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in England in March 2018, and the death of a woman police say was exposed to the substance after the alleged attackers discarded it.

Featured image: Pyotr Verzilov.

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

Veterans

#VeteranOfTheDay Marine Veteran Therrel Shane Childers

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Veteran Therrel Shane Childers, who was the first combat death in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Therrel “Shane” Childers was born in 1972. Childers was from Harrison County, Mississippi. He was from a military family. Childers’ father served in the Navy for 22 years, his brother also served in the Navy for eight and a half years and several extended family members have served or are currently serving. Childers knew from a young age what he wanted to do when he grew up. In a Newsweek article from April 2003, Joseph Childers, his father, recalls the time he was stationed in Iran and took his 5-year-old son to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran: “He saw those Marines in their dress blues guarding the embassy, and he wanted to be one himself.” When Childers graduated from high school in 1990, he joined the Marines.

In 1991, Childers served during Desert Storm. After the war, he served at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and then on security duty at the American Consulate located in Geneva, Switzerland, and the American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. He later earned a slot at The Citadel in the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. The program allows selected enlisted Marines without a bachelor’s degree to earn a degree and a commission. Childers attended college during active duty, and he majored in French. Childers completed the program in 2001.

After training at Quantico, Virginia, he served as second platoon commander of A Company, First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment and deployed to Kuwait in February 2003. The Iraq War began on March 20, 2003. On March 21, 2003, Childers led his unit on a mission to secure an oil facility in southern Iraq. A passing civilian vehicle opened up with a burst of automatic fire and killed him.

Childers was the first American killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was 30 years old. Childers posthumously received a Purple Heart and promoted to first lieutenant.

We honor his service.


Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay

Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.

It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Check out eerie new ‘Westworld’ trailer

In a new teaser video released by HBO, several major events and the fictional world’s timeline is revealed.

The timeline indicates that a “divergence” happened in Hong Kong in June 2019, marked by political unrest and then followed by the impeachment of the President of the United States.


These real-life events are then followed by a fictional vision of the world’s future, with “ecological collapse” in 2020 and the assassination of the President-elect of the United States in 2024.

Westworld | Season 3 – Date Announce | 2020 (HBO)

www.youtube.com

The timeline escalates, with an unidentified narrator speaking about a “system” that was initiated in 2039.

But that system underwent it’s own “critical divergence” in 2058 — which is likely when Dolores and the other “Westworld” hosts gained consciousness, took over the park, and infiltrated the outside world.

“Westworld” returns with an eight-episode season on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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