“The relationship between a military working dog and a military dog handler is about as close as a man and dog can become. You see this loyalty, a devotion unlike any other, and the protectiveness.” – Robert Crais
The United States military has utilized working dogs since the Revolutionary war. They were originally used as pack animals, carrying as much as forty pounds of supplies between units, including food, guns and ammo. Then during World War I, they were used for more innovative purposes, like killing rats in the trenches. However, it was during World War II that there was a surge in the use of military working dogs. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 working dogs throughout WWII. These specially trained dogs were used as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,300 military working dogs deployed worldwide today.
The military working dogs of today are utilized in many different missions and specialties. After intensive training, each dog is then assigned to a specific specialty based on their strengths and abilities. Once the military working dogs are assigned their specialty, they are shipped out to military installations worldwide.
A few of the possible specialties these dogs can be selected for are:
Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers with a growl, bark, or other alert when danger or strangers are nearby. These dogs are valuable assets, especially for working in the dark when attacks from the rear or from cover are the most likely. Sentry dogs are often used on patrols, as well as guarding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations.
Scout and patrol dogs are trained with the same skills that sentry dogs are. However, in addition, these dogs are trained to work in silence. Their job is to aid in the detection of ambushes, snipers, and other enemy forces. These particular dogs are somewhat elite among the military working dogs, because only dogs with both superior intelligence and a quiet disposition can be selected for this specialty. Scout and patrol dogs are generally sent out with their handlers to walk point during combat patrols, well ahead of the Infantry patrol.
Casualty dogs are trained in much the same way search and rescue dogs are. They are utilized to search for and report casualties in obscure areas, and casualties who are difficult for parties to locate. The time these dogs save in finding severely injured persons can often mean the difference between life and death.
With the current war on terrorism, explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or in a roadside location is a common threat. Explosive detection dogs are trained to alert their handlers to the scent of the chemicals that are commonly used in explosives. These dogs have such a superior sense of smell that it is nearly impossible to package explosives in a way that they cannot detect.
No matter what their specialty or their mission, the reality is these highly trained K9s are an invaluable part of today’s military. There has yet to be a technology created that can match the ability and heart that military working dogs sustain every day. These dogs are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, and it is only in recent years that there has been a movement to make sure they are given the appreciation and benefits they deserve. There is constant research going into the best ways to protect them in combat. And along with a push to make K9 Veterans Day an official holiday, there is also a movement to make sure these four-legged heroes are taken care of when their time in service comes to an end.
On this day 19 years ago, America woke up to unimaginable news. Nineteen members of al Qaeda had hijacked four fuel-loaded U.S. commercial airplanes. One crashed into the Pentagon. Two more hit the World Trade Center. The final plane was destined for the White House, but thanks to the heroic efforts of the passengers and crew, it never made it. That day, a total of 2,977 lives were lost; killed in New York City, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
September 11, 2001, showed us the very worst of humanity, but it also showed the very best. Nineteen men set forth to destroy our country, while thousands more stepped forward to heal it. We were reminded of what Americans are capable of; incredible kindness, selflessness and unity. The 11 figures below are just a few of the remarkable individuals who put their lives on the line that day, and gave us exactly what we needed: Hope.
Father Mychal Judge
While thousands lost their lives on that dark day, the first recorded casualty was Father Mychal Judge. The Roman Catholic priest and NYFD chaplain chose to walk into the burning World Trade Center to bring comfort to wounded firefighters and others injured in the attack, listening to their final confessions and blessing them in their last moments. He gave his life just to bring others peace.
Flight 93 passengers Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick
What would you do if your flight was hijacked? We’d all like to think we’d be as brave as these four men who fought their hijacker and helped prevent an even greater tragedy. When Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick boarded United Airlines Flight 93 that morning, they had no idea what was about to happen. In a stroke of “luck,” the flight was delayed slightly. Because of this, when the hijackers took over the plane at 9:30, the other attacks had already taken place. When the four passengers called their loved ones, they learned of the hijacker’s intentions for the plane — to crash directly into the White House.
To prevent this from happening, they worked with members of the plane’s crew to fight back against the terrorists. When the hijackers realized the passengers might successfully breach the cockpit, they opted to crash the plane into a field in Pennsylvania, killing all on board. The efforts of Beamer, Bingham, Burnet and Glick saved hundreds of lives that would have been lost had the plane reached its intended target.Before the plane went down, Burnett spoke to his wife on the phone, saying calmly, “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.”
Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney
One thing all these stories have in common is quick thinking and calm resolve. Two flight attendants on American Airlines Flight 11 could easily have panicked when the plane was hijacked. A passenger had already been stabbed, some crew members were murdered, and the air was filled with something similar to mace, but they calmly notified their colleagues on the ground of the scene unfolding.
Those on the receiving end were astounded by their unwavering professionalism, listening carefully as they provided details about the hijackers throughout the flight. The information they shared helped the FBI uncover their full identities.
Wells Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader, was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower when it was struck by Flight 175. He called his mother and left her a voicemail, calmly telling her, “Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I’m ok.”
He had no obligation to help anyone escape other than himself, but the former volunteer firefighter chose to anyway. He helped over a dozen people get out before running back into the building alongside firefighters to save even more. He carried one injured woman out on his back, directing disoriented and terrified office workers to the ground floor. Survivor Ling Young told CNN, “He’s definitely my guardian angel — no ifs, ands or buts — because without him, we would be sitting there, waiting [until] the building came down.”
His body was recovered in a stairwell, his hands still holding a “jaws of life” rescue tool. He is remembered as “the man in the red bandana,” a commanding, brave figure who worked to save all he could.
Stanley Praimnath was trapped on the 81st floor of the South Tower when the second plane, Flight 175, struck. He was close enough to see the plane approaching, yet he survived the impact. Terrifyingly, he still had no way to escape the teetering tower. Luckily, Brain Clark heard his calls for help and talked him through a challenging escape route. As it turns out, by stopping to help Stanley, Brian also saved himself. Before he heard Stanley’s cries, he was headed to the upper floors to wait for help. The building collapsed within the hour. Those who had continued up the tower never made it out.
Michael Benfante and John Cerqueira
Two colleagues, Michael Benfante and John Cerqueira, were in the North Tower when the planes hit. Most people would be desperate to get out, but when the two men ran into a woman in a wheelchair on the 68th floor, they didn’t hesitate to stop. Together, they strapped Tina Hansen to a lightweight emergency chair and carried her down endless flights of treacherous stairs. Thanks to their selflessness and determination, all three of them survived.
Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz
Construction manager Frank De Martini and construction instructor Pablo Ortiz were both in the North Tower when it was hit. Instead of scrambling to safety, they took it upon themselves to rescue as many people as they possibly could. Many were trapped on the tower’s 88th and 89th floors, so the two men went into action. They opened jammed elevator doors, cleared debris, and directed people to safe escape routes. The North Tower collapsed while they were still inside. Before it did, however, they saved over 50 others.
Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes
Although members of the military eventually retire, their dedication to their country does not. Former Marine sergeants Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes had both been out of the military for some time. Yet, when they heard about the attack on the World Trade Center, they put their uniforms back on. Karnes was all the way in Connecticut when he sped off to New York at 120 mph to help.
He ran into Thomas at the site of the collapsed towers and together they began searching through the rubble. They identified two New York Port Authority police officers, William Jimeno and John McLoughlin, trapped 20 feet below the surface. Both men were seriously injured, but after a total of 11 hours they were both successfully rescued. Karnes later reenlisted, serving two tours of duty in Iraq.
Cyril Richard Rescorla was born in Britain, but his dedication to the United States is unmatched. A Vietnam Vet with a Silver Star, police officer, and private security specialist, Rescorla had frequently warned the Port Authority that the World Trade Center was vulnerable. At the time of the attack, Rescorla was working as head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley in the South Tower, and when his fears were realized he dove in to help.
When the first plane hit the tower across from his, Rescorla was directed to keep his employees at their desks, but he ignored this order. Instead, he issued an evacuation order, walking employees through the emergency procedures he had made them rehearse time and time again. He had evacuated over 2,700 employees and visitors in just 16 minutes when the second plane struck the building they had just escaped from. Throughout the tense evacuation, his steady voice singing “God Bless America” and “Men of Harlech” rang out through a bullhorn, giving people strength and calm.
According to The New Yorker, he called his wife during the evacuation to tell her, “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.”
He was last seen on the 10th floor of the South Tower on his way to find any who had been left behind.
Maj. Heather Penney and Col. Marc Sasseville
When Major Heather Penney and Colonel Marc Sasseville learned of the initial attacks, the two National Guard pilots prepared to intercept United Flight 93, the fourth and final hijacked plane. They aimed their two F-16s directly at the wayward Boeing 757…except they were completely unarmed. The only way for them to stop the plane would be to ram into it- essentially a suicide mission.
“We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” Maj. Heather Penney told The Washington Post in 2011. “We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”
Fortunately, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 took on the job themselves. While Penney and Sasseville never had to complete their death-sentence mission, they were fully prepared to go down with their aircraft to protect others from harm.
Army Spc. Beah Doboszenski
On September 11, 2001, Army Spc. Beah Doboszenski was just a tour guide at the Pentagon. He was working on the opposite side of the building, so far away that he didn’t even hear the plane hit. The former volunteer firefighter and EMT didn’t hesitate to volunteer his services, however, racing to the site of the crash. He had to evade police officers and go around barricades to find a medical triage station and begin giving medical care to countless victims.
He then voluntarily ran back into the building to search for survivors while the building was still in flames. He gave medical aid to the injured outside, then went back into the building while it was still in flames. Former Vice President Joe Biden said of Doboszenski’s heroic act, “When people started streaming out of the building and screaming, he sprinted toward the crash site. For hours, he altered between treating his co-workers and dashing into the inferno with a team of six men.”
Last but not least, Roselle
Some heroes have two legs, but some have four. Roselle, a guide dog, was on the 78th floor with her blind owner, Michael Hingson, when the plane hit. She guided him all the way down to safety. Without her, he most likely wouldn’t have made it out alive. The heroic pup lived a long, happy life until her passing in June 2011, and her owner has since written a book in her honor.
These are just a few of the innumerable heroes of 9/11. To the police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and ordinary citizens who brought light to one of America’s darkest days: We humbly thank you.
When Egypt bought the two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships that France declined to sell to Russia, one thing that didn’t come with those vessels was the armament.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” Russia had planned to install a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 Gatling guns on the vessels if France has sold them to the Kremlin. But no such luck for Egypt, which had two valuable vessels that were unarmed – or, in the vernacular, sitting ducks.
And then, all of a sudden, they weren’t unarmed anymore. A video released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense celebrating the Cleopatra 2017 exercise with the French navy shows that the Egyptians have channeled MacGyver — the famed improviser most famously played by Richard Dean Anderson — to fix the problem.
Scenes from the video show at least two AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air-defense vehicles — better known as the M1097 — tied down securely on the deck of one of the vessels, which have been named after Egyptian leaders Gamel Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat. The Humvee-based vehicles carry up to eight FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missiles and also have a M3P .50-caliber machine gun capable of firing up to 1200 rounds a minute.
The Mistral-class ships in service with the French navy are typically equipped with the Simbad point-defense system. Ironically, the missile used in the Simbad is a man-portable SAM also called Mistral. The vessels displace 16,800 tons, have a top speed of 18.8 knots and can hold up to 16 helicopters and 900 troops.
You can see the Egyptian Ministry of Defense video below, showing the tied-down Avengers serving as air-defense assets for the Egyptian navy’s Mistrals.
Nov. 10 saw the annual Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis Air Force Base.
Located outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, Nellis has close ties to its neighboring city. Following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas in October, last weekend’s air show commemorated and honored the city and the shooting’s victims.
The show also featured US Air Force history, as the Air Force celebrates its 70th anniversary. About 400,000 people were expected to visit the two-day expo.
“This is freaking awesome. It really shakes you in your boots,” one observer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It is rare that you get to see this stuff.”
Here’s what it was like inside the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo:
Nellis servicemen customized several aircraft, including this F-16 Fighting Falcon, to display the base’s Vegas Strong message.
This F-15C Eagle was painted to commemorate the shooting, which took place at a country music festival on Oct. 1.
Here’s more detail on the tail.
The aircraft had to be completely repainted in some cases.
Here’s the final product on another F-15C Eagle.
Here’s what they normally look like, without the paint job.
Aside from the memorials to the Las Vegas shooting, the Air and Space Expo had some of the best features of a traditional air show. Spectators were treated to a show from the Air Force Thunderbirds.
The opening ceremony featured members of the Air Force’s Wing of Blue Parachute Team jumping out of aircrafts.
Here’s what it looks like when they land.
Aviation Nation also celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the US Air Force, showcasing older aircraft such as the B-25 Mitchell.
The Texas Flying Legends flew in formation, showing off some WWII-era aircrafts.
A Texas Flying Legends pass over the Nellis Air Force Base flight line during Aviation Nation 2017 Nellis Air and Space Expo, Nov. 10, 2017. The Texas Flying Legends is dedicated to honoring the men and women who have served—or are currently serving through an active display of World War II aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)
A stockpile of weapons for the terrorist group Hezbollah was hit April 27 by the Israeli Defense Force, resulting in a huge explosion in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport.
According to a report by Reuters, propaganda from Syrian state media placed blame squarely on the Israelis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that Israel reserved the right to act in order to prevent Hezbollah from receiving “advanced weapons” from Iran.
“The incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah,” the British news agency quoted Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz as saying in an interview with Army Radio, even as the Israeli military declined to comment on the apparent air strike.
Israel has apparently launched other strikes against stockpiles of weapons that are allegedly en route to Hezbollah — albeit the only truly confirmed strike was one this past March that resulted in the first confirmed kill for the Arrow missile defense system. According to Bloomberg, another depot was targeted late last week. The terrorist group is backing Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, alongside their Iranian sponsors. A BBC compilation of suspected Israeli strikes – and the one from last March that was confirmed – include some that have killed Hezbollah terrorists and in one instance, an Iranian general.
Iran has a history of providing terrorist groups and rebels with support. During the Iraq War, Iran allegedly provided explosively-formed penetrators to Shiite insurgents in Iraq, while also reportedly passing them on to anti-Afghan forces as well. Iran’s support for the insurgents is believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 500 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Five suspected members of a drug-trafficking ring were arrested in Argentina and Russia as part of a joint police investigation that was launched more than a year ago after 389 kilograms of cocaine were found in the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentinian officials say.
Argentinian Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said that the probe led to the arrest, on Feb. 22, 2018, of a naturalized Russian who was a member of the police force in Buenos Aires and another citizen of the South American country.
The investigation started in December 2016, when Russia’s ambassador to Argentina reported to Argentinian authorities that they had suspicions about luggage found in an annex of the embassy.
Once authorities confirmed that traffickers were trying to move 16 bags of cocaine from the embassy by way of a diplomatic flight, “a tracking device was placed in the suitcase that was to be used to make the shipment to Russia, which was its destination,” Bullrich told reporters.
The luggage was flown to Russia in 2017, and Bullrich said three Argentinian customs officials traveled to Russia to monitor the delivery.
Uber and U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Army Research Laboratory, announced a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to advance technologies supporting Future Vertical Lift.
As part of this agreement, Uber and RDECOM ARL also signed their first joint work statement to jointly fund and collaborate on research development of rotor technology, which may lead to ground-breaking discoveries to support Army Modernization Priorities. Officials announced the agreement and work statement at the second Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, May 8, 2018.
The joint work statement focuses on research to create the first usable stacked co-rotating rotors or propellers; this is a concept for having two rotor systems placed on top of each other and rotating in the same direction.
Initial experimentation of this concept has revealed the potential for stacked co-rotating rotors be significantly quieter than traditional paired rotor approaches and improve performance for a flying craft. To date, stacked co-rotating rotors have not been deployed in existing flying craft.
Under this first joint work statement, Uber and the Army’s research lab expect to spend a combined total of $1 million in funding for this research; this funding will be divided equally between each party.
The CRADA allows for additional joint work statements in other aligned research areas. Uber and Army will continue to explore future developments in this sphere.
“This agreement with Uber displays the Army utilizing innovative approaches to collaborate with an industry partner that is truly on the cutting edge,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate. “This collaboration is an opportunity to access years of knowledge vested in subject matter experts within the lab. It will allow the Army to rapidly advance mutually beneficial technology to inform objectives for silent and efficient VTOL, or vertical takeoff and landing operation, for the next generation fleet of Army unmanned air vehicles. This supports the Army modernization priorities for future vertical lift aircraft.”
(Photo by David McNally)
Uber is proud to be partnering with ARL on critical research on flying vehicle innovations that will help create the world’s first urban aviation rideshare network,” said Eric Allison, Head of Uber Elevate. “Our first jointly-funded project will help us develop first of its kind rotor technology that will allow for quieter and more efficient travel. We see this initial project as the first of many and look forward to continued collaboration with the lab on innovations that will make uberAIR a reality.”
Uber will also collaborate with Launchpoint Technologies Inc., a technology company focused on the modeling, design optimization, and fabrication of novel electric motors. LaunchPoint’s design approach will lead to motors best suited to power eVTOL technology with stacked co-rotating propellers. In the future, all three entities will exploit the experimental data and lessons learned from stacked co-rotating rotor testing. The result will be more predictive models and higher-performing next generation co-rotating propellers
Dave Paden, President of LaunchPoint Technologies, expressed his enthusiasm for the project — “LaunchPoint’s engineering team is excited to engage with Uber and ARL in this challenging and meaningful endeavor. The transformation of air transportation is right around the corner and collaborations like this are essential to developing the enabling these technologies.”
In 2017, Uber announced the first U.S. Elevate cities would be Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco Texas and Los Angeles, with a goal of flight demonstrations in 2020 and Elevate commercially available to riders in 2023 in those cities.
To make uberAIR a reality, Uber has entered into partnerships with several highly experienced aircraft manufacturers who are developing electric VTOL vehicles including: Aurora Flight Sciences (now a subsidiary of Boeing), Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer and Bell. Uber’s design model specifies that this fully electric vehicle have a cruising speed between 150-200 mph, a cruising altitude of 1,000-2,000 feet and be able to do trips of up to 60 miles on a single charge.
In 2017, Uber signed a space act agreement with NASA for the development of new unmanned traffic management concepts and unmanned aerial systems that will enable safe and efficient operations at low altitudes. To help create skyports for the uberAIR network, Uber has also entered into real estate partnerships with Hillwood Properties and Sandstone Properties.
Iran is expected to launch a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf intended to show it can close the Strait of Hormuz, according to CNN, citing two US officials.
“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman,” Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for Centcom, said in a press statement. “We are monitoring it closely and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”
“We also continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards, and laws,” Urban added.
The Strait of Hormuz is a sea passage into the Persian Gulf between Iran and Oman, through which about 30% of the world’s oil supply passes.
Iran’s fast-attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.
(Fars News Agency Photo)
President Donald Trump has lately been in a war of words with the leaders of Iran.
In June 2018, Trump threatened sanctions on countries that purchase oil from Iran, to which Tehran responded by threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.
CNN reported that US officials viewed the expected Iranian military exercise as alarming for three reasons: It comes as rhetoric between the two nations heats up, it will be a larger exercise than previous ones, and Tehran usually holds such exercises later in the year.
The US thinks the Iranian military exercise will include about 100 naval vessels, most of which are small boats, as well as air and ground forces, CNN reported.
Iran has repeatedly used small fast-attack craft to harass US Navy warships over the past several years.
Nevertheless, these Iranian threats are most likely a bluff.
“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” retired Adm. James Stavridis previously told CNBC.
And Iran most likely knows this, prompting the question of whether Iran has other intentions.
James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Turkey who now serves as an expert at the Washington Institute, previously told Business Insider that Tehran was bluffing about closing the Strait of Hormuz to rattle markets and raise the price of oil.
“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” Jeffrey said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.
Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.
“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”
Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.
“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”
Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.
“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”
Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.
“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”
On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.
“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”
It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.
“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”
Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.
“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”
It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.
“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”
CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.
The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.
“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.
Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.
“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”
Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).
“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”
Volunteering is gratifying for anyone and is especially so for veterans. The sense of teamwork and purpose that volunteering provides is a natural fit for military veterans. To do so alongside the civilian population to which we have returned (and sometimes are challenged to adjust to) is an opportunity to be seen as we are – a neighbor, friend or colleague. Too often, the veteran is “othered” as a population in need of service rather than able to give it.
We are still in what President Donald Trump said began as a war footing against COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has touched many of our families, communities and economies.
Thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Americans are volunteering sewing masks, filling pantries, doing childcare, errand running for the vulnerable, providing clinical and non-clinical medical support, joining tech SWAT teams, funding emergency resources, making deliveries, donating blood, providing transportation, offering free legal or financial advice, counseling and the list goes on. What can go unnoticed is that veterans are joining, if not leading, the fight against COVID-19, right next you.
According to the Corporation for National Community Service’s 2018 Volunteering in America Report, veterans give 25% more time, are 17% more likely to make a monetary donation and are 30% more likely to participate in local organizations than the civilian population.
For former military, raising our hand to meet these needs is right up our alley. For us, COVID-19 is another mission. You might not recognize us managing and distributing PPE, like National Guard veteran Fred Camacho in Wisconsin, or sewing masks to donate like U.S. Air Force veteran Darin Williams in Colorado, but we are there. Even in small ways, we are finding opportunities to serve others amid this pandemic. As for me, I organized a community service project for my daughters and other members of their YMCA camping program. Along with their friends, they made cards and drew pictures for frontline medical workers and we sent dinner along with well-wishes to local hospitals.
It might seem like a small act, but that’s the point. I am teaching my daughters to help others in whatever ways they can, no matter how small the gesture. A U.S. Navy veteran, I gave for my country, and like so many of my fellow veterans, I continue to give daily. I am #StillServing even in small ways and even when nobody is watching.
Are you a veteran that is #StillServing? Visit vfw.org/StillServing and share how you continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small, and let’s show the world how vibrant and active America’s veterans are.
The Battle of Mogadishu is one of the most infamous and controversial engagements in modern U.S. military history. The battle has been documented in books and film, most notably the 2001 film Black Hawk Down. The film depicts the Rangers, Delta operators, 160th SOAR pilots, and Air Force Pararescuemen that made up the ill-fated Task Force Ranger. Even the 10th Mountain Division and Pakistani UN Peacekeepers were mentioned and depicted respectively. However, the film does not depict or even refer to the Navy SEALs from the elite SEAL Team Six that joined the raid on October 3, 1993, all of whom received Silver Stars for their actions during the battle.
Wasdin (second from the left) with the rest of the DEVRGU sniper team (Howard Wasdin)
HT1 Howard Wasdin enlisted in the Navy in 1983 as an antisubmarine warfare operator and rescue swimmer. He served with distinction in Anti-Submarine Squadron 7 (HS-7) and even survived a helicopter crash over water before he re-enlisted to attend BUD/S. Wasdin graduated with Class 143 in July 1987 and was assigned to SEAL Team TWO in Little Creek, Virginia. He completed deployments to Europe and the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War before he volunteered for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group in November 1991, better known as SEAL Team Six. Wasdin completed an eight month specialized selection and training course to join DEVGRU and later completed the USMC Scout Sniper Course.
In August, 1993, Wasdin deployed to Mogadishu with three other snipers from SEAL Team Six and their skipper, Commander Eric Thor Olson, as part of Task Force Ranger. The special task force’s primary mission was to capture the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid who had been attacking UN supply convoys and food distribution centers. The task force also included Air Force Combat Controllers who, like the SEALs, were omitted from the 2001 film. In the time leading up to the October 3rd raid, Wasdin and the other SEALs conducted a number of missions in and around Mogadishu. On the day of the raid, the four-man team returned to the airfield from setting up CIA repeaters in the town to find the task force gearing up. The intel driving the raid had developed earlier in the day and the mission was planned quickly.
The SEALs received the hour to hour and a half-long mission brief from Cdr. Olson in just a few minutes. “You’ll be part of a blocking force. Delta will rope in and assault the building. You guys will grab the prisoners. Then get out of there,” Cdr. Olson said, slapping Wasdin on the shoulder. “Shouldn’t take long. Good luck. See you when you get back.” With that, the SEALs, and three soldiers joined the convoy of trucks and drove into the city.
Not long into the mission, the convoy received sporadic fire. The SEALs’ Humvee, referred to as a “cutvee”, had no roof, doors, or windows. The only protection that it offered was the iron engine block and a Kevlar ballistic blanket underneath the vehicle. Neither of these were able to protect one SEAL, known as Little Big Man, from taking a round on the way to the target building. “Aw hell, I’m hit!” He shouted. Wasdin pulled over to check his buddy out and found no blood. Rather, he saw Little Big Man’s broken custom Randall knife and a large red mark on his leg. The knife, strapped to Little Big Man’s leg, had absorbed most of the bullet’s energy and prevented it from entering the SEAL’s leg.
(Kneeling, left to right) Little Big Man, Casanova, Wasdin, and Sourpuss, with other operators of Task Force Ranger (Howard Wasdin)
The convoy made it to the target building and the SEALs joined their assigned blocking position with the Rangers and Delta operators as the Delta assaulters infilled on the roof. Wasdin engaged a handful of enemy snipers with his CAR-15 for 30 minutes before the call came over the radio to return to the convoy. It was then that he took a ricochet to the back of his left knee. “For a moment, I couldn’t move,” he recalled. “The pain surprised me, because I had reached a point in my life when I really thought I was more than human.” Wasdin’s SEAL teammate, nicknamed Casanova, quickly neutralized two militia fighters as Air Force CCT Dan Schilling dragged Wasdin to safety for a medic to patch him back up.
37 minutes into the routine mission, a call came over the radio that changed the mission, and Wasdin’s life. “Super Six One down.” CW3 Cliff “Elvis” Wolcott’s bird had been shot down by an RPG, turning the raid into a rescue mission. Wasdin hopped back behind the wheel and the SEALs joined the convoy to secure Wolcott’s crash site. Holding the wheel with his left hand, Wasdin returned fire with his CAR-15 in his right hand.
On the way to the crash site, five Somali women walked up to the roadside shoulder to shoulder, their colorful robes stretched out to their sides. When a Humvee reached them, they pulled their robes in to reveal four militia fighters who would open fire on the soldiers. Seeing this, Wasdin flicked his CAR-15’s selector switch to full-auto and emptied a thirty-round magazine into all nine Somalis. “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six,” he said of the incident. Shortly after, the call came over the radio that CW3 Mike Durant’s Super Six Four had also been shot down. With two birds down, ammunition running low, casualties mounting, and an entire city out to kill Americans, things looked grim for the men of Task Force Ranger.
Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for trying to rescue Mike Durant before they were overrun (U.S. Army)
To make matters worse, the convoluted communication network between the observation aircraft, the JOC, the C2 bird, and the convoy leader was further mired by the misunderstanding of sending the convoy to the closest crash site rather than the first crash site. This led to the bullet-ridden convoy going literally in circles and passing the target building that they raided at the start of the mission.
Even the AH-6J Little Birds providing direct fire support from the air were feeling the strain of the not so routine mission. “We’re Winchestered,” one pilot told Wasdin as he called for air support. With no ammunition left, the Little Bird pilots flew low over the enemy positions in order to draw the attention of the militia fighters skyward and off the beleaguered convoy. “The pilots didn’t just do that once. They did it at least six times that I remember,” Wasdin said, recalling the bravery of the Night Stalkers. “Our Task Force 160 pilots were badass, offering themselves up as live targets, saving our lives.”
Contact was so heavy that Wasdin ran out of 5.56 for his CAR-15, including the ammo given to him by the wounded Rangers in the back of his cutvee, forcing him to draw his 9mm Sig Sauer sidearm. As the convoy slowed, a militia fighter emerged from a doorway with an AK-47. Wasdin and the fighter exchanged rounds. The first double-tap from the Sig missed and the fighter put a round through Wasdin’s right shinbone before a second double-tap put the fighter down.
His right leg hanging on by a thread, Wasdin switched seats with Casanova and continued to return fire with his sidearm despite the incredible pain. Five to ten minutes later, Wasdin was wounded a third time, taking a round to his left ankle. “My emotions toward the enemy rocketed off the anger scale,” Wasdin recalled. “Suddenly, I realized I was in trouble.” As the convoy pressed on, the SEAL cutvee hit a landmine. Though the occupants were protected by the Kevlar blanket, the explosion brought the vehicle to a halt. With three holes in him, Wasdin thought of his family and likened his situation to one of his favorite films, The Alamo. Not willing to give up without a fight, he continued to return fire. “Physically, I couldn’t shoot effectively enough to kill anyone at that point,” Wasdin said. “I had used up two of Casanova’s pistol magazines and was down to my last.”
The only picture taken on the ground during the battle (U.S. Army)
As if scripted in a movie, the Quick Reaction Force soon arrived to extract the battered convoy from the city. With the arrival of the QRF, the militia fighters retreated and gave the convoy a much-needed reprieve. “Be careful with him,” Casanova said as he helped load Wasdin onto one of the QRF’s deuce-and-a-half trucks. “His right leg is barely hanging on.” The convoy returned to the airfield without further incident.
The scene at the base was unreal. Dozens of American bodies laid out on the runway as medics tried to sort out the most critically wounded. “A Ranger opened a Humvee tailgate—blood flowed out like water.” The sight enraged Wasdin who itched for payback. Many of the chieftains in the Aidid militia, anticipating the revenge that Wasdin and his brothers sought, fled Mogadishu. Some even offered to flip on Aidid to save themselves. “Four fresh SEAL Team Six snipers from Blue Team were on their way to relieve us. Delta’s Alpha Squadron was gearing up to relieve Charlie Squadron. A new batch of Rangers was coming, too.” Ultimately, there would be no counteroffensive.
With the broadcast of the results of the battle on American televisions, the Clinton administration feared the negative publicity that further operations could bring. “In spite of the gains, President Clinton saw our sacrifices as losses,” Wasdin recalled angrily. “He ordered all actions against Aidid stopped.” Four months later, all prisoners taken by Task Force Ranger were released.
On what should have been a routine snatch and grab operation, special operators were left exposed and eventually trapped by thousands of Somali militia fighters. Conducting the raid in the afternoon without the cover of darkness removed one of the biggest advantages that the operators had. Sending them into the city without armored fighting vehicles or Spectre gunships further reduced the American technological advantage. For warriors like Wasdin though, the ultimate defeat was not finishing the job.