Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.
IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.
On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.
A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.
It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.
But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.
Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.
Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.
Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.
Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.
Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.
Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.
Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.
Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.
They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.
If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.
But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.
This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.
The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.
This is a deadly combination.
The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.
Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.
If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.
After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.
Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.
The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.
Virtual recruiting teams, outreach to civic leaders and 770 more recruiters on the ground are helping the Army sign up more new soldiers this year in some of America’s largest cities.
Recruiting is up 27 percent in Minneapolis over this time last year. New York City has improved 19 percent and Baltimore is up 17 percent, according to Army Recruiting Command figures for April 2019.
Cities are where the people live, so the Army needs to recruit there, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. Until this year, however, recruiting success typically seen in the rural South was not shared by the big cities.
“We’re trying to bring a lot of balance to our recruiting effort and focus in on the largest metropolitan areas in the country,” McCarthy said.
A recruiter hands out a water bottle from a table of Army items near the Eutaw Street gate during an Orioles game May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
Last year, Army senior leaders selected 22 cities to apply those efforts. These were areas with large populations that had little exposure to soldiers because most were located far from active Army training centers.
Senior leaders began meeting with mayors of those cities. McCarthy, for instance, first met with the mayor of Chicago, his hometown. He has since met city leaders in Baltimore, Houston and Orlando.
“We’ve got to get out there and forge relationships,” he said.
At the Baltimore meeting, city officials decided that Army interests aligned with one of theirs: keeping youth out of trouble. As a result, the city opened up all 43 of its recreation centers to recruiters.
“It was a great meeting because it opened doors,” said Col. Amanda Iden, commander of the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion, who sat with McCarthy at the meeting table.
“They’ve given us carte blanche access” to the rec centers, she said, adding her recruiters “don’t just play basketball and do sports with these kids,” they actually provide educational aids to help students study.
A young fan slaps five to the Orioles mascot as Staff Sgt. Antwon Yourse (left) and Staff Sgt. Bryan Lenis of the Baltimore Recruiting Company watch May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
Recruiters uploaded the Army’s “March2Success” software on computers at the centers so students could study there for college boards and other entrance exams.
“You want to take the LSAT, LCAT, MCAT, all those other different tests, the GMAT, SAT, AECT, it’s a tool to teach you how to take tests,” Iden said, “and it focuses on your weaknesses.”
Meetings with city officials also help open up schools to recruiters.
“It’s a relationship,” Iden said. “It’s about getting to know leaders, principals and guidance counselors.”
Recruiters are there to help students and influencers — such as parents and teachers — make “informed decisions,” she said. It’s not just about “trying to pull you into the Army,” it’s about helping students be successful and explaining options, she said.
Many students and influencers don’t know the Army has more than 150 career paths, said Col. James Jensen, director of the USAREC Commander’s Initiatives Group.
They don’t know Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, has the world’s only school that certifies students in handling hazardous material for serious nuclear-biological-chemical threats, he said, adding graduates can get a job at dozens of agencies once they leave the Army.
They don’t know that military police officers are automatically certified in 32 different states and can become state police officers without attending that state’s police academy, he said.
“We’re trying to expand the audience and touch not only the potential applicants, but the influencers, too,” Jensen said. “Especially within the latest generation, influencers hold a huge amount of weight with the decisions to go into the military.”
Influencers are among the target audience for “Meet Your Army” events in many of the cities. These events often include senior Army leaders returning to their hometowns for speaking engagements mixed with editorial boards, meetings with civic leaders and other public forums.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, for instance, returned to Boston April 14, 2019, to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. The next day he ran the Boston Marathon — all part of the first-ever “Boston Army Week” proclaimed by the mayor.
Nearly 30 different events took place during the week, including an expo on the Boston Common that had the Army Special Operations Command “Black Daggers” parachute team jump in. Over 30 Army units and 10 senior Army leaders also took part.
Sgt. Chobie Van Rossum, a Baltimore area native assigned back to the city as a recruiter, stands on Eutaw Street during an Orioles Game May 3, 2019, to discuss Army opportunities with potential prospects and influencers.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
These events maximize resources, Jensen said.
Beginning later this year, new mobile Army recruiting platforms will participate at events such as the one in Boston, Jensen said. These semitrailers will include video-game terminals where visitors will be able to play against members of the Army’s new esports team, consisting of soldiers who will compete at gaming events across the country.
Virtual recruiting teams
Last year USAREC tested the concept of virtual recruiting teams at some of its battalions. Now each of the Army’s 44 recruiting battalions have VRTs that focus on social media.
The teams consist of three to six soldiers proficient in all types of social media. These VRTs are currently manned at about 80 percent, Jensen said, but he added they will be going up to 100 percent by this summer.
The Baltimore Recruiting Battalion’s VRT stood up in September with three members at its headquarters on Fort Meade. Each of the battalion’s six recruiting companies across Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia also have liaisons who work directly with the VRT, Iden said.
These VRTs are “force multipliers” for recruiters, Jensen said. When a potential candidate responds to a social media post and asks a question, the virtual recruiters will initially respond, then pass the prospect off to a neighborhood recruiter, Jensen said.
“This helps the recruiter on the ground with less prospecting and more processing,” he said, “putting [prospects] in boots.”
The VRTs have access to “segmentation” data from the command’s G-2. The Recruiting Command has identified 65 different types of neighborhoods or “segmentations” based on demographic data from the last U.S. census.
Sgt. Chobie Van Rossum (left) and Staff Sgt. Antwon Yourse of the Baltimore Recruiting Company hand out water bottles as they discuss opportunities in the Army with young fans attending an Orioles game May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
“There’s a plan for every zip code,” Jensen said.
One of the main segmentations in downtown Baltimore is the “Urban Modern Mix,” Iden said. Characteristics for people in this segmentation include listening to urban adult contemporary music and having an interest in boxing. Virtual recruiting teams use such data to help target their social media posts, she said.
In a Chicago test that began in October, the Army is “micro-targeting” different neighborhoods and changing Internet ads weekly if they don’t resonate with particular segmentations. The pilot program is about to expand to Boston, officials said, and perhaps to more cities in the future.
In another pilot program, the recruiting company in Baltimore is partnering with the Maryland National Guard. In most areas, the National Guard has its own recruiters, but the five recruiting stations in the Baltimore area sign applicants up for the Guard. In return, the Guard provides assets to help recruit at different events, Iden said.
Recruiters also partner with the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks to plan participation in events such as the African American Festival in August.
“It’s inherent when you are amongst the public that you will integrate” and form partnerships, Jensen said.
During the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the mayor signed the city up for the Army’s Partnership for Youth Success program.
Under the PaYS program, recruits are guaranteed two job interviews at the end of their enlistment. For instance, if recruits pick the city of Houston, they might interview for a job with the Department of Public Works and Engineering.
Recruits are 15 percent more likely to sign up with the Army if they are offered the PaYS program, McCarthy said.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Lenis of the Baltimore Recruiting Company hands an Army water bottle to a young fan at the Eutaw Street concessions of Camden Yards during an Orioles game May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
About 900 different companies and agencies across the country are now part of the PaYS program. The Baltimore Police Department is a partner and Iden said the Maryland State Police are about to sign up.
With these initiatives, recruiting is now up in 18 of the 22 focus cities, according to USAREC. But still, “there are cities all over the country where we know we have to do better,” McCarthy said.
Jensen cautions that it will take time. “While these initiatives go on, this is a plane in flight,” he said of the Army’s recruiting force. “We have to deliver every day. So you’ve got to be very cognizant of what you’re doing and how many ripples in the water you do to the recruiting force.”
Since the Army Training and Doctrine Command gained oversight of all accessions in September, he said focus and unity of command has improved.
“Having the TRADOC commander has been absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “Now it really helps us get after our mission and stay focused on our mission, and they [at TRADOC] handle a lot of the things that we used to have to handle.”
The TRADOC focus has brought more total Army assets to help with recruiting, he said, and more senior leader involvement to help educate influential audiences about the Army.
“I think it’s a requirement for every leader of this institution to get out there and talk about the U.S. Army as an organization, to educate our fellow countrymen, to encourage young men and women to take a hard look at this profession,” McCarthy said.
Shortly after the surviving forces of the Battle of Crete had evacuated, the British landed agents from the Special Operations Executive, also known as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, to advise and assist the resistance and conduct intelligence gathering. Crete was heavily garrisoned and an important part of Germany’s plans both in the Mediterranean and Russia.
Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, the German general commanding the 22nd Airlanding Division and assigned as the military governor of Crete, had a reputation for brutality that earned him the nickname “the Butcher of Crete.” The British decided to hatch a plan to get rid of him. However, they wanted to do more than just kill him; they wanted to strike fear into the hearts of the Germans everywhere.
Major Patrick Leigh Fermor and Captain William Stanley Moss conceived the plan to kidnap General Müller at the Club de Chasse in Cairo in 1943. Along with two members of the Cretan resistance, George Tirakis and Manoli Paterakis, they planned to infiltrate the island, link up with other members of the resistance, abduct the general, and then get off the island. They intended to do all of this while foregoing bloodshed. They also wanted to make the Germans believe it was a British-only operation to avoid reprisals against the local Cretans.
Because, as we mentioned, Müller was an a-hole… even more than your average Nazi.
Everything was set to begin on February 4, 1944. The four men took off from Cairo and flew towards Crete ready to parachute onto the German-held island and begin their mission. Unfortunately, once over the drop zone, only Major Fermor jumped because of bad weather. The rest of the team tried a dozen more times before finally deciding to attempt a landing by sea. This was finally accomplished on April 4, but during the time between when Maj. Fermor landed on the island and the rest of the team arrived, General Müller was replaced by General Heinrich Kreipe. The British forged ahead with the abduction of Kreipe.
Fermor, dressed as a shepherd, reconnoitered the general’s daily routine and finalized the plan to take the general. On the night of 26 April, the four man team, with Fermor and Moss dressed as German Military Police, set up a fake checkpoint to catch the General’s car as he returned to his quarters for the night. When the general’s car stopped Fermor and Paterakis grabbed Kreipe while Moss clubbed the driver with a baton and with the help of Tirakis, pulled him from the car. While the Cretans moved General Kreipe to the back seat Fermor and Moss took up positions in the front seat impersonating the general and his driver.
The group then headed off to make their escape, successfully passing through 22 other checkpoints. After an hour and a half, Moss, the two Cretan members of the team, and the general left the vehicle with Fermor to abandon. He left the car on a beach on the north side of the island along with documents indicating that the kidnapping had been carried out by British Commandos and that the general had already been removed from the island as well as a note indicating how sorry they were to have to leave behind such a beautiful car.
The group rendezvoused with Fermor and began their trek to the south side of the island for the extraction back to Egypt. By the next day, the Germans issued a proclamation notifying the civilians on the island that if General Kreipe was not returned in three days reprisals would begin. Meanwhile, German troops scoured the island and planes took to the air to search for the group. The group evaded the Germans and hiked across Mount Ida while Fermor and Kreipe recited the poetry of Horace. The team finally reached the southern coast and was picked up by a British Motor Launch on 14 May 1944. They returned to Egypt where General Kreipe was interrogated before being transferred to a POW camp in Canada.
Major Fermor was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Moss was given the Military Cross. General Kriepe was finally released by the British in 1947. In 1950, after censorship from the war had eased, Moss released his account of the operation in a book called Ill Met By Moonlight which itself was turned into a movie in 1957. Finally, in 1972 Kreipe was reunited with his kidnappers on a Greek TV show.
The British Army suffered its worst losses in a single day with over 57,000 casualties on Jul. 1.
The Allied Powers received little in exchange for all this blood, taking bits of German-held territory but falling short of their main objectives. The British were forced to rethink their tactics because of their stunning losses during the fight.
Now, 100 years after the battle ended, YouTube user MC C has released a video with classic Somme footage superimposed on the modern spots where the footage was originally filmed.
Check out the full video below. It’s all gripping footage, but our favorite moments are at 18:02, one of the most massive explosions of the war; 27:12, a group of fusileers preparing for what would end up being their final attack; 31:05, artillery crews pounding German lines; and 36:30, a group of cheering soldiers marching together.
Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency says its officers have arrested at least 26 suspected members of the extremist group Islamic State (IS), accusing them of plotting attacks on members of the Shi’ite minority.
The militants, including an alleged IS leader, were detained in separate operations in Kabul, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said on Sept. 18, 2018.
A statement said they planned to target Shi’a during this week’s commemoration of Ashura, the holiest celebration in the Shi’ite religious calendar.
The IS affiliate in Afghanistan has stepped up attacks on minority Shi’a across Afghanistan.
The group claimed responsibility for a Sept. 9, 2018 twin bomb attack at a wrestling club in a predominately Shi’ite neighborhood of Kabul that killed more than 20 people.
IS militants assert that Shi’a are apostates who deserve death.
Afghan forces have struggled to combat the Taliban and IS since the United States and NATO formally ended their combat mission in the country in 2014.
In the northern province of Balkh, a local official said on Sept. 18, 2018, that nine members of the Afghan police force were killed when another officer shot them at a checkpoint.
An Afghan National Police officer stops a vehicle for a random inspection at one of the inner city checkpoints on June 5, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Mohammadudin Khanjer, a police official in the district of Char Boldak, said one officer was wounded and three others were missing after the shooting late on Sept. 17, 2018.
The attacker was a policeman from another checkpoint in the same district who fled the scene after seizing all weapons from the checkpoint, apparently to join the Taliban, Khanjer said.
The Taliban did not immediately comment on the attack but the militants are active in the area.
Insider attacks, in which members of Afghan security forces or assailants dressed in Afghan uniforms fire on coalition troops, have become less common in recent years but remain a persistent worry.
The U.S. military said one of its servicemen was killed and another was wounded in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 3, 2018, in an attack carried out by a member of the Afghan National Police.
It came nearly two months after a member of a U.S. Army training unit was shot dead by an Afghan soldier in the southern province of Oruzgan.
Featured image: The militants, including an alleged Islamic State leader, were detained in separate operations in Kabul.
US Special Operations Command plans to award a sole-source contract to Dynetics Inc. for additional GBU-69B Small Glide Munitions, IHS Janes reports.
The deal, which will supposedly be signed in July 2018, will see Dynetics provide USSOCOM with the missiles, known as SGMs, until 2022. USSOCOM will buy 700 SGMs in the first two years, then 900 in 2020, and then 1,000 for the remaining two years, according to IHS Janes.
Dynetics’ SGM is a small standoff missile. At just 42 inches long, it is smaller than the Hellfire, but packed with 16 more pounds of explosives. As a standoff missile, its range is also superior to the Hellfire.
Standoff missiles, particularly the SGM, essentially act as small precision cruise missiles and glide bombs, and are often compared to short-range ballistic missiles.
The lattice control fins at the end of the missile are similar to the GBU 43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, and the GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator, both of which have control fins designed by Dynetics.
Dynetics has attached the SGM’s seeker nose section, tail kit, and wing assembly directly to the warhead case, making the system adaptable to different warheads and able to carry different systems. Unlike the Hellfire, the SGM can be detonated on impact or in the air while it is in close proximity to its target.
The SGM is specifically intended to be attached to UAVs and AC-130 gunships. Its longer range will enable pilots to strike at targets on the horizon, meaning the aircraft will no longer have to be directly over, or in close proximity to whatever it is striking.
This allows the delivery aircraft to be outside any defenses that may be used against it, like man-portable air-defense systems. For example, SGMs could enable the US to strike Taliban camps in Pakistan without crossing into its airspace.
Dynetics was awarded a contract by the Air Force June 2017 for 70 SGMs to be delivered over a 12-month period for use by USSOCOM. The deal included an option to supply 30 more munitions to the Air Force.
Given that they have now placed a much larger order, it would seem that USSOCOM is quite happy with its performance so far.
Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works. Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” August cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran’s story from his or her time in uniform.
When he came home from Afghanistan, Max’s mom prepared the classic Nicaraguan Carne Asada dish with fried plantains. It was a symbol of prosperity and transition into good times from his childhood. When he was young, his mother was a new immigrant to the U.S. and as a single mother, it was sometimes hard for her to put food the table. This dish always served as an embodiment of her love and stayed with Max from his home to overseas.
Short Rib Carne Asada w/ Bacon Jam, Apricot Mojo and Platanos
Inspired by Max’s Mother’s Nicaraguan Carne Asada
8 beef short ribs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 thin slices bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, diced
2 jalapeno, finely minced
1 medium onion, diced
Splash of red wine
4 cups Cola
4 cups beef broth (low sodium)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbs apricot jam
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons ground
2 Green Plantains
Corn Oil for Frying
Salt and Pepper to taste
Season short rib liberally with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and bacon in heavy, oven-proof pan on medium heat. Once bacon starts rendering fat into the pan, add carrots, garlic, onion and jalapeño. Sweat for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Sear short ribs in pan, working in batches to not crowd pan. If pan starts to look dry, add olive oil. Once all sides of every short rib are browned, deglaze pan with red wine and add cola. Let simmer for 10 minutes on stove to reduce.
Meanwhile, prepare the mojo by adding all ingredients but the olive oil in a blender. Slowly increase blend speed to reach about 4 out of 10. Slowly add olive oil through the top until the sauce becomes the consistency of smooth salsa.
Once cola is reduced by half add beef broth, thyme, rosemary and place entire pan (with top) into a 325° oven and braise for 4 hours. Remove short ribs and add flour to braising components to make jam. Stir ingredients for 4-5 minutes or until ingredients bind together.
Prepare platanos by slicing plantain, frying in 350° oil until light brown, smashing with side of a knife and then frying again until crispy (about 2 mins).
Grill short rib for 2-3 mins just to add final touch of smoke and fire to the meat. Then plate by adding platano and mojo to plate topped with meat and bacon jam.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong — a U.S. Navy Aviator and Korean war veteran — became the first man to walk on the moon.
The Apollo program was created when America was trailing behind the Soviets during the space race of the cold war. NASA worked furiously — and with a budget of 24 billion dollars, which is about 100 billion dollars today — to beat the Soviets to the moon.
On July 16, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center for the moon, with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr, and Michael Collins on board.
Four days — and 240,000 miles — later, Armstrong was the first to exit the lunar module “Eagle” onto the moon’s powdery surface, where he famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Buzz Aldrin joined moments later, and the two did what anyone would do: run some scientific tests, take some pics, and call the president.
Seven days later, they returned to a country of adoring fans, astonished that these brave astronauts accomplished a feat few thought possible. They filled out all of their paperwork, which included customs documents accounting for the harvested moon rocks and travel vouchers — because, technically, they were listed as troops on TDY.
When Col. Buzz Aldrin got his travel voucher back, he was approved for $33.31 for his time spent and distance traveled. Yep. A whole thirty-three bucks for going to the moon. Accounting for inflation, that’s all of about $244.33 today.
But no amount of money could compare to the glory of being the first human beings on the moon.
Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins left behind their timeless footprints, an American flag, and a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.”
When Toni Gross stood at the entrance of the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen, she had no idea what to expect.
The previous hours were a blur, filled with grief and disbelief. It was July 2011, and she and her husband and daughter learned that Army Cpl. Frank Gross, their only son and brother, had been killed by an IED while serving in Afghanistan.
He was 25. And just like that, a mere few weeks into deployment, he was gone.
“We were just numb,” Toni Gross said.
The day after learning of Frank’s death, the Grosses traveled from Oldsmar, Florida to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, expecting to stay at “some place like a Hampton Inn” for the dignified transfer of Frank’s body. But instead, just across the street from the runway, they spent 24 hours at the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen — a house created by Fisher House Foundation specifically for loved ones of those who have fallen through combat.
“It was a wonderfully comforting experience, and everything we could possibly think of— all of our needs, food, everything — was taken care of,” Toni Gross said. “We were able to spend time focusing on why we were there: grieving the loss of our son.”
That’s exactly what the chairman and CEO of Fisher House wants to hear. Ken Fisher is a third-generation leader of one of America’s most successful family-owned real estate development and management companies, but he is also expressly passionate about honoring veterans while assisting their families.
The foundation offers several programs to support military families through critical times, like the Hero Miles program and a scholarship program for military children, spouses, and children of fallen and disabled veterans. In 2019 alone, more than 32,000 families were served, according to its website.
There are 87 Fisher Houses located on 25 military installations and 38 VA medical centers, with several more in the works. Run by the Fisher House Foundation, Inc., each Fisher House provides free lodging for military families whose loved ones are receiving medical treatment nearby.
The Fisher House at Dover, however, is special for many reasons, Fisher says, because “it was built to honor the ultimate sacrifices of those who wear the uniform.”
Those who stay there aren’t waiting for a recovery but a goodbye to their airman, soldier, Marine, sailor or Coastie.
“I think the Fisher House at Dover does more than just provide lodging,” Fisher said. “It’s important that these families who have made the ultimate sacrifice understand that there are Americans that are very grateful.”
The Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Photo Roland Balik.
Built in just a few months in 2010, the Fisher House at Dover is equipped with nine guest suites that have seen approximately 3,700 guests since its opening. The average length of stay is 24 to 48 hours, with a typical family consists of six to 10 members.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michelle Johnson watches over each one. As house manager, it’s her job to make sure each guest has every need — and every want —taken care of.
One family with small children, for example, stayed at the house over Halloween. Staff members purchased costumes and took them trick-or-treating. Another time, they cooked a traditional holiday dinner for a family receiving their loved one’s body over Christmas.
“[These families] are experiencing a very difficult point in their lives, and grieving comes in different ways, so we make sure the Fisher House staff members takes care of those families,” Johnson said. “Giving them the care that they need and providing them with any comfort required.”
Toni Gross’ experience with staff members made such an impact that she now volunteers regularly at a Fisher House in Florida. Similarly, Ken Fisher, whose 87-year-old father served in the Korean War, calls the houses his “passion.”
“The House at Dover is particularly relevant as we approach Memorial Day, even while we’re in the grip of a pandemic,” he said. “In the end, we can never ever forget what has been done, what has been given to us, this freedom. That what we hold most dear above everything else — that came at a cost.”
And for families who have experienced that cost, like Toni Gross, it is “comforting” to have a place of refuge during such a difficult time.
“My family and I are grateful to the Fisher House Foundation for our stay at Dover Air Force Base. While it was a solemn time, it was comforting to know that the staff there all understood why we were there and were able to accommodate us during our darkest hours,” Gross said.
Teenagers dread reading Shakespeare’s works because the old English can be difficult at times. In fact, Shakespeare deliberately made up words and expanded the English dictionary by extension. It is not hard to imagine a young mind shying away from his written works. However, Shakespeare did not just write about love, but also war. His take on the art of destruction still echoes today.
The arms are fair, when the intent of bearing them is just.
I interpret this as another way of saying “the end justifies the means.” Men can do great things when they believe their cause is just. However, the most evil men who have ever existed believed they were doing good. In essence, to fight, we must be right.
Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge, with Até by his side come hot from hell, shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice Cry “Havoc,” and let slip the dogs of war.
Julius Caesar was one of the greatest warriors in the history of warfare. Shakespeare’s depiction of him is equally as epic. This quote in particular is famously quoted across many movies and TV shows.
War gives the right to the conquerors to impose any condition they please upon the vanquished.
This one is self-evident.
In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.
We can all think of a war or two that were started by asinine reasons. One war was literally fought over a stolen bucket. Other times trivial causes for war are used to justify military action without being ousted as an aggressor.
Your breath first kindled the dead coal of wars and brought in matter that should feed this fire; and now ’tis far too huge to be blown out with that same weak wind which enkindled it.
It’s easier to start a war than to end one. The same goes for trying to control the scope of the war. Things can get out of hand quickly, and stay in chaos for years to come.
I’ll fight till from my bones my flesh be hacked.
Throughout history, countless troops on the losing side of a battle have fought to the last breath. Their stories are often retold as our tales of patriotic heroism.
A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers.
Much Ado About Nothing
This is true. It is much better to cross the wire and return with all your troops, even if there was no contact with the enemy. However, if there is an enemy and there are no friendly casualties in combat, it is definitely double the cause to celebrate.
He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart; his passport shall be made.
Not everybody is cut out for combat. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
Fight, gentlemen of England! fight, bold yeomen! Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head! Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood; Amaze the welkin with your broken staves!
Pre-battle speeches are paramount to get the troops fired up. Speaking of war speeches, my favorite film speech is from “We Were Soldiers” delivered by Mel Gibson in his role of Lt. Colonel Hal Moore.
Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor.
Another that might be self-evident, but carries no less weight. The reason for this warning has played out countless times in human history.
The residents of Bishopville, a small South Carolina town, filled the streets, Aug. 29, for a special celebration honoring their hometown hero. The motto “Heritage, History, Home,” proudly painted on the Main Street mural perfectly embodied the town’s spirit as everyone gathered for the return of retired Major James “Jim” Capers Jr.
Maj. Capers, described by his comrades as the “utmost Marine”, is the recipient of a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, and three Purple Hearts. Most notably for his time in Vietnam, he is one of the most decorated Marines in Force Reconnaissance history. He became the first African American to command a Marine Reconnaissance company and to receive a battlefield commission.
“This is what you call a great moment in America. What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.” retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command
The townspeople cheered and waved small American flags as the celebration began with the “Parade of Heroes.” Led by the recently turned 83-year-old Capers, veterans and active duty, from near and far, marched proudly in uniform, veteran’s attire, old unit gear, or simply an American flag T-shirt.
Followed by speeches from the Bishopville mayor, South Carolina state senators and representative, retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, a letter written by the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue read by his council, and the presentation of the highest civilian award in the state, every speech or letter addressed Maj. Capers’ service beyond the battlefield.
“This is what you call a great moment in America,” former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command and friend of Capers since 2009. “What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.”
When asked to describe Maj. Capers in one word, common choices included hero, brave, brother, patriot, family, strong, inspiration and American. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he continued his life of service by working closely with those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and always lending a helping hand to anyone in need. After losing his wife and son, those who consider him family are those he “adopted” along the way.
The crowd stood in awe, followed shortly by an eruption of applause as an elaborate plaque titled “The Place, The Legend, The Man” was unveiled in the town’s Memorial Park. The Place, showing North and South Vietnam; The Legend, a textured recreation Maj. Capers’ iconic Marine Corps recruitment campaign poster with the text “Ask a Marine;” and The Man, his story from the beginning in Bishopville.
Capers addressed the crowd stating he was overwhelmed with emotion. “All of the awards that were bestowed upon me this morning, I don’t deserve any of this,” said Capers. “It really doesn’t belong to me, I’m just a caretaker.”
Family and friends standing teary eyed close by, he continued to address all the service members who never had a parade held for them, the ones who weren’t taken care of when they came home, and the ones who never returned.
The celebration concluded with a gathering at the Veterans Museum, where the man who proudly became the face of the Marine Corps when he could barely stand after being wounded 19 times, the man who devoted his life to a country who continued to judge him based on the color of his skin, the man who turned strangers into family, stood in astonishment at the number of people willing to come see him on a Saturday morning.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Now you see them, and now you don’t. Learning how to conceal 28-ton Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks in any type of terrain takes a high level of skill.
Whether they are training in a desert environment or — as they are now — in the forested hills of Poland, the soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division‘s 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team trained on camouflaging Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland, Jan. 20.
“Today we’re here to prove the concept that, regardless of the color of the vehicle, with enough preparation and dedication, we have the ability to camouflage in any scenery, but specifically here in the forest of western Poland,” said Army Capt. Edward Bachar, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment.
How it’s Done
Army Sgt. Cody Flodin, an infantryman assigned to 1-68, said the initial step of camouflaging a vehicle is to place it in an assault position and cover the vehicle with a camouflage net — a radar- and laser-scattering net that deters detection from the air or the ground.
Then, Flodin said he covers the vehicle using dead foliage from the forest floor to break up the visual outline of the vehicle.
Once the vehicle is concealed, Flodin said, he places snow on the foliage to mimic the natural environment, ensuring that all vehicle functions still work properly.
“We need to have the ability to quickly move into a wooded area and not be able to be observed by any potential enemy,” Bachar said. “It is important that within approximately 15 minutes, this Bradley was able to go from maneuvering in a large open area directly into the wood line and blend in with the local surroundings.”
The unit prepared for this mission during a 30-day training rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
From Desert to Forest
“Three months ago, we had to do the same thing in the desert with these vehicles and we did it phenomenally,” the captain said. “We have the ability to execute hide sites, [conduct] assembly area operations, [assume] assault positions and remain undetected from the enemy. To be able to do the same thing in a completely different environment really shows the proficiency of the crew themselves to camouflage their Bradley fighting vehicles and tanks.”
The Bradleys and tanks are slated to be painted in green foliage camouflage in a few months, making it a little easier for the “Iron Brigade” soldiers to conceal themselves. In the meantime, Bachar said, they will continue to train and hone their skills.
“Field craft is a priority, really in anything, from a dismounted squad being able to blend into its surroundings to a Bradley fighting vehicle,” he added. “So we will emphasize field craft camouflage and the ability to blend in to your immediate surroundings in every training exercise. This [Jan. 20 training] is just a proof of concept and the initial training to ensure we have the ability to do it. From here on out, we’re going to continue to get better in our ability to do exactly that.”
The Iron Brigade is here as the first rotation of back-to-back armored brigades in Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve. U.S. European Command officials said this rotation will enhance deterrence capabilities in the region, improve the U.S. ability to respond to potential crises and defend allies and partners in the European community. U.S. forces will focus on strengthening capabilities and sustaining readiness through bilateral and multinational training and exercises, officials added.
Rights groups are calling for the release of an Afghan man with a special visa given to those who assist the United States military overseas who has been held by immigration authorities for nearly three weeks.
Abdul, whose full name is not being revealed for security reasons, arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport on March 13 as part of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Afghans who are in life-threatening danger are eligible for this status.
“Border agents coerced him into signing away his fundamental rights, even though the federal government understood his life was in danger in Afghanistan because of his service to the United States,” Jeanne LoCicero, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
The man and his family had previously been attacked by the Taliban armed group. U.S. immigration authorities are trying to deport him.
Abdul, who holds a sponsorship letter from a retired U.S. Army sergeant, worked as a cashier for five years at a cafeteria next to the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul until February, shortly before he departed for the United States.
Instead of a warm welcome, Abdul was detained on arrival.
“If they had stamped his passport, he would be a lawful U.S. resident,” Jason Scott Camilo, an immigration lawyer representing Abdul, told Al Jazeera.
Camilo said the Afghan was initially interrogated for 28 hours by agents from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs (ICE) agencies.
The lawyer said Abdul was without legal counsel for more than a day. He was held in “a big waiting room. There’s a couple of jail-like cells without beds…he couldn’t sleep,” Camilo said.
Shortly before his scheduled deportation, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a case on Abdul’s behalf, which was denied. It then filed an emergency appeal and a court placed a temporary stay on his deportation pending a review of his case.
Abdul has since passed an initial interview for refugee status and is awaiting a court review in mid-April. However, he remains locked up in the Elizabeth Detention Center, a private facility contracted by ICE.
Betsy Fisher, IRAP’s policy director, said Abdul’s detention is part of a larger clampdown on the Special Immigrant Visa program.
In December 2016, then-president Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which only allocated 1,500 more SIV visas. With so few visas available, Fisher explained, interviews for applicants at the U.S. embassy in Kabul ended on March 1.
“There are roughly 10,000 people still waiting for SIVs,” Fisher told Al Jazeera. “The fact that applicants are now in indefinite limbo because Congress has failed to provide the number of visas we knew were needed is a disgrace and abandonment of our allies.”
Abdul is the second Afghan SIV recipient to be detained in March. On March 4, a family of five that had been granted approval to move to the U.S. because of their father’s work was detained in Los Angeles.
Al Jazeera contacted ICE and CBP for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.