Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review - We Are The Mighty
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Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

A recently launched Pentagon review comparing F-35C carrier-variant Joint Strike Fighters with F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets will involve Marine Corps aviators and aircraft, the Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation said Wednesday.


Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the review, commissioned by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 26, would study the two aircraft “apples to apples” to determine whether the 4th-generation Super Hornet can fill the shoes of the brand-new F-35C.

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

“Really, it is — looking across the mission sets — does a Block 3 Super Hornet match up, compare to an F-35C,” Davis said. “It’s for the carrier air wing of the future.”

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. This is the first time that the fifth generation fighter has participated in the multi service air-to-air combat training exercise. Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

The Marine Corps, Davis said, has already purchased 10 of the 67 F-35Cs it planned to buy and has six on the flightline at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 in Beaufort, South Carolina.

While the Navy is planning to purchase most of the F-35Cs, with a strategy to buy 260, the Corps has gone ahead of the other services to hit a number of F-35 milestones. Its F-35B jump jet variant was the first to reach initial operational capability in July 2015, and it was the first to forward base a squadron overseas in January.

Davis noted that the Marine Corps owns a significant portion of the program’s institutional wisdom as well.

“I probably have the most experienced F-35 pilots in the department of the Navy on my staff right now,” he said.

Mattis’ directive, aimed at finding ways to shave cost off the infamously expensive Joint Strike Fighter program, dictates that the review assess the extent that improvements can be made to the Super Hornet “in order to provide a competitive, cost-effective fighter aircraft alternative.”

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II aircraft and F-18 Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola fly over the northwest coast of Florida May 15, 2013. | Department of Defense photo

Davis said that F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Super Hornet maker Boeing would have opportunities to make their case for the aircraft.

However, he said, he expects the study to validate the need to have the technologically advanced F-35C deployed aboard carriers in the future.

“I think it will be a good study, and my sense is we’ll probably have validated the imperative to have a 5th-generation aircraft out there on our nation’s bow,” he said.

If F-35Cs are taken out of the picture as a result of the review, attrition rates of the 4th-generation Super Hornet may become an issue, Davis said, suggesting such a move would limit the aircraft’s ability to deploy in some situations.

“We’re not going backward in time, we’re going forward in time,” he said. “The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, we’re deployed, naval and expeditionary, and we want to make sure our Marines and our sailors have the very best gear in case something bad happens. And that’s 5th-generation airplanes.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan is producing more opium than ever before

In 15 years in Afghanistan, no counternarcotics effort undertaken by the US, it partners, or the Afghan government has led to sustained reductions in poppy cultivation or opium production.

That was one of a number of findings of a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Report issued in June 2018, underlining insufficient, uncoordinated, and at-times counterproductive initiatives in Afghanistan to reduce drug production there.


Between 2002 and 2017, the US government has allocated roughly $8.62 billion to fight narcotics in Afghanistan. But the drug trade remains entrenched. Opium is Afghanistan’s largest cash crop, reaching an export value of $1.5 billion to $3 billion in recent years. In 2017 alone, poppy cultivation was thought to support 590,000 full-time jobs — which is more people than are employed by Afghanistan’s military and security forces.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Heroin and opium produced in Afghanistan are trafficked largely to Europe, Africa, and other parts of Asia.
(SIGAR)

The primary markets are Europe, Asia, and Africa. Opiates from Afghanistan travel through other Central or South Asian states — drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption — to reach destinations in Europe and Asia. Drugs also travel maritime routes to Africa and Oceania.

Ninety percent of the heroin seized in Canada comes from Afghanistan, but scant amounts reach the US — 1% or less of the drug seized in the US can be traced back to the Central Asian country.

The amount of Southwest Asian heroin in the US peaked in the early 1980s, according to the DEA. It was replaced by Southeast Asian heroin — largely from Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand — in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The amount of South American heroin found the US started to increase in the mid-1990s, but by the late 2000s, Mexican heroin started to become predominant — in 2015 it was the more than 90% of the heroin seized in the US.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
The share of US heroin sourced to Mexico has grown considerably in recent years.
(2017 DEA NDTA)

Opium has been cultivated in Afghanistan for centuries. It was under royal control from 1933 to 1973, but the Soviet invasion and occupation from 1979 to 1989 crippled the legitimate economy and allowed illegal enterprises and criminal networks to thrive.

Production soared after the Taliban took control of most of the country in 1996. But it banned the crop in 2000, leading to a 75% drop in the global supply of heroin but leaving farmers destitute, as no alternative to poppy cultivation was provided.

Cultivation was at a historic low in 2001, when the US and its coalition partners invaded. Counterdrug work was done in the period that followed, but the vacuum created by the lack of functioning Afghan institutions limited their effectiveness.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Despite year-to-year variations, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has steadily increased over the last 20 years.
(SIGAR)

2004 saw an increase in cultivation, which was followed by more concerted US efforts to staunch it as well as increased counternarcotics efforts by coalition partners. Cultivation leveled off in 2009 and 2010 — around the time of the US-led surge that brought more attention to combating the drug trade.

But cultivation started to rise in 2011, compounded by missteps and a reduced emphasis on counternarcotics. “From 2013 to 2016, drug production continued at or near the highest levels ever consistently seen in Afghanistan,” the report states. Recent years have also seen eradication stall.

A UN survey in 2017 found cultivation had hit a new high, covering more than 810,000 acres. (The Taliban has also expanded its involvement in the drug trade.)

2017 also saw a new Trump administration strategy that brought with it an “unprecedented” level of attention to Afghan drug production by US military commanders, according to the report — marked by a “sustained air interdiction campaign” that included advanced aircraft striking rudimentary drug labs.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
A US-led airstrike on a Taliban drug lab in northern Helmand Province, November 2017.
(US Air Force photo)

The increases in drug cultivation make clear the failure of counternarcotics efforts, the report says, but it stresses that those failures are not the only factors that have led to the increases.

“The exponential rise in opium poppy cultivation and drug production is rooted in far-reaching, persistent challenges in Afghanistan — namely, lack of security, a poor economy, weak governing institutions, and failures of the wider reconstruction effort,” the report states.

“Given these challenges, there are serious limitations to the US capacity to bring about large-scale, lasting reductions in poppy cultivation and drug production,” it adds, noting the opium economy will continue to undercut US efforts in Afghanistan.

“Therefore, ongoing US reconstruction efforts must effectively address, or at least attempt to mitigate, the drug-related threats to Afghan security and stability.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy training squadron pauses ops after 2 killed in crash

A squadron of T-45C Goshawk training aircraft has suspended flights after an aircraft belonging to the squadron crashed October 1 in Tennessee, killing a student pilot and an instructor.


Training Squadron 7, part of Training Air Wing One out of Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi, observed a stand-down October 2, Lt. Elizabeth Feaster, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Training, told Military.com.

Cmdr. Jason Gustin, commanding officer of the “Eagles” of Training Squadron 7, will determine October 3 whether the squadron needs to extend the stand-down further, she said.

Feaster said she is unaware of any broader actions being taken regarding Training Air Wing One or the Navy’s Goshawk fleet in light of the crash.

The T-45 went down before 6 p.m. in the Cherokee National Forest, roughly 45 miles southwest of Knoxville.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Navy officials arrived at the crash site Monday morning and confirmed the origin of the aircraft and that the two pilots, a student and instructor, did not survive.

Feaster said Navy officials had been en route to the site Sunday night, but emergency responders suspended search and rescue and blocked off the area after dark.

A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, Terry McDonald, told Military.com that the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department had been first responders at the scene, with the U.S. Forest Service and Tennessee Wildlife Agency also contributing to disaster response efforts.

The executive officer of Training Squadron 7, Cmdr. Stephen Vitrella, visited the site Monday, Feaster said.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

The crash comes just after the Navy’s fleet of T-45s resumed normal operations. In April, all 170 of the service’s T-45s were grounded after instructor pilots complained about aircraft safety in light of a surge of hypoxia-like incidents.

Flights would resume the same month, but with strict altitude and G-force restrictions as a Navy team assessed possible causes of the “physiological episodes.”

In August, training flights finally resumed with new measures in place to measure air pressure and flow and cockpit contaminants.

Feaster told Military.com it is far too soon to indicate or rule out anything as a cause of Sunday’s crash. The chief of Naval Air Training, or CNATRA, is assembling the team that will investigate the tragedy, she said.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 21 edition)

Here’s what happening in and around the military world right now:


Now: Which US President was the greatest military leader? 

MIGHTY STORIES

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Krista Simpson Anderson – Army wife, Gold Star wife, founder of the nonprofit The Unquiet Professional.

I grew up in Hampton, Massachusetts – a little town right outside of Springfield. My father served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-1971, but it was before I was born. My mom’s side of the family also served, but it wasn’t something we talked about. I was blissfully ignorant about military life.

I met Mike in June 2006. He was a friend of my cousin’s. My cousin was deploying to Iraq and my aunt was having a deployment party for him. She flew in a few of his friends that had been in the Old Guard with him, and she called me and asked me to help her with the guys flying in.

I walked into the Toasted Owl Tavern in Northhampton, and there he was.


It was love at first sight. I remember my cousin saying to me, ‘I’m going to disown you both if you get married.’ But we were fixed on each other. The whole world could have come crashing down around us and we wouldn’t have noticed.

In August 2006, Mike’s whole unit transferred to Germany. I went out to visit him for Thanksgiving. In September of 2007, he deployed to Iraq. He came out to Rhode Island to my family’s home before he left and we spent a week together. I was working in the restaurant business at the time of his deployment, so I took a couple of different jobs, one in St. Thomas, one in New York. But we stayed in contact.

In April 2008, during his mid-tour leave, he invited me to his brother David and sister-in-law Kelsey’s wedding in Texas. During their rehearsal dinner in his parents’ backyard, he went to give his best man’s speech and we all thought it would be something funny. He was so goofy, it was hard to imagine him doing something serious. Now mind you, he served in the military in the Old Guard so he clearly had to be serious for work. But the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Be each other’s compass.’

I was blown away.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Mike and Krista. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

That night, he walked me to my room – we were all staying with his parents – and he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And he asked me, ‘Will you be my wife?’ I knew that it had been a long night of celebrating so I told him that if he felt the same way in the morning we could talk about it. I went to sleep dreaming of the rest of our lives together.

The next morning over a cup of coffee at the counter, Mike looked at me and said, ‘I don’t feel any differently than I did last night. I want you to be my wife. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ I said yes, of course. We kept this a secret because it was not our day – it was David and Kelsey’s wedding day, and we knew his oldest brother, Isaac, was going to be proposing to his now wife, Vanessa, the next day. We told his sister, Abby, and then swore her to secrecy.

A few days after the wedding we announced our good news and decided to marry as soon as Mike returned from his deployment.

Mike went back to Iraq a week later, and returned in October 2008 to Germany. We met back up in Tennessee for Isaac and Vanessa’s wedding in November. December 20, 2008, we married in Rhode Island, and the first week of January he returned to Germany. We decided to live apart until his orders came through to start the Special Forces Qualification course so he wouldn’t need to extend in Germany.

I went to Germany to see him in February for his birthday, and I came home and found out I was pregnant with our first son a month later. I was working at a restaurant as a manager and living with my parents in Rhode Island awaiting orders. By September 2009 we were finally living together in Fort Bragg, NC and our son Michael was born October 22nd.

I remember taking “SF101” (Special Forces 101) for the spouses and the emphasis was put on how long our husbands would be away from home. Everything was about not getting our hopes up for birthdays, holidays, special occasions and being a family during those times. They really wanted to prepare us for the let downs of our military career. No one ever told me the incredible things our husbands would be doing while away from home and that every mission would be for the good of our nation. No one ever told me about the amazing and wonderful things we would be doing for our families while they were away. No one ever told me how, as spouses, we would show up for each other, in good times and in bad. No one ever told me that we would all be changing the world together – them abroad and us on the homefront.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Mike, Krista and their two boys. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

Mike graduated in March 2011 and then reported July 10 for a Special Forces billet at 4th BN, Charlie Company, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I got out there August 1 with Michael who was just about two, and pregnant with Gabriel. We closed on our first house on my birthday, September 23.

As soon as our household goods arrived, Mike was off on a TDY (Temporary Duty) so I set up the house with my two year old and called my Mom and Aunt in for reinforcements to paint beige the mustard yellow walls and ceiling our new home offered.

When home, Mike was a present and incredibly fun daddy. He played this game called Daddy T-Rex. He would hold Gabe and chase Mic around the house, pretending to be a dinosaur. They would also lie on the floor and play Legos, have mini race-car races all the while tapping into Mike’s very present childlike spirit. He’d say to me, ‘I can’t wait until they’re older so we can do more fun things.’ He couldn’t wait to play basketball, soccer and teach them to ride bikes.

On 6 April 2013, Mike deployed with his company to eastern Afghanistan. Less than three weeks later I received the call every military spouse prays they’ll never get.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Mike, right, with a battle buddy. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

The day before the call, Mike and I were texting back and forth and I was telling him how grateful I was to be his wife. I asked him to marry me all over again. I said, ‘I love you more today than I ever have. You have brought so much joy to my life that it overwhelms me. Will you marry me… Again?’ We were going to meet in Mexico with our families around Christmas and I told him I wanted to do it then. He wrote back, ‘Yes!’

On April 27, I had just put Gabriel down for a nap (he was 16 months) and I heard my phone ringing. I ran down the stairs to an ‘Unknown’ caller and answered what I can only assume must have been the last ring. It was (now Lieutenant Colonel) Major Jamie Alden, and he said ‘Hi, Krista? This is Major Alden.’ It didn’t even dawn on me why the company commander would be calling me from Afghanistan.

He asked me where I was, and I told him I was at home. He asked where the boys were, and I told him Mic was in the other room and I’d just put Gabe down for a nap.

He said, ‘I need you to sit down.’

You know that feeling when it seems that your brain starts going numb and it begins to rush through your whole body? Luckily I made it to the other room and sat down near the boys’ toys – on a bean bag chair.

‘Michael is alive, but he is in critical condition. There was an accident; he hit an IED while riding an ATV. He has a lower right leg amputation and there has been severe trauma to his right arm. We know there is shrapnel damage, we just are not sure where and the extent. Again, he is alive, but he is critical.’

I had to stop him. I couldn’t process anything and I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else he was saying. I ran across the street and banged on my neighbor Kate’s door, and her daughter opened it. She was supposed to be coming over anyway to watch the boys since we had a neighborhood clean-up scheduled and I was president of the homeowners association. She ran to stay with the boys while Kate got on the phone with Major Alden. It took some convincing for him to speak to her but he finally agreed, understanding my emotional state.

I watched her as she spoke to him but I couldn’t hear her. I could hear sounds, just not the words, as if my ears were blocked. Kate handed the phone back to me and I thanked him, and he reminded me that we were family, that his wife Susan would be calling me soon, and that everything was going to be okay.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Mike, before the attack. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I got off the phone and had to start making phone calls. I walked with my phone in my hand across the grass toward our friends, Alan and Angie’s, house. They were laying out a tarp for mulch on their driveway when they looked over. It must have been written all over my face because they rushed to me and caught me before I fell to my knees. Alan was the commander of an EOD unit on JBLM and assured me everything was going to be ok. Angie was by my side and provided support in any way I needed.

I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from the nightmare but I couldn’t. I was a Green Beret’s wife and the mother of two future Green Berets. I said to myself, ‘Pull yourself together, handle your business- he’s not dead and is going to need you to be strong!’

I stood outside, barefoot, on the cold pavement. The bottoms of my feet still get cold remembering those moments. I tried calling Mike’s parents but there was no answer. I tried calling my parents and no answer again. I called his brother Isaac, who was also a Green Beret who was in North Carolina doing his instructor rotation. I said, ‘It’s Mike. He’s alive but he hit an IED and he’s in surgery. It’s critical.’

I can still hear his scream.

Isaac had witness IED attacks before and he knew the gravity of this news. Isaac and Vanessa would make the calls to the rest of the Simpson family as I continued my calls from the floor of our parish where I sat and prayed. Once my parents were notified, my mother arrived from Rhode Island to our home in Olympia, Washington, 12 hours later.

1st Special Forces Group (1st SFG) at JBLM welcomed me in every morning to call Afghanistan for updates. LTC David Haight would call Bagram ICU and translate their medical report for me whether at that morning meeting or 1am. We would share our information, formulate a plan and I would leave the table every morning stronger than I arrived. Monday, 29 April, I called the hospital myself. The doctor that answered told me he was sorry, but that Mike didn’t have a gag or corneal reflex and that he would not live.

I thanked him and his team for caring for him so well. I went downstairs to tell my mother before the boys awoke and then retreated to my room where I called my cousin Alicia and friend Andrea. I begged Alicia to wake me up and take this away.

The medical team cared for Mike so well they were able to transfer him from Afghanistan to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. We got the green light to go to Germany as soon as Mike was in the air from AFG. They couldn’t cut orders or book our flights until they knew Mike was surviving the altitude. They performed emergency surgery on the plane and worked tirelessly to keep him alive even though they knew the outcome. When they arrived in Germany, one of Mike’s closest friends from the Special Forces Qualification Course was there awaiting his arrival. Casey served with another Special Forces Group and was training in the area when we received the news.

As I traveled to Germany, my Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) SFC Gerry DeMarzo and Chaplain Johnny Elder escorted me. What a blessing they were for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list in short. The ‘behind the scenes’ had so many issues getting us all there but with the help from the Green Beret Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, USO, Fisher House Foundation and Care Coalition on top of 1st SFG, I arrived and met Mike’s parents, siblings and spouses to be with Mike.

Upon arrival, my only request was that I got to see him first. I wanted to clean him up before his mom saw him. Silly, but it was all I could think of. I got to the hospital and Casey was at the door with SFC Doug Way. (They both never once left us. Casey stayed at Mike’s bedside and Doug would either be standing outside his hospital room or kneeling outside the room praying.)

I never lost hope.

‘Maybe he will heal and maybe the doctors were wrong,’ I kept telling myself.

Casey and Doug greeted me, offered their condolences and I entered the room.

There he was.

My big bad Green Beret laying broken and vulnerable. I had never felt so helpless in all of my life.

All I could manage was a whisper… ‘Dear Lord, please help us.’

On 1 May 2013, as we all stood around Mike’s bed, Dr. Betts informed us that Mike was in fact brain dead. I asked, ‘Can his brain heal?’ rationally knowing the answer, but I had to ask. ‘No ma’am, the brain can not heal from these injuries,’ he said. I nodded my head in understanding, saw the very real pain in his parents’ and siblings’ faces, said, ‘Thank you,’ and then ran out.

I ran left out of the room, through the ICU doors into the hall toward the stairs, down the stairs and out of the hospital hoping I could run away from this earth-shattering moment in my life and somehow, when I returned, everything would be ok – Mike would wake, he would rehab and our lives would go on … Together.

I stopped and Gerry and Doug were not too many steps behind me. Gerry never let me out of his sight for a moment; he was my greatest advocate and protector. He always told me he took care of our family the way he would have wanted his family taken care of if something were to have happened to him. When I returned to the hospital, I went back in and I didn’t leave Mike’s side except for an hour to take care of the paperwork I needed to sign.

The rest of that day we would call all the family and friends we could connect with so they could say their goodbyes. I would call and inform them of Mike’s diagnosis, tell them how sorry I was but that it was time for them to say goodbye if they wished. I would put the phone down on Mike’s pillow next to his ear, believing he would receive their love and pain through their words.

I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to say whatever they wanted and needed to for some closure. Our family and friends stateside would say goodbye as well as Charlie Company, 4th BN, 1st SFG. Mike’s team was sure he would survive, so my news was heartbreaking to them … Mike was their brother.

One of Mike’s friends and teammates brought me to my knees with his heartfelt message that his wife would transcribe for me later. His words were, ‘For Mike: Hey buddy. Have no fear, you’re the realest Green Beret now. You did it all. Thanks for all the bravo advice and an invitation to be a part of your family. I will never forget our time together and will do anything for your family. R.I.P. brother. I love you. One more thing – thank you for the greatest sacrifice one can make. My prayer to you … Now I lay you down to sleep, I pray the Lord your soul to keep. If you should die before you wake, bless Mikey Lord, his soul to take.’

Once the last call was made I think my body and mind knew it and I needed to rest. I asked the hospital staff if they could move Mike over so I could lie next to him in his hospital bed. I laid there and just listened to his heart beat. I prayed until I drifted off to sleep. Around 4 am, the nurse came in and wanted to change his dressings and clean him up. I asked if I could help, so she brought in soapy water and a washcloth. She changed his dressings while I cleaned him up. Around 9 pm, they came in to get him for organ donor surgery. I stayed with him while they got him ready to be moved. I walked to the door holding his hand as they started to wheel him out, and didn’t want to let go.

This was it.

I would never see his chest rise and fall or hear his beating heart again. ‘I’M NOT READY!’ I screamed in my head.

But … with as much grace as I could, I leaned down and kissed him one last time and whispered, ‘I love you all the world. I promise you I will take care of our boys, and we will always remember you.’

They wheeled his bed out and I stood in the empty, cold hospital room alone. ‘What now?’ I asked. ‘How do I live without you?’

We came back from Germany to Dover for the dignified transfer on 7 May 2013. He was supposed to be the only casket on the flight, but seven other soldiers were killed just days before, so we were with their families. These families didn’t have what we did. They didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. They watched their loved one get on the plane for deployment and then their casket come off in Dover.

It started to rain as we stood out on the tarmac, so hard it was sideways. My mother in law had an umbrella and was also trying to wrap me in her jacket to protect me. I told her I was okay without it, because I wanted to feel everything; the rain, the heartache, the fear. I had to face that moment.

As the caskets were taken off the plane I could hear the rain and the wailing from mothers and fathers who lost their sons, siblings who lost their brothers, spouses who lost their husbands and children who lost their fathers. I felt as though I was hovering over myself, looking down in disbelief that this was now my journey.

I flew home to Washington after being gone for 10 days. I could never spend a few hours away from my boys without missing them terribly. This time I was afraid to see them. What would I say? How would I tell them their Daddy wasn’t coming home?

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Mike’s dignified transfer. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I sat Michael (age 3) down and asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’

‘Yes Mommy,’ he said.

‘Even though you can’t see Him?’ I asked.

‘Yes of course Mommy!’ he replied.

‘You know Daddy is a soldier?’

‘Yes,’ he answered.

I looked into his eyes and softly said, ‘Well, Daddy is going to be God’s soldier now.’

‘But I will miss him,’ he said.

‘Me too.’

It would have been easy to sit down and focus on all the tragedy. My husband, my best friend, the father of my two beautiful boys was gone. I was a 35 year old widow who didn’t have enough time with the love of my life. Mike and I always told each other, ‘This love happens once in a lifetime,’ and it was gone.

My future and dreams broke into a million pieces and I had no idea how I would become whole again. And yet, somehow, I had to choose to see the incredible blessings that were happening all around us. The support from our family, friends and community; the military representatives that were assigned to us that created a beautiful journey; it was all a gift as much as my husband’s sacrifice was a gift to us all. Everybody who walked into our lives … it was nothing short of perfect.

On 30 May 2013, our Memorial Day, Mike was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery by his original Old Guard unit where he served when he first joined the military in 2003.

There are many things I remember about that day. It was so hot I could feel the heat from the pavement radiate through the bottom of my sandals – a stark contrast from the cold I felt on my bare feet the day I got the call that Mike had been hit.

I remember walking for what seemed like forever with our two children, hoping to make it through the ceremony.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Michael with his Daddy T-rex at Mike’s memorial. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

And I remember thinking that this place, Arlington National Cemetery, had always been one of my favorite places to be. It’s so peaceful. It’s filled with a clear and strong sense of honor and courage, but in that moment I didn’t feel brave at all.

There were over 100 people in attendance to show their love and support, not just for Mike, but for us as well. My dear friend Andrea Rinaldi was one of them. She stayed by my side through it all, from the very beginning of our journey, and selflessly gave of her time and heart. The service, experience and support of so many was humbling, and I will always be grateful.

Finally, I remember the boys and I receiving the folded flags. How do you process receiving a folded flag in the place of your Daddy when you’re only three years old? Michael was given the flag, but really only wanted his Daddy T-Rex. As I held our 16 month old, I watched as Gerry, our Casualty Assistance Officer, took a knee, and took Michael’s flag for him. I love this picture – this moment in time – as it truly captures how Gerry so beautifully served our family.

Mike’s company would continue their deployment for six more months after Mike’s death. One of his teammates stated during his memorial, ‘This Team… This company… This regiment, will never forget your sacrifice. Each day when we don our kit and prepare for battle, we will do it in your honor. We will take the fight to the enemy and fight how you would have wanted us to. Never faltering… Never failing… and never forgetting. This fight is over for you brother, but know that it is not over for us. We will continue in your honor and remember you as a husband, a father, and a Green Beret.’

I attended the homecoming for the first flight that came in from Afghanistan. I was grateful to be there yet nervous about my emotions. As we waited in the company I was approached by a woman in the hallway. ‘Mrs. Simpson,’ she said. ‘I am not sure if this is an appropriate time but I wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I was one of Mike’s nurses in Afghanistan.’ I am sure I hugged her immediately and was so grateful to lay my hands on someone who was there, with Mike, during the scariest moments of his life. It was a blessing I can’t explain. She was one of many who saved Mike so our family could say goodbye. She was, and still is, my angel. I am blessed by her and her whole family to this day.

When the buses arrived carrying Mike’s company we all rushed outside to greet them. The minds and hearts of so many wives and children were eased and made whole again. I truly was so happy for them, yet I subconsciously waited for Mike to get off that bus. The last man embarked and I was sure Mike would be next. The door closed and the bus drove away.

In the distance, I heard the shriek of a little girl, calling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and as I turned to look, I saw her run and jump into a man’s arms who wore the same uniform as all the other soldiers … the same one Mike would have been wearing, with the same wide arms he would have caught our sons in. But it wasn’t him and it never would be. My heart shattered all over again and I needed to turn and walk inside to face this emotion alone. I couldn’t allow anyone to think I was not grateful their husbands came home, because I was, wholeheartedly, but that didn’t take away my pain.

I went home that night with a folded flag that was flown over Mike’s camp in Afghanistan. My dear friend laid next to me as I cried myself to sleep and she didn’t leave my side until she knew I was okay.

Over the next several months I was constantly at the battalion, offering help, wanting to talk to them to make sure they were doing okay. I know it was difficult for them to see me since I was a reminder of the reality of Mike’s death. I know many struggled with his loss and I recognized very quickly that survivor’s guilt was a very real emotion. They needed to know that this was God’s plan, not ours, and He doesn’t make mistakes. My mission was to show them that we would honor Mike, grieve his loss but we would absolutely be okay. We were strong and proud, not weak and angry. Everyone grieves differently and there is not a right or wrong way to do it. I chose grace for me, my children and his team.

One of Mike’s teammates, Gus, had done the original inventory on Mike’s things. He was able to put all of his belongings into perspective. What he was wearing the day of his accident, what certain gear meant and what it was used for. He brought back command challenge coins from the memorial in Afghanistan where they all gathered on 11 May. Gus was able to retrieve and hand carry the patches Mike wore on his helmet, along with the memorial patch he had made for their team’s uniforms. Gus would come over and play with the boys, give me a moment of rest and help anyway he could.

So many of Mike’s teammates and their families would do the same. I was so grateful for the respite since the light at the end of the deployment tunnel was extinguished for me. Mike wouldn’t return to ease the natural burdens of parenting coupled with keeping up the household alone.

I always had family dinners. From the time Mike passed, I’d send out a text at 1:00 pm on a Sunday with, ‘Family dinner at 4’ and a few hours later the house would fill with joy and laughter. What better therapy than to be surrounded by those that loved us and Mike?

Gus and I would talk a lot about Mike, his feelings of survivor’s guilt (which they all had) and spent a lot of time together over the next couple years. I started to realize I cared for Gus more than I thought was possible and wanted to see where that would lead us.

I flew down to Texas for Easter – I needed to talk to Mike’s parents. His father said to me, ‘I have four requirements: He loves you, he loves the boys, he loves Jesus and that he always shows them it’s manly to love Jesus.’ His mother said, ‘I’ve prayed since the week after Mike died that you would find somebody.’ They were my greatest supporters. And they already loved Gus. He was already a part of our family. This was a no brainer for me.

I struggled with Gus being my secret-not so secret boyfriend. I had this organization that I’d founded as a widow of an active duty service member. I was afraid. I had lost my identity as a military spouse and then I found one as a military widow. It allowed me to talk about Mike and honor him. We were afraid of what our friends might think of our relationship and the judgement that would come. In July 2016, we broke up when I realized I needed time. Ten days later, he left for Nepal with his team and during those three months I recognized all of the things I was doing wrong. I thought I was honoring Mike every day but by not honoring Gus at all, was I really? By having someone in my life who wanted to love us, take care of us and honor Mike, yet I wasn’t willing to let him in – could I be dishonoring my late husband? I used to resent the ‘widow’ title but then I found myself not wanting to let it go.

I prayed so much and I came to the conclusion that I just needed to love Gus, and show him that he was a priority. He got back from Nepal and he was still very angry with me. We met a few times to talk, took it slow and then one day I boldly told him that we were going to get married. I knew the response could have broke my heart but he was worth it.

We were worth it.

He laughed and told me softly that I had to be crazy. One month later, Gus got down on one knee on the docks in Seattle, in front of our favorite Oyster Bar (Elliotts) and asked me to marry him. Two months later, we were married in Rhode Island among our family and friends. The priest who married us had married my parents, baptized Gabriel, did last rights for Mike and his funeral in Arlington, and had confirmed and married Casey and Sandy (Mike’s friend who was with him in Germany). It was perfect.

Thanks to Michael’s kind-hearted 1st grade teacher, Ms. Petruska, my boys decided to call Gus ‘Dad’ the moment we stepped off the altar, and have not called him anything but that since. They wanted and needed a father in their lives so badly and I don’t think I realized that until then. Michael and Gabriel both repeat Ms. Petruska’s words often – ‘We have a Daddy in Heaven and a Daddy on earth.’

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

A month after Gus and I married he deployed to Afghanistan. I woke up every morning and prayed that Gus was alive. He was so good about messaging me whenever he could to ease my mind, even though I never shared with him my fears. His heart and mind just works that way and he is always considering the times and moments I may go through in this journey and how they may be affecting me. He is constantly striving to make life easier. I pray I do the same for him.

I won’t tell you that I didn’t struggle through those six months but I can tell you I found peace in God’s plan and chose to continue to trust that His plan was greater than mine. Tragedy and loss does not have to define you or dictate the rest of your life. My story didn’t end with the loss of Mike; it began with a new chapter of hope and my choice of joy. It continued with honoring Mike and Gus giving me the greatest gift… he never makes me choose as he continues to give me the freedom to love them both.

Five years to the day that Mike touched American soil in Dover, Delaware for his dignified transfer, I landed in Washington, DC with Gus, for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year events with Military Spouse Magazine that would change my life. Five years to the day that Mike was flown back to Joint Base Lewis McChord to land at Grey Army Airfield, I was awarded the overall Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. I know it’s right where I need to be, that God’s timing is perfect, and that Mike would be so proud of me. And I also know I couldn’t have done any of this without Gus or my children.

Tragedy did not dictate my life in a negative way. My goal is that other people can see that, and feel that. I remember looking at other Gold Star Spouses like Lisa Hallett and thinking, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And I want other people to look at me and find hope, too.

Mike was very proud to sacrifice his life. And I am so proud to honor him.

Arlington National Cemetery is where my friend Andrea suggested a fundraiser for those who supported us and ultimately where The Unquiet Professional was born. So many organizations supported us, from the volunteers with the USO who carried my kids through the airport, the Green Beret Foundation being there for everything, or wear blue: run to remember, where I found a healthy and meaningful way to heal. I wanted to be able to pay that love back.

We now provide healthy and empowering opportunities for Gold Star Families, Veterans and their families. When Andrea suggested fundraising, she saved me that day. She saved me from the possibilities of not being able to live out my grief in a positive way. I heal as I strive to help others do the same with my ‘twice in a lifetime love’ by my side every step of the way.

Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We feel Mike’s presence and his loss every single day no matter what life brings us. But on Memorial Day, everyone thinks of all of our fallen heroes. People say when you’re having your bbq and your beer you’re not remembering the sacrifices, but I say celebrate. Celebrate their lives. Remember them.

Honor Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson and other heroes this Memorial Day by participating in The Unquiet Professional’s Virtual Memorial Day Mile. Join their Facebook group here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time the Air Force went inverted over a Russian bomber

Last week, we published a blurry shot of a U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom flying inverted during an intercept mission on a Russian Tu-95 Bear. The photograph went viral and reached Robert M. Sihler, the author of the shot, who was so kind to provide some interesting details about the image that brought to mind one of the most famous scenes in Top Gun movie.


“Although I don’t remember the exact date, the mission occurred in either late 1973 or early 1974.  The F-4C belonged to the 57th FIS at Keflavik NAS.  The mission was a standard intercept of a “Bear” by two F-4s after the alert crews were activated,” Bob wrote in an email to The Aviationist.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
In June 1973, the F-4s replaced the F-102s at Keflavik. (All images: R. Sihler)

I was a Navigator, or in the F-4, a Weapons System Officer. I entered the USAF in Oct 1969. On active duty, I spent a couple of years at Norton AFB, CA in C-141s. From there, I trained in the F-4 and spent one year at Keflavik, Iceland. Following that, I went back to C-141s at Charleston AFB, SC from 1974 to 1977. I left active duty and spent the next 14 years in C-130s at Andrews AFB, MD and Martinsburg ANGB, WV. I retired as a Lt Col in Dec 1991. The assignments to Iceland were generally either one or two years. I elected to do one year without my family accompanying me there. Others chose to bring their families for two years.

Dealing with the close encounters with the Tu-95s:

“At that time, we probably averaged two intercepts of “Bears” per week. They were the only aircraft we saw while I was there. Generally, the intercepts occurred on Fridays and Sundays, at the “Bears” flew from Murmansk to Cuba on training and, we guessed, “fun” missions. Generally, we did these barrel rolls at the request of the Soviet crewmembers. They gave us hand signals to let us know they wanted us to do it.  They photographed us as well.  The Cold War was winding down and the attitudes on both sides had improved,” Sihler explains.

When asked whether the barrel roll was difficult or unsafe maneuver, Bob has no doubts: “Not really!  The Soviets, at the time, gave us hand signals asking us to “perform” for them. The rolls were not dangerous at all.”

The famous shot of the inverted flying F-4 Phantom (the aircraft was actually ending a barrel roll):

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

An F-4C from 57th FIS escorts a Tu-95 intercepted near Iceland in the early 1970s:

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

The same 57th FIS F-4C that performed the barrel roll around the Tu-95 depicted during the same intercept mission:

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

A Tu-95 as seen from a Phantom’s cockpit:

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

A big thank you to Robert Sihler for answering our questions and providing the photographs you can find in this article.

Articles

This Marine is the first combat wounded veteran to reach the summit of Mount Everest

In early April 2016, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville departed the U.S. with The Heroes Project founder Tim Medvetz. Their destination was Nepal and their third attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the top of the world.


Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Linville is an Afghanistan veteran and father of two who had his right leg amputated below the knee as a result of an IED attack. Medvetz is the founder of The Heroes Project and a former member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club. They arrived at the Everest base camp on April 17 and reached the summit of the mountain on May 19, making Linville the first combat wounded veteran to make it to the top.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Linville and his gear, extra leg and all.

 

Their first two attempts to summit the mountain failed. In 2014, they made it to Lobuche Peak just above Everest Base Camp when a serac, a huge ice tower, separated from the Khumbu Icefall. The resulting avalanche killed 18 sherpas. They opted not to proceed out of respect for the dead.

And in 2015, they were once again on the mountain when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, killing thousands and devastated the region. Linville and Medvetz decided to link up with Team Rubicon’s Operation Tenzig, distributing food and first aid to villages in the Nepalese countryside that the Red Cross couldn’t access.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Linville and Medvetz climbed the mountain with videographer Kazuya Hiraide and producer Ed Wardle. The team is currently descending the mountain.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors, like cost, medical science, and politics, still stand in the way.


Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on March 21, 2018, that he made recommendations to White House budget officials in 2017 on whether to add up to four more conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors, and hypertension (high blood pressure) — to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

Also read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“I have transmitted my recommendations to the [White House’s] Office of Management and Budget. I did that by Nov. 1, 2017, Shulkin said. “And we are in the process right now of going through this data. In fact, we met with [OMB officials] on March 26, 2018. They asked for some additional data to be able to work through the process and be able to get financial estimates for this. So, we are committed to working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”

Shulkin didn’t say which of the four conditions, if any, he wants added to the presumptive list, if and when cleared by the White House.

At the same hearing, the VA chief was asked his position on Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War who also suffer from illnesses on the VA presumptive list but aren’t eligible to use it to facilitate claims for care and compensation.

They “have waited too long for this,” Shulkin agreed, but then suggested the solution for these veterans is blocked by medical evidence or swings on the will of the Congress.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll.

“I would like to try to find a way where we can resolve that issue for them, rather than make them continue to wait,” Shulkin said. “I do not believe there will be scientific data [to] give us a clear answer like we do have on the Agent Orange presumptive” list for veterans who had served in-country. “For the Blue Water Navy… epidemiologic studies just aren’t available from everything I can see. So, we’re going to have to sit down and do what we think is right for these veterans.”

Vietnam veterans who served even a day in-country who have illnesses on the presumptive list can qualify for VA medical care and disability compensation without having to show other evidence that their ailments are service-connected.

Shulkin said VA “recently” received the last report of the National Academy of Medicine, which found a stronger scientific association than earlier studies between certain ailments and herbicide exposure. In fact, however, the VA has had the report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, for two years.

More: 5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It was written by a committee of medical experts that reviewed medical and scientific literature on select ailments and herbicide exposure published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014. Released in March 2016, the report found evidence to support raising the strength of association between herbicide exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. The report upgrades the link from “inadequate or insufficient” evidence to “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association.

In years past, VA decided that for some ailments, such as Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease, “limited or suggestive evidence” was enough to add these illnesses to the Agent Orange presumptive list. For others, including hypertension, a more common disease of aging, VA deemed it wasn’t enough.

This last NAM report, however, looked again at cardiovascular conditions and herbicide exposure. It didn’t upgrade the link to heart ailments but it did affirm limited or suggestive evidence that hypertension is linked to herbicide exposure.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

It also studied whether Parkinson’s-like symptoms should fall into the same limited or suggestive category as Parkinson’s disease itself. The 2016 report found “no rational basis” to continue to exclude Parkinson-like symptoms from the same risk category. Parkinson’s disease itself was added to presumptive list in 2010.

VA secretaries under both the Obama and Trump administration reacted more slowly on the last NAM perhaps, by law, they could. Congress in 2015 let a portion of the Agent Orange law expire, language that required the VA Secretary to decide on new presumptive conditions within 180 days of accepting a NAM report.

The impact was immediate. Though a senior VA official tasked with reviewing this last NAM report said then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald would make his decisions within three months, it didn’t happen. McDonald left it to his successor. Shulkin waited more months and, in July 2017, vowed to decide by Nov. 1, 2017 OMB blocked an announcement, however, presumably over projected costs.

Related: A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Cost has been a factor, too, in Congress not passing legislation to extend VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans diagnosed with illnesses on the presumptive list. Budget analysts a few years ago estimated a cost of $1.1 billion over 10 years.

Also, NAM did conduct a review of medical and scientific evidence regarding Blue Water Veterans’ possible exposure to herbicides and concluded in a May 2011 report that “there was not enough information… to determine whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange.”

Blue Water Veterans remain ineligible to use the Agent Orange presumptive list. A lone exception is granted for veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Vietnam veterans with this ailment may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in-country.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

In every session of Congress, going back years, Blue Water Navy bills have been introduced. They would, if passed, “include as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure [to] herbicide agents while in Vietnam.”

The current House version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), introduced in January 2017 by Rep. David Valado (R-Ga.), has 327 co-sponsors. Yet prospects of passage remain dim. Valado reminded Shulkin at a mid-March 2018 hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that, six months ago, Shulkin said he was seeking more recommendations from “subject matter experts” on the issue and would be ready to update Congress in the coming months.

“Have you come to a decision on Blue Water Navy veterans?”

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

“I am aligned with you that these veterans have waited too long,” Shulkin said, “and this is a responsibility that this country has. And, as our veterans get older, it’s unfair.…I believe it is imperative upon us to resolve this issue.

“I also believe,” Shulkin continued, “that there will not be strong scientific data to help resolve this,” in other words to justify benefit expansion. “This is going to be an obligation that we feel as a country, that these veterans shouldn’t be waiting any longer. And I am on the side of trying to find a way to resolve this for the Blue Water Navy veterans.”

Shulkin said his staff is “working hard to look at offsets” which means cuts to other parts of the VA budget to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits, or to find “other ways to be able to do that. And it is a high priority for us.”

Reminded by Valado that “with these types of cancers, time is of the essence,” Shulkin replied, “Absolutely.”

The Senate version of Blue Water legislation, S 422, was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), has 49 co-sponsors and, so far, equally dim prospects of passage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why millennial veterans home ownership is on the rise

Many millennials and members of generation Z are putting off buying a home. It’s not hard to blame them for that. Housing prices have gone up, and it is a lot harder to save for that big down payment when purchasing your first home. Home purchasing among millennials has dropped with the exception of one demographic: veterans.


There has been an eight-year increase in veterans using the VA home loan, up 43 percent. In 2019 alone, there were 624,000 loans backed by the VA, and a majority of these loans were held by millennials.

That number will go up even more in 2020 thanks to a change in benefits.

A new law signed by President Trump this past June, the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, makes it even easier for veterans to move into the home of their dreams. The part of the law that affects homebuyers was the limit on how much veterans could borrow without a down payment.

There is no longer a limit on how much a veteran can borrow. If you qualify, you can now take out a bigger loan with no down payment.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

The VA home loan is a wonderful resource for qualified veterans. VA loans are mortgage options issued by private lenders with zero down and backed by the VA. The loans can only be used for primary residences, not properties used for investment. However, they can be used to refinance an existing mortgage.

With housing prices soaring in certain parts of the country, there was a major roadblock to the VA home loan. The loan would only cover the value of the house up to a certain amount. As a result, if a veteran wanted to use the VA home loan to purchase a house that was more to their needs and desires and it was over the limit, they had to front a portion of the extra amount as a down payment.

Jeff Jabbora is a Marine veteran who has spent the last seven years as a real estate agent in San Diego County. When asked about the new law, he said the new law “enables qualified veterans, who qualify for a loan amount over the local area maximum to be able to not have to put money down on the loan. For example, if the local/county loan limit for where the veteran is buying the home was 0k, and the veteran was buying a 0k property, with the previous program, the veteran buyer would need to bring money to the table on the overage. Most often, 25 percent. So in that scenario, it would be 25 percent of the overage of, 0k, which would be k.”

Before the law went into effect, the limit dissuaded veterans from moving into houses that were more suitable for them and limited their housing options. This was most noticed in areas like California, the D.C. area, the Northeast and cities with high housing costs. According to data from Realtor.com, a whopping 124 U.S. counties had a higher average list price than the 2019 loan limits. When you compare the cities with the highest median housing cost versus the cities where veterans use their VA home loan, you see that 50 percent of those cities are similar.

Veterans in Los Angeles will see the biggest savings. The average listing price in L.A. is id=”listicle-2645370998″,655,468. Based on that number, VA borrowers would have had to come up with a down payment of 2,236. Now they don’t have to.

Here is an example of how it works.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

With the new law in effect, there should be a marked increase in homeownership among veterans.

As with the VA home loan, steady and suitable income as well as credit comes into play.

Owning a home is a point of pride..thanks to this new law, more veterans can have the opportunity.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things to keep in mind when trying to skate duty

We get it. No one likes to do manual labor. Unfortunately, you’re one of a handful of people assigned to a crappy detail and you realize that, for some reason, a certain someone else is “too busy” to help out. You work your ass off and they take it easy. If they’re the same rank as you (and same time in service), they’ll get the exact same amount of money from Uncle Sam as you — and worked half as hard for it.

So, you want to take the easy route, too? Alright. Gotcha. We can’t stop you — but we suggest you read the following points before you try to wiggle your way out of the working party.


Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

F*cking your buddies is one of the only sins that can get you banished from the E-4 Mafia.

1. You could be blue falconing your guys

First and foremost, things need to get done. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bullsh*t detail made up to keep you guys busy until close-out formation. If the task came from up higher, someone will have to do it before everyone can go home.

If it’s something stupid that everyone — including the chain of command — agrees is exclusively for the purpose of killing time, alright. But if it’s something that obviously needs to be taken care of, like police calling the smoke pit, someone else will have to cover down for your laziness.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Yep. You’re totally “helping” with that clipboard in your hand.

(U.S. Air Force)

2. You’re being watched by everyone

The military may be big, but your unit isn’t. Word gets around. If you sham out of something, people will know that you weren’t there. If you show up and just do the bare minimum amount of work so you can still claim “you were helping,” people will know you really weren’t.

Things like this get remembered down the road. When you need a favor, people will bring up that time you screwed them that one time on a working party.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Dental is always a good excuse, but they give you appointment slips and your NCOs know this.

(U.S. Army)

3. Your excuse may not be that valid

There’s a huge difference between having a reason and having an excuse. A reason can be backed up with physical proof; an excuse is made up on the spot. If you’re going to try to use an excuse, at least have something to back it up.

If you’re going to try to pretend that you’re going to be “at dental” at 1600 right before a four-day weekend, you’d do well to actually look up when the dental office is open that day. You’ll look like a complete idiot when someone looks at the printed-out schedule and points out that it closed at 1300.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Then again, being commo opens up a whole new world of skating. You’re not often lying when you say you have “S-6 business to handle.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

4. You shouldn’t ever skate out of what is your job

There’s a general consensus that police calls, cleaning connexes, and mopping the rain off the sidewalk are all menial tasks that anyone could do. But units are only assigned so many people of your specific MOS or rating. If they came to you for a task and that is literally what you told Uncle Sam you’d do, you’re going to get in trouble under the UCMJ for not doing it.

Side note: if you really want a perfect way to get out of a detail, be a master at your job. If you’re a commo guy, be the best damn commo guy the military has ever seen. There may not be any computer or radio problems right when you’d otherwise be filling sandbags, but if you’re so valuable, they won’t even risk sending you out.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

You do you, man — but never blue falcon your guys.

5. If you do it too often, you’ll lose all trust

Taking it easy everyone once in a while is fine. It’s the military, sure, but everyone is human. Skate out of something once in a blue moon, no one may even notice. If you bolt for the door every time the first sergeant says, “I need three bodies,” your career could be dead in the water.

Outside of the obvious UCMJ action that could easily be dropped on you, no one in your chain of command will believe you’re ready for the next rank. Your name will never be brought up when a school slot comes up. Even your peers will give you the cold shoulder — after all, it’s them you’re really f*cking, not the chain of command.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The massive C-5 Galaxies are becoming air ambulances

During a cold, gloomy first week of December, total force airmen teamed up at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to test the capability of the Air Force’s largest aircraft to perform aeromedical evacuation during a proof of concept event.

The goal was to establish the C-5M Super Galaxy as part of the universal qualification training program for AE forces. If successfully certified, the C-5M will have the capability to move three times the current capacity in one mission compared to other AE platforms.


The PoC event was made possible by recent upgrades to the C-5M that made the cargo compartment more suitable for AE operations.

“The engine upgrade allowed the aircraft to produce a lot more power and to use the jet more efficiently,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Boots, 60th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation C-5M flight engineer evaluator. “Another factor was the environmental system received upgrades. We now have better control over the systems and we’re able to better control the environment (temperature and cabin pressure) that the AE folks would have downstairs in the cargo compartment.”

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Airmen with the 22nd Airlift Squadron and 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., along with Air Mobility Command airmen onload aeromedical evacuation equipment onto a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., during an AE proof of concept evaluation, Dec. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

The C-5M upgrades allowed the proof of concept to work, but the airmen’s innovation is what made it happen.

“The Air Force as a whole is more interested in using the assets that we have more efficiently and maximizing the capability that we can get out of different airplanes,” said Maj. Kevin Simonds, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M pilot. “I think this is an example of that. It’s a priority within the force and in the MAJCOM (Air Mobility Command) as well to try to maximize the way we use the assets that we have.”

With the Department of Defense’s shift to focus on great power competition and maintaining readiness, the C-5M’s greater capability to the AE enterprise could be a game changer.

“It was great to observe, first hand, our airmen working hard to make innovative strides using our existing platforms to get after a critical mission set,” said Brig. Gen. Darren James, AMC’s Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration director. “Last week’s test provided valuable learning as we move forward in evaluating ways to increase our readiness and support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.”

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Staff Sgt. Ethan Heitner, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, completes a post-flight inspection on a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft after an aeromedical evacuation proof of concept flight at Scott AFB, Ill., Dec. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

Not only will the C-5M AE mission benefit readiness for any future conflict(s), it will be a benefit during any future natural disasters.

“Using the C-5 for AE is going to be a pivotal point moving forward because it can be another platform for AE to move troops and also to aid in humanitarian missions and perform mass evacuations,” said Maj. Catherine Paterson, 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse.

The C-5M and crew traveled from Travis AFB. They were joined in the PoCby other active-duty airmen and civilians from AMC, Scott AFB and the 43rd AES,Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina. Reserve AE teams from the 439th AES,Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, 433rd AES, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Lastly, the team included the 142nd AES, Delaware Air National Guard, making it a total force effort.

This effort allowed for training standardization and boosted readiness for operational missions.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

Aeromedical evacuation team members participate in a training scenerio during a C-5M Super Galaxy AE proof of concept flight from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Dec. 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

“It’s always beneficial to have the total force working together as one team,” said Paterson. “You always learn new things from working along with people from different backgrounds. You get different ideas, different concepts and you work together with the sole purpose of bringing troops home safely.”

With the proof of concept successfully testing the cargo department as a viable option for AE missions, the AE community is waiting for the Air Force to certify the use of the platform before the C-5M is officially part of their mission.

“We have made a great amount of progress in the last eight months,” said Maj. John Camacho-Ayala, Headquarters AMC branch chief for aeromedical evacuation operations and training. “I think that sometime in the near future we will definitely have a C-5M as part of our arsenal and a part of our weapons systems for the AE enterprise.”

Once all the certifications are completed, the AE community will gain their biggest ally yet with the Air Force’s largest plane.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

This Marine rapper spits lyrics that veterans know all too well

If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”


Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.

After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
TMR has performed and hosted numerous live shows from Los Angeles to San Diego. (Source: The Marine Rapper)

Related: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

Since then, TMR’s music has been featured on the Range 15 Movie Soundtrack, the Oscar Mike TV series on Go90 network, and Apple Music.

“Star-Spangled Banger has many meanings,” TMR tells WATM. “It is a new Star-Spangled Banner, it is my moniker and a way of saying veterans made a banger.”

TMR’s music recounts personal war stories over hip-hop and rock inspired beats. He strives to motivate others and to use his rhythmic talents to immortalize his fallen brothers and sisters through music.

Check out The Marine Rapper‘s music video to watch “Star-Spangled Bangar” for yourself.

(YouTube, The Marine Rapper)
Articles

This video shows Taliban fighters trying to imitate SEAL Team 6

The Taliban last week released a 70-minute propaganda video, titled “Caravan of Heroes #13,” in which they imitated US special forces, the Military Times first reported.


While much of the video shows how the Taliban conducts ambushes and assaults, the first 10 minutes of it shows militants replete with tactical garb and weapons, and employing their tactics.

The video is unusual, since most Taliban videos show their fighters wearing turbans and beards, the Military Times reported.

 

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review
Screengrab from released Taliban video

“The Taliban want to show their supporters and potential recruits that they are a professional force capable of defeating the Afghan government and the coalition,” Bill Roggio, editor of FDD’s Long War Journal, told the Military Times.

“The Taliban has touted its “special forces” in the past, in previous videos, however this video definitely kicks it up a notch,” Roggio said.

Check out the Military Times’ compiled video here.