Thundering jets above Colorado Springs the morning of May 9 bid a final farewell to a native son who went missing 48 years ago on a mission to bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
It was a sound that Capt. Roger Helwig loved. Helwig, who was born in Trinidad and raised in Colorado Springs, was a free spirit known for meticulous honesty oddly melded with a wild streak that drove him to seek adventure in the sky.
“He was a tremendous guy,” said retired Maj. Jack Schnurr, a flight school friend, after an Air Force Academy memorial for the captain.
Helwig loved the F-4 Phantom and new bride Carol in what some joking called equal measures when he flew off for his second tour in Vietnam in 1969.
“He didn’t have to be there,” Schnurr said. “He volunteered to go back.”
On his first tour overseas, Helwig flew in the second seat of the F-4, running the plane’s weapons systems and electronics as a GIB, the military acronym for “guy in back.”
After he came home, Helwig got more flight training and headed back to war as the guy in front.
He was a forward air controller, one of the legendary “fast-FACs” who ranged far and wide over Southeast Asia spotting targets for troops on the ground.
During his final flight, Helwig and Capt. Roger Stearns were 10 miles west of Vietnam on a mission to stop the flow of arms and troops that fueled the Viet Cong insurgency. Flights against targets in neutral Laos, though, were something the Air Force avoided discussing in public.
Records say the two had just bombed a target, and the jet was trailing a mist of fuel before it exploded. Searchers later found shredded parachutes and the remains of a life raft, but they didn’t find Helwig or Stearns.
In 1990, a Defense Department team returned to the crash site and found Stearns’ remains. Helwig stayed missing until last summer.
His widow got a visit from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in August. Searchers had found a tiny talisman at the jungle site: Helwig’s dog tag.
“It was surreal when I held that in the palm of my hand,” Carol said May 9. “It was as if I was reliving the past.”
Dozens gathered at the academy May 9 to relive the past with her and tell stories about the 26-year-old pilot.
Lt. Col. Mike Newton, a chaplain, told mourners they need to remember Helwig’s courage.
“I have no idea what it took to fly 100 missions in Vietnam, each one of them harrowing,” Newton said. “But he strapped it on every time.”
Carol remembered the kind but kind of crazy young man she met when he was riding his motorcycle from Arizona to Washington, D.C.
She knew she was competing with a twin-engined jet for Helwig’s affection.
“He loved flying,” she said.
Helwig left no children to mourn him, but a wide array of friends came to the Air Force Academy cemetery to remember.
The academy supplied an honor guard, rifle team, and a bugler to play taps.
The 24 notes of Taps lay heroes to rest. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)
Air Combat Command offered up four F-15 Eagle fighters to blaze overhead in the missing man formation.
Carol supplied her own touch. Bells played a last waltz for the man she loved — the theme song of Doctor Zhivago, the first film they had seen together.
And as the bells played, quiet voices whispered the song’s tale of love long lost but reclaimed.
“Somewhere, my love, there will be songs to sing. Although the snow covers the hope of spring.”
It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.
Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.
The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.
As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.
At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.
“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.
With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.
Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.
By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.
Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”
Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.
The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.
“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”
For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.
Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.
His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.
Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.
Feature image: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.
A commission formed by Congress to assess military and national service is calling for women to be included in selective service registration, Military.com has learned.
The 11-member National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is set to release a final report with 164 recommendations Wednesday, following two-and-a-half years of research and fieldwork on topics including propensity to serve in the military; the civilian-military divide; and the future of the U.S. Selective Service System.
One of the most hotly debated questions considered by the panel is whether women should be required to register for the draft for the first time in U.S. history.
A source with knowledge of the report confirmed that the commission had recommended that women should be made eligible for selective service. Politico first reported Tuesday on the commission’s findings.
Other recommendations include keeping the U.S. Selective Service System and keeping the registration requirement, which currently applies to American males within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
The panel was created as a result of debate over whether women should be made to register for the draft. In 2016, the same year all military ground combat and special operations jobs were opened to women for the first time, two Republicans in Congress, both veterans, introduced the “Draft America’s Daughters Act of 2016.” The move was intended to provoke discussion; both lawmakers planned to vote against their own bill.
But the provision ultimately became law as part of the 2017 defense policy package. From that initiative, the commission was formed to further study the issue.
During 2019 hearings on the question, Katey van Dam, a Marine Corps veteran who flew attack helicopters, argued eloquently in support of including women in selective service registration.
“Today, women sit in C-suites and are able to hold any military job for which they are qualified,” she said. “As society expects opportunity parity for women, it is time to also expect equal civic responsibility. In the event of a major war that requires national mobilization, women should serve their country to the same extent as male citizens.”
In an interview with Military.com earlier this month, Joe Heck, the chairman of the commission and a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve, said the issue of including women in draft registration had inspired passionate debate among the commissioners.
“The recommendations made represent the consensus of the commission,” he said. “We believe that the commission’s recommendations specifically in regard to [the U.S. Selective Service System] will best place the nation as able to respond to any existential national security threat that may arise.”
Heck also said the commission planned to chart a “cradle-to-grave pathway to service” for Americans.
In addition to the report, the commission will release accompanying draft legislation Wednesday to assist Congress in turning its proposals into law. A future hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is also planned to discuss the commission’s findings.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.
The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.
Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”
The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.
Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.
“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.
“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”
“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”
The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.
That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.
Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.
But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.
“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”
The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.
Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.
“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.
Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.
“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.
Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.
Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.
But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.
The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.
In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.
“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.
“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”
President Donald Trump is sending astronauts back to the Moon.
The president December 11 signed at the White House Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.
The policy calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.
“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” said President Trump. “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”
The policy grew from a unanimous recommendation by the new National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, after its first meeting Oct. 5. In addition to the direction to plan for human return to the Moon, the policy also ends NASA’s existing effort to send humans to an asteroid. The president revived the National Space Council in July to advise and help implement his space policy with exploration as a national priority.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts,” said Vice President Pence. “As the President has said, space is the ‘next great American frontier’ – and it is our duty – and our destiny – to settle that frontier with American leadership, courage, and values. The signing of this new directive is yet another promise kept by President Trump.”
Among other dignitaries on hand for the signing, were NASA astronauts Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson and Christina Koch. Schmitt landed on the moon 45 years to the minute that the policy directive was signed as part of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission, and is the most recent living person to have set foot on our lunar neighbor. Aldrin was the second person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Whitson spoke to the president from space in April aboard the International Space Station and while flying back home after breaking the record for most time in space by a U.S. astronaut in September. Koch is a member of NASA’s astronaut class of 2013.
Work toward the new directive will be reflected in NASA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request next year.
“NASA looks forward to supporting the president’s directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way. We will engage the best and brightest across government and private industry and our partners across the world to reach new milestones in human achievement. Our workforce is committed to this effort, and even now we are developing a flexible deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex missions that strengthens American leadership in the boundless frontier of space. The next generation will dream even bigger and reach higher as we launch challenging new missions, and make new discoveries and technological breakthroughs on this dynamic path.”
A piece of Moon rock was brought to the White House as a reminder of the exploration history and American successes at the Moon on which the new policy will build. Lunar Sample 70215 was retrieved from the Moon’s surface and returned by Schmitt’s Apollo 17 crew. Apollo 17 was the last Apollo mission to land astronauts on the Moon and returned with the greatest amount of rock and soil samples for investigation.
The sample is a basaltic lava rock similar to lava found in Hawaii. It crystallized 3.84 billion years ago when lava flowed from the Camelot Crater. Sliced off a parent rock that originally weighed 8,110 grams, the sample weighs 14 grams, and is very fine grained, dense and tough. During the six Apollo surface excursions from 1969 to 1972, astronauts collected 2,196 rock and soil samples weighting 842 pounds. Scientific studies help us learn about the geologic history of the Moon, as well as Earth. They help us understand the mineral and chemical resources available to support future lunar exploration.
Meanwhile, China’s neighbors have grown increasingly worried and timid as it cements a land grab in a shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in annual trade and has billions in resources, like oil, waiting to be exploited.
Six countries lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, and the US isn’t one of them. But the US doesn’t need a dog in this fight to stand up for freedom of navigation and international law.
Here’s how the US counters China in the region.
For the US, checking Beijing in the Pacific often means sailing carrier strike groups through the region — something the Navy has done for decades, whether China protests or not.
As Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, said recently at a military conference: “We’re going to fly, sail, operate wherever international law allows.”
The strike group has plenty of aircraft along with them, like this A F/A-18E Super Hornet and a nuclear-capable B-1B Lancer from Guam.
Unlike submarines and ICBMs buried under land or sea, the US’s strategic, nuclear-capable bombers make up the most visible leg of the nuclear triad. Placing a handful of B-1Bs in Guam sends a message to the region.
Here’s the US’s entire strategic bomber force lined up in Guam, representing more than 60 years bomber dominance.
It also doesn’t hurt when the US Navy shows off its complete mastery of carrier-based aircraft. There are F-18 pilots in the Navy that likely have more carrier landings than the entire Chinese navy combined.
Those jets benefit from the support of about 7,000 sailors on the ship, who keep them running around the clock.
Airborne early warning and control planes like the E-2 Hawkeye use massive radars to act as the eyes and ears of the fleet. Not much gets past them.
But carriers don’t sail alone either. Here a guided missile destroyer knocks through some rough seas accompanying the Vinson.
The US Navy may be the most professional in the world, with a very serious mission in the South China Sea, but they still make time for a swim on one of the US’s newest combat ships, the USS Coronado.
The Coronado doesn’t look like an aircraft carrier, but it does have serious airpower in the form of a MH-60S Seahawk with twin .50 caliber door guns.
But the key to the US’s success in far away waters is allies. The US doesn’t do anything alone, if you’re noticing a pattern here. Here US and Royal Brunei Navy sailors practice boarding a ship.
In February, US Marines partnered up with Japanese self-defense forces to practice amphibious landings — a skill that may one day come in handy on artificial islands.
Sometimes working with allies means getting down and dirty. Here a Seabee gets neck deep in Japan.
The bottom line is that the US military has decades of experience sailing, training, and fighting with its allies in the Pacific. China has come a long way in shifting the balance of power in the region, but the US remains on top — for now.
Grunts everywhere are always searching for new ways to make their lives easier and more convenient. From buying lighter body armor to buying an original Magpul, we always want to improve our effectiveness on the battlefield. There are certain adopted rituals, however, that are actually more inconvenient than they are improvements. One such ritual is wrapping a single piece of duct tape around the pin of an M67 frag grenade.
This ritual stems from a fear that the pin might get snagged on a tree branch and get accidentally pulled, initiating the fuse countdown. Anyone who has pulled the pin on a grenade can tell you, though, it’s not that simple. Any Marines will tell you that the process is actually, “twist pull pin” because if you try to just pull it straight out, it ain’t happening.
Here’s why it’s a bad idea to tape your grenades:
The training grenades have all those safeties for a good reason…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)
The pin is not the only safety
Hollywood would have you believe that all you have to do to use a grenade is pull that pin, but it’s not so simple. There’re three safeties on the M67: the thumb clip, the pin, and the safety lever (a.k.a. the “spoon”). The entire purpose of the thumb clip is to ensure the fuse isn’t triggered if the pin is pulled first.
We all know that one guy who pulled the pin before sweeping the safety clip and threw it into a room, waiting hopelessly for the grenade to go off… How embarrassing.
When you think about it, you’re going through an unnecessary amount of effort for just a four second delayed explosion.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin)
You don’t have time
According to the Marine Corps Squad Weapons Student Handout for the Basic School, the average individual can throw a frag 30 to 40 meters. Why is this important? It means that if you’re using that glorious ‘Merica ball, it means you’re in close-quarters.
Do you have time to rip that tape off during a close encounter? No, you don’t.
It’s not easy enough for you to pull it out with your teeth. Just take our word on that.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chelsea Baker)
The pin is already difficult enough to pull
The pin is in there just tightly enough so that you can rip it out quickly with the right amount of force, but it’s not so easy that it slips out when snagged on an inanimate object.
Notice how the pins are safely tucked inside.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)
Experts say you shouldn’t
In an Army.mil article, Larry Baker, then-FORSCOM explosives safety and range manager, is quoted as saying.
“…to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence in the history of the M67 hand grenade to suggest that it requires taping and there is no evidence that a Soldier needs to tape it because of inherent safety issues.”
Larry Baker, a Vietnam veteran, had nearly thirty years of experience at the time the article was written. He goes on to state that grenade pouches exist for the purpose of safely transporting grenades to your objective.
That visit to North Korea was Pompeo’s second in a month, which in itself represents a drastic step up in the level of official contact between the North Korean and US governments.
Kim has repeatedly proposed talks with world leaders about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which was a US precondition for talks. Kim has asked for few concessions in return for his promise to denuclearize.
Trump’s administration has laid out a number of ambitious goals for the negotiations, which include permanent, irreversible, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea before sanctions are lifted.
Singapore had not been widely suggested in advance as a likely location for the summit.
But a number of factors make it a logical choice: It has diplomatic relations with both countries, hosts a North Korean embassy, has a good position in Southeast Asia, and can play the part of a neutral third party.
Other candidates had been Mongolia, also a neutral country, and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
On May 12, airmen at Travis Air Force Base, like the rest of the USAF, participated in a series of “Wingman Day” exercises. Wingman Day is a long-running annual event where the Air Force attempts to remind airmen that the Air Force cares about its people. It’s also a day to remind airmen to take care of each other. The day is usually filled with team building events, training, and exercises designed to improve the mental, spiritual, social, and physical well-being of those in the U.S. Air Force. One such exercise at Travis this year was a full-scale version of the popular children’s game Hungry Hungry Hippos.
The photo caption indicates this game is designed to train airmen to help fellow airmen in distress, using the PRESS (Prepare, Recognize, Engage, Send, and Sustain) model. While we aren’t entirely sure how this game helps impress that model on airmen, we’re willing to give the planners of Travis’ Wingman Day the benefit of the doubt. We’re not experts.
Before everyone goes nuts with making fun of the Air Force, we at Team Mighty recognize that this game was probably not the airmen’s idea. And who is going to say “no” to the question of “Who wants to play a life-size game of Hungry Hungry Hippos?”
Also, this is not the first government agency to play a life-size game. The Department of Veterans Affairs (infamously) did it first. The game they played? Hungry Hungry Hippos.
Admit it: The Air Force did it better. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with goofy fun office games, even at work, even in the military. This isn’t even the most humiliating thing Air Force Public Affairs allowed to go on the internet. Remember that time Team Charleston posted photos of Joint Base Charleston airmen making things out of construction paper on Facebook, then immediately had to take it down because of the public backlash? They sure hope you don’t.
Have fun, Air Force, just don’t post it on DVIDS. Saying it’s supposed to help airmen recognize others in distress may fly to get the commander’s approval but the media isn’t going to understand, especially when no one else is posting these things. Context is important – and all we see is airmen wearing helmets and carrying laundry baskets to catch plastic balls.
In all honesty, who isn’t wondering if they have the required space and/or equipment to do this at work?
If you have any video of these games, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year the news was full of headlines about veterans and their service dogs being turned away from public places such as restaurants, airports, and, in the case of an Ohio substitute teacher, work. It’s a complicated problem; businesses don’t want to turn people away, but without knowing the difference between a service dog and a pet, their hands are tied when other customers complain.
Why would someone complain about a service dog? Unfortunately, there’s been a good deal of abuse of national service dog laws lately. Anyone can buy a red or yellow vest online, claim their pet is a support animal, and take it places pets aren’t typically allowed. If the animal isn’t well behaved, it gives actual service dogs a bad rep. Also, keep in mind some people are allergic to dogs or afraid of them, and some people just don’t like dogs.
For these folks, seeing a dog in a restaurant or sitting next to them (or their children) in an airport can provoke a strong reaction that leads to confrontation. It’s frustrating and embarrassing for the veteran, confusing for business owners, and upsetting for the community.
Veterans who have a service dog say their companion has allowed them to return to “normal” life. Service dogs can help veterans cope with depression, anxiety, and PTSD by recognizing signs of panic attacks, awakening handlers from nightmares, and signaling them to engage in coping mechanisms that break cycles of anger and paranoia. Service dogs can even be taught to block strangers from approaching their handlers with a passive maneuver. Of course, service dogs can also help disabled veterans who have mobility issues.
This is one problem that is potentially easy to solve. Veterans need their service dogs, and businesses and the community at large want to support veterans in whatever way they can. Service dogs are unobtrusive in public; they do not approach people who aren’t their handlers and, trained correctly, they will quietly do their jobs without causing any disruption in public settings.
Most people are surprised to learn there are national laws regarding where service dogs can and can’t go, but no national standard for what qualifies as a service dog. Ending the confusion about what is a service dog and what is a pet is as simple as creating one national standard.
A variety of “service dog” bills have been presented in the House and Senate, but The American Humane and the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO) are the first to create a national credentialing standard for service dogs. This measure would allow veterans to keep their service dogs with them in public places without fear of confrontation. This week they are asking everyone to support this standard by signing a Change.org petition that will go to the House and Senate Committees for Veterans’ Affairs.
If you’d like to help veterans keep their service dogs with them without fear of confrontation, sign the petition, and let lawmakers know you support this common sense solution. The petition can be signed and shared right here.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks’ ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August 2019.
They’ll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They’ll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It’s the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
Sgt. Dalyss Reed, a rifleman with Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, maneuvers through a breach hole while conducting an urban platoon assault.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
With tensions heating up with Iran, China and Russia, it’s likely Marines could face a far more sophisticated enemy than the insurgent groups they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just this week, Iran shot down a massive U.S. Navy drone capable of flying at high altitudes that collects loads of surveillance data. President Donald Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes just minutes before the operations were slated to kick off.
Less than two weeks prior, a Russian destroyer nearly collided with a U.S. Navy warship in the Philippine Sea. These are just some of the examples of close calls that could have left Marines and other U.S. troops facing off against near-peer militaries equipped with high-tech equipment in highly populated areas.
At the same time, the Marine Corps’ Operating Concept, a document published in 2016, found the service isn’t manned, trained or equipped to fight in urban centers, Maj. Edward Leslie, lead planner for Dense Urban Operations at the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.
“The enemy has changed,” Leslie said. “… They obviously have more access to drones. I think the enemy’s sensing capabilities have increased, they have the ability to see in the night just as well as we can, and they have capabilities that can exploit our technology or disrupt our technology.”
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)
The Marine Corps isn’t alone in grappling with these new challenges. The Army is spending half a billion dollars to train soldiers to fight underground, and has begun sending small-units to its massive training center in California where leaders are challenged with more complex warfighting scenarios.
The Army also found that young sergeants in most infantry and close combat units don’t know how to maneuver their squads or do basic land navigation, Military.com reported this spring.
Those are skills Marines must continue to hone, Leslie said, since so many advantages they’re used to having on the battlefield are leveling off. It’s not just room-clearing Marines need to be good at, he said, but overall urban operations — things like figuring out ways to penetrate a building without destroying it since it’s right next to a school or hospital.
“I think that’s the value we’re going to get [with Project Metropolis],” he said.
A next-gen fight
The training center Marines and British Royal Marines will use this summer is a sprawling 1,000-acre site that houses dozens of buildings, some with up to seven stories and basements. The complex also has more than a mile’s worth of underground tunnels and active farmland.
The urban center has been used not just to train troops, but to help government leaders prepare for pandemic responses or natural disasters as well.
Kilo Company will complete four phases during the month they spend there, Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, who recently served as the Warfighting Lab’s commanding general, told reporters May 2019. It will culminate with a five-day force-on-force simulated battle in which the Kilo Company Marines, equipped with new high-tech gear, face off against a like-minded enemy force with its own sophisticated equipment.
The concept was introduced by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last summer to help Marines better prepare to fight a near-peer enemy. The British Royal Marines participating in the exercise will either join Kilo Company’s efforts against the aggressor, or act as another force operating in the same region, Leslie said.
Project Metropolis will build on years of experimentation the Marine Corps has conducted as part of its Sea Dragon 2025 concept. Leslie said the grunts picking up the next leg of experimentation in Indiana will be further challenged to use some of the new technology Marines have been testing in a more complex urban setting, similar to what they’re likely to face in a future warzone.
Marines have been experimenting with different infantry squad sizes to incorporate drone operators. Now, Leslie said, they’ll look at how to organize teams operating a new tactical self-driving vehicle called the Expeditionary Monitor Autonomous Vehicle, which will carry a .50-caliber machine gun.
“That’s going to be a major thing,” he said. “We’re looking to see, what’s the table of organization look like to work with that, and is it any different if it’s an urban vehicle?”
Marines practice Military Operations on Urban Terrain at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Nov. 23, 2012. The Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Timothy R. Childers)
Rifle squads will continue experimenting with unmanned aerial systems, Leslie added, to spot enemy positions without sending someone into a danger zone. They’ll use ground robots that have the ability to map the insides of buildings, and will test Marines’ decision-making when they’re overwhelmed with information.
“Really want we want to see is how the tech integrates and also how it operates in a dense urban environment,” he said.
Kilo Company will also work with nonlethal systems, Wortman said, which they can turn to if they’re in an area where there could be civilian casualties. They’ll have access to kamikaze drones and “more sophisticated tools for delivering lethal fires,” he added.
It’s vital that they see that Marines are able to put these new tools to use quickly and easily, Wortman said, as they don’t want them to be fumbling with new systems in the middle of combat situations.
Building on the past
Marines aren’t new to urban fights.
Leathernecks saw some of the bloodiest urban battles since Vietnam’s Battle of Hue City in Fallujah, Iraq. About 12,000 U.S. troops fought in the second leg of the 2004 battle to turn that city back over to the Iraqi government. In the fierce battle, which involved going house-to-house in search of insurgents, 82 U.S. troops were killed and about another 600 hurt.
The Marines learned during those battles, Leslie said. But a lot has changed in the last 15 years, he added. With adversaries having access to cheap surveillance drones, night vision and other technology, military leaders making life-and-death decisions on the battlefield must adjust.
The goal, Wortman said, is to keep Marines armed with and proficient in to keep their edge on the battlefield.
Every city has a different character, too, Leslie added, so what Marines saw in Fallujah is not going to be the same as what they can expect in a new fight.
There has also been a great deal of turnover in the Marine Corps since combat operations slowed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Leslie said. Today’s generation of Marines is also incredibly tech-savvy, Wortman said, and they’re likely to find ways to use some of the new gear they’re handing to them during this experiment and come up with innovative new ways to employ it.
“We have the expectation that these sailors and Marines are going to teach us about the possibilities with this technology because they’ll apply it in creative … ways the tech developers didn’t fully anticipate.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Photo By Cpl. Christopher Madero | Staff Sgt. Billy C. Dixson, a recovery crew leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, talks about his actions that got him an award atMCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 13, 2020. Dixson, with complete disregard for his own safety, saved a drowning woman from a rip current off the coast of Okinawa. Dixson was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his actions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher A. Madero).
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan- Okinawa is well known for its beautiful beaches. The last thing anyone wants to visualize while admiring the ocean’s natural wonders is getting caught in the natural conditions of tides and overwhelming currents.
Staff Sgt. Billy C. Dixson, a recovery crew leader with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, was enjoying his time in Mermaid’s Grotto, a popular diving location, on Oct. 4, when he noticed a woman frantically signaling him for help. The woman herself was not in danger, but her friend, Ms. Miyagi, a member of the local Okinawa community, was losing a battle with a rip current. Ms. Miyagi soon found herself disappearing from the surface.
According to Dixson, he knew the time he spent wondering what to do could be used helping someone in need. With complete disregard for his own safety, Dixson swam toward the location Ms. Miyagi’s friend was pointing toward. He then rushed over as fast as he could. He didn’t see anybody. It wasn’t until he swam to her last location; he dove three meters and spotted Ms. Miyagi struggling to resurface. He swam with the rip current to reach her. When he reached her, he managed to resurface and drag Ms. Miyagi to shore. It was a quick extraction, taking only a few minutes to release Ms. Miyagi from the ocean’s strong grip.
Dixson credits his ability to perform the way he did to his physical fitness and Marine mindset.
“As Marines, this is something that is ingrained into us. We stay vigilant and we’re always looking to assist,” said Dixson. “I’m no different from any other Marine. I’m sure if you put any other Marine in that position, they would have reacted to the best of their abilities just as I did.”
According to Dixson, he did not seek appreciation or notoriety for his heroic actions. He did not let his chain of command know what had happened. In his eyes, his actions were not extraordinary. It wasn’t until Ms. Miyagi, the woman Dixson saved, left a letter of gratitude at the gate of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, that his chain of command was notified of what had happened. According to Col. Henry Dolberry Jr., commanding officer of MCAS Futenma, the humility shown by Dixson struck a chord with the command – it communicated to them the caliber of Marine Dixson is.
“Being able to take your qualities, your physical and mental attributes, to help others is very rewarding,” said Dolberry. “In an ocean that has claimed many lives over the years; [Dixson] went out there and did that! Good swimmers go out there and never come back. [Dixson] went out there and performed above expectations by saving a life, so I’m very proud.”
Dixson received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his selfless act of bravery on Nov. 13 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The award was presented to him by Dolberry
“We use the term “Japanese local”, but I would like to say they’re more family. Last time I checked we are members of the Ginowan family, right?” said Dolberry amongst a group of Marines. “Just like your brother or sister needing some assistance, you’re going out there to put your life in danger to save theirs.”
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.
One of the most important skills a Marine can possess is to be lethal with their primary weapon. ‘Every Marine is a rifleman’ is a motto that personnel other than grunts use against infantrymen in arguments. It’s not just about bragging rights, we’re playing for keeps. A high rifle score is essential for a promotion. Earning a perfect rifle score is not just achievable but repeatable. Here’s how.
For the uninitiated, Marines have an annual rifle range requirement. There are two events, Table One and Table Two. They will go to the rifle range and sleep there; it is usually mandatory to stay but if not, Marines have the option to drive home or barracks room. The first week is Grass Week where Marines practice maintaining firing positions and aim at a firing barrel. Coaches may schedule this on an open field near the barracks. The second week they will go to the live fire range and qualify for their rifle badges.
Only Table One is for bragging rights. However, for promotions the total is used.
On Table One the maximum score is 250 and Table Two it is 50. The scores are combined and the total is used toward their cutting-score, a cumulative number required for a promotion to the next rank. For the sake of brevity, we will focus on Table One.
Most Marines do not know that there are waivers for those ranked Expert two or more years in a row. If you hate going to the range for two weeks and eating box chow in a pit, earning the Expert Badge has benefits. Your unit may issue an order to send Marines to the range en masse, this may be the time you want to mention it.
Chapter 2, 2002. section g. Marines who qualify Expert for two consecutive years are eligible for a 1-year exemption from firing. No expert scores prior to 1 Oct 05 will be counted towards meeting the two consecutive expert criteria. This exemption is not automatic and must be granted by commanding officers at the company level or higher based on demonstrated proficiency, training, deployment schedules, and other factors deemed applicable. Marines granted this exemption will be required to fire during the next fiscal year and every other year thereafter while the Marine maintains an expert score and is granted an exemption by their Commander. Marines who qualify less than expert will be required to fire expert two consecutive years in order to be eligible for the exemption again.
I hope you kept your name clean because this is one of those times when a good reputation pays off.
1. Take Grass Week seriously
Whether you are personnel other than grunt or a seasoned veteran of the middle east, take Grass Week seriously. To be complacent here is going to set up a weak foundation for the next week. Take a slice of humble pie and really work on your bone support and fundamentals of marksmanship. Ask your coaches to help you with your form. The both of you are literally there all day, all week, so you might as well give them something to do and earn their pay. Make them be your personal coach because everyone else is goofing off. Your rifle score will thank you.
2. Slow and steady squeeze of the trigger timed with your breathing
Pulling the trigger should be almost a surprise. Control your breathing, squeeze the trigger on the exhale and time the shot when your body is completely at rest.
3. Review the range book for any changes from last year
Again, complacency can kill your rifle score. Some people do not even open the log until test day and are lost in the sauce on where to write things. The worst time to familiarize yourself with the paperwork of the rifle range is when you are at the rifle range. Take literally two minutes and know where everything is in there, so you do not have to scrabble when every second counts later.
4. Mark every shot in the range book
I don’t know why some people are averse to writing things in the rifle book. Maybe it’s pride or hubris. Regardless, mark your shots. At some point during the range, a Marine will have the misfortune of a shot called a miss when they know they hit. That Marine can contest the call and have the pit investigate in detail for the shot. Sometimes a thing called a keyhole will happen which is when a shot hits the edge of another hole. It’s hard to notice the first time around but those guys in the pit have been looking at that target all day. If it happened, they will find it.
The burden of proof is on you first, if you didn’t mark your shots you can’t prove it was their mistake and not yours. Who would you believe? A Marine with attention to detail or one who can’t be bothered to mark a dot on a piece of paper?
5. Do not give pit love
Pit love is when someone pulling targets falsifies a shot for the benefit of the shooter. Bro, c’mon. We’re not in elementary school where you help your best friend cheat on the test. The Marines running the range are aware of cheating and every method that has been used. You will be with people you do not know from other units and they will not give you pit love. They will believe they shot on merit and that you suck. The only way to prove otherwise is to admit you cheated. Don’t do it.
6. For a higher rifle score, do not shoot the target as soon as it comes back up
The Marines pulling the targets may not be paying attention immediately as the target goes up. They are surrounded by the sounds of hundreds of bullets impacting around them. If you fire as soon as it comes up because you’re in a rush they may not see it in time. As a result, you will have a target that does not come down and labelled a miss. This is when your marked shots in your range book will come in handy to challenge the call and have them look for it again.
Or you could’ve avoided it by taking a breath, concentrating on your fundamentals of marksmanship and fired your well-aimed shot.
7. Use that coach as much as possible
They will tell you if your breathing is off, if you’re jerking the trigger, whether your footing or shoulders are off or if your sling is too loose. Be as annoying as possible because you’re a war-fighting professional and you deserve your dedication to pay off. When coaches see someone taking the rifle range seriously, they will huddle around that person and give more instruction. When you start shooting high, everyone wants to know who is the badasses climbing their way to expert or even a perfect score.