Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

On Sept. 11, 2019, the Global War on Terrorism turned 18. The GWOT is by far the longest military conflict in U.S. history, eclipsing the previous contender (the Vietnam War) by at least eight years. In 2014, a group of like-minded individuals — veterans, spouses of veterans, and civilians — felt it was time to pay formal tribute to those who have served, and continue to serve, in the GWOT. These patriots formed the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, which officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization on May 15, 2015.

The foundation’s mission is to become the Congressionally designated entity authorized to build a permanent GWOT memorial in Washington. According to the GWOT Memorial Foundation website, the memorial will “… honor the members of the Armed Forces who served in support of our nation’s longest war, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice … as well as their families and friends.”


Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Signing of HR873.

(Photo courtesy of GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Unfortunately, the effort encountered an obstacle right out of the chute. The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 imposed a 10-year waiting period after the end of a conflict before it could be memorialized in our nation’s capital. Therefore, one of the first tasks was to lobby Congress for an exemption. In early 2017, two GWOT veterans, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., led the effort to do just that. They introduced HR 873, the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act, which proposed the GWOT memorial as a commemorative work on federally owned land in the District of Columbia and exempted the project from the 10-year moratorium. Furthermore, the act authorized the GWOT Memorial Foundation as the organization with exclusive rights to commission the work.

In just six months’ time, despite a polarized political climate dominated by gridlock, the legislation swept through Congress with unanimous support — a testament to the project’s worthy goal. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump in August of the same year. GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez said he and his leadership were certainly pleased with HR 873’s speedy trip through Congress, but they weren’t surprised.

“[The fast turnaround] just speaks to the broad support that exists,” he said. “This really is a nonpartisan issue. We introduced the legislation shortly after President Trump’s inauguration — we weren’t really worried about it because there are no politics behind what we’re trying to do.”

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Rodriguez, who took the reins in 2018, shortly after the bill was passed, refers to himself as the man who has the “undeserved honor” of leading the project. However, he is immensely qualified to do so. The 21-year U.S. Army veteran is a former Green Beret with multiple post-9/11 deployments under his belt. Rod retired in 2013 as a result of injuries sustained in combat.

In addition to being the longest war in U.S. history, the GWOT also represents the first multi-generational conflict — which means we are now seeing soldiers who are the children of veterans who deployed early in the conflict. Rodriguez’ wife is also a 21-year Army veteran, and their son is an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division and recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. The three have 16 deployments between them.

“My son patrolled the same areas of Afghanistan in the Helmand province that my wife and I did,” Rod said. “I was there in 2005, she was there in 2006, and our son was there in 2017.”

Looking ahead to the completion of the memorial project, the foundation has narrowed down the location to three pre-established sites in the “reserve” — an area of the National Mall that stretches north/south from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial and east/west from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol building. The construction of anything within the reserve requires Congressional approval.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez with President George W. Bush, who is the honorary chairman of the project.

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

The reserve is a logical choice for the GWOT Memorial because it’s home to many of the existing war memorials in Washington. However, the foundation still did a great deal of research before settling on that location.

“This memorial does not belong to any one individual,” Rodriguez explained. “It’s to all those who served. So, in 2018, along with our architectural firm, we began conducting discussion groups across the country … to determine what the American people wanted. We talked to hundreds of people, [including] Blue Star families — families of those who are actively serving — and Gold Star families, obviously families who lost a loved one to the Global War on Terrorism. We spoke with veterans from all our country’s wars since World War II. We spent three days on Fort Bragg, sponsored by FORSCOM, talking to peer groups. We spoke to faith leaders to get their thoughts. And we also spoke to the greater part of our population — those who never wore the uniform.”

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Rod and his team took great care to educate the groups, explaining the GWOT Memorial project and showing the location and topography of the National Mall and its surrounding area. These groups were asked to complete surveys, not only to gather input on site selection but also ideas about the physical design of the memorial itself — hard structures, water features, shrubbery and other vegetation, etc. After synthesizing the qualitative and quantitative data collected in the surveys, the foundation confirmed that America overwhelmingly supported a plan to select a site within the reserve.

Rodriguez said that respondents were aware that Congressional approval would be required to build within the reserve. “I told them not to worry about the extra work,” he said. “It was the foundation’s responsibility to carry out the wishes of the American people.”

To obtain the required approval, the GWOT Memorial Foundation partnered with For Country Caucus, a bipartisan alliance of 19 veterans dedicated to finding areas of compromise to move the country forward. With a mantra of “policy over politics,” the caucus was an ideal group to champion the cause. On Nov. 12, 2019, the day after Veterans Day, House Representatives Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., introduced the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act, seeking permission to commission the GWOT Memorial on one of three sites near the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Proposed GWOT Memorial locations in the National Mall in Washington.

(Graphic by Tim Cooper/Coffee or Die.)

Fundraising is ongoing, with a present goal of million. This is a modest number considering that the World War II Memorial cost more than 0 million and the final tab for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was approximately 0 million. The actual design process for the GWOT Memorial has not yet begun, but Rodriguez and the foundation established the million goal as a starting point. Once the site is selected, he acknowledged that the price tag could potentially increase. Assuming Congress passes a GWOT Memorial Location Act bill quickly, the foundation hopes to dedicate the memorial by 2024.

Some critics might point out that the U.S. has never built a national memorial for an active war — so why start now?

“The Global War on Terrorism is old enough to vote, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon,” said Gallagher. “Honoring the service, as well as the sacrifices of all those who have served in the Global War on Terrorism, is overdue.”

“Just like this war has no precedence, this memorial has no precedence either,” Rodriguez added. “We really want to avoid what happened to the Greatest Generation. [Many of those veterans] never saw the World War II Memorial. They passed before it was completed. Furthermore, parents of fallen GWOT service members are in their 60s, 70s, and even older. If we don’t do this now, when is the right time? We share a sacred duty to honor all those who have selflessly served in our nation’s longest war. This is a charge [the foundation] does not take lightly — a charge we will remain loyal to and a charge we intend to keep.”

Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why war with Iran might be a lot more difficult than the US thinks

If the U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us anything, it’s that no war can be expected to just be that easy, especially if the ultimate goal is regime change. This is something that military leadership generally recognizes—especially since those conflicts are still going on after more than a decade. For those who have not experienced it, however, it can be easier to forget.


Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

And we might have been fighting Iran for a significant chunk of that period.

The Iranians are definitely outgunned, as the Washington Post reported on June 21, 2019. But as the Post reports and as the Millennium Challenge Exercises go to show, a war with the Islamic Republic could be a very costly one. In the Millennium Challenge, Retired Marine Gen. Paul van Riper was tasked with leading the fictional Iran against a U.S. carrier force. The short version is that Van Riper wiped the floor with the U.S., using only assets Iran had in the real world.

Read: That time a Marine general led a fictional Iran against the US military

Iran’s numbers are substantial, more than a million men in arms against an invader, not counting the Revolutionary Guards, which numbers around another 150,000 troops.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

That’s just in terms of manpower. Keep in mind Iran used human waves very well during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. While Iran is pretty much using the same planes, F-4 and F-14 fighters, as it did against Iraq in the 1980s, they do operate with a powerful anti-air missile screen. Even with their best pilots, however, this may not be enough to keep the U.S. from getting total air superiority, and Iran has a plan for that.

In order to keep naval forces at bay, the Islamic Republic Army is expected to use small-boat tactics for use against a much larger enemy, swarming around and laying mines while hassling international shipping, which could be the most dangerous casualty of such a war. The biggest issue is still yet to come.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Iranian proxies like Hezbollah are another region issue.

Iran has tens of thousands of unconventional troops and fighters with proxy forces in the region, projecting Iranian power and influence from its borders with Afghanistan in the east all the way throughout Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in the west and beyond. These proxy forces have been harassing American and allies positions for decades. Any outbreak of open hostilities will only embolden those forces to step up their attacks against U.S. troops and ships in the Persian Gulf region.

The United States enjoys a superior technological and numerical advantage over Iran, but the Iranians aren’t going to just crumble and surrender to helicopters the way Iraqi forces have done in the past.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the US is at disadvantage in a fight against China

The US announced on March 14, 2019, that it would begin testing a whole new class of previously banned missiles in August 2019, but the US’s chief rival, China, has a miles-long head start in that department.

The US’s new class of missiles are designed to destroy targets in intermediate ranges, or between 300 and 3,000 miles. The US has many shorter-range systems and a fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can travel almost around the world.

A 1987 treaty with Russia banned these mid-range missiles, but the treaty’s recent demise has now opened an opportunity for the US to counter China’s arsenal of “carrier-killer” missiles.


China, as it seeks to build up a blue-water navy to surpass the US’s, has increasingly touted its fleet of missiles that work within intermediate ranges and can target ships at sea, including US aircraft carriers — one of the US’s foremost weapons.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war
(Photo by Michael D. Cole)

China has suggested sinking carriers and threatened to let the missiles fly after the US checked its unilateral claims to ownership of the South China Sea.

Now, unbound by the treaty, the US can in theory counter China’s intermediate-range missiles with missiles of its own. But the reality is that China holds several seemingly insurmountable advantages in this specific missile fight.

Geography weighs against the US

China has a big, mountainous country full of mobile missile launchers it can drive, park, and shoot anywhere.

The US has a network of mainland and island allies it could base missiles with, but that would require an ally’s consent. Simply put, the US hasn’t even explored this option.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

With the massive bomber and naval presence in Guam, it’s an obvious target.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

“We haven’t engaged any of our allies about forward deployment,” a US defense official told Reuters. “Honestly, we haven’t been thinking about this because we have been scrupulously abiding by the treaty.”

The US could place missiles in Japan, but Japan hates the US military presence there and would face economic punishment from China. The same is true of South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Furthermore, US missiles on a small island would act as a giant target on that patch of land, painting it as the first place China would wipe off the map in a conflict.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

A floating target?

(US Navy photo)

Guam, for instance, could host US missiles as a US territory, but a few missiles from China, potentially nuclear-tipped, would totally level the tiny island.

While China would simply have to hit a small target-rich island, the US would have to breach China’s airspace and hunt down missile launchers somewhere within hundreds of thousands of square miles. US jets would face a massive People’s Liberation Army air-defense network and air force, and that’s if US jets even get off the ground.

Recent war games held at Rand Corp. suggests the US’s most powerful jets, the F-22 and F-35, probably wouldn’t even make it off the ground in a real fight in which China’s massive rocket force lets loose.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason)

Can’t fix stupid

Ultimately, basing US intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific represents a massive political and military challenge for limited utility.

But fortunately for the US, there’s little need to match China’s intermediate-range forces.

With submarines, the US can have secret, hidden missile launchers all over the Pacific. Importantly, these submarines wouldn’t even have to surface to fire, therefore they would be out of the range of the “carrier killers.”

The US has options to address China’s impressive missile forces, but loading up a Pacific island with new US missiles probably isn’t the smart way to do it.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you actually want Skynet (and maybe John Connor)

Remember that movie Stealth? It’s the one where Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and the other sexy pilots are forced to fly with a plane that has a computer pilot and, turns out, computer pilots are bad because lightning can strike them and drive them crazy and then they murder all the people?


No? Well certainly you’ve seen or heard of the Terminator movies. You know, the ones where plucky humans and their hacked robot bodybuilder are forced to fight other robots in order to prevent a future apocalypse ordered by military AI?

They’re great films, but they imply that any future where computers are controlling the weapons of war is dystopian AF. In reality, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls are guarded by men with guns. It would be much better if the U.S. could guard those walls with robots with guns controlled by men.

The Genesis of Skynet [Terminator 2]

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This would provide two advantages. First, if the guards on the walls are robots — not fleshy humans — then people shooting at the walls can only destroy hardware, not kill men and women. But perhaps the bigger factor is that artificial intelligence is enabling robots to become better at some jobs than their human controllers.

In 2016, we wrote about a University of Cincinnati project where a retired colonel and fighter pilot were advising on an artificial intelligence project. The AI was just supposed to control a Red Team well enough to allow fighter pilots to get better experience in simulations, but tweaks to the system made it start winning. And then it beat the general. And then it beat the general even when he was directly piloting one of the aircraft.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

​ALPHA AI was developed with a team from University of Cincinnati. It can run on a cheap computer but has defeated skilled fighter pilots in simulations.

(Journal of Defense Management)

The adviser, Retired Air Force Col. Gene “Geno” Lee, told the researchers that AI was “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI [he’s] seen-to-date.”

And that AI, known as ALPHA, ran on a Raspberry Pi computer that can be picked up for under . So, for , plus probably ,000 or so in retrofitting charged by manufacturers, we could make 4th generation planes do their jobs perfectly while flying in support of a fifth-generation, human pilot who’s calling the shots.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Stealth‘s artificial intelligence can pilot fighter jets, but, for some reason, needs a special sensor that looks like a robotic eye instead of just using, you know, its radar or even just normal cameras.

(YouTube/MovieClips)

This may sound familiar to people for one or both of two reasons. First, the Air Force is actively pursuing this as the wingman concept. But second, Skynet in the Terminator movies got its start piloting stealth bombers where it achieved a “perfect operational record,” according to Schwarzenegger’s character.

Is this so bad? I mean, sure, we should stop short of handing strategic control of the nuclear weapons to Skynet, but that was never a realistic plot premise. Remember, even during the height of the Cold War, it was rare for launch approval for nuclear weapons to be handed down past the president. If we don’t trust generals to make nuclear decisions without the president approving it, why would we ever let a computer have full control?

So, if we develop Skynet and don’t give it access to the nukes — if we create safe AI — we’re left with a completely new version of warfare where we don’t have to risk our own troops at nearly the same level as we currently do. Doesn’t sound so horrible now, does it?

And, if the other side gets AI, that’s still better for humanity as a whole. Remember when the RAND Corporation anticipated that, by 2025, war with China would be bloody and unwinnable? No? We’re the only people who actually read RAND reports? Alright, then.

Here’s the thing: World War I was so horrible because it was a nearly unwinnable war for both sides. Once nations committed to the conflict, they poured blood and treasure into a never-ending pit of carnage. Millions died and little was gained for anybody.

AI wouldn’t make unwinnable wars winnable — at least not if both sides have it — but it could make them much less bloody, which is still a step in the right direction.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

You know what would be even better than sending F-35s up with human pilots to detect enemy air defenses and suppress them? Sending them up with a bunch of fighters that are basically robots with AI. So, if they do get in a fight, they don’t need to take the hits.

(U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)

So, what about poor John Connor, an excellent small-team leader? What’s he going to do when he isn’t allowed to kill Skynet but, instead, Skynet is controlling most of the planes and tanks and ships? Well, he’ll lead small teams or infantry units on the ground while A Few Good Men‘s Col. Jessup gives the marching orders. AI can’t replace all decision-making at the front, and calm heads under fire will be needed to authorize strikes and targets.

So, yes, we all secretly want Skynet on the wall, even more so than we want Col. Jessup up there. But we also need John Connor, as long as we can keep Jessup, Connor, and Skynet from murdering one another.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s nukes are absolutely tiny compared to Russia’s

Here in the United States, we tend to think of nuclear weapons in much the same way we think of the space race and the Cold War: like a relic of a bygone era in which America emerged victorious. Unfortunately, that era isn’t quite as bygone as it seems: space defense is once again a topic of serious concern, America is once more at the precipice of an international arms race, and both China and Russia have unveiled massive new nuclear weapons in recent years.


America does still boast the second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons on the planet, lagging just behind Russia who, like the Soviet Union, has always invested heavily in deterrence through guaranteeing Armageddon. The problem is, America has largely chosen to rest on its nuclear laurels since the fall of the Soviet Union, resulting in a significant difference between the nuclear tech in Uncle Sam’s arsenals and that of America’s most powerful competitors.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Russian Topol-M nuclear ICBM preparing for the annual Victory Day Parade.

(Vitaly V. Kuzmin via WikiMedia Commons)

The Air Force is currently on the hunt for the company that will build America’s next generation of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but until that contract has been completed, the U.S. will continue to rely on silo-launched Minuteman IIIs and submarine-launched Trident missiles, with yields of 475 and 100 kilotons respectively. These weapons are quite powerful, with the weaker trident producing an explosive yield more than six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the Minuteman III clocking in at nearly five times more powerful than even that.

However, despite all the carnage one could deliver with 475 kilotons of nuclear fury, America’s mighty Minuteman III missiles are not only far behind Russian and Chinese competitors in terms of technology and the ability to counter missile defense systems, they are woefully underpowered.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

These mushroom clouds represent the yields of each nuclear weapon.

(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)

China’s newest ICBM, the DF-31, for instance, boasts a massive 1 megaton yield, or 1,000 kilotons. That means China’s new 42-foot nuclear missile has more than twice the destructive power of America’s workhorse ICBMs. Powerful as the DF-31 may be, if you’re impressed by that, you haven’t looked in Russia’s inventory lately.

Russia’s massively powerful RS-28 Sarmat, or simply, the Satan II, carries a whopping 50 megaton nuclear warhead. For those who aren’t fond of arithmetic, that’s the equivalent of 50,000 kilotons and is so powerful that America’s Minuteman III missiles barely even register by comparison.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

America’s ICBM’s would barely be visible compared to the RS-28 Sarmat’s yield.

(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)

Like China’s DF-31, the RS-28 Sarmat could forgo the single large warhead for a group of smaller ones, but the reduction in yield would likely be offset by the distribution of the weapon’s payload: in short, multiple warheads can destroy a larger swath of territory than a single large warhead tends to.

Of course, with Russian officials claiming their doomsday-weapon nuclear torpedo carries a positively gigantic 100-megaton warhead, even the Satan II isn’t the biggest kid on the nuclear block.

Of course, the sheer destructive yield isn’t the only measure of a nation’s nuclear capabilities, but it does pay to maintain a healthy frame of reference when it comes to ways the world could end. After all, when it would take more than 105 American ICBMs to match the destructive power of just one Russian nuke… we should all be a little concerned.
MIGHTY FIT

‘Therapy on ice’ helps vets heal, give back to community

The buzz of the crowd had Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro on edge. Then a loud bang made him look around nervously.

He knew the noise came from a Zamboni machine, yet its exhaust made him think of the aftermath of a roadside bomb.

All his stress melted away immediately, however, as soon as he stepped out onto the ice.

“When I’m on the ice, no matter what happened before, everything dissipates,” he said. “It’s like a fresh start.”


Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Former Army Spc. Matt Holben, Capital Beltway Warriors assistant team captain and defensive player, hits the puck up ice during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional Hockey Challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.

(Photo by EJ Hersom)

Vaccaro is one of the co-founders of the Capital Beltway Warriors, a hockey team of veterans with disabilities founded two years ago.

Veterans on the team open up to each other and talk about how they cope with injuries, stress and other issues, said retired Maj. David Dixon, another co-founder of the team.

“It’s like a giant support group,” he said, “or therapy on ice, as we like to call it.”

Many of the players have some level of post-traumatic stress disorder from service in Iraq, Afghanistan or other hot spots, Dixon said. He personally survived four deployments to Iraq, where he was shot in the back and shaken up by three different improvised explosive devices.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Retired Maj. David Dixon, president and executive director of the Capital Beltway Warriors, makes game notes while coaching players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.

(Photo by EJ Hersom)

Giving back

Dixon and a number of the other veterans also coach youth hockey teams and a few of them help with a local blind hockey team, the Washington Wheelers.

“Giving back to the community often gives them a sense of purpose,” Dixon said of the veterans, adding that it helps minimize depression and PTSD.

Dixon puts in more than 20 volunteer hours a week managing the Capital Beltway Warriors as president and executive director of the team. He helps solicit sponsors, run meetings, apply for grants, recruit players and schedule games.

His time on the ice as a player-coach is extra.

Warrior Hockey

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“In a sick kind of way, I enjoy all the hard work,” he said. “You go from commanding troops to working in a cubicle,” he said about retiring from the Army and beginning a civilian job.

He explained that managing the hockey team gives him a renewed sense of purpose.

“You find that niche in life that gives you purpose and whether it has a monetary award or not, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” he said.

He helps make the games special for the warriors with lights, music, an announcer and filling the stands with veterans. Local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion in northern Virginia help bring veterans from retirement homes to the games, Dixon said.

Vaccaro also spends several hours per week helping the Capital Beltway Warriors and other veteran hockey teams. He spends a week every year helping run the USA Hockey camp in Buffalo, New York, where they select the national sled hockey team.

He serves as a referee for blind hockey and sled hockey. He helps stand up other Warrior division hockey teams. In November, he spent a few days in Philadelphia helping the Flyers start a warrior team.

“This is my therapy,” he said of the volunteer work. “This is what keeps me going.”

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joey Martell, Capital Beltway Warriors team captain, takes a shot during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.

(Photo by EJ Hersom)

Spreading the word

Just over two years ago, Vaccaro met up with Dixon who was interested in starting a Warrior hockey team in Virginia.

They met in the Pentagon food court in December 2016. “We sat down and started sketching stuff out on napkins,” Dixon said.

They laid out plans for a team that would play in rinks across Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland.

They found players by word of mouth. They showed up at “stick and shoot” sessions and asked if anyone was a military veteran with a disability rating.

Now they have 76 veterans with disabilities on the team and they play other warrior clubs. A game in Ashburn Dec. 22, 2018, pitted the USA Warriors from Maryland against the Capital Beltway Warriors. The teams also play in annual tournaments.

There are now 16 warrior teams across the United States. The minimum requirement to play on one of the teams is a 10 percent VA disability. Some of the players are 100 percent disabled and play with prosthetics.

Some of the veterans, like Vaccaro, have been playing hockey since they were 3 years old. Dixon, however, did not pick up the sport until he was 40.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro serves as referee for the charity exhibition game between the Capital Beltway Warriors and a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.

(Photo by EJ Hersom)

Ramadi RPG

In 2006 and 2007, Vaccaro was an advisor to an Iraqi Army unit in Ramadi. He and two Marines were on patrol when they were pinned down by machine-gun fire. Then an insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade.

“It hit the wall in front of me and knocked me back. Next thing I remember, I heard this really loud ringing in my ears and there was a Marine dragging me back into the courtyard. They were calling for air support.

“We finished the patrol,” Vaccaro said, explaining aerial medical evacuation was not available. A doctor patched him up, and a couple of days later, he was back out on patrol.

After his tour in Iraq, he came back to Virginia, where he had been a reservist with the 80th Training Division. But he had PTSD issues. He decided to go to Liberia in western Africa as a contractor to help put about 2,000 Liberian soldiers through basic training.

“I thought that would help, but I just ended up coming back with the same issues,” he said. “That’s another thing: You can’t hide from this.

“Everybody handles PTSD in a different way. I tried the group therapy stuff and it just didn’t work.”

He received treatment and medication from Veterans Affairs, but the issues persisted. When he smelled fresh bread, for instance, it reminded him of the flatbread Iraqi soldiers baked every morning.

“That’s a good smell,” he said. But then his mind would continue to remember until he imagined the smell of an IED.

“You’ve got to face your fears. You’ve got to face your issues,” he said. “I was trying to hide from it and hockey has helped me open up and talk about it.”

About 10 years ago, he became involved in the first-of-its-kind USA Warrior hockey team stood up by a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.

“When I’m on the ice, things slow down; things are different,” Vaccaro said.

Both he and his family noticed the difference in him after playing hockey.

“It really helped me,” he said. “The first thing I said to myself when I started realizing that is, ‘I’ve got to get other veterans involved in this.'”

So he became the national representative for USA Hockey in its Warrior division to help stand up teams. He does that in his spare time when he is not working as a civilian employee for the Army Corps of Engineers or on duty as an Army Reserve NCO.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

David Dixon, coach of the Capital Beltway Warriors, provides tactical advice to players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.

(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)

Natural coach

Dixon was coaching little league baseball when he was approached by his son’s hockey coach, Bobby Hill.

“He said he really liked the way I worked with the kids and he could use my help on the ice coaching,” Dixon recalled.

Dixon told him he did not skate, but Hill said he could take care of that. He got Dixon out on the ice and taught him the basics of hockey.

Dixon went to adult learn-to-play sessions Wednesday evenings at Ashburn Ice House. He participated in adult pick-up games after helping coach his son’s youth team.

He eventually took over as head coach of the Ashburn “Honey Badgers” peewee hockey team.

In the meantime, however, he heard of the USA Warriors hockey team and the effects it was having on disabled veterans in Maryland. He thought it would be great to bring the same benefits to veterans in northern Virginia.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Matt Holben (No. 19) of the Capital Beltway Warriors, and Joey Martell (No. 21) take the puck down ice with three members of a Congressional hockey challenge team not far behind, during an exhibition game Dec. 16, 2018 at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.

(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)

Three pillars

The warrior hockey program aims to provide purpose, education and camaraderie that veterans miss after they separate from the service, Dixon said.

The team creates an environment that in some ways simulates being back around a military unit, said Matt Holben, alternate team captain for the Capital Beltway Warriors.

“It feels good, because you’re back with the guys, you’re back with the unit,” he said.

“We’ve got members with both physical and mental disability,” he added. “It’s hard for them to share their story, but when you talk to them, it’s just that little bit of relief they get when they’re in the locker room and on the team.”

“We’re helping each other,” Vaccaro said. “And half of the guys don’t even realize we’re helping each other, but that’s what we’re doing.”

The help is not limited to the rink either, Dixon said.

There is another part to the program that informs veterans of benefits available to them and helps with issues.

Anything from service dogs to getting help building a house, to loans, and more is available, Dixon said.

“We don’t do it all ourselves. We reach out to other veteran service organizations to get the help and education these guys need,” he said. “We have a whole network of VSOs that we can tap into.”

Vaccaro summed it up: “It’s veterans helping veterans.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Russian military test its new anti-ballistic missile

Russia says it has successfully tested a new antiballistic missile. Russian Defense Ministry released video of test on April 2, 2018, which was conducted at the Sary-Shagan testing range in Kazakhstan. The ministry said the missile is already in service and is used to protect the city of Moscow from potential air attacks.


MIGHTY CULTURE

No, you don’t need to shave your beard to prevent coronavirus

All around the world, countless men may suddenly believe they just got a free pass to bring back the Burt Reynolds stache or the Sugar Ray/Smash Mouth soul patch. Shaving-off our full beards and replacing those with smaller, more compact facial hair will help halt the spread of coronavirus, right? Wrong. A widely circulated infographic from the CDC is not about preventing coronavirus, and, has nothing to do with the effectiveness of conventional face masks. Here’s what’s really going on.


This week, the internet exploded when a 2017 CDC infographic started making the rounds. Naturally, because the infographic resurfaced around the same time that the CDC sent out very real warnings about how to prepare for the coronavirus, unsuspecting readers of the internet linked the two things. But, the truth is, this 2017 infographic is about using a respirator with facial hair, not a conventional face mask. (Which, by the way, if you aren’t sick, you don’t need anyway.) If you look closely at the graphic (after you look at all the different names for beards) you’ll notice in the fine print this was created in conjunction with OSHA, and is in fact, from 2017. (2017 is even in filename of the PDF when you go download it!)

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

In fact, in its FAQ about the coronavirus, the CDC statement is: “the CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings.”

So, get excited about this funny 2017 infographic all you want. Just maybe remember it was created by the CDC for workplaces in which employees routinely use actual respirators on a day-to-day basis. It literally has nothing to do with coronavirus or how you put a surgical mask on your face. A surgical mask, by definition, does not need the face seal that this infographic is talking about. Only respirators require that seal. If you shave and put on a respirator, and you’re not sick and don’t need a respirator at your job, you’re just doing some Breaking Bad cosplay. Which, fair enough!

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

So, if you feel so moved, widdle your full beard down to a Van Dyke or soul patch, go for it! Just don’t expect us to start singing “I Just Want To Fly” again. And, certainly don’t congratulate yourself for saving the world.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The world is less peaceful now than at any point in the last decade

The world is less peaceful than at any point in the past 10 years as the number of refugees worldwide reached the highest level in modern history, according to a new report.

The Institute for Economics and Peace released its 12th annual Global Peace Index on June 6, 2018, which ranks 163 independent states and territories on their level of peacefulness.

The study looks at three factors to measure the state of peace in a state or territory: safety and security in society, extent of ongoing domestic or international conflict, and the degree of militarization.


The research found the world became 0.27% less peaceful over the course of 2017, which marked the fourth consecutive year global peace declined. Overall, 92 countries became less peaceful while 71 saw improvement over the past year.

Steve Killelea, the founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace, told Bloomberg, “Increased numbers of refugees, terrorism, and heightened political tensions were behind the deterioration.”

“Refugees on their own would make one of the world’s biggest nations,” Killelea added.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war
German, French, and Spanish fighters of the YPG in northern Syria.

Refugees now account for about 1% of the global population. There are approximately 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including roughly 22.5 million refugees, according the UN’s refugee agency.

2018’s Global Peace Index also found the US became less peaceful in the last year and ranked 121st overall. Comparatively, it ranked at 114th in 2017 and 103rd in 2016.

According to the study, the five most peaceful countries in the world are Iceland, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark. Meanwhile, the five least peaceful countries in the world are Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia.

The economic cost of the decline in peace across the world was estimated to be roughly $14.8 trillion in 2017, the report found, which is equivalent to 12.4% of the world’s economic activity or roughly $2,000 for every person.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump vows to keep the US leading in all things space

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to maintain U.S. dominance in space as China, Russia, and other countries make advances in the race to explore the moon, Mars, and other planets.

“America will always be the first in space,” Trump said in a speech at the White House on June 18, 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council advisory body he created in 2017.

“My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation,” Trump said. “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We’ve always led.”


While the United States has dominated in space since the 1969 moon landing, China recently has made significant advances, while Russia — which at the beginning of the Space Age in the 1950s had the world’s most advanced space progam — recently has mostly stagnated amid budget cutbacks.

Trump said he wants to stay ahead of strategic competitors like China and Russia, but he said he wants to nurture the space ambitions of private billionaires like Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the Blue Origin space company.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war
The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk
(Photo by JD Lasica)

“Rich guys seem to like rockets,” Trump said. “As long as it’s an American rich person, that’s good, they can beat us,” he said. “The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers.”

In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new American “Space Force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. military — a proposal that requires congressional approval and is opposed by some legislators.

“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said.

The U.S. armed forces currently consists of the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.

“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said.

The Pentagon, where some high-level officials have voiced skepticism about establishing a separate Space Force, said it will work with Congress on Trump’s directive.

“Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

Since his election, Trump has repeatedly vowed to send people back to the moon for the first time since 1972 — this time, he says, as a preparatory step for the first human missions to Mars in coming decades.

He has also promised fewer regulations to make it easier for private industry to explore and colonize space.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war
(NASA)

The U.S. commercial space sector already is booming under NASA policies that have shifted the role of the government away from being the sole builder and launcher of rockets for decades since the 1960s.

The U.S. space agency now mostly sees its role as working with private space companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK to develop new space capabilities and carry them out.

SpaceX, which NASA currently pays to take cargo to the International Space Station, and Boeing are expected to start regular astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit in 2018.

Since 2012, when NASA’s space shuttle program ended, the U.S. space agency has also relied on Russian Soyuz spaceships to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

Trump has said he wants to privatize the space station after 2025 — another idea viewed as controversial in Congress — so Washington can spend more on NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

“This time, we will establish a long-term presence” on the moon, Trump said on June 18, 2018.

NASA is working with private industry on its most powerful rocket ever, called the Space Launch System, to send astronauts and their equipment to the moon and one day, Mars. It also wants to build a lunar outpost.

While seeking to create a new Space Force at the Pentagon, Trump also signed a directive on June 18, 2018, handing the Pentagon’s current authority to regulate private satellites to the Commerce Department.

He also issued a directive on space-traffic management, which is aimed at boosting the monitoring of objects in orbit so as to avoid collisions and debris strikes.

A statement released by the White House said the move “seeks to reduce the growing threat of orbital debris to the common interest of all nations.”

The Defense Department says there are 20,000 pieces of space debris and 800 operational U.S. satellites circling the Earth, a number that grows every year.

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

popular

What it was like to be raided by the Vikings

They were some of the most feared and lethal warriors of their time, Scandinavian raiders who were experts in navigation and mobility, armed with iron weapons and advanced tactics, who would bear down on other European settlements for loot and pillage. Vikings were terrifying for all those not protected by high walls or standing armies.


For victims of these raids, death could come quickly and with little warning. The Vikings would raid deep inland by taking their longboats upriver, meaning that death could always be lurking just around the next bend. Towns on the coast were more likely to be raided, but they could at least see ships approaching on the horizon.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war
Viking shield walls provided plenty of defense while allowing the raiders to use their swords, spears, and axes over the top. (Wyrdlight.com, CC BY 3.0)

Since Vikings could barrel down at around 10-11 knots, though, that only gave them an hour of warning, Not long enough to marshal a defending force, but long enough to crap yourself once or twice and maybe say a few confessions.

Smart victims would then cower and hide, allowing the village to be plundered without resistance or they might even drag valuables out and buy off the Vikings. This might sound like cowardice, but the Vikings were professional raiders who worked hard to ensure that they had the upper hand, partially through reconnaissance.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war
The Battle of Stiklestad was fought between Norse kingdoms. (Peter Nicolai Arbo)

Yeah, by the time you saw the Vikings, they probably already had a whole dossier on you, complete with whatever it is you did with those kind ladies in the expensive inn.

The Vikings actually took plenty of time to conduct quiet observation when they could before a raid, making sure there weren’t a bunch of enemy warriors that happened to be in town. Once they were sure it was just you and a few farmers and craftsmen around, they would launch their attack, keeping their men in tight formation and eradicating serious resistance before it could prepare.

This was made all the easier for the Vikings by how they organized their forces, employing ranged and melee attacks. Yeah, the Vikings basically had a combined arms team. They rarely had cavalry, though.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war
Re-enactors pour off of a longboat during a simulated raid. (YouTube/Grimfrost)

 

Viking raiders carried personal weapons and weapons provided by their magnate, a sort of chieftain. Younger and poorer raiders would usually carry an ax from home or a hunting spear, weapons made with mostly wood and a little iron. Shields, made of wood, were easy to get as well. Bows were relatively rare, but available.

Richer or more established raiders were likely to carry a sword and might even have chain mail or other iron armor, making them extremely challenging to kill for startled farmers in England or France.

Archers and spear men would engage any brave defenders as soon as they got into range, and swordsmen and raiders equipped with axes would charge forward with shields for protection.

So, yeah, unless the Vikings stumbled into a fight with the king’s army because of some bad intel gathering, they were going to win. Every once in a while, they’d do something bold like besiege Paris, and even then they’d usually win, because, again, great intelligence and professional are raiders are typically victorious.

Articles

DoD to deliver counter-ISIS review to White House next week

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday completed his first trip to the Middle East, where he gained valuable insight as he prepares to make key policy decisions, including submitting the results of a review of the department’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the White House, Pentagon press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.


Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war
Iraqi forces practice traveling in tactical formations at Besmaya Range Complex, Iraq, Jan. 20, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joshua Wooten)

In a memorandum signed Jan. 28, President Donald Trump ordered the Defense Department to come up with a new plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. Davis said the review is due early next week, and added, “we’re on track to deliver it on time.”

Whole-of-Government Plan

The captain called the review a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan.

“It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.”

Davis said the White House memorandum “puts the bull’s eye of the target squarely on DoD to lead it, but it is absolutely being done with the input of other agencies. We chair it. We’re developing the strategy, but we’re doing it together with other departments.”

Review Involves Many Countries

The review will be an outline of a strategy that encompasses numerous issues surrounding the defeat of ISIS, he said. “We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments.”

Related: Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

The captain said that the proposed plan will go to the president, who will make decisions based on the recommendations contained in the review.

Countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and others in the Southeast Asia region are included in the review, he said, “in the sense that this is going to explore the strategy for how we combat ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, where we’ve seen ISIS spring up in other places.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis left a clear message in his resignation letter

US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation from the Trump administration on Dec. 20, 2018, setting in motion the end of what has been a tumultuous tenure working with President Donald Trump.

In his resignation letter, Mattis told Trump, without saying his name, that the president has a “right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned” with his own.


Mattis’ resignation follows Dec. 19, 2018’s controversial announcement of a plan to pull American troops out of Syria.

But it was the outgoing defense secretary’s warning about the shifting nature of great-power relations he hopes his successor will study closely.

Under Mattis’ watch, the administration has drawn an unambiguous line in the sand. Beginning with Russia and, historically, moving out of engagement with China, and into confrontation.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Members of the 5th Special Forces Group conducting weapons training during counter-ISIS operations at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria.

(US Marine Corps photo)

“I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly at odds with our own,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter.

“It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.”

Russia, under its President Vladimir Putin, has already shown its capacity and willingness to reach into the heart of US democracy.

The latest twin reports to front the Senate show in excruciating detail how even the smallest manipulation of social media platforms can meddle in US public life with just a single troll farm — the unit called the Internet Research Agency — tucked away somewhere in a Moscow warehouse.

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Opaque and unsettling

While the Trump administration has appeared in an unflattering light amid what US policy expert believe is an unsettling relationship with Russia, Putin has been steadily picking at the edges of Crimea, presenting the greatest military threat to Ukraine in years.

But it is with China where Mattis and the administration have barged into a new period of strategic competition — and where the slide toward conflict is most acute.

That confrontation has been encouraged by the Trump administration itself, with the tearing down of so many aspects of the rules-based order that has governed global politics in the post-World War II era.

“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear eyed about malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter to Trump.

The Trump effect has isolated allies and invigorated adversaries, former Australian Prime Minister and noted sinologist Kevin Rudd said in November 2018.

Speaking at the Hudson Institute in October 2018, US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a landmark address signaling the US’s intent to challenge an increasingly assertive and belligerent China, directly accusing it of “meddling in America’s democracy.”

Pence accused China of stealing American intellectual property, eroding US military positions, and driving the US out of the Western Pacific.

It was only on Dec. 18, 2018, when China’s President Xi Jinping, the country’s strongest autocratic leader since Mao Zedong, made a gloating speech marking China’s furious economic progress, with more daunting promises of “miracles that will impress the world.”

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Delivered with slumped shoulders in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi spoke for 90 minutes before touching momentarily on a vision for a new kind of Chinese expansion aimed at exporting its model of technocratic dictatorship to other like-minded nations.

“The past 40 years eloquently prove that China’s development provides a successful experience and offers a bright prospect to other developing countries, as they strive for modernization,” Xi said, about 40 minutes into his speech.

This is exactly where China is now placed as it looks across the Pacific and into Central Asia to covertly or overtly use the One Belt One Road initiative to expand its industrial, technical, and digital prowess into developing neighbors that are vulnerable to the authoritarian siren song of, for example, surveillance techniques now being rolled out in the beleaguered western province of Xinjiang.

China’s vast data-collection platforms — WeChat alone has more than a billion users, and are harvesting ever-deeper data on behalf of the state — would be happy to do the same for other nations.

In December 2018 Danielle Cave, a senior analyst at the Australian Security Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, told Business Insider that developing nations that do not share the US’s aversion to unreliable actors like the embattled telecommunications giant Huawei, are ready and willing to marry into China’s cheap, buy-now-pay-later model of total autocratic technocracy.

The person Trump chooses to replace Mattis will need to see, with the same clarity that “Mad Dog” could, the chasm between the words of America’s strategic adversaries and their actions in this new, dangerous, fragmented — and increasingly lonely — global theater.

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

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