A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.
Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.
“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”
Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.
“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.
“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”
Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)
“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”
Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”
After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.
The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”
Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.
With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.
“The amazing thing about RDJ is that he’s arguably the most famous movie star on the planet, or the biggest movie star on the planet,” Holland said while participating in a panel at a convention called FanX in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sep. 7, 2019. “But he’s always early, he knows every crew member’s name, he always knows his lines. He’s professional, he’s kind, he’s caring.”
The 23-year-old actor, who made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” went on to say that Downey Jr. was immediately welcoming to him.
“I was sick on set one day and I didn’t really know the guy,” Holland said, adding that Downey Jr. invited him to his trailer and was comforting.
“He was really sweet and he kind of looked after me and took me under his wing a little bit,” the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” star said. “Entering the Marvel Universe is daunting, it’s a big process.”
Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
He added: “The thing I’ve learned most from him, and I’ve learned from [Chris] Hemsworth and [Chris] Evans and Scarlett [Johansson] and everyone really, is that just because you’re at the top, doesn’t mean you can be a d—.”
Downey Jr.’s character, Iron Man/Tony Stark, acted as a mentor to Holland’s young webslinger throughout the movies he has appeared in. Holland also revealed that he has the veteran actor’s name saved as “The Godfather” in his phone and thought their friendship was over after he accidentally hung up on Downey Jr.
Despite Tony’s heartbreaking death in 2019’s “Endgame,” the two stars have remained close. Amid news that Holland will be departing the MCU due to a deal between Sony and Marvel falling through, the actors met up to spend time together.
“We did it Mr Stark!” Holland captioned a series of photos of the stars taking selfies together, referencing a similar line that Peter said during Tony’s final moments in “Endgame.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Three months ago, Navy SEAL and NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy slogged through the dirt roads of Normandy with a 44lbs rucksack on his back. Captain Cassidy and several dozen other SEALs (myself included) had just swam 11 miles through the English channel to commemorate the pre-D-Day mission of the first Naval Commandos. The 11-mile swim / 25-mile ruck run on the 74th anniversary of D-Day had a purpose: to raise money for fallen SEALs and their families.
It was an act of service for those who had died in service.
Cassidy, who earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, sweated out this epic charity challenge in the middle of training for another kind of walk — one that will take place at 17,000 miles per hour, 400 kilometers above the earth’s surface. If all goes well, Cassidy will return to space and conduct a spacewalk to make repairs on the International Space Station. But, in the midst of endless days of preparation and training, he took time to honor his military roots — a heritage he shares with a long line of astronauts before him. Captain Chris Cassidy said,
It’s truly been an honor to have a role in our nation’s manned space program. We have had astronauts and cosmonauts living continuously on the International Space Station for the last 18 years which has only been possible because of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. That history is also deeply intertwined with the military. Personally, I love how in both our nation’s space program and military, laser focus on mission success is balanced with detailed planning and operational rick controls. It’s also an amazing feeling to be among such motivated and talented people.
That heritage is one of the centerpieces of the new blockbuster film, First Man, featuring Ryan Gosling starring as NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong. People know Armstrong as the man who walked on the moon; they often don’t know that Armstrong was a decorated Navy fighter pilot and Korean War veteran.
Neil Armstrong in 1964, while in training to be an astronaut.
The film is largely focused on Armstrong’s life and the mission to get to the moon — but it explores a theme familiar to military audiences: the challenge of maintaining a family while deploying to do dangerous work. The film depicts Armstrong’s family and their sacrifice, particularly that of Armstrong’s wife, Janet. And it shows scenes that any military family has faced: how to speak to your children about the danger of the mission; the enormous stress before the deployment; the uncertainty while your loved one is far away. All of this is shown with raw and real emotion.
What was true then and is true now is that service member families often bear a heavy and overlooked burden during times of conflict. While First Man is primarily a movie about the first moon walk, it’s important to remember that that mission, and the space program in general, was the byproduct of a conflict: the Cold War and the tension between the USSR and the US. The frontlines of the early space race were the frontiers of space, and its foot soldiers were military test pilots who strapped themselves to rockets and ventured into the stratosphere in service of their country.
Apollo 11 astronauts with families, 1969
(Ralph Morse for LIFE)
I had an opportunity to speak with Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle (the director behind the smash-hit films La La Land and Whiplash) and ask him about these themes of the connection between military service and the space program:
1. Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind ‘First Man’
After I made Whiplash, I was approached by producers Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner, and Marty Bowen about the idea of doing a movie on Neil Armstrong. I didn’t know much about space travel and didn’t know what my angle would be. But I started reading Jim Hansen’s incredible book, First Man, and started to think of Neil’s story as a story about the cost of great achievement — similar to what I had looked at in Whiplash, only on a much bigger canvas.
What was the toll that the mission to the moon took? I was awed by the sacrifice, the patriotism, the ambition, and the vision that made the impossible possible — and the reminder that it was human beings who did it, ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances and overcoming daunting odds — and even great tragedy — to accomplish something for the ages.
The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown. Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, ride the special transport van over to Launch Complex 39A where their spacecraft awaited them. Liftoff was at 9:32 a.m.
2. What’s woven through the movie are themes of duty and sacrifice. And as a Navy veteran myself, I could identify not just with the astronauts (especially Neil, Navy pilot), but with their families and what they went through. Can you talk a bit about those themes and how they affected your work on this?
The family aspect was paramount — showing these famous events through the eyes of not just Neil, but his wife Janet and his sons, Rick and Mark. How did they all cope with the demands of the job? Funerals were a normal part of life. Two of Neil’s closest friends died while he was in the program. Neil himself almost died several times. And yet, balanced with the danger and the risk, he and Janet also had to take out the trash, clean the pool, make breakfast for their kids. That combination of the intimate and the epic, and the selfless way Neil and Janet confronted all of it, was extraordinary to me.
But I also think it’s worth remembering, as you note, that Neil had been in the Navy. He was someone who believed deeply in service for country. He risked his life in the Korean War. He became a test pilot to forward our understanding of aeronautics, to contribute to knowledge. He went to space to keep seeking those answers. This is someone who was not acting in his own self-interest, who was not seeking fame or fortune. This is a man who believed, in all aspects of his life, that his duty to the mission came first, and without that willingness to risk it all and to sacrifice it all I don’t believe the moon landing ever would have happened.
3. Can you talk a bit about Janet Armstrong and her role?
Ryan and I were lucky enough to meet with Janet and spend time with her. She was an incredible woman, and the stories she told us and memories she shared with us were invaluable. Like Neil, Janet was tough — she had a grit to her that I think made her uniquely qualified for her role in the space program. It’s worth remembering that astronaut wives like Janet played an enormous part in the overall endeavor of going to the moon: they were the ones to had to find the balance between space and home, between the demands of their husbands’ work with the lives of their kids and the necessities of home. They had to do it all while putting on a smile for the cameras — even when they couldn’t know for sure if their husbands would ever return from space. One of my greatest joys in making this movie was in watching Claire Foy embody Janet’s spirit and resilience and pay tribute to such an amazing person.
The Apollo 11 crewmen, still under a 21-day quarantine, are greeted by their wives, Janet Armstrong, Patricia Collins, and Joan Aldrin.
4. There’s a scene in the film where Neil Armstrong is talking to his boys about what’s about to happen — the mission and the risks. Can you give us a sense of what you were thinking with that scene and what you wanted to convey?
That’s a scene that many families across the country have their own version of: the mom or dad about to go off to work, and the knowledge that he or she may not come back. It again speaks to a willingness to sacrifice in the name of service that I find awe-inspiring. In this movie’s case, the scene at the dinner table between Neil and Janet and their boys Rick and Mark was almost word-for-word what actually happened. Janet insisted to Neil he talk to his kids and explain to them what he was doing and what the risks were; much of the scene was taken verbatim from Rick and Mark Armstrong’s recollections. It was a tremendously important scene for all of us — a moment where the characters have to come to a stop and confront the dangers of what they are doing, and what it all means.
5. The military and the space program have a long joint history. At the simplest, a lot of veterans became astronauts. The SEAL community, which I’m a part of, for example is proud of the fact that there are two astronauts currently in training who are SEALs. Did that joint history play into your research at all, or the end product?
It did, in several ways. First, I liked to think of the film as almost a war movie. The moon mission was initially a product of the Cold War, and the astronauts who risked their lives for their country were all former or current servicemen. The dangers were almost combat-like, too — this was not the glossy, glamorous, sleek-and-easy space travel I grew up seeing in movies. These capsules were like old tanks and submarines; the rockets carrying them out of the atmosphere were essentially converted missiles. The dangers were front and center — and, with them, the immense bravery required to face them.
This photograph of astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, was taken inside the Lunar Module (LM) while the LM rested on the lunar surface.
6. The film’s story and title come from James Hansen’s biography of Neil Armstrong, but I was curious: Did you have any other creative influences that helped you make this — books, films, etc?
Yes, many! As I alluded to, certain war movies were big inspirations: Saving Private Ryan, Paths of Glory, The Deer Hunter. Movies about submarines like Das Boot. I also read as many books on the subject matter as I could — one of my favorites was “Carrying the Fire” by Mike Collins, who flew with Neil on Apollo 11. “Deke!” by Deke Slayton and “Failure Is Not An Option” by Gene Kranz were also key. And, finally, documentaries! The archival material shot by NASA, much of which is compiled in incredible films like For All Mankind and Moonwalk One. Documentaries of the period like Salesman and Hospital and Gimme Shelter. An amazing documentary by Frederick Wiseman, about training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, called Missile. All of these taught and inspired me.
First Man, starring Ryan Gosling, arrives in theaters October 12, 2018.
Kaj Larsen is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, VICE, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also served as a US Navy SEAL earning the rank of Lieutenant Commander and completing multiple deployments in the Global War on Terrorism. His family member, Judith Resnick, was the second American woman in space and was killed on launch during the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion.
The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, announced the commanding officer for the 2018 and 2019 seasons at a press conference at the National Museum of Aviation onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, April 4.
A selection panel comprised of 10 admirals and former commanding officers selected Cmdr. Eric Doyle to succeed Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi.
Applicants are required to have a minimum of 3,000 flight hours and be in current command or have had past command of a tactical jet squadron.
Doyle, a native of League City, Texas, joins the Blue Angels after serving as the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113. His previous assignments include six squadron tours, where he flew the F/A-18 Hornet and F-22A Raptor as an operational test pilot. He has deployed in support of Operations Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and Inherent Resolve.
Doyle attended Texas AM University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996. He earned his commission through the Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida. Doyle has more than 3,000 flight hours and 600 carrier-arrested landings. His decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal (with combat V), Navy Commendation Medals (one with combat V), and Navy Achievement Medal, as well as various campaign and unit awards.
“This was a childhood dream come true,” said Doyle. “My motivation to become a pilot came from watching the Blue Angels.”
Doyle will serve as commanding officer and flight leader for the 2018 and 2019 Blue Angels air show seasons. He will report for initial training in Pensacola, Florida in September and officially take command of the squadron at the end of the air show season in November. The change of command ceremony is slated for Nov. 12, at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
As the Blue Angels’ commanding officer, Doyle will lead a squadron of 130 personnel and serve as the demonstration flight leader, flying the #1 jet. The Blue Angels perform for 11 million people annually across the United States, and are scheduled to perform 61 shows in 33 locations for the 2018 season.
We’re nearing the middle of January, and chances are your new year’s resolution is already feeling like a bit of a battle. Resolutions are a helpful tool for testing ourselves and improving our willpower, but if you’re having a really hard time sticking to your new vow, you might be better off giving up.
Psychologist Niels Eék, the cofounder of mental health and wellbeing app Remente, told Insider resolutions can offer us direction if we’re suffering from end of year anxiety about what we actually achieved in the previous 12 months, and making clear future goals can really help us focus.
“The extent to which resolutions can help you will depend on your personality, though,” he said. “Consider if having a deadline and an annual roadmap is a good motivator for you, or if it will make you procrastinate and stress. If it’s the latter, new year’s resolutions might not be for you.”
“The joke is supported by the advertising industrial complex, which sees a huge increase in the sale of diet products and gym memberships every January,” she said. “So if you make a resolution on New Year’s Day only to forget about it three weeks later, you are the rule, not the exception.”
Many people set resolutions that they’re simply not going to stick to, like signing up for a marathon when they’ve never put on a pair of running shoes in their life.
According to Statista, the most common resolutions include “exercise more” and “lose weight,” but only about a quarter of people are actually able to keep them. Eék said this is because it requires a lot of effort to change habits that are ingrained in us.
“To succeed, you not only need to keep your own motivation intact, you will also need to consider the environment you live in, the company you keep, and your day-to-day routines,” he said. “For instance, if your resolution is to ‘lose weight,’ going on a diet might work for a little while until your cravings take over.”
Being clear about why you’ve made certain resolutions also helps in the fight against losing interest. If it’s something based on what you want, not what other people and society think you should do, there’s a much better chance you’ll persist with it.
To give up or not to give up?
Daniel said if a resolution doesn’t come from the heart, it’s not going to stick.
“Making extreme commitments on a specified holiday because popular culture prescribes it is not a firm foundation for that intention to take root,” she said. “Instead, consider making simple resolutions every day or every hour about small things that are easy to manage.”
For example, try starting every day with the intention of counting to ten before you react to an annoying coworker. Or pick things you can improve at over time, like being a better listener, driving more carefully, or watching less tv news.
Resolutions are supposed to be a challenge, and when life throws you a curveball, it’s all part of the fun, Eék said.
“Expect setbacks and disappointments along the way,” he said. “If you stay focused and inspired, though, I’m sure you’ll achieve your goal before the year is over.”
“As such, setting a goal can have a powerful effect on the brain as it can trick the brain into believing it has already accomplished the goal, making your desired outcome part of the brain’s self-image,” Eék said. “This is what makes goal-setting such a powerful tool.”
On the other hand, this means your brain can be your harshest critic, he said, which makes it even more disappointing if your resolution isn’t going to plan.
“By not meeting your goal, your brain will react as if you have taken something away that it already had and, therefore, will become upset and react by cutting off your supply of dopamine [the feel-good hormone],” Eék said. “Feelings of anger, disappointment, and embarrassment may arise instead.”
It’s likely you’ll hit a wall at some point, which means it could be time to readjust. But if you’ve reflected on why you’re not succeeding, made some changes, and you still don’t feel any motivation whatsoever, then it might be time to throw in the towel.
These are some tell-tale signs you should give up on your resolution:
You’ve lost sight of why you decided to do it in the first place.
You keep thinking that you “should” instead of “want” to keep going.
Your plans have changed and your resolution no longer fits in.
It’s negatively affecting your mental health.
Essentially, if you’ve lost sight of the point of the resolution you made, it’s making you feel like a miserable failure, and it’s getting in the way of you achieving anything else, then you should give yourself a break.
“Remember, at the end of the day, a resolution is there to help you, not to cripple you,” said Eék. “If it’s continuously doing the latter, simply let it go.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
If you’re hoping to facilitate a healthy, loving, and lasting relationship, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Also, if you’re hoping to ensure that you’re forever trapped in an endless Mobius strip of resentment, one-upmanship, and inventive new levels of searing joint pain, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Yeah, exercising with your spouse can really go either way, sorry.
Be honest: You’ve seen couples working out together, and your reaction is generally either “Why don’t we do that?” or “Who in the ruddy blue hell has time for this GOOP new-age Pitbull-obsessed-$750-for-Athleta-pants-nonsense?” And both reactions are valid! Couples who work out together share a valid interest that carries the side benefit of helping to keep both parties alive, and Athleta is seriously expensive, guys. It’s black yoga pants, calm down.
But if you want to work out with your wife, how do you ensure you remain in that first group, and stay free of both workout-relationship struggles and tank tops that cost 5 because they feel sort of fluffy? Read on! (Erm, read on separately, as we’re about to drop some serious samurai-level psychological trickery that won’t work if your spouse knows about it. Unless they already read this and they are doing it to you. *makes mind blown motion* Anyway, it’s something to think about when you’re on the treadmill for 45 minutes.)
If you’re going to do this, do it together. No dropping each other off at the gym and reconnecting in an hour after you’re all blasting quads or crushing jacks or pulverizing obliques or whatever. Work out a way that it’s a couples’ venture. You don’t have to make her watch you on the lat pulldown machine, and you don’t have to watch every minute of her kickboxing workout (although those are awesome), but if you’re in this together, be in it together.
DO: be supportive
There are going to be about a dozen exceedingly hot people in your field of vision. Remind your spouse that he/she is easily the hottest thing in the room, regardless of how long the 5’4″ yoga-pants model can do a plank, which will sometimes be like two minutes, those people are like magical ab-crunching elves.
Unless you are performing a workout that involves Mjolnir, keep the volume down. Unless you are lifting more than 1,400 lbs. from a standing position, shut up. Unless your spouse is deeply turned on by you making the kind noises that would indicate you’re singing a Korn song, shut up. Also, if your spouse is turned on by Korn, find a new spouse.
DO NOT: Instagram
Under no circumstances should you:
Scroll through Instagram workout models together
Scroll through Instagram workout models separately
Scroll through Instagram workout models in the other room after she goes to sleep
Literally anything involving a peach emoji
Honestly the whole thing is just bad news, those people are almost certainly emotionally bankrupt empty vessels whose primary joy comes from anonymous like numbers*, and the more you two focus on your thing the happier you will all be.
* Except the Rock and Chris Hemsworth, who are both great.
DO NOT: tell your partner to stop doing “vanity exercises”
Unless, that is you want to have a fight at the dumbbell rack. We all have our annoying tendencies. Just turn up the “Sweat Mix” in your AirPods and let them feel better about their show-off zones.
In addition to being a quality exercise that will make your heart work better in your 70s, running offers many fringe benefits, like being outside, spending time together, possibly exploring new trails or paths or beaches, pushing each other, and possibly even doing literally nothing other than quietly enjoying each other’s company. It also might hurt your knees and cause you to trip over roots in the forest, but it’s worth a shot.
DO: try out new classes together
Chances are pretty good your gym offers a bunch of classes featuring words that sound totally made-up, like “aerial fitness” and “black light yoga.” And they might be terrible ideas born because some 20-year-old intern came across a workout content farm online! But unless you’re training together for a marathon or an Olympic discus competition or to launch a workout-couples Instagram (DON’T), you’re probably there to get a little healthier and spend time together. So, pick one or three of the dumbest-sounding classes, and try them out (If you don’t want to hate one another immediately, avoid any class with “Boot Camp” in the title)
Worst-case scenario, you try something new and get a little better at pole dancing. Best-case scenario, you can make merciless fun of those idiots when you’re home later. See, you’re bonding already.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
U.S. Strategic Command recently passed the leadership role in counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction mission to SOCOM, a move that has SOF leaders scrambling to figure out where it fits into this complex mission.
Michal Lumpkin, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict, said he worries that SOCOM will try to take on too much of the mission.
Special Operations personnel are known for being “solution people,” he said. “They solve problems. They fill gaps, seams, and voids.”
“But every gap, seam, and void is not theirs to fill, so the interagency has to do their part,” Lumpkin told an audience Feb. 28, 2018, at National Defense Industrial Association’s 29th Annual Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium. “So, one of the things that I always fear is we would maybe get out in front of the headlights farther and faster than we should and accept too much of the mission.”
Lumpkin took part in a counter-proliferation panel discussion, where all the panelists agreed that chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons are quickly becoming one of the top threats to the United States and its allies.
U.S. Army Col. Lonnie Carlson, director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy in the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, said keeping WMD out of the hands of ISIS extremists is one of his top priorities.
“Those real-world things are there, and the bottom line is, they are definitely terrorism-related, they are coming out of the Middle East, and they are not things we were worried about two months ago,” Carlson said.
Components of these mass-casualty weapons are also coming out of North Korea and turning up in places like Syria, said Michael Waltz, a former Special Forces officer and policy advisor to the Bush administration.
There have been “40 to 50 previously unknown, unreported shipments of essentially chemical weapons components or dual-use components from North Korea to Syria,” he said.
Syria’s legitimate chemical industry “isn’t exactly thriving, so I think it is safe to assume what those parts are for,” he added.
Waltz said he agreed with President Trump’s policy of “stopping the North Korean program in its tracks,” but said he thought the administration’s failure to fill key positions in the State Department would make it difficult to counter the proliferation of these types of weapons.
“I think we are really suffering in many respects … with the lack of appointments and with what is going on in the State Department,” Waltz said. “How do we work the non-proliferation piece, which State should and will lead, when they don’t have the manpower? The answer I think is, it’s going to fall on DoD, and it’s going to fall on SOCOM.”
Carlson pointed out that that SOCOM has been given the “synchronization” role in the effort, “but that doesn’t mean they own all the operations.”
“It’s still the global and geographic chain of command with their theater units and SOF operating commands that actually do the executions,” he said.
SOCOM has been given a “significant plus-up” in the proposed fiscal 2019 budget, mainly in the overseas contingency operations account, but that will not be enough to fund this new mission, Lumpkin said.
“There are still shortages for SOCOM and across the inter-agency [in] resourcing this issue,” he said. “The reality is, you can’t put a new mission on anybody without either taking something off the table, something else that they are doing, or you are going to have to give them more resources.”
SOCOM has no shortage of missions these days, Mark Mitchell, principal deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said during his speech on Feb. 28, 2018.
In addition to leading the new WMD mission, “they also maintain their coordinating authority for countering violent extremists,” Mitchell said. “These are no-fail missions for the nation. … We are going to look at where we can shut some missions.”
Mitchell welcomed the conventional Army’s recent decision to stand up its new Security Force Assistance Brigades, units of highly trained officers and soldiers designed to take over the “advise-and-assist” mission of training foreign troops in conventional infantry operations.
The Army plans to have all six SFABs in place by 2022. Perhaps these new units can take some of the burden off of Special Forces units, who have traditionally assumed these foreign training missions, Mitchell said.
Waltz suggested turning to the National Guard and Reserves since many of its personnel have civilian expertise in some the areas needed in the counterproliferation mission.
“SOCOM isn’t going to solve this by themselves,” Lumpkin said. “The only way we are going to get our arms around the counter-WMD, counter-proliferation challenges is to do it in a unified, whole-of-nation approach.”
“Arlington National Cemetery is an iconic place devoted to honoring the memory of individuals in the armed services who made a significant commitment of service to the defense of our nation,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, during a House Armed Services Committee briefing about Arlington’s current and future plans, March 8, 2018.
“The Army recognizes that the cemetery is at a critical point in its history … changes to eligibility combined with expansion will ensure Arlington continues to be an active cemetery well into the future,” Durham-Aguilera said.
In February 2017, Army officials engaged with Congress to explain how the current space constraints limit the amount of time Arlington National Cemetery will be able to continue to serve veterans.
Current eligibility requirements for in-ground burial at ANC are the most stringent of all U.S. national cemeteries. Nevertheless, most veterans who have at least one day of active service other than training, and who have been honorably discharged, are eligible for above-ground inurnment at the cemetery, officials say.
“It’s a tough reality. The current veteran population is over 20 million. The retiree population is over two million. The total force, both active and reserve, is over 2 million right now. Today we have around 100,000 available burial spaces. We cannot serve that population,” Durham-Aguilera said.
During that 2017 meeting with Congress, Army officials outlined considerations for additional expansion opportunities beyond current boundaries, and evaluated alternative ideas for maximizing the space within the cemetery’s geographic footprint, Durham-Aguilera said.
“With no changes, we would be out of space in the early 2040s. If (Arlington) were to get a southern expansion, that can push us for another ten years,” said Katharine Kelley, Arlington National Cemetery superintendent. Still, she characterized the value of that possible expansion as not providing a significant gain for the cemetery.
In addition to the physical expansion, Arlington officials have considered increasing the amount of niche wall inurnment sites. However, that option would only serve as a temporary solution and could change Arlington’s “iconic look and feel,” Kelly said.
Moving forward, Army officials have determined a need to redefine Arlington’s eligibility criteria for interment and inurnment. The last significant change to Arlington’s eligibility criteria was in the late 1960s, Durham-Aguilera added. Another, more recent change occurred in 2016 when active duty designees were added to the above-ground eligible population at ANC. These groups consist of about 200,000 active duty designees, or nearly double the current capacity at the cemetery.
To help make a better-informed decision about the cemetery’s future, officials conducted an initial public survey about burial options in November 2017.
Out of the 28,000 people polled, 94 percent agreed that the cemetery should remain active well into the future. Additionally, over 50 percent of those who were in favor of expansion also recognized the need to modify eligibility policy. Further, if no expansion is possible, a full 70 percent were in support of restricting eligibility in some manner to extend the life of the cemetery.
Based off the survey results, officials are now considering restricting Arlington’s eligibility requirement to service members killed in action, Medal of Honor and high award recipients, former prisoners of war, and military members that were killed while on active duty during operations or training, Kelley said.
Arlington officials are slated to conduct another survey in the coming weeks. At the conclusion of the study, results and recommendations will be compiled by cemetery officials and released to the secretary of the Army. From there, information from the study will be shared with the other armed forces secretaries and the secretary of defense, and eventually released to Congress, Durham-Aguilera said.
Finding ways to keep Arlington National Cemetery open well into the future, while at the same time honoring all who served, will be a challenge, Durham-Aguilera said. “These hard choices are on our minds every single day, as we go out and lay our veterans and patriots to rest.”
The man who allegedly killed eight people on Oct. 31 in the worst terror attack New York City has seen since 9/11 had planned to continue his rampage down the West Side Highway and onto the Brooklyn Bridge, according to a criminal complaint released Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors charged Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan, with providing support to the terrorist group ISIS. He is also facing charges of violence and destruction of motor vehicles.
Saipov, who is in police custody and recovering from his injuries at Bellevue Hospital, waived his Miranda rights verbally and spoke to law enforcement officials about the attack, the complaint said.
He told authorities he began planning an attack in the US roughly one year ago, and decided two months ago to use a truck “in order to inflict maximum damage against civilians.” He also said he chose the date of Oct. 31 because it was Halloween — a date he believed would draw more civilians out onto the street.
Saipov’s original plan was to plow the rented truck into civilians near the West Side Highway and the drive on to the Brooklyn Bridge to continue the bloodshed. Saipov never made it to the Brooklyn Bridge as he crashed the truck into a school bus near the West Side Highway’s bicycle path.
From there, Saipov exited the truck while yelling “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” and brandished a paintball gun and pellet gun. According to the complaint, Saipov also had a bag of knives, but left them in the truck before exiting.
He also admitted to writing the note found by authorities, which they said was written in Arabic and said the Islamic State would endure forever.
Saipov said he was was motivated to carry out the attack after watching a video featuring ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asking what Muslims in the US were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq.
Saipov also told authorities he had intended to display the black-and-white ISIS flags in the front and rear of his truck, but eventually decided against it so as not to draw attention to himself.
The complaint also noted that Saipov had asked during his interview with authorities if he could display the ISIS flag in his hospital room. He told them that “he felt good about what he had done,” the complaint said.
Jessica D. Blankshain is an assistant professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College.
One of the things most people agree on regarding U.S. civil-military relations is that the military should stay out of politics. But how do we keep the military out of politics when politicians are in the military?
Ultimately the Wisconsin Guard determined Kinzinger’s remarks were not a problem, announcing March 7, 2019, that a review had found he was speaking in his capacity as a Congressman, not a military officer.
Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District.
But this dustup also highlights broader issues raised by members of the National Guard (and service reserves) serving concurrently in political office.
Members of the National Guard and reserve serving in Congress has been relatively uncontroversial for nearly 200 years. In the early 1800s, the House took action against a member who joined the militia between congressional sessions, arguing that it violated the Incompatibility Clause (Article 1 Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution), which prohibits individuals from serving in the executive and legislative branches simultaneously.
The law defining “employees” has since been reworded to avoid this issue but, in recent years, the question of legislators serving in the Guard and reserve has begun to draw attention from those who study American civil-military relations. This interest may be driven in part by the effects of the “Abrams Doctrine,” which moved many critical capabilities into the Guard and reserve after Vietnam. [There are, of course, significant differences between the National Guard and service reserves, both in terms of force structure and relationship to state and federal government, but for present purposes I consider them together.]
Beginning roughly near the end of the Cold War and accelerating after 9/11, the United States has shifted from having a largely strategic reserve component — “weekend warriors” who did not expect to deploy unless there was a crisis — to having an operational reserve in which members of the Guard and reserve expect to deploy regularly in support of ongoing operations overseas, from the peacekeeping missions of the 1990s to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s and beyond.
As a result, members of the Guard and reserve may now be perceived less as civilians who take up arms in time of need and more as part-time professional soldiers who have more in common with their active-duty counterparts than with average Americans.
Given the professional military’s strong apolitical ethic, whether and when we view members of the Guard and reserve as members of the military profession has important implications for how we evaluate their political activity (similar to discussions of political participation by retired officers).
There can, of course, be benefits to having members of the Guard and reserve serving in Congress or other political offices. Their military experience may inform their lawmaking and oversight. And as we were somberly reminded by the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major and mayor of North Ogden, in Afghanistan in 2018, they may also serve as a link between civilian communities and the military fighting on their behalf.
Utah National Guard major Brent Taylor (left) and Lt. Kefayatullah.
But there are challenges, too, as Rep. Kinzinger’s case makes clear. When an officer who is also a politician publicly criticizes orders from his commander in chief, who belongs to a different political party, it raises concerns about good order and discipline within the military and, perhaps most significantly, it makes it harder to keep clear separation in the public mind between the military and politics. As the reserve component’s role in the military has shifted, so too has the balance of these pros and cons.
Kinzinger’s personal criticism of the governor highlights that concerns about good order and discipline are linked with concerns about politicization. On Twitter, Kinzinger questioned whether Evers visited to the border himself to understand the deployment or instead made a “political” decision. In a Fox News interview, he said that he was breaking the news of the withdrawal because he believed the governor didn’t have the courage to do so. While these comments would not be particularly remarkable coming from a member of the opposing political party, they look very different coming from an officer in that state’s National Guard. Kinzinger, of course, is both. How will his fellow Wisconsin Guard members, whom he will continue to serve alongside, perceive these comments?
Kinzinger’s remarks also raise concerns about public perceptions of the politicization of the military. One of the main reasons Kinzinger’s comments held weight was that he had just returned from a deployment to the border and drew on his experience there to support his criticism of the withdrawal. In the Fox appearance in particular, the hosts and Kinzinger all position him as a neutral expert drawing on his two-week deployment to the border to make a policy judgment, in contrast to partisan politicians who oppose the president’s declaration of national emergency for political reasons.
Kinzinger is explicitly critical of Democrats, both in Congress and in state government. He might be perceived as trying to have it both ways — using his apolitical military credibility to go after political opponents — which could have implications for the public’s view of the military as an institution. This last point is perhaps of most concern, given the high level of confidence the American public has in the military compared to elected officials, as well as indications that this confidence is increasingly taking on partisan dimensions.
Kinzinger’s situation is by no means unique. There were at least 16 members concurrently serving in the Guard or reserve and the 115th Congress, and the intention of this piece is not to single him out for scrutiny. The shift from a strategic to an operational reserve component has changed the relationship between the reserve component and society, and we should be cognizant of those changes when thinking about how members of the Guard and reserve balance their military service with their political service.
Such a reassessment wouldn’t require a ban on concurrent service, but might mean developing either explicit regulations or implicit norms around which issues such members should recuse themselves on, what boundaries they draw on their partisan political speech, or to what degree they invoke their service while campaigning and governing.
The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to email@example.com for consideration.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
FOX News Journalist Abby Hornacek is no stranger to the outdoors. Growing up in a family of athletes, she’s now brought her love for fitness and travel to the FOX Nation series, Park’d.
In 2020, disabled military veterans received one of the best benefits of service the country could give them: free access to the most breathtaking sights in the country they served.
A partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation allows veterans with a service-connected disability an Access Pass that allows for free entry and discounts on park amenities.
There are so many reasons why this is an incredible benefit for America’s disabled veterans (and Gold Star Families, by the way). On Park’d, you can see FOX’s Abby Hornacek hike, surf and RV across the country in the most stunning national parks, but here are a few she’s visited everyone should see for themselves.
1. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Nowhere else in America – perhaps on Earth – will nature lovers see a more stunning, otherworldly sight than Canyonland National Park. One of two national parks in the Moab area of Utah, Canyonland National Park is a park filled with dozens of the outdoor enthusiast’s must-do and must-see lists.
From Grand View Point, visitors can see much of the park’s painted, jaw-dropping landscape in all its technicolor glory. The Mesa Arch is probably its most famous landmark, and with one look, visitors will see why. Canyoneering and camping is a must for any visitor, but the thrill seeker can watch Abby Honacek rappel a 120-foot drop into the park’s “Medieval Chamber” and consider taking the challenge.
2. Acadia National Park, Maine
Maine’s Acadia National Park isn’t just a sight to see for so-called “leafers” looking for explosions of color among the fall foliage. It’s called the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast” for a reason. Hiking in Acadia means literal cliff walks, offering a full panoramic view of the Maine coastline and the beautiful forests below. You may even get a glimpse of the majestic Peregrine Falcons that call Acadia home.
When Abby Hornacek visited Acadia National Park for FOX Nation’s “Park’d,” she was able to take in the full grandeur of the park’s vastness by gliding far above the treetops. The park is so vast, in fact, that reaching some of its outlying islands could take a full day’s boat ride. Hornacek and company got in some good lobstering along the way.
3. Channel Islands National Park, California
From the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast, Abby Hornacek took in Channel Islands National Park, south from the coast of Santa Barbara. In true California style, she took in some of the best waves on the West Coast, surfing in the cool Pacific waters off the “Galapagos of North America. A visit to Channel Islands National Park is an experience in one of the most ecologically diverse places on the continent.
Kayaking across Santa Cruz island, she was able to experience the California coast as it was when untouched by human contact. Kayakers and hikers to any of the five Channel Islands will have an opportunity to see green peaks, pristine coastlines and an intense array of wildlife, from sea lions and island foxes to the American Bald Eagle.
4. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Visitors without a lot of time to explore Mesa Verde’s 5,000 natural wonders and 600 Native American cliff dwellings can still have an amazing experience inside the park’s 52,000 acres. Abby Hornacek explored as much as possible through a zipline excursion, which gave her a panoramic view of the park and its deep canyons.
For a more up-close and personal view of the vistas of Mesa Verde, visitors can hike the Petroglyph Point Trail, for views of the canyons, cliffsides, and expansive work of art that nature created. The best view comes from hiking to Park Point Fire Lookout, the highest point in the park. At 8,572 feet, those who make the trek will be able to see Utah, New Mexico and Arizona on a clear day.
Anyone planning on seeing as much as possible in Mesa Verde should prepare for camping in the park, as it was just certified as an International Dark Sky Park, perfect for stargazing in the clear Colorado skies.
5. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
Arkansas’ natural wonder was established long before the idea of creating national parks even existed. It’s easy to see why. The lush green landscape is fed by thermal springs from thousands of feet below ground mixed with the cold ground water of the area. What makes this park unique is how closely the park is integrated to the surrounding area.
Abby Hornacek explored the history of the town, which featured rustic bathhouses and other tourist attractions using the storied healing power of the spring water. She even gets a lesson in beer brewing using Hot Springs’ famous water supply from the locals. Follow Hornacek as she summits Music Mountain, the park’s highest point for a breathtaking view.
6. Yosemite National Park, California
No list of breathtaking national parks would be complete without including California’s Yosemite National Park. The park is home to 1,200 square miles of glacier-carved peaks, stunning river valleys and the majestic waterfalls that dot the landscape – a truly unforgettable experience.
Visitors will also see the forest of grandiose, ancient Giant Sequoias and the storied, legendary granite summits of El Capitan and Half-Dome. On Park’d, viewers can follow FOX’s Abby Hornacek as she braves a zipline over the mountains of the Yellowstone National Park and rafts the formidable Yellowstone River.
What’s even better? If you’ve served or are currently serving our beautiful country, then you get a free year of FOX Nation, where you can catch a new season of Park’d on July 3rd. Check out the FOX Nation website for more details!
“We were driving down I-5 in California heading back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and a car pulled out in front of us, swerved, hit a wall going about 65 mph and then rolled a couple of times,” said Peach.
Peach then pulled in front of the vehicle and rushed to the man’s aid.
“I was scared the entire time but I saw a lifeless body sitting in the car and I wasn’t just going to turn my head and do nothing about it,” said Peach. “Then I saw the smoke and knew I only had a certain amount of time before the car caught on fire.”
Peach then tried, without success, to break the windows of the car.
“One of my best friends and I ripped off the back hatch and I just barreled right in there,” said Peach. “The whole time I was feeling around for other people because I couldn’t see anything. Once I found him he was tangled up in his seat belt and I couldn’t get him loose.”
Peach then left the car and grabbed a flare from another driver who had pulled over to help. He then went back into the vehicle, cut the seat belt and fireman-carried the man out. He attended to the injured man until paramedics arrived.
Following the incident, Peach was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
“Sgt. Peach is the embodiment of what we look for in our [non-commissioned officers],” said Lt. Col. Reginald McClam, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “I’m proud of him and I know the family that he brought into the Marine Corps by saving their family, is happy he was there.”
After putting his life on the line Peach found himself gaining more than a new medal.
“I talk to the family every other day,” said Peach. “It feels good being able to help somebody out. It’s not about the awards. I never thought when this happened that I’d get this [award]. I’m just glad I was there and able to help.”
Green Berets, SEALs, MARSOC — these are all well-known operator groups in the United States military. But not many know much about the Rhodesian Selous Scouts.
Named after the famous hunter Fredrick Selous, they possess the teamwork mindset of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and the skills of the Rhodeisan Special Air Service; but with harder training requirements than both, the Selous Scouts became monumental in anti-terrorist operations.
The selection process was so difficult that the recruits wouldn’t believe the instructors when they were informed they had passed.
Their boot camp was named “Wafa Wafa Wasara Wasara” which is Shona for, “Who dies — dies, who survives — remains.”
4. Extensive Training
The Selous Scouts were raised as a special forces regiment when Rhodesia was facing a terrorist threat that was armed by the Soviet Union to eliminate many European colonies in Africa. The Scouts’ mission was the clandestine elimination of these threats both in and out of Rhodesia.
For this purpose, they were not only taught tracking and survival, but they were also trained by former terrorists in the language, songs, and mannerisms of their enemies on top of learning to parachute.
3. Expert survival skills
Selous Scouts were trained to hunt and forage for their own food and water supplies.
Their survival skills allowed them to operate without external support.
2. Could shoot targets in rapid succession — without looking
Trained to shoot well-known enemy hiding spots, they eventually became so skilled that they no longer needed to look at their targets in order to hit them.
Selous Scouts went out in 5-10 man teams, which meant they were always outnumbered against their enemies, but their training proved to be more efficient, allowing them to inflict a high number of enemy casualties.
*Bonus* Infiltrated enemy units just to eliminate them
After being trained by former terrorists, Selous Scouts were capable of infiltrating enemy terrorist units by joining their factions. These scouts would eventually turn on the terrorists, capitalizing the elements of surprise and shock to mitigate the cells.
Other times, Selous Scouts would infiltrate enemy encampments and “expose” themselves by leaving clues behind of scout hiding places and encampments, ultimately leading terrorist troops into deathtraps.
While Rhodesia ultimately fell to the Zimbabwe African National Union, the Selous Scouts remain a monumental example in the world of anti-terrorist operations and helped write the book on being operator AF.