Growing up in the segregated south, Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee recalled his first experience with racism many African-American children faced at the time. So he looked to the iconic Martin Luther King Jr. for inspiration.
While he would go on to encounter other acts of discrimination, this one hurt the most, he said.
The parents of Aundre Piggee pin second lieutenant rank onto their son in 1981 after his graduation from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
He grew up in Stamps, a small town in southern Arkansas with a population of about 1,200.
While his father was principal of the local school, which had previously been an all-black school, his mother worked at the Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant in nearby Texarkana — and a young Piggee became the first African-American child to integrate into his little league baseball team.
“Things went well the whole season,” Piggee said Jan. 17, 2019, after he spoke at a ceremony here in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We integrated well and we had no issues.”
When the baseball season ended, the team held a celebration at a local Boy Scout hut. Piggee begged his parents to go since he wanted to party with his friends.
But when they walked up to the front door, he was denied entry. Some parents of the other players even worked as teachers under his father, but they still would not allow him in.
“They didn’t let me come to the party because I was black,” he remembered.
Images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are seen on display during a ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
While racism had likely been around him before, he said it was the first time he personally noticed it. The incident also made him think deeply about his own character.
“It was a humbling experience,” he said. “But what it taught me was that I didn’t ever want to treat anybody else the way I had been treated.”
A young Piggee was held to a higher standard by his parents. The general’s biography says whenever he got into trouble during school, he would get lectured and punished by his father twice — in the principal’s office and at home.
“It was a lesson that served him well in life,” his bio reads.
On April 3, 1968, King traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to deliver a speech in support of black workers being paid significantly lower wages than white workers.
His flight to Memphis was initially delayed due to a bomb threat, but he made it to the city in time for his speech. The next day, while outside his motel, King was assassinated.
On Jan. 15, 2019, the civil rights leader would have turned 90 years old.
King’s leadership values were passed down to Piggee by his parents who strove to live by the message he left behind.
“My parents gave us examples of King’s life and what right looked like,” he said. “And I still remember those to this day.”
Members of the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” perform during a ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
A life of service
In almost 40 years of service, Piggee has held the title of commander five times. He now oversees policies and procedures used by all Army logisticians and manages an billion portfolio.
October 2018, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame for his dedication.
Fellow Stamps native Maya Angelou, a poet laureate, was among the first inductees in 1993.
Piggee’s childhood home was a block from a general store, which was owned by Angelou’s grandmother. “I used to walk there almost every day,” he recalled. “For a nickel, I could get two cookies and some candy.”
Angelou worked for Martin Luther King as a civil rights activist and later wrote a poem for the dedication of his monument on the National Mall.
Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee, the Army deputy chief of staff for logistics, speaks during a ceremony in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Leading by Martin Luther King’s example
Also inspired by King, the general often shares with soldiers his three leadership traits — competence, commitment and high character.
In his speech, the general noted that King had a strong vision to change the country.
“Competence is what we need of our soldiers,” he said. “If I can challenge soldiers to improve every day, to be more competent, to be readier to do the mission our nation asks of us, I have had a good day.”
King, he added, was also committed to his cause.
“That should be a model for our professional soldiers,” Piggee said. “Putting on this uniform is a noble cause, but doing the missions the Army asks of you is not always easy.”
The most important trait, he said, is high character — a tough lesson he once learned as a child.
“Dr. King’s dream was to judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin,” he said.
The head of the Army aviation said that the service is about six years away from reversing its shortage of pilots for the AH-64 Apache and other rotary-wing aircraft.
“We are short pilots … we are under our authorization for aviators, most predominantly seen in the AH-64 community,” Maj. Gen. William Gayler, commanding general of the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s Sept. 5, 2018 Aviation Hot Topic event.
“We under-accessed, based on financial limitations, to bring in the number of aviators that we were required to meet an operational requirement from Forces Command.”
Between 2008 and 2016, the Army fell short in accessions of aviators, creating a shortage of 731 slots, Gayler told Military.com.
Since then, the service has reduced the shortage to about 400 through increased accessions of new aviators and paying retention bonuses of up to ,000 each to seasoned pilots, Gayler said, adding that he didn’t have an exact number of the number of Apache pilots the Army is short.
“You can’t fill the void with just accessions because, then six to eight years later, you will have a relatively inexperienced force,” Gayler said.
An AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.
(US Army photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway)
In the next 18 months, 33 percent of the active-component warrant officer aviation population will be retirement-eligible at a time when the airline industry has a huge pilot shortage as well, he said.
“They are highly recruiting all services … and we have lost some Army rotary-wing aviators to them,” Gayler said.
As an incentive, the Army has given out about 341 retention bonuses to pilots since late 2015 that were worth up to ,000 each, Gayler said. He added that the biggest bonuses went to Apache pilots, but would not say how many received them.
“We did it in two different year groups; we did mid-grade and we did seniors with 19 to 22 years in service,” Gayler said. “And some people questioned, ‘hey why would we give a 20-year Army aviator a three-year bonus,’ and my answer is, ‘because if they all retire, we have no experience in our fleet.’
“We retained quite a few mid- and senior-grade [aviators] that will enable us to get out of this experience gap, but we still have to bring in more aviators.”
The plan now is to access 1,300 aviators a year, “which over the next five to six years will completely fill us up,” Gayler said. “It took us a decade to get into this position; we can’t get out of it in a year or by next Thursday, so we’ve got some work ahead of us.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, recently completed a mission to cut a resupply channel through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea, but the ship’s 150-strong crew grappled with engine failure and flooding during the trip.
The Seattle-based Polar Star left port in December for Antarctica to support Operation Deep Freeze 2018, the U.S. military’s contribution to the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is run by the National Science Foundation. The Polar Star was charged with clearing a path through 15 miles of ice — some of it up to 10-feet thick.
The Polar Star traveled through nearly 300 miles of pack ice before it reached fast ice, which is ice that’s actually connected to Antarctica, on Jan. 8, the Coast Guard said. After passing through the fast ice, the Polar Star reversed course to break the ice up further, clearing a channel for resupply ships.
“Although we had less ice this year than last year, we had several engineering challenges to overcome to get to the point where we could position ourselves to moor in McMurdo,” Polar Star commanding officer Capt. Michael Davanzo told Maritime Executive.
On Jan. 11 2018, there was a failure in one of the ship’s three main gas turbines, which produce the power needed for the ship’s propellers to break up thick, multi-year accumulations of ice. The Polar Star’s crew traced the problem to a programming error between the engine and the ship’s electrical system — which, like much of the ship, dates back to the 1970s.
Five days later, a shaft seal failed, allowing 20 gallons of frigid seawater a minute to flood the engine room. The crew responded quickly, stanching the flow with an emergency shaft seal. Afterward, they were able to remove the water from the ship’s engineering space and perform more permanent repairs on the faulty seal.
“The crewmembers aboard Polar Star not only accomplished their mission, but they did so despite extreme weather and numerous engineering challenges. This is a testament to their dedication and devotion to duty,” Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, told Maritime Executive.
McMurdo Station, opened in 1955, is one of three stations operated year-round by the National Science Foundation and acts as a staging area for teams headed to the South Pole and other research stations deeper in Antarctica. It is built on the southernmost patch of solid ground that is still accessible by ship. Its average temperature in January, which is a summer month, is 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Summertime supply deliveries allow the station to stay open.
In addition to the Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Army, and National Guard personnel contribute to Operation Deep Freeze, which is led by Pacific Air Forces.
The Polar Star, which was commissioned in 1976, is the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can break ice up to 21 feet thick. (It has one medium icebreaker, the Healy, which mainly does scientific work.) The Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 because of repeated failures in its main engines.
In 2017, the Coast Guard determined that the Polar Sea would be too expensive to refurbish, even though its hull remains sound. The Polar Star was refurbished in 2012.
Many of the parts needed to keep the Polar Star running are no longer in production. Coast Guard personnel pull needed gear from the Polar Sea, but they’ve also had to order secondhand parts from eBay. The ship sails with a year’s supply of food in case it gets stuck.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said the Polar Star is “literally on life support,” and the service plans to build at least three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fill out the fleet. The first one is expected by 2023.
The harsh conditions in the polar regions take a toll on the 41-year-old Polar Star. It is scheduled to return to the U.S. in March, at which point it will go into drydock for repairs. It is the only Coast Guard cutter to go into drydock every year.
“If the Polar Star were to suffer a catastrophic mechanical failure, the nation would not be able to support heavy icebreaker missions like Operation Deep Freeze, and our nation has no vessel capable of rescuing the crew if the icebreakers were to fail in the ice,” Midgette told Maritime Executive.
The Marine Corps and Raytheon are developing a new precision-guided 120mm explosive mortar round so that forward deployed forces can more effectively target and destroy enemies from farther distances than existing mortars.
The weapon is designed to shoot up into the air in a vertical trajectory before identifying, tracking and exploding and enemy target upon decent to the ground. The vertical landing allows the weapon to achieve great precision, Raytheon officials said.
Called the Precision Extended Range Munition, or PERM, the program is test firing a GPS-guided mortar round able to extend the range of today’s mortar weapons from about seven kilometers to about 16 kilometers, Paul Daniels, Raytheon Program Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“This doubles their range and gives them precision,” Daniels added.
The extended range could provide a key tactical advantage because 16 kilometers stand-off distance from the enemy could enable Marines to destroy enemy positions without themselves being vulnerable to incoming fire.
Raytheon was recently awarded a qualification and production contract by the Marine Corps, which plans to use the new weapon as part of its emerging Expeditionary Fire Support System, or EFSS.
This system is put together to allow forward-deployed Marines to quickly maneuver into enemy territory with precision firepower and mobility. EFSS can deploy on board an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter or travel from ship-to-shore as part of an amphibious operation, among other things. The new weapon will serve as part of the Corps’ fires triad which includes 155mm artillery rounds, 120mm mortars and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or MLRS.
PERM can fill what’s called a needed “capability gap,” because there may be some targets that are not suitable for larger 155mm artillery rounds and are better attacked by 120mm mortars.
Precision mortar fire could bring tactical advantages for Marines in combat, particularly in condensed urban areas or mountainous terrain where elevation might separate attacking forces from the enemy.
“Mortars are particularly useful. They have a very high angle and rate of fire. They can fire almost straight up,” Daniels said.
For instance, the precision targeting technology integrated into PERM could allow forces to attack enemy positions in urban areas without risking damage to nearby civilians; this kind of attack would not be possible with today’s unguided 120mm mortar rounds.
“It will be ready within a couple of years,” Daniels said.
All 176 people on board were killed when a Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed in Iran early on Wednesday morning.
Authorities in Iran and Ukraine, as well as at the airline, have offered statements and press conferences, but a number of key unanswered questions are still swirling.
Investigations have kicked off amid rampant speculation that current political tensions between the US and Iran could have contributed to the plane crash.
Information about who was on the passenger jet — Flight PS 752 — and what happened before the crash remain lacking.
Here are the unanswered questions.
What happened on the flight?
A complete timeline of the flight is yet to emerge.
We know that the plane took off at 6:12 a.m. local time on Wednesday and lost contact about two minutes later.
But we don’t know exactly what time it crashed — just that it was only in the air for a few minutes, based on flight-tracking software, and that the debris was found about six miles from the airport from where it took off.
Authorities also said the plane burst into flames shortly after takeoff, but whether the plane was already on fire before it crashed to the ground is not yet clear.
A video shared by the partially state-run Iranian Students’ News Agency appears to show the plane on fire in the air before hitting the ground and filling the sky with flames, but the video’s content and connection to this crash has not yet been verified.
Who was killed?
Ukraine’s foreign minister said that the victims mostly came from Iran and Canada.
Sky News identified the three UK citizens on board, while the airline identified the pilots as Volodymyr Gaponenko, Alexei Naumkin, and Sergey Khomenko. All had a minimum of 7,600 hours on Boeing 737 planes. Vice also identified some Canadian victims.
Ukraine International Airlines said it will post the passenger list on its website “after final confirmation of their presence on board of the aircraft.”
Was the plane shot down?
Some aviation experts have argued that the plane was likely shot down; others have said it was too early to speculate about the cause.
But the idea that the plane was deliberately downed, including shot down by a missile, is speculation at the moment, and its account is contradicted by authorities.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until official investigations were done. He said, “Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe.”
Iranian authorities said in the hours after the crash that it had been caused by technical problems, dismissing the idea that it could have been a terrorist or military attack.
President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Qassem Biniaz, an official at the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, told state news agency IRNA that an engine caught fire and the pilot was unable to regain control, The New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk refused to rule out the idea that the plane could be downed by a missile, but cautioned against speculation before the investigation.
CFM, the French-American maker of the jet engine, said that any speculation on causes was premature, according to Reuters.
“We have no further information at this time. Any speculation regarding the cause is premature,” the company said.
Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran initially dismissed the idea of terrorism or a rocket attack soon after the crash, blaming an engine failure instead. But that statement was later replaced by one that says the cause is unknown and is being investigated.
According to Reuters, the embassy said the earlier statement was based on preliminary information but was not official, and that Iranian authorities had asked the embassy to remove it.
It also said that the plane was one of the best in its fleet and had an experienced crew. The airline had never had a fatal flight before.
The airline’s vice president of operations, Ihor Sosnovsky, said the airline doubted the crew had made mistakes: “Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal.”
The plane model, the Boeing 737-800 NG, has been in the air since the 1990s, and is considered the most popular aircraft in use today. It has been involved in some crashes in the past, though no recent crashes have been attributed the plane’s design.
The crash may ramp up pressure for Boeing as it deals with the fallout of two fatal crashes by two 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019, both of which were believed to be caused by a flawed flight-control system.
But the 737 model involved in Wednesday’s crash does not use the same software believed to have played in a role in those doomed flights.
Boeing said in a Wednesday statement: “This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”
How will the investigations work?
Under international rules, Iran must investigate the crash, though typically a number of different investigations take place into plane crashes.
Ukraine International Airlines said it would take “all measures” to determine the cause of the crash, and that Ukraine, Iran, and Boeing representatives would also be involved.
But Boeing, a major American company with close ties to the US government, may face problems in getting involved with the investigation because of US sanctions on Iran and newly heightened tensions between the two countries.
It is not clear what the role the independent US National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane crashes, will play. It said it is “monitoring the developments” and is working with US agencies to “determine the best course of action.”
Investigators have not yet released a timeline for when they expect to release any preliminary conclusions. Final reports usually take months to complete.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue.
In a statement on Jan. 7, 2019, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the “Pay Our Coast Guard Act” introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.
The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities, and other related payouts.
Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members’ last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31, 2018. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15, 2019.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John Cantu, with the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team mans a mounted machine gun on a 25-foot Response Boat-Small in front of the Washington Monument in Washington.
(DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando, U.S. Coast Guard)
Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, “which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck.”
“Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid,” he added.
The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.
“In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses,” Reistad said.
However, he noted, “As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.
“Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country,” B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. “What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Dec. 26, 1872, the day after Christmas — the weather in Norfolk was bitter cold, with sleet and a gale-force wind. Aboard USS Powhatan, a sidewheel steamer commissioned in 1852, it was particularly unpleasant, with a wet, slippery deck and a dangerous pitch.
Then came a cry of, “man overboard!” Boatswain Jack Walton had fallen from the fo’c’sle into the choppy, freezing water below. He had minutes — maybe seconds — before he either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia.
Seaman Joseph Noil didn’t hesitate, didn’t stop to think of the danger or the risk to his own life. He came running from below deck, “took the end of a rope, went overboard, under the bow, and caught Mr. Walton — and held him until he was hauled into the boat sent to his rescue,” his commanding officer, Capt. Peirce Crosby, wrote. “Mr. Walton, when brought on board, was almost insensible, and would have perished but for the noble conduct of Noil.”
Noil received the Medal of Honor the following month.
Then, he slowly faded from history.
Coming to America
Noil was black and was probably from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, although various records also mention Halifax, the West Indies, New York, and Pennsylvania, said Bart Armstrong, a Canadian researcher dedicated to finding some 113 Medal of Honor recipients connected to that country.
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)
“During the early days, it was not uncommon for a Soldier or Sailor to fake their residence or place of birth, date of birth or marital status.”
No one knows just what brought Noil to the U.S. or what inspired him to enlist in the Union Navy, Oct. 7, 1864. According to Armstrong, many Canadian black men who traveled south to fight in the Civil War did so to help free the slaves.
Canada was the terminus for the Underground Railroad, and many citizens, particularly in the black community, would have seen or heard of the pitiful, dehumanizing conditions escaped slaves endured.
Noil was from a coastal area, and the Navy may have been a natural fit. Enlistment papers indicate his occupation was carpenter. Dr. Regina Akers, a historian who specializes in diversity at the Navy’s History and Heritage Command, noted that he also served as a caulker and would have helped keep his ship watertight – “a very important job.”
Many free black Sailors had some type of ship or shipyard experience, whether it was as a crewmember on a merchant or whaling ship, as a fisherman or as a dockyard worker, Joseph P. Reidy, a history professor at Howard University in D.C. and the director of the African-American Sailors Project, wrote in “Prologue,” a publication of the National Archives.
According to Akers and Reidy, African-American Sailors had always been, if not precisely welcome in the Navy, at least not institutionally discriminated against. They had served honorably in the Revolution and in the War of 1812, and some 18,000 black Civil War Navy veterans have been identified by name.
Unlike the Army, the Navy in the 19th century did not segregate black servicemen. They pulled the same watches, slept in the same bunks — hammocks in those days — and ate in the same galleys as their white counterparts.
Although their ranks were limited to enlisted, there were few, if any, rating restrictions for skilled, experienced men of any color, said Akers. They served in almost every billet, from fireman to gunner, although Reidy wrote that service ratings, such as cook or steward, were the most common.
“If they could qualify or were able to learn that skill set and fill that rating, just like today, many commanding officers would allow them to do so,” Akers said, noting that the background of the ship’s commander and crew could affect the treatment African-American Sailors received.
Noil eventually became captain of the hold, a petty officer in charge of the men assigned to a storage area. He would probably have been responsible for ensuring barrels and containers were properly stowed and locating the appropriate barrels when needed, according to the Navy History and Heritage Command. However, he wouldn’t have had any authority over white Sailors.
Conditions were worse for escaped slaves, Reidy pointed out. By classifying escaped or captured slaves as contraband, the Union could legally consider them spoils of war and put them to work. Contrabands served in the Navy. They fought in the Army. They built fortifications. They cooked. They did laundry. Both men and women served in various capacities. In fact, nearly three men born into slavery served for every black man born free.
Contrabands’ naval ratings and pay tended to be the lowest and least skilled, with most classified as boy or landsman, Reidy explained. They scrubbed, painted, and polished ships. They also served in large numbers on supply and ordnance ships, where they provided manual labor. By the late 1800s, the ratings available to all African-American Sailors became extremely restricted.
Noil, who had given his age as 25 when he enlisted in 1864 and his height at 5 feet, 6 inches, transferred to USS Nyack, a wooden-hulled screw gunboat, in January 1865. Nyack was then part of the blockade off of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Noil was likely present for her involvement in the capture of nearby Fort Anderson the following month.
His next posting is listed as the steam sloop USS Dacotah in March 1866, although Navy records indicate the ship put out to sea that January on a tour that took her to Funchal, Maderia, Portugal; Rio de Janerio, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay, the Strait of Magellan, and Valparaiso, Chili.
Noil was discharged, March 18, 1867. Perhaps he found it difficult to make a living or perhaps he simply missed the sea, for he re-enlisted, Dec. 18, 1871, giving his age as 30. Presumably, he went straight to Norfolk and USS Powhatan, then part of the North Atlantic Squadron and one of the Navy’s last, and largest, paddle frigates.
The ship’s conduct book noted Noil was “always 1st class and on time.” Upon receiving the Medal of Honor, Noil followed in the footsteps of eight African-American Sailors who received the medal during the Civil War. Akers noted that no African-American Sailor has received the Medal of Honor since the Spanish-American War.
For Noil and the others, their actions showed that valor transcended color, that black, brown, white, it didn’t matter — shipmates came first.
Shipmate comes without definition. It’s not because you’re white, because you’re black, because we come from the same state, because you’re in the same rating — It doesn’t stop when the orders stop. Your shipmates are your shipmates. I mean, that’s your family.” – Dr. Regina Akers
Noil’s story, Akers continued, also “reminds us of – the importance of Sailors’ readiness, their physical and mental fitness, the training. Drill, drill, drill. Drill them down to the point where they can think almost unconsciously about what to do. So, man overboard. – There’s just certain procedures that pop into place. Now, the environment makes it that much worse. But it doesn’t change the routine or the requirements or the plan for what to do if someone falls overboard.”
Over the next few years, Noil was discharged and re-enlisted twice. His next ship was USS Wyoming, a wooden-hulled, 198-foot screw sloop of war. The Wyoming arrived in Villefranche, France, near Nice, Christmas Eve 1878, and spent the next two years in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
She returned to Hampton Roads, Virginia, May 21, 1881. It was her final cruise. It was Noil’s as well. It must have been a difficult one, for that month, he was admitted to the naval hospital in Norfolk and quickly transferred to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C.
“For many months,” his admission paperwork reads, “it has been noticed that the patient’s mind was failing, that he was losing his locomotive powers. … Early in April last, he had an epileptic attack, and another on the 13th of May. For two days after latter attack he was speechless, though able to walk and eat. As he has been in the U.S. Naval service for the last seventeen years, it is natural to infer the disease originated in the line of duty.”
No one knows exactly what condition Noil suffered from, whether it was what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, some form of depression, or something else, said Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D., a volunteer historian and former director of forensic services at the hospital, now called St. Elizabeth’s.
“There could be so many reasons. Back in that era, so little was known about mental illness that sometimes certain disorders that were clearly neurological and brain-based were attributed to other causes.” – Jogues Prandoni, Ph.D.
There also wasn’t much 19th-century medicine could do for Noil, Prandoni continued, noting that although the hospital was the premier treatment facility for servicemen and veterans – as well as local civilians – only six medical doctors were on staff to treat roughly a thousand patients.
“What you had, basically, was moral therapy,” he explained. “The concept was that if you could remove people from the stresses of day-to-day living, put them in a homelike atmosphere with beautiful surroundings and caring individuals that would assist them in recovering.”
Noil’s wife, Sarah Jane, was terribly worried about her husband. With two daughters to support, she couldn’t afford to visit him, but she wrote to his doctor regularly: “I was sorry to hear that my husband was so sick and out of his mind. – Doctor do you think that I had better come on and see him? I am very poor with two children to look after,” she wrote in July 1881, later telling the doctor that her “poor little children are always talking about their papa and it makes me feel bad to hear them.”
“Doctor I am glad to think he has had good care. … Doctor if my husband should die I tell you I have not got the means to bury him,” she added that November.
Lost then found again
Her husband did pass away, March 21, 1882. “He was a relatively young man,” said Prandoni. “He died within nine months. That really raises questions about what kind of disease process was going on. It certainly sounds like more than just a psychiatric disorder.”
“The loss of my poor husband has been quite a shock to me. – My friends assure me that time will reconcile me to my great bereavement,” Sarah Jane wrote after learning of his death. “Yet time and the great consolation that I have in meeting in a better world where parting will be no more, will I trust enable me to bear my sorrow.”
Unfortunately, Noil’s name was misspelled on his death certificate and subsequently his headstone. For more than a century, he lay lost in Saint Elizabeth’s graveyard under the name Joseph Benjamin Noel until a group of historians and researchers connected with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Medal of Honor Historical Society, including Armstrong, finally tracked him down.
Noil finally received a new headstone spring 2017, one with not only the correct spelling of his name but also recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient.
Your shipmate is not simply someone who happens to serve with you. He or she is someone who you know that you can trust and count on to stand by you in good times and bad and who will forever have your back. – We are [Noil’s] shipmates and 134 years after he passed, we have his back.” – Vice Adm. Robin Braun, Chief of Navy Reserve
Service members and their families at Fort Lee, Virginia, asked the Commander in Chief tough questions during a town hall meeting broadcast by CNN Sept 28.
President Barack Obama covered varied topics, including the Syrian civil war, sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, issues affecting veterans and protests during the playing of the national anthem.
When a soldier asked the president for his opinion about football players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, Obama said that honoring the flag and the anthem “is part of what binds us together as a nation,” but that he also respects the right to have a different opinion.
“We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with,” he said. “But that’s what freedom means in this country.”
He said American democracy can be frustrating at times, “but it’s the best system we’ve got. And, the only way that we make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful of each other, not just go into separate corners.”
The president added, “I do hope that anybody who is trying to express any political view of any sort understands that they do so under the blanket of protection of our men and women in uniform and that that appreciation of that sacrifice is never lost.”
Hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the town hall-style event included questions about sending 600 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to help in the coming offensive against the Islamic State. Obama said the decision to send troops into harm’s way is the most important one he makes.
“I’ve always been very mindful that when I send any of our outstanding men and women in uniform into a war theater, they’re taking a risk that they may not come back,” the commander in chief said. “And so, there has not been a change from the time I came into office to the time that I leave office in which that is not a somber decision.”
The president said the nature of the missions has changed during his tenure. In Afghanistan, U.S. troops have transitioned from a combat role to an advise-and-assist role, with about 9,000 U.S. service members there.
“In Iraq, our goal is to provide air support, and we’ve flown 100,000 sorties, 15,000 strikes, to decimate ISIL,” he said. “But our job is not to provide the ground forces that are rolling back territory. That’s the job of the Iraqis, where we provide training and assistance [and] logistical support.”
U.S. special operators are in Iraq and Syria to go after high-value targets and to gather intelligence, the president said. He noted that about 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, and about 300 are in Syria.
“But, it’s the nature of the role that has changed, rather than how I assess it,” the president said. “I am always mindful that any time our men and women in uniform are in a war theater, there is risk.”
U.S. personnel are engaging in a fight that is dangerous, the president said. “Each and every time we make a decision, I want to make sure that the Pentagon is describing how it is that those folks are going to add to our ability to dismantle ISIL in a smart and sustainable way,” he said.
The president told the service members that he constantly reviews options as he looks at the Syrian civil war. “There hasn’t been probably a week that’s gone by in which I haven’t re-examined some of the underlying premises around how we’re dealing with the situation in Syria, and explored whether there are additional options that we haven’t thought of,” he said.
Those include military options, the president said. “We have, by a mile, the greatest military on Earth, he said. “And we are going to always be in a position to defend the United States, defend our personnel, defend our people, our property and our allies.”
Obama said the question he always asks himself as commander in chief is whether inserting large numbers of U.S. troops will provide a better outcome.
“There have been critics of mine that have suggested that, well, if early enough you had provided sufficient support to a moderate opposition, they might have been able to overthrow the murderous Assad regime,” he said. “The problem with that is, as we’ve seen, that the Assad regime is supported by Russia. It’s supported by Iran.”
Because the Assad regime did not directly threaten the United States, Obama said, any deployment of troops would have violated international law.
“And unless we were willing to sustain a large presence there and escalate, if and when Russia or Iran got involved, then we were going to be in a situation where at some point the situation would collapse, except we would have a bunch of folks on the ground, and be very much overextended,” he said.
The key in Syria at this point, the president said, is to get the parties involved to talk together on diplomatic and political tracks.
“We will try to mitigate the pain and suffering that those folks are undergoing,” he said. “This is part of the reason why our approach to refugees, for example, has to be open-hearted, although also hard-headed, to protect our homeland.”
The Veterans Affairs Department received some criticism from the audience, and the president acknowledged the validity of the complaints. VA medical care must improve, he said, adding that there has been progress. The department had been underfunded for years, Obama said, noting the administration has increased its funding by 85 percent. But this is not a problem that will be solved by throwing money at it, he said. The department, he added, has to change procedures and its culture.
The president noted that VA makes 58 million medical appointments per year. Like a large ship that has turned and is on the right course now, he said, it will take time to reach its destination.
“We now have a situation where about 80 percent of individuals who interact with the VA are satisfied that they’re getting timely treatment,” Obama said. I want that to be 100 percent, and that requires more work.”
A central tenet of Iran’s Persian Gulf naval defenses is the use of speedboats — lots and lots of speedboats. The tactic is so widespread that retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, in command of the fictional Iranian navy, used explosives-laden speedboats to take on the U.S. Navy in a massive war game in 2002. He won that war game and managed to sink an entire carrier battle group.
One of those Iranian speedboats — run by the very real Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps — recently encountered the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf, and filmed the entire episode.
The crew of the IRGC naval vessel filmed the massive American aircraft carrier as it traversed the Strait of Hormuz. The whole of the video was aired on Iranian state television.
The waterway is the passage for nearly a third of all the world’s oil shipping and the United States maintains a naval presence there as a means of keeping the way open for use by everyone. Meanwhile, the Islamic republic has recently been the target of economic sanctions from the Trump Administration.
The video also shows Iranian sailors taking high-resolution photos of the ship with a very, very long lens as American helicopters hover overhead. Sailors can be seen walking on the flight deck next to American fighter and intelligence aircraft. With a fleet of other speedboats in tow, the video shows the reality of serving in the Persian Gulf, as two ideological adversaries share the same body of water during a tense international standoff.
Iran had a similar encounter with the Theodore Roosevelt in the past, using a drone to shadow the carrier in 2017 and came close to threatening the lives of American F-18 pilots. The most egregious encounter came when Iran captured 10 American sailors in 2016 that they said drifted into Iranian territorial waters.
Photos of that capture were also broadcast on state television.
The video aired on Iranian state television as part of a documentary about the situation in the Persian Gulf. It’s thought by many to be a show of strength in the face of tough American sanctions as the Trump Administration slashes at Iranian oil exports.
He was a former Delta Force operator who’d taken a career turn into the shadowy world of “non-official cover” intelligence operations for the Army. He lived in the shadows — traveling around the world to build and maintain his cover as a businessman, with members of his former unit wondering where he’d gone.
But on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the East European executed a daring mission on behalf of America’s top commando units, driving into the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power and surveilling his most fearsome tool of the Iraqi dictator’s oppression.
The stunning story of the East European is detailed in Sean Naylor’s book “Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command.” The operator is said to have been an original member of Delta Force and was on the ill-fated Eagle Claw mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran. Born in Eastern Europe, the elite commando was said to be a “funny, outgoing guy with a heavy accent,” Naylor writes.
The operator left the assaulter side of Delta and worked in the Training, Evaluation and Operational Research office of the unit, which among other things develops high-tech gadgets for Delta commandos to use on covert missions. Later, the East European descended into the shadowy world of a NOC.
These intelligence agents, Naylor writes, were playing a dangerous game. They could infiltrate countries where Americans dared not travel under a realistic cover, but if they were caught, they had no ready support and no diplomatic immunity like CIA officers do. The East European had traveled to Iran in hopes of recruiting military sources there and had even worked inside Iraq in the 1990s as part of the United Nations’ search for WMD. His cover was maintained by a U.S.-allied country in Eastern Europe, and he’d even had access to that country’s embassy in Baghdad, Naylor explained.
But it was after the attacks on 9/11, that the East European was given his most dangerous mission yet.
It was a typical drive from Amman to Baghdad for the American agent, but the vehicle he was driving into Saddam’s capital wasn’t typical at all. The SUV that would carry him into the city was bristling with surveillance equipment implanted by the National Security Agency. The super-secret listening devices were designed to capture cellphone and handheld radio traffic and send the signals back to the U.S. for analysis, Naylor writes.
The East European simply parked the SUV in front of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad and left it there. Military intelligence operatives hoped to get tips on Iraqi military positions just before the invasion and track the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.
“If you were trying to establish every time that Saddam Hussein’s personal security detail drove around Baghdad, this was a way of doing that,” a Joint Special Operations command officer told Naylor. “The Iraqis were notoriously poor at OPSEC.”
After leaving the vehicle at Iraqi intel HQ, the East European walked the streets of Baghdad with a special GPS device, tagging targets in the Iraqi capital for airstrikes.
The East European pinpointed targets deep inside Baghdad for U.S. bombers during the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. (Photo from Democracy Now)
“Such missions entailed enormous risk, not only from the Iraqi security services if the agent was compromised, but from the bombing campaign itself,” Naylor wrote. “Protecting him required careful, up-to-the-minute planning of the airstrikes.”
So if it wasn’t the Mukhabarat that could bring death and destruction to the East European, it was American bombs.
The East European quietly exfiled from Iraq after the invasion and served several more years in military-related intelligence services. But that drive into the heart of Baghdad shows that the feats of Hollywood superstars like Jason Bourne aren’t entirely the stuff of fiction.
Colby Buzzell was almost killed when his entire battalion was ambushed by insurgents in Iraq.
“I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head, hitting all around my hatch and making a ping, ping, ping sound,” Buzzell said, recalling how the enemy armed with rifles and RPGs attacked from rooftops, alleys, windows from every imaginable direction.
Even worse, a few minutes after the battalion fired their way out of the kill zone, they were ordered to go back to where they got ambushed.
“I literally felt sick to my stomach,” Buzzell said. “I felt like throwing up. My gut, my body, my mind, my soul, my balls were all telling me loud and clear not to go back. I was scared to death, but we had to go back. And, we did.”
Watch how (a scared) Buzzell musters the courage to do things most Americans couldn’t imagine doing in this riveting short video:
The Afghan Air Force is scheduled to receive 150 new MD530 F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters by 2022.
By this, the total number of MD530 Fs operated by the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces will rise to almost 180.
The US Department of Defense announced on Sept. 5 that it has issued a $1.38 billion contract to MD Helicopters “for procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance,” the Diplomat reported.
The estimated completion date of the contract is 2022.
According to a MD Helicopters press release, the first deliveries under the contract will be 30 MD 530Fs for an estimated $177 million. The first part of the order is expected to be completed by September 2019.
“Mission Equipment for these aircraft will include a ballistic crash worthy fuel system, consisting of a main fuel tank and a 38-gallon Auxiliary Fuel Tank, high capacity landing gear, FN Herstal Weapons Management System, DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System weapons plank and Fixed-Forward Sighting System, Rohde and Schwarz M3AR Tactical Mission Radio, and FN Herstal .50 caliber HMP 400 Machine Gun Pods and M260 7-shot rocket pods,” MD Helicopters noted in a press statement released on Sept. 13.
Earlier this week, Gen. Phillip A. Stewart, commander of Train, Advise, Assist Command said in an interview with TOLOnews that $7 billion will be spent on the Afghan Air Force over the next four years.
“We expect the Afghan Air Force to be fully professional, sustainable, and capable and independent and that’s our whole goal here,” he said.
Under the new aid package, the number of aircraft owned by the AAF will be doubled in the next four years.
This comes after Major General Abdul Raziq Sherzai, the commander of Kandahar Air Brigade, last week said more military aircraft should be delivered to the hard-pressed Afghan security forces who have been battling insurgent groups in their traditional heartlands in Kandahar and Helmand provinces for weeks.
He said that the Kandahar Air Brigade, despite having inadequate facilities on hand, continue to back the ground forces in their campaign against the militants in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where in recent months violence dramatically increased following the Taliban’s new attempt to seize control of the strategic province of Helmand in the south and infiltrate neighboring provinces.
The Kandahar Air Brigade that operates under the command of 205 Atal Army Corps has about 20 different types of aircrafts – a figure security officials claim is nothing near what they need to deal with the current scale of security issues that have undermined large swaths of land in the south.
Military families can wait up to 49 weeks for burials of loved ones at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) because of the high demand for graveside ceremonies and the increasing mortality rates of older veterans, according to a Pentagon Inspector General’s report.
The system in place for scheduling and conducting burials is suited to the task, the IG’s report states, but the sheer volume of family requests routinely exceeds “the resources available on a daily basis for the conduct of burials,” including honor guards and chapel availability.
In addition, the advanced age of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam leads to more requests for burials than can be handled on a daily basis, states the IG’s report, released in May 2019.
Delays in families’ completion of required documents, and decisions regarding the type and timing of burial service, can also add time between the request and burial, according to the report.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Katie Maynard salutes as a casket is lowered during a funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Oct. 24, 2013.
(DoD photo by Cpl. Mondo Lescaud, U.S. Marine Corps)
As a result, “burial services at the ANC can result in a 6- to 49-week wait from the initial contact to the conduct of the burial ceremony,” the IG’s report states.
As of September 2018, there were 3,471 burial requests in process at Arlington — 3,259 for cremation services and 212 for casketed services, according to the report.
Arlington has the capacity for 30 burials per day, but the military teams available for Full Military Funeral Honors services also have responsibilities for other ceremonies in the National Capital Region and can conduct only about eight per day at ANC, the report states.
The 59-page report examined the operations and management of ANC and the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery (SAHNC) in Washington, D.C. — the two national cemeteries in the nationwide system of military cemeteries. There are also 36 other cemeteries run by the service branches.
Arlington National Cemetery.
(DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp)
The report found that major reforms at Arlington had corrected the mismanagement that led to scandals over missing markers and missing remains in 2010.
As of late 2018, Arlington was the final resting place for more than 375,000 decedents and had space available for 67,000 more, the report states. The IG’s office took a random sample of 553 burials and 145 available spaces and “found no accountability errors in the records.”
At SAHNC, the burial site for more than 14,000 veterans, the report found five errors in a random sample of 290 burials and 62 available spaces.
In two cases, the names of the decedents were not on the grave marker at the corresponding location in the cemetery. In two other cases, what were coded as empty plots in the database actually contained decedents.
In the fifth case, the location of the decedent in the database did not match the location of the headstone, according to the report.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.