How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper - We Are The Mighty
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How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

In Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad during the 1980s, a family of six brothers and one sister — all very close in age — played in the streets and parks of their hometown, enjoying the simple things in life they had at the time. Through the decades, the times and the city had changed, and the streets and parks were not as simple.


Alsaeedy, the son of an Iraqi army reserve officer, said Iraq was a joyous place to grow up. “We played basketball, walked to school — all the children in the neighborhood were close,” he added. “There were negatives in politics, but we believed in our father, and everything was fine.”

Alsaeedy’s dream was to travel. “Everybody’s goal [in high school] was to travel the world, places like [the United Kingdom], U.S., and Europe,” Alsaeedy said. He kept that dream with him before pursuing a degree in biochemical engineering at the University of Baghdad.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Capt. Robert Duchaine, B Company Commander, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, visits with children Oct. 31 at a Kindergarten school in the Khadamiyah area of western Baghdad. He took this opportunity when his unit conducted a joint mission with Iraqi Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division to hand out toys and school supplies. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Bob Miller).

“I was in my second year of college when everything happened — the troops arrived,” he said. “It was a year later when it seemed things began to settle down. We all were trying to educate ourselves on the matter, because we believed — and still do — that the U.S. forces and allies were there to transform the country and help. We felt there was not going to be any more tyranny system or sects of families taking over the country, doing whatever they felt they wanted … so we believed in the change and welcomed it.”

Trouble Finding Work

After graduating from college, Alsaeedy needed to find work, preferably in the engineering field. But it was extremely hard to come by, he said, due to the nature of the country and the fact that most employers hired only within their sects.

“I did not know exactly what to do or what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work for and with the service members,” he said. “It was not just about money or security. It was about being a part of something important to me.”

Unable to break into the U.S. contractor market, Alsaeedy’s education and skill set eventually gravitated employers to him within the private sector. In 2005, he found stability in the information technology field as a networking specialist for satellite communications.

“Then one day a man came into the shop and it changed my life forever,” he said. “He inquired about an internet network to be installed on a military base in Baghdad. I took the job. After the work was complete, they were very satisfied and needed more, so they hired me full-time. My English was very fluent, and I became a translator for them, too.”

While the years passed, Alsaeedy’s experiences and relationships grew through the ranks, and by 2007, he was a popular name among higher-ranking officials with the U.S. Air Force and the Marines in Qaim, Iraq.

Integrated Into Brotherhood

“I saw in the soldiers what very few of us [natives] see,” Alsaeedy said. “They were trustful, pleasant and respectful; they integrated me into their brotherhood.”

Insurgency propaganda said the Americans were in Iraq to destroy everything, Alsaeedy said.” But they were not,” he added. “They were building. They built infrastructure for the population and barracks for the Iraqi army. They supplied resources increasing our livelihood [and] creating jobs for husbands and fathers.”

At the end of 2007, Alsaeedy received some big news. Then-President George W. Bush allowed vetted contractors who had worked for the U.S. government for at least five years to be granted special immigrant visas for them and their families. The visa allowed them to live and work in the United States. At the end of 2009, Alsaeedy said, things started to change as U.S. troops began to withdraw.

“The protection was decreasing and so was the structure,” he said. “I knew if I stayed, my family and I were going to die soon.” In 2010, Alsaeedy met his five-year requirement to qualify for the special visa for him and his family to move to the United States.

Settling in Virginia

He settled in Norfolk, Virginia, where a new country and culture surrounded him. What he once knew as a world of war was now a life of peace and the pursuit of happiness, he said. He was immediately hired, and he worked for an oil and gas company from 2011 to 2012.

Alsaeedy said he felt grateful to the United States for the opportunities he’d received.

However, Alsaeedy said he “wanted to give them more.”

He enlisted into the U.S. Army in August 2013 as a combat engineer. Shortly thereafter, he attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Alsaeedy demonstrated his potential and quick-learning abilities, as well as outstanding physical fitness. He was afforded the opportunity to attend airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, upon graduation.

“I found out that I was going to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I knew it was an honor and a prestigious unit. I remember seeing the ‘Double-A’ patch in Iraq. And to realize that I am now one of those paratroopers along with my family — I was beyond excited and humbled. However, it truly did not hit me until I came to Fort Bragg and walked through the division’s museum. That’s when I realized I was a part of something special.”

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Paratroopers assigned to Charlie Company, 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division operate a satellite transmission terminal during a joint training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 22, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt/Released)

In 2014, Alsaeedy arrived full of energy to Alpha Company, 307th BEB. He was a new Panther Engineer, and he integrated just fine among his leaders and peers.

“We did a lot of training,” he said. “We went to every kind of weapons range you could think of. I learned demolitions, steel cutting, [went on] too many ruck marches, and was just very happy.”

Returning to Iraq

But Alsaeedy’s heart was holding a deep secret: there was something missing.

“My real dream was to return to Iraq,” he said. “I wanted to be an asset to the unit. I had the language, the background and culture. I knew if I ever went back, I would put myself out there to be as valuable as I could for the 307th.”

In early 2015, the 3rd BCT deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, it was the newest campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There, paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division provided advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.

In a twist of fate, Alsaeedy’s unit operated in the neighborhood where he was raised. His dream finally came true.

“It wasn’t easy at first,” Alsaeedy said while looking up with teary eyes. “But it was my leadership. They understood my situation. They supported me. It made my job and task much easier.”

Alsaeedy’s background and capabilities soon became an asset for his battalion commander all the way up to division command sergeant major and higher-ranking officials in tactical operations centers around the area of operations.

With his hard work and commitment to his leadership and the unit’s mission, Alsaeedy received the first battlefield promotion for a noncommissioned officer during the OIR campaign. He was pinned with the rank of sergeant during the fall of 2015 upon the unit’s redeployment to Fort Bragg.

Great Things

His accomplishments and accolades did not stop there. “When I became an NCO, great things began to happen for me and my family,” Alsaeedy said. He attended the Warrior Leader’s Course soon after becoming a sergeant, learning technical skills and correspondence in the craft of an NCO.

Alsaeedy’s motivation and physical fitness separated him from his peers. He wanted to go to Sapper School and master his craft as an engineer. “I may have had a more advanced role during deployment, but I am still an engineer in the 307th,” he said.

Early 2016 came around, and he began training with the division’s Best Sapper Team as it prepared to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sapper competition.

To keep himself busy and find new challenges, Alsaeedy attended the two-week Fort Bragg Pre-Ranger Course, which evaluates and prepares future candidates for the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning.

He never went to Sapper School, though. Immediately upon graduating the Pre-Ranger Course, he was put on a bus to Ranger School. Alsaeedy went straight through the 62-day course, a course that normally has a high attrition rate.

“I have been busy, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I felt the more I accomplish as an NCO and a paratrooper, the more I am giving back to the Army.

“I am just so grateful. I cannot put into words how I feel, landing the opportunity during the mid-2000s to becoming a citizen, a soldier deployed to my hometown and a Ranger,” he continued. “My wife and child love the installation, the people, and my daughter is receiving a great education from the schools on Fort Bragg. The Army adopted me, and I am forever in debt to the most professional and perfect organization: the 82nd Airborne [Division].”

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Green Beret who beat up accused child rapist will be allowed to stay in uniform

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland will be allowed to stay in the Army after the service reversed its decision to kick him out. Martland was being forcibly discharged over a 2011 incident in which he confronted an Afghan police commander who had brutally raped a local boy.


How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland (Photo: Duncan Hunter)

Late Thursday night, Martland won the fight against the Army’s Qualitative Management Program, which gives the boot to soldiers with black marks on their records. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records reviewed the Green Beret’s performance history and pulled his name from the QMP list.

Martland admitted that Capt. Dan Quinn and he assaulted the Afghan official during his 2011 deployment to Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province. The commander was engaging in “bacha bazi,” or “boy play” — an Afghan practice where young boys in sexual slavery are often dressed up as women and forced to dance and serve tea. The practice was forbidden under the Taliban, but experienced a rebirth after the Taliban’s ouster by NATO forces and U.S. troops were ordered by their commanders not to intervene. When the Afghan confessed to raping the boy and beating the child’s mother for telling local authorities, Quinn “picked him up and threw him,” Martland said in his official statement. “I [proceeded to] body slam him multiple times.”

The line removed from his Army record read: “Demonstrated poor judgment, resulting in a physical altercation with a corrupt ALP member. Judgment and situational awareness was lacking during an isolated instance.”

Hundreds of veterans and other concerned citizens wrote letters and started petition drives in Martland’s defense. Even actor and Marine veteran Harvey Keitel got involved and urged California Congressman Duncan Hunter to intervene.

Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran and San Diego-area congressman, immediately came to Martland’s defense, calling the Army’s actions “totally insane and wrong,” and adding that Martland’s case “exemplifies the problems with the Army.”

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Martland (second from left) during a visit with General David Petraeus

An Army spokesman confirmed to Fox News that Martland will no longer be forced out.

“In SFC Martland’s case, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records determination modified a portion of one of SFC Martland’s evaluation reports and removed him from the QMP list, which will allow him to remain in the Army,” Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk said.

Quinn, now a civilian, said, “Charles makes every soldier he comes in contact with better and the Army is undoubtedly a better organization with SFC Martland still in its ranks.”

“I am real thankful for being able to continue to serve,” Martland told Fox News.  “I appreciate everything Congressman Duncan Hunter and his Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper, did for me.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is now building its third aircraft carrier

China is working on a third aircraft carrier, one expected to be much more technologically advanced and powerful than its predecessors, the Department of Defense said in its new report on China’s growing military might.

China has one carrier — the Liaoning — in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Formerly a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser, this vessel is the flagship of China’s navy.


China is believed to be close to fielding its second aircraft carrier, the country’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier. This new ship recently completed its fifth sea trial, and the Pentagon reported that this vessel will “likely join the fleet by the end of 2019.”

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

Type 001A, China’s first domestically produced carrier.

While based on the Liaoning, the second carrier is slightly bigger, creating the potential for a larger carrier air wing, most likely consisting of the J-15 “Flying Sharks,” with which the Liaoning sails. Like the Liaoning, the Chinese navy’s newest carrier will use a ski-jump-assisted short-takeoff-but-arrested-recovery (STOBAR) launch system to sortie aircraft.

Incorporating this new aircraft carrier into the fleet will be a major milestone, but that achievement may be overshadowed by a more impressive achievement in just a few years, the Department of Defense said in its latest report.

“China began construction of its second domestically built aircraft carrier in 2018, which will likely be larger and fitted with a catapult launch system,” the Pentagon said in its annual report to Congress on military and security developments involving China. “This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations.”

Catapult launch systems are much more effective than the ski jumps, which tend to put greater strain on the aircraft and tend to result in reductions in operational range, payload size, and ultimately the number of flights the onboard aircraft can fly.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

A J-15 taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.

“The new one is something that might be a little more interesting, a little more compelling,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously told Business Insider. “If the third carrier does have some catapult-assisted launch system, that will be a huge step forward for China.”

“They would very quickly have moved closer to what current technology is,” he added. “That’s something that very few countries can do. That would put China in a very elite status.”

It is unclear if the catapult launch system will be steam-powered, like those on the US Nimitz-class carriers, or electromagnetic, like the catapults on the Ford-class carriers. It is also unclear whether or not the new Chinese carrier will be conventionally powered or nuclear-powered, like those of the US. China has expressed an interest in the latter, but the country may not have overcome the developmental hurdles to building one.

China is focused on building a world-class military, and a key part of China’s military-modernization program is building power-projection platforms, such as increasingly capable aircraft carriers. The country still has a ways to go to catch up to the US Navy, which has 11 modern aircraft carriers in its arsenal.

China’s third carrier is expected to be completed and operational by 2022.

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

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Only one US senator was ever killed in battle

Oregon Sen. Edward Dickinson Baker was a veteran of the Mexican-American War, friend of President Abraham Lincoln, and respected legislator when he appeared before the Senate in full military uniform and delivered an impassioned speech on the Union cause to his colleagues.


How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

Baker’s “Call to Arms” became famous and included the impassioned line:

We will rally the people, the loyal people, of the whole country. They will pour forth their treasure, their money, their men, without stint, without measure!

This was the second time that Baker had addressed the American legislature in uniform. Before shipping off to the Mexican-American War, Baker was a representative from Illinois and had addressed the House of Representatives in full dress.

Unfortunately for Baker, his Civil War adventure did not go as well as his trip to Mexico.

On Oct. 20, 1861, he and his brigade camped along the Potomac River. Another unit was sent at night to scout enemy positions on the other side and reported that they had spotted a Confederate camp that was completely unguarded.

A force was raised to attack the camp but it discovered that the “rows of tents” spotted by the scouts had actually seen a row of short trees that they confused for tents in the dark. Confederate sentries spotted the Union troops and quickly set up a skirmish line.

Baker was sent to figure out what was going on and take command of the Union forces in the battle. He and his men began moving across the river but there were precious few boats to ferry troops.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Painting: Public Domain

By the time that Baker and his men were properly placed, the Confederates had enjoyed plenty of time to reinforce their positions on the high ground above the river. When Baker led his assault, he was quickly shot down. His men attempted to flee but rushed so fast that many fell over a 70-foot cliff into the river. Baker’s 1,700-man brigade suffered almost 1,000 killed, wounded, and captured in the battle.

The defeat was so crushing that Congress established an investigating committee to look into how the Battle of Ball’s Bluff and other prominent Union losses went so wrong.

Active duty service by congress members was banned by the War Department in World War II. Modern legislators are forbidden from serving on active duty by the Incompatability Clause of the Constitution which prevents members of Congress from holding office in another branch of government.

So far, service in the Reserves or has not been interpreted as violating the clause so long as the legislator is not called to active duty for anything but training. So hopefully Baker will hold his distinction as the only senator killed in battle for a long time.

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Reagan taught US pilots how to recognize the Zero

Ronald Reagan probably helped save a number of lives on the front lines — and not because he was a big hero. In fact, Reagan’s eyesight was so bad, they kept him in the United States. But despite not being fit for front-line duty, Reagan still played his role for Uncle Sam.


While Reagan’s eyesight made him next to useless for combat, he did end up being involved in doing training films, one of which involved recognizing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Friendly fire has long been a problem — ask Stonewall Jackson.

And yes, friendly fire was a problem in World War II. The P-38 was hamstrung because someone mistook a C-54 for a Fw 200.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In this training film, “Recognition of the Japanese Zero,” Reagan portrayed a young pilot who had just arrived in the Far East. The recognition angle is hammered home, and not just because of the friendly-fire problem.

Reagan’s character studies silhouettes drawn by a wounded pilot who hesitated too long — and found out he was dealing with a Zero the hard way.

Even with the study, Reagan’s character later accidentally fires at a P-40 he misidentifies, greatly angering the other American pilot. However, when he returns, he takes his lumps, but all turns out okay when the other pilots realizes there is a Zero in Reagan’s sights from the gun camera footage.

Reagan’s character explains that he stumbled across the Zero, then after a dogfight (not the proper tactic against the Zero, it should be noted), Reagan’s character shoots down the Zero.

There’s a happy ending as the earlier near-miss is forgotten and the kill is celebrated.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

The film is also notable in that it revealed to American pilots that the United States had acquired a Zero that had crashed in the Aleutians. The so-called Akutan Zero was considered one of the great intelligence coups in the Pacific Theater, arguably second only to the American code-breaking effort.

So, see a future President of the United States help teach American pilots how to recognize the Zero in the video below.

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Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Military advocates are rallying to stop a proposal in the U.S. Senate to reduce military housing allowances.


The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would curb the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, for new entrants beginning in 2018 by only covering what they actually pay in rent. It would also reduce the combined value of the benefit received by military couples or roommates.

“We’re not in favor of the language in there,” Michael Barron, deputy director of government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, an advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia, told Military.com. “We’ve got some major concerns with it.”

The Senate panel led by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, wants the monthly BAH — which varies by paygrade, dependent status and region in the U.S. — to be more like the Overseas Housing Allowance — which covers only housing expenses.

Section 604 of the Bill S.2943 is titled, “Reform of Basic Allowance for Housing.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the legislation would set the allowance for new entrants at “the actual monthly cost of housing” or an amount “based on the costs of adequate housing” for each military housing area, according to a copy of the legislation. It also states two or more service members occupying the same housing would split the allowance.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., listen as retired Gen. David Petraeus testifies at a hearing in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.

It’s unclear whether the full chamber will approve the language when it votes on the defense authorization bill at a later date. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have already introduced amendments to strike the provision. The House didn’t include similar language in its version of the bill and the Defense Department hasn’t requested the change.

In addition, Congress is already supporting a Pentagon plan to slow the growth of Basic Allowance for Housing over five years so service members on average pay 2 percent of their housing costs this year, 3 percent in 2017, 4 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019 and thereafter. Troops won’t see a modification in the allowance until they change duty stations.

Senators argue the housing allowance has become “bloated and ripe for abuse” and note the change could save an estimated $200 million, according to an article by Leo Shane III, a reporter for the Military Times newspapers who first reported the proposal.

Barron said the allowance is part of regular military compensation designed to retain and recruit talented people into the military. He also noted in the 1990s troops paid roughly 15 percent of their housing allowance out of pocket and that lawmakers in Congress had “done a lot of work” over the past decade to reduce that expense.

“We really don’t think they should be trying to make these reductions for new entrants coming in. We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

“You’re already asking a service member to pay more for retirement savings,” he added, referring to the recent overhaul of the military retirement system that incorporated a 401(k)-style plan. “You’re asking them also now to pay more for housing.”

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10 memes that pretty much describe life as a military spouse

Military spouses are just as resilient (and sometimes just as crazy) as their uniformed husbands and wives. They are the backbone of our military families, and while you’ll never hear (or read) me saying that the job of being a military spouse is the toughest job in the [insert branch here] (because I’ve both worn the uniform AND been up at 3:00 AM ironing HIS), you will hear (or read) me acknowledge that- without the support of our spouses- our service member’s jobs would be hella harder than they already are.


That’s why former President Ronald Reagan declared the Friday before Mother’s Day as Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 23rd, 1984. Every year since, it is typical for the President of the United States to issue a similar declaration.

Here at We Are the Mighty, we decided to celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day the best way we knew how: by laughing at our life.

After-all, its like my crusty old Marine of a dad used to tell me “If you don’t laugh at yourself, Kate, I will. And I’m sure there’s others happy to join in.”

So in no particular order (because I can shine boots and clean a rifle, and you could cut yourself on the 45 degree angled crease of the nurse’s fold on my bed, but heck if I’m not the most disorganized wife on the block), here’s a bunch of memes that pretty much exactly describe life as a military spouse:

1. This one time, we got orders…

…And then we got different orders. And then, they came and packed the house up and took all of our sh*t and sent it to California, and THEN I said “hey remember that you just got promoted? Could that impact your orders?”

It could.

It did.

And the Marine Corps forgot to tell us.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
There is a plan, and it’s a good one. Or two. Or three. Source

2. Wedding vows are horribly unrealistic…

…And comedienne Mollie Gross might’ve said it best when she relayed how her husband convinced her to marry him. “Babe, you can have as many babies as you want, ’cause it’s free!”

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
To have and to hold, in richer and in poorer, in deployments and in field ops and in career changes and in… source

3. Civilians TOTALLY understand…

I mean, obviously they get it. I have this friend, we’ll call her Not-Amy-From-College to protect her identity. Not-Amy-From-College used to tell me ALL. THE. TIME. how she totally understood what I was going through when my husband was in Sangin with 3/5 because one time, when they’d been married for about 7 months, her husband had to take the train up from D.C. to NYC and he didn’t even come back until the next day. The. Horror.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Yes, your husband going out of town for work for an entire day is EXACTLY like my husband deploying… could you hold this bag for a moment so I can knife hand you? K, thanks. source

4. What do you mean I’m only allowed to have an MLM job or run a daycare in my house?

*BIG DISCLAIMER: there isn’t anything wrong with running your own multi-level-marketing (MLM) business or running a daycare in your home.*

The military spouse community boasts a pretty healthy number of lawyers (check out MSJDN), behavioral and mental health professionals (check out MSBHC), entrepreneurs (check out the MilSpoProject), teachers, politicians, business consultants, authors, actors — basically if it’s a grown up job, military spouses either have it or have had it.

We have professional hopes and dreams just like every other adult who doesn’t live off of Daddy’s money (here’s looking at you, Not-Amy-From-College-Who’s-Identity-We’re-Quasi-Protecting).

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
The audacity! A grown adult actually having plans of his or her own for his or her own career… wha? source

5. Drama… drama everywhere…

I’m only partially joking with this one. We’ve lived in some excellent housing communities where, seriously, our neighbors were the bees knees. And then? We’ve lived in communities that made Degrassi look like a family TV show that came on between “Boy Meets World” and “Step-By-Step.”

I think most military spouses can appreciate this one if they’ve lived at multiple installations.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Military housing is GREAT. Except when you have to go outside. Source

6. Finally found my daughter’s kindergarten graduation cap that accidentally got packed a month before graduation…

And it was only eight years after her kindergarten graduation.

Other things we thought were lost in a decade and a half of PCSing:

  • A Dell computer
  • An elephant tusk carved out of fish bone that looks suspiciously like an adult toy that caused my husband a rather embarrassing stop and search in a Japanese airport but that I am still laughing about 13 years later
  • A Japanese vase
  • My DD214 and military medical records
  • Wedding band (I’m still holding out hope that that one is in a box and really didn’t get vacuumed up like my daughter insisted)
  • A metal canister of Maxwell House coffee

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
You know those military spouses that get everything unpacked and put away within a week of moving into their new house. We hate them. source

7. No one cares what you think, Judy Judgy McJudgy-Pants

This one is so true it needs two memes to make sure the point is made. People are judgy and rude.

When people judge military members, they get labeled as unpatriotic and it’s done. When they judge military spouses, they get laughs, some cheers from a select few military members who lack integrity and good character, and maybe a few frowns from everyone else.

But military spouses are used to it. And that’s just a sh*tty deal all around.

To be honest, we’re just people who are married. Being military spouses doesn’t make us any more or any less likely to be a) a mess, b) unfaithful, c) fat, d) Wonder Woman or e) all of the above

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Everyone is a critic. source

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
There’s a pretty good chance one of these is totally accurate. source

8. Dear Deployment: you suck…

Deployments make warriors out of princesses, men out of boys, and they separate the strong from the weak.

But even the strongest feel exceptionally weak sometimes, and we hate that.

This is, of course, when we put our big kid pants and our gangter rap on, and we handle it.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Deployments are stupid, and yes we do hate them. But we’re proud of our service member for them. source

9. Operational Security pisses us off…

But it must be done.

That doesn’t mean we want to deal with the OPSEC police. You know the ones: Becky just posted “Missing my soldier today on his 21st birthday!” And Bernice, who’s husband is a fearsome E4, busts into the convo with “OPSEC ladies! You don’t want the enemy knowing when his birthday is if he gets captured!”

Hey Bernice, if he’s captured, he gives his name, rank, service number and date of birth. Go haze yourself.

But seriously, we do take OPSEC and PERSEC (personal security) seriously.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Don’t you dare accidentally have a number in your status during a deployment. The OPSEC police will be all over you. source

10. Someone must have a death wish

So… you decided to go to the commissary on pay day. That is either the bravest or stupidest thing you’ve ever done.

Jury is still out.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Commissary on payday? Newbie. source

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force will open U-2 training to more pilots

For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.

Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”

The FACT pipeline

Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)

UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.

The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.

After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.

“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”

After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.

After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.

Broadening candidate diversity

Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)

The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.

Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.

As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

Developing the legacy for the future

FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)


“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.

The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.

“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”

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

Articles

Music fans prove terror won’t win at One Love concert

More than 60,000 defiant music fans joined Ariana Grande at her One Love concert at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester June 4, as they stood together in the face of extremism and pay tribute to those killed in terror attacks.

The American singer’s manager Scooter Braun said the Manchester gig now has a “greater purpose” than ever after the country’s second terror attack in two weeks.


Niall Horan, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Take That, Robbie Williams, Mumford Sons and Little Mixtook to the stage and performed for free to raise at least £2m towards the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.

Bono and his U2 bandmates sent an emotional video message to the huge audience at the One Love Manchester gig.

Currently in America on their Joshua Tree tour, which played Chicago June 4, he paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack and sent a message of support to those affected.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
U2 at the United Center in Chicago, IL, June 25, 2015 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

“All our hearts are with you. All our hearts are with Manchester and with the UK and so many of our friends in this great city.

“We’re broken-hearted for children who lost their parents and parents who lost their children from this senseless, senseless horror,” he said.

“There is no end to grief, that’s how we know, there’s no end to love, a thought we’re holding onto for these people. We’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky.”

On June 3 seven people were killed and nearly 50 injured after three men drove a van into a crowd on London Bridge and set upon people in a crazed knife rampage.

Despite the atrocities, fans including those injured in the Manchester Arena on May 22, headed to the venue in their droves, proudly wearing clothes emblazoned with the slogan, “We stand together”.

Mumford Sons’ Marcus Mumford was the first to take to the stage, asking for a minute’s silence in tribute to those who have lost their lives in the two weeks prior, including the 22 killed in the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.

In between renditions of Giants and Rule The World, Gary Barlow told the crowd: “Thank you everybody for coming out tonight, thank you for everybody watching at home, thanks to Ariana for inviting us tonight.

“Our thoughts are with everyone that’s been affected by this.

“We want to stand strong, look at the sky and sing loud and proud.”

Barlow then introduced his former band mate, Robbie Williams. Williams serenaded the crowd with his song Strong, changing the words to, “Manchester we’re strong”.

Concert-goers began queueing outside Lancashire Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground from 8.30am ahead of the One Love Manchester gig.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Ariana Grande at a 2015 Jakarta concert. (Photo by: Berisik Radio)

The event marked Ariana Grande’s first return to the stage since suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device.

All Grande fans who attended the gig on May 22 were offered free passes to the benefit concert.

Grande’s manager Mr Braun said all the acts involved had shown “unwavering” support.

Questions were raised by fans about whether the One Love benefit gig would still go ahead in the wake of the latest terror attack in London.

However in a statement Mr Braun said: “After the events in London, and those in Manchester just two weeks ago, we feel a sense of responsibility to honor those lost, injured, and affected.

“We plan to honor them with courage, bravery, and defiance in the face of fear.

“Today’s One Love Manchester benefit concert will not only continue but will do so with greater purpose.

“We must not be afraid and in tribute to all those affected here and around the world, we will bring our voices together and sing loudly.

“All artists involved have been unwavering in their support this morning and today we stand together. Thank you,” he added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the parting wisdom of a Marine dying of cancer

Being a Marine taught me the importance of giving back. But my last mission may be my most crucial: Instilling the same values in my son.


Two years ago, I was built like a tank. I’ve been built like that my entire life, having grown up as a wrestler in high school and college. Once, way back then, someone looked at me and said, “What the hell are you?”

I look much different now. It’s hard for me to speak for long periods of time, and I’m about half the size I used to be. Now, I’m happy to just get up and walk, which is a mental challenge all by itself. The guy I used to be has been destroyed by chemotherapy.

In late 2015, I was diagnosed with stage-four cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that starts in the bile ducts. I don’t know how much time I have left; I may not even make it to my 55th birthday this December, but I’m happy that I can go knowing I’ve lived my life in complete service to others and to my family.

Except I have a teenage son, and there’s still so much to teach him.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Anthony Egan and his son, Mason. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Egan)

I won’t be able to impart my wisdom to Mason as he grows up. That’s why I’m making sure he knows, now, the importance of living a life in service, like I have. The lessons are simple: Be humble, be open, and be helpful.

Growing up, my father was constantly working, which meant he wasn’t around a ton. He did the best he could though, and I considered him my best friend. But I didn’t have someone who could mentally challenge me. I got into wrestling in the seventh grade, and my coach became that person for me instead. He ended up being a formidable figure in my life, and I’m still in touch with him today.

Read Also: Why we need chivalry in the Marine Corps

You could tell immediately that this man had served in the military — through his mannerisms, his attention to detail, and his level of concentration. I thought, “This guy is incredible.” At an early age, my coach gave me advice that to this day I continue to take to heart:

“Don’t be a wise guy,” he would tell me. “Don’t be a showboat.”

Eventually, I joined the Marines, and that advice is what got me through basic training. Now, it’s something I teach Mason at every opportunity. We have a lot of big talks these days — especially now that I don’t know how long I have left to live — and I try to tell him who I was before the military.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Time in the Marines inspired Anthony Egan to pursue a life of service. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Egan)

I tell him not to be that guy.

When I enlisted in 1982, I was a very private person. In fact, you could say I was pretty closed off. But interaction with people is important, and you have to be open and outgoing. There is just something about being open to new experiences that makes life more meaningful. It also makes you not afraid to help people.

There is nothing more gratifying than helping others, and there are many avenues for doing that — not just through the military.

I joined the Marines after one year of college because I simply didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman,” about a guy who joins the Navy, came out right before I signed up, and that shaped what I thought the military was going to be like.

I was wrong.

My time in the military wasn’t like a Richard Gere action-romance film. It was tough and it was terrifying, but it also made me grow into a man that started to think to myself, “What can I do to give back?” What the Marines did was laser-focus my attention and instilled in me the idea that, “Hey, you’re capable of a hell of a lot more than what you’re doing now.”

Related: This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

I left the service in 1988 and it haunted me for a long time. I just missed it so badly. I still say that the Marine Corps was the best job I ever had. But I can no longer regret leaving, because I have the best family God could give me, and I would never have met my wife and had Mason if I had stayed.

But here’s the thing: When you serve, the experience never truly leaves you; it always stays with you. Every time something tragic occurred, I would quietly shed a tear. When 9/11 happened, I was choked up watching the coverage on TV. I felt like I should be there — I needed to help.

So off I went to Ground Zero, wearing my old and dated fatigues from the ’80s, and was able to get my way onto the search and rescue team that pulled out the first five people. It was surreal; everyone had the same look on their face, much like how they talk about the empty thousand-yard stare of soldiers who served in Vietnam. There was a gray, pinkish powder in the air, like debris mixed with blood. And it covered everything.

My cancer, my family and I believe, has a direct correlation to my time helping on the pile. But I wouldn’t take any of it back, and Mason knows that.

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

And that’s because service is part of me, now. I tell Mason constantly that being in service is such a selfless act. It’s contributing to something bigger than yourself. It just requires humility and the willingness to be open to help others.

Luckily for me, Mason already has most of these traits. But he’s only 14 and has a lot of growing up ahead of him and will face situations where I won’t be there to talk to him.

And that is the one thing that kills me — figuratively, of course — feeling like I’ve let down my son by dying too soon.

He’s talking right now of going to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. I hope he does. He’s smart and creative, and good in science and math. I can see him being a biomechanical engineer or something similar.

But even if he doesn’t go into military, I just want him to be happy helping people. I tell him that if he sees someone who needs help, help them. It’s a really good feeling. I promise.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War I veteran came home and built himself a castle in Ohio

A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.


How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

Complete with sword room.

Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.

It took him 50 years to complete the project.

Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:

[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

Loveland Castle via Instagram

Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.

That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A World War II vet wants cards for his birthday – here’s how to send him one

World War II veteran Recil Troxtel turns 93 years old on April 17, 2019. He stares longingly out the window for much of the day, excited for the mail to arrive. When it finally does, he hops up in the hopes that there might be a personal letter or two, just for him.

With his birthday coming up, all he really wants is more mail. His fellow veterans and members of the military community are sure to step up and drop their friend Recil a line – right?


He sits here in his chair looking out the window every day,” his daughter, Liz Anderson told KSWO, an Oklahoma ABC affiliate. “When the mail is here, he’s like the mail is here, we better go get the mail.”

Unfortunately, there’s not often anything in there for Recil. Now, the soon-to-be 93-year-old Oklahoma man is undergoing cancer treatment. His days of watching for the mail may be short, so maybe we shouldn’t wait for April 17th to roll around. Maybe we should send out greetings, letters, and good wishes to Recil right away. Send them to:

Recil Troxtel
2684 North Highway 81
Marlow, Oklahoma 73055


How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

“I don’t get mail anymore,” Recil said. That’s about to change, buddy.

It’s exciting when he gets it because he will sit there and hold it,” his daughter said. “Sometimes he won’t open it for an hour or two. Other times, he has a knife in his pocket, and he rips that knife out and rips that letter open to see what it is.

His family tells KSWO that he didn’t always enjoy the mail, but he’s at an age now where receiving something doesn’t mean he’s getting a bill. It’s more likely a personal message.

Articles

Trust For Brian Williams Has Completely Crashed

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Trust for Brian Williams, the most popular news anchor in America, has plummeted in one week after he admitted to embellishing a story from his war coverage.

Williams, who anchors “NBC Nightly News,” went from being the 23rd-most-trusted person in America a little over a week ago to falling to the 835th spot, The New York Times reports.

The list comes from the Marketing Arm, a research firm that creates a celebrity index for advertisers and media and marketing executives.

Before Williams admitted that he misrepresented an incident in which a helicopter ahead of his was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while he was in Iraq covering the invasion in 2003, his trustworthiness was on par with that of Denzel Washington, Warren Buffett, and Robin Roberts, according to The Times.

Now he’s on the level of Willie Robertson from “Duck Dynasty,” a reality show that drew criticism after the family patriarch, Phil Robertson, made derogatory comments about homosexuals.

Williams has recounted the Iraq story several times over the past 12 years and has embellished his role in the incident over time. His coverage of Hurricane Katrina has also been called into question. In fact, NBC executives were reportedly warned that Williams was known to embellish stories.

Earlier this month, Williams said on NBC that the helicopter he was flying in was “was forced down after being hit by an RPG.” Crew members who were on the helicopter that was actually hit by a rocket-propelled grenade then came forward to say Williams was on another helicopter that arrived at the site later.

Whether Williams’ helicopter was hit with small-arms fire (as opposed to an RPG) is in some dispute.

Williams announced over the weekend that he would step down from anchoring “NBC Nightly News” for “several days” in light of the fallout over this story. NBC is now conducting an internal investigation into what happened.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Copyright 2015. Follow BI on Twitter.