The 3-year-old daughter of Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerome Cinco, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, holds her father close before his departure from Marine Corps Base Hawaii on a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. Unlike their last two deployments — supporting Task Forces Military Police in Iraq — 1/12 will revert back to its primary mission and provide artillery fire support to 2nd Marine Division (Forward) during ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the province.
On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.
She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.
But some of us in military families saw something different.
As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.
Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.
But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.
I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.
I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.
I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.
I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.
But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.
I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.
The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.
When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.
This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.
Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec
The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.
One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.
COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire
A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.
The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.
The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.
Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.
The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.
Steel drizzle vs steel rain
The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.
Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.
There is growing support among outside security experts for the notion that an “incident” at Iran’s main nuclear-enrichment facility last week was an act of sabotage in a shadow war aimed at setting back Tehran’s nuclear activities.
Many analysts believe that a foreign state, possibly Israel, was behind the July 2 fire at the Natanz facility in Iran’s central Isfahan Province.
The conflagration caused “considerable financial damage,” according to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, which had originally sought to downplay the incident.
An image released by Iran in the aftermath of the incident and satellite images released abroad showed significant damage — including ripped-out doors, scorch marks, and a collapsed roof — at a building where centrifuges were assembled.
Iranian authorities have said they know the cause of the incident but have withheld any public announcement due to “security” issues.
“Many countries have a clear interest to delay the Iranian nuclear military project; one of them is Israel,” Yaakov Amidror, a retired major general and former national-security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told RFE/RL.
Iran maintains that all of its nuclear activities are peaceful, and it has opened its known nuclear sites to UN inspectors since signing a deal in 2015 exchanging curbs on its nuclear program for sanctions relief with world powers including the United States, which has since walked away from the deal.
But the United States and Israel have for years accused Iran of a long-running effort to acquire a nuclear bomb-making capability.
They are thought to have targeted Iran’s nuclear program in the past with cyberattacks and malicious software, or malware.
One of those suspected joint efforts was the Stuxnet computer worm, which damaged Iran’s nuclear infrastructure according to reports that began to emerge in 2010.
At least four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated between 2010 and 2012, engendering speculation that the killings were part of a suspected covert campaign waged by Israel against Iran’s nuclear program.
“There was an opportunity, and someone in Israel calculated the risk and took the opportunity,” the unnamed official told the paper.
On July 5, The New York Times quoted “a Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode” as saying Israel had targeted Natanz using what the paper called “a powerful bomb.”
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any role in the incident.
Speaking on July 5, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his country wasn’t “necessarily” behind every incident in Iran, adding that Israel’s long-standing policy is not to allow Iran access to nuclear capabilities.
Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said Israel has demonstrated the ability “to penetrate Iran’s nuclear program,” most recently in 2018 when Israeli agents are reported to have broken into a warehouse in the Iranian capital and extracted a trove of documents detailing the country’s nuclear activities.
“It is the type of operation that Israel might conduct at any time when it sees the opportunity,” Goldenberg, who previously headed an Iran team in the Office of the U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, told RFE/RL.
‘Perception Of Chaos’
Speaking generally and not about this specific incident, he suggested the aim of such operations might be to delay Iran’s nuclear program “as much as possible.”
“For Israelis, there is also the additional benefit of trying to create the perception of chaos at a time when the Iranian government is struggling with an economic crisis and COVID-19,” he added.
The Natanz incident comes amid a gradual backing away by Tehran from its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
It has said its moves are a response to the May 2018 withdrawal from the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) by U.S. President Donald Trump and the reimposition of harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
Raz Zimmt, an Iran analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, suggested that the incident at Natanz could reflect Israeli concern about Iran’s expansion of its nuclear activities beyond the limit set in the nuclear deal, which Israel opposed.
“Not only that Iran still refuses to return to negotiations, but it has withdrawn from its commitments to the JCPOA shortening the breakout time considerably,” he said in a reference to the period needed to amass enough weapons-grade uranium to arm a nuclear weapon.
“Under those circumstances, and especially considering the possibility that it would be difficult to go back to the JCPOA whether Trump wins the U.S. elections [in November] or [Democratic challenger] Joe Biden [does], Israel is back in the dilemma of either to allow Iran to continue advancing its nuclear program up to a short distance from a breakout capability or to use covert operations, or even a military option in the future, in order to delay Iran’s nuclear program,” Zimmt said.
Any sabotage targeting Natanz, if conducted by Israel, could pose a dilemma for Tehran on how to respond. Admitting an Israeli role could be interpreted as showing that Tehran was unable to prevent such an attack and would also likely suggest a need for retaliation, which could in turn prompt Israeli action.
“The reason why authorities are not ready to point their fingers at Israel is that they would then be forced to react — at least at the same level, which would be very difficult, and it would result in Israeli retaliation,” said former Iranian diplomat Hossein Alizadeh, who thinks Tehran’s “cautious” reaction appears to confirm the assessment that Natanz was targeted by a foreign power.
Speaking on July 7, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei suggested that reports claiming an Israeli role in the destruction at Natanz were part of a “psychological war” against his country.
“The Israeli regime should be aware that creating a norm-breaking narrative on any attack against our nuclear facilities, even if it is only propaganda, is considered as stepping in the path of violating red lines of global peace and security,” Rabiei was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.
That has led to speculation about a possible Israeli or U.S. effort to destabilize Iran’s clerical establishment, which is already under intense pressure due to sanctions, growing public discontent, and a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 12,000 Iranians and infected nearly 250,000, according to official figures that are thought to be a significant underreporting.
Analyst Zimmt, meanwhile, warned of the danger of speculating about connections between such events.
“It is inevitable that some of the incidents are also related to infrastructure problems due to the difficult economic situation or mismanagement,” he said.
When Johnny Cash took the stage at California’s San Quentin State Prison on Feb. 24, 1969, one of the songs he would record there was destined to become one of Cash’s most iconic songs, as well as one of his biggest hits: “A Boy Named Sue.” It held the top spot on the country charts for five straight weeks and it was his biggest hit, climbing to the second slot on the Billboard 100 chart.
“The Man in Black” was a veteran of the United States Air Force, a morse code operator who spent much of his career spying on the Soviet Union. In fact, Cash was the first person in the West to learn that Stalin died in 1953. As a matter of fact, his distinctive facial scar was the result of good ol’ military medicine.
“A Boy Named Sue” is the story of a boy who was abandoned by his dad at a young age — after giving the boy a female name. Sue finds his dad at a bar years later and gets into a pretty nasty brawl with the old man. That’s when his dad reveals he named the boy Sue so as to make Sue tough even when his dad wasn’t around to raise him.
The song about a boy trying to kill his father probably resonated with Cash’s audience that day.
The author of the song was also a veteran. Shel Silverstein, beloved around the world for his poetry, humor, and illustrations, was drafted by the U.S. Army to fight in Korea — but by the time he arrived the war was over. He was assigned to Stars and Stripes in the Pacific, part of the new peacetime Army. And thus a legendary military writer was born to the veteran community.
It was Silverstein who penned Cash’s now-famous song about the boy with a girl’s name, although Cash put his own twist on it. During the original San Quentin recording, Cash added the line, “I’m the son of a bitch that named you Sue!” In Silverstein’s original writing, there were no curse words used. Even so, the “son of a bitch” line was censored out of the album.
HERAT, Afghanistan — Officials in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat are bracing for a rise in coronavirus infections, as thousands of Afghans return from neighboring Iran every day.
The provincial Public Health Department told RFE/RL on March 12 that nearly 10,000 Afghans had entered Herat from Iran the previous day alone.
That’s a twofold increase from March 9, when local officials said about 4,800 Afghans had crossed the border from Iran in one day.
Afghanistan has so far reported only seven cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
But provincial Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said the situation was certain to worsen soon, creating new challenges for the war-torn country. “Increasingly high numbers of people are crossing the border from Iran and we are seriously concerned that [some of them] will bring more coronavirus to Afghanistan,” Rahimi told RFE/RL on March 10.
Tehran reported more than 1,000 new cases on March 12, raising the official number of infections in Iran to more than 10,000. But many Iranians say they distrust the figures released by the authorities and believe the Iranian government is grossly underreporting the extent of the outbreak there.
Iran is home to more than 3 million Afghans — including migrant workers and refugees as well as university and religious students.
Five of Afghanistan’s confirmed COVID-19 patients are from Herat. The other two are from the northern province of Samangan. All of the confirmed cases are Afghans who had recently returned from Iran, local officials say.
Bracing For Worse
Afghanistan has deployed small teams of medics who have been screening Afghans who cross the border from Iran into Herat Province. The medics are checking temperatures of returnees and asking if they’ve had any potential COVID-19 symptoms.
They also are asking returnees whether they’ve been exposed to an infected person, said Abdul Hakim Tamanna, the head of Heart Province’s Public Health Department. Those with high fever or other symptoms are transferred to a special ward at a hospital in the provincial capital.
“We’ve allocated a special ward with 80 beds for COVID-19 patients, both for the suspected and confirmed cases in isolated sections. But this is not enough,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Basem, who oversees the special ward. “The situation is extremely fluid and requires that at least 1,000 beds are ready,” Basem told RFE/RL on March 12.
Similar concerns are being voiced in Samangan Province, where two people tested positive earlier this week. “We’ve been prepared in advance. A hospital ward with 20 beds was prepared for potential COVID-19 patients,” Abdul Khalil Musaddiq, head of Samangan Public Health Department, said on March 10.
But Musaddiq warned that Samangan Province did not have the resources to handle an outbreak beyond the hospital’s capacity.
Health officials in Herat are calling for Afghanistan’s central government to provide equipment for laboratories in provincial regions so that more people can be tested.
Afghanistan, a country of 35 million people, currently has only one laboratory that is able to test for coronavirus. Authorities outside of the Afghan capital must send samples from suspected cases to the laboratory in Kabul for testing.
The Afghan government has allocated million to combat the outbreak. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said another million “is in a state of reserve if the unwanted incidents escalate and get out of control.
Low Public Awareness
Provincial authorities in Herat declared an emergency when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed there on February 24. Schools, restaurants, wedding halls, and public baths have been closed and large gatherings are banned.
Officials from Herat’s provincial government told RFE/RL on March 12 that the public spaces were unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future.
Buses and minibuses that carry a large number of passengers have also been banned as part of Herat’s effort to contain the virus.
Mosques remain open. But RFE/RL’s correspondent in Herat reports that the number of the worshipers has dwindled in recent days.
The war-ravaged country’s poor health-care services, as well as low public awareness about health and hygiene, are adding to difficulties in the battle against coronavirus.
One patient last week briefly escaped from the quarantine ward of Herat hospital, sparking concerns that he could contaminate many more people. Hospital officials said the patient was apprehended and isolated. They said those who came in contact with him have been told to take tests and exercise precautions.
Authorities also have launched an extensive coronavirus-awareness campaign through media in recent weeks.
The Education Ministry, meanwhile, has set up a special working group along with public-health authorities to assess the situation in other high-risk regions and decide whether to suspend schools.
On Feb. 23, 2018, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein announced that he has Bell’s palsy, a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerves. In his speech to airmen at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, he reassured the group that the condition was reversible and he would continue to serve as chief of staff.
“I woke up last Saturday morning with half of my face completely frozen, and it turns out it’s this thing called Bell’s palsy. So here’s the good news: It’s fully recoverable, I’m on the mend, and it only hurts you when I laugh,” he joked.
Goldfein is certainly not the first service member to be diagnosed with the condition — General Curtis LeMay, another Chief of Staff of the Air Force, reportedly had Bell’s palsy. While every military medical waiver is made on a case-by-case basis, service members with Bell’s palsy have a good record of receiving those waivers.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the prognosis for individuals with Bell’s palsy — roughly 40,000 Americans each year — is generally very good. Some cases are mild and subside on their own while others require various treatments, including medication and other therapeutic options.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz issued a general order Tuesday banning Coasties from entering any business that grows, distributes, sells or otherwise deals with marijuana.
Pot may be legal for various uses in 33 states, but it remains an illicit substance under federal law, and the service’s new general order is designed to send a message to Coast Guard men and women that they should steer clear, officials said during a phone call with Military.com.
Recognizing there has been “a shift in the social norms, especially because of the increased proliferation and availability of cannabis-based products,” Schultz issued the new guidance to eliminate ambiguity, explained Cmdr. Matt Rooney, Policy and Standards Division chief at Coast Guard Headquarters.
“As a military organization, we have to be clear and direct to providing [guidance] to our members,” Rooney said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Picture this: You’re sound asleep in bed next to your spouse, when you are startled awake by a yell for help, or hyperventilating or a simple cry out. Your spouse is there shaking, unable to catch their breath. You roll over, rub their back and try to comfort them as best you can. All the while you know deep down, there is nothing you can do to make it better for them.
Tears sting your eyes and you wrap your arms around them and pray you will both be able to find sleep again, and crossing your fingers it’s the only nightmare that rips them from their slumber that night.
This is a reality for many who live with someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Nightmares are just one aspect of what it’s like to live with PTSD. It is a complex disorder which some people develop after they experience or witness a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster or sexual assault. PTSD affects between 11 and 20% of military members who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Finding Freedom in a given year. It affects 12% of Gulf War Veterans in a given year, and 15% of Vietnam Veterans are currently diagnosed with PTSD, while up to 30% have had PTSD in their lifetime.
There are many different symptoms that go along with PTSD. The most common ones are:
Reliving the event (re-experiencing symptoms):
Avoiding situations and/or people that may trigger memories of the traumatic event.
Negative changes in beliefs and/or feelings:
The way you think about yourself and others changes due to the trauma.
You may not be able to have positive or loving feelings towards others and may stay away from relationships.
You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about it.
You may think the world is dangerous and no one can be trusted.
Feeling keyed up (hyperarousal):
Jittery, or always on alert and/or on the lookout for danger
You have a hard time sleeping.
You have trouble concentrating.
You are startled by loud noises or surprises.
You need to have your back to the wall in a restaurant or waiting room.
You suddenly become angry or irritable.
PTSD affects each individual differently. You may experience some or all of the symptoms listed above.
One of the hardest parts of living with PTSD, or living with someone with PTSD for that matter, is the not knowing. You can never know when the nightmares will rear their head, or when one of the other symptoms might be triggered. You do everything you can to avoid situations and other things that might trigger it, but sometimes the PTSD sneaks through. Sometimes there is simply nothing you can do to keep it from creeping into your everyday life and turning it upside down. One might say that it comes and bites you, and you have no control when that will be.
June 27 has been set aside as PTSD Awareness Day. It is one day set up to bring awareness to this disorder and how much it affects the lives of military members, their families, and others who have suffered traumatic experiences. Awareness should be raised and attention paid to this growing issue every day. There are still countless military members suffering in silence out of fear of stigma, judgement, and career effects from their PTSD. Anyone who is living with PTSD should feel that they are able to reach out for help, and know that they will find a hand waiting to pick them up.
There is help and treatment available for PTSD. You are not alone. The military and the VA have treatment options available to you as well as help for your loved ones. Visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information on PTSD and the help that is available to you. You can also visit or call the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) for more support.
If you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD or is in crisis, reach out today and get help, because you are not alone.
The Nigerian Air Force carried out an air strike on Friday that bagged some of the top leaders of Boko Haram. The Nigerian military announced the deaths late Monday on their Twitter feed.
The Nigerian military announced the deaths late Monday on their Twitter feed. The military statement confirmed that Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman were among the dead in the “most unprecedented and spectacular air raid” on the village of Taye in the Sambisa forest. The military’s statement also claimed that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for an attack that resulted in the kidnapping of over 300 schoolgirls from Chibok and for selling them into slavery, was fatally wounded. Shekau’s death has been reported before, only to be disproven by video appearances.
The military’s statement also claimed that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for an attack that resulted in the kidnapping of over 300 schoolgirls from Chibok and for selling them into slavery, was fatally wounded. Shekau’s death has been reported before, only to be disproven by video appearances.
A photo released by the Nigerian military with their statement on the air strike showed pilots in a briefing in front of a Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet of the 75th Strike Group. This multi-role aircraft serves in both the light attack and training roles, and can carry up to 5,500 pounds of bombs and missiles, including the BL755 cluster bomb and the AGM-65 Maverick. It has a top speed of 540 knots, and a range of roughly 380 miles. The plane also serves in the air forces of France, Thailand, Belgium, Cameroon, Togo, Qatar, Portugal, and Morocco. The plane has been retired by Germany and the Ivory Coast.
Nigerian Alpha Jets have been the primary strike weapon against Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden.” Nigeria also has Chengdu J-7 Fishbed interceptors and Areo L-39 Albatross trainers in service, but the former are primarily used for air defense (replacing Russian-build MiG-21 Fishbeds in 2009) and the latter planes have a very limited bomb load (roughly 600 pounds).
Described as “the bravest man you’ve never heard of,” Captain Humbert Roque Versace’s story is one that is not as well known as it should be. So allow us to remedy that by discussing how he spent two years basically being a huge pain in the ass for his captors in a Vietnamese POW camp — so much so that he managed to become the first person in the U.S. Army to earn a Medal of Honor for his conduct as a prisoner of war.
Born in 1937 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Versace was the son of decorated army colonel, Humbert Joseph Versace, and famed author, editor, and pilot Tere Rios, who, among other things, wrote The Fifteenth Pelican, which would inspire popular 1960s TV show The Flying Nun.
The oldest of five children, “Rocky” as he was known was a smart and headstrong child who would later be described by his brother, Steve, as being “infuriatingly opinionated” and “If he knew he was right, he was absolutely atrocious…” — a trait that played a role in his earning a Medal of Honor.
Like his father before him, Versace joined the army, attending West Point Academy in 1959 and graduating with honors. Over the next two years Versace received training as both an Army Ranger and a parachutist, eventually rising to the rank of Captain during a tour in North Korea as a tank platoon leader. In 1962, the newly minted Captain Versace was assigned to serve in a mostly ceremonial role with the distinguished Old Guard at Fort Meyer. Soon enough, however, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam.
Humbert Roque Versace.
Prior to being shipped off to Vietnam, Versace received yet more training, this time to become an Intelligence Officer. As part of his training, he received a crash course in Vietnamese, a language he was fluent in by the time his tour of duty began in May of 1962. This, combined with Versace’s fluency in French, made him an invaluable asset to the Army and incredibly popular with the South Vietnamese forces and civilians of the Mekong Delta.
His fluency in Vietnamese was important to Versace as his dream was to eventually become a Catholic priest and missionary to the people of South Vietnam. Thus, Versace spent much of his free time as a soldier there volunteering at local orphanages, assisting townspeople and securing vital and not-so-vital supplies to make life a little easier for the locals. In regards to the latter, in addition to securing food and building materials, Versace also continually wrote letters to schools in the United States asking for toys and learning materials for the children of the villages he visited.
A year later, with his tour of duty coming to an end, Versace applied to stay in Vietnam for another 6 months despite receiving news that his application to seminary had been accepted. As it would later emerge, Versace had decided that he still wanted to be a priest but his decision to embark on a second tour of duty was born out of an earnest desire to continue helping the orphans he’d become so attached to during his time in the country.
Two weeks before this second tour was set to end, Versace volunteered for a highly dangerous mission to assist South Vietnamese troops take down a North Vietnamese command post located deep in the U Minh Forest.
During the mission Versace and his fellow soldiers were ambushed and overrun by Viet Cong forces. Hopelessly outnumbered, he called for a tactical retreat, along with First Leiutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant First Class Dan Pitzer, covering the exit of South Vietnamese soldiers with sustained rifle fire as a hail of bullets tore overhead. During the ensuing firefight, Versace was hit in the back and legs by bullets and shrapnel as he stood, completely exposed to the hellstorm raging around him firing his weapon into jungle.
Running low on bullets, Versace charged the enemy in an apparent effort to single-handedly beat them all to death with the butt of his rifle. During his charge, he was injured once more, falling to the ground and being quickly set upon and beaten by the enemy forces.
After being physically overpowered, Versace, along with Pitzer and Rowe, were stripped of their weapons and boots, before all three were marched barefoot into the jungle towards a POW camp…. Which is when Versace got mad.
Remembering Captain HR ‘Rocky’ Versace on Memorial Day 2016
For the next two years Versace made life for his captors hell as they tried and failed to do the same to him. Strikingly handsome with a tall, imposing frame and a magnetic personality, Versace became the pseudo-leader of his fellow POWs. Frequently tortured and interrogated, he refused to give them any information and relentlessly badgered his captors about their treatment of his friends and comrades, citing articles from the Geneva Convention and using his time in isolation to think up ever more creative insults.
Tired of his antics, in an effort to keep him away from other POWs, Versace was eventually locked inside of a bamboo cage away from everyone else, which didn’t stop him from boosting the morale of everyone around him by cheerily singing pop songs. When the Viet Cong locked Versace in an isolation cage even further away from the rest of the POWs, he just sang louder. When they began gagging him so that he couldn’t speak or sing, he started leaving messages of support in the toilet.
Not content to just sit around singing, during his imprisonment, Versace escaped four times, each time being captured not long after. In the first instance, he was so severely injured at the time that he couldn’t walk, but instead crawled away from the camp in agonizing pain through marshland. As you might imagine, it didn’t take the Viet Cong very long to locate him once they’d discovered he’d managed to escape.
Each time he was recaptured, Versace was noted as telling his captors that he’d do it again the first change he got, prompting them to redouble their efforts to break him. As you can probably guess by now, these efforts failed miserably.
At first the Viet Cong tried “re-educating” Versace, attempting to brainwash him with political propaganda. Versace reportedly spent much of his time during these sessions loudly arguing with his indoctrinators.
Along with inspiring his fellow POWs, this saw to it that the bulk of his captor’s frustrations and anger were directed towards him, something his fellow POWs were also reportedly very grateful for. As noted by President George Bush some four decades late, “By focusing his captors’ anger on him, he made life a measure more tolerable for his fellow prisoners, who looked to him as a role model of principled resistance.”
Humbert Versace’s memorial plaque outside MacArthur Barracks at West Point.
In addition to inspiring POWs, Versace’s tenacity inspired the people of Vietnam; when the Viet Cong tried to parade a beaten and bloodied Versace through local villages, he’d offer words of encouragement in Vietnamese to those gathered. This was much to the annoyance of the Viet Cong who’d warned against such insubordination by threatening to viciously beat him within an inch of his life if he did so.
Frustrated with their inability to break this man, the Viet Cong eventually made the decision to execute Versace. When he was informed of this, he reportedly responded by singing God Bless America for 5 hours straight the night before his execution was to take place. This song was the last thing any of his fellow prisoners ever heard from Versace.
Following through on their threat, Rocky Versace was executed on Sep. 26, 1965. His body was never recovered, but a headstone was placed above an empty grave in Arlington National Cemetery.
For his conduct as a POW, initially Versace only received a silver star, the Army’s third highest award. This was something his fellow soldiers didn’t feel reflected the full extent of his actions and sacrifice while a POW, resulting in a concerted effort from a “hodgepodge group of soldiers and civilians” aware of the full details of what Versace endured to see him awarded America’s highest military honor.
In 2002, this request was finally fulfilled, with one of Versace’s brothers, Dr. Stephen Versace, accepting the medal from then President George Bush. In his speech, Bush noted:
In his defiance and later his death, he set an example of extraordinary dedication that changed the lives of his fellow soldiers who saw it firsthand. His story echoes across the years, reminding us of liberty’s high price and of the noble passion that caused one good man to pay that price in full.
In addition to being the first American POW to earn a Medal of Honor for his conduct during his time as a prisoner, Versace is an inductee in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as well as a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame.
Said his former fellow prisoner Sergeant Dan Pitzer of the man himself,
Rocky walked his own path… for that guy, duty, honor, country was a way of life. He was the finest example of an officer I have known… Once, Rocky told our captors they might as well kill him then and there if the price of his life was getting more from him than name, rank, and serial number… He got a lot of pressure and torture, but he held his path… He was brutally murdered because of it… I’m satisfied he would have it no other way…. [He] valued that one moment of honor more than he would a lifetime of compromises.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
In Afghanistan’s Farah province, Reza Ghul watched her son’s murder before her eyes, then reportedly picked up arms and helped wax 25 Taliban militants in response to the attack on the local police checkpoint.
Now, we write reportedly because at the moment, the story is sourced only to Khaama Press and Tolo News, which are both local newspapers in Afghanistan. No western sources have picked up on it yet, so a healthy dose of skepticism should apply here.
Still, this is definitely a “whoa if true” story. Seema, Gul’s daughter-in-law, told Tolo News: “We were committed to fight until the last bullet.”
She was supported by her daughter and daughter-in-law during the gun battle which lasted for almost 7 hours that left at least 25 Taliban militants dead and five others injured.
Sediq Sediq, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the armed campaign by women against the Taliban militants is a symbol of a major revolution and public uprising against the group.
“It was around 5 a.m. when my son’s check post came under the attack of Taliban,” Reza Gul told Tolo News. “When the fighting intensified, I couldn’t stop myself and picked up a weapon, went to the check post and began shooting back.”
If other Afghans fight back against the Taliban with just half the apparent ferocity of this family, things may be alright.
The expedition crew aboard the late Paul G. Allen’s research vessel (R/V) Petrel discovered wreckage from USS Wasp (CV 7), which was sunk in 1942.
Wasp, found Jan. 14, 2019, was sunk Sept. 15, 1942, by four Japanese torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-19 while escorting transports carrying the Seventh Marine Regiment to Guadalcanal as reinforcements. Of the 2,162 on board, 176 were killed as a result of the attack. The sunken aircraft carrier was found in the Coral Sea, 4,200 meters (nearly 14,000 feet) below the surface.
“Paul Allen’s passion for U.S. history lives on through these missions. He was dedicated to honoring the brave men who fought for our country,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan Inc. “Paired with the discovery of USS Hornet announced in February, we’re excited to start out the year with these momentous discoveries.”
In 1941, Wasp was assigned to ferry vital army planes to Iceland, supplementing for a lack of British aircraft to cover American landings. The P-40 planes that Wasp carried provided the defensive fighter cover necessary to watch over the American forces. Wasp also aided two very important missions to Malta, a location being hit daily by German and Italian planes. After Wasp’s first mission to Malta, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, fearing that the nation would be “pounded to bits,” asked President Roosevelt to allow Wasp to have “another good sting.” Aside from providing vital enforcements in WWII, Wasp was the first ship to launch U.S. Army planes from a U.S. Navy carrier, paving the way for future collaboration between the armed forces.
Deep sea explorers discover WWII aircraft carrier USS Wasp
“Wasp represented the U.S. Navy at the lowest point after the start of WWII. Her pilots and her aircrew, with their courage and sacrifice, were the ones that held the line against the Japanese when the Japanese had superior fighter aircraft, superior torpedo planes and better torpedoes,” said Rear Adm. (Ret.) Samuel Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. “The first year of the war, it was touch and go. Those who served at that time deserve the gratitude of our nation for holding the Japanese back.”
In its final battle, Wasp was hit in arguably the most effective spread of torpedoes in history by a Japanese submarine I-19, which fired six torpedoes. USS Hornet, USS North Carolina and USS O’Brien were all hit and either crippled or sunk as well.
Although the torpedoes that hit Wasp caused a massive inferno on the ship, men showed reluctance to leave until all remaining crewmates were safe. Only when satisfied that the crew had been evacuated did Capt. Forrest P. Sherman abandon the ship. He later became the youngest Chief of Naval Operations to ever serve in the position. Another survivor, Lt. David McCampbell went on from being Wasp’s signal operator to becoming the number one navy ace pilot flying the hellcat fighter.
USS Wasp burning after receiving three torpedo hits from the Japanese submarine I-19.
(US Navy photo)
“The crew of the WWII Wasp exhibited the bravery, toughness and resolve that our crew today strives to emulate. We are humbled by the sacrifice of those Wasp sailors, especially those who paid for our freedom with their lives,” said Capt. Colby Howard, commanding officer of USS Wasp (LHD 1). “We hope this discovery gives remaining survivors and their families some degree of closure. I would like to sincerely thank the entire R/V Petrel crew, whose commitment and perseverance led to the discovery.”
The crew of R/V Petrel has also found the wreckage of USS Hornet, USS Juneau, USS Ward, USS Lexington, USS Helena and perhaps most famously, the USS Indianapolis over the past few years. PBS aired Jan. 8, 2019, a new documentary titled, “The USS Indianapolis: The Final Chapter,” which highlights the 2017 shipwreck discovery by the crew of the R/V Petrel of what remains the US Navy’s single greatest loss at sea.
Additional past Allen-led expeditions have resulted in the discovery of USS Astoria, the Japanese battleship Musashi and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere. His team was responsible for retrieving the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honor of its heroic service.
The P-8A Poseidon, introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 Orion, has quickly become one of the most highly regarded maritime-patrol aircraft in service, fielded by the Navy and sought after by partner countries all over the world.
But the P-8A is dealing with some lingering issues that could affect the force as a whole, according to the fiscal year 2018 annual report produced by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.
US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon.
(US Navy photo)
The Poseidon’s capabilities now include receiver air refueling, employment of the AGM-84D Harpoon Block I anti-ship missile, and several upgrades to its communications systems.
But, the report said, “despite significant efforts to improve P-8A intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors, overall P-8A ISR mission capabilities remain limited by sensor performance shortfalls.”
Moreover, the report found, data from the operational testing and evaluation of the P-8A’s latest software engineering upgrade as well as metrics from the Navy “show consistently negative trends in fleet-wide aircraft operational availability due to a shortage of spare parts and increased maintenance requirements.”
A Boeing and a Raytheon employee complete installation of an APY-10 radar antenna on P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T2.
Forward-deployed P-8A units have reported “relatively high mission capable rates” when they have access to enough spare parts, sufficient logistic supply support, and priority maintenance.
However, the report said, focusing on supporting forward-deployed units “frequently reduces aircraft availability and increases part cannibalization rates at other fleet operating locations.”
Shortages in spare parts for the Poseidon are exacerbated by the nature of the contracting and delivery system for the P-8A, according to the report.
Naval aircrewman (Operator) 2nd Class Karl Shinn unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)
The use of engineering model predictions rather than reliability data from the fleet itself, “ensures that some mission critical spare part contracts lag actual fleet needs,” lengthening the already long six- to nine-month contracting process.
These delays are exacerbated by consumable-item processes at the Defense Logistics Agency, which requires depleting stocks and back orders before starting to procure new items, according to the report.
“These delays are a major contributing factor to the observed increases in aircraft downtime awaiting parts and higher part cannibalization,” it added, saying that the P-8A program is working with Naval Supply Systems Command to procure parts on a more flexible and proactive basis and to start basing procurement on fleet-reliability data.
Keeping an eye on things
More than 60 P-8As are in service for the US Navy. The plane is based on Boeing’s 737 airliner but built to withstand more stress and outfitted with a suite of electronic gear to allow it to detect and track ships and subs — even just their periscopes — across wide swaths of ocean, as well as to conduct surveillance of ports and coastlines.
“I went up on a training flight, and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early 2018. “It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”
The Navy plans to improve the aircraft’s capability going forward by adding the Advanced Airborne Sensor radar and by integrating the AGM-84 Harpoon Block II+ missile and the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability MK 54 torpedo.
Interest in the P-8A continues to grow.
US Navy aircrew members on a P-8A Poseidon.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)
India has bought 12 of the P-8I variant, and the country’s navy chief has said it’s looking to buy more. Australia is buying eight and has an option for four more.
Other countries in the Asian-Pacific region are looking to buy, too, including South Korea, to which the US State Department approved the sale of six in 2018.
NATO countries are also looking to reinvigorate their airborne anti-submarine-warfare capabilities, including the UK and Norway, which are adjacent to the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a chokepoint for submarines traveling between the Atlantic and the Arctic, where Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear forces are based. The US recently sent P-8As back to the Keflavik airbase in Iceland, though it does not plan to reestablish a permanent presence.
At the end of January 2019, Boeing was awarded a .46 billion modification to an existing contract for the production and delivery of 19 P-8A Poseidons — 10 for the US Navy, four for the UK, and five for Norway.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.