Here's a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

The Pentagon released the name of a Special Forces soldier who was killed by an improvised bomb attack during a night raid with Afghan commandos in the restive Helmand province, a reminder that the fight continues 15 years after American troops first landed there.


Staff Sgt. Matthew Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California, was killed while accompanying Afghan special forces on a raid near Lashkar Gah. Thompson was a Green Beret with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces group based in Washington and died Aug. 23 alongside six of his Afghan comrades.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. — Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California, died Aug. 23, 2016, of wounds received from an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Another American servicemember was wounded in the attack and remains in stable condition at a hospital in Afghanistan, officials say.

“This tragic event in Helmand province reminds us that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and there is difficult work ahead even as Afghan forces continue to make progress in securing their own country,” Pentagon chief Ash Carter said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the government of Afghanistan and our NATO partners to bolster the capabilities of the [Afghan national defense and security forces] so they can provide the people of Afghanistan the peace they deserve.”

The deaths came on the eve of a brazen attack on the American University in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed 14 and wounded 35. No Americans are among the casualties so far.

The top spokesman for the NATO mission in Afghanistan said special operations troops, many of them Americans, are on missions nearly every night throughout the country advising Afghan commandos who are targeting Taliban holdouts in key areas. He said that about 10 percent of Afghan special forces missions include NATO troops, but they’re not usually engaged in the fighting.

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower)

“This is something that we do nationwide [so] it’s possible that we have some NATO [special operations force] element out in the field on any given night,” said Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland during an Aug. 25 press conference. “Our role in that, of course, is that we don’t participate, we don’t go on the objective, but we provide the assistance they require.”

Cleveland said about 80 percent of Afghan special operations missions are conducted solo, with another 10 percent incorporating NATO and U.S. help in the rear, including intelligence and surveillance support.

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan
A U.S. Special Forces soldier, attached to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, and an Afghan National Army commando, of 6th Special Operations Kandak, scan the area for enemy movement after taking direct fire from insurgents during an operation in Khogyani district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, March 20, 2014. Commandos, advised and assisted by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, conducted the operation to disrupt insurgent freedom of maneuver. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Connor Mendez)

He added that the Taliban have been unable to hold any major city or town, and typically raid a checkpoint, steal equipment and are pushed out by Afghan forces some time later.

The operation in which Thompson was killed included an effort by Afghan special forces to interdict Taliban insurgents on the outskirts of the key Helmand town of Lashkar Gah. It was a “fairly large operation,” Cleveland said.

“It was an effort to clear out Taliban strongholds so conventional forces could move in,” he said.

Though violence has been on an upsurge as the summer fighting season crests, officials say the Taliban isn’t able to mount an effective, large-scale assault to win coveted territory and sanctuary.

“The idea that they’re this invincible force, moving ahead and claiming territory we don’t believe is accurate,” Cleveland said. “We don’t think there’s a massive, invincible offensive coming from the Taliban.”

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6 ways the military upgrades your personal style

When young men and women join the military, they soon realize that there’s not a lot of room for personal style — you’re going to end up looking like everybody else.


That’s very true because you have joined a club that wears the same trousers and blouses as the person next to you.

Since you’re now wearing a uniform that you technically didn’t pick out, you may feel that you like your ability to be “you” is gone forever — but that’s not true.

Related: This is why sailors have 13 buttons on their trousers

So check out our list of how the military upgrades your personal style.

1. Physical training

It’s not every service member’s goal to go out and win the Mr. Olympia body building contest — we get it. But since we get physically tested nearly on a daily basis depending on your occupation, we tend to build a little muscle here and there.

Plus, members of the opposite sex tend to like a guy or gal that’s in shape — just saying.

We guess she liked that. (Image via Giphy)

2. Dental

Although the military doesn’t provide service members cosmetic dental work, getting your cavities filled for free is a much better option than walking around with a big a** hole in your #2 mural.

They declare war on cavities. (Image via Giphy)

3. Dress uniform

Since women love a man in uniform, all service members are in luck because you have to wear one practically every single day. Having a dress uniform ready to go in your closet can also save you a bunch of money from having to rent or buy a tux for your upcoming wedding.

See, it’s all in the uniform. (Image via Giphy)

4. Housing

Many of us join the military to escape an unsatisfying life back home. Most of the newbies will end up living in the barracks their first few years in the service until they get married or promoted. In recent years, the government has spent a lot of dinero to improve base housing.

This is a huge step up from when you were sharing a room with your little brother back home.

Base housing in the Air Force. (Image via Giphy)

5. Vision

If you have crappy vision heading into the military, you’re going to end up wearing BCGs at least through boot camp. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can upgrade your spectacles once you graduate and even put in a request to get a Lasik procedure through your chain of command.

Not bad right?

Not that type of vision. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: This is why ACUs have buttons on their pants and a zipper on the blouse

6. Reliable paychecks

We don’t make millions, but we do get paid on time every 1st and 15th of the month (unless you get in trouble). For many newbies, that on-time payment system is the ultimate upgrade.

No, you shut up. (Image via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan
Visiting the space center as invited guests of STS-63 Pilot Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle pilot and later the first female shuttle commander, are (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman. (Photo: NASA)


Dr. Randy Lovelace was a Harvard-educated flight surgeon with the U.S. Army who became a pioneer in aeromedicine and aviation physiology — particularly with the issues surrounding high-altitude flight. He was instrumental in developing the first oxygen masks and other adaptive equipment that allowed aviators to survive in low space.

In 1940 Lovelace met Jackie Cochran, a record-holding air racer who petitioned First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to use women as pilots on the homefront in a variety of non-combat missions. That idea turned into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, better known as “WASPs,” during World War II. These female aviators served in crucial roles — test pilots, ferry pilots and maintenance check pilots — that freed up more male pilots to fight the battles that were raging across the globe. A few years later Cochran, by virtue of her friendship with Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier. After that, she became the first woman to land an airplane on an aircraft carrier.

So when NASA started fielding candidates for what would eventually become the Mercury 7 astronauts, Lovelace and Cochran started a parallel effort that mirrored NASA’s rigorous testing — doable because Lovelace was a key player in designing the official program for the space agency. Along the way they asked another record-breaking female aviator, Jerrie Cobb, to join the effort. The three of them scrubbed the veteran WASP community — a population of over 700 pilots — and came up with 13 qualified females willing and able to go through their NASA-like testing.

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan
Jerrie Cobb with Mercury capsule. (Photo: NASA)

Cobb dubbed the group “Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees” or “FLATs.” The 13 went through a series of stressful evaluations designed to see if they could hold up under the conditions in space. Ice water was injected into their ears to induce vertigo. Painful electric shocks were administered to test reflexes. Weighted stationary bicycles were used to rapidly push candidates to exhaustion. And that was just Phase I of the testing.

All 13 of the women passed Phase I, but because of family and job commitments, only three of them — Jerrie Cobb, Rhea Hurrle, and Wally Funk — were able to travel to Oklahoma City for Phase II. Phase II involved psychological evaluations — including one that had them sit in an isolation tank for an extended period. All three woman passed.

After Jerrie Cobb passed Phase III, which included actual flights in military jet aircraft, the rest of the FLATs were invited to follow suit. But before they could gather at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the designated location, U.S. Navy officials at the base sent a telegram to the candidates that informed them that support for the project had been withdrawn because the request hadn’t come through NASA channels.

That ruling infuriated Cobb, and in 1962 she flew to Washington, D.C., to petition lawmakers to make the FLATs program an official part of NASA. Her efforts led to Rep. Victor Anfuso, R-NY, convening public hearings before a special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. Cobb’s testimony introduced gender discrimination into the Hill’s conversation well before the Civil Right Act of 1964 made it illegal.

But the way forward for the FLATs was plagued by infighting among the principals more than unresponsive congressmen. Jackie Cochran, of all people, sensing she was losing clout among her peers, testified that setting up a special program to help women would hurt NASA. Cochran’s negative view was multiplied by the opinions of a handful of Mercury 7 astronauts, including John Glenn, who said that the absence of women in the program was “a fact of our social order.”

Glenn also pointed out that astronaut candidates were required to be graduates of one of the military’s test pilot schools, something women were not qualified to apply for in 1962, and NASA had already indicated it had no desire to waive the requirement by giving females credit for the massive amount of flight experience they had — in some cases many more flight hours than the Mercury 7 selectees. Although some in congress were sympathetic to the FLATs’ plight, Cobb’s Capitol Hill visit didn’t result in any meaningful support.

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963. In response, “Life” magazine published an article criticizing NASA and American decision makers. The article included photographs of all 13 FLATs, which made the entire group of women public for the first time.

NASA did not select any female astronaut candidates until 1978. Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983, and in 1995 Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. At Collins’ invitation, seven of the surviving FLATs attended her launch.

In 1995, while working on a film adaptation of the FLATs’ story, Hollywood producer James Cross coined the label “Mercury 13” for the FLATs. (Look for that title in a theater near you in the years to come.)

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 5 edition)

Here are the headlines:


Now: How an act of mercy made fishing buddies out of airborne adversaries

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Top Marines explain why recruit training must go on despite coronavirus concerns

As the entire Defense Department continues to make changes in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sergeant Major Troy E. Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, delivered a video message to the entire Corps on Monday, thanking Marines and families for their continued effort in this difficult time. The top Marines also explained why training must continue at Recruit Training, and Marine Corps-wide, despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.

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The message was first shared via the Marine Corps’ Facebook Page, and has since been disseminated on a number of other outlets.

General Berger opened the video by acknowledging the difficult times Marines and their families have been facing and will continue to in the weeks to come. The Commandant made a point, early in the video, to tell families that they should be proud of the hard work their loved ones in uniform are doing throughout this difficult time. He also assured families that every measure is being taken to help ensure Marines remain safe and healthy as they continue to work and train amid the pandemic. The two went on to thank unit commanders for exercising good judgement despite the uncertainty that has come along with some elements of the spread of COVID-19.

“As leaders, we know what right looks like. It may look different tomorrow, but today right looks like this, and you make that call,” Sgt. Major Black says during the video.
“And you have the Sergeant Major’s and my full support, we back you all the way,” General Berger added.

Near the end of the video, General Berger explained in clear language why the Marine Corps can’t simply stop training, and why recruit training facilities like MCRDs San Diego and Parris Island are so essential to the Marine Corps’ readiness and the nation’s defense as a whole even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, climb various obstacles in the obstacle course for recruits on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. The obstacle course is composed of different obstacles that are designed to physically and mentally challenge recruits. USMC photo/Dylan Walters

“Why do we continue to do recruit training in the middle of this terrible virus?” General Berger asked himself aloud rhetorically.
“We never get the chance to pick the next crises, where it happens, or when it happens. When the president calls, Marines and the Navy team, we respond immediately. So we must continue to train. We have to continue recruit training, because this nation relies on its Marine Corps, especially in tough times.”

For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.

If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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What it was like in the room when Germany finally surrendered to end WWII in Europe

In the early morning hours of May 7, 1945, the remnants of Nazi Germany’s military leadership signed an unconditional surrender to Allied forces.


When the news broke the next day, soldiers and civilians around the world heralded Victory in Europe Day — the Soviet Union would mark Victory Day on May 9 — exuberant about the end of nearly six years of war that had destroyed much of Europe.

When German and Allied military officials gathered again in Berlin near midnight on May 8 to sign surrender documents, the atmosphere in the room was laden with emotional and political weight.

The Germans, characteristically severe, went through the proceedings in a mix of resignation and resentment, while the Soviets, Americans, and other Allies were relieved at the war’s conclusion.

All of them were uncertain what would come next.

Historian Antony Beevor’s sweeping history of the final months on the eastern front, “The Fall of Berlin 1945,” captured the mood in the room as victors and vanquished gathered to bring their conflict to an end:

“Just before midnight the representatives of the allies entered the hall ‘in a two-storey building of the former canteen of the German military engineering college in Karlshorst.’ General Bogdanov, the commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army, and another Soviet general sat down by mistake on seats reserved for the German delegation.”
“A staff officer whispered in their ears and ‘they jumped up, literally as if stung by a snake’ and went to sit at another table. Western pressmen and newreel cameramen apparently ‘behaved like madmen’. In their desperation for good positions, they were shoving generals aside and tried to push in behind the top table under the flags of the four allies.”

The German delegation then entered the room — its members looking both “resigned” and “imperious.”

Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, commander of the Nazi armed forces during the final days of the war, “sat very straight in his chair, with clenched fists,” Beevor wrote. “Just behind him, a tall German staff officer standing to attention ‘was crying without a single muscle of his face moving.'”

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

Gen. Georgy Zhukov, a senior Soviet commander during the war’s final days, stood to invite the Germans “to sign the act of capitulation.” Keitel, impatient, gestured for the documents to be brought to him. “Tell them to come here to sign,” Zhukov said.

Keitel walked over to sign, “ostentatiously” removing his gloves to do so, unaware that the representative for the chief of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, was lingering just over his shoulder.

“‘The German delegation may leave the hall,'” Zhukov said once the signing was complete, Beevor wrote, adding:

“The three men stood up. Keitel, ‘his jowls hanging heavily like a bulldog’s’, raised his marshal’s baton in salute, then turned on his heel. As the door closed behind them, it was almost as if everybody would in the room exhaled in unison. The tension relaxed instantaneously. Zhukov was smiling, so was [British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur] Tedder. Everybody began to talk animatedly and shake hands. Soviet officers embraced each other with bear hugs.”
“The party which followed went on until almost dawn, with songs and dances. Marshal Zhukov himself danced the Russkaya to loud cheers from his generals. From inside, they could clearly hear gunfire all over the city as officers and soldiers blasted their remaining ammunition into the night sky in celebration. The war was over.”

The chaos of the war had ceased, but for Soviets and Germans other hardships were to come.

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan
An aerial (oblique) photograph taken from a De Havilland Mosquito of the RAF Film and Photographic Unit showing badly damaged buildings in the area between Friedrich Hain and Lichtenberg, Berlin. | Royal Air Force

Zhukov, long a confidant of Stalin, earned glory for his command during the war, but he would soon find himself on the outs with the mercurial Soviet leader.

Keitel would face war-crimes charges, including crimes against humanity. He was convicted and hanged in October 1946. Like other Nazi leaders who were hanged, Keitel’s body didn’t drop with enough force to break his neck. He dangled at the end of the hangman’s rope for 24 minutes before dying.

Germans, many of them under the yoke of the Soviet Union, would struggle to rebuild both physically from the war and emotionally from their encounter with Allies forces — Soviet soldiers in particular. Berlin, buffered by two weeks of intense urban fighting, was shattered.

The Soviet Union’s drive for political vengeance and economic advantage lead it to hobble or strip much of East Germany’s infrastructure and resources.

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China just deployed troops to its first overseas base alongside US outpost

China dispatched members of its People’s Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti July 11 to man the rising Asian giant’s first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China’s armed forces.


The defense ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval peer in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.

It said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.

China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia. It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China’s growing economic and political footprint.

Djibouti is already home to the center of American operations in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, while France, Britain, Japan and other nations also maintain a military presence in the small but strategically located nation.

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan
Chinese special operations forces raid a civilian ocean transport during a counter-piracy mission. (Photo from Chinese Ministry of Defense)

Multinational anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden that China joined in 2008 have also given its navy ready access to the Mediterranean, and, in 2011, it took the unprecedented step of sending one of its most sophisticated warships together with military transport aircraft to help in the evacuation of about 35,000 Chinese citizens from Libya.

In 2015, China detached three navy ships from the anti-piracy patrols to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from fighting in Yemen. The same year, it took part in its first Mediterranean joint naval exercises with Russia.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why ‘Phoenix Raven’ is the Air Force’s most rigorous training

The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.


The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.

This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.

Providing security

The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan
Air Force Staff Sgt. Kayla Wadley, bottom, and Air Force Airman Emmanuel Benitez, both students in a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, participate in a physical training session, Jan. 30, 2018. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.

The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.

Vigorous physical training

The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.

Also read: Here are the best military photos for the week of November 25th

McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.

“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”

Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.

MIGHTY MONEY

Hilton wants a staff full of US military veterans

Working in a hotel is no joke – those jobs are hard. Think about how hard you worked in basic training under the latrine queen, using a dirty sock to dust the day room, and how clean the barracks had to be to pass a drill sergeant’s inspection. Even if you’re looking to work in management, Hilton hotels host hundreds of thousands of event every year. It’s suddenly your job to manage that. Wherever you’re working in a hotel, it takes grit, organization, and attention to detail.

Do those traits sound familiar? They do to Hilton Hotels.


Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

And to Hilton founder Conrad Hilton, a World War I veteran who served in France.

This might be part of the reason Hilton is all aboard with the mission of hiring 20,000 veterans by 2020. That is a good chunk of the hotel brand’s overall employees. As a matter of fact, when Hilton completes its most current mission, hires from the military-veteran community will comprise more than 17 percent of the company’s overall workforce. It first launched the initiative to hire 10,000 vets and spouses by 2020 but upon completing that mission two years early, Hilton set the goal to hire an additional 20,000 in the same time frame. That’s an astonishing dedication to the community of veterans.

It’s part of an initiative named Operation: Opportunity. The company and its CEO Chris Nassetta believes in what they call “the military skill set.” The hotel chain believes veterans bring incredible assets to their team and are affecting the company culture for the better as a result. So it makes sense for Hilton to hire as many veterans as possible. These skills include discipline, organization, problem solving, and teamwork.

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

Yeah, vets might know a little something about all that.

The company says hiring veterans is not only the right thing, but is also helping the company achieve its own goals.

“Operation: Opportunity is a shining example of the convergence of doing something that is good for society, good for our business, and good for our culture,” says CEO Chris Nassetta.

Hilton has a long history of supporting veterans, dating back to founder and Army vet Conrad Hilton’s postwar years. The elder Hilton had a knack for hiring vets after World War II, giving Korean War veterans and their families free nights (and spending money!) at some of his most popular hotels. Even during Vietnam, troops could get a free RR stay at the Hiltons in Hawaii.

The decision to hire veterans picks up where Conrad’s legacy left off, ensuring veterans have sustainable employment in a growing industry with one of the world’s top hospitality brands. Hilton is even supporting a number of veteran-related non-profits, no more appropriate than the Military Influencer Conference.

These days, Hilton may not be able to give veterans their own Hilton to run, but they do provide opportunity and training to run their own businesses through donating to events like the Military Influencer Conference. If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

To learn more about a job with Hilton, check out Hilton’s job search website – and don’t forget to list your veteran status.

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This veteran refuses to leave his unemployed and debt-ridden comrades behind

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.


Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan
Photo: Youtube

When Eli Williamson returned from two deployments to the Middle East, his hometown of Chicago felt at times like a foreign battleground, the memory of desert roads more familiar than Windy City central thoroughfares. As he relearned the city, Williamson noticed a strange similarity between veterans like himself and the young people growing up in tough parts of Chicago. Too many had witnessed violence, and they had little support to cope with the trauma.

Applying the timeworn principle of leaving no soldier, sailor, airman or marine behind, Williamson co-founded Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB), a national nonprofit focused on securing education and employment for our warriors. Williamson formed the organization based on “just real stupid” and “crazy” idealism: “You know what?” he says. “I can make a difference.” Since work began in 2008, with a measly operating budget of $4,674 to help pay off student loans, LNVB has eliminated around $150,000 of school debt and provided 750 transitional jobs, Williamson says.

“Coming out of the military, every individual is going to have his or her challenges,” says Williamson, who served as a psychological operations specialist and an Arabic linguist in Iraq in 2004 and in Afghanistan in 2007. “We’ve seen veterans with substance abuse issues, homelessness issues.” Additionally, at least one in five veterans suffer from PTSD, and almost 50,000 are homeless and 573,000 are unemployed.

Williamson started the group with his childhood friend Roy Sartin. They first met in high school, when they joined choir and band together. “I think we’ve been arguing like old women every since,” Williamson says. Both joined the U.S. Army Reserves while at Iowa’s Luther College and were mobilized to active duty during their senior year after the Twin Towers fell. Williamson finished his education at the Special Warfare Training Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, while Sartin put his learning on hold.

Upon return, both struggled with crippling interest rates on their student loans. Sartin received a call from the loan company saying that he needed to make a $20,000 payment. “Although I had the funds, it was just enough to get myself back together. So, for me, the transition wasn’t as tough, but I was one of the lucky ones.” Williamson got a bill for $2,200 only 22 days before the balance was due. Desperate, he took to the streets playing music to cover the costs.

After talking with other vets, the two realized that many didn’t qualify for the military’s debt repayment programs. That’s when they started going out to financial sources for “retroactive scholarships” for our country’s defenders. And they sought employment opportunities for former military members to help cover the rest.

Jobs and debt relief for our nation’s warriors are the main focus of LNVB, but the group oversees several initiatives, including S.T.E.A.M. Corps, which pairs vets with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math experience with at-risk youth. More than 200 students have graduated from S.T.E.A.M., but Williamson, director of veteran affairs at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, points to a more intangible benefit of his non-profit’s work: the ability for veterans “to articulate a larger vision of themselves … is our advocacy mission,” he says.

“Veterans can paint a vision for where our country needs to be, and the only reason we can do that is because you realize that you are part of something larger than yourself,” Williamson adds. “That’s a fundamental value that veterans can share, as they leave military, with the communities that they come back to.” For those who’ve just returned home from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, in other words, service is just beginning.

More from NationSwell:

This article originally appeared at NationSwell Copyright 2015. Follow NationSwell on Twitter.

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This movie about an Iraq War troop based on an acclaimed book is a surefire Oscar contender

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan


It’s never too early to start up Oscar talk, and after watching the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” you’ll know what I mean.

Director Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) latest movie looks at the victory tour of 19-year-old soldier Billy Lynn after an intense tour in Iraq. The film shows what really happened over there through flashbacks and contrasts that with the perception of Billy and his squad back home.

It’s based on the universally praised 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. For that and Ang Lee’s name alone, it’s sure to get a lot of attention.

Shot in 3D, the movie is certain to be visually stunning. But it also looks like it has the emotional weight to carry it to award season.

The film stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.

Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in November.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The massive C-5 Galaxies are becoming air ambulances

During a cold, gloomy first week of December, total force airmen teamed up at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to test the capability of the Air Force’s largest aircraft to perform aeromedical evacuation during a proof of concept event.

The goal was to establish the C-5M Super Galaxy as part of the universal qualification training program for AE forces. If successfully certified, the C-5M will have the capability to move three times the current capacity in one mission compared to other AE platforms.


The PoC event was made possible by recent upgrades to the C-5M that made the cargo compartment more suitable for AE operations.

“The engine upgrade allowed the aircraft to produce a lot more power and to use the jet more efficiently,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Boots, 60th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation C-5M flight engineer evaluator. “Another factor was the environmental system received upgrades. We now have better control over the systems and we’re able to better control the environment (temperature and cabin pressure) that the AE folks would have downstairs in the cargo compartment.”

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

Airmen with the 22nd Airlift Squadron and 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., along with Air Mobility Command airmen onload aeromedical evacuation equipment onto a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., during an AE proof of concept evaluation, Dec. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

The C-5M upgrades allowed the proof of concept to work, but the airmen’s innovation is what made it happen.

“The Air Force as a whole is more interested in using the assets that we have more efficiently and maximizing the capability that we can get out of different airplanes,” said Maj. Kevin Simonds, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M pilot. “I think this is an example of that. It’s a priority within the force and in the MAJCOM (Air Mobility Command) as well to try to maximize the way we use the assets that we have.”

With the Department of Defense’s shift to focus on great power competition and maintaining readiness, the C-5M’s greater capability to the AE enterprise could be a game changer.

“It was great to observe, first hand, our airmen working hard to make innovative strides using our existing platforms to get after a critical mission set,” said Brig. Gen. Darren James, AMC’s Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration director. “Last week’s test provided valuable learning as we move forward in evaluating ways to increase our readiness and support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.”

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Ethan Heitner, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, completes a post-flight inspection on a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft after an aeromedical evacuation proof of concept flight at Scott AFB, Ill., Dec. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

Not only will the C-5M AE mission benefit readiness for any future conflict(s), it will be a benefit during any future natural disasters.

“Using the C-5 for AE is going to be a pivotal point moving forward because it can be another platform for AE to move troops and also to aid in humanitarian missions and perform mass evacuations,” said Maj. Catherine Paterson, 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse.

The C-5M and crew traveled from Travis AFB. They were joined in the PoCby other active-duty airmen and civilians from AMC, Scott AFB and the 43rd AES,Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina. Reserve AE teams from the 439th AES,Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, 433rd AES, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Lastly, the team included the 142nd AES, Delaware Air National Guard, making it a total force effort.

This effort allowed for training standardization and boosted readiness for operational missions.

Here’s a tragic reminder that Americans are still in the fight in Afghanistan

Aeromedical evacuation team members participate in a training scenerio during a C-5M Super Galaxy AE proof of concept flight from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Dec. 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

“It’s always beneficial to have the total force working together as one team,” said Paterson. “You always learn new things from working along with people from different backgrounds. You get different ideas, different concepts and you work together with the sole purpose of bringing troops home safely.”

With the proof of concept successfully testing the cargo department as a viable option for AE missions, the AE community is waiting for the Air Force to certify the use of the platform before the C-5M is officially part of their mission.

“We have made a great amount of progress in the last eight months,” said Maj. John Camacho-Ayala, Headquarters AMC branch chief for aeromedical evacuation operations and training. “I think that sometime in the near future we will definitely have a C-5M as part of our arsenal and a part of our weapons systems for the AE enterprise.”

Once all the certifications are completed, the AE community will gain their biggest ally yet with the Air Force’s largest plane.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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