Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was one of four US troops killed Tuesday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
Sgt. Elchin, a 25-year-old from Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was highly decorated for his age, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Interviews conducted by the newspaper show the sergeant was a devoted hero with a kind heart.
His brother, Aaron Elchin, told the newspaper about the last time he spoke with his younger brother, who was assigned to 26th Special Tactics Squadron.
Sgt. Elchin’s awards included the Bronze Star Medal, the military’s fourth-highest award for meritorious service in a combat zone. He also received a Purple Heart and Commendation Medals from both the Air Force and the Army, according to the Post-Gazette.
“I think it is very unusual to be so highly decorated,” he said. “But you’ve got to understand, Dylan was very dedicated in everything that he did.”
Sgt. Elchin enlisted as a combat controller in 2012. In high school, he had a variety of interests; he played the horn in the high school band and also participated in the school’s shop program, according to the Post-Gazette. He was also known for his kind nature.
“[Dylan] was part of a student group who sent holiday cards to residents at McGuire Memorial, a school for students with individualized special education needs,” said Carrie Rowe, Elchin’s former middle school principal, told the newspaper. “Dylan’s Beaver Area School District family will remember him as a young man with a kind heart, who was studious, curious about life, and loved his family.”
Aaron Elchin told the Post-Gazette his family is living in a state of shock since learning about the explosion, one of the deadliest attacks against American forces since 2017.
“We’re all basically waiting to wake up,” he told the newspaper. “We feel like we’re in a giant fog, and we just don’t want to believe it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
From the time the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, infantry Marines are out on the range or catching some much-needed shut-eye — usually in an uncomfortable place.
While on active duty, they’ll lament their decision-making history while hauling heavy combat loads across the rough and unforgiving terrain or missing important events back home or, you know, taking fire from terrorists.
But at the end of the day, ask any Marine and they’ll tell you: all that blood and sweat they shed was worth it. Not only that, their shared hardships become the foundation of some epic memories.
Life after the military can be a challenging and confusing time as many veterans attempt to find themselves. For the Marine-turned-rapper known as Fitzy Mess, using his passion for music to help tell the stories of his unique experiences is a way of easing the transition.
“To tell the truth its fun as hell for me, puking up booze while my platoon sergeant yells at me,” Fitzy Mess raps.
We’ve all been there, Fitzy Mess. We’ve all been there…
One of the strange perks to quarantine is the seemingly normal interaction the world is having with celebrities. Folks who are used to being on tour, in studios all the time and on shows, are now just as bored as the rest of us.
Sure, they might be less bored in their 7,000 square foot home than we are in our “more humble” abodes, and maybe the walls don’t feel like they’re closing in on them because they can stroll their seemingly endless grounds or swim in their infinity pool, but you get the point.
For today’s viewing pleasure, it’s none other than the legend himself, Neil Diamond, strumming his guitar with his dog by his fireplace and rewriting the lyrics to the classic, “Sweet Caroline.”
Neil Diamond changes lyrics to “Sweet Caroline” in coronavirus PSA
Neil Diamond changes lyrics to “Sweet Caroline” in coronavirus PSA
Neil Diamond is doing his part to promote steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – and he found a creative way to do it.
In case you couldn’t love Diamond any more, here’s a fun fact for you: He’s a military brat. According to IMDb:
Neil Leslie Diamond was born in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York City, on January 24, 1941. His father, Akeeba “Kieve” Diamond, was a dry-goods merchant. Both he and wife Rose were Jewish immigrants from Poland. The Diamond family temporarily relocated to Cheyenne, Wyoming, because of Kieve Diamond’s military service during World War II. During their time in Wyoming, Neil fell in love with “singing cowboy” movies on matinée showings at the local cinema. After the end of World War II, Neil and his parents returned to Brooklyn. He was given a acoustic guitar for a birthday gift, which began his interest in music. At age 15 Neil wrote his first song, which he titled “Here Them Bells”.
At Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall High School, Neil sang in the 100-member fixed chorus, with classmate Barbra Streisand, although the two would not formally meet until over 20 years later. Neil and a friend, Jack Packer, formed a duo singing group called Neil Jack, and they sang at Long Island’s Little Neck Country Club and recorded a single for Shell Records. The record failed to sell, however, and the duo soon broke up.
In 1958 Neil entered New York University’s pre-med program to become a doctor, on a fencing scholarship. Medicine did not catch his interest as much as music did, though, and he dropped out at the end of his junior year, only 10 credits shy of graduation. He Diamond went to work for Sunbeam Music on Manhattan’s famous Tin Pan Alley. Making a week, he worked at tailoring songs to the needs and abilities of the company’s B-grade performers. Finding the work unrewarding, Neil soon quit. Renting a storage room in a printer’s shop located above the famed Birdland nightclub on Broadway, Neil began to live there and installed a piano and a pay telephone, and set about writing his songs his own way.
A chance encounter with the songwriting/record producing team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich led to a contract with Bang Records. In 1966 he recorded his first album, featuring hit singles such as “Solitary Man” and “Cherry, Cherry”. That same year Diamond appeared twice on Dick Clark‘s American Bandstand (1952) TV musical variety show. Also, The Monkees recorded several songs to which he wrote the music, including “I’m a Believer” which was a hit in 1967. A number of TV appearances followed, including singing gigs on The Mike Douglas Show (1961), The Merv Griffin Show (1962) and een a dramatic part as a rock singer on an episode of Mannix (1967). Filling a musical void that existed between Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, Diamond found wide acceptance among the young and old with his songs, but endured criticism that his music was too middle-of-the-road.
Diamond split with Bang Records in 1969, and signed a contract with California’s Uni label, for which he recorded his first gold records. In 1970 he introduced British rock star Elton John in his first Stateside appearance at Hollywood’s Troubador nightclub. In December 1971 Diamond signed a -million contract with Columbia Records, which led to more recording contracts and live concert appearances. In 1972 Diamond took a 40-month break from touring, during which he agreed to score the film Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973). Although Diamond’s soundtrack for that film earned him a Grammy Award, it was a box-office failure. Despite having worked with an acting coach since 1968, and talk of a five-picture acting contract with Universal Studios, Diamond remained inhibited by shyness of being in front of a camera. He turned down acting roles in every movie contract he was offered (among them was Bob Fosse‘s Lenny (1974) and Martin Scorsese‘s Taxi Driver (1976)). However, he did appear as himself with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young in the 1978 documentary The Last Waltz (1978). He appeared at the 1977 Academy Awards where he presented Barbra Streisand the Oscar for Best Song.
In the summer of 1976, on the eve of three Las Vegas shows, Diamond’s house in Bel Air was raided by the police because they received an anonymous tip that there were drugs and weapons stored there. The police found less than an ounce of marijuana. To have the arrest expunged from his recored, Diamond agreed to a six-month drug aversion program. In 1977 he starred in two TV specials for NBC. He had a cancer scare in 1979, when a tumor was found on his spine and had to be surgically removed, which confined him to a wheelchair for three months. During his recuperation he was given the script for the lead role in a planned remake of the early sound film The Jazz Singer (1927). Signing a id=”listicle-2645805266″-million contract to appear as the son of a Jewish cantor trying to succeed in the music industry, Diamond was cast opposite the legendary Laurence Olivier and Broadway actress Lucie Arnaz. Despite the almost universally negative reviews of the film, it grossed three times its budget when released late in 1980. In 1981 Diamond’s hit single, “America”, which was part of the film’s soundtrack, was used on news broadcasts to underscore the return of the American hostages from Iran.
Aware of his lack of acting talent, Diamond never acted in movie roles again, aside from making appearances as himself. A movie fan, he collaborated on writing the scores of many different soundtracks, which can be heard in such films as Cactus Flower (1969), Pulp Fiction (1994), Beautiful Girls (1996), Donnie Brasco (1997), Bringing Out the Dead (1999) and many more. He continues to occasionally perform in concerts and write a vast catalog of music which is recored by both him and other artists.
Pin-Ups For Vets is an organization that supports hospitalized veterans and deployed troops through nostalgic pin-up calendars.
The organization was founded by Gina Elise in 2006 after learning about under-funded veteran healthcare programs and lonely service members. Inspired by her grandfather who served during World War II and the pin-up girls of that era, Pin-Up For Vets was born. The calendars are:
used to raise funds for hospitalized veterans.
delivered as gifts to ill and injured veterans with messages of appreciation from the donors.
sent to deployed troops to help boost moral and to let them know that Americans back home are thinking of them.
Since starting the organization she’s crisscrossed the country to deliver gifts to hospitalized veterans at their bedsides and mailed hundreds more. Pin-Ups For Vets also ships care packages to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Proceeds from the organization are used to carry out its various veteran and troop initiatives.
Her latest project, the 2nd annual Salute and Shimmy World War II style fundraiser takes place Saturday, January 17th in Hollywood, CA. The event will feature burlesque acts, music, and more. RSVP here to attend.
In the meantime, here are 15 awesome photos from the Pin-Ups For Vets collection:
Gina Elise as a pin-up on a motorcycle…
Marine veteran Jovane Henrey as a runway pin-up…
Gina Elise prepping her bath tub…
Julia Reed Nichols in a two-piece…
Gina Elise as a pin-up at the bowling alley…
Navy veteran Jennifer Hope in a purple dress…
Gina Elise in a one-piece at the beach…
Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall in a green and black polka dot dress…
Those who know the power of “who you know” are all in on the best-kept friendship secret- networking is everything. Connections are opportunities, and opportunities always come in handy. No one does friendship better than entrepreneurs, and no one knows the growing pains of fluctuating friendships better than the military community. Tough, tenacious, and driven, military entrepreneurs are friendship masters.
Adult friendships are difficult to forge, and even harder to sustain, because like everything in the real world, it takes work. Working on the relationships in your life with the same mindset as landing the next interview is exactly the tactics this community needs to forge together and keep connections strong.
Here are your top lessons to be learned and how to make friends like an entrepreneur.
They maintain their contacts
Entrepreneurs see the untapped potential in all of us. They weave a network consisting of both an inner and outer circle. The inner circle, where core friendships and frequent interactions occur is reserved for just a few. The outer circle, where acquaintances and underdeveloped relationships live, is far more alive than most of our own contact lists.
In business, it is abundantly clear when a line of contact dries up. Keeping the relationship open, with reciprocal attention makes the difference in using someone and tapping in. No matter what circle you’re in, you’re more likely to feel better maintained by an entrepreneur than anyone else.
They get the ups and downs
Businesses all experience highs and lows, much like friendships. Entrepreneurial friends are more likely to understand the six-month gap since your last coffee together because they too have been busy hustling. No attachment issues here, only professionals who understand the dynamics of scheduling.
They know the value of their, and your contributions
Relationships are all about give and take, yet the currency exchanged is not always equal. Becoming aware of the amount you’re giving to a person, versus the takeaway for personal gain is key. Mentoring a friend or soldier through processes or progressions they are facing is like investing stock into a growing company. When and if it’s needed, asking for a favor becomes much more comfortable than if no prior investment was made.
Are the feelings mutual to trade babysitting for a lesson on web design? Understanding how time, effort, and wisdom are valued makes it a whole lot easier to avoid running the friendship into the ground with frustration. Entrepreneurs are successful because they know how, when, and what to ask to succeed.
They lean on each other
It’s already been established that it is about who you know. One major plus within the military is how expansive each of our networks is. Chances are, your friends know all the best places, people, and things to do in the area. Leaning in can not only land you in the right mom group but into the good graces of the Major who heard nothing but great news about you.
They’re always learning
If you’ve ever attended a conference, where good conversation is the make or break entrance ticket into a potential business relationship, you get the value of learning something new. Gaining professional insight, perspective, or a sweet party trick to entertain all play a vital role in successfully adapting to new environments. The same goes for friendship, the more tricks, and skills you have, the more interesting you become. Having multidimensional, talented friends makes your world a brighter, more upbeat place. Tap your entrepreneurial friends, putting new skills into your back pocket.
Take the time to review your circles and relationships. Evaluate who within the deck seems to deploy these or other skillful tactics in and out of the office. Invest in what you have and seek out new contacts with an entrepreneurial mindset. Growing your military call deck into a strong and mighty networking force to be reckoned with is the definition of resilience.
Many military service members and veterans have significant amounts of experience initiating, planning, leading, and briefing missions. Missions that have completion dates, and deliver unique results, capabilities, goods, or services to the commander. Since this is the very definition of projects, endeavors that are temporary and unique, it follows then that many military service members and veterans have significant amounts of project management experience.
The trick is translating it, as in our above example of mission and project.
service members and veterans can use the Project Management Body of Knowledge and the PMP Examination Content Outline (PMPECO) documents to translate their Military experience into a language that civilian hiring managers understand, value, and hire for. This article describes how.
When we write a mission up as a project, i.e. create a project description, it needs to be complete so it is more meaningful. What I mean is that we need to construct the project description with five or six full sentences, each describing one major project activity per process group. Examples of project activities we can use are found in the PMPECO, with each arrayed to its respective process group.
A soldier with the 110th Composite Truck Company, attaches a trailer to a vehicle as evening falls on Sept. 13, 2018. Soldiers worked into the night preparing vehicles for rapid deployment to hurricane-affected areas along the American East Coast.
Each project description needs to be concise; it should fit nicely within 550 characters or less, to include spaces, so we can transfer it onto the PMP Exam Application at some point. Doing so allows us to sit for the PMP exam so we can ‘validate’ all of our mission experience with this universally accepted, sought after project management credential. Think NCOER, OCER, or FitRep-type statements here.
Each project description should be coherent, i.e. readable. These project activity statements should be sequenced according to their presentation in the PMBOK; starting with Initiating Process Group and moving through the Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing Process Groups. That walks the reader through the project start to finish. Furthermore, the verb tenses should agree; past tense led stays led throughout the description, not I lead this and I led that. It makes the reading easier.
The description should be precise, using the terms and concepts depicted in the PMPECO (and PMBOK). Commander becomes Sponsor; Mission Paragraph 2 becomes Charter; POAM (plan of action and milestones) becomes project schedule; Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine becomes project team member; and foreign national becomes stakeholder.
They should also be accurate and personalized to the author’s experience. This can be done by counting the number of stakeholders involved in the briefings, or the types of risks analyzed and managed, or the total dollar value of the equipment purchased and shipped to units downrange. This quantification and qualification personalizes the statements to the authoring project manager.
Anything temporary and unique counts! Military, volunteer, recreational. Many veterans engage in volunteer activities, and these count as projects as well. Toys-for-Tots, command dine-ins, special event hosting on base, church functions, Scout trips and the like are just some examples. You want to document between 4,500 hours and 7,500 hours of experience leading and directing the project activities you see listed in the PMPECO. Doing so will qualify you to sit for the PMP or CAPM project management credentials, which ‘validates’ your experience because hiring managers know PMI saw it to approve you to take the exam.
Speaking of examples
Our first mission-to-project example is a weapons qualification event. The 542 character-long copy follows:
Obtained approval of Combat Marksmanship training event for USMC platoon and wrote Letter of Instruction as project charter.
Planned procurement of ammunition and developed schedule from event date backwards.
Acquired Corpsman, drivers, and range personnel as project team members.
Controlled risks through personnel monitoring and operating procedure compliance.
Closed project by cleaning up range, returning radios, arms, and vehicles, documenting shooter performance, and briefing the platoon and Battalion leadership on project results. It is sequenced, verb tenses agree, it is complete, accurate, and individualized, and it uses precise project management terms to root our military experience in.
The second example of a project description is a command inspection, and it too shows all process groups, is complete, and weighs in at 544 characters, to include spaces:
Developed charter for approval, to include inspection scope, reason, inspector(s), and inspected units. Defined scope by identifying the date, time, and location of the command inspection, and planned inspection of which units/elements/equipment when.
Sgt. Shuntaneque Greenwald, assigned to U.S. Army NATO Brigade, plots points on a map for night land navigation during the 2018 U.S. Army Europe Best Warrior Competition Aug. 16, 2018, at Grafenwoehr, Germany.
Managed stakeholders’ expectations through frequent communication with X key personnel during the planning and execution.
Controlled water, chow, and personnel formations, documented deficiencies during the inspection, and took corrective action.
Briefed commander on results and way ahead.
Our third and final example is extremely representative in today’s global environment, and helpful considering the nature of the prolonged Global War on Terror. It documents a fundamental military mission in the language of project management, a security patrol. In 368 accurate characters, we discuss it as Identified high-level risks and constraints for Charter inclusion and approval:
Planned personnel needs and equipment, and conducted risk planning.
Conducted project activities in accordance to schedule, logistics plans, and monitored and controlled risks; responding to triggered risks as planned.
Closed project through collected lessons learned and sponsor debrief.
The work civilian project management professionals, governing bodies, and academicians have done in the project management space has created a way for military service members and veterans to tell the story of their military experience in a language civilian hiring managers understand, value, and hire for.
We can use the PMBOK and the PMPECO to write up each temporary and unique mission as a project. When we aggregate these individualized, precise, accurate, coherent project descriptions, we have a resume full of project management experience.
And when we add the PMP or CAPM to this resume, it becomes validated in the minds of civilian hiring officials because they know PMI saw thousands of hours of project management experience before allowing to sit for the PMP or CAPM exam. Telling our military story in project management allows us to overcome one of the biggest challenges we will face during our transition.
This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.
The deaths of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger last month have raised questions about America’s role in the fight against violent extremism in a sparsely populated region of Africa.
Before the October attack, in which at least four Nigerien soldiers were also killed, some members of Congress said they were aware of U.S. operations in Niger, but others — including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) — said they did not know U.S. troops were on the ground in Niger.
U.S. involvement includes more than 800 troops, according to Pentagon officials. There are also two drone bases in the country.
Niger and Burkina Faso want the U.S. to do more to support local governments in their fight against extremism, mainly by funding a new regional task force. The first-year operating budget for the five-nation force has been projected at $500 million. The United States is considering making a contribution of $60 million.
A decade of involvement
The heightened U.S. presence in the Sahel dates back to at least 2007, when the Pentagon established the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM. The command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, works with regional partners in Africa to strengthen security and stability. Since at least 2013, U.S. forces have conducted missions to train, advise, and assist in Niger, collaborating with local authorities to clamp down on armed extremists.
Niger has been a particularly important strategic partner in the region. During the Obama administration, the U.S. built drone bases in the capital, Niamey, and in the northern city of Agadez.
“Because the government of Niger has been a strong ally to the counterterrorism efforts, it’s been natural for the United States to station its counterterrorism forces in that country,” said Lisa Mueller, an assistant professor of political science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.
But the Green Berets’ deaths have brought new scrutiny to U.S. partnerships in the Sahel, and it is unclear how — or if — the Trump administration might shift its policy in the region.
Some activists and U.S. lawmakers are concerned that some regional partners have authoritarian governments. Even Niger, said Brandon Kendhammer, an associate professor and director of the International Development Studies Program at Ohio University, is “problematically democratic.”
Still, Kendhammer characterized U.S. involvement as a net positive. “It’s pretty clear that these investments do make a real difference in the ability of the region to provide its own security,” he said.
Seeking input has been key to that success, according to Kendhammer. Despite perceptions among some observers that AFRICOM works unilaterally, the command has a track record of seeking local expertise and wide-ranging perspectives, Kendhammer said.
Green Beret deaths
Pentagon officials expect to complete their investigation into the Niger attack in January.
Based on what is now known, the U.S. soldiers killed last month were involved in exactly the kind of work that troops stationed in the Sahel undertake, Kendhammer said.
A big part of that role involves training local forces via workshops and fieldwork. Training can cover everything from basic operations to advanced tactics, including rapid response to terrorist attacks. To maximize their impact, the U.S. follows a “train the trainer” model, Kendhammer said, working with elite local forces who, in turn, share knowledge and skills.
No one has claimed responsibility for the October attack, but the Pentagon suspects possible involvement by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, one of several extremist organizations operating in the Sahel.
That presence typically involves local militants who pledge allegiance to an international organization like IS or al-Qaida. Such an affiliation might signal tenuous ties — occasional mention in an IS publication, for example — or ongoing communication with the broader network.
Either way, affiliating with an established terrorist organization can be more pragmatic than ideological. According to Kendhammer, the particular group alleged to be behind the Niger attack was previously affiliated with al-Qaeda and switched in 2015 or 2016 to find a better strategic partner.
The tactics employed by local militants hinge on undermining U.S. efforts. As VOA previously reported, it is likely that villagers in Tongo Tongo, where last month’s attack occurred, helped lure U.S. and Nigerien forces into a trap. The villagers’ willingness to assist militant groups reflects concerted efforts within those factions to build trust with local populations while fomenting contempt for America.
Daily Beast contributor Philip Obaji Jr. reported this month that residents of Tongo Tongo blamed the U.S. for a 2016 grenade attack that killed six children. No evidence has linked the U.S. to the incident, but local militant groups have pushed the narrative of an American-led slaughter to “win the hearts and minds of the local population,” Obaji wrote.
Governments in the Sahel say they need far more funding to carry out critical missions tied to two task forces: the newly-formed G5 counter-terrorism force and the Multinational Joint Task Force, a longstanding effort based in Chad that has been revitalized to fight Boko Haram.
Burkina Faso’s minister of foreign affairs, Alpha Barry, told VOA’s French to Africa service this month that the G5 force needs more help from the U.S., whose recent pledge will assist regional militaries but not the G5, according to Barry.
Despite its bases and troop deployments, U.S. investment in the Sahel, particularly in Mali and Niger, has so far been eclipsed, both financially and militarily, by the EU and France, Mueller said.
Concerns about lack of funding and efforts to demonize the U.S. may have a common solution: more local initiatives and buy-in. But bringing those solutions to fruition is easier said than done.
“In U.S. government discourse about West Africa, [we tend] to talk about the need for everything to be regionally oriented and for everything to be an African solution to an African problem. And those are good ideas in principle, but they don’t always translate directly into obvious policy,” Kendhammer said. “Not every regional initiative is going to be the right regional initiative. Not every local solution is going to be the local solution that’s actually going to solve the problem because countries have different interests.”
In the end, countries’ interests will dictate how well a solution works. In the Sahel, that’s complicated by a diverse host of local players, each with its own economic and security concerns.
For Niger, fighting extremism is less about combating a homegrown threat and more about securing its borders. “It might be tempting to look at Niger – a country that is approximately 99 percent Muslim in its population – and assume that Nigeriens are radicalizing. And as far as I can tell, that’s just not the case,” Mueller said.
Instead, threats have spilled into the country from all sides, putting Niger in the crosshairs.
A decorated Marine Raider who was critically wounded during a deployment to Iraq in support of the fight against Islamic State militants received one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for valor Oct. 30th.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Maloney, a multi-purpose canine handler with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion within Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was presented with a Bronze Star with combat valor device Oct. 30 in recognition of heroism during an intense ISIS ambush.
According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, Maloney had been conducting partnered reconnaissance operations on a “prominent ridge” along the Kurdish Defensive Line.
While the citation does not state where Maloney’s team was deployed, U.S. military officials have described the defensive line organized by Kurdish Peshmerga forces prosecuting the ground fight against ISIS as surrounding the city of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.
On Aug. 27, 2016, the Raider team was providing security from an observation post overlooking ISIS territory when three of the Marines were ambushed from a position 500 meters to the west, according to the citation.
Incoming small-arms and machine-gun fire was heavy enough to pin the troops down, and ISIS machine-gun rounds pelted the vehicle the Marines were taking cover behind.
At that point, Maloney decided to take action.
“He immediately crossed open ground, retrieved ammunition, and took charge of a Peshmerga heavy machine gun in an exposed and open truck bed,” the citation reads. “Remaining deliberately exposed to withering fire, he laid deadly suppressive fire on the enemy fighting positions.”
There, with enemy rounds flying around him, the worst happened: His machine gun malfunctioned. Not once, but twice.
Each time, he had to keep his wits about him and fix the problem with the weapon while remaining exposed to enemy gunfire. And when the gun started working again, he kept firing.
“[Maloney’s] fearless actions and fierce suppression gained fire superiority and enabled his teammates to return safely to covered positions,” the citation states. “His bold actions further contributed to the immediate withdrawal of enemy forces.”
Months later on the same deployment, Maloney would be wounded in action. According to a GoFundMe page created by friends, he was “critically wounded” Dec. 30.
Marine Corps Times reported at the time that Maloney was recovering from a head wound. The account almost immediately raised most of the $15,000 goal to support Maloney’s family and cover expenses associated with his recovery.
The fundraising page stated he had been on his fifth deployment.
Maloney’s medal citation provides a rare look into the heroism of special operations troops in the fight against ISIS. While there are now hundreds of operators in Iraq and Syria supporting and advising local ground forces, they frequently are kept out of the public spotlight.
While the Defense Department does not keep a public database of Bronze Star awards, it lists only four Silver Stars awarded to date for valor in Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Three have been presented to soldiers, and one to an airman.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent the last two years transforming how it interacts with veterans, taking the best ideas from all over (including the business world) to upgrade your customer experience. Here are nine improvements — big and small — you may not believe.
1. A new call number that’s easy to remember.
Can’t remember which of our more than 1000 phone numbers to call? Me neither. Now, we only have to call one phone number: 1-844-MyVA311. The number will route you to the right place. If you do know the right number to call, you can still call that number.
2. Someone to actually answer your call.
The only number I can ever remember is number for disability claims and other benefits. Believe it or not, people are actually answering the phone now, on average in under five minutes. Employees in some of our contact centers report veterans temporarily forgetting why they called because they are stunned by how quickly someone answered the phone.
3. One call does it all.
Veterans in crisis are no longer asked to hang up and dial the Veterans Crisis Line. This month our medical centers, benefits line and MyVA311 will automatically connect callers to the Veterans Crisis Line if they “press 7.”
4. Total online resource.
Working toward one website and logon – Vets.gov – that now lets you discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits you have earned, all in one place. One site, one username, one password. Track the status of your disability claim, apply for your GI Bill, and enroll in health care, on a site that’s mobile-first, accessible (508 compliant) and designed based on Veteran feedback. All Veteran-facing features will be migrated to vets.gov by April 2017!
5. Now you can actually find your service center.
Have you ever tried to use the VA.gov facility locator? If you have, you know it was essentially an address that you had to copy and paste into Google maps and hope for the best.
Now, we have one on Vets.gov that uses Google maps — and provides an initial set of VA services at those facilities. Try it here.
Additionally, maps are notoriously bad at being accessible to screen readers, but the Vets.gov facility locator is accessible and has been tested with blind and low vision veterans.
6. There’s an app for that.
Veterans can call or text the VCL with just one click from a mobile device using vets.gov.
7. No more waiting.
When you’re sick or in pain, you really want to see a doctor that day and now you can. Same-day appointments in our clinics are available when a provider determines a veteran has an urgent or emergent need that must be addressed immediately.
8. Claims are processed faster.
In 2012, some received disability claim decisions after more than two years. Now, after a series of people, process and technology changes, claims take an average of 123 days to complete. But VA is taking it a step further, looking at how it can improve veterans experiences around the compensation exam.
9. Taking out the middleman.
Need hearing aids or glasses? No need to see your primary care physician just to get a referral. Go ahead and make an appointment directly with both optometry and audiology.
These are just nine ways the VA is joining the modern world to better serve you. Watch for more.
Some of our readers asked us to investigate the story behind an F-35 mock-up painted in arctic color scheme, located at Lockheed Martin’s Forth Worth, after the mysterious model was featured on the reputable F-16.net forum.
The mock-up has been sitting in a LM yard, from at least April 2012 to December 2018, when it was moved (the aircraft can still be seen in the latest imagery). Since 2012, photos taken from space show the F-35 model in different locations, along with other test articles and mock-ups, including the X-35 and A-12.
The LM yard with several mock-ups, including the F-35 in arctic paint scheme.
(Google Earth via Dragon029)
“There aren’t a lot of photos / points in time when the yard was shot from space, but in January 2016, January 2017 and February 2017 it’s also missing from the yard (there are no photos between those 3 times though, so it might have been gone for 13+ months, or it might have just been gone the days, weeks or months that those photos were taken),” says user Dragon029, who also pointed us to the somehow mysterious aircraft.
In this thread you can see all the satellite images Dragon029 has collected: they show all the locations the F-35 mock-up has been in the last 7 years.
As mentioned above, the “arctic F-35” was last moved in December 2018. User hawgwash took a clear shot of the mock-up as it was being moved. Here it is:
The mock-up being moved in December 2018.
(Photo by hawgwash)
We asked Lockheed Martin to provide some details about the mock up and here’s the reply we got from Michael Friedman, a Lockheed Martin spokesman for the F-35 program:
“The image is a model that resembles an F-35A that was originally used to test aspects of our Aircraft Test Facility. The model has since been used in various exercises and testing to include flight line safety and fire suppression testing. The paint scheme, which was created with spare F-16 paint, was chosen by the artisans and is not directly related to the model and its role in the program.”
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The Vought F4U Corsair is an iconic WWII fighter plane. Thanks to its distinctive long nose, inverted gull wing and appearance in the classic TV show Baa Baa Black Sheep, the Corsair has etched itself into the minds of many Americans. Moreover, the Corsair was an exceptional fighter plane that outperformed many Allied and Axis fighters. However, this performance came at a dangerous cost which set the Corsair on a different path than originally intended.
In 1938, the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics published a request for a high-speed single engine fighter plane to lead its carrier air wings into the next decade. Vought responded with its Corsair prototype. Equipped with a 1,805 hp Pratt & Whitney engine, the Corsair became the first single-engine U.S. fighter to fly faster than 400 mph in 1940. With further development, the Corsair achieved excellent climb rates and dive speeds making it a very capable fighter.
On July 31, 1942, the first F4U-1 Corsair was delivered to the U.S. Navy. Fitted with an improved Pratt & Whitney engine capable of 2,000 horsepower, the Corsair had a top speed of 446 mph. This was exceptional for a carrier-based fighter. For comparison, the legendary F6F Hellcat, which ended the war with a kill ratio of 19:1, had a top speed of 391 mph. However, the large engine and fuel tank at the front of the Corsair forced the cockpit further back along the airframe. Its large propeller also necessitated long landing gear. While this resulted in an elegant-looking aircraft, it meant that Corsair pilots had to orient the plane’s nose up to the point of losing sight of the deck during landings.
Due to the nature of carrier landings, the required nose-up attitude of the Corsair made it a deadly challenge for pilots to land. Many had to approach the deck nearly sideways and straighten out at the last minute in order to maintain visibility. Moreover, the Corsair had a tendency to stall one wing before the other during landing. As a result of all this, Navy pilots nicknamed the Corsair the “hog,” “hosenose” and “bent-wing widow maker.”
Despite the Corsair passing its carrier qualification trials, the Navy didn’t want it anymore. Though the F6F Hellcat didn’t have the same performance as the Corsair, it was much easier to land on the deck of a carrier. As such, the Navy equipped its fighter squadrons with Hellcats and divested most of its Corsairs to the Marine Corps. The Marines flew primarily from land bases anyway and eagerly took on the more powerful Corsair. This also streamlined maintenance for carrier wings and Marine airfields.
The Corsair was a natural fit in the Marine Corps. With the Marines’ doctrine of combined air and ground operations, the Corsair excelled as a fighter-bomber. Loaded with bombs, napalm tanks and rockets, the Corsair provided accurate and deadly close air support to the Marines on Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh conducted experiments as a civilian advisor to determine how to maximize the Corsair’s range and payload and even conducted strikes on Japanese positions in the Marshall Islands.
Although repurposed from its original design, the Corsair was instrumental in winning the war in the Pacific. It flew 44% of all Navy and Marine fighter sorties and earned a kill ratio of over 11:1. Moreover, the Corsair flew the majority of U.S. fighter-bomber missions during the war. It delivered 15,621 short tons of bombs, or 70% of all bombs dropped by U.S. fighters. The Corsair continued its close air support role in the Korean War and was flown by the first African American U.S. Naval aviator, Ens. Jesse L. Brown.
In September 2018, Russia kicked off its Vostok-18 military exercises, drills that defense officials claim involve some 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, and scores of warships and have touted as “unprecedented in scale.”
That’s roughly a third of the entire Russia military, much of which would have to be moved to the far east to participate in these large-scale maneuvers.
2018’s version of the Vostok, or East, exercise is billed as the largest ever, topping the 1981 Zapad, or West, military exercise, which took place in the Baltic Sea area and Eastern Europe amid heightened tension with the US after President Ronald Reagan took office.
Vostok is a no doubt a major undertaking for Russia’s armed forces — and a major geopolitical development, given the inclusion of Chinese forces for the first time — but there are a number of reasons to believe Moscow is overstating the forces it has mustered.
The logistical challenges of moving that many personnel and their equipment cast doubt on the stated numbers.
The 300,000 troops Russian officials have said would participate would be roughly one-third of the country’s military. Gathering such a force would be a considerable financial challenge in light of Russia’s decreasing defense spending and its standing military commitments elsewhere, according to The Diplomat. By comparison, that force would represent roughly two-thirds of the much better funded and equipped active-duty US Army.
Tanks rolling during the Vostok 2018 military exercises in Russia.
A conservative estimate of the vehicles in the Central and Eastern military districts is around 7,000 to 10,000. Bringing in roughly 25,000 more vehicles would clog railways and highways, and shuttling in that many troops would likely overwhelm Russia’s military logistics structure.
The size of the force involved is likely around 50,000 to 100,000, according to The Diplomat. Other estimates put it around 150,000 — about the size of the Vostok-81 exercise — which is still very massive force.
Inflating the number of military personnel involved in such exercises is nothing new for Russia. And there appear to be a number of types of legerdemain through which Russian officials carry it out.
The stated total — 297,000, to be precise — likely includes all units stationed in the Central and Eastern military districts, as well as those in the Northern and Eastern Fleets and in the airborne units that are taking part.
“For every battalion fielded they will likely count the entire brigade, and for a few regiments an entire division, etc.,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA and the Wilson Center.
Many of those are involved may not ever venture into the field, instead remaining at command posts. (The US has also counted geographically dispersed units as taking part in certain exercises, but typically at much smaller scales.)
Participation may go beyond uniformed troops and include civilian reserves, Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the National Security Council, told Voice of America
Edmonds noted that other units, like those operating in western Russia, may be included in some tallies.
Moscow has also likely counted under-strength units at full strength and included units that have been alerted or are indirectly involved — like those that are taking over assignments from units that are redeploying to actually take part, according to The Diplomat.
Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
The figures presented by Moscow for these kinds of exercises could be called “true lies,” Kofman told Voice of America, “in that they’re statistical lies whereby the Russian army’s General Staff tallies every single unit-formation that either sends somebody to the exercise or has some tangential command component in it.”
“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is,” Kofman added.
Such sleight of hand is not new — similar tactics were used during the Cold War — and using them now may also be meant to avoid adding to anger over reduced social spending and proposed hikes to pension-eligibility ages.
Russia faces economic and demographic challenges, and, as noted by Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and fellow at the European University Institute, the government spends an outsize portion of its federal budget on security.
Overstating the number of forces involved also likely serves broader geopolitical purposes.
Over the past decade and a half, President Vladimir Putin has turned a weakened military into a capable force, but the Russian leader is aware that his country lags in objective measures of strength, Galeotti notes at The Atlantic.
“Instead, [Putin] relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play,” Galeotti writes. “He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged.”
China’s inclusion may also indicate a shift in Moscow’s thinking.
Previous iterations of the Vostok exercise were meant to send a message to Beijing, which Moscow long viewed as a rival. The relatively small Chinese contingent taking part this year has been interpreted as a message to the West that Russia is not isolated and could further embrace China.
Many doubt a formal military alliance between China and Russia is in the offing, instead seeing their cooperation on Vostok — they have carried out joint military exercises elsewhere — as an effort by both sides to balance against US and by Russia to allay Chinese concerns about the target of the exercises.
“Maybe the announcements of how big it’s going to be is a reaction to hostilities with the West, but the actual exercise itself is a pretty standard Russian military activity,” Edmonds, now a research scientist at CNA, told Voice of America.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.