How do you get 38,000-plus World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the country’s memorial to their service? Fly them, of course. That’s roughly how many vets and caretakers are on the Honor Flight Network’s waiting list. But United Airlines, American Airlines, and most others aren’t just giving away free seats for veterans. That’s where Honor Flight comes in, but it can’t do it alone. Like any other non-profit, it needs to raise money.
Good thing Honor Flight has the NFL’s most dominant defender at their side. The Houston Texans’ JJ Watt is putting his legendary fundraising skills to work for the 348 World War II veterans who die every day.
On Veterans Day 2019, JJ Watt launched a new shoe line with Reebok, calling it “Valor 2.” The shoe is dedicated to the memory of his late grandfather, who fought in Korea, including at Pork Chop Hill. Most importantly, the proceeds that would normally go to Watt for his work on the shoe will instead go to the Honor Flight Network, along with an additional ,000 kicker from Reebok.
Watt is no stranger to lending his name and time to support great causes. He raised an incredible .6 million to help rebuild Houston after it was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Now he’s using his clout and his status to make another miraculous save. This time the beneficiary is the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit whose mission is to take war veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to their respective wars giving priority to World War II vets.
As he mentions in the above video, the Valor shoe Watt produced with Reebok in 2018 was a massive success, benefitting the Navy SEAL Foundation. The shoe sold out three times and Reebok restocked it three times. This shoe, along with the same camouflage pattern, also features the Korean War stripe on the back along with his name tape and unit, right up to the division level. Watt’s younger brother TJ Watt, an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, wore the shoes during the Steelers’ Nov. 10 game against the Los Angeles Rams.
The JJ III, as it’s called on Reebok’s JJ Watt website, retails for 0 for men’s sizes and for boys. If you’re in the market for a new pair, pick up the JJ III and help a World War II or Korean War veteran see the monument to the work he or she did overseas.
Built in the early 1930s, the 165-foot “B”-Class cutters were often referred to as the Thetis-Class. The Thetis-class cutters proved good sea boats becoming the backbone of the Coast Guard’s coastal patrol and convoy force during World War II.
Among these cutters was the Argo, which escorted Nazi Germany’s last surrendered U-boats into captivity and the Thetis, one of 11 Coast Guard cutters credited with sinking a U-boat. However, the most honored of these cutters was Icarus, which sank U-352 and captured its crew at the beginning of World War II.
Icarus and its sister cutters were designed for Prohibition enforcement, specifically tracking down rum running ships outside U.S. territorial waters. These cutters required excellent sea-keeping qualities, long-term accommodations for crew, and greater fuel capacity. Icarus was built by Bath Iron Works in Maine and commissioned on April 1, 1932.
The cutter reported for duty at Stapleton, New York, on Staten Island, and served as part of the New York Division’s Special Patrol Force, which conducted law enforcement patrols in support of Prohibition regulations. After passage of the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition, Icarus continued sailing out of Stapleton on law enforcement and search and rescue patrols.
After war erupted in Europe in 1939, the Coast Guard assigned Icarus to Neutrality Patrols protecting merchant vessels from attacks by European combatants. With the 1941 U.S. entry into World War II, Icarus joined its sister cutters in escorting coastal convoys and anti-submarine patrols in American waters.
On the morning of Friday, May 8, 1942, Icarus departed Staten Island for Key West, Florida. On Saturday at about 4:20 p.m., while off the coast of North Carolina, Icarus’s sonar operator picked up a “mushy” contact 2,000 yards off its port bow. The cutter’s crew went to general quarters and assumed battle stations.
Ten minutes after the first sonar contact, an explosion believed to be a torpedo rocked the cutter about 200 yards off the port side. Reversing course, Icarus sped toward the contact, which was heading toward the spot where the explosion had occurred. The underwater contact sharpened and, for the first time, propeller sounds were heard by the sonarman. The contact was lost at 180 yards but, after a calculated interval, Icarus dropped five depth charges in a diamond shape with one charge in the center.
The sonar operator next determined that the contact was slowly moving west, so the cutter altered course to intercept it. Two more charges were dropped in a “V” pattern at a point leading the contact’s underwater track and, as roiling water from the explosions subsided, large bubbles were observed on the surface. Icarus reversed course again and dropped a single charge on the spot where the air bubbles had surfaced. Six minutes later, the cutter dropped a second charge in the same location.
At 10 minutes past 5:00 p.m., shortly after the last charge had been dropped, a U-boat broke the surface 1,000 yards from Icarus. The heavily armed sub emerged bow first and down by the stern. The cutter’s crew was ready, opening fire with all machine guns that could bear on the sub. Meanwhile, the U-boat’s crew began abandoning ship. Icarus’s commanding officer, Lt. Maurice Jester, altered course to ram and the cutter’s 3-inch main battery was brought to bear on the submarine. The first 3-inch round fell short ricocheting off the water and through the conning tower. The second round overshot the sub, but the next 12 rounds hit the U-boat or came close, with seven of them hitting home. Minutes later, the damaged U-boat began to subside into the sea.
As the submarine sank, Icarus ceased firing, but the cutter circled the spot where the U-boat had disappeared. Icarus re-established sonar contact with the submerged sub and the cutter’s sonarman heard propeller noises again. Taking no chances, Jester ordered one last depth charge dropped over the U-boat, which brought a large air bubble to the surface. No further noises were heard from sub; the vessel had finally been vanquished. Meanwhile, 35 Germans were struggling on the surface to avoid the cutter’s path and its deadly depth charges. Expecting to be machine-gunned in the water, many yelled, “Don’t shoot us!”
At 5:50 p.m., the Icarus crew began rescue operations and retrieved Germans from the water. Except for the wounded survivors, the prisoners were placed under guard in the cutter’s forward crew compartment. The U-boat’s commanding officer, Kapitänleutnant Helmut Rathke, was among the survivors. At this point, it was learned that the submarine was U-352, carrying a complement of 48 men. Seven of the crew went down with the U-boat while others died in the water after abandoning ship. By 6:05, 33 survivors had been rescued and the cutter proceeded to Charleston Navy Yard as ordered.
The German prisoners exhibited good discipline and were surprised by the fine treatment they received on board Icarus. Several of the U-boat’s crew spoke English and talked freely on personal matters, but disclosed no military information. Three of Icarus’s crew also spoke German and conversed with the prisoners. The prisoners wished to know how much money the Coast Guard crew would receive for sinking a submarine and if crewmembers received promotions for doing so. The Germans related that they received medals and bonuses for sinking ships, the amount depending on the size and tonnage of their victims. Four of the prisoners also mentioned they had relatives living in the U.S.
On Sunday morning, Icarus arrived at the Navy Yard. There, the cutter delivered 32 prisoners and one prisoner who died of his wounds en route to Charleston. To keep the enemy in doubt about the U-boat’s fate, naval authorities did not disclose the sinking of U-352 until almost a year later, on May 1, 1943. For the remainder of the war, Icarus continued its convoy escort work, search and rescue duties and anti-submarine patrols. In the fall of 1946, the ship was placed in reserve status and stored at Staten Island. The Coast Guard decommissioned Icarus in 1948 and sold it to the Southeastern Terminal and Steamship Company.
Icarus was the second American warship to sink a U-boat and the first to capture German combatants. For his command of Icarus in the attack and sinking of U-352, Jester received one of only six Navy Cross Medals awarded to Coast Guardsmen during the war. Icarus was one of numerous combat cutters that served the heroic Coast Guardsmen of the long blue line during World War II.
China reportedly sent an uninvited surveillance ship to spy on the recent joint military exercises with Russia, a move highlighting how lingering distrust and competitiveness weaken the so-called “strategic partnership” emerging between Moscow and Beijing.
Beijing sent thousands of People’s Liberation Army troops accompanied by tanks, helicopters, and artillery to eastern Russia for joint drills in September 2018. China also deployed a PLA Navy Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessel to shadow Russian naval assets training at sea while Chinese ground troops trained on land, USNI News reported, citing a US official. The latter was apparently not invited, but the opportunity to gather valuable intelligence on a competitor was presumably too good to pass up.
While consistent with past Chinese practices — the Chinese navy has sent spy ships to the Rim of the Pacific exercises — it is unusual to surveil an ally while training alongside them, even if it is technically legal under international law.
Given rising tensions between Washington and Moscow and Beijing, some observers suggested that increasing US pressure was driving Russia and China together, laying the groundwork for a possible alliance. A strategic military partnership between the two powers is alarming given each country’s interest in challenging America’s leadership and unilateral power and authority in the international system.
“It sends a signal to Washington that if the U.S. continues on its current course by pressuring Russia and imposing more sanctions, Russia will fall even more into the firm embrace of China,” Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Institute in Moscow recently told the Associated Press.
The Military Band of the Eastern Military District during the opening parade of Vostok 2018.
The “main political significance” of the Vostok 2018 drills “comes from the signaling by both Russia and China about the possible emergence of a strategic partnership, aimed at countering the threat that both countries feel from continued U.S. dominance of the international system,” Dmitry Gorenburg argued in The Washington Post.
The massive war games, touted as “unprecedented” and expected to be held every five years going forward, came as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to stand together against unilateralism. In June 2018, Xi called Putin his “best friend,” a sentiment seemingly shared by the latter.
But despite the budding bromance between Chinese and Russian leadership, the bilateral relationship between the two countries is undermined by decades of distrust dating back to the Cold War, when Soviet and Chinese troops skirmished along the border and tensions rose to the point that Russia was considering a nuclear strike on China.
Chinese state-affiliated media downplayed talk of a Chinese-Russian alliance, suggesting that the concept was being overhyped. “China and Russia are not allies, and they are firm in not forging an alliance,” the nationalist Global Times explained in a recent editorial. “But the outside world shouldn’t make China and Russia feel an urgent need to strengthen their military cooperation.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said recently that he sees “little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.”
Exactly what the Chinese intelligence vessel was doing remains unclear, but experts suspect that it was gathering information on Russia’s more technologically-sophisticated navy given China’s interest in advancing its radar and electronic warfare capabilities, USNI News reported. Assuming the ship was indeed uninvited, China may have been trying to learn more about Russian warfighting than Russia was willing to teach.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Department of Defense was forced to issue an apology Sept. 21, 2019, after a tweet was sent out the day before suggesting the military was going to bomb millenials attempting to raid Area 51 into oblivion with America’s top bomber.
The offending tweet was posted on Sept. 20, 2019, by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDSHub), a DoD media service, in response to the “Storm Area 51” event, which was held the day the tweet was posted.
“The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51 raid today,” the tweet read. The accompanying image was a B-2 Spirit bomber, a highly-capable stealth aircraft built to slip past enemy defenses and devastate targets with nuclear and conventional munitions.
Screenshot of the now-deleted tweet from the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.
The tweet received some immediate backlash online. “The military should not be threatening to kill citizens, not even misguided ones,” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, tweeted Sept. 20, 2019.
On Sept. 21, 2019, DVIDSHub deleted the troubling tweet and issued an apology. “Last night a DVIDSHUB employee posted a tweet that in NO WAY supports the stance of the Department of Defense,” the military media division wrote. “It was inappropriate and we apologize for this mistake.”
The “Storm Area 51” movement evolved from a Facebook post that went viral. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up for the “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop Us All” event, which jokingly called for people to overrun the remote Nevada air force base to “see them aliens.”
The event was ultimately canceled by the organizers due to safety concerns, although some people did show up and there were a handful of arrests.
The Air Force was taking the potential threat seriously though. “Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said a few days prior to the event. “People deserve to have our nation’s secrets protected.”
Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan added that the service was coordinating its efforts with local law enforcement. “There’s a lot of media attention, so they’re expecting some folks to show up there. We’re prepared, and we’ve provided them additional security personnel, as well as additional barricades.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Philippines, a Pacific ally that has been on the front lines of US efforts to confront and deter China, especially in the contested South China Sea, notified the US on Tuesday that it was officially terminating a bilateral agreement on the status of US troops rotating in and out of the country for military exercises.
Finally following through on a threat he has made many times, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a critic of the alliance and a proponent of a foreign policy independent of the US, said he would end the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.
“It’s about time we rely on ourselves,” the president’s spokesman said, according to Reuters. “We will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”
Teodoro Locsin Jr., Duterte’s foreign secretary, tweeted late Monday that the Philippines was unilaterally terminating the agreement. The pact will end 180 days after the country notifies the US.
The US Embassy in the Philippines confirmed in a statement Tuesday that it received notice of the Philippines’ intent to end the agreement from its Department of Foreign Affairs, CNN reported.
“This is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance,” the statement read. “We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests.”
The US and the Philippines continue to be bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but hundreds of US military exercises with the Philippines, such as the large-scale Balikatan exercises, could be in jeopardy.
Terminating the VFA also puts US counterterrorism support, deterrence in the South China Sea, and other forms of security assistance at risk.
The Philippines has been central to the US’s efforts to counter China’s growing power. Subic Bay gives the US Navy a port to repair and resupply ships that patrol the contested South China Sea, and Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts and Marine F/A-18 Hornets have used the nearby Clark Air Base for training. US special operations troops have also assisted the government’s campaign against terror networks in the country’s south for roughly two decades.
The move to end the VFA followed the US’s decision to cancel the visa of Philippines Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a key player in Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, the extrajudicial killings of which have resulted in the deaths of thousands of suspects and civilian bystanders.
“I’m warning you … if you won’t do the correction on this, I will terminate” the agreement, Duterte said in a televised address in late January, according to The Associated Press. “I’ll end that son of a b—-.”
While the VFA is only one part of a collection of security agreements, Philippine officials have expressed concerns that terminating it could have a domino effect.
“If the VFA is terminated, the EDCA cannot stand alone, because the basis of the EDCA is the VFA, and if the VFA is terminated, the EDCA cannot be effective,” Philippine Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told reporters before Tuesday’s announcement, according to CNN.
Drilon added that if the visiting forces agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement “are no longer effective,” the Mutual Defense Treaty “would be inutile and would serve no purpose.”
Duterte has previously threatened to end the other bilateral agreements and called for the removal of US troops from the Philippines, often in response to American criticisms of his drug war or concerns about US efforts to push the Philippines to confront China.
An F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the “Black Lions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 launches off USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck during flight operations June 7, 2020. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)
Flight operations on the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier were cut back during recent at-sea trials after the new high-tech system that launches aircraft from the flattop’s flight deck went down.
The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford‘s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, known as EMALS, broke June 2 during the ship’s biggest carrier air wing embark to date. The Ford’s leaders had just announced the carrier was underway when EMALS went down.
There were about 1,000 members of Carrier Air Wing 8 aboard the ship as the Ford ran post-delivery test and trials operations in the Atlantic. In a call with reporters the day before the EMALS went down, Capt. J.J. Cummings, the ship’s commanding officer, called the air wing embark a historic moment for the Ford.
The air wing qualified more than 50 fleet and student pilots, he said, and launched and trapped hundreds of flights from the flattop while operating at sea.
But the next day, the EMALS went down, according to a Navy news release that was issued late Sunday night. That “curtailed flight operations to some extent.”
“But the Strike Group, ship, and air wing team still accomplished significant goals scheduled for the Ford-class aircraft carrier,” the release added.
The root cause of the EMALS failure remains under review, said Capt. Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon.
“The fault appeared in the power handling system, during a manual reset of the system,” he said. “This section is independent of the high pulsed power section to launch aircraft and is not a safety of flight risk. The Navy is reviewing procedures and any impacts on the system.”
Any findings and corrective actions they take will be key to ensuring the Ford is ready to support the warfighter when it enters the fleet, Hernandez added.
The Navy has faced pressure from politicians — on Capitol Hill and the White House — on delays in getting several new systems running smoothly, including the EMALS. President Donald Trump once called the system the “crazy electric catapult” and said sailors he spoke to on the Ford complained it wasn’t reliable.
“I’m just going to put out an order — we’re going to use steam,” Trump said last year, referring to the legacy system used to launch aircraft on older carriers.
The Ford returned to port Sunday, and Hernandez said the crew was supported by a team of experts who developed an “alternative method to launching the air wing off” the ship.
The Ford has completed nearly 3,500 launches and recoveries using the EMALS. Hernandez called that quite an achievement, but added that it’s an insufficient number to draw conclusions about the system’s reliability.
“As flight operations on [the new carrier] continue, interruptions will be tracked, systematically reviewed and addressed with design and procedural changes aimed at achieving operational requirements for the rest of the Ford class,” he said.
James Geurts, assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, said shipbuilders remain on the Ford, working to resolve problems with new systems. That includes getting all the Ford’s 11 weapons elevators up and running. Five are now working.
The Government Accountability Office noted the Navy’s struggles to demonstrate reliability of the Ford’s key systems, including the EMALS, in a recent report.
“Although the Navy is testing EMALS and [the advanced arresting gear] on the ship with aircraft, the reliability of those systems remains a concern,” the report states. “If these systems cannot function safely by the time operational testing begins, [the Ford] will not be able to demonstrate it can rapidly deploy aircraft — a key requirement for these carriers.”
National Wreaths Across America Day has become such a big tradition that it’s hard to believe it began from just one personal tribute.
How it Happened
The Worcester family of Harrington, Maine, owns their own tree farm. In 1992, they had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season, so the family patriarch, Morrill — who had long felt indebted to our fallen veterans — got help from a Maine politician to have those spare wreaths placed beside graves in Arlington National Cemetery in areas that received fewer visitors each year.
Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral. Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states.
Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in December 2005.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)
By the next year — with the help of some civic organizations and volunteers, including in the trucking industry — there were 150 simultaneous ceremonies held across the country. By 2008, the movement to remember, honor and teach had grown so much that Congress had declared the third Saturday in September National Wreaths Across America Day.
By 2014, the now-nonprofit Wreaths Across America had reached its goal of placing a wreath at all 226,525 graves in the cemetery.
Navy personnel from the Navy International Programs Office, Washington, distribute wreaths to volunteers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 15, 2012.
(Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)
Wreaths Across America today
The event continues to grow. In 2018, the organization shipped a staggering 1.75 MILLION wreaths to 1,640 locations that held ceremonies across the U.S. A few dozen locations overseas also participated. According to the organization, this was the first year it was granted permission to place wreaths at Normandy to honor those who died during World War II’s D-Day invasion.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Charles C. Orf salutes a headstone at Fort Richardson National Cemetery during the annual Wreaths Across America Day at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2017.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)
Veterans and Gold Star families are many of the roughly 2 million volunteers who prepared the wreaths, shipped them across the country, and put them on graves.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal left the hospital in May 2018, after recovering from an assassination attempt. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent at his home in Salisbury in March 2018, by Russian spies, British counter-terror authorities have said.
One creepy prospect for the Skripals is that the would-be assassins may still be in the UK, living undercover as normal people, Russian espionage experts say. It’s easy to smuggle people out of Britain. For those of us not in the espionage business, it seems surprising that the attackers would stay in the country rather than escape immediately.
But Russia probably left its agents in place for an extended period after the attack.
Madeira told Business Insider that if a sleeper agent was used in the attempt on Skripal’s life, he or she probably remained in Britain after the attack rather than trying to immediately escape back to Russia.
“Why leave someone here, at risk of detection, after such a high-profile attack?” he told Business Insider. “I can only think of two scenarios where that might happen:
“An actual ‘illegal’ with an existing, years-long ‘legend’ would attract attention by going missing all of a sudden – i.e. friends, co-workers or neighbours might report a missing person to police, who might then put two and two together and tie that person to the Skripal attack. Better to keep him/her in place, living a mundane life again, their role in this operation now concluded.”
“Someone who isn’t an ‘illegal’ in the strictest sense of the word, but for now having to stay in hiding in the UK until things settle down a bit. Perhaps with a new set of ID papers, s(he) can eventually look to exit the country via a quieter, lower-profile exit point.”
Obviously, we cannot know exactly what the operative did after the attack. The Mirror reported in April 2018, that one suspect has flown back to Russia. Earlier that month, the Mirror’s source speculated that the sleeper agent would still be in the UK, ready for another mission. “Unless it were an absolute emergency and the operative had to chance a ‘crash escape’, this exit point would normally be carefully picked based on e.g. the set of ID papers available, the person’s appearance and overall profile, history in the UK if checked by the Border Force, how tight border controls were assessed to be at that exit point, etc.,” Madeira told Business Insider.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sailors work in the ICU unit aboard USNS Comfort on April 20.
President Donald Trump said the US Navy hospital ship Comfort would leave New York City as soon as possible after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was no longer needed in the city’s fight against the coronavirus.
The Comfort’s initial mission was to aid these hospitals by taking all noncoronavirus patients. But it turned out that there weren’t many noncoronavirus patients to take, prompting criticism when it became known that only 20 patients were received on the 1,000-bed ship in its first day.
According to NBC New York, the Comfort had treated 179 patients as of Tuesday, with 56 still on board at the time.
Cuomo offered to have the ship deployed to another hard-hit area during a Tuesday meeting with the president.
“It was very good to have in case we had overflow, but I said we don’t really need the Comfort anymore,” Cuomo told MSNBC after the meeting. “It did give us comfort, but we don’t need it anymore, so if they need to deploy that somewhere else, they should take it.”
Trump took him up on the offer, saying that Comfort would be sent back to its home port in Virginia to prepare for its next mission, which has not been decided yet.
“I’ve asked Andrew if we could bring the Comfort back to its base in Virginia so that we could have it for other locations, and he said we would be able to do that,” Trump said at the White House coronavirus briefing on Tuesday. “The Javits Center has been a great help to them, but we’ll be bringing the shop back at the earliest time, and we’ll get it ready for its next mission, which I’m sure will be an important one also.”
The 2018 Star Match between the Army and Navy women’s soccer teams lies ahead this Friday night at 7 p.m. in Annapolis. A key part of the Star Series presented by USAA, the Mids will host their service academy rivals from New York in a matchup of two of the Patriot League’s top-five teams.
Navy comes into the contest at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility with a 8-4-3 record and a 4-1 mark in Patriot League play, while Army will enter at 6-3-5, 2-2-1 in league action.
Recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson got a tank named after him. The actor/wrestler/producer took joy in being given the honors and posted the image onto his social media. Because you can’t go two days on the internet without some sort of backlash from people with nothing better to do than argue over some mundane thing that has absolutely no bearing on their life… people argued.
On one side, some people are upset that he felt honored for it because, you know, that has to mean he is advocating war or whatever. Counter-arguers are also quick to jump at the chance to point out that it is a high honor for such a beloved figure because he’s always been a friend and supporter to the military and veteran community.
In reality, the process of naming tanks, artillery guns, and rocket launcher systems isn’t as grandiose as the people arguing are making it out to be.
When it’s time for a crew to take command of a new vehicle, they need to give it a name.
With some exception, you name it entirely for the purpose of easily identifying it. When you’re walking through the motor pool, reading the name stenciled on the gun or rocket pod is going to be a lot easier to read from a distance than its serial number.
Unlike with Humvees or other troop carrying vehicles often forgotten until it’s time to use them, artillerymen and tankers take pride in what is theirs. The name has to be something that the crew could proudly sit in for hours until the FDC finally gets around to approving a fire mission.
The name itself is generally something that invokes strength, humor, or holds sentimental value to one member of the crew – like a loved one. The command staff usually doesn’t bother as long as it isn’t (too) profane and it typically follows the guideline of the first letter being the same as your company/battery/squadron for uniformity.
So an MLRS in Alpha Battery could be named “Alexander the Great” or “Ass Blaster.” Bravo Battery gets something along the lines of “Betty White” or “Boomstick.” Charlie gets names along the lines of “Come Get Some” or “Cat Scratch Fever.” And so on.
As for the tank named “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” well, just happens to be in a Delta Squadron, the crew were probably fans of his work, and his name invokes strength. I can attest, entirely anecdotally of course, that Dwayne Johnson isn’t that uncommon of a name within Delta Batteries/Squadrons.
The crew comes up with the name, submits it to the chain of command, and if it gets approved, they spray paint the name prominently on the gun. If the commander wants it to be all people’s names, then they’re all people’s names. If they give the troops free rein, then that’s their prerogative.
It should also be noted that some commanders may forgo the entire process of naming their vehicles and guns altogether. It is what it is, but some tankers and artillerymen may see it as bad luck to not give their baby a name and troops can be particularly superstitious. That, or they may just be saying it so they can spray-paint “Ass Blaster” on their tank’s gun.
The House and Senate, in passing separate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, haven’t yet agreed on the size of the next military pay raise, or how to reform health care or housing allowances, or whether to require all 18-year-old women to register with Selective Service to be part of a conscription pool in future major wars.
Ironing out these disparities, and many more consequential to military personnel, retirees and family members, will now fall to a House-Senate conference committee comprised of armed services committee members.
The committees’ professional staffs will negotiate many decisions in advance, on guidance from chairmen Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Max Thornberry (R-Texas), and senior Democrats Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.). But the principals will need to engage behind closed doors on larger and more controversial topics to produce a single bill that either avoids or challenges a threatened veto from President Obama.
To achieve compromise, conferees will need to shed the political posturing routine in election years and make hard choices based on real budget ceilings. The House, for example, had refused to support another military pay raise cap in 2017 and deferred TRICARE fee increases to future generations of service members. Yet it only authorized funding for seven months of wartime operations next year in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Here are some of the tough decisions to be negotiated:
Pay Raise – The House bill supports a 2.1 percent January raise to match wage growth in the private sector. The Senate voted to cap the raise, for a fourth consecutive year, at 1.6 percent. A long-shot floor amendment from McCain to add $18 billion in defense spending authority, including several hundred million to support a larger pay raise, was defeated.
Basic Allowance for Housing – The Senate supports two substantial BAH “reforms.” It would dampen payments stateside to members, married or now, who share housing off base. It would cap payments to the lesser of what individuals actually pay to rent or the local BAH maximum for their rank and family status. House is silent on these. The White House opposes them.
TRICARE Reforms – The Senate embraces a portion of TRICARE fee increases that the administration proposed for working age retirees. It also incentivizes the fee system so patients pay less for services critical to maintaining their health and they pay more for incidental health services. Senate initiatives also emphasize improving access and quality of care.
The House rejects almost all higher fees and co-pays intended to drive patients, particularly retirees, back into managed care and military facilities. Both bills would narrow TRICARE options down to managed care and a preferred provider organization. But the House would require all current TRICARE Standard users to enroll annually to help better manage costs and resources. The House, however, would subject only new entrants to the military on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to higher TRICARE enrollment fees.
Female Draft Registration – Without debate on the topic, the Senate voted to require all women attaining the age of 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register with Selective Service. The House voted to strike similar language from its own defense authorization bill, leaving the issue to be fought behind closed doors of the conference committee.
The two defense policy bills, HR 4909 and S 2943, are aligned on some other important, even surprising benefit changes. These include:
Commissary Reform — The Senate approved the same sweeping changes endorsed by the House to modernize commissary operations. They include a pilot program to replace the cost-plus-five-percent pricing formula with variable pricing across local markets. Both chambers also endorse allowing the Defense Commissary Agency to offer its own brand products to generate more profits and enhance patron savings, and to convert commissaries to non-appropriated fund activities like exchanges.
DeCA is to calculate and set a baseline level of savings that patrons now enjoy and maintain it. Meanwhile, a new Defense Resale Business Optimization Board will be formed to oversee the reforms including the streamlining of commissary and exchange operations to gain efficiencies.
The Senate rejected McCain’s push to privatize up to five base grocery stores for two years to test whether a commercial grocer could operate base stores at a profit and still offer deep discount. McCain hopes privatization over time ends the need for DeCA with its $1.4 billion annual appropriation. Defense officials estimate the approved reforms will cut commissary funding by about $400 million a year over their first fives years.
Meanwhile, DoD last week gave Congress a promised report on prospects for making commissaries and exchanges “budget neutral” or self-sustaining. It concludes that budget neutrality is unattainable without gutting the benefit. This helped to weakened support for a privatization test.
Ending Former Spouse Windfalls — Another issue the House and Senate agree on is modifying how the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act calculates retirement pay for sharing as marital property in divorce settlements. Current law allows courts to divide final retired pay, even if it was bolstered more years served and promotions gained after divorce. Congress agrees this creates a windfall for ex-spouses that should be eliminated, but only for divorce finalized after the bill becomes law.
The former spouse law (Sec. 1408, 10 U.S.C.) will be changed so retired pay to be divided is based on a member’s rank and years of service at time of divorce, plus cumulative military pay raises up through retirement.
This is the first substantive change to the USFSPA in at least a decade. It surprised the former spouse support group EX-POSE, which calls it unfair to future ex-spouses who might sacrifice their own careers to raise children or to accommodate the frequent moves that are part of service life.
ABA Therapy Rates Restored – Both bills direct the Department of Defense to restore higher TRICARE reimbursement rates paid through last March for applied behavioral analysis therapy for children with autism. The change is to take effect when the bill is signed. Though appreciative of the rollback, family advocates worry that months more of delay could see more ABA therapists decide to drop or to refuse to accept more military children.
The men’s All-Army Rugby Sevens team won their seventh straight U.S. Armed Forces Championship at RugbyTown Sevens in Glendale, Colorado, on Aug. 24, 2019, beating the Air Force 33-5.
“To win seven times in a row means everything,” said Mark Drown, the All-Army Rugby Sevens head coach. “Everything we do is about representing the Army and winning that Armed Forces championship.”
The soldier-athletes beat the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, advancing them to the championship game where they won gold over the Air Force.
The Army outscored their opponents 198-22 in five games, similar to last year, 159-2. They also went on to earn the Plate Championship of RugbyTown Sevens over 20 national and international teams for the second year in a row.
Sgt. Dacoda Worth reaching for the ball during a line out while playing the Air Force at the U.S. Armed Forces Rugby Sevens tournament.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
After sweeping the competition, the soldier-athletes mentally prepared for the finals.
“These are good teams and these services are representing all their men and women, and you can take nothing for granted ever,” said Drown. “We wanted to spread the Air Force, expose their defensive gaps and then exploit them, and that’s exactly what our guys did.”
The team was composed of Soldiers from all over the country including soldier-athletes in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
The championship team receives support from the entire Army because all soldier-athletes must have permission from their command to compete.
“The fact that we have been able to get the people out and away from their commands for seven straight years and have good enough players to win a championship has been amazing,” said Cpt. William Holder, the team’s captain since 2017. “The support we’ve received from the commands is great.”
Sgt. Dacoda Worth during the Army vs Coast Guard game at the U.S. Armed Forces Rugby Sevens tournament.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
A week prior to the tournament, the soldier-athletes meet to train at Camp Williams in Utah.
“We are able to train two-a-days with no distractions of Glendale or any other teams,” said Sgt. Dacoda Worth, an intelligence analyst at Fort Belvoir. “We get to focus on us and rugby.”
Drown, a retired colonel, uses the camp to work toward his two goals: creating a brotherhood-like culture and winning the Armed Forces Championship.
“The first step is for us to become brothers, coach really emphasizes that,” said Worth, a soldier-athlete of the team for three years. “If we can’t become brothers we aren’t going to mesh on the field. We are from all over so we don’t get to practice every day together. Building the team relationship is important.”
Once in Glendale, the team made their annual visit to Children’s Hospital Colorado to spend time with the children.
“It is an amazing experience to see the kids,” said Worth. “For us to go in and share time with them and uplift their spirits is a great time for us.”
Holder said that all of the soldier-athletes directly support Army readiness because of what they bring back to their units after the tournament.
The men’s All-Army Rugby Sevens team won first place at the 2019 U.S. Armed Forces tournament for the seventh time in a row.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
“We expect and demand so much from these soldiers,” said Holder. “We hold them to a very high standard. They are able to go back to their units and share what they have learned in the process.”
Holder mentioned that the team meets the Army’s new Chief of Staff’s priorities.
“He has three priorities: winning, which we have showed the past seven years; people, we are constantly looking for the best people; and team, we strive to have the best one,” said Holder.
Holder said the team truly believes in the priorities and appreciates that the team is able to emulate them.
“We have won the Armed Forces championship but we do not want it to stop there,” said Holder, a member of the team since its establishment in 2013. “We have shown that we can compete with the best teams in the world.”
The All-Army Sports program is a part of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, G9, department of the Installation Management Command. The program is open to soldiers from active duty, Reserve and National Guard to compete in a variety of sports at the highest levels including Armed Forces, USA Nationals and Military World Games.