How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force - We Are The Mighty
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How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

When August O’Niell, a member of an elite special forces group, woke up from routine surgery, it only took one look at his mother’s face to tell something went horribly wrong.


She was with the doctor. “Are you awake? Are you able to talk now?” the doctor asked. “I have woken you up halfway through the surgery. There was so much scar tissue …”

O’Niell had already endured 19 grueling surgeries in the three-and-a-half years since a rifle round mangled his leg while he was on deployment in Afghanistan. He woke up hoping this 20th surgery would finally allow him to have a functional knee. But he quickly learned his left leg would never fully function again.

The entire left side was mostly scar tissue. The skin, tendons and muscle were all adhered straight to the bone in one solid layer. Given the extent of the damage, a knee replacement was going to give him less than 14 degrees of movement.

“You will be in less pain, and I can put it in there if you tell me that’s what you want,” the doctor told him. “But I didn’t feel right putting that in there without telling you that it wasn’t going to be what we thought it was going to be at first.”

“There’s so much scar tissue in there, it’ll be impossible for you to have a functional knee.”

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
Staff Sgt. August O’Niell, a pararescueman in the Air Force Wounded Warrior program, waits to take-off in a UH-60 Black Hawk from the 66th Rescue Squadron Feb. 27, 2015 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. O’Neil delivered the Air Force Wounded Warrior flag to the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials.The 66th RQS along with the 58th Rescue Squadron assisted in the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials. The Air Force Trials are an adaptive sports event designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of seriously ill and injured military members and veterans. More than 105 wounded, ill or injured service men and women from around the country will compete for a spot on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Wounded Warrior Team which will represent the Air Force at adaptive sports competitions throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/Released)

O’Niell was an Air Force pararescueman, a para-jumper or “PJ,” as they are known in the service. He was the elite of the elite, in charge of rescuing the most drastically injured troops, and even top special operators, in dire circumstances. He loved being a PJ, and wanted nothing more than to be back in the field, jumping out of helicopters and saving wounded comrades. The diagnosis he now faced was tough, but without missing a beat, he made up his mind.

“Don’t worry about it, I’m gonna have it amputated,” he said.

Dumbfounded, the doctor asked if he was sure. O’Niell was sure. After 20 surgeries and years of unsuccessful treatment, he was done with experiments.

He allowed himself what he called a “ten minute boo-hoo session.” It wasn’t so much about losing the leg, as it was learning this particular surgery was a fail. He had been looking forward to some relief from the constant pain of his injury.

But none of that mattered now. It was time to move on. He had seen troops with major amputations make remarkable progress on prosthetics in a little as six months while he was in rehab, and here he was after more than three years barely hopping along on crutches. He thought of the amputees he had seen running on prosthetic legs and had a moment of inspiration, and it occurred to him that if he could run again, he could be a PJ again.

That was all the motivation he needed to greenlight the removal of his leg.

A Faucet Of Blood

It happened when O’Niell was halfway through his deployment to Afghanistan on July 15, 2011. The U.S. had begun drawing down forces two days before, but the notoriously violent Sangin Valley was as deadly as ever. O’Niell and his team got a call that a group of Marines were under fire. Two were injured, one critically, after taking a shot in the chest. O’Niell’s team was headed back to base after working all day, but immediately turned around to rescue the injured Marines.

The PJs came onto the scene in two Pavehawk helicopters, one leading the other. They circled in shifts. One would provide watch and draw the enemy’s attention, while the other went into the zone to rescue the wounded.

As O’Neill’s helicopter was about to take a turn going in for the wounded, his team got word that another Marine had been hit. O’Niell was lead medic for the operation, and told his team leader to let the team in the helicopter behind them go into the zone, since it had three PJ medics on board, while they provided cover.

“So it’s better patient care, you know, one medic per patient,” O’Niell told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

O’Niell’s helicopter then flew over the zone, dropped smoke grenades and popped back up so the second helicopter knew where to land. The tactic has the dual purpose of attracting enemy fire, and was successful in doing so.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Niell, Team U.S. athlete, and Airmen with the 301st Rescue Squadron, approach the landing zone in an HH-60G Pave Hawk at Discover Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports during the Invictus Games 2016 opening ceremony in Orlando, Fla., May 8, 2016. O’Niell delivered the Invictus Games flag after hoisting down from the helicopter. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Matthew J. DeVirgilio/Released)

“It works like a charm,” O’Neill said. “We came up over the smoke and popped up and we caught all that fire. They started shooting up at our bird, and one of the rounds, when they shot up, bounced off the door where I was sitting in the left door. [It] bounced off the doorway and then went through both of my legs.”

O’Niell initially he thought a flare had bounced off the door and hit his knee. He looked over the edge of the chopper, and then the pain hit him.

“Ah, they shot me!” he yelled while grabbing the top of the Pavehawk to pull himself back. He saw a hole in the side of the leg of his pants where the bullet had entered. “It just looked like someone had turned a faucet on, it was pouring blood,” he said.

His team leader instinctively jumped towards him, putting one of O’Niell’s tourniquets on his legs. He was in critical condition, forcing the helicopter to return home. Fortunately, a second PJ team was deployed with Apache helicopters in tow when O’Niell returned. They were able to extract the Marines and take out the enemy forces in the area.

O’Niell was well known to the medical staff at the base. He and his fellow PJs would often help out with the injured between shifts in order to keep their medical skills sharp. The hospital pulled a surgeon to try to save O’Neill’s leg. He was woken up after the doctors fixed an artery, and informed he would be moved to Bagram air base.

“Not until I get my re-enlisting paperwork,” O’Niell said.

“Now that’s the type of dude we need!” a nearby officer said excitedly. O’Niell was told it was an Army general. The paperwork was there waiting for him when he got to Bagram. His brother, an Air Force officer who is now also a PJ, swore him back in while he was in Landstuhl, Germany for another round of surgeries.

“The Pipeline”

O’Niell wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he joined the Air Force in 2005, but he was certain he didn’t want to be behind a desk. The Air Force occasionally gets chided as the “Chair Force” by the other services, and O’Niell knew he wanted to be doing something active. He became interested in the pararescue and combat controller jobs. A recruiter warned him that either would be tough, but assured him he wouldn’t see much of a desk.

The medical aspect of the PJs also appealed to O’Niell. His father, a retired Air Force major, had encouraged him to stay in college and become a doctor. He figured the PJs would keep him from a desk job and make his father happy.

“I just went with it,” O’Niell explained. “I joined it not really knowing anything about it except for we jump out of planes and do cool guy stuff.”

Most people have never heard of the PJs, even inside the special operations community. It’s a remarkably small force whose work is often overlooked.

They’re are a remarkable combination of expert shooters, skydivers and medics. A PJ can shoot with the top Marines, save lives like the best Navy medical corpsmen and jump out of planes like an Army Ranger. They even do their fair share of diving. This remarkable combination is why becoming a PJ is one of the hardest things you can do in the military.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos

“You need to be able to deal with all situations between the top of Mount Everest and 130 feet below the ocean — and in all environments, all weather conditions, all light conditions,” Nic McKinley, a former PJ, told TheDCNF. “And you need to be able to deal with them in a way that mitigates risk to the extent that you will live through those missions, because, you know, there is nobody to go get the PJs if the PJ’s gonna patrol.”

Training for the group, known as “The Pipeline,” has one of the highest attrition rates of any program in the armed forces. O’Niell started training in a class of 110. Nine would make it through. For McKinley, that was a big draw factor.

“I’m a big data guy,” he told TheDCNF. “I really like the numbers and the facts, and I don’t like your opinion.”

On the basis of data, McKinley found the PJs to be the toughest. “You know, they can get into arguments about why, or any of the subjective stuff, but the objective data shows that it’s harder,” he told TheDCNF.

Special operators often debate about who is the toughest, but one thing is clear: when the SEALs, Green Berets and Marines need saving in the worst conditions, they call the PJs.

The training puts a massive strain on your mental strength.

“You can’t just have a high level physical performance and ride on that, you also have to be able to think at a high level,” McKinley said. “Pararescue teams expect you to be able to do everything, and if you can’t do it at a high level, you need to go succeed elsewhere.”

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
Emerald Warrior 2017-special-operations-rapid-deploymentA U.S. Air Force pararescueman assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron conducts a combat search and rescue training mission during Emerald Warrior 17 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 4, 2017. Emerald Warrior is a U.S. Special Operations Command exercise during which joint special operations forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Haley D. Phillips)

The entire process takes between two and three years. After basic training, a would-be PJ starts “The Pipeline” with an indoctrination course at Lackland Air Force Base, which consists of ten weeks of intense physical training including obstacle courses, running and swimming.

“That’s where they test your mental and physical limits … push every button they can,” O’Niell told TheDCNF.

No aspect of indoctrination training so utterly punishes the mental toughness of a PJ than “The Pool.” Technically known as “water confidence training,” the Pool is known for chewing up even the most elite athletes in the program.

Would-be PJs are expected to swim laps under water, tie complex knots at the pool bottom, bob up and down with hands and ankles tied (an exercise known as “drown proofing”) and wrestle underwater with an instructor while not being allowed to fight back, according to former PJ Matt White. His solution? Just don’t breathe.

“When your fingers go number tying a knot, you can panic,” he wrote in a piece for Task and Purpose. “Or you can relax. When an instructor pushes you to the bottom of the pool and stands on your head, what can you do? You can quit. Or you can relax.”

PJs who survive indoctrination go on to a combat diver course in Panama City, Florida for six weeks, then to survival school in Spokane, Washington. Next they pay a visit to Army Airborne School, where they learn to jump out of planes, before heading to either Army or Navy free-fall skydiving school, located in Yuma, Arizona and San Diego, California respectively.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

Once a PJ candidate is a honed warrior they attend 37 weeks of various medical courses. Trainees are expected to get their national paramedic certification within two months of medical training, a task which normally takes six months.

The Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course puts everything a PJ trainee has learned together in a 24-week course which includes shooting, jumping and full mock mission profiles. Upon completion, a PJ is given a maroon beret and assigned a team. A PJ is then expected to to do on the job training with his team to become mission qualified.

O’Niell deployed to Afghanistan with about 20 people rotating in six man teams. He recalled flying approximately eight missions per shift, all of them being worst case scenarios. He acknowledged that war is terrible, but said he loved Afghanistan because he got to do his job.

“It’s very satisfying when you have a guy [that] easily ten minutes later … would’ve been just dead, and you were able to get him, get pain meds onboard, get blood onboard, and see this guy who wasn’t even responding all of a sudden start blinking up at you and you’re like: ‘Hey man, you’re going to be good,'” said O’Niell. “And then you go and check with the hospital, they’re like ‘Yea, he’s on his way home,’ and it’s just awesome.”

When asked how many people he’s saved, O’Niell said he never kept count.

Road To Recovery

His job cost him a leg and years of pain and surgeries, but O’Niell is laser focused on returning to the fray. There was not a hint of regret or doubt in his voice when he recalled his harrowing experience to TheDCNF. He detailed his injury like the challenges presented by one of his missions, by focusing on solutions to problems.

Step one of O’Niell’s road back to the PJ teams was to get acquainted with his new prosthetic leg. Fortunately, the Center for the Intrepid fitted him with one of the most advanced models available.

“It’s an Ottobock X3, and it’s awesome,” he said.

The leg is completely waterproof, and comes with an app that lets O’Niell switch between four modes suited for various kinds of situations. He detailed it like a piece of high-tech military equipment.

“I’ve got a boxing mode, which basically doesn’t allow the knee bend more than 14 degrees, that way I can throw a punch and don’t have to worry about the knee buckling. And I can, you know, bob and weave on it,” O’Niell said. “I’ve got a running mode, I’ve got the basic walking mode which is just the everyday mode, and I’ve got a jump mode, which keeps the knee from bending past ninety degrees while I’m jumping so that way I can fly flat dumb and happy, as we say, and not worry about backsliding.”

WATCH:

His injury was not the least bit apparent when I met him for the first time in an Air Force office in Manhattan, except for the presence of his service dog, Kai. O’Niell walked through the door and shook hands much like he probably did before the injury.

Most amputees usually require approximately six weeks of walking on their new prosthetics before they take them home. But O’Niell was taking his home in only two. He noted that’s because most amputees have trouble trusting the devices to hold their weight.

“I attribute it to the fact that I’ve trusted my life on much sketchier pieces of equipment,” O’Niell joked. Falling to his knees due to a prosthetic is nothing when you’re used to jumping from planes with parachutes made by the lowest bidder.

O’Niell’s sense of relief after the amputation and prosthetic was practically immediate. Even before the prosthetic was fitted, he recalled his fellow PJs looking at him strangely after the amputation when they found him moving around his thigh. He hadn’t been able to move the leg for years before, so this was a victory.

“The pain I was living with was awful,” he said. “I don’t take pain meds so it became a normal way of life, just living with pain all the time and it’s miserable. It’s miserable. So yeah, it was definitely awesome waking up and immediately not feeling that pain.”

The next step to getting back to the job he loved was requalification. By November 2016, O’Niell had qualified in calisthenics, swimming, parachuting, ropes, alternative insertion, diving and was close to reaching the requisite run time. He has been working on mission profiles as well, in order to learn how to adjust to his new leg.

O’Niell’s fellow PJs have been extremely supportive during his recovery. They’ve kept him up to date on any new tech or kit that has been incorporated since his injury, and asked him when he is coming back to the teams. He even had training plan offers from five or six team chiefs. He noted he’s unsure about their motivations, but nevertheless, he remains focused on his goal.

Fellow injured airmen have also been a source of strength and friendship. Thanks to the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, O’Niell has developed a close-knit group of friends who refer to themselves as “The Order of the Pineapple.” He noted the origin of the name is a long story, but that not a day goes by that they don’t talk to each other.

Additionally, his service dog Kai has served a crucial role in his recovery. K9 Soldiers in New Jersey gave him the German Shepherd on Veteran’s Day 2013, and he has relied on him ever since.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Niell’s service dog, Kai, runs out to meet him during the opening ceremony of Invictus Games 2016 in Orlando, Fla. May 8, 2016. O’Niell delivered the Invictus Flag after hoisting down from a 920th Rescue Wing HH-60G Pave Hawk.(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/Released)

“Mentally, I was in a real crappy place when I started reaching out to get him, and then after getting him, he’s just made my outlook almost one-eighty,” explained O’Niell. “I’m inherently a really happy person anyway, so when I’m depressed, I’m very depressed … because a lot of things have happened to make me very depressed.”

Kai can sense when O’Niell is depressed or angry, and will come put his head on his lap or go for a walk with him, immediately putting O’Niell in a better mood. He also helps with bracing and stability and will block people from invading his personal space. Kai also can do smaller tasks, like getting O’Niell his phone and keys when he doesn’t have the prosthetic attached.

“He’s not a retriever and he absolutely hates doing it, but he will do it,” joked O’Niell.

Kai goes to work with O’Niell, and has become a big hit with the other PJs. He inspired a team in Alaska to buy their own dog so they can keep up morale abroad. O’Niell hopes to bring Kai on his next deployment. The German Shepherd won’t be tagging along on missions, but he would be waiting for him when he gets home.

The First Of His Kind

Other special operations forces have rejoined their units after an amputation, including members of the Army Special Forces, Marine Special Operations Command and Navy SEALs. Advances in medical science and prosthetics have allowed many troops to return to duty after amputations. More than 16 percent of amputees had returned to combat in the early 2000s, up from 2.3 percent in the 1980s. But O’Niell would be a first for the PJs and the Air Force.

He has every intention of getting back in, and he doesn’t plan to leave any time soon. He reenlisted in the beginning of 2015, and plans to do at least another five years after his contract runs out.

“The majority of people who want an amputation, they aren’t very crazy like I am, so they’re just kind of like ‘Yeah, I’m done,’ and rightfully so,” he said.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
August O’Niell 2014 Warrior Games athlete profile trading card. The Air Force designed these player cards to highlight the participants in the 2014 games. Warrior Games is a competition for wounded, injured and ill service members and veterans to create competitive sports opportunities for injured service members. The games will take place Sept. 28 – Oct. 4 utilizing venues at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. View each athlete’s full profile and other Warrior Games news on www.af.mil. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Corey Parrish)

O’Niell’s remarkable story has also come with a great deal of unexpected fame. He has competed in both the Warrior Games and Invictus Games, the latter of which earned him a profile in ESPN. He also led the Atlanta Falcons onto the field during the Super Bowl, carrying an American flag as he ran in front of thousands on his prosthetic. And Paramount Pictures bought a pitch on O’Niell’s story in March, so a feature film could be in the works.

O’Niell told TheDCNF he’s “excited” for the press coverage to end, but he’s also pleased his story brings attention to PJs. “I don’t mind doing this type of stuff because it highlights the career field and that’s awesome,” he said.

For now, he is continuing strength training and Pararescue qualification training at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Florida, where he is expected to join a team sometime next year if all goes well.

has been sent to begin requalifications so he can join a team at Hurlburt Field AFB, hopefully sometime next year. Assessments with the teams have been positive, and aside from some issues with stress fractures, he has no complaints.

O’Niell hopes to be back to jumping out of planes and saving lives as early as the end of 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump orders 7,000 troops out of Afghanistan

President Donald Trump has ordered the immediate withdrawal of more than 7,000 US troops from Afghanistan, according to multiple reports, citing defense officials.


In what appears to be the first major step toward ending America’s involvement in a war fought for nearly two decades, the president has decided to cut the US military presence in Afghanistan in half, The Wall Street Journal reported. There are currently roughly 14,000 American service members in the war-torn country.

News of the withdrawal comes just one day after Trump declared victory over ISIS and announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, a move that reportedly drove the president’s secretary of defense to resign from his position Dec. 20, 2018.

“I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts,” one senior U.S. official told TheWSJ. “I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”

Another official told The New York Times that the Afghan forces, which have suffered unbelievably high casualties, need to learn to stand on their own, something senior military leaders have suggested they may not yet be ready to do.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Troops secure a landing zone in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army)

US military leaders, most recently Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, have characterized the war in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” with no end in sight. A total of 14 American service members have died in Afghanistan this year, six in the last two months alone.

US troops are both training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and carrying out counterterrorism operations against regional terror groups, like ISIS and Al Qaeda. In September 2017, Trump ordered the deployment of an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan.

The decision to reduce the number of US troops in country to roughly half their current levels was reportedly made at the same time Trump decided to withdraw from Syria.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA adds 3D printing and virtual reality as treatment options

Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.

The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.


VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.

Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.

Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.

These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.

Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan could buy F-35s for its carriers

In recent years, Japan hasn’t maintained a reputation for being an immense military power. A big reason for this is that, after World War II, the country put strong limits on military expenditures. Yet, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces is one of the most modern militaries out there, with the world’s second-largest carrier force, a secret UCAV program, and a high-tech aviation industry that has a fifth-generation fighter in the works. They even put the F-16 on steroids. That and other programs combine to create one of the best air forces in the world. Japan may now be making that air force even stronger.


The Japanese government has elected to buy 25 more F-35 Lightnings. This purchase adds to the 38 that Japan ordered to serve as frontline combat planes and an additional four as trainers. The four trainers were built in the United States, but the frontline combat planes are being assembled in Japan by Mitsubishi, who make the F-2 (the souped-up F-16) and the F-15J.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) conduct flight operations above Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Becky Calhoun)

TheDiplomat.com also reported that Japan was considering F-35Bs to operate from its Izumo-class helicopter destroyers (technically V/STOL carriers). The reports drew strong criticism from Communist China, which has carried out a series of aggressive actions (including deploying weapons at its island bases) in the South China Sea and near the Senkaku Islands.

While many outlets focus on the Izumo-class carriers as likely candidates to use the F-35B, the slightly smaller Hygua-class helicopter destroyers (Japan’s first carriers since World War II) are larger than some “Harrier carriers” that have successfully operated V/STOL aircraft in the past.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, descends to the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) during Exercise Dawn Blitz. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Another option would be for Japan to operate the F-35B from forward bases on the Senkaku Islands. The V/STOL capabilities of the F-35B would make it possible for Japan to turn those disputed islands into an unsinkable aircraft carrier.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel is the only country that believes its Iranian nuke intel

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it has “no credible” evidence Iran was working on developing a nuclear “explosive device” after 2009 and that the UN’s nuclear watchdog considered the issue “closed” after it was presented in a report in December 2015.

The 2015 report “stated that the agency had no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009. Based on the director-general’s report, the board of governors declared that its consideration of this issue was closed,” the IAEA said in a statement on May 1, 2018.


“In line with standard IAEA practice, the IAEA evaluates all safeguards-relevant information available to it. However, it is not the practice of the IAEA to publicly discuss issues related to any such information,” it added.

The IAEA statement comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 30, 2018, that Israel had documents that showed new “proof” of an Iranian nuclear-weapons plan that could be activated at any time.

Under an agreement in 2015 with world leaders, Iran curbed its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel to ease concerns it could be put to use in developing bomb material. In return, Tehran won relief from most international sanctions.

Since then, UN nuclear inspectors have repeatedly reported that Iran is heeding the terms of the deal.

European states have dismissed the significance of documents, while the United States welcomed them as evidence of Iranian “lies.”

Iran has accused Netanyahu of being an “infamous liar” over the allegations, which come as the United States is considering whether to pull out of an atomic accord with Tehran, which has always rejected allegations that it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic program was solely for civilian purposes.

“The documents show that Iran had a secret nuclear-weapons program for years” while it was denying it was pursuing such weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late on April 30, 2018, as he returned to Washington from a trip to Europe and the Middle East.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
Mike Pompeo
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“What this means is [Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers] was not constructed on a foundation of good faith or transparency. It was built on Iran’s lies,” Pompeo said, adding that the trove of documents Israel said it obtained on Iran’s so-called Project Amad to develop nuclear weapons before 2004 contain “new information.”

“The Iranians have consistently taken the position that they’ve never had a program like this. This will belie any notion that there wasn’t a program,” Pompeo said.

Netanyahu made his dramatic announcement less than two weeks before the May 12, 2018 deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether he will withdraw from the deal, which requires Iran to curb some of its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Reuters reported on May 1, 2018, that according to a senior Israeli official, Netanyahu informed Trump about the evidence during a meeting in Washington on March 5, 2018, and that the U.S. president agreed Israel would publish the information before the May 12, 2018 deadline.

The White House on May 1, 2018, said the United States “certainly supported” efforts by Netanyahu to release intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program.

In a May 1, 2018 interview with CNN, Netanyahu said he did not seek war with Iran, but it was Tehran “that’s changing the rules in the region.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said in a statement on May 1, 2018, that accusations Tehran lied about its nuclear ambitions were “worn-out, useless, and shameful” and came from a “broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits.”

“How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter, adding that the Israeli claims were “ridiculous” and “a rehash of old allegations.”

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
(Photo by Carlos Rodríguez)

‘This shows why deal needed’

European powers also said they were not impressed by the nearly 55,000 documents that Netanyahu claimed would prove that Iran once planned to develop the equivalent of “five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles.”

“We have never been naive about Iran and its nuclear intentions,” a British government spokesman said, adding that that was why the nuclear agreement contained a regime to inspect suspected Iranian nuclear sites that is “one of the most extensive and robust in the history of international nuclear accords.”

“It remains a vitally important way of independently verifying that Iran is adhering to the deal and that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” the British spokesman said.

Britain, France, and Germany are the three European powers that signed the deal, along with Russia, China, and the United States.

European officials said the documents provided by Israel contained no evidence that Iran continued to develop nuclear weapons after the 2015 deal was signed, so they indirectly confirm that Iran is complying with the deal.

France’s Foreign Ministry said on May 1, 2018, that the Israeli information could be a basis for long-term monitoring of Tehran’s nuclear activities, as the information proved the need to ensure the nuclear deal and UN inspections remained.

A German government spokesman said Berlin will analyze the materials provided by Israel, but added that the documents demonstrate why the nuclear deal with its mandatory inspections must be maintained.

“It is clear that the international community had doubts that Iran was carrying out an exclusively peaceful nuclear program,” the spokesman said. “It was for this reason the nuclear accord was signed in 2015.”

Netanyahu also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 30, 2018, who afterward said in a statement issued by the Kremlin that the nuclear deal remains of “paramount importance to international stability and security, and must be strictly observed by all its signatories,” the Russian state-run news agency TASS reported.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
Russian President Vladimir Putin

The White House welcomed the Israeli announcement, saying that Tel Aviv had uncovered “new and compelling details” about Tehran’s efforts to develop “missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.”

“The United States has long known Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear-weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people,” the White House said.

The jousting over the Israeli announcement came as Trump repeated his strong opposition to the deal, which he called a “horrible agreement.”

“In seven years, that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons,” Trump said at the White House. “That is not acceptable.”

Many observers have concluded that Trump will move to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal on May 12, 2018.

Trump did not say on April 30, 2018, what he will do, but he rejected a suggestion that walking away from the Iran deal would send a bad signal to North Korea as it negotiates with Washington over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“I think it sends the right message” to Pyongyang, Trump said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

President Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to prepare a grand military parade in Washington, DC, and the initial response has been largely negative.


Democratic lawmakers quickly came out against it Feb. 6, with Rep. Jackie Speier of California telling CNN, “we have a Napoleon in the making here” and saying, “everyone should be offended” by the idea.

“Oh my god… he wants to be Kim Jong Un,” the MSNBC personality Joy Reid remarked on Twitter in response to the news.

The Pentagon is said to be exploring dates for such a parade. But if it does happen, Trump wouldn’t be the first U.S. president, or even the first modern one, to hold a military parade in Washington, DC.

There’s a long history of military parades in the U.S., but its recent history is anchored in the Cold War when the U.S. showed off nuclear missiles long before North Korea’s Kim dynasty even had the capability.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Recent history of U.S. military parades — and their nukes

In 1953 and 1957, Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugurations included nuclear-capable missiles rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade included four types of nuclear missiles, the nuclear historian Stephen Schwartz pointed out on Twitter.

Both Kennedy and Eisenhower presided over some of the tensest days of the Cold War-era nuclear-arms race with the Soviet Union.

In Kennedy’s case, a frightened U.S. had just watched the Soviets’ Sputnik satellite, mankind’s first, passing through the skies. American schoolchildren were drilled on how to hide under desks in the event of a nuclear attack. After all, if the Soviets could put a satellite in space and fly it around the world, they could also put up the bomb.

On the other end of the Cold War, when the U.S. emerged victorious from the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush brought back the military for another parade.

The U.S. victory had been decisive, with Saddam Hussein’s army, the world’s third-largest at the time, decimated by superior U.S. military power. Though 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. casualties were forecast in the conflict, where chemical weapons had killed scores of civilians, fewer than 300 U.S. troops died.

Also Read: North Korea wants to scare the US with a huge military parade

The U.S. brought its troops home for a parade in June 1991, when Bush’s approval rating was soaring.

Later that year, the Kremlin lowered the Communist hammer-and-sickle flag for the last time. The Soviet Union imploded, and the Cold War ended.

The Cold War is back on, parades and all

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has withdrawn troops from Europe and taken measures to reduce its military footprint and nuclear stockpiles. The Obama administration increasingly treated Russia like a partner and less like a competitor.

But late in Obama’s presidency, the tide started to turn. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 to a muted U.S. and NATO response.

Russia intervened in Syria’s civil war the next year and immediately started bombing U.S.-backed forces. Additionally, Russia stands accused of violating arms-control agreements with the U.S. and placing nuclear weapons in Europe, much as it did in the Cold War.

China, over the same period, embarked on a massive, ambitious campaign to rebuild its military and dominate the South China Sea, a shipping lane where annual commerce worth trillions of dollars passes through, and where China has ignored international law in building artificial islands in contested territory.

The return to Cold War footing for Eastern powers isn’t Trump’s doing and didn’t happen on his watch, but the U.S.’s embrace of a new Cold War definitely is.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
China and North Korea used to be friends. Now, China won’t even take their calls.

Trump takes aim at China and Russia, looking to fight fire with fire

The Trump administration recently released a series of documents outlining the U.S.’s foreign policy and military bearings. In the National Defense Strategy, the National Security Strategy, and the Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration has consistently named its biggest challenges as taming the rises of Russia and China.

Trump’s new nuclear posture looks past arms control and toward an arms race.

Russia regularly holds military parades. So does North Korea. So do many U.S. allies, including many democracies.

Trump’s military parade may be costly, and it may tax an already stretched military, but in context, it marks a return to Cold War-era great-power competition.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 more phrases old school veterans can’t stop saying — and we love it

We love our old-school veterans that don’t have a problem speaking their minds. They fought Nazis without the internet — they’re miraculous heroes, every damn one of them.


With that in mind, their generation has some pretty entertaining sayings that we should all know about:

1. “There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.”

If you’re deployed and occupying a foxhole — or fighting hole — chances are you’re freakin’ close to the enemy and sh*t could “pop-off” at any time.

When that intense firefight does break out, it’s common for troops to believe in a higher power suddenly.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
U.S. troops positioned in a foxhole in a forest in Germany, 1945. (Source: Pinterest)

2. “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

This Marine expression is commonly used during a hardcore PT session when it looks like someone is about to fall out — it also happens to be one of the Corps’ many slogans.

Regardless, this epic phrase continues to be a source of motivation far after someone receives their DD-214.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
OO-Rah! Sincerely, the Marine Corps.

3. “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”

Orders are orders — regardless of how much we don’t believe in them or want to fulfill them.

4. “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”

During regular working hours — or when you’re still in uniform — senior troops don’t like to see their juniors just standing around not doing sh*t.

So, if you’re caught just hanging around, chances are you’re going to be cleaning something very soon.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
When you get caught leaning so hard, you have to wear a hard hat to clean up. (Source: DoD)

5. “Looking like a soup sandwich.”

A term for when someone in uniform looks freaking unsatisfactory. No real clue of how this saying came about, but we’re glad it did.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
At least attempt to get it right.

6. “It’s mind over matter; I don’t mind and you don’t matter!”

Many service members who had power didn’t seem to mind letting their junior troops know how they felt about them or their complaints. Completing the mission was most important aspect of any task.

7. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It’s common when the higher-ups want to modify or replace a piece of equipment regardless of how successful the prior model functioned.

Old school vets tend not to like too much change in their lives when they have something that works for them.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Can you think of any others? Leave a comment!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Drones & detonations: How Sri Lanka is responding to the attacks

Sri Lanka has banned drones and is detonating suspicious items around its capital city in the aftermath of a series of deadly bombings on Easter Sunday that killed at least 359 people.

In a statement, Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority said it was banning drones and unmanned aircraft because of the “existing security situation in the country,” The Associated Press reported.The ban will remain in place until further notice, Sri Lankan authorities said.

Investigators were searching for other possible explosive devices and stopping to search people and vehicles in Colombo on April 25, 2019, AP reported, four days after blasts ripped through hotels and churches across Sri Lanka.


Few people were outside in parts of the city while authorities searched locations near where the bombs went off, according to the AP. Sri Lanka has also imposed a curfew, from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. local time.

Sri Lanka Bombings: What the Scale of the Attacks Tells Us | NYT News

www.youtube.com

Drones carrying explosives have previously been used by militant groups such as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lankan attacks.

But ISIS’ links to the attacks have not been proven, and authorities have blamed National Towheed Jamaat, a local extremist group that has not taken public responsibility. A high-level intelligence official told CNN that the group was planning another round of attacks in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan authorities said they believe an international network of extremists could have helped the group carry out the attacks.

Almost 60 people have been detained in relation to the bombings, while two brothers who are believed to have been involved in the bombings, Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, were members of one of the city’s wealthiest families.

Sri Lanka’s deputy defence minister said on April 24, 2019, that the country believes one of the bombers studied in the UK and Australia.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China tries to warn off Poseidon 6 times

Chinese forces deployed to the hotly contested South China Sea ordered a US Navy reconnaissance aircraft to “leave immediately” six times on Aug. 10, 2018, but the pilot stayed the course, refusing to back down.

A US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane flew past China’s garrisons in the Spratly Islands, giving CNN reporters aboard the aircraft a view of Chinese militarization in the region.


Flying over Chinese strongholds on Mischief Reef, Johnson Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Subi Reef, CNN spotted “large radar installations, power plants, and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft.” At one outpost, onboard sensors detected 86 vessels, including Chinese Coast Guard ships, which China has been known to use to strong-arm countries with competing claims in the South China Sea.

Lt. Lauren Callen, who led the US Navy crew, said it was “surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean.”

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

View from Spratly Islands.

The Chinese stationed in the area were not exactly kind hosts to the uninvited guests.

Warning the aircraft that it was in Chinese territory — an argument an international arbitration tribunal ruled against two years ago — the Chinese military ordered the US Navy plane to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding.”

Six warnings were issued, according to CNN, and the US Navy responded the same every time.

“I am a sovereign immune US naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state,” the crew replied, adding, “In exercising these rights guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”

The incident comes on the heels of a report by the Philippine government revealing that China has been increasingly threatening foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea.

“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the Spratlys warned a Philippine military aircraft in early 2018, according to the Associated Press. “I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the voice said over the radio.

The US Navy has noticed an increase in such queries as well.

“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US 7th Fleet, told the AP, adding, “These communications do not affect our operations.”

Of greater concern for the US military are recent Chinese deployments of military equipment and weapons systems, such as jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. While the US has accused China of “intimidation and coercion” in the disputed waterway, Beijing argues it is the US, not China, that is causing trouble in the region.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on Aug. 10, 2018’s exchange between the Chinese military and the US Navy.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The history of Dr. Seuss’ Army career

Dr. Seuss is a story-writing legend in America. It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Lorax” or “Horton Hears A Who!”


How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Army Master Sgt. Nekia Haywood reads to children at Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield, Va., March 2, 2018, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

(Photo by Fran Mitchell, Army)

But well before those iconic books were written, Dr. Seuss joined the World War II effort on the home front using his real name, Theodor Seuss Geisel.

At first, he drew posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board. But by 1943, Geisel wanted to do more, so he joined the U.S. Army. He was put in command of the animation department of the 1st Motion Picture Unit, which was created out of the Army Signal Corps. There, he wrote pamphlets and films and contributed to the famous Private Snafu cartoon series.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Army Maj. Theodor Geisel.

(Army photo)

Private Snafu — which stood for situation normal, all fouled up — was a series of adult instructional cartoons meant to relate to the noncareer soldier. They were humorous and sometimes even raunchy. According to the National Archives’ Special Media Archives Services Division, Geisel and his team believed that the risque subject matter would help keep soldiers’ attention, and because the Snafu series was for Army personnel only, producers could avoid traditional censorship.

Geisel’s cartoons were often featured on Army-Navy Screen Magazine, a biweekly production of several short segments.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel at work on a drawing of the Grinch, the hero of his children’s book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

(Library of Congress photo)

One of Geisel’s most significant military works, however, wasn’t animated. It was called “Your Job in Germany” and was an orientation film for soldiers who would occupy Germany after the war was over. Geisel, who was German-American himself, was assigned to write it a year before the Germans surrendered.

According to Geisel’s biography, “Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel,” Geisel said he was sent to Europe during the war to screen the film in front of top generals for approval. He happened to be in Belgium in December 1944, when the Battle of the Bulge — Hitler’s last big counteroffensive in Belgium’s Ardennes forest — erupted. According to his biography, Geisel was trapped 10 miles behind enemy lines, and it took three days before he and his military police escort were rescued by British forces.

According to National Archives staff, it’s possible that the snafu cartoons influenced Geisel’s career as Dr. Seuss. Throughout Snafu, Geisel started using limited vocabulary and rhyme — something noticeable in his later works like “The Cat in the Hat,” which used only 236 words but is one of the best-selling books of all time.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, shares a “The Cat in the Hat” reading hat before he reads to children at the child development center at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., April 26, 2018.

(Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Julie R. Matyascik)

Geisel left the Army in January 1946, having attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. He stayed in the filmmaking industry for a few years, even working on documentaries and shorts that earned Academy Awards, but he eventually switched to using his pen name, Dr. Seuss, to start writing children’s books.

And the rest, as they say, is history!

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY MONEY

6 things you should know about the GI Bill

1. Be strategic about your degree

Choose a degree that leads to a career and a school that can help build a career network. I know it looks tempting to get the BAH, and take random classes. Don’t take that temptation. If you have to, go to a community college for two years to get a taste for school, and then choose a direction.


Read More: GI Bill gets huge boost with this new law

2. Research schools

Choose a school that lets you go to school year-round. If you can take 6 classes per semester, do it. If four is better for your school-life balance, do that. Remember, it may be more economical to take more classes. If your school charges the same for 12 credits as 18, take 18 credits. It might be hard, but you will be pushing through more effectively. Again though, you want to succeed, so only take a course load that helps you succeed.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
Life hack: bend your young, naïve classmates to your war-hardened will.

3. Plan it out

Plan your classes down to the day. Look at the schedule for each semester. The GI Bill is prorated down to the day. If you have even one-day left, you will qualify for the entire semester including BAH. By planning this, you’ll be able to get more from your GI Bill. Also, the BAH is lower for an online program, but if the degree gives you something of benefit, it might be worth it to take a lower BAH rate. Focus on the long-term plan.

4. Choose a school based on the professors and the network they offer you

This is not GI Bill specific, but your professors and fellow-students will be your network in the future. Look at alumni. Look at the research by your professors. Look at who works for the school in a consulting or a part-time capacity. These relationships are super important towards shaping your future. Utilize them.

Read More: 4 schools the GI Bill pays for other than traditional college

5. Don’t be afraid to change direction and re-plan everything

I did this in my first semester of undergrad. I had a plan that wasn’t smart. My professors pushed me toward a degree that would get me to my goals. That being said, my last semester of Graduate School, I changed my mind on what I wanted to do with my life. It happens. I am creating my own peacebuilding business instead of going to work for the UN. I have all the skills for this from my two degrees, and it fits my interests better.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
You’re never too old to mess with the bell curve.

6. Be active in planning, preparing, and choosing all aspects of your degree path

This is part of planning your schedule, but it’s also about taking classes that will help you in your career. Don’t take a math class that you don’t need. Don’t take gym just to take it. Take classes that teach you things that you will use. If you do this, you’ll get more than your money’s worth from the GI-Bill.

This is how I’ve used the GI-Bill with purpose, and how I think you can do the same.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO war games are focused on Russia and the extreme cold

Trident Juncture, taking place between Oct. 25 and Nov. 7, 2018, in and around Norway, is just one of NATO’s military exercises in 2018.

But officials have said the 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and dozens of planes and ships on hand make it the biggest NATO exercise since the Cold War.


NATO leaders have stressed it’s strictly a defensive exercise, but it comes amid heightened tensions between NATO and Russia, and Moscow has made its displeasure well known.

What’s also clear is that as the US and NATO refocus on operations in Europe, they’re preparing to deal with a foe that predates the alliance and the rival it was set up to counter.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

German infantrymen board a MV-22B Osprey during Trident Juncture 18 at Vaernes Air Base, Norway, Nov. 1, 2018.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)

“So when I was back in the States a couple weeks ago doing a press conference on Trident Juncture, people asked me the question, ‘Why in the world would you do this in October and November in Norway? It’s cold,'” Adm. James Foggo, who heads the Navy’s 6th Fleet and is overseeing Trident Juncture, said in an Oct. 27, 2018 interview.

“That’s exactly why,” he added. “Because we’re toughening everyone up.”

The US military maintained a massive presence in Europe during the Cold War. The bulk of it was in Germany, though US forces, like the Marine Corps hardware in secret caves in Norway, were stationed around the continent.

In the years after the Cold War, however, the emphasis on major operations in Europe — and the logistical and tactical preparations they entail — waned, as operations in the desert environments of the Middle East expanded.

In recent years, the US and NATO have taken a number of steps to reverse that shift, and with that has come renewed attention to the challenges of cold-weather operations.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Belgian and German soldiers from the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force train for weapons proficiency in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture, Oct. 30, 2018.

(PAO 1 German/Netherlands Corps)

“The change is all of us are having to recapture the readiness mindset and ability to fight full-spectrum in all conditions across the theater,” said Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general at the end of 2017.

“The Marines used to always be in Norway. They had equipment stored in caves,” Hodges said.

“I cannot imagine Hohenfels or Grafenwoehr without freezing” weather, he added, referring to major Army training areas in Germany. “It’s either freezing there or completely muddy.”

“We used to always do that” kind of training, Hodges said, but, “frankly, because of the perception and hope that Russia was going to be a friend and a partner, we stopped working on those things, at least the US did, to the same level.”

In mid-October 2018, US Marines rehearsed an amphibious assault in Iceland to simulate retaking territory that would be strategically valuable in the North Atlantic. That assault was practice for another landing to take place during Trident Juncture, where challenging terrain and weather were again meant to test Marine capabilities.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

US Marines during Trident Juncture 18 near Hjerkinn, Norway, Nov. 2, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)

“Cold-weather training, we’ve had training before … we got underway. Just being here is a little different,” said Chief Petty Officer David Babil, a senior ramp marshal overseeing the Corps’ amphibious-landing exercise in Alvund, Norway. “You’ve just got to stay warm. The biggest difference is definitely the weather, but other than that we train how we fight, so we’re ready 24/7.”

Chances for unique training conditions are also found ashore.

“The first consideration is the opportunity to employ the tanks in a cold-weather environment,” said 1st Lt. Luis Penichet, a Marine Corps tank platoon commander, ahead of an exercise that included a road march near Storas in central Norway.

“So once the conditions start to ice over and or fill with snow, one thing we are unable to train in Lejeune is to cleat the tanks and drive them in those type of conditions,” Penichet added. “So we have the possibility to replace [tank tread] track pads with metal cleats to allow us to continue maneuvering. So that is one benefit of operating in the environment like this.”

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

US Marines in a Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicle from the USS New York perform an amphibious landing at Alvund, Norway, during Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)

“Everything is more difficult in the cold, whether it’s waking up in the morning or even something as simple as going from your tent to the shower,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kyle Davis, the camp commandant at Orland Airfield at Brekstad, on the central Norwegian coast.

The US Defense Department recently extended the Marine Corps deployment in Norway, where Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has emphasized that the Corps is trying to prepare for a potential “big-ass fight” in harsh conditions.

But US personnel aren’t the only ones who see the benefits of training at the northern edge of Europe.

“To my surprise, it wasn’t actually much of a change in our equipment,” said 1st Lt. Kristaps Kruze, commander of the Latvian contingent at the exercise, when asked about how the weather affected his gear.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

(US Marine Corps photo)

“That just proves that our equipment is not only capable of withstanding temperature in Latvia, but also capable of withstanding harsh winters also in Norwegian territory,” Kruze said in an interview in Rena, near Norway’s border with Sweden, as Trident Juncture got underway.

“During Trident Juncture, since we are in Norway, we have to deal with the cold weather,” Sgt. Cedric, a French sniper, said in Rena, as French, Danish, British, and German troops conducted long-range sniper training.

“For a sniper, cold weather requires to be more careful when shooting. It can affect the shooting a lot,” Cedric said. “Also, when we are infiltrating, we need to make sure we conserve energy and stay warm once we are in position.”

Integrating with NATO forces in the harsh conditions was particularly important for troops from Montenegro, which is NATO’s newest member.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

Italian army soldiers face off against members of the Canadian army in a simulated attack during Trident Juncture in Alvdal, Norway, Nov. 3, 2018.

(Photo by MCpl Pat Blanchard)

“As you can see there is much snow and its temperature [is in] the very low degrees,” Lt. Nikola Popovic, an infantry platoon commander from Montenegro, said in Folldal, in the mountains of central Norway.

“Because we are a new NATO member, a new ally, we are here to prepare ourselves for winter conditions, because this is an exercise in extreme winter conditions,” Popovic said.

The temperature was the biggest surprise, he added, “but we are working on it.”

NATO countries in the northern latitudes, like Norway, as well as Sweden and Finland, which are not members but partner closely with the alliance and are at Trident Juncture, have no shortage of cold-weather experience.

“They live there so they do it all the time,” Hodges said.

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

A Canadian army BvS 10 Viking nicknamed “Thor” on a mountainside near Alvdal, Norway, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Nov. 4, 2018.

(NATO photo by Rob Kunzing)

“This is about the US having to relearn” how to operate in those kind of conditions, Hodges added.

Fighting in that kind of environment requires military leaders to consider the affects on matters both big and small, whether that’s distributing lubricant for individual machine guns or the movement of thousands of troops and their heavy gear across snow-covered fields and on narrow mountain roads.

“It affects vehicle maintenance, for example. It affects air operations. It’s not just about individual soldiers being cold,” Hodges added. “It’s all of your systems have to be able to operate, so you have to practice it and take those factors into consideration.”

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

Articles

US Army gives heroic Marine a posthumous medal upgrade to Silver Star

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff in Afghanistan in 2011. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. Joshua Murray)


The family of a decorated special operations Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011 received his Silver Star after the U.S. Army took the unusual step of upgrading one of his prior medals.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion earned the Bronze Star with combat valor device in 2011 for working heroically to disarm a bomb in Afghanistan before an explosion left him fatally wounded.

But a prior deployment to Afghanistan with an Army unit in 2007, Sprovtsoff had already distinguished himself as a hero. While serving as a sergeant with Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-1, attached to the Army’s 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, Sprovtsoff had conducted himself with distinction during a 48-hour firefight.

According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, he fought with “disregard for his own safety and in spite of wounds sustained in combat,” coordinating his unit’s defense during the long fight.

The medal was approved and awarded as a Bronze Star, but upgraded to a Silver Star last year, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times Friday.

“[Sprovstoff’s] command at the time nominated him for a Bronze star with “V,” Morris explained. “As it went up the chain, his actions were so heroic, the Army upgraded him to a Silver Star; but at the end of the day, when someone hit the approve button, it was approved as a Bronze Star, rather than a Silver Star.”

Morris said the Army ultimately caught the error and coordinated with the Marine Corps to upgrade the award.

Calls from Military.com to the Army’s awards branch, which oversaw the medal upgrade, were not returned Friday.

The commander of MARSOC, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, presented Sprovstoff’s widow, Tasha, with the award in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to Marine Corps Times.

“[Sprovtsoff’s] courage, dedication and sacrifice inspire us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” Osterman said in a statement. “Also, the individual sacrifices [his] family have made is extremely important for MARSOC to recognize. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fellow Raiders and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them and their family.”

Sprovtsoff was killed Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan and buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 6 of the same year.

According to his Bronze Star citation from that deployment, Sprovtsoff had fearlessly and safely led a team of Marines through a region filled with improvised explosive devices following an enemy ambush. His work during the deployment had led to the elimination of 40 IEDs.

Sprovstoff and his wife Tasha are featured in Oliver North’s 2013 book “American Heroes on the Homefront.”

While Sprovtsoff’s award upgrade appears to be an outlier due to an administrative error, there could be more upgrades coming for American troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Pentagon announced in January that it would review all Silver Stars and service crosses awarded after Sept. 11, 2001 — some 1,100 awards — to determine whether a higher upgrade is warranted. The military services have until Sept. 30, 2017, to turn their recommendations in to the secretary of defense.

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