One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a 'big ass fight' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

The US Marine Corps’ Black Sea Rotational Force left its base in Romania for training in Bulgaria this month, carrying out exercises that are another sign the US military is preparing for a kind of conflict that’s different from what it has faced in recent decades.

A Marine Forces Europe and Africa release issued earlier in July said units from the rotational force were headed to Bulgaria’s Novo Selo training area, “where they would be able to take advantage of the rough, verdurous terrain for multiple training events.”

“We deployed from the place where we’re stationed at in Romania to this training area in Bulgaria. That way we can utilize the training areas out here that are a little better suited for the training that we’re trying to accomplish,” an unidentified Marine said in a video released this week by the command, first spotted by Marine Corps Times.

The Marines carried out a number of exercises focused on combined-arms proficiency and on building operational capacity.


One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

Marines perform high-angle fire training with a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

“During this training event we had snipers conducting everything from unknown distance ranges to live-fire stalks,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Kult, a combined anti-armor team (CAAT) platoon commander. “We also had our 81 mm mortar platoon conducting dismounted and mounted live-fire operations, both day and night.”

“We have our combined-anti-armor platoon conducting high-angle Mark-19 fire, which is a new thing for us,” the Marine said in the video. “It’s not really done in the Marine Corps anymore.”

High-angle fire with the Mark 19, an automatic grenade launcher that can fire up to 60 40mm grenades a minute, could come in handy if Marines engaged enemy personnel behind walls or other barriers, Marine Corps machine-gunners told the Times. Such fire could also be useful against Russian armor or other vehicles.

The gunners said that with skilled observers and good communications, high-angle fire — a skill taught at the Corps’ advanced machine-gunner course — from Mark 19s could quickly be walked onto a target.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

According to the release, platoons from Weapons Company from the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment, typically work independently, making the joint exercises at Novo Selo a valuable opportunity.

“We don’t always get together as a company and do these combined training events, so as a whole, it improves our unit cohesion,” said Cpl. Benjamin Lepla, a forward observer. “Now we know how long it takes for every section to set up their equipment and assault the objective from different positions.”

“The most important event that we’re doing out here is the combined attack utilizing the entire company,” Kult said. “It’s a unique opportunity because normally we’re all away from each other, either supporting other companies, or in direct support of the battalion.”

NATO forces have increased their presence in Eastern Europe in the years since Russia began its incursion in Ukraine in 2014, and US military units in Europe have been boosting their capabilities.

Earlier this year, the Army’s Ironhorse Brigade arrived for a rotation in Eastern Europe — but instead of sailing to Germany, the unit disembarked in Belgium for the first time in decades to practice traveling across the continent by road, rail, and barge.

During the most recent iteration of the Saber Strike Exercise, US armored units also practiced traveling across Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. During the exercise, Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts practiced rough landings on a highway in Estonia — a drill only recently restarted after being discontinued in the 1980s.

The US military has been shifting its attention to preparations for a potential conflict with near-peer competitors like China or Russia — a change outlined in the National Defense Strategy released earlier this year.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

Marine lubricates the interior of a Mark 19 grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

Such a conflict would be different from the fights of the recent past, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has said.

“I don’t think the next fight is going to be a stability op/counterinsurgency: It’s going to be a violent, violent fight,” Neller said in mid-2017, according to Marine Corps Times.

For the Marines, it also likely means a change in operational focus, away from the Middle East and toward the Pacific and northern and eastern Europe, Neller told Marines in Norway late last year.

He stressed that amid that shift, Marines should remain ready for a potential conflict, predicting a “big-ass fight” on the horizon, according to Military.com.

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” he told the Marines in Norway, who are part of a new rotational force meant to expand training and boost readiness. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”

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

Articles

Can this Navy patent explain away many UAP sightings?

This new Navy tech aims to use lasers to fool air defense systems and missiles into thinking they see multiple aircraft or even a UAP for that matter–but the plan wasn’t to trick the world into thinking they were being visited by aliens.

America uses stealth technology not just to avoid detection, but to avoid being shot down after they’ve been detected. A recent patent filed by the U.S. Navy meant to increase the survivability of stealth aircraft might do just that, but if the system works the way it’s supposed to, it could just as easily be used to project images into the sky that would look and act a whole lot like the strange crafts depicted in UAP footage released by the U.S. military in recent years.

How can Navy tech be responsible for UAP sightings?

This video contains the same content as the rest of this story.

When talking military aviation, it’s not uncommon for many to think of “stealth” as a singular technology utilized to help advanced aircraft defeat detection. The truth, of course, is a lot more complicated than that. Stealth might be more accurately described as an approach to warfare, rather than a specific piece of gear. In order to leverage a stealth aircraft effectively, pains must be taken to limit the platform’s radar cross-section (from multiple angles), its infrared detectability (the amount of heat it releases), and to create a mission flight plan that keeps the aircraft operating to its advantage, rather than its detriment.

The truth is, many of America’s most advanced stealth aircraft aren’t actually invisible to radar detection at all. The intent behind stealth isn’t truly to go entirely unnoticed in many instances, but instead, to prevent an opponent from being able to effectively engage and shoot down your aircraft. To that end, even “stealth” platforms like the F-22 Raptor can actually be spotted on radar using lower frequency bands. Radar systems leveraged in this way can spot sneaky intruders, but they’re not good for establishing a weapon’s grade lock on anything. In other words, lower-frequency radar bands can be used to see stealth planes coming, but can’t be used to shoot them down.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’
B-2 Spirit stealth bomber (U.S. Air Force photo)

However, coupling these sorts of radar systems with other forms of air defenses can make for a real threat for stealth aircraft. “Heat-seeking” missiles, which have been around since the 1950s and don’t rely on radar to engage targets effectively sniff out encroaching aircraft by following the infrared signature of the super-heated exhaust exiting the back of the jet. While design elements have been incorporated into stealth aircraft aimed at mitigating these infrared signatures, only so much can be done to hide the heat released by the chemical explosions we use to propel our combat aircraft.

So, even if America’s stealth planes were completely invisible to radar (which they aren’t), they still need to worry about infrared-driven missiles fired in their general direction either as a result of visual detection or low-band radar systems. Pilots go to great lengths to plan out their sorties prior to getting airborne to leverage their stealth aircraft most effectively. Limiting exposure to advanced air defense systems, operating at night to avoid visual detection, and employing strategies regarding altitude and angle of attack all play a role in maintaining a “stealth” profile.

In the event a “heat-seeking” missile does find its way onto the trail of a stealth fighter like the F-22, the aircraft has the ability to deploy flares in an attempt to confuse the infrared-led ordnance. But flares offer an extremely limited form of protection in heavily contested airspace. Because of this, the general rule of thumb on combat sorties is simple: try to avoid situations where the enemy can lob missiles at you, and your chances of success increase dramatically.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’
(USAF Photo)

However, in a large scale conflict against a technologically capable foe like China or (to a lesser extent) Russia, America’s stealth aircraft would face challenges unlike any they have in modern warfare, as our fleets of sneaky fighters and bombers came up against some of the most advanced air defense systems currently employed anywhere on the planet. In such a war, losses would be all but certain, and while America may employ more stealth aircraft than any other nation, our total numbers remain in the hundreds. So each stealth aircraft lost would truly be felt.

But new technology under patent by the U.S. Navy could shift the odds even further into the favor of stealth aircraft: leveraging lasers to produce plasma bursts that could trick inbound missiles into thinking they’ve found a jet to chase that would actually be little more than a hologram.

This technology has already been used to create laser-plasma balls that can transmit human speech. I’m going to be honest with you here, that sentence is as hard to wrap my head around as the writer as it probably is for you to grasp as a reader. Talking plasma balls? 

Here’s a video from our friends at Military Times running down this cutting edge plasma technology:

Other applications for this laser system include use as a non-lethal weapon and even as a continuous flashbang grenade that could keep opponents in an area disoriented and unable to respond.

So, how does the Navy intend to leverage this sort of technology to make stealth aircraft even harder to hit? According to their patent, the laser system could be installed on the tail of an aircraft, and upon detection of an inbound missile, could literally project an infrared signature that would be comparable to a moving fighter jet’s exhaust out away from the fighter itself. Multiple systems could literally project multiple aircraft, leaving inbound missiles to go after the decoy plasma “fighters” instead of the actual aircraft itself.

These “laser-induced plasma filaments,” as researchers call them, can be projected up to hundreds of meters, depending on the laser system employed, and (here’s the part that’ll really blow your mind) can be used to emit any wavelength of light. That means these systems could effectively display infrared to fool inbound heat-seeking missiles, ultraviolet, or even visible light. Of course, it’s unlikely that the system could be used to mimic the visual cues of an actual aircraft, but it is possible to produce visible barriers between the weapon operator and the stealth aircraft emitting the laser.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’
 That IR Target signature could feasibly appear to be a UAP to an uninformed observer. (Image courtesy of the US Patent Office)

This system could be deployed instantly, reused throughout a mission, and can stay at a desired altitude or location in mid-air; all things flares can’t do. With enough aircraft equipped with these systems (or enough systems equipped on a single aircraft) this method could be used to do far more than just protect jets. In the future, this approach could become a part of a missile defense system employed by Navy ships, carrier strike groups, or even entire cities.

“If you have a very short pulse you can generate a filament, and in the air that can propagate for hundreds of meters, and maybe with the next generation of lasers you could produce a filament of even a mile,” Alexandru Hening, a lead researcher on the patent, told IT magazine in 2017.

It’s likely that we won’t see this technology lighting up the airspace over combat zones any time soon, as there may well be years of research and development left before it finds its way into operational use. However, some have already begun scratching their heads regarding what it appears these laser-induced plasma filaments can do, and how that could explain the unusual behavior recorded in recently acknowledged Navy footage of unidentified aircraft being tracked on FLIR cameras by F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots.

It seems feasible that this technology could be used to fake just such a UFO or UAP sighting… but then, the earliest of these videos was produced in 2004, which would suggest far more advanced laser systems than the United States currently maintains were already in use some 17 years ago.

Could lasers have been used to fake UAP sightings? It seems feasible, but for now, the military’s focus seems set squarely on defensive applications for the patent.

Want to read more about groundbreaking patents filed by the U.S. Navy in recent years?

Read: NAVY TEAM FLOATS IDEA FOR A ‘SPACETIME MODIFICATION WEAPON’ MORE POWERFUL THAN NUKES


This article by Alex Hollings was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

Feature image courtesy of Transport Canada

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran is just now feeling the sting of global terror

Considering the neighborhood Iran is in, the country has experienced relatively few terror attacks. In fact, much of Iran’s military strategy seems centered around keeping terrorism and external aggression outside of Iran itself, even if the attacks target Iranian forces.

All that is changing in recent days as Iran reels from another attack on its Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. This one killed more than a dozen of the highly-trained members of the powerful Iranian military force.


One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

The remnants of an IRGC bus after an explosives-laden car rammed it on Feb. 13.

(Press TV)

A car filled with explosives was rammed into a bus carrying dozens of IRGC personnel on Feb. 13, 2019, in Iran’s Sistan-and-Baluchestan Province, near the border with Pakistan. Some 27 members of the IRGC were killed, and 13 others were wounded in the attack. An al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim group calling itself Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) took responsibility for the attack.

Iran is an Islamic Republic made up of predominantly Shia Muslims. External Sunni groups say the Sunni minority inside Iran is discriminated against by the Shia majority government. Sistan-and-Baluchestan is filled with members of the ethnically Baluchi people, who practice the Sunni form of Islam. Jaish al-Adl has been committing acts of terror inside Iran since 2012 to fight the systematic oppression of Sunni Muslims.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

Balochi people outside of Iran have protested Iran’s government of the province for decades.

In January 2019, Jaish al-Adl set off two bombs that wounded three police officers in Baluchi city of Zahedan. In October 2018, the group kidnapped 10 at a border post in Mirjaveh. A month prior to that, the group killed 24 at a military parade in Ahvaz. That’s just from one group. On Dec. 6, 2018, a suicide car bomb carried out by the Salafi terror group Ansar al-Furqan killed two and wounded 48 more in Chabahar, in the same province. In 2017, ISIS-linked terrorists carried out a series of bombings across the capital city of Tehran, killing 17.

Between 2010 and 2017, Iran had no terror attacks within its borders. Prior to that, it saw only a handful of scattered attacks and bombings. The latest attack was one of the deadliest experienced by the Islamic Republic in years.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

Iran’s special forces are currently deployed in Syria.

Also: This is why Iran’s Special Forces still wear US green berets

Iran currently projects power from Afghanistan in the East to Lebanon in the West, including its presence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic supports the Asad Regime in Syria, as well as the anti-Israel terror groups Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the past, anti-Shia terror groups have been funded and armed by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, whom Iran blames for the latest attack on Iranian soil.

The rhetoric between Iran and Pakistan has risen so high in the days following the attack, Iranian officials are meeting with Pakistan’s forever-rival India to discuss anti-terror cooperation between the two countries.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Big Army wants to buy gear like the special operators do

The Army will start buying weapons the way Special Operations does, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told reporters here, bringing different specialists together in one streamlined team. The often-insular Army is also studying the other services, Milley said, particularly the rapid development of the nuclear Navy under legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover. A three-star officer, Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, is currently developing detailed options, and Milley hopes to stand up “this new command” by summer 2018.


The primary objective: Infuse real-world combat experience into every step of the process. “Warfighters have to be intimately involved from the front end, (in) Milestone A (research) and B (development),” Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told a different group of reporters. That’s in contrast to the current “bifurcated” system, in which combat veterans, requirement writers for what new equipment must do, the program managers who actually build things, and the logisticians who keep them running are segregated in different bureaucracies.

The new system will draw on the experience of Special Operations Command and other small, streamlined organizations – such as the Army’s own Rapid Capabilities Office and Rapid Equipping Force. They will try to scale that up to the Big Army, McCarthy said. For each top priority program, a former combat brigade commander will lead a “cross functional team” of concept and requirements developers, program managers, testers, logisticians, and so on.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’
U.S. and Iraqi artillerymen train on American 105 mm howitzers during partnered live-fire training, Feb. 21, at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. The Americans are paratroopers with 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), and the Iraqis are soldiers with the 7th Iraqi Division.

McCarthy emphasized that the Army isn’t asking for new force structure, just reorganizing what it has, and legally mandated reporting requirements will remain in place. Program managers will participate on the new teams, for example, but they’ll still answer to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Will the Army need new legal authorities or relief from existing statue? “I don’t know,” McCarthy said frankly, but he’s already been talking with legislators and their staff.

One change defense contractors will appreciate: McCarthy is working with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Ellen Lord, to change an unpopular policy on companies’ Independent Research And Development expenses. The intent, he told a formal press conference here, is to give companies incentives to spend their own money in IRAD, which benefits the troops, instead of sitting on cash and buying back their stock, which doesn’t.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’
A Soldier aims an XM-25 weapon system at Aberdeen Test Center, Md. Photo from PEO Soldier.

New Model Army

All told, it’s an all-out assault on the slowest and most sclerotic of military bureaucracies (which is really saying something), the Army’s acquisition system. Milley said it would be “the largest reengineering of the institutional Army in four decades.”

Milley repeatedly emphasized that 40-year figure. Why? He’s referring to the 1973 reform by his famed predecessor, Gen. Creighton Abrams, that established a separate Training Doctrine Command to oversee all training, write all doctrinal manuals, and develop requirements. Once TRADOC writes requirements, however, they’re handed to Army Materiel Command and the ASAALT, who actually research, develop, buy, field, and sustain the equipment in question.

Getting requirements right is difficult for any military organization, but only the Army has to struggle with such a stark bureaucratic divide. One plausible rumor we’ve heard is that a new “Modernization Command” will be built by combining TRADOC’s Army Capabilities Integration Center and AMC’s Research Development Command, probably along with elements of Army Test Evaluation Command.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’
Gen. Creighton Abrams. Portrait by Herbert Elmer Abrams.

The proposed reform is outlined very vaguely in a memo co-signed by Gen. Milley and Sec. McCarthy, first reported by our colleague Patrick Tucker. “Our processes are staff-centric and often stove-piped, which inhibits integration within our across programs. Our requirements process is slow and overly bureaucratic,” the memo says. To fix this, “our Army will establish unity of command and unity of effort that consolidates the modernization process under one roof.”

At a press conference here, Milley and McCarthy declined to divulge many details of the plan. The reorganization scheme is being developed by a task force under Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, who reports back in 120 days. But Milley shared more of his thinking to reporters who caught him on his way out, to the visible frustration of the aides trying to keep him on schedule:

“If you want to see the genesis of the model that we’re thinking about, go take a look at how SOCOM does their thing, because that’s where we got a lot of the ideas,” Milley said. “We looked at the way the Air Force does it, the Navy does it, (including) the navy in the nuclear environment, y’know under Rickover, (and) we went out to industry… we looked at all of that and tried to take best practices.”

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’
Gen. Mark Milley. Photo by Tim Oberle, Eighth Army Public Affairs.

“We’ve got to streamline, we’ve got to rationalize,” Milley said. “Right now, the Army’s structure — the institution, the processes, the organization (is) not coherent to deliver effective capabilities for the future.”

“With a few exceptions like the Army Rapid Capbilities Office and the Rapid Equipping Force, we’re basically a left-right-left, step-by-step process going from an idea, establishing a requirement, writing up a big requirements document, and then vetting it through multiple steps,” Milley said. “It takes 10, 20 years to go from idea to delivery of a capability. You just can’t operate like that in today’s world. You just can’t do it. it’s got to be faster, it’s got to be streamlined, it’s got to be more coherent, and we’ve got to kind of bring it all together.”

popular

This F-15E scored an air-to-air kill by dropping a bomb on an Iraqi helicopter

The first time the F-15 Strike Eagle saw combat was in the skies over the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. Although the F-15 C and D were incredibly lethal in air-to-air combat, the F-15E was primarily used to take out mobile Scud missiles and surface-to-air missile sites. It was the F-15E’s only air-to-air kill during Desert Storm that would become the most memorable.


On Valentine’s Day 1991, the offensive part of the First Gulf War was in full swing. U.S. Air Force Captains Richard “TB” Bennett and Dan “Chewie” Bakke were pilot and weapons system officer, respectively, on a Scud patrol. AWACS ordered their F-15E to hit Mi-24 Hind Gunships that were close to a U.S. Special Forces operation.

Bakke told the author of “Debrief: A Complete History of U.S. Aerial Engagements” that the F-15E’s radar became “intermittent” when they moved to strike. The pilot couldn’t get a missile lock on the targets because one the Hinds began to accelerate so fast. Bakke switched his thinking to a ground attack.

Since he could only see the rotors using his LANTIRN pod (the ground targeting system used by the Strike Eagles) Bakke used a laser-guided, 2,000-pound GBU-10 bomb on the helicopter as it began to lift off. The bomb when through the rotors and the cockpit, its fuse delay exploding the munition underneath the Hind, completely disintegrating the helicopter. The other helicopters bolted after that and more U.S. air cover came in to protect the ground force.

 

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

 

After the Special Forces team was extracted, they confirmed the F-15E’s kill and sent Bennett and Bakke a “Thank You” via their headquarters based in Riyadh.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Getting to know the dog behind the handler

Imagine putting your life into the paws of a Labrador retriever or German shepherd. Would you feel safe?

For many Marines this becomes their reality when deployed to a combat zone. German shepherds and Labrador retrievers are specially trained for drug detection, suspect apprehension and explosive detection.

“Before Don was assigned to me, I noticed that his detection was impeccable,” stated Devaney. “When I heard that Don was being assigned to me, I couldn’t have been happier.”


Don’s training started when he was just 6 months old at Lackland Air Force base in Bexar, Texas. He then finally made his way to Camp Pendleton at the age of 2 and was assigned to another Marine prior to being assigned to Devaney.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

U. S. Marine Corps Cpl. Zachary Devaney, a military working dog handler with the Provost Marshal’s Office, Security and Emergency Services Battalion, pets military working dog, Don, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 17, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kerstin Roberts)

“You could see the adjusting from Don’s prior handler to me,” said Devaney. “There were adjustments that needed to be made on both of our parts. Knowing that we both had the same goal to protect the base and the people that reside on the base, we needed to create this bond between us.”

It is the handlers’ job to ensure that they are both ready at any time to deploy. Trust and understanding between the handler and the dog keeps the team and everyone around them safe.

“It was a lot of extra time on my part. Coming to the kennels on my off days or staying after work and just spending the time with him. Getting to know all of his quirks and understanding all of the pieces that make up his personality,” said Devaney. “Through this one on one time, Don learned my limitations too. Together we learned how to successfully achieve the mission.”

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

U. S. Marine Corps Cpl. Zachary Devaney, a military working dog handler with the Provost Marshal’s Office, Security and Emergency Services Battalion, commands military working dog, Don, to heel for a photo at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 17, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kerstin Roberts)

The first couple of months after a handler is assigned to a dog it is crucial to their training. A handler is expected to spend roughly fifty hours a week with their dog developing a relationship. Beginning as a pup, the dogs are trained to listen to their handlers. The dog needs to trust and know the individual before they begin to listen to the commands given to them. Without the strong connection between the two, there is a hesitation on completing the mission.

“Don, he is kind of a weirdo. He has a lot of quirks and it took me some time to learn all of them,” stated Devaney. “One of Don’s favorite things to do is chew on my boots when we’re spending time together. He is everything to me now and he is the drive that gets me out of bed in the morning.”

Having military working dogs on Camp Pendleton is a force multiplier. Military working dogs protect Pendleton during building searches, suspect apprehension, active shooters, threat identification and alarm activation calls.

“For the Marine Corps, I believe that dogs are invaluable. They are so applicable in different situations,” said Devaney. “For our forward deployed Marines, they are out there searching for IED’s, tracking and looking for high value targets. When you pair a good dog and a good handler together, they’re unstoppable.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What a federal air marshal has to say about travel safety

When preparing to travel, we typically think of how to artfully pack our suitcase to make it past TSA regulations. We’re often annoyed by the inconvenience of security measures, while trying to navigate busy and sometimes unfamiliar airports. Unfortunately, most don’t see the bigger picture. In the wake of September 11, stricter screening procedures were put in place to help deter violence in airports and on aircrafts. Although this has arguably increased safety while in transit, it has left some people feeling helpless once they arrive at their final destination.

Believe it or not, most Americans rely on others for their personal safety. Whether it’s the TSA, military, law enforcement, or private security, in the wake of an emergency, people commonly look to them as the sole providers of protection and safety. But we can’t count on others for an instant, effective response. This is even more of a concern when traveling in an unknown area, state, or country that prevents you from carrying a firearm or a handheld weapon.


Former federal air marshal Richard A. St. Pierre suggests that personal safety and accountability is always having an entrance and exit plan whether it’s at home, the airport, a restaurant, or a foreign country. There are measures you can take to maintain your personal safety in spite of restrictions imposed by your travel. But first, we’ll review some statistics and events that’ll hopefully help you understand why it’s important to be more prepared when traveling.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

In January 2013, Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old Staten Island mother and wife, was killed while traveling in Turkey. During an interview, her killer stated that after drinking alcohol and sniffing paint thinner he stumbled upon Sierra, who was walking alone. He told authorities that he attempted to kiss her and she resisted, striking him with her cell phone. Then, he dragged her into an alcove, where she attempted to fight him off for approximately 30 minutes. Some would conclude that traveling alone in Istanbul, Turkey, simply isn’t safe. But what about the incidents that happen in our backyard? On Oct. 1, 2017, at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival held in Las Vegas, Nevada, a gunman opened fire on concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 58 and injuring more than 400. Our goal isn’t to talk about what the victims might’ve done, but to acknowledge that evil exists and prepare ourselves to combat it as best we can.

Studies show that, as of 2013, the average response time for law enforcement nationwide is 11 to 18 minutes. Conversely, a commonly cited statistic is that the average gunfight lasts three seconds, while a shooting incident lasts approximately 12.5 minutes. These statistics suggest that, on average, we may not be able to rely on others for help when we most need it, and we’re ultimately responsible for our own safety. With these numbers at our disposal it may be hard to understand why daily habits of preparedness aren’t more common compared to other “universal” safety rituals, like installing smoke detectors in our homes in case of a fire, wearing seatbelts while driving in case of an accident, and locking our doors to deter theft. Still, the average American neglects daily practices focusing on personal protection.

Here are some recommended steps that you can take to increase your awareness and safety before, during, and after traveling.

Before travel

The first step in protecting ourselves, or loved ones at home or on the road is having a plan. Whether it includes carrying a firearm or an edged weapon, being proficient in hand-to-hand combat, or simply being able to remain calm, think, react, and communicate appropriately. It’s important to identify a survival resource and train it consistently, helping to develop an ingrained mental pathway for our safety habits.

If you’re traveling domestically, carrying a firearm once you arrive at your destination may be an option, but first you must research the firearms and carry laws of that locality. Does it have reciprocity with your home state? If not, what are the local licensing laws? If flying with a firearm or handheld weapon, you should check with both TSA and the airline to ensure you follow proper procedures to do so. For international travel, you don’t have this option.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

Prior to travel, research your destination. If flying into an airport or arriving in a train station, look into the various modes of transportation within the area and how to access them. For example, is public transportation a practical option and known to be safe? To get an idea about crime trends throughout the transiting area, check out the free crime reporting website Spotcrime.com. It’s light on details, but it’ll give you an idea of what areas have high instances of crime.

If you’re using taxi or car services, identify reputable companies and pick-up locations ahead of time and know whether or not they’re regulated in that area. In the U.S., taxi services are regulated and have set prices in each state; they generally offer two to three different price brackets for daytime, nighttime, and peak hours. Furthermore, most taxis are outfitted with security cameras and GPS locators. If traveling internationally, not all cabs are regulated. If using a cab, you’re better off calling for one rather than hailing one. When the cab arrives, look for numbers and labeling on the outside. On the inside, look for a meter, radio, and badge. Know where you’re going and be aware of local currency conversions.

Other popular transportation options are ride-sharing services, such as Uber, UberX, or Lyft. Most ride-share services have come under regulation — the respective state and territory governments have set varying requirements on drivers before they’re eligible for work. Uber drivers are generally required to hold a state-based driver authority (much like a taxi driver), which usually involves a criminal history and medical check as well as providing proof of insurance. Aside from regulations most ride-share services have a number of different parameters in place to ensure passengers safety to include:

  • No Anonymity: Passengers are given a driver’s name, photo, vehicle information, and contact number. The trip is also kept on record.
  • GPS Tracking: Once your driver accepts you request, your trip is tracked via GPS on your phone and the driver’s phone. You also have the ability to share your ride with your friends or family so they can keep track of your ride.
  • Rating System: Drivers are anonymously reviewed by passengers on a scale of 1 to 5. Drivers may have their accounts deactivated if they consistently receive low ratings.

Make sure to note any neighborhoods or areas plagued with high crime and avoid them if possible. Crimereports.com is a great way to search crime data by region, address, zip code, or law enforcement agency.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

Having a plan and knowing where you’re going will reduce any unnecessary loitering that could reveal to predators that you’re unfamiliar with the area.

If staying in a hotel, try to find a known, reputable brand. Most hotel chains have a rewards program and website to book reservations through, which often include a star rating system. When making your reservation, request a room off of the ground floor. Higher floors help prevent someone from walking in off the street and easily gaining access to your room. Once your reservation is made, record the hotel’s address and contact information, and store it somewhere that you can easily access once you arrive. Fumbling through your personal belongings creates distractions and opportunities for human predators.

If you’ve booked your travel accommodations through an online hospitality service that rents private residences like Airbnb or VRBO, knowing the area becomes even more important. Is the area of the rental safe? Is it accessible to public transportation? Will it be owner-occupied while you’re renting? Is there parking available at or near the rental, if renting a car or driving to your destination? Always know whom you’re renting from by reading previous renter reviews and renting from a verified source.

During travel

Don’t advertise solo travel or that you’re a tourist. Always move with confidence even if you feel unsure. Don’t be flashy with clothing or accessories. If traveling internationally, be sure to know local customs and dress accordingly. Be aware of cultural etiquette for the areas you’ll be visiting, whether in or out of the United States. Remember that anything you say or do in public can be overheard or observed. Like the World War II saying “loose lips sink ships,” gabbing openly about your plans, where you’re staying, or how excited you are to finally get out on your own could inadvertently put you at risk if you happen to be amongst the wrong crowd. Do your best to favor well-lit areas with lots of public traffic. If you plan to drink alcoholic beverages, know your limits, don’t leave drinks unattended, and don’t accept drinks from strangers. The importance of selecting a reputable car services applies doubly when you’re tipsy. We know of several people who’ve been mugged or worse because they had one too many and assumed that once they got in a cab everything would be fine.

The loose lips rule applies to hotel staff equally as anyone else. Have just one keycard made for your room, to help prevent misplacing or losing track of keys. When in your room, make sure to lock the door and utilize any additional security locks. Note that not all hotel doors have supplemental security features, so consider travelling with a rubber or tactical doorstop with which you can chock the door from the inside to make it harder for someone to force access. If there’s a safe in the room, always keep identification papers and high-dollar items locked up. If an in-room safe isn’t available, the front desk may have a safe deposit box. When leaving your room, place the do not disturb card on the outside of the door and leave the radio or TV on. This will make your room appear occupied, especially when traveling alone.

Prior to checking out of the hotel, double-check the safe for personal items. Do a full sweep of your hotel room to ensure you don’t leave any personal affects behind. Make sure not to leave anything in the trash that could be used to identify you, such as old boarding tickets, receipts, mail, or agendas. Although most hotels have stopped attaching personal information to room keys, turn in or take hotel keys with you.

Again, if you’re staying at a private residence that you booked through an online hospitality service, preparedness is paramount to your safety. Communicate through the site you book through, set expectations with your host for your visit ahead of time, and don’t leave personal items behind.

Try to remain especially alert at the airport or in any major transportation hub. Hundreds of thousands of people transit through these various networks on a daily basis from all over the world, making it a target-rich environment. As always, maintain accountability for your personal items and never leave them unattended. If you forget this last part, the incessant loudspeaker announcements in most major airports will no doubt remind you.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

(ControlRisks.com)

After travel

Even after travelling, safety is paramount. Once home, check your luggage to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind. Also, run periodic checks of your bank accounts and credit card statements to make sure none of your accounts were compromised. It’s also a good practice to occasionally check your credit statement for fraudulent activity.

Maintain awareness in all senses of the word. Just because you safely made it back to the comforts of your own home doesn’t mean that risks are no longer present. We often become complacent in our daily routines, and it’s just as important for us to maintain vigilance while conducting daily activities. Whether you’re traveling to and from work, to another state, across the country, or internationally, personal accountability and preparedness are the two most important factors to ensure that you and your loved ones don’t become victims.

Do:
  • Online research of crime reports in the area you intend to stay.
  • Lock sensitive items up in a hotel safe and copies of identification on your person.
  • Call for a taxi from an accredited company or ride-sharing service rather than hailing one.
  • Periodically check your bank and credit card statements to watch for any fraudulent activity.
Don’t:
  • Leave drinks unattended or accept any from strangers.
  • Travel alone, especially in unfamiliar areas.
  • Post information on social media regarding your whereabouts and status abroad until after you return home.
  • Leave receipts, boarding passes, and other information that can be used to identify you behind in hotel rooms.

Hana L. Bilodeau has over 15 years of law enforcement experience, serving both locally and federally. Most recently, she spent time with the Federal Air Marshal Service covering multiple domestic and international missions. Hana has a wealth of knowledge in a number of different defensive modalities to include her present role as a full-time firearms instructor for SIG SAUER Academy. Hana is also a per diem deputy with the Strafford County Sheriff’s Office, allowing her to stay current with the law enforcement culture.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

popular

This is what happened when the Navy banned alcohol on its ships

On July 1, 1914, infamous buzzkill and then-Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels implemented General Order No. 99: “The use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any navy yard or station, is strictly prohibited, and commanding officers will be held directly responsible for the enforcement of this order.” 

Daniels was a supporter of the Temperance Movement, a turn-of-the-century social movement which supported a nationwide alcohol ban and actively worked to pass legislation against the beverage. Some of those laws are still in effect.

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Hampering Sunday Funday for a century.

The U.S. Navy used to honor the grand tradition of giving their sailors a daily portion of grog, which started out as a half-pint of rum and then later, good ol’ American whiskey. If a sailor didn’t drink, they earned an extra per diem for it, the 2016 equivalent of around $1.44. The ration was reduced to a gill (quarter-pint) in 1842 and then eliminated during the Civil War (but the Confederate Navy kept the tradition in an effort to recruit sailors from other countries).

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Coffee is almost the same… right?

American sailors were allowed to keep their own stores of liquor and beer on board until 1899 when their sale was restricted. The new rules barred “enlisted men, either on board ship, or within the limits of navy yards, naval stations, or Marine barracks, except in the medical department.” When Daniels issued General Order No. 99, the only alcohol aboard U.S. ships was reserved for the officers of the wardroom and the Captain’s Mess.

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You think Ray Mabus is persona non grata? Sailors used to boo this guy on the street.

A creative reader can probably imagine what happened when the sailors learned about the ban. Daniels was not a popular guy but commanders rushed to sell what they had left – and they had a lot left. The Navy decided each ship should hold one last blowout to say fair winds and following seas to their beloved drink.

U.S. ships the world over moved to comply with the order. Many ships held banquets with food, others had theme parties, and some held funeral processions for their departing friend. A few ships just poured whatever they had left into a giant bowl. Pictures of these parties are hard to find– not only because cameras were rare in 1914. Presumably, the sailors didn’t want to make every American party for the next 60 years seem lame by comparison.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’
And Cher wouldn’t board the Battleship Missouri for another 75 years.

The Navy banned alcohol entirely for a total of six years. Selling booze on shore and in clubs was reinstated after Congress passed the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition. President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo (himself a WWII-era Navy veteran) changed the rules to allow the sailors two beers a day to sailors at sea for 45 days or more.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’
If there’s a direct opposite of a Blue Falcon, this shipmate is it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The soldiers identifying the Korean War remains

When her duty day is over, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen often wonders if she did enough to help identify fallen service members.

As the noncommissioned officer in charge of the morgue at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is tasked to account for more than 82,000 Americans missing from past conflicts, she analyzes human remains and personal effects in hopes to close a cold case.


“At the end of the day, I have to be able to look in the mirror and say I’ve done my best,” she said. “And when I get up in the morning, I say I’m going to do better, because these families have been waiting years and years.”

Owens is one of about 100 service members and civilians who work at the agency’s laboratories here and at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Each year, the labs identify the remains of around 200 Americans that are then reunited with families.

On Aug. 1, more than 50 cases containing remains believed to be those of American service members were provided to DPAA by North Korea.

The remains are now undergoing further analysis and identification at the labs.

The painstaking work, which can take months to years to complete, is Owen’s passion. Whenever a positive identification comes in, she said, it is as if the service member’s name is given back.

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An honor guard provided by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command conducts an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018. Carry teams will move 55 flag-draped transfer cases, containing what are believed to be the remains of American service members lost in the Korean War, to the DPAA laboratory at JBPH-H for identification.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)

‘These Are All Heroes’

“What drives me the most is that these are heroes,” she said, looking across a lab holding hundreds of unknown remains. “These are all heroes [who] have a name and a family.”

Each year, DPAA conducts up to 80 investigation and recovery team missions throughout the world to pinpoint last known locations of missing Americans and to attempt to excavate their remains.

“The work is complex, the work is difficult, and it takes that dedication, that passion … to be able to perform this solemn obligation that we make to the nation and to the families,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.

The joint agency, which employs many service members and veterans, has agreements with nearly 50 nations that assist in its missions, he added.

Most of the missing fell at World War II battle sites in the Pacific region. There are also almost 7,700 service members unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.

DPAA teams were allowed to conduct missions in North Korea from 1996 to 2005, but operations were halted as diplomatic relations deteriorated in the region. Agency officials hope these missions could soon start up again.

Before he became the agency’s lab director, John Byrd had the opportunity to help recover Americans who fought in North Korea at the Battle of Unsan. The 1950 battle pitted Chinese forces against American and South Korean troops.

When remains are identified by his staff it is always a testament to good field and lab work that solved the decades-old case, Byrd said.

“It’s extremely gratifying,” he said, “and it kind of keeps you grounded where you know why you’re here and why you’re doing this work.”

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen, a morgue noncommissioned officer for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, examines a personal effect that may have belonged to a fallen service member in a laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 12, 2018.

(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

DNA Testing

A majority of DPAA cases involve some type of DNA testing. Samples are taken from the remains and sent to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in Delaware.

To help this process, family members who have a missing loved one are encouraged to provide a DNA sample that will serve as a comparison.

If no reference samples are on file, a battalion of professional genealogists working for service casualty offices will try to locate family members.

Many times their starting point is the service member’s home address from the 1940s, if they served in World War II. This makes it extremely difficult to track down a living family member as the years pass on.

“It’s one of the greatest challenges of all. How do you find close family members of a missing serviceman from 1944?” Byrd asked. “It’s not easy. Some [cases] we run into dead-ends and we can’t find anybody.”

The Defense Department has kept dental records of troops dating back to World War I that can be used to help in the identification process.

In 2005, the agency also discovered another method that has proved successful. Many troops who served in early conflicts had to get chest X-rays as part of a tuberculosis screening when they first signed up.

Like the dental records, these radiographs were stored in a warehouse by the DoD. DPAA later obtained thousands of copies of them. Lab personnel use them as a comparison tool, since the shape of each person’s chest is different.

“The process of comparing this induction chest x-ray to an x-ray we take from the remains is analogous to doing fingerprint comparison,” Byrd said. “It’s a very similar kind of mindset that you take when you look at the two side-by-side; you’re looking for commonalities and differences.”

When a service member is identified, family members often come to the lab so they can participate in escorting the remains back home, he said. For those who work at the lab, those family member visits make the months or years of work seem worthwhile.

“When you have a family member come in and the staff who actually worked on the case get to meet them, they get to see the tangible results of their hard work,” Byrd said. “It’s definitely a boost to their morale.”

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Members of the 647th Force Support Squadron search and recovery team tag and mark simulated remains during the search and recovery team’s training event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 27, 2017. The search and recovery team is tasked with recovering human remains from accident sites.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)

In the Field

Before that sort of closure can start for families, recovery teams spend weeks at a time doing the grunt work of excavating sites.

Army Capt. Brandon Lucas, who serves as a team leader, recalled his team digging nearly 20 feet into the ground in Laos in search of an F-4 Phantom fighter pilot who vanished during the Vietnam War.

While no remains were found on that mission, they were still able to confidently close the site and shift efforts elsewhere.

Then there was another mission in Slovenia, where the tail gunner of a bomber aircraft from World War II went missing.

When his plane crashed, the gunner was the only one in his aircrew killed. Residents later buried him next to a church.

As Lucas’ team arrived at the site, the townspeople still knew about the crash and the gunner. Residents regularly visited his team, often bringing Lucas and the others food and drinks. An elderly woman even told him that for decades she would clean the grave site once a week.

When his team recovered the remains, a somber tone spread through the community.

“A lot of them actually shed tears when we found the remains,” Lucas said. “It was special to them and it was special to me.”

The poignant moment, along with others he has experienced during missions, galvanized the meaning of the mission for him.

“I’m potentially bringing back a fallen comrade,” Lucas said. “I would want to know that if it was me lost out there somebody is trying to recover me and give my family closure.”

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

(US Army)

Maritime Recovery

Recovery missions also extend out into the sea, where many service members have disappeared as a result of aircraft crashes or ships sunk.

While she served as commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Army Maj. Gen. Susan A. Davidson was an advocate for her unit to support the solemn mission.

The unit regularly supplies DPAA with highly-trained Army divers from the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, who often work on the sea floor with no visibility and use a suction hose to remove loose sediment from recovery sites.

On a barge, team members then sift through the sediment for the remains or personal effects of those missing.

When divers returned to Hawaii, she encouraged them to share their experiences and what they got out of the mission with others in the unit.

“They come back a different person and they have a different respect for our Army and for what we do,” Davidson said.

Back at the lab, Owen and others strive to identity those heroes who have been found.

“I feel that I am part of something so much bigger that I can contribute to,” she said.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

To the military spouse facing infertility

This is a letter to the military spouse that started the journey to parenthood, with hope and excitement. The one thinking this would be so easy because that’s what society has led you to believe, only to still be trying one, two, three or however many heartbreaking years later. The one who has watched countless friends bring home children during this time that feels more and more discouraged.


This is a letter to the military spouse walking down the family planning aisle looking for a pregnancy test with your fingers crossed, full of anticipation, thinking this is the month that your dreams come true and you will cross the line into motherhood. For the one looking at ovulation test kits instead of pregnancy tests thinking maybe this is what will make the difference this month in your journey. You are beginning to wonder if anything can help you. Kicking yourself each month for not just buying the 50 count test kits on Amazon because you have likely spent hundreds of dollars on tests already. But still, you buy them because you still have hope that you can be a parent one day.

To the military spouse digging through the trashcan in the hopes that the positive line appeared late because it just needed more time. Maybe it was too faint for you to see the line, or the lighting was bad when you tested so you missed it. To the one that tests again, and again. Noticing every little symptom, feeling that this time it must have happened, but the test still gives you that same soul-crushing negative.

To the military spouse that ugly cries on the toilet when your period starts yet again. You really thought this was the month that it had finally happened because Aunt Flo was late. Only she showed up with a vengeance and all you want to do is crawl into bed and hide from the world. Each agonizing cramp and trip to the bathroom is a constant reminder that this cycle was a total bust.

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To the military spouse that can’t listen to one more person ask, “So when are you two having kids?” or the subtle hints from family members. Each question or comment cuts you deep down inside and makes you feel even more broken. You feel like a failure because you can’t do the one thing that seems to define womanhood. The boiling anger, resentment and jealousy you feel when you see someone that wasn’t even trying or that accidentally got pregnant. That feeling that takes over that you can’t seem to define.

To the military spouse that is at another doctor’s appointment trying to find answers. Desperately looking and waiting for them to determine the cause, the reason. Answers to why this isn’t happening as it should. Praying that there is some reason and that you aren’t left without answers. Hoping that you can pop a few pills and that will do the trick. Maybe you’re moving to plan B, C or D and you are praying that this is the right combination of medications or treatments this cycle.

To the military spouse facing postponements or cancelations in treatment cycles because of deployments, PCSes or COVID-19. Wondering if you are missing your last chance. Wondering if this is the last egg you have left. Full of questions and uncertainties. Waiting for however long with anxiety and fear. Hoping with every ounce in your body that this doesn’t ruin your chances once this delay is all over. For the one that dreads having to start all over again once you are able.

To the military spouse worrying over the financial realities that come with infertility. Worrying if Tricare will cover testing. Stressing over the cost of medications that the insurance doesn’t cover. Trying to find thousands of dollars to pay for the chance at having your own family. You have a deep biological desire to carry and give birth to a child of your own. Making the hard decisions of which treatment route to go, and how many cycle attempts you make before there is no more money left in the pot. For the ones exhausted from searching for grants, loans, any program that could possibly help with the financial burden of infertility.

To the military spouse avoiding social media because it is flooded with the gut-wrenching reminder that you are childless. That each pregnancy announcement, gender reveal and newborn photoshoot you scroll past is a stab at your empty womb. Maybe you have resorted to unfollowing or even unfriending friends and family because it hurts too much to see their posts. While deep down you truly are happy for them, your feelings of jealousy, sadness and rage take over and it’s easier to not be reminded.

To the military spouse attending a baby shower that is politely smiling and limiting conversation because on the inside you are struggling. Struggling to fight back the flood of tears and overwhelming sadness. Wondering if you will ever get to experience this for yourself or if you will always be barren. Looking for the quickest route to the door or bathroom in case the flood of tears starts to stream and the last thing you want is to cause a scene.

To the military spouse that got her positive test after all the struggles and heartache to have it all ripped away. For the ones that saw a heartbeat and thought they were in the clear this time. Or you thought this time it would be different, that this time you wouldn’t miscarry, but then everything came crashing down around you. Maybe you only know the devastating realities of pregnancy loss and long to be the one that experiences the joys of bringing home a child.

To the military spouse that feels alone, broken, weary, or even depressed: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. For the one that feels all these and more month after month, or year after year. To the one that has days where getting out of bed feels impossible. For the one that can’t face the world or function for days at a time. Let me say it again: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. One in 8 couples face the same problems with infertility.

To the military spouse facing infertility: This does not define you. This is not who you are. This is not your fault. Your worth is not any less, nor does it make you any less of a woman. This is not a measure of your success. You are not broken or damaged. You are strong. The pain you feel is real and it is okay to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. And it is okay for you to talk about it. Be a voice and share your story so others can see that they are not alone. You get to decide on your journey, just know that there is a whole military spouse community right here with you to support and encourage you because you are not alone and it is okay to talk about it.

April is Infertility Awareness Month and this is National Infertility Awareness Week. For resources about infertility, please visit: https://infertilityawareness.org/. And from our hearts to yours: You are not alone.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic four chaplains and the sinking of the USAT Dorchester

During World War II, a troop transport ship made from a converted luxury coastal liner was hit by a German torpedo on its starboard side in 1943, dooming the ship and many of the men aboard. Amid the chaos, four chaplains representing three Christian sects and the Jewish faith moved between the wounded and scared, comforting them, distributing survival gear, and ultimately sacrificing themselves.


One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

The USAT Dorchester.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The USAT Dorchester had been converted from a luxury coastal liner during World War II and was sent on a cross-ocean journey carrying 902 crew, troops, and civilian personnel to Greenland. The ship had to cross through submarine-infested waters.

The passengers were under orders to sleep clothed and in life jackets in case of an attack, but while the upper decks and outer air were cold, large sections of the ship were hot from the engines that propelled the ship. Those housed on the lower decks typically slept in their underwear or just a shirt or pants. Across the ship, life jackets were unpopular off duty because they were uncomfortable.

But on February 3, 1943, 150 miles from Greenland, a German U-boat spotted the convoy which consisted of the Dorchester and two other transport ships as well as three Coast Guard cutter escorts. U-223 was on the hunt for Allied shipping, and troop transports were choice targets. The German vessel fired a spread of three torpedoes.

Two missed, but the third shoved through the hull and exploded in the boiler room.

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Coast Guard cutter Escanaba rescues Dorchester survivors

(U.S. Coast Guard image)

The ship lurched, knocking men from their beds. The electrical systems failed instantly, and the ship began filling with water. Throughout the ship’s dark passageways, disoriented men stumbled from racks and the ground, struggling to dress and get to the open deck in time.

Some men forgot to get dressed until they emerged into the frigid, open air.

In the middle of the fear and danger, four men emerged as a center of calm. Four chaplains were assigned to the ship. Army Lt. George L. Fox was Methodist, Lt. Alexander D. Goode was Jewish, Lt. John P. Washington was Catholic, and Lt. Clark V. Poling was a Dutch Reformed minister.

Two of the men had struggled to join the military. Goode was rejected by the Navy before joining the Army, and Washington had to cheat on his eye exam because a BB gun accident had robbed him of most of his sight in one eye.

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Lt. George Fox, a Methodist; Lt. Alexander Goode, a Jewish Rabbi; Lt. John Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest; and Lt. Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister, on the deck of the USAT Dorchester as it sinks.

(U.S. Army)

On the deck of the Dorchester, the men ministered to the scared and wounded. They helped organize the men up top, and Goode, the rabbi, gave his own gloves to Petty Officer John J. Mahoney, a sailor who had forgotten his belowdecks. Mahoney would later say that he believes Goode already knew he would stay on the ship.

The extensive damage to the hull and the boiler room ensured that the ship would sink quickly, so the men were rushing survivors off the ship as quickly as possible. The life jackets ran low, and all four chaplains gave their vests up to save others.

Back in the open, the chaplains ministered to the men as the ship sank into the waves only 20 minutes after the torpedo hit. Two Coast Guard cutters were scooping men out of the water and into lifeboats, but it wasn’t fast enough. The last survivors to escape the ship said that their last view of the chaplains was of them on deck, standing arm-in-arm, singing hymns and reciting religious passages to comfort both survivors and those who would drown with them.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

1948 stamp commemorating the four religious leaders.

(U.S. Air Force)

Approximately 672 men died, and 230 from the Dorchester survived the attack and sinking. The American public and Congress pushed for the men to receive Medals of Honor, but the medal requires that the heroic actions take place under enemy fire.

The chaplains were posthumously awarded Distinguished Service Crosses instead, and Congress later created a new, one-time medal named the Four Chaplain’s Medal that was awarded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his final days in office in January 1961, almost 18 years after the sinking of the Dorchester.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia explode on the battlefield and around the world

For decades, Azerbaijan and Armenia have feuded over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the region is mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state with an ethnic Armenian majority population. Despite the formal cessation of hostilities in 1994 after a two-year war over the region, clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continue to erupt along the border.


Following a week-long series of military exercises in the disputed region at the end of May, skirmishes broke out on July 12 which left four Azerbaijani soldiers dead and several wounded on both sides. The South Caucasus neighbors blamed each other for the outbreak of violence. While Azerbaijani and Armenian government representatives threatened deadly consequences should the conflict escalate, the international community weighed in.

Turkey, a historic enemy of Armenia, expressed strong support for Azerbaijan in the conflict. Moscow, an ally to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, expressed concern over the fighting and warned that further escalation could undermine the security of the region. The United States condemned the violence and urged for the de-escalation of hostilities via direct communication links.

Hopes of a return to the ceasefire were dashed as both sides continued to exchange rocket and artillery fire along the border on July 13. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense posted a video showing Azerbaijani artillery destroying an Armenian military base. Later in the day, both sides reported damage to civilian houses.

Hostilities escalated further on July 14 as both sides employed UAVs for aerial strikes. Armenian-made UAVs were used in combat for the first time. “[They] showed brilliant results,” said former Spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan. “It seems high-ranking officers became victims of their strike.” Later in the day, Azerbaijan confirmed the deaths of Major General Popad Hashimov and Colonel Ilgar Mirzoev as well as five other servicemen.


Shushan

www.facebook.com

Translation: Nightly punitive actions.

On July 15, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense shared four videos of Armenian bases and vehicles being destroyed by Azerbaijani artillery fire. In response, Hovhannisyan shared a video of shelled Armenian houses and blamed Azerbaijan for attacking civilian villages. As of the writing of this article, exchanges of fire along the border between the two countries continues.

To date, Armenia has confirmed five of their soldiers killed, one as recently as July 23, and a further 36 wounded. Azerbaijan has confirmed 11 of their soldiers killed, including the aforementioned Major General and Colonel.

The outbreak of violence between the two countries has prompted protests by ethnic Azeris and Armenians around the world. On July 17, a protest outside the Armenian embassy in London turned violent. Carrying their national flags and chanting slogans, Azeris and Armenians exchanged insults before the demonstrations devolved into physical altercations, forcing the intervention of law enforcement.

On July 19, about 500 Armenians from around France congregated in Paris to protest in front of the Azerbaijani embassy. To prevent a repeat of the violence in London, the organizers did not publicize the event in advance and communicated via telephone. Without approval for the demonstration, the protesters were dispersed by police before long.

Protests have been taking place around the world and the United States is no exception. In Los Angeles, which has the highest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, a protest on July 21 near the Azerbaijan Consulate General in Brentwood turned violent. Fistfights broke out leaving demonstrators on both sides and one LAPD officer injured.

July 23 saw an escalation of violence in Europe. In Germany, an official government vehicle was set on fire outside of the Armenian Embassy in Berlin. In Ukraine, an Armenian owned coffee shop was burned down. A video of the fire surfaced online along with a narration that translates to, “This is an Armenian coffee shop in Kiev. This is a gift to Armenians from the Azerbaijanis. Accept it.” In Russia, violence has come in the form of street attacks. At least two Armenian men have been beaten by Azeris. The Russian Special Purpose Police Unit known as OMON has taken an undisclosed number of Azeris into custody for the attacks.

As the fighting in the Caucasus region spills over across the globe, the United States response remains hopeful of de-escalation and a return to a ceasefire. However, with violence surging, more experienced military veterans may need to dust off their old maps and MDMP slides from the GAAT scenario.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

An overview GAAT map (US Army Combined Arms Center)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldier recalls serving with Medal of Honor recipient Travis Atkins

“He was a selfless leader, a brother and a friend.”

That is how Stuart Hollingsworth remembers Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, the former 10th Mountain Division (LI) soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 2019.

Hollingsworth, a former staff sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, had first met Atkins a month before their deployment to Iraq in August 2006. He said that Atkins was originally with another company, but he was needed to serve as a team leader in D Company.


“He was training his previous team for combat, and was such a master of his craft, that he was able to step into another team leader role and earn the trust of everyone he met,” Hollingsworth said.

“My first impression of him was that this man was very much an authoritative leader. He led from the front and led by example — never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

Soldiers kneel to pay their respects during a memorial ceremony June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker for Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed June 1, 2007 by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.

(Photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO)

Hollingsworth said that theirs was a tight-knit team, and they developed a bond that would carry them forward into combat.

“Staff Sgt. Atkins was a huge proponent of team camaraderie and unity,” Hollingsworth said. “We would do everything as a team — we moved as a team, trained as a team, ate, slept — everything.”

With that, it was easy to learn everything there was to know about his teammates, and Hollingsworth said that Atkins spoke constantly about his son Trevor.

Also read: What you need to know about the solider receiving the Medal of Honor

“He was very much a family man, always talking about them,” Hollingsworth said. “I would also say that he probably loved his men almost as much, if not the same.”

That camaraderie and the love he had for his team is demonstrative of his actions on June 1, 2007, when Atkins sacrificed his life to shield his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. Atkins had engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent who had resisted a search, and then threw himself on top of the suicide bomber to bear the blast of the detonation.

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, stands in front of the monument honoring 2-14 infantry soldiers who died in service to their nation.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Hollingsworth said that every soldier learns the words to the Soldier’s Creed, but some of those words impact him more now because of Atkins.

“There’s that one phrase — ‘I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life’ — that has more meaning to me today than ever before,” he said.

In November 2007, Atkins’ name was among those added to the 2-14 infantry monument at Fort Drum. Atkins’ heroism received national attention when he was honored with the Distinguished Service Cross during a Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Drum in 2008.

Also read: This is the infantryman posthumously receiving the MoH

Hollingsworth had attended both ceremonies, but he said that words failed him upon meeting Trevor, who was 12 at the time.

“I was not able to adequately describe to Trevor how much I appreciated his father, what he meant to me and how truly great a man he was,” Hollingsworth said. “So being here at the Medal of Honor ceremony, I am incredibly grateful to be in the presence of the Atkins family. To have this opportunity to spend this time with them is a great honor.”

To learn more about Atkins and to watch the live webcast of today’s Medal of Honor ceremony, visit www.army.mil/medalofhonor/atkins.

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