This therapy dog is a hero to veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Hercules, in classical mythology, is a hero and god famous for his strength, travels, and adventures.

At the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, a black lab, appropriately named Hercules, is a hero to veterans, visitors, and VA staff. He’s their resident rock star and therapy dog, and he’s about to celebrate his third birthday.

Robert Lynch is a Marine, the Tampa VA Veterans Experience Officer, and proud dad to Hercules. As a service-connected veteran, Lynch is upfront and open discussing his physical and mental health needs, including mobility, depression and anxiety.


In 2017, Lynch applied for a therapy dog to help with his own overall health, but after further thought wanted to expand the role of his potential new best friend. He talked with Tampa VA Director Joe Battle about having a therapy dog as a VA staff member.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Battle loved the idea of a full-time canine on staff, as did other leadership and they created a hospital policy defining what would be the role of their new employee.

Southeastern Guide Dogs, a non-profit group that trains guide and service and therapy dogs, brought a few furry friends to meet Robert. Once Lynch met Hercules, he knew they had a special bond. The trainer from Southeastern saw it too, saying they were “surprised at how fast the two connected.”

To this day, Hercules doesn’t want Lynch out of his sight. While working at the Tampa VA, Hercules and Lynch do spend some time apart as Hercules goes with other trained handlers to visit different areas of the hospital. Hercules puts in about 50 hours a week, rotating visits to various clinics and care units.

A work day for Hercules can range from playing fetch with veterans in physical therapy, painting with veterans in a creative arts class, or playing a role in a Final Salute–a ceremony held inside the VA to honor a veteran who has passed. Hercules carries the flag and seeks out those who may need some emotional support.

Hercules Saves the Day

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Lynch received a call one day with a special request. A veteran in the hospice unit wanted to visit with Hercules again. Hercules was not scheduled to visit that part of the hospital that day, so Lynch made arrangements and took the intuitive black lab to see the patient as quickly as possible.

Hercules got in bed and snuggled the gentleman as he reminisced about his boyhood pup named Shadow and how Hercules reminded him of his beloved dog.

Lynch and Hercules spent about 45 minutes with the patient and then went back to their regular schedule. A short time later, Lynch received a call. “It was for a Final Salute. The same man that wanted to see Hercules in hospice had passed and they wanted us to be a part of the Final Salute.”

Director Joe Battle consoled Lynch by telling him, “You gave that man, that veteran, his last wish, there’s no better way to honor him.”

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Hercules shakes with Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams at the VA Patient Experience Symposium.

As VA staff come in to start their day, several make sure to stop by Lynch’s office and get a hug from Hercules. Lynch knows the importance of this seemingly small gesture. “It’s just as important to enhance the staff experience as it is the veteran experience when they come to VA,” he said. “Something positive sets the tone for the work day and happier employees means happier customers.”

What does Hercules do to unwind and have fun? He takes breaks during the day and will lay at Lynch’s feet to rest and recharge. On the weekends, Lynch and his family take Hercules fishing and to his favorite spot–the dog beach.

“Sometimes I think he’s kinda bummed out that he’s not at the hospital every day. He likes to play with other dogs, but he really loves to be around people,” Lynch said. “He’s so devoted. I still have my own issues. I love to see him make others happy.”

Tampa VA will be celebrating Hercules’ 3rd birthday with a Barkday party, June 26, 2019, at 1pm. For details, visit the James A. Haley VA Medical Center’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/VATampa/.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO chief warns against new ‘Cold War’ with Russia

NATO does not want “a new Cold War” with Russia, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the end of a four-day parliamentary assembly of the alliance.


“We are concerned by…[Russia’s] lack of transparency when it comes to military exercises,” Stoltenberg said on October 9 in the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

He mentioned the Zapad exercise that Russia held with Belarus in September, which brought thousands of troops close to NATO’s eastern members and caused concerns about Moscow’s intentions given its military interference in Ukraine.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

At the same time, Stoltenberg said: “Russia is our neighbor…. We don’t want to isolate Russia; we don’t want a new Cold War.”

He said the 29-member alliance has stepped up jet patrols over the Black Sea in “response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine.”

Romanian and Bulgarian pilots have conducted air exercises in the Black Sea in recent months, designed to reassure NATO members after Russia’s interference.

Russia occupied and seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and backs separatists in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine.

At the end of the parliamentary session in Bucharest, NATO also announced the launch of a new multinational force in Romania, its latest move to protect its eastern flank and to check a growing Russian presence in the Black Sea.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Justin T. Updegraff

Initially, a small force composed mostly of troops from 10 NATO states including Italy and Canada as well as host Romania, the land, air, and sea deployments are expected to complement some 900 U.S. troops already in place separately throughout the country.

“Our purpose is peace, not war,” Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told the session.

“We are not a threat for Russia, but we need a long-term NATO strategy; we need dialogue from a strong position of defense and discouragement,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia gained a ‘treasure trove’ of intel on the US Air Force

In the fight against the terrorist group ISIS in Iraq and Syria, U.S. and U.S.-led-coalition jets have flown thousands of sorties and dropped tons of munitions — but in doing so, they’ve tipped their hand to Russian fighter jets that have eagerly stalked them.


“The skies over Iraq and specifically Syria have really just been a treasure trove for them to see how we operate,” Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson said at an Air Force Association briefing hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies on Jan. 4.

“Our adversaries are watching us — they’re learning from us,” said Jamieson, adding that Russia’s air force cycled most forces through Syria to give them real-world combat experience.

During the air campaign in Syria, Russia got a look at the tactics, behaviors, radar, and thermal signatures of the US’s top air-dominance fighter, the F-22.

Russia is figuring the US out and gloating over it

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Russian Su-35 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the skies over Syria, Russia’s top fighter jets came face to face with the F-22 and appeared to show it little reverence.

Russia’s air force has gloated over its dominance in such encounters, though that should be taken with a grain of salt.

“We always found ourselves ‘on their tails,’ as the pilots say, which means victory in a dogfight,” said Maksim Makolin of Russian Aerospace Forces, according to state media.

Though Russia often exaggerates or fabricates stories of its air force’s prowess, there’s reason to believe Russia gained valuable information that could help it in a fight with U.S. jets.

“Russia can learn more than just observing U.S./coalition tactics, techniques, and procedures,” Justin Bronk, an expert on aerial combat at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider. “They can also ‘paint’ Western fighters and other air assets with ground-based and aerial fire control and search radars.”

Also Read: This is the reason Russian and Western tactics are changing

The F-22 relies on stealth for its major advantage against Russian jets, which perform similarly, if not better, in traditional confrontations like dogfights. If Russia gained experience tracking the F-22 with infrared-search-and-track radars, as Bronk suggested it might have, it would be “very useful stuff.”

Russia’s operating close to the U.S. most likely allowed it to tune its air- and land-based sensors to detect all varieties of U.S. and coalition aircraft operating over Syria.

Russia in Syria has been a double-edged sword

As a result, the advantages afforded to planes like the F-22 that utilize stealth — and all U.S. fighter jets that use classified tactics in combat scenarios — may have been eroded.

“Russia has gained invaluable insights and information with operating in a contested airspace alongside us in Syria, and they’re incorporating lessons learned of actually doing a first ‘away’ fight,” Jamieson said.

But as Bronk points out, the observation was most likely mutual — and most likely cut both ways.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

“Whilst Russia is certainly making every use that it can of the opportunity to learn about Western air operations and capabilities in the shared skies over Syria, that process goes both ways since whatever Russian military aircraft do is done within airspace heavily surveilled by Western assets,” Bronk said.

Still, as adversaries catch up, the future of U.S. air supremacy becomes less clear.

“The United States Air Force can and will maintain air supremacy today,” Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland said at the briefing. “The question is the future.”

Articles

SecDef says failed coup in Turkey won’t affect ISIS campaign

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Ash Carter shakes hands with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at a meeting of defense ministers from the coalition to counter ISIS at Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 20, 2016. | DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley


Defense Secretary Ashton Carter sought to minimize Wednesday the impact of the failed coup in Turkey and the ensuing purge of military officers on the NATO alliance and the campaign against ISIS.

Despite the recent anti-U.S. rhetoric from the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has demanded the extradition of a Muslim cleric in Pennsylvania, Carter said, “We support the democratically elected government.”

The secretary added, “I don’t have any indication” that the failed coup and Erdogan’s tough response would affect Turkey’s continuing membership in NATO. “The alliance is very strong, our relationship is very strong,” he said of Turkey, a founding member of NATO.

Carter also said he expected commercial power that was cut to the U.S. air base at Incirlik in southeastern Turkey following the coup attempt last Friday to be restored shortly, along with full flight operations that are vital to the air campaign against ISIS in Syria.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford phoned his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, on Wednesday and they “broadly discussed operations in Incirlik and the deep commitment the U.S. has to Turkey.”

Carter spoke at a news conference at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, following the opening session of two days of meetings with the defense and foreign ministers of more than 30 nations in the anti-ISIS coalition on the next steps to eliminate the terror group’s remaining strongholds.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu were no-shows at Andrews. Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic, represented his government at the meetings, which will continue at the State Department on Thursday.

After failing to make contact with Isik in the aftermath of the coup, Carter said they spoke by phone Tuesday and he told Isik, “I was glad that he was safe and the ministry was functioning. He assured me very clearly that nothing that happened over the weekend will interrupt their support” for the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

Erdogan responded to the attempted coup with a wide-ranging purge of the ranks of the military, police, judiciary, media and academia.

By some counts, more than 50,000 people have been fired or suspended, and more than 9,000 have been detained on suspicion of supporting the coup that Erdogan has blamed on supporters of exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, now living in Pennsylvania.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup, but the Turkish government on Tuesday said that paperwork had been filed with the State Department demanding his extradition. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged to review the extradition request while adding that the U.S. would adhere strictly to the law.

The purge has devastated the ranks of the Turkish military, with at least 118 generals and admirals now under detention, including the commander of Incirlik air base, which is shared by the U.S. 39th Air Base Wing and the Turkish air force.

Erdogan told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the attempted coup, which left at least 240 dead and more than 1,000 wounded, was carried out by a minority within the armed forces.

“It is clear that they are in the minority,” Erdogan said. “This organization that we called a terrorist organization [Gulen’s] is trying to make the minority dominate the majority. We have taken all the steps necessary to prevent such an event.”

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, analyst Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations said the failed coup and Erdogan’s harsh response had reduced U.S.-Turkey relations to their “lowest point” in recent times.

“It’s hard to refer to Turkey as a democracy,” Cook said. The U.S. “has to start asking questions about the value of Turkey as an ally,” but has been reluctant to do so because of Turkey’s membership in NATO and the importance of Incirlik air base in the fight against ISIS, Cook said.

However, “the Turks have been reluctant to get involved in fight against the Islamic State,” Cook said. “By their own admission, they’re much more concerned about Kurdish nationalism.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened when a Coast Guard icebreaker caught fire near Antarctica

During its return from an annual supply run to the McMurdo research station in Antarctica, the US Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, had a fire break out inside its incinerator room as it sailed about 650 miles north of McMurdo Sound.

The incident occurred on Feb. 10, 2019, after the icebreaker had left Antarctica, where it had cut a channel though nearly 17 miles of ice that was 6 to 10 feet thick to allow a container ship to offload 10 million pounds of supplies that will sustain US research stations and field camps in Antarctica.


According to a Coast Guard release, four fire extinguishers failed during the initial response, and it ultimately took two hours for the ship’s fire crews to put out the blaze. While damage from the flames was contained inside the incinerator housing, water used to cool nearby exhaust pipes damaged electrical systems and insulation in the room.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Smoke from a fire aboard the Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

A fire in the incinerator room of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“It’s always a serious matter whenever a shipboard fire breaks out at sea, and it’s even more concerning when that ship is in one of the most remote places on Earth,” Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the US Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, said in a release. “The crew of the Polar Star did an outstanding job — their expert response and determination ensured the safety of everyone aboard.”

Point Nemo, the most remote spot on earth, is also in the South Pacific — 1,670 miles from the nearest land, which is Ducie Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands, to the north; Motu Nui, one of the Easter Islands, to the northeast; and Maher Island, part of Antarctica, to the south.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Coast Guard crew members fight a fire aboard the icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

A disabled fishing vessel is towed through sea ice near Antarctica by the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 14, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

The Polar Star is the Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, capable of smashing through the thick ice that builds up in the Arctic and around Antarctica. As such, it makes the run to McMurdo every year in the winter months and then goes into dry dock for maintenance and repairs in preparation for the next trip.

Having just one working heavy icebreaker has hindered the Coast Guard’s ability to meet request from other government agencies. The service could only do 78% of heavy icebreaking missions between 2010 and 2016, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office Report.

Retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, who was Coast Guard commandant between mid-2014 and mid-2018, said in December 2018 that he turned down a request to carry out a freedom-of-navigation exercise in the Arctic out of concern the Polar Star would break down and need Russia to rescue it.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Contractors work on the Polar Star’s hull as the icebreaker undergoes depot-level maintenance at a dry dock in Vallejo, California, in preparation for its future polar-region patrol, April 16, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

US Coast Guard scuba divers work to repair a leak in the shaft seal of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, January 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

The Polar Star left its home port in Seattle on Nov. 27, 2018, to make the 11,200-mile trip to Antarctica for the sixth time in as many years. It suffered a number of mechanical problems on the way there, including smoke damage to an electrical switchboard, ship-wide power outages, and a leak in the propeller shaft.

Repairing the propeller-shaft leak required the ship to halt icebreaking operations and deploy divers to fix the shaft seal. The Polar Star also had a number of mechanical issues during its 2018 run to McMurdo.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

The Polar Star sailed into Wellington, New Zealand, on Feb. 18, 2019, for a port call, the first time those aboard had set foot on land in 42 days, according to New Zealand news outlet Stuff. The ship is currently on its way back to Seattle, the Coast Guard said in its release.

Source: Stuff

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea passing the Polar Star in the ice channel near McMurdo, Antarctica, Jan. 10, 2002.

(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

A seal on the ice in front of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star while the ship was hove-to in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 30, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Carlos Rodriguez)

The Coast Guard has been pushing to build a new heavy icebreaker for some time, setting up a joint program office with the Navy to oversee the effort. Funding for the new ship had been held up in Congress, but lawmakers recently approved 5 million to start building a new one and another million for materials for a second.

In summer 2018, the Senate approved 5 million for the new icebreaker, but the House of Representatives instead authorized billion to build the US-Mexico border wall sought by President Donald Trump, cutting a number of programs, including that of the icebreaker in the process.

But Congressional staffers told USNI News in February 2019 that the Homeland Security Department’s fiscal year 2019 appropriation would include 5 million for new icebreakers.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea accidentally burned a photographer alive during a missile test

There’s a saying in the photography community, first coined by the legendary Robert Capa: “if your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” If that’s true, there’s one North Korean photog who has the world’s best photo of a rocket launch. Sadly, no one will ever see it because the photo was burned up along with the man who took it.


The worst part is, the Korean Central News Agency distributed video of his gruesome death for all the world to see.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow

No one loves testing missiles and telling the world about it more than North Korea, so it’s likely the photographer was put there on purpose. Whether or not anyone (especially the photographer) knew he was in the blast zone for the Hwasong-15 rocket is anyone’s guess.

“The photographer who stood near Hwasong-15 missile was enveloped by fire,” said one onlooker to the incident. “I was shocked to see officials watching the launch. I did not know whether it was the fault of the cameraman or the control center. But it was impossible for leader Kim Jong-un who was at the site not to have witnessed the incident.”

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Kim Jong-un and the Korean People’s Army rejoice at the launch of a Hwasong-15 missile test.

As North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and his cronies watched North Korea’s largest, most powerful Intercontinental ballistic missile test to date – and cheered on – it’s possible that up to 16 people who were in the test area were burned alive by the missile’s blast. South Korea says the KCNA broadcasts were later edited to remove the toasted photographer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the AC-130 Gunship

The AC-130 gunship is a devastating display of force and firepower. Through the years, the aircraft has been equipped with an array of side-fired canons, howitzers, mini-guns, wing-mounted missiles and bombs, and laser guided-missiles launched from the rear cargo door, earning it the moniker the “Angel of Death.”


The primary missions of the gunship are close air support, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance.

The heavily armed aircraft is outfitted with sophisticated sensor, navigation, and fire control systems, allowing it to track and target multiple targets using multiple munitions with surgical precision.

Another strength of the gunship is the ability to loiter in the air for extended periods of time, providing aerial protection at night and during adverse weather.

The AC-130 relies heavily on visual targeting at low altitudes and punishes enemy targets while performing pylon turns around a fixed point on the ground during attack.

The Air Force is the only operator of the AC-130 and the gunship has been providing close air support for special operators for the last 50 years.

Development and Design

During the Vietnam War, the C-130 Hercules airframe was selected to replace the original gunship, the Douglas AC-47 Spooky (Project Gunship I). The Hercules cargo airframe was converted into AC-130A (Project Gunship II) because it could fly faster, longer, higher, and with increased munitions load capabilities.

The gunship’s AC identifier stands for attack-cargo.

The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of 1,300 miles, depending on weight.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
The AC-130 gunship’s primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and force protection. Missions in close air support are troops in contact, convoy escort and urban operations. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include air base defense and facilities defense. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The AC-130A was equipped with down facing Gatling guns affixed to the left side of the aircraft with an analog fire control system. In 1969, the AC-130 received the Surprise Package, which included 20mm rotary autocannons and a 40mm Bofors cannon configuration.

The gunships have been modified with multiple configurations through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and more powerful armament.

Currently, Air Force special operations groups operate the AC-130U Spooky II and the AC-130W Stinger II.

The Spooky II became operational in 1994, revitalizing the special operations gunship fleet as a replacement for the AC-130A aircraft, and to supplement the workhorse AC-130H Spectre, which was retired in 2015.

The Spooky II is armed with a 25mm GAU-12/U Gatling gun (1800 rpm), a 40mm L60 Bofors cannon (120 rpm), and a 10mm M102 howitzer (6-10 rpm). The AC-130Us have a pressurized cabin, allowing them to operate 5,000 feet higher than the H models, which results in greater range.

The AC-130W was converted from the MC-130W Dragon Spear, a special operations mobility aircraft and are armed with precision strike packages to relieve the high operational demands on AC-130U gunships until new AC-130Js enter combat-ready status.

Over the past four decades, AC-130s have deployed constantly to hotspots throughout the world in support of special operations and conventional forces. In South America, Africa, Europe and throughout the Middle East, gunships have significantly contributed to mission success.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
An AC-130W Stinger II fires its weapon over Melrose Air Force Range, N.M., Jan. 10, 2013. The AC-130W is one of the newest aircraft being flown at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

As of Sept. 19, 2017, the AC-130J Ghostrider, the Air Force’s next-generation gunship, achieved Initial Operating Capability and will be tested and prepared for combat deployment in the next few years. The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships.

The Ghostrider is outfitted with a Precision Strike Package, which includes 30mm and 105 mm cannons and precision guided munitions of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs and AGM-176 Griffin missiles. The 105mm M102 howitzer system is a devastating weapon that can fire off 10 50lbs shells per minute with precision accuracy.

There are 10 Ghostrider gunships in the current fleet and the Air Force plans on purchasing 27 more by fiscal year 2021.

Operation and Deployment

The AC-130 Gunship operational history includes:

  • 1960s/70s – Vietnam/Laos
  • 1983 – Grenada – Operation Urgent Fury
  • 1989 – Panama – Operation Just Cause
  • 1991 – Persian Gulf – Operation Desert Storm
  • 1993 – Somalia – Operation Restore Hope
  • 1995 – Bosnia – Operation Deliberate Force
  • 2001 – Present – Afghanistan – Operation Enduring Freedom
  • 2003 – Present – Iraq – Operation Iraqi Freedom

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
An AC-130U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron jettisons flares over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Aug. 20, 2008. The flares are used as a countermeasure to heat-seeking missiles that can track aircraft during real-world missions. (Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Air Force units that operate the current fleet of AC-130Us and AC-130Ws include:

AC-130U Spooky – 1st Special Operations Group, Hurlburt Field, Florida

AC-130W Stinger II – 27th Special Operations Group, Canon Air Force Base, New Mexico

VARIANTS:

AC-130A Spectre (Project Gunship II, Surprise Package, Pave Pronto)

Conversions of C-130As; 19 completed; transferred to the Air Force Reserve in 1975, retired in 1995

AC-130E Spectre (Pave Spectre, Pave Aegis)

Conversions of C-130Es; 11 completed; 10 upgraded to AC-130H configuration

AC-130H Spectre

Upgraded AC-130E aircraft; eight completed; last aircraft retired in 2015

AC-130U Spooky

Operational aircraft (active duty USAF); 17 in service

AC-130J Ghostrider

Based on MC-130J; 32 aircraft to be procured to replace AC-130H

AC-130W Stinger II (former MC-130W Dragon Spear)

Conversions of MC-130Ws (active duty USAF)

Also Read: This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

Did you know?

– The original and unofficial nickname for the AC-130 gunship was “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Puff.”

– The AC-130H Spectre was introduced in 1969 and was used for 46 years in service; the longest service time of any AC gunship.

– Air Force Special Operations Command plans to install combat lasers on AC-130 gunships within a year.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

AC-130U Spooky Fact Sheet:

Primary function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection

Builder: Lockheed/Boeing Corp.

Power plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines

Thrust: 4,300 shaft horsepower each engine

Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)

Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)

Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)

Speed: 300 mph (Mach .4) at sea level

Range: Approximately 1,300 nautical miles; limited by crew duty day with air refueling

Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters)

Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)

Armament: 40mm, 105mm cannons and 25mm Gatling gun

Crew: AC-130U – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, and four aerial gunners (eight enlisted)

Deployment date:  1995

Unit cost:  $210 million

Inventory: Active duty, 17; reserve, 0; Air National Guard, 0

Articles

6 things to know about the VA home loan

The Veterans Affairs home loan can be incredibly confusing, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information found on the VA website. So we have broken it down into six basic questions for you: who, what, when, where, why, and how?


*As always, when making decisions that impact your personal finances, make sure you’re sitting down with a financial advisor. Most banks have financial advisors on staff who are always willing to work with customers.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Veterans Affairs employs assessors and appraisers to ensure that each home purchased by service members is priced correctly.(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric Glassey, 4th Inf. Div. PAO)

1. Who:

Lendee eligibility is determined by service status:

Active duty personnel must have served a minimum of 90 continuous days to be eligible

Reserve or guard members must:

  • have six years of service in the selected reserve or National Guard, and
  • be discharged honorably, or
  • have been placed on the retired list, or
  • have been transferred to Standby Reserve or to an element of Ready Reserve (other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable), or
  • still be servicing in the Selected Reserve

Spouses can be eligible as well.

2. What:

The VA home loan program is a benefit for eligible service members and veterans to help them in the process of becoming homeowners by guaranteeing them the ability to acquire a loan through a private lender.

Utilizing the VA home loan, lendees do not make a down payment and are not required to pay monthly mortgage insurance, though they are required to pay a funding fee. This fee varies by lender, depends on the loan amount, and can change depending on the type of loan, your service situation, whether you are a first time or return lendee, and whether you opt to make a down payment.

The fee may be financed through the loan or paid for out of pocket, but must be paid by the close of the sale.

The fee for returning lendees and for National Guard and members of the reserve pay a slightly higher fee.

The fee may also be waived if you are:

  • a veteran receiving compensation for a service related disability, or
  • a veteran who would be eligible to receive compensation for a service related disability but does not because you are receiving retirement or active duty pay, or
  • are the surviving spouse of a veteran who died in service or from a service related disability.

3. When:

Lendees may utilize the loan program during or after honorable active duty service, or after six years of select reserve or National Guard service.

4. Where:

Eligible lendees may use the VA home loan in any of the 50 states or United States territories

5. Why:

Veterans Affairs helps service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses to purchase a home. The VA home loan itself does not come from the VA, but rather through participating lenders, i.e. banks and mortgage companies. With VA guaranteeing the lendee a certain amount for the loan, lenders are able to provide more favorable terms.

6. How:

Eligible lendees should talk to their lending institution as each institution has its own requirements for how to acquire the loan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how servicewomen honor those who’ve fallen

Nearly 40 Air and Army National Guard women gathered at the Arlington National Cemetery Oct. 21 with hundreds of active duty, retired, and reserve service members from all branches of the military to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.


Honoring US Military Women

The memorial honors all women who have defended America throughout history. The gathering featured a weekend filled with remembrance, honor, service, leadership, mentorship, and inspiration.

“It just makes you reflect back on how much has changed in these 20 years, and the sacrifices that women are still making,” said Army Col. Cynthia Tinkham, the Oklahoma National Guard’s director of personnel. Tinkham is one of five of the event attendees with the Oklahoma Guard who were present at the memorial’s dedication 20 years ago.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Men and women participate in a half-mile honor walk through Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, Oct. 21, 2017. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps.

The memorial here serves as a 4.2-acre ceremonial entrance into Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial honors the nearly 3 million women who have served or are serving in or with the US military since the American Revolution.

Also Read: The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

The group arrived here Oct. 20, touring the memorial’s long arching hall of memorabilia that covers the history of US women in military service.

“I’ve learned a lot about women’s history and the impact it has on the Air Force and every other branch,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, a member of the Air National Guard.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Women toss rose petals into the reflecting pool of the Women in Military Service for America memorial during a ceremony that honored the 15 fallen women of the US Armed Forces since 2012, Oct. 21, 2017, in Washington DC. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps.

WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary Ceremony

Major events throughout the weekend included a celebration dinner, WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary ceremony, an honor walk, and an after-dark service of remembrance. Attendees ranged from women World War II veterans to those currently serving in all branches of the US military.

The keynote speaker of the morning’s ceremony, retired Air Force Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, who’s also the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in Services chair, compared her experience at the dedication in 1997 to the 20th anniversary ceremony this year, emphasizing that each year there are more “firsts” to celebrate — the first woman to serve in a particular branch, in a particular career field, and the first to die while serving.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Former Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger speaks about sustaining the force at the 2013 Air Force Association’s 2013 Air Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 16, 2013. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Nesha Humes.

“There are so many firsts that the memorial represents,” Wolfenbarger said. “But, the real objective is that there are no more firsts.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Ryan emphasized the importance of honoring the past later that evening as attendees held candles honoring the lives of the 167 women who have fallen since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Related: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

“We can never forget our history and those who have perished for the sake of us all,” said Ryan, who was asked to speak at the event in honor of the women killed in action.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Women from the National Guard hold candlelights during a remembrance ceremony for all the women servicemembers who have died in the line of duty, Oct. 21, 2017, at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington Cemetary in Washington D.C. US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps

“Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance,” he added.

Among the fallen was both the youngest and only woman in the Oklahoma National Guard to die in combat, 19-year-old Army Spc. Sarina Butcher, who was killed in 2011 in Afghanistan and is honored within the memorial.

“These women represent a bridge to those that came before them,” said Tinkham who spoke on behalf of fallen women. “To those of the new and current generation and to those still to join, I implore you to keep telling their stories. Be proud of them. Honor them … and tell your own stories.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

If the idea of spending 12 weeks in boot camp is what keeps people from joining the Marine Corps, they should be thankful that it’s only that long. It could always be worse — like in the French Foreign Legion’s four month basic training.

The first four weeks are an introduction to military life. They train at the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment near Castelnaudary, a country town in Southern France. They also call it “The Farm.”


At the end of this, recruits receive the iconic white Kepi hat that is synonymous with the Foreign Legion in a special ceremony. But basic is far from over. From there, they move on to field training for three weeks, both in and out of the barracks. New Legionnaires spend a week in mountain training as well, high in the French Pyrenees.

Next, the newly-minted Legionnaires will finish a final 75 mile march that must be completed within three days. From there, they take basic educational courses and learn to drive military vehicles. On top of the rigorous training schedule, the non-French speakers will also have to learn basic French every day during training.

As far as the physical demand, the Legion’s rigorous training schedule can take its toll on a recruit. One Quora user, Kjell Saari, who joined the Legion in 1993, said he lost 22 pounds at the Farm, even though he had just been in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets — and he wasn’t eating much there.

“I was at the farm during the late fall/ early winter you realize that hell did freeze over and you died and ended up in hell. I like everyone else got sick as hell well guess what too damn bad, get up and become what you signed up for,” he wrote.

Mentally it can be just as rigorous. Due to the international nature of the group, few of the recruits can communicate at first — and forget about communicating with the instructors. But a “slap in the head makes you remember 100% of the time.” Former Legionnaires say it is important to not give up on yourself and to remember why you came to the Legion in the first place.

The Legion does not get hung up on the things people argue about in the U.S. military. Their tattoo policy actually welcomes tattoos. The only forbidden tattoos are Nazi and other racist art, as well as anything “stupid on your face.”

They don’t care if you’re gay or straight, trans, or married. They don’t care about your race, education, or religion. They don’t even care if you speak French. Once you’re in and past basic training, you can expect that food, clothing, and shelter will be provided, along with a salary on par with American soldiers and 45 days of leave per year.

From there, Legionnaires are shipped off to join the 8,000-plus others deployed throughout France, Africa, Afghanistan, and the Balkans to finish their five-year contract.

The FFL has its own culture — not French culture, Legion culture, as Saari puts it.

“Being in the legion was like being bipolar for 5 years,” Saari says. “Wild highs and bottom of the sea lows. Oh you better like to drink and you better be man enough to get your ass up the next morning and do what’s expected of you no matter how hung over or still drunk you are.”

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is accusing the West of planning chemical attacks in Syria

As the Syrian regime sets its sights on the last remaining rebel stronghold of Idlib, the Russian Defense Ministry in at least the last week of August 2018 has pushed a narrative about possible upcoming staged chemical attacks in the rebel-held province.

“Russian MoD: White Helmets Preparing to Stage Chemical Attack in Idlib” read one headline by Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet, on Aug. 28, 2018.

“US plans to use fake chemical weapons attack to strike Syria – Russian MoD,” one headline by the Russian state-owned media outlet RT read on Aug. 27, 2018.


The list goes on, and it’s a sign chemical attacks may be launched again — but this time in Idlib, the last Syrian rebel stronghold fighting the Assad regime.

In fact, it’s the same rhetoric Moscow used before the deadly chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta in April 2018.

“E Ghouta Militants Plan to Stage Chemical Attack to Blame Gov’t – Damascus,” read one Sputnik headline in mid-March 2018, about a month before the Ghouta chemical attack that killed dozens.

“This is textbook,” Jennifer Cafarella, a senior intelligence planner at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. “They have done this consistently in the lead up to the use of chemical weapons. So I think it’s a serious possibility that they will use it again.”

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

A child is treated for suspected chemical gas poisoning in Douma, Syria on April 8, 2018.

(The White Helmets / Twitter)

“It is incredibly conniving,” Cafarella added.

In early May 2018, The New York Times and Bellingcat virtually recreated the scene to convincingly show how Syrian helicopters dropped chlorine barrel bombs on Eastern Ghouta.

In July 2018, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found that chlorine gas was used in the Eastern Ghouta attack in April 2018, but didn’t assign blame to the attack.

However, Russian and Syrian regime forces blocked OPCW inspectors from the site of the attack for weeks after the attack.

Despite intense strikes by the US, the UK, and France, the Syrian regime ultimately achieved its mission in Eastern Ghouta, driving the rebel group Jaysh al-Islam from the region.

“Assad and Russia don’t use chemical weapons simply for the sake of using chemical weapons,” Cafarella said. “They intend to cause an effect with chemical weapons that they then can exploit by advancing on the ground.”

Nevertheless, it’s still an open question as to whether an attack on Idlib will actually happen.

“The Turks are blocking the offensive,” Cafarella said. “The Turks and Russians continue to frame their discussion from the lens of cooperation, but that’s not actually what’s happening.”

Cafarella said that Turkey may allow a partial offensive in Idlib, but that Ankara can’t afford “to have another massive Syrian refugee flow towards the Turkish border.”

On Aug. 30, 2018, the United Nations called on Russia, Turkey, and Iran to hold off on the Idlib assault, fearing a humanitarian disaster for the province’s nearly 3 million civilians, and that chemical weapons could be used by either the Syrian regime or militants themselves.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is looking for ways to keep generals from misbehaving

Struggling with an embarrassing series of misconduct and behavior problems among senior officers, the Army is putting together new mental health, counseling, and career management programs to shape stronger, more ethical leaders.


The programs stem from a broader worry across the military about the need to bolster professionalism within the officer corps while holding accountable those who abuse their power. The Army plan appears to focus more on building character than berating bad conduct.

In recent years, general officers from the one-star to four-star level have violated the military code of conduct they’ve lived under and enforced — often for decades. Some infractions involved extramarital affairs, inappropriate relationships with subordinates, or improper use of government funds.

Also read: This is why ‘General Butt Naked’ was the most feared warlord in Liberia

“The idea that we’ll be perfect, I think, is unrealistic, but we can be better and we strive to be better,” said Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, tasked by the Army’s top officer to review the problem and devise ways to strengthen the senior officer corps. “Competence is no longer enough. Character is as or even more important.”

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Maj. Gen. John G. Rossi, Feb. 11, 2015. Photo by David Vergun.

Among the incidents fueling the order was the suicide of Maj. Gen. John Rossi shortly before he was to become lieutenant general and assume control of Space and Missile Defense Command. Army leaders worry they missed opportunities to deal with the high levels of stress and self-doubt that reportedly led Rossi to hang himself.

In the past nine months, the Army found two senior officers guilty of misconduct, forcing them out of their jobs and demoting them as they retired. One lost two stars; the other lost three.

“We recognized senior executive leaders, with varying amounts of stress, lacked a holistic program that focuses on comprehensive health,” said Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff. The military has strived to combat stress disorders, suicide, and other problems, he said, but the focus often has been on enlisted troops or lower-ranking officers.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
General Mark Milley. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker.

A new emphasis on senior leaders is needed, he said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Cardon said several pilot programs have started and others are under discussion.

The Army, he said, needs to better help officers manage stress, organize calendars, make time for physical fitness, take time off, and reach out to mentors or coaches for support.

Cardon said a key effort is finding ways to build self-control and self-awareness, ensuring officers and their families can quickly recognize and deal with problems that arise. Ethical behavior should be reinforced.

More reading: That time a Navy admiral left Marines hanging during a Japanese attack

“Most generals are very good at morphing themselves,” Cardon said. “They can be with the troops and they present this persona. They can be with the secretary and they present that persona. They’re very good at it and they get even better. The challenge is how do you uncover all that, and I think this is where that self-awareness, self-control, self-mastery has to help us out.”

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon. Photo by David Vergun.

Accurate numbers of senior Army leaders who have been disciplined or fired from a job for bad behavior are limited and unreliable. Some officers quietly retire or move to a different post, sometimes with an official reprimand in the file. Or sometimes without.

In response to a request for data, the Army said there have been nine general officers “relieved of duty” among active duty, the National Guard, and Army Reserves since 2012. Two high-profile cases in which senior officers were forced out and demoted weren’t included in those statistics due to complicated legal or administrative reasons, making it clear the numbers underestimate the problem.

One pilot program, said Cardon, creates a one-stop health care facility replacing the military’s often far-flung, disjointed, multistep system. It’s modeled after executive clinics that take a more in-depth, holistic approach to medical care.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Gen. Arthur Lichte. The US Air Force has stripped retired Gen. Arthur Lichte of two ranks and docked a portion of his retirement pay due to sexual misconduct. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse.

Other ideas focus on time management, encouraging high-level officers to take longer vacations. He said every general should take 10 to 14 uninterrupted days off each year to unplug, breaking with a military culture making them believe they’re too important to disconnect.

On schedules, officers would be urged not to overbook themselves. Packing their calendars with events all day and every evening can increase stress and make it difficult to prioritize.

The role that chaplains, mentors, executive coaches, and colleagues can play is being studied, and how individual or group discussions might help.

Too often, three-star and four-star generals working as base commanders are posted in remote locations around the world and have few or no equals in rank to socialize with or ask for advice. They can become isolated, ego-driven, or surrounded by subordinates afraid to challenge them on inappropriate behavior.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Army Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby. Grigsby has since been demoted by the Army and forced to retire after an investigation determined that he had an inappropriate relationship with a junior officer. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie.

A possibility, said Cardon, are programs strengthening officers’ relationships with spouses, who often notice problems first. Ninety percent of the approximately 330 active duty generals are married, he said.

Army officials stress only a minority of general officers are problems.

“We have tolerated people doing things they shouldn’t be doing because we say all of them are extremely competent and really good at what they do. And that’s not good enough now because you’re not only damaging yourself, you’re damaging the institution,” Cardon said. “We have great trust with the American people, every time one of these things happens, you’re putting a nick in that.”

Articles

These 6 heroes of Desert Storm may warrant medal upgrades

With some recent upgrades to medals for heroism during the War on Terror, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at some awards from Desert Storm. During that conflict, no Medals of Honor or Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded, but there were two Navy Crosses and two Air Force Crosses.


Without further ado, here are six people whose awards may warrant an upgrade:

1.William F. Andrews

Awards to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross

Then a captain flying the F-16, Andrews received three awards for valor during Desert Storm. Two of them were the Distinguished Flying Cross, one was the Air Force Cross.

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission on Jan. 9, 2008. (Dept. of Defense photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force.)

The DFC awarded for his actions on Jan. 23, 1991, looks like it should be upgraded – Andrews pressed his attack through heavy fire to put ordnance on the target.

The other medal warranting an upgrade should be the Air Force Cross for his actions on Feb. 27, 1991. After ejecting from his damaged F-16, Andrews was injured upon landing. Despite his injuries, Andrews chose to remain in the open and warned fellow pilots of threats until he was captured by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

2. Richard A. Cody

Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
The pilot of an AH-64 Apache helicopter from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade fires AGM-114 Hellfire missiles during the combined arms live fire training exercise for Saber Strike 16 at the Estonian Defense Forces central training area near Tapa, Estonia on June 20, 2016. (Minnesota National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

Then a lieutenant colonel commanding an attack helicopter battalion, Richard Cody drew the tough task of leading Task Force Normandy to forcibly open a gap in Iraqi radar coverage. It was a very high-stakes mission – if Cody failed, Saddam’s regime would have plenty of time to give Coalition pilots warning. Task Force Normandy succeeded, and the Coalition lost only one aircraft on the opening night.

3. Randy S. Wenzel

Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross

At the time, Wenzel was a major, and took part in a massive strike on Jan. 18, 1991. Wenzel pressed his attack despite heavy fire from enemy surface-to-air missiles, putting his bombs on the Habbiniyah artillery mission. According to his citation, the successful strike “severely reduced” the ability of Saddam’s regime to produce replacement artillery pieces.

4. Richard Balwanz

Award to upgrade: Silver Star

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
ODA 525, which Richard Balwanz led. Shortly after they infiltrated, they were discovered by civilians. (DOD photo)

Over a decade before the events that would be described in the book and movie Lone Survivor, Richard Balwanz faced the same situation Michael Murphy did. He made the same decision. As the Daily Caller notes, Balwanz brought his entire team back.

As an interesting trivia note, William Andrews received his second Distinguished Flying Cross flying support for Balwanz’s unit.

5. Keith Dewayne Andrews

Award to upgrade: Silver Star

Andrews was with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), part of the “left hook” that flanked the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait, when he received the Silver Star for rescuing five troops who were pinned down by two Iraqi machine gun positions. According to his citation, Andrews made his way through a minefield to take out the first position with a hand grenade. Then, like Brian Chontosh did during Iraqi Freedom, he grabbed an enemy weapon and took out the second position.

Pure badass stuff.

6. Thomas J. Trask

Award to upgrade: Silver Star

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans
A U.S. Air Force MH-53 Pave Low. Thomas J, Task flew a similar helicopter within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While he is a three-star general today, Thomas J. Trask was a captain when he received the Silver Star as a MH-53J Pave Low pilot. While it is not exactly unarmed (GlobalSecurity.org notes it has three .50-caliber machine guns or 7.62mm miniguns), it’s not exactly the best option if you face off against enemy SAMs or AAA. Yet Trask went within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot.

That took a ton of guts and skill.

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