On stage, Gary thanked Second World War veterans for “defeating tyranny over 70 years ago”.
“Just imagine the world if we had not succeeded in defeating that tyranny all those years ago,” he said.
“I’m grateful for these heroes and all who continue to defend us. It’s a gift to be able to use some of the success that I’ve had in the movie and television business to try to do some good for those who serve and sacrifice each day for our precious freedom,” he added.
“It’s a great country. I’ve been so blessed over the years.”
General Robin Rand, head of the US Air Force Global Strike Command, described Gary as a “true American patriot”.
Addressing Gary on stage, he said: “My friend and brother Gary doesn’t stop. Like a tiger in battle, he doesn’t quit. He’s just there for us, quietly and without fanfare. You’re a humble servant and you’re a valued friend to American warriors who serve in ill forgotten places. Your star is a legacy of service and a legacy of love.”
Other guest speakers at the event included “Everybody Loves Raymond” actress Patricia Heaton and “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna.
Gary was presented with the 2,606th star on the Walk of Fame.
What started as a pilot project in Kabul making sandals has now become a major lifestyle brand that employs thousands of local craftsmen and women in conflict zones all over the world. After serving, Matthew Griffin and fellow airborne Ranger Donald Lee recognized that the factories producing military gear in Afghanistan were going to become obsolete. During the seven tours between the two of them in the region, the founders of the company were constantly astonished by the creativity, respect, and determination of the Afghani people.
Griffin and Lee agreed that extremism finds easy prey in areas that are starving for resources. Rather than heading home upon completion of their duty, they went back unarmed. Combat Flip Flops was born from the idea of transitioning from war to peace.
Griffin and Lee enlisted Griffin’s brother, designer and co-founder Andy Sewrey, to come to Afghanistan develop their flagship product: a comfy, durable sandal, referred to the AK-47. Sewrey looked around him and realized he had no shortage of inspiration: poppies, tuck-tucks, bullet casings, and combat boots. They took the raw materials from the boots and redesigned them into flip-flops. Having almost no budget, the small team had to get scrappy about material and funding.
“We sold a car and a few other things and we came up with samples and we literally threw all our samples in a duffel bag and went to a Vegas to a trade show,” Griffin recalled. “People thought they were cool and bought them and we sold thousands right out of the gate.”
It became apparent that their model and philosophy were working, and when one factory became two, they added new products and pumped the money back into the communities, providing local citizens with jobs and opportunities.
Combat Flip Flops’ main production hub is in Bogata Columbia, where women-owned and operated factories make shoes and scarves. They have also partnered with makers all over the world and worked with displaced Syrian refugees in Beirut. In these factories, creative repurposing of bomb casings into bracelets and necklace charms made from recovered mines helps reduce the environmental impact from the after-effects of war.
Every pair of AK-47s sold — and in fact every single item on the website — funds an Afghani girl’s education for up to seven days. Since the literacy rate for girls in Kabul hovers around 15%, that is a significant infusion of education investment. Early education provides kids with upward mobility and makes them less vulnerable to fundamentalist recruiters.
Combat Flip Flops is a great example of soldiers taking their know-how and big hearts and using their powers to enact good after they have left the battlefield. These guys are committed to reducing the threat of war by trying to stabilize local communities one by one. “Employ the parents, educate the children” is the company’s informal motto.
You can check out the many fine products under the Combat Flip Flops brand here and because it’s a veteran-owned and operated nonprofit organization, all the proceeds go directly to educating young people in conflict zones.
Support soldiers — and the communities that they work so hard to protect.
The US military has a host of awards and medals for its service members.
Some awards, like the Medal of Honor and the Silver and Bronze Star awards, are given to service members who display bravery in combat.
Others are given for serving in specific operations or even missions — these are known as campaign awards.
Depending on the medals a service member or veteran wears, it’s typically possible to determine which wars or regions of the world they have served in.
Scroll through to see campaign awards for operations and missions since the Korean War.
The National Defense Service Medal is automatically awarded to anyone who signs up to serve during wartime.
The medal awarded for support of Operation Inherent Resolve was authorized for service starting in 2014.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)
The ISIS fight
Service members who have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US mission in Syria to combat the Islamic State, are now eligible for a medal.
The medal was approved in 2016 — prior to that, service members who supported OIR were awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary (GWOT-E) medal.
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Global war on terror
There are two different campaign awards for service in the US’s war against terror.
The GWOT Service medal is awarded to service members who serve in either a direct or indirect role in support of operations during the global war on terror, including personnel stateside who process paperwork for deployed troops.
The GWOT Expeditionary Medal, seen on the left, is more specific — service members must deploy for service in an anti-terrorism operation. Ground troops deployed to Somalia for over 30 days, for example, would qualify for this medal.
A service member who qualifies for the GWOT-E typically also qualifies for the service medal.
The Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary medal are not authorized for the same period or action.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)
The Afghanistan Campaign award is given to service members who complete at least 30 days in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Iraq Campaign Medal.
(Army Institute of Heraldry)
The Iraq Campaign Medal is awarded to service members who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
For both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign awards, service members are only eligible for one of each, regardless of how many times they deployed to the country.
Stars may be worn on the ribbons as indicators of participation in specific, designated missions during the operation.
The Antarctica Service Medal and ribbon are awarded to people who spend at least 30 consecutive days in the Antarctic or fly 15 missions into or out of the continent.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)
The Coast Guard and Navy have Arctic equivalents, which differ slightly but both reverse the color scheme of the Antarctic ribbon and medal, with black or dark blue in the center and white on the outer edges.
The Kosovo campaign medal was awarded to service members who served during the Kosovo Defense Campaign, which began in 1999.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Valceanu)
The NATO bombing campaign led to the retreat of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. A peace-keeping force remains there to this day.
The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.
Liberation of Kuwait
Depending on their specific mission and location, service members who participated in the liberation of Kuwait may have qualified for awards presented by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.
The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm
The government of Kuwait authorized US personnel to wear this award if they served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
Southwest Asia Service Medal.
An arrangement of medals made during a military ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.
(Photo by Jonathan Steffen)
The Vietnam service ribbon has a yellow background with three red lines in the center and a green line on each side.
The award was given to service members who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or air or water space in that region between 1965 and 1973.
Other medals depicted here are the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart.
Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.
This medal was awarded to service members who provided direct combat support to South Vietnam’s Armed Forces during the war.
Criteria included those who served for six months or more in South Vietnam or who were injured, captured, or killed in the line of duty.
The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)
The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal was authorized in 1999 to honor the sacrifices of Korean War veterans.
This award specifically designates veterans who served in the country of Korea during the war.
The Korean Defense Service Medal is awarded to any US service member who has served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)
Recognizing that the Korean War never ended, the Defense Department authorized the Korean Defense Service Medal for service members who deployed to or served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
This is when inter-service rivalry goes right out the window. A downed naval aviator who had to eject from a F-5N Tiger II tactical fighter aircraft during a training exercise is rescued by the puddle pirates off the coast of Key West. The cause of the crash is still unknown.
“The watchstanders diverted a Coast Guard Air Station Miami MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew to conduct a search,” read a statement from the Coast Guard. “The helicopter crew arrived on scene at 1:15 p.m. The rescue crew hoisted the pilot from the water and brought him back to Lower Keys Medical Center in good condition.”
An MH-65 Dolphin based at Coast Guard Air Station Miami was diverted from a patrol on Aug. 9 after the Coast Guard picked up the pilot’s emergency smoke signal.
The pilot is attached to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 (VFC-111) Sundowners based at Naval Air Station Key West. The unit is a reserve squadron that simulates the enemy in combat training exercises.
When naval aviators eject over water, a few things happen. First, the parachute is separated from the pilot, because the sea currents can grab the chute and pull the pilot under. Then, there is an automatic flotation device that inflates to keep the aviator above water. Then the mask on the ejection seat, which provides oxygen and protects the pilot’s face during ejection, is separated. The pilot then deploys either signal mirrors, smoke, flares, or all three.
One more Squid safely pulled from the deep by our amazing Puddle Pirates.
Checking out your weapon from the armory can be like standing in line at the DMV — it’s the worst game of hurry up and wait ever.
You were instructed to show up bright and early to check out your weapon, but the armorers never seemed to be there on time.
But once you received your rifle, life seemed to finally make sense now that you get to shoot something up. After an amazing day at the range, you now have the problem of cleaning the rifle so well the Marines working at the armory will take it back on your first pass.
If not you’ll stay and clean all evening long because the armors usually stand a 24-hour duty.
So check out how your day typically went after you checked out your rifle from the armory.
1. When you’re told to be on time at the armory but the gate is locked.
Where are they? (Images via Giphy)
2. After 20 minutes of ringing the bell and a few Starbucks espresso shots — you finally gain entry.
Hulk wants in! (Images via Giphy)
3. When the armorer’s window finally opens for the first time after waiting what felt like an eternity.
That’s freakin’ bright. (Images via Giphy)
4. The look you give when the armorer when he asks you for the weapon’s serial number but all the caffeine you drank pulled all the blood out of your brain. Good thing you brought your weapons card with you.
Damn, I’m having a brain fart. (Images via Giphy)
5. Then when you get your beautiful and perfectly oiled rifle from the armor.
It feels like f*cking Christmas. (Images via Giphy)
6. How you felt running to the range to take your stress out on a few already destroyed armored vehicles.
Move! Out of my way! (Image via Giphy)
7. How you felt after putting hundreds of rounds accurately down range.
I’m the strongest man alive! (Images via Giphy)
8. After the adrenaline goes away, you realized it’s already 1700, you still need to clean out all the carbon that’s built up, and you have a date in a few hours.
Where did the time go? (Images via Giphy)
9. This is how fast you ran back to the armory.
Move! (Images via Giphy)
10. You scrubbed your weapon in record time.
That looks good enough. (Images via Giphy)
11. But the armorer used his dirty finger and rejected taking the rifle back into storage.
That’s not the finger we were talking about but okay. (Images via Giphy)
12. Then you yelled …
We feel you. (Images via Giphy)
13. You then began angrily scrubbing your rifle.
F*ck you carbon! (Images via Giphy)
14. Then you noticed the other platoons going home for the day and you’re still stuck here.
Farewell. (Images via Giphy)
15. After your arm gets tired, the perfect idea pops into your head.
I got it! (Images via Giphy)
16. When you walk up to the armorer’s window and you clearly put $10 inside the weapon’s ejection port.
We think she’s trying to drop a hint. (Images via Giphy)
Saucier has said he merely wanted service mementos. But federal prosecutors said he was a disgruntled sailor who compromised national security and then obstructed the investigation by destroying a laptop and camera.
The news was announced by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee at a briefing March 9, 2018. It is only Trump’s second pardon, after the president pardoned Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter and former Phoenix sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt in August 2017.
The investigation began in March 2012, when Saucier’s cellphone, with pictures of the submarine still on it, was found at a waste-transfer station in Connecticut. Saucier was charged with taking photos of classified spaces, instruments, and equipment in July 2015 and pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information in May 2016.
In addition to a year in jail, he was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy.
Trump referenced Saucier’s case numerous times during his campaign — in one speech, Trump referred to Saucier, a 22-year-old sailor at the time the photos were taken, as “the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine.”
Vice President Mike Pence also said during an October 2016 debate that a service member who handled classified information the way Clinton did would “absolutely” face court-martial, though The Washington Post found it was far from clear that would happen. Saucier’s lawyer also compared the six photos his client took to the 110 classified emails the FBI found were on the private email server Clinton used while she was secretary of state.
The judge in the case appeared to dismiss the comparison, as well as the argument that Saucier was being treated differently, saying “selective enforcement is really not a good argument” that didn’t “really carry much water.”
Saucier was released to house arrest at the end of summer 2017 and said later that year he thought “punishment isn’t doled out evenly” and that he hoped Trump would “make right by it.”
On March 10, 2018, hours after Huckabee said the president was “appreciative” of Saucier’s service to the country, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the former sailor, calling him “a man who has served proudly in the Navy.”
“Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!” Trump said.
Mysterious incidents affecting the health of American diplomats in Cuba continued as recently as August, the United States said Sept. 1, despite earlier US assessments that the attacks had long stopped. The US increased its tally of government personnel affected to 19.
The new US disclosures came the same day that the union representing American diplomats said mild traumatic brain injury was among the diagnoses given to diplomats victimized in the attacks. In the most detailed account of the symptoms to date, the American Foreign Service Association said permanent hearing loss was another diagnosis, and that additional symptoms had included brain swelling, severe headaches, loss of balance, and “cognitive disruption.”
At the State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US was continually revising its assessments of the scope of the attacks as new information was obtained. She said the investigation had not been completed.
“We can confirm another incident which occurred last month and is now part of the investigation,” Nauert said.
US officials had previously said that the attacks, initially believed to be caused by a potential covert sonic device, had started in fall 2016 and continued until spring 2017. Last week, Nauert had said at least 16 Americans associated with the US Embassy in Havana had been affected, but that the “incidents” were no longer occurring.
The evolving US assessment indicated investigators were still far off from any thorough understanding of what transpired in the attacks, described by the US as unprecedented. As the bizarre saga has unfolded, the US has encouraged its diplomats to report any strange physical sensations. So it’s unclear whether some symptoms being attributed to the attacks might actually be unrelated.
Still, the fact there was an incident as recently as August suggested the attacks likely continued long after the US government became aware of them and ostensibly raised the issue with the Cuban government, creating even more uncertainty about the timeline and who was responsible.
Notably, the US has avoided accusing Cuba’s government of being behind the attacks. The US did expel two Cuban diplomats, but the State Department emphasized that was in protest of the Cubans’ failure to protect the safety of American diplomats while on their soil, not an indication the US felt that Havana masterminded it.
US investigators have been searching to identify a device that could have harmed the health of the diplomats, believed to have been attacked in their homes in Havana, but officials have said no device had been found.
One of the diplomats affected had arrived over the summer of 2017 to work at the US Embassy and was later diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms, said a US official, who declined to specify the symptoms that led the diplomat to report the situation.
And in Canada, a government official said that the Canadian government had first learned in March 2017 that one of its citizens was affected. Ottawa had previously confirmed that at least one Canadian diplomat was involved, but had not revealed any timeline for when it occurred or came to light.
Both the US and Canadian officials demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly.
It’s unclear whether Canadians were intentionally targeted or whether there could have been collateral damage from an attack aimed at Americans, given that diplomats from various countries often live in the same areas of a foreign capital. US officials have said the Americans were targeted in their homes in Havana, not in the Embassy.
Canadian officials have been actively working with US and Cuban authorities to ascertain the cause. A Cuban attack deliberately targeting Canadians would be even more confounding, given that Canada — unlike the US — has long had friendly ties to Cuba.
The American Foreign Service Association, in describing the damage to diplomats’ health, said it had met with or spoken to 10 diplomats affected, but did not specify how many of the 10 had been diagnosed with hearing loss or with mild traumatic brain injury, commonly called a concussion.
Yet the confirmation that at least some diplomats suffered brain injury suggested the attacks caused more serious damage than the hearing-related complaints that were initially reported.
“We can’t rule out new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community,” Nauert said. She added that the embassy has a medical officer and has been consistently providing care to those who have reported incidents.
Asked for further details about what the US had learned about the cause or culprit in the attacks, the State Department said it had no more information to share.
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, typically results from a bump, jolt, or other external force that disrupts normal brain functioning, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Short- and long-term effects can include changes to memory and reasoning, sight and balance, language abilities, and emotions.
Not all traumatic brain injuries are the same. Doctors evaluate patients using various clinical metrics such as the Glasgow Coma Scale, in which a numerical score is used to classify TBIs as mild, moderate, or severe.
“AFSA strongly encourages the Department of State and the US Government to do everything possible to provide appropriate care for those affected, and to work to ensure that these incidents cease and are not repeated,” the union said in a statement.
A U.S. Army company commander uses one of his interpreters to consult with tribal elders in a village in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan following an air assault. (Photo: Ward Carroll)
It was early morning, still dark at Fort Bragg when one of my teammates called from Afghanistan with bad news.
“Both Juma and Ish have been killed,” he said, without any attempt to hide the fact that he’d been crying.
It was May 2006, and the bulk of our unit was one month away from another deployment to Afghanistan. Two of our best interpreters had been stopped at a Taliban checkpoint. A fighter recognized them. He knew they’d been working with the Americans. Their bodies were found the next morning, brutally tortured and mutilated.
I went numb as the words continued through the phone. I scrambled for a note pad to try to capture all the information. It was too much to process. As soon as everyone mustered in the team room, I broke the news. The impact was immediate. To us, it was no different than losing a fellow American soldier.
Congress has authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of interpreters are in jeopardy as the State Department tries to clear the logjam of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa.
The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also assists Afghan refugees, told the Times the SIV process is “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group ran into the same problem at the end of the Iraq War when only slightly more than 6,500 out of 25,000 visas were issued to Iraqi interpreters.
As a Special Forces officer with eight deployments, I can tell you without a doubt that Afghans who have risked their lives, families and futures are going to be left behind to face horrific consequences, like Juma and Ish did, for aiding the United States.
This will have a lasting impact on future wars and U.S. strategic interests. As American forces track terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula and across the African continent, we will need local assistance at many levels, specifically interpreters. Leaving our Afghan allies to die is a clear warning to anyone who would even think about assisting the US in its foreign policy or strategy that unless you are on the Department of State or CIA payroll, you will be left to die.
Interpreters are our eyes and ears when deployed. They know the local customs, cultural norms and religion. They can see when things are out of place and they understand the nuisance of the villages and tribes. When American forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, we knew nothing. Our interpreters have kept us safe and even helped us fight. But they also became part of our units, teams and families.
Take Jerry for example.
Jerry (a nickname we gave him) was my personal interpreter during Operation Medusa, the largest Coalition operation in ISAF history. A 22-year-old kid, he emulated our speech, dressed in our uniform and even chewed neswar, the Afghan version of Copenhagen, like the other members of the team.
Prior to the mission, he had gotten married. We told him he could sit this operation out since we knew it was going to be very dangerous and he was a newlywed.
“I don’t think so, my brother,” he said in Pashtu.
Jerry liked to make me practice my Pashtu so that I understood what was being said in tribal meetings behind my back. I remember him smiling like a Cheshire cat, his short thick beard and black curly hair sticking out from under the Special Forces ball cap I had given him as he said, “If you go, I go. If you die, I die.”
Two months after the battle, we were maneuvering thru a village when the vehicle Jerry was riding in struck an IED. As I approached the mangled truck, the first thing I saw in the dirt was Jerry’s burned ball cap.
I turned to go call in a Medevac. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry struggling to stand against a mud wall. In spite of the fact that he had been blown nearly 30 feet in to the air, he was holding his broken weapon and pulling security.
His scrawny legs wobbled in misery. He was bloody and covered in dirt. He lived up to his promise to die with us. I made the commitment then and there that I would not leave him, nor the others interpreters like him behind.
Since I left Afghanistan in 2012, Jerry has been attacked in his mosque, moved his family nearly a dozen times and survived being shot three times. His last email to me was a desperate plea.
“I’m 24-hour in house not coming out like jailer, bro,” he wrote. “Thanks again for keeping asking me, brother. I wish I didn’t have my two daughters suffer if I die. I would be (in) paradise if I see you in the State with my Family. Please help us.”
I’ve written letters, emails, and made hundreds of phone calls trying to pry loose a half dozen applications of interpreters I worked with in Afghanistan. I feel betrayed by the American immigration policy and the deadly double standard it represents. We will accept immigrants who snuck across our borders illegally but not heroes who have served our nation and its cause.
Afghan Interpreters are throwing themselves at the altar of freedom only to be left to die. To State Department bureaucrats, these men are pieces of paper, but to thousands of American soldiers, they are brothers in arms.
They should be allowed to live in peace and freedom. They’ve earned it.
Demonstrators protesting over water scarcity in southwestern Iran have clashed with police for a second night, local media report.
The state-run IRNA news agency said the protesters threw projectiles at police and set trash cans and a car on fire in a protest that began late on July 1, 2018, in the city of Abadan, some 660 kilometers from Tehran.
It did not say how many people were involved in the protest, but said the situation was now “under control.”
Reports and video posted on social media indicated rallies elsewhere in Khuzestan Province, including in the provincial capital, Ahvaz.
In Mahshahr, local media reported that demonstrators took to the streets to express support for the residents of nearby Khorramshahr who have been protesting shortages of drinking water over the past days.
Late on June 30, 2018, clashes broke out between police and the protesters in the port city.
Shots could be heard on phone videos circulated on social media from the protests.
RFE/RL could not verify the authenticity of the videos.
Eleven people were injured in the violence and a number of demonstrators were arrested, officials said.
BBC Persian quoted activists as saying “dozens” were detained.
State television showed banks with broken windows, and reported in the afternoon of July 1, 2018, that “peace had returned” to the city.
“Our effort is to bring these protests to an end as soon as possible with restraint from police and the cooperation of authorities, but if the opposite happens, the judiciary and law enforcement forces will carry out their duties,” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said.
Rahmani Fazli and other officials have denied reports of deaths in the protests.
“Nobody has died during the unrest in the city of Khorramshahr,’ IRNA quoted him as telling journalists on July 1, 2018.
A number of protests have broken out since the beginning of the year over the lack of drinkable water in Khuzestan Province, which borders Iraq and is home to a large ethnic Arab community that has complained of discrimination.
Critics say mismanagement by the authorities, combined with years of drought, has led to a drop in rivers’ water levels and the groundwater levels in the oil-rich province.
Javad Kazem Nasab, a lawmaker from Khuzestan, suggested that local residents were not benefiting from the province’s resources.
“In Khuzestan we have oil, water, petrochemical [industry], steel, ports, agriculture, date palms, and a common border with Iraq, but people do not benefit from these blessings and all they get is pollution and rivers that have dried,” Kazem Nasab told the semiofficial news agency ISNA on July 2, 2018.
Nasab warned that water scarcity, unemployment, and failure to rebuild the cities that were damaged during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War could create “security” problems.
The latest protests in southwestern Iran came after three days of demonstrations in Tehran starting from June 24, 2018, over the country’s troubled economy.
The morning starts early with an alert about four hours before takeoff. Members of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron begin several mandatory tasks before boarding the aircraft. Nurses go over mission details, as medical technicians pack more than a thousand pounds of equipment on a flatbed that is ready to load onto the plane. They must take all their usual gear, including bandages, intravenous fluid, regulators, defibrillators, suction units, and various other pieces of medical equipment. They take these supplies partially as a precaution, as they don’t know what they may need to keep patients stable in the air above the Middle East.
These teams, the aircrew, and aircraft are flying ambulances for the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
The 379th EAES, deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, is one of the only two aeromedical evacuation squadrons in the AOR available to pull wounded warriors off of the battlefield and make sure they get the care they need.
According to Lt. Col. Julia Moretti, 379th EAES commander, their job is to transport wounded warriors to a higher echelon of care.
“We take them from the battlefield all the way home,” Moretti said.
If military personnel get injured or sick on the battlefield, the wounded initially receive first aid buddy care. If life-saving surgery is needed, the patients are flown to the nearest hospital abroad.
That is where 379th EAES comes in. They bring the injured service member back to Al Udeid AB. If they require more intensive care, they will then be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, and if they can’t be fully treated overseas, they will return to the U.S.
“The goal is to keep them at the lowest level of care, rehab them, and then get them back into the fight quickly as possible,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Ausfeld, 379th EAES first sergeant.
In addition to the AE teams, the squadron also has Critical Care Air Transport Teams, which are specialized medical teams comprised of one doctor, an intensive care nurse, and a respiratory therapist. If AE teams are the flying ambulance, CCATT is the ICU.
If patients can be treated and return to work while deployed, they will stay in the AOR. However, if they have a more severe condition and can’t physically manage doing office work as they recover, they will return home.
As the war has progressed, the severity, type, and amount of injuries have decreased significantly. In the early 2000s, the teams would care for 20-30 patients that would require transporting on a litter.
“Now that is the exception, and we’re glad to see we aren’t having that many now,” Moretti said.
Aeromedical evacuation teams are made up of two nurses and three medical technicians. All members of AE are considered flight crew and, on top of all the medical expertise they must know and practice, they also need to know all about the aircraft they are flying on. They have to know how to put together seats, install stanchions to hold patient litters and how the electricity works for their machines aboard the aircraft, among many other details.
AE teams are also required to have the knowledge to perform their duties on a wide variety of aircraft, such as the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy, and C-21.
The AE teams here exemplify total force integration in that active duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard members combine to create the medical teams. In fact, only a small percentage of the teams are made up of active duty Airmen.
“The Guard and Reserve components are a key part in the Aeromedical Evacuation world,” Moretti said. “Around 88 percent of AE is Guard and Reserve augmenting active duty. It’s a team effort with all the components to transport and care for our Wounded Warriors.”
According to Moretti and Ausfeld, the job of an AE Airman is a rewarding one.
“It’s a great feeling helping our wounded warriors,” Moretti said. “Taking care of our own that were injured or became sick while protecting us, it’s a small way to give back. We pamper the patients and give them the best tender, loving care we can.”
“I’ve moved wounded warriors around the world, some with severe battle injuries,” Ausfeld said. “They’ll look you in the eyes and thank you for what you’re doing for them. It can catch you off guard and it can be hard to respond to. Because these warriors, these sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, have sacrificed their body and soul. We’re just making sure they get home.”
The U.S. military says one of its soldiers was wounded when insurgents launched an attack in eastern Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.
Capt. Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press one U.S. service member was wounded and in stable condition in what he would describe only as “active ground engagement.” He refused to give further details including whether it involved a local militia.
In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.
The Taliban claimed the attack Jan. 11 was carried out by two insurgent disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.
As the coronavirus spreads in the US, “tens of thousands” of National Guard troops could be called up to assist efforts to combat the disease, the National Guard chief said Thursday.
There are more than 2,000 National Guard members on state active duty in 27 states, but the number is expected to increase. As of last Friday, only 400 Guard members were active in just six states.
“We anticipate that number going up relatively quickly, in fact doubling by this weekend,” Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said at a Pentagon press briefing.
“It’s hard to tell what the exact requirement will be, but I’m expecting tens of thousands to be used inside the states as this grows,” he told reporters, adding that “this could blossom in the next couple of weeks as governors and states determine their needs.”
The National Guard has a long history of responding to disasters, including public-health emergencies such as disease outbreaks.
“We are involved in a multitude of mission sets,” Lengyel said. “The National Guard is providing medical testing, assessments, facilities, ground transportation, logistics, command and control, planners, liaison officers, and we will continue to adapt as this unfolds.”
As of Tuesday in New York, which has over 3,000 coronavirus cases, there were 900 New York National Guard troops on duty assisting at drive-thru test stations, cleaning public spaces, and distributing food, the Guard said in a statement.
“Going forward, we expect the role of the National Guard will continue to grow and evolve to meet the country’s needs during this historic pandemic,” Lengyel told reporters.
The Guard is having to implement certain force protection measures, however, as six Guard members have already tested positive for the coronavirus.
“My No. 1 priority is taking care of our National Guard soldiers, airmen and their families,” the chief said in a recent statement. “The readiness of our force will be critical to the success of this nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.”
In Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad during the 1980s, a family of six brothers and one sister — all very close in age — played in the streets and parks of their hometown, enjoying the simple things in life they had at the time. Through the decades, the times and the city had changed, and the streets and parks were not as simple.
Alsaeedy, the son of an Iraqi army reserve officer, said Iraq was a joyous place to grow up. “We played basketball, walked to school — all the children in the neighborhood were close,” he added. “There were negatives in politics, but we believed in our father, and everything was fine.”
Alsaeedy’s dream was to travel. “Everybody’s goal [in high school] was to travel the world, places like [the United Kingdom], U.S., and Europe,” Alsaeedy said. He kept that dream with him before pursuing a degree in biochemical engineering at the University of Baghdad.
“I was in my second year of college when everything happened — the troops arrived,” he said. “It was a year later when it seemed things began to settle down. We all were trying to educate ourselves on the matter, because we believed — and still do — that the U.S. forces and allies were there to transform the country and help. We felt there was not going to be any more tyranny system or sects of families taking over the country, doing whatever they felt they wanted … so we believed in the change and welcomed it.”
Trouble Finding Work
After graduating from college, Alsaeedy needed to find work, preferably in the engineering field. But it was extremely hard to come by, he said, due to the nature of the country and the fact that most employers hired only within their sects.
“I did not know exactly what to do or what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work for and with the service members,” he said. “It was not just about money or security. It was about being a part of something important to me.”
Unable to break into the U.S. contractor market, Alsaeedy’s education and skill set eventually gravitated employers to him within the private sector. In 2005, he found stability in the information technology field as a networking specialist for satellite communications.
“Then one day a man came into the shop and it changed my life forever,” he said. “He inquired about an internet network to be installed on a military base in Baghdad. I took the job. After the work was complete, they were very satisfied and needed more, so they hired me full-time. My English was very fluent, and I became a translator for them, too.”
While the years passed, Alsaeedy’s experiences and relationships grew through the ranks, and by 2007, he was a popular name among higher-ranking officials with the U.S. Air Force and the Marines in Qaim, Iraq.
Integrated Into Brotherhood
“I saw in the soldiers what very few of us [natives] see,” Alsaeedy said. “They were trustful, pleasant and respectful; they integrated me into their brotherhood.”
Insurgency propaganda said the Americans were in Iraq to destroy everything, Alsaeedy said.” But they were not,” he added. “They were building. They built infrastructure for the population and barracks for the Iraqi army. They supplied resources increasing our livelihood [and] creating jobs for husbands and fathers.”
At the end of 2007, Alsaeedy received some big news. Then-President George W. Bush allowed vetted contractors who had worked for the U.S. government for at least five years to be granted special immigrant visas for them and their families. The visa allowed them to live and work in the United States. At the end of 2009, Alsaeedy said, things started to change as U.S. troops began to withdraw.
“The protection was decreasing and so was the structure,” he said. “I knew if I stayed, my family and I were going to die soon.” In 2010, Alsaeedy met his five-year requirement to qualify for the special visa for him and his family to move to the United States.
Settling in Virginia
He settled in Norfolk, Virginia, where a new country and culture surrounded him. What he once knew as a world of war was now a life of peace and the pursuit of happiness, he said. He was immediately hired, and he worked for an oil and gas company from 2011 to 2012.
Alsaeedy said he felt grateful to the United States for the opportunities he’d received.
However, Alsaeedy said he “wanted to give them more.”
He enlisted into the U.S. Army in August 2013 as a combat engineer. Shortly thereafter, he attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Alsaeedy demonstrated his potential and quick-learning abilities, as well as outstanding physical fitness. He was afforded the opportunity to attend airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, upon graduation.
“I found out that I was going to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I knew it was an honor and a prestigious unit. I remember seeing the ‘Double-A’ patch in Iraq. And to realize that I am now one of those paratroopers along with my family — I was beyond excited and humbled. However, it truly did not hit me until I came to Fort Bragg and walked through the division’s museum. That’s when I realized I was a part of something special.”
In 2014, Alsaeedy arrived full of energy to Alpha Company, 307th BEB. He was a new Panther Engineer, and he integrated just fine among his leaders and peers.
“We did a lot of training,” he said. “We went to every kind of weapons range you could think of. I learned demolitions, steel cutting, [went on] too many ruck marches, and was just very happy.”
Returning to Iraq
But Alsaeedy’s heart was holding a deep secret: there was something missing.
“My real dream was to return to Iraq,” he said. “I wanted to be an asset to the unit. I had the language, the background and culture. I knew if I ever went back, I would put myself out there to be as valuable as I could for the 307th.”
In early 2015, the 3rd BCT deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, it was the newest campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There, paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division provided advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.
In a twist of fate, Alsaeedy’s unit operated in the neighborhood where he was raised. His dream finally came true.
“It wasn’t easy at first,” Alsaeedy said while looking up with teary eyes. “But it was my leadership. They understood my situation. They supported me. It made my job and task much easier.”
Alsaeedy’s background and capabilities soon became an asset for his battalion commander all the way up to division command sergeant major and higher-ranking officials in tactical operations centers around the area of operations.
With his hard work and commitment to his leadership and the unit’s mission, Alsaeedy received the first battlefield promotion for a noncommissioned officer during the OIR campaign. He was pinned with the rank of sergeant during the fall of 2015 upon the unit’s redeployment to Fort Bragg.
His accomplishments and accolades did not stop there. “When I became an NCO, great things began to happen for me and my family,” Alsaeedy said. He attended the Warrior Leader’s Course soon after becoming a sergeant, learning technical skills and correspondence in the craft of an NCO.
Alsaeedy’s motivation and physical fitness separated him from his peers. He wanted to go to Sapper School and master his craft as an engineer. “I may have had a more advanced role during deployment, but I am still an engineer in the 307th,” he said.
Early 2016 came around, and he began training with the division’s Best Sapper Team as it prepared to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sapper competition.
To keep himself busy and find new challenges, Alsaeedy attended the two-week Fort Bragg Pre-Ranger Course, which evaluates and prepares future candidates for the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning.
He never went to Sapper School, though. Immediately upon graduating the Pre-Ranger Course, he was put on a bus to Ranger School. Alsaeedy went straight through the 62-day course, a course that normally has a high attrition rate.
“I have been busy, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I felt the more I accomplish as an NCO and a paratrooper, the more I am giving back to the Army.
“I am just so grateful. I cannot put into words how I feel, landing the opportunity during the mid-2000s to becoming a citizen, a soldier deployed to my hometown and a Ranger,” he continued. “My wife and child love the installation, the people, and my daughter is receiving a great education from the schools on Fort Bragg. The Army adopted me, and I am forever in debt to the most professional and perfect organization: the 82nd Airborne [Division].”