Hundreds of strangers paid tribute at a Kentucky funeral home to a “humble” survivor of World War II’s Normandy Invasion whose caregiver had worried that no one would come to his funeral.
Vet Warren McDonough was 91 when he died Saturday. He never married and his only known survivor was a nephew in Florida. The big crowd who attended his wake Thursday night at Ratterman’s Funeral Home in St. Matthews showed up in response to a call from Lena Lyons, who runs a boarding home where McDonough spent his final days.
Lyons told WHAS-TV McDonough deserved to be remembered because of what he did for his country. He was part of the first wave at Omaha Beach and earned a Purple Heart. But he never talked about his wartime experience—except for one time, she said.
“He said he pretended to be dead until they all went away,” she told WHAS-TV. “He said, ‘And then I inched slowly across other bodies and I went across this one guy and his lips were moving and I got up close to him and he was saying the Lord’s Prayer.’ And he said. ‘I laid with him and stayed with him and prayed with him until he died.'”
More strangers are expected to attend McDonough’s funeral Friday at Fairmont Cemetery in Central City. He is being buried with full military honors.
At the wake George Southern and other members of the Kentucky and Indiana Patriot Guard stood at the entrance to the funeral home in the cold as an honorary color guard, WLKY-TV reported.
“He gave his life and his days for us to have this freedom to do this and we stand in honor of him,” Southern told the station.
Lyons said McDonough wrote his own obituary but did not include everything.
“Nothing about the Purple Heart or his Medal of Courage, nothing, not even that he was in the Army, let alone that he went to Normandy,” she told WLKY. “He was a very humble man.”
Lyons told WHAS McDonough always said he was not a hero.
“I was just doing what I was supposed to do,” she quoted him as saying.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, left, and Kobe Bryant talk at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, July 15, 2012. (Department of Defense photo by D. Myles Cullen)
Only a few hours after the tragic news broke of famed basketball player Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashing, killing all nine passengers (including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna), the social media debates started: Why are we so sad about a celebrity dying but when our service members are killed in the line of duty seemingly no one notices?
An article from 2005 began circulating again, reminding us all of another helicopter tragedy: the horrible Al-Anbar CH-53E crash that killed all 31 troops when it went down outside Ar-Rutbah in Iraq this same weekend, 15 years ago.
Veterans everywhere concur: you can, and should, be sad about both.
We’re all allowed to feel empathy at a wife losing her husband and daughter and three girls losing their dad and sister, not to mention the other families on board. You’re allowed to grieve someone who inspired thousands and thousands of kids and adults alike to pursue their dreams. At the same exact time, as Americans, we all should know the names of our service members dying for us every day.
And: That’s not why anyone signs up to serve.
Veterans took to the internet to express their sympathy as well as their own experiences with Kobe and his support for our military community.
Following the deaths of four US soldiers in Niger earlier in October, several questions remain unanswered, spurring lawmakers to press the White House and Pentagon for answers on the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Leading this charge is Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who says he may seek a subpoena to receive information on the attack, according to CNN.
On Wednesday, McCain said that the White House was not being upfront about the Niger ambush, and said he would like the information his committee “deserves and needs.”
“I haven’t heard anything about it, to tell you the truth, except that they were killed,” McCain said in a Daily Beast report on Tuesday.
Although the Special Forces unit involved in the ambush and US Africa Command (AFRICOM) — the combatant command in charge of operations in Niger — are conducting investigations, McCain indicated he may want details before the results.
“That’s not how the system works,” McCain said to CNN. “We’re coequal branches of government. We should be informed at all times.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis was reportedly also dismayed by the dearth of information surrounding the ambush, but there was no sign that he was going to rush the investigation process multiple officials told CNN.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon claims it will keep the Armed Services Committees “up to date” on the ambush: “We will work with Sen. McCain and his staff to make sure they get everything that they need,” the Pentagon reportedly said on Thursday.
One of the primary questions that circulated in news reports has been why President Donald Trump had not addressed the casualties or the circumstances behind the ambush.
Following initial media reports of the ambush, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying that Trump had been informed of the incident. However, it wasn’t until 12 days later after the reports that Trump made his first public acknowledgment of the ambush.
A statement of condolence was reportedly drafted by a staffer from the National Security Council for Trump to immediately deliver following the ambush. But Trump never made the statement that was circulated around the Defense Department and the National Security Council. Instead, he delivered a speech that has been widely criticized for making false claims about his predecessors’ actions after a service member’s death and was condemned by a Gold Star father.
McCain also questioned why US troops were operating in that specific area of the Niger-Mali border without sufficient resources. French officials were frustrated with the US troops — who were there to establish relations with local leaders — because they acted on limited intelligence and didn’t have an emergency plan, a diplomat familiar with the incident told Reuters. France, a key US ally in the region, has a military presence that includes attack helicopters and Mirage jets, according to CNN.
While Special Forces troops have operated under AFRICOM’s purview for years, intelligence and contingency plans still remain the backbone of any mission US forces undertake. The investigation into the ambush — which spans the Special Forces group, AFRICOM, and the Pentagon as well as French and Nigerien forces — will likely take longer, given the broad scope of the mission.
In company footprints all over the world, America’s finest are about to endure the Valentine’s Day safety brief—COVID-19 edition. We can only imagine what potential threats are being discussed at Battalion and what the subsequential government issued safety standards will be. Here to give you a rise (wink) is our projected list of what to expect.
No, your go-to dancer does not count as “shelter in place” partners. It has come to our attention that many of you have taken up the recommendation of the Dutch and found a COVID “partner” for sexual activity. Despite your belief of being her “only one” we have intel that suggests otherwise.
No, we will not tell your wife you are in “special quarantine” this weekend. Despite your best efforts, we will not cover for any of you claiming quarantine this weekend as a “hall pass.” To the three of you who already tried, please see medical for a rapid COVID test, results of which will be mailed directly to your spouses. Happy Valentine’s Day.
No, we will not clarify what does/does not count as a mask or “face covering” this weekend. For the love of God, please quit sending reference pictures asking if “this” counts. We do not want to know.
Previous contact tracing has led us to temporarily blacklist a local dancer by the name of (bleep). Sergeants Davis, Fong and Private Richard please report to medical following this briefing for a “completely unrelated” and “routine “medical test.
Yes, group gatherings are still against regulations this weekend. Again, we will not clarify the meaning of this.
Your chem gear is to be used for military-related chem incidents…only. We do not want to know why several of you have made loss claims lately.
The Commander’s earlier email about remaining six feet apart was not to be interpreted as a challenge. The proximity suggested in today’s email was in no way a reference or challenge for intimate affairs, please do not reference the email in relation to your chosen activity’s proximity.
Claiming you didn’t know it was him/her because of masks will still be considered fraternization. We’re looking at you Drill Sergeants!
The U.S. Air Force plans to double the number of Combat Aviation Advisors it sends to train partners on special operations missions at a time when the Defense Department’s footprint in austere environments has come under scrutiny.
Under guidance in the National Defense Strategy, Air Force Special Operations Command is preparing to grow each of its teams, developing a planned total of 352 total force integration advisors over the next few years, officials said. The CAA mission, under Special Operations Command, has about half that now.
“This is really a second line of effort for [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis,” said Lt. Col. Steve Hreczkosij, deputy director of Air Advisor operations at AFSOC.
Military.com spoke with Combat Aviation Advisors here during a trip to the base in May 2018, accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
“This is AFSOC’s foreign internal defense force,” Hreczkosij said, referring to the U.S. mission to provide support to other governments fighting internal threats such as terrorists, lawlessness or drug activity.
The goal is to sustain five year-round advisory sites around the world by fiscal 2023, Hreczkosij said.
“That might mean five countries, that might mean five major lines of effort … but that is our resourcing strategy goal to influence five locations,” he said.
Still, officials know it takes time to train partners and allies, such as the Afghan National Security Forces, who are employing A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft as well as Pilatus PC-12NG planes converted into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)
While Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command work with partner nations in similar ways, Combat Aviation Advisors are the U.S. military’s most advanced team to train foreign partners battling tough scenarios, said Lt. Col. Cheree Kochen, who is assigned to the Irregular Warfare Plans division at the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center.
“This is the advanced flying — flying on night-vision goggles, airdrop, infiltration and exfiltration” as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.
“We are authorized to get in partner nation aircraft and fly on their missions,” Hreczkosij said. “We integrate, we embed. We live in their squadron building. Our approach is an enduring and integrated approach to make sure they really embed this technique, mission or equipment into how they do business.”
The air commando unit also sets the agenda for how host nation troops should learn and equip themselves based on U.S. and host nation goals.
“We also do security force assistance, which is kind of the catch-all term for mil-to-mil partnerships,” Hreczkosij said. “We provide that last tactical mile.”
The support is “about SOF mobility, ISR advising and armed reconnaissance. We’re certainly not dropping bombs,” he said, adding, “it’s not an attacking sort of mission. It’s more of a ‘target of opportunity,’ then you can see it.”
Why not contractors?
Not all partnerships are the same. NATO special operations forces and those in more austere environments vary in training, skill level and mission set, officials said.
Countries CAA troops regularly deal with include Afghanistan, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Chad, and the Philippines.
“We don’t care what type of airplane our partners are flying,” Hreczkosij said.
The unit is, however, looking to acquire more C-208s, dubbed AC-208s when equipped with Hellfire missiles, here at Hurlburt to practice on and or take as trainer aircraft to countries eager to build a force of their own.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston A. Mohr)
The unit commonly uses PC-6, C-208 and PC-12NG ISR aircraft; C-145/M-28, BT-67 and C-308 mobility aircraft; and AT-802, AC-235, and AC-208 armed recon aircraft.
Kochen said an upcoming project includes operations in Nepal, in which advisers are taking C-145 Skytrucks retired from nearby Duke Field in Florida and giving members maintenance training before aerial operations begin.
It isn’t uncommon for contractors to have a role in host nation troops’ basic pilot training either in the U.S. or overseas, she said.
Hreczkosij agreed. “Contractors aren’t in the current fight, so they don’t get the current [tactics, techniques, and procedures] with other forces in the field, and they don’t always have the trust of the partner nation,” he said. “If I’m sitting across from, say, an airman in sub-Saharan Africa … and we’re both wearing a uniform, we have a common understanding.”
Without naming the region, Kochen discussed a case in which contractors were overly bullish about their training, sometimes anticipating that the foreign trainees could learn faster on an aircraft than they actually could. It’s led to a few crashes in recent years because “the country was doing tactics that were a little bit dangerous for them for their skill level,” she said.
Hreczkosij added, “There’s a place for contractors. It’s just not in this place.”
Standing on their own
AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron, along with the Reserve’s 711th Special Operations Squadron out of Duke Field, make up the only Combat Aviation Advisor mission in the Air Force.
There are 16 Air Force Specialty Codes within the mission, including instructors, pilots, maintainers, and Tactical Air Control Party airmen, among others. Team members can speak more than a dozen different languages.
While the job dates back to World War II, the unit’s true genesis dates to Vietnam, Hreczkosij said, when the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was dispatched to Southeast Asia to train the Vietnamese and Cambodian air forces to leverage older aircraft in counter-insurgency and military assistance during the war.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when the Air Force would again start using air commandos as a foreign internal defense force for operations across the globe.
Both Hreczkosij and Kochen were part of the 6th SOS before moving to the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center headquarters and have been in the mission for more than a decade.
Kochen said CAAs want to work with as many countries as they can, but are turning away work due to demand.
“We get a long list, and we can only do one-third of what we’re being asked to do,” she said.
The dwell-deployment rate, however, is on par with the Air Force’s current deployment schedule, Hreczkosij said, adding the units are not overtasked at this time.
Kochen reiterated that their work goes only so far before the foreign partner has to step in and take over. “There’s no point in sending guys over” to a country they’ve been working with for a while, such as Afghanistan, because “our guys would only be getting in their way,” she said, referring to training the Afghan Special Mission Wing on PC-12NG ISR operations.
“Thirty months later here, they are doing 15 sorties per day and night, providing a combat effect to the organic larger Afghan air force,” Hreczkosij said of the Afghan ISR unit.
“They’re able to give their guys check rides without us being there anymore,” Kochen said. “We give them a capability that we can just leave and hopefully they can just fight their own wars.
“That’s the goal. That we don’t have to send U.S. forces over there. The goal is to set up a sustaining, capable unit that can continue doing that same mission,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
A North Carolina mom of three and Army veteran has flown to Iraq and is training with the Kurdish Peshmerga to fight ISIS, according to reports.
Samantha Johnston felt the U.S. wasn’t doing enough to stop ISIS, so the former Army geospatial engineer left her kids with a caregiver and joined the fight. Now, she’s training as part of a Kurdish quick reaction force, conducting daily drills and anticipating an attack by ISIS.
The young mom knew she needed to do more to help.
“These children here who are homeless, orphaned; mothers and sisters have been raped and sold, fathers who have been killed,” Johnston told the Daily Mail. “They are suffering, and I knew that I couldn’t just sit and do nothing. I couldn’t look my children in the eyes and say, ‘I didn’t do anything to help.'”
While the determined mom hasn’t fought directly against ISIS yet, but called the current training period “the calm before the storm,” according to a report on Fox46 Charlotte. ISIS has captured much of Iraq and recently captured over 100 tanks, artillery pieces, and wheeled vehicles after the fall of Ramadi.
To see more of Samantha Johnston, check out the article and photo gallery in the Daily Mail.
Somewhere, probably in front of a brightly lit screen with Weird Al playing in the background, a bunch of pencil-pushing scientists are writing long formulas on whiteboards, looking at the formulas thoughtfully, and then trying to use all that science to make you nearly invulnerable to firearms.
Body armor saves lives, but it destroys knees.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Kiara Flowers)
Current body armor is great against most rifle, submachine gun, and pistol fire, but it’s far from perfect. It’s heavy, adding as much as 40 pounds to troops’ loads, and it cracks under repeated hits. Against high-velocity and high-caliber rounds, it will typically give way, allowing the rounds to pierce the target anyway.
And all of that’s without taking into account that the armor, when working perfectly and when hit by rounds it’s designed to stop, can’t absorb all the impact. Most of it gets transferred to the target, just over a larger surface, sometimes resulting in broken bones or internal bleeding.
So it could definitely deal with some serious improvements. And that’s where the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes in. They have projects in the works that could give rise to futuristic body armor.
Researchers are modeling impacts with 10,000 or more particles that, as they rub together, could absorb the energies of bullets, shrapnel, or blasts that would otherwise kill a soldier.
(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)
One of the most exciting is possibly the “Superelastic Granular Materials for Impact Absorption.” Yup, it’s a boring title. This is science. They name stuff with “descriptive” titles instead of entertaining ones. But, basically, this is looking at how to give troops high-tech, wearable beanbags.
The idea is that a bunch of grains of elastic material or crystals can be packed into the armor and, as the armor is hit, the energy is dissipated by these objects through friction and “intra-particle martensitic phase transformation.”
That last phrase is about a fairly complicated scientific process, but it’s the same process that metal goes through when it’s tempered. At its most basic level, the microstructures of certain metals change when heated or placed under extreme stress. So, if a bullet hits a material that will go through the martensitic transformation, then that material will absorb energy as it changes, possibly saving the soldier who doesn’t have to absorb that energy instead.
This is a time-lapse image of a silica particle striking polymer materials. Watching the polymers at this micro-level requires sophisticated equipment, but allows researchers to get a much better idea of how these materials absorb impacts.
(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)
Another project is looking at what materials future body armor should be made of. What will hold the superelastic granular materials? That’s the purview of “Design Testing of Polymers for Improved Soldier Protection.” They’re looking at current materials used in body armor and other applications and seeing how they respond to shock and impact.
The hope is that, with a proper understanding of how these materials work at the most microlevels, MIT can figure out how to synthesize even better materials for protecting troops. And these guys want the nitty gritty details on how the materials take hits, watching the materials and measuring their electromagnetic properties when microparticles are fired at them.
One of the specific things they want to know is what materials give up hydrogen atoms when hit and which ones take hydrogen atoms when hit, allowing them to blend materials together so they quickly create hydrogen bonds and crystalline structures when stressed.
One of the projects looks at how different nanocomposite materials react to different stresses.
The shockwave from an explosion travels through different tissues and different parts of cells at different rates, and so it causes the tissues and cells to deform, ripping them apart, potentially killing the soldier. And, that can happen even when zero shrapnel or heat hits the target.
If that shock can be mitigated—especially if it can be mitigated in extremely strong, light materials like graphene—then explosive weapons would lose a lot of their power against troops wearing new armor.
3rd Cavalry Regiment soldiers during a reconnaissance patrol in Iraq in November 2018.
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Timothy Durkin)
If all the projects come to fruition and engineers are able to blend all the results together, we could see a revolution of body armor. Instead of simply using hard materials to stop attacks like we have for centuries, we could use flexible materials to create armor that moves like clothing and, if we’re really lucky, weighs about the same as traditional fabrics.
But when these fabrics are hit by blasts or by gunshots, the fibers harden themselves and stop the threat, crystalline structures packed inside of the armor absorb the energy, and the whole thing is cost-effective because we’ve figured out cheap ways to create the fabrics.
But it will likely take decades to create final products and get them to the field.
Until then, you’re just going to have to ruck with ballistic plates. Sorry.
Lt. Cmdr. Maria G. Mannix is a Navy surface warfare officer who is competing in the 2016 Warrior Games. The cancer fighter has had to juggle her time between doctor appointments, her duties as a deputy director of the Training Support Center in San Diego, and training for the Warrior Games where she’s a competitor in shot put, discus, rifle shooting, and sitting volleyball.
The Warrior Games are an annual competition held by the Department of Defense where wounded and sick service members compete in an Olympic-style competition.
Mannix says that – despite the challenge of being an athlete and Navy officer while fighting cancer – participating in the Warrior Games and other sports competitions with the Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor program has been an important part of her recovery.
“Safe Harbor has really been a positive part of my recovery process because you meet other teammates that have serious illnesses and serious injuries and you see how they’re dealing with whatever they have, and it’s inspirational. It gives you a different outlook on things,” she said.
It’s not just Mannix’s teammates who help push her forward. The competition from wounded warriors on other teams helps as well.
“I had met a lot of the other athletes from different branches, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force,” she said, “and the more I got to make friends in other branches the more I realized that I needed to step up my game. It’s wonderful to make new friends but you also get to see the competitive edge from everybody else that’s going to be at the games as well. It helped me to focus on improving my athletic skills and trying to get my upper body strength to the best fitness I could have to be here for the games.”
That upper body strength is very important for Mannix. She’s fighting breast cancer and her surgeries have made training a challenge, but a strong upper body is vital to her performance.
“I’ve had multiple upper body surgeries which, anatomically, have changed my upper thoracic cavity. It’s more than just getting ready for the games. It’s PT and rehabilitation as well. But when you’re on the volleyball court, you’re literally using your hands as your legs and you have to be quick so you can react to the ball. There’s a lot of muscle strength that you need to have there. Same with my field events, I’m doing shotput and discus throwing. Again, it’s more of an upper body requirement.”
Mannix says that this training and competition helps patients connect in a way they can’t with their care providers or loved ones.
“We’re having a fantastic time playing and competing, but we’re also recovering and helping each other in a way you’re not going to get talking to a counselor or your doctor or your nurse or even your family and friends. It’s a different type of bond and it’s a different kind of camaraderie.”
“You expand the support network you already have,” she said. “Everybody wants to come home with the gold medal and be the winner, in the end, when the games are done, you hug and you say, ‘The games are over. Let’s go have some fun now.'”
The Navy sitting volleyball team was eliminated early in the tournament, but the field events are taking place Jun. 16 when Mannix will compete in discus and shot put. She will also compete in shooting on Jun. 19.
This week, nearly 10 years after he was killed in combat operations in Iraq, U.S. forces brought home the remains of F-16 pilot Maj. Troy Gilbert, who died saving the lives of U.S. service members and coalition allies.
On Nov. 27, 2006, Gilbert and his wingman were flying back to base when they got the call that an AH-6 Little Bird helicopter had been shot down. Enemy insurgents had the crew, along with the coalition forces called in to support, outnumbered and pinned down.
With little fuel left, the two F-16 pilots changed course and headed to the hotly contested warzone just outside of Taji, Iraq. Due to fuel limitations, the pilots were forced to take turns refueling and providing air support to the troops under fire. By the time Gilbert was able to make his first approach, the calls for support had grown more urgent. Insurgents attacked with truck-mounted heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortars.
Gilbert, a friendly Texas Tech graduate dubbed “Trojan” by his fellow aviators, acted quickly and aggressively. To avoid causing civilian casualties by dropping the bombs he carried under his wings, he opted for low-altitude strafing passes using his 20-milimeter Gatling gun. Gilbert made his first pass, destroying one truck and dispersing the others which were almost upon the friendly forces 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. Keeping his eye on the enemy targets moving at high speed, he conducted a second pass from an even lower altitude.
He continued firing on the enemy forces during a dynamic and difficult flight profile, impacting the ground at high speed on the second pass. Reports say the crash killed him instantly. However, Al Qaeda insurgents took Gilbert’s body before U.S. forces were able to get to the scene, leading to 10 long years of a family waiting for their husband, father, son and brother to come home.
He was survived by his wife Ginger Gilbert Ravella, sons Boston and Greyson, and daughters Isabella, Aspen and Annalise.
In a letter to Gilbert’s wife from the Army element commander whose troops the F-16 pilot was supporting that day, the commander wrote that Gilbert saved his unit from “almost certain disaster” as insurgents prepared to attack their position with mortars.
“With no ability to protect ourselves on the desert floor, we most certainly would have sustained heavy casualties,” he wrote. “Troy, however, stopped that from happening. His amazing display of bravery and tenacity immediately broke up the enemy formation and caused them to flee in panic. My men and I will never forget the ultimate sacrifice your husband made for me and my men on Nov. 27th, and we will always be in his debt.”
“Major Gilbert’s motivation to succeed saved the lives of the helicopter crew and other coalition ground forces,” then-president of the accident investigation board and current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in his safety report.Goldfein saluted as Gilbert’s remains were solemnly carried from the C-17 that brought him home this week.
Also on hand was Gen. Robin Rand, Air Force Global Strike Command commander. Rand regarded Gilbert as a friend, first meeting him when he was an F-16 pilot at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and eventually crossing paths again when Gilbert became his executive officer at Luke. The relationship continued when Gilbert served under Rand’s command in the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq in 2006.
“Troy fought like a tiger in battle that day,” Rand said. “No doubt, his actions on Nov. 27, 2006 illustrate greatness, but those actions that day aren’t what made him great. What made him great was his commitment to adhere in every facet of his life to our three treasured core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.”
Rand recalled how Gilbert spent much of his off-duty time at Balad volunteering in the base hospital or supporting the unit chapel. He said base medics were so overcome by Gilbert’s death that they came to see him, asking if they could name a wing of the hospital after him, and enlisted groups petitioned to have the Balad Air Base chapel annex renamed “Troy’s Place.”
Following the accident, U.S. forces recovered DNA which provided enough information to positively identify Gilbert. His funeral, with full military honors, followed Dec. 11, 2006 at Arlington National Cemetery. In September 2012, some additional, but very limited, remains were recovered and interred during a second service Dec. 11, 2013.
Then, on Aug. 28, an Iraqi tribal leader approached a U.S. military advisor near al Taqaddam, Iraq, and produced what he claimed to be evidence of the remains of a U.S. military pilot who had crashed in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Iraqi said he was a representative of his tribe, which had the remains and the flight gear the pilot was wearing when he went down.
The tribal leader turned over the evidence to the U.S. advisor who immediately provided it to U.S. experts for testing at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. AFMES confirmed the evidence Sept. 7 through DNA testing.
With this verification, U.S. military advisors in Iraq reengaged the tribal leader who subsequently turned over the remains, including a U.S. flight suit, flight jacket and parachute harness.
Gilbert’s remains, promptly prepared for return to the U.S. for testing, arrived Oct. 3 at Dover AFB. Airmen at Dover conducted a dignified transfer upon arrival at the base, which was attended by Gilbert’s family, base officials and senior Air Force leaders, to include the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, Goldfein, Rand, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody.
AFMES confirmed Oct. 4 through dental examination and DNA testing that all remains received were those of Maj. Gilbert. His lost remains had been recovered and fully repatriated.
“First and foremost I want say God is forever faithful,” Gilbert Ravella said. “He was good whether this recovery ever happened or not. But we praise Him, in His infinite mercies, for granting us this miracle after almost 10 years of waiting, hoping and praying.
“Second, I want to thank not only the brave Special Operations Forces that ultimately found Troy’s body but also each and every single Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine who searched or supported the recovery mission during these last 10 years,” she said. “As each of them put on the uniform and gave their best efforts, not fully knowing if they made a difference, I can assure them that they laid the stepping stones which led to this final victory. Justice was served.
James also praised the unwavering commitment of those who endeavored to bring the fallen fighter pilot back to U.S. soil.
“We are grateful to all those within the U.S. military, the U.S. government and beyond who never gave up and worked so hard to help return this American hero home to his final resting place,” James said. “As an Air Force, we are absolutely committed to leaving no Airman behind and to honoring the memory of warriors like Maj. Gilbert who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.”
Goldfein echoed James’ sentiments saying Gilbert represented the best ideals of America’s Airmen.
“As an Air Force officer, husband and father, Troy Gilbert truly represented what being an Airman is all about,” Goldfein said. “He was committed to serving his country, his team and his family in everything he did. On the day he died, he characteristically put service before self when he answered the short-notice call to support coalition ground forces who had come under attack. He put his own safety aside and saved many lives that day.”
Now, finally, a decade later, Gilbert has returned to the country he so valiantly served. At the request of his family, his remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in the coming months along with the remains originally recovered in 2006 and 2012.
“The memory of my five children watching their father’s flag-draped transfer case being unloaded from the cargo hold and carried by his brothers-in-arms back to American soil renews my hope for all mankind,” said Gilbert Ravella. “Attending the dignified transfer at Dover Monday night was the closest we have been to Troy in 10 years. That was bittersweet.
“However, the memory of his sacrificial selflessness, his passionate love for Jesus Christ, his devotion to his family and to his beloved country echoed in their footsteps long after the transport vehicle drove him away,” she said. “From the bottom of my heart I want everyone to know how grateful the kids and I have been for your years of prayers. There is no doubt they reached the very ears of God.”
“As our military promised, no one was left behind on the field of battle,” Gilbert Ravella said. “Troy is home.”
The National Football League has been plagued by questions of patriotism in the last few years. But whether or not the NFL kneels or stands this year, it’s important to remember that some of the players and coaches have served, too.
1. George Halas
Halas was instrumental in the creation of the NFL and responsible for founding the team that went on to be the Chicago Bears in 1920. Nicknamed “Papa Bear,” Halas coached the Bears for 40 seasons, leading them to six NFL titles. Halas served in the Navy during World War I and returned to Navy service from 1942-1945.
2. Ralph Wilson, Jr.
Enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2009, Wilson founded the Buffalo Bills following his service in the Navy during World War II. He was also instrumental in the merger between the AFL and the NFL in 1970.
3. Kevin Greene
Greene retired from the NFL in 1999 and ranks third among all-time sack leaders. He led the NFL twice in that category with an impressive career playing for the Steelers, Rams, Panthers, and 49ers, with five appearances in the Pro Bowl. Greene was a member of ROTC at Auburn and served 16 years in the Army Reserves.
4. Alejandro Villanueva Martínez
Villanueva is an offensive tackle for the Steelers. A veteran Army Ranger, Villanueva was a captain in the Army, served in Afghanistan, and was decorated with a Bronze Star.
5. Tom Landry
Hall of Famer Tom Landry was a coaching phenom for the Dallas Cowboys. He led his team to two Super Bowl titles and had 20 straight winning seasons. Equally impressive was Landry’s service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. The B-17 co-pilot flew 30 missions and survived a crash in Belgium. He passed away in 2000 at age 75 as a legend and a hero.
6. Dick “Night Train” Lane
The Hall of Famer had an incredible 68 career interceptions during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Cardinals, and Detroit Lions. For nine straight years (1954-1963), Lane earned first or second-team All-NFL honors. He played in seven Pro Bowls and during his rookie season, had an unprecedented 14 interceptions – a record that still stands today. Lane served in the Army during both World War II and the Korean War.
7. Roger Staubach
Staubach, nicknamed “Captain America,” won the 1963 Heisman Trophy during his time as quarterback at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduation, Staubach served his commitment in the Navy, which included a tour in Vietnam. Following his service, Staubach joined the Cowboys and played in Dallas for all 11 seasons of his professional football career. During his tenure, the Cowboys won two of their five Super Bowl appearances.
The list of NFL greats who served their country continues with inspiring men like Pat Tillman, George McAfee, Mike Anderson, and so many more. But for every big name in the NFL, there are countless men that gave up their football dreams to serve their country.
You may not have heard of Jack Ankerson, but he only played three NFL exhibition games in 1964 before Uncle Sam called him up to serve his time. By the time his commitment was done, so was his chance to play in the NFL. But Jack, like so many others who chose service above self, is everything that’s right with America and the sports we love to watch.
Whether they’re a hometown hero or a household name, we salute all of our football playing and football-loving veterans.
The vaunted 82nd Airborne Division is America’s Global Response Force, tasked with answering the President’s phone call when he needs to place between 800 and 20,000 armed and well-trained soldiers into another country on short notice. And a group of 82nd Paratroopers just finished training in Bulgaria in a Combined-Arms Live-Fire Exercise, a CALFEX, giving us a chance to revel in how they operate.
Full disclosure, the author is a former member of the 82nd Airborne, and he is super biased. He’s also a former member of the 49th Public Affairs Detachment whose personnel took many of these photos, and he’s biased toward them as well. Basically, he’s biased as hell and doesn’t care who knows it.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
The training was part of Swift Response 19 and went from June 11-25. The live-fire part was just the last four days of the event. The whole point was to test and validate the Global Response Force concept, deploying the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division to Europe to fight alongside other NATO powers in Europe.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
Eight nations took part in the training including Italian and Canadian airborne forces. On June 18, these paratroopers took an airfield, and on June 20, they launched air assaults to take a simulated village in the Novo Selo Training Area. Above the paratroopers, helicopters with the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division provided support. The aviators hauled troops and weapons around the battlefield as well as fired on the enemy from the sky.
Simulated attacks, of course. No one really wants to kill the Bulgarians.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
These combined exercises seek to test all the major individual and collective tasks that units have to accomplish. That’s a fancy way of saying they test the individual soldiers and the units at the same time. These tasks include everything from properly caring for a casualty to calling in fires to maneuvering a battalion or brigade against an enemy force.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
And the combined part of the CALFEX means that everyone gets to play. The Apaches from the 1st Infantry Division provided close combat attack support, but Air Force assets like the A-10 often come to these parties as well. Occasionally, you can even see some naval assets fire from the sea or Marine aviators flying overhead. All of the services have some observers trained to call in fires from other branches’ assets so they can work together.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
It’s actually part of why training with other countries is so important. If a paratrooper is deployed into a future war with, just pulling it out of a hat, Iran, then it’s worth knowing how to call the British ship in the Persian Gulf for help or for bombs from a jet flying off of France’s carrier the Charles de Gaulle.
(U.S. Army Spc. Justin Stafford)
Keep scrolling for a crapton more photos from the 82nd in Swift Response 19. If you want even more photos and videos and whatnot, try this link.
NATO is gearing up for its “biggest exercises in many years,” the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg revealed Oct. 2, 2018, according to multiple reports.
Around 45,000 troops will take part in the Trident Juncture exercises in Norway in late October and early November 2018, the secretary said, according to AFP. The “fictitious but realistic” drills, reportedly the largest since the end of the Cold War, come on the heels of the massive Vostok 2018 joint military exercises involving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Russian and Chinese troops that were held in September 2018.
In addition to troops, the 29 NATO allies and their partners will send 150 aircraft, 60 ships, and 10,000 vehicles to the training grounds.
The drills come amid heightened tensions with Russia. For instance, US Envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson called Russia out on Oct. 2, 2018, accusing it of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Warning Russia that Moscow is “on notice,” she said that the US might “take out the missiles” before they can be deployed if Russia refuses to change course.
Western allies have bolstered their military presence in the years following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Trident Juncture 2018 is designed to increase interoperability among allied and partner forces to respond quickly and effectively to an external threat, such as Russian aggression.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“It will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally. And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic,” Stoltenberg explained Oct. 2, 2018. The aim is preparation for “large-scale military operations” under trying conditions, the Norwegian Armed Forces previously introduced, adding, “Exercises like this make NATO better prepared to counter any aggression, if necessary. “
In an effort to maintain transparency, NATO has invited Russia to monitor the joint military exercises. “All members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including Russia, have been invited to send observers,” the secretary said, according to Russian state media.
In early September 2018, Russian and Chinese forces, along with a small contingent of Mongolian troops, trained together in eastern Russia, leading to significant speculation about stronger Russian-Chinese ties as both Moscow and Beijing confront Washington.
Russia touted the exercises as unprecedented, claiming that the drills included hundreds of thousands of troops and tens of thousands of tanks and other military vehicles. Many suspect that the joint exercises were actually much smaller than stated.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.