Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).


Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.

It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.

Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.

As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.

Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?

DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”

What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?

DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.

Special? How so?

DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.

Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?

DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.

Kosovo? What was that like?

DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.

Do you have a family history of military service?

DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.

Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?

DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.

So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?

DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?

DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.

Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…

DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.

A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?

DB: Yeah, November 10th [2004] was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.

And you were a squad leader at this point?

DB: Yeah.

How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?

DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.

Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?

DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.

You did much more than support.

DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.

And then your soldiers get trapped inside?

DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?

DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.

And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?

DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.

And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?

DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”

With the enemy still in the house?

DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”

That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.

DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.

Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?

DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.

Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?

DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.

What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?

DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.

And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?

DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?

DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.

You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?

DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.

One last question. Do you still smoke?

DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.

Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?

DB: No, you got it.

Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s what happened to Jon Snow in the ‘Game of Thrones’ Finale

Let’s revisit the end of “Game of Thrones,” shall we? Bran becomes king of everything but the North, which Sansa takes over. Arya sails east, and Jon Targaryen, reunited with his BFF Tormund, leads the Free Folk north of the wall where a lone piece of grass pokes its way through the snow.

The obviousness of that symbolism matches the clarity of the ending for the Stark kids, but we have been wondering about Jon. There’s a moment where, as the door to Westeros literally closes behind him, he looks back with a combination of sadness and doubt in his eyes. Is he doing the right thing by leaving Westeros behind? Kit Harington offered his perspective in a pre-Emmys interview with The Hollywood Reporter.


“[S]eeing him go beyond the Wall back to something true, something honest, something pure with these people he was always told he belongs with — the Free Folk — it felt to me like he was finally free. Instead of being chained and sent to the Wall, it felt like he was set free. It was a really sweet ending. As much as he had done a horrible thing [in killing Daenerys], as much as he had felt that pain, the actual ending for him was finally being released.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Jon Snow looking back and wondering.

(HBO)

So there you have it. Jon Snow did leave Westeros, and he did the right thing for himself, in leaving behind the place where he had to kill his aunt/lover, and the people of Westeros. Because by giving up his legitimate claim to the crown, he cleared the way for Bran to, perplexingly, be chosen as king.

While we’d still definitely love a spin-off that’s just about Jon, Tormund, and Ghost, it’s nice to get some closure on the end of the series from the man who played Jon Snow for nearly a decade.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

This was the final farewell of a heroic Marine military dog

US military hero dog “Cena,” a 9-year-old Black Labrador who served as a bomb detection dog in Afghanistan and saved the lives of his handler and uncounted other American warriors, ended his service July 26 after a battle he could not win with bone cancer.


Cena died peacefully in the arms of his battle buddy, former Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff DeYoung, in their hometown of Muskegon, Michigan.

The two first met during Improvised Detection Dog training in Virginia in July 2009. They were deployed to Afghanistan later that year and during their service together, the two were part of Operation Moshtarak in February 2010 that was the largest joint operation up to that point.

DeYoung and Cena typically led the way as U.S. troops trudged through the rugged and treacherous sandscapes of Afghanistan. Cena was trained to detect more than 300 different types of explosives and if he smelled something suspicious on patrol he alerted DeYoung, who would then call in an explosives technician to safely remove or detonate the bomb.

Cena and DeYoung ate together, slept together, and fought together, forging a deep bond between them.

“Once I laid down on top of him to protect him from gunfire,” said DeYoung. “I carried him through a freezing cold, flooded river on my shoulders.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Cena and Corporal DeYoung (Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge) 

DeYoung’s protectiveness of Cena was repaid many times over. Each military dog is estimated to save the lives of between 150-200 servicemen and women during the course of their career, and one of those lives was DeYoung’s. Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and the recent loss of several close comrades in combat, DeYoung tried to take his own life. But Cena intervened and saved his comrade from committing suicide.

Despite their seemingly unbreakable bond, DeYoung and Cena were separated unceremoniously without even the chance for a goodbye when DeYoung left military service and Cena continued working through three deployments. For four years, DeYoung suffered nightmares and flashbacks, missing Cena every single day.

Finally, when Cena was retired for a hip injury, the two were brought back together in an emotional reunion made possible with the help of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, which has also been working to support the U.S. military, veterans, and military animals for more than 100 years.

The reunion in 2014 was covered by media across the nation and Jeff and Cena’s story has been carried in hundreds of countries around the globe.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Photo by Capt. Allie Payne

Since then, DeYoung and Cena have served as military ambassadors for American Humane, traveling around the country to raise awareness about the importance of reuniting service dogs with their handlers, and how the dogs can improve and save the lives of veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress.

“Military Working Dog Cena is a true American hero and an inspiring testament to the life-changing power of the human-animal bond,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “He will be greatly missed by all those who knew and who owe their lives to him. His work and his example will live on in the memories of all who knew him and were touched by his story.”

Cena was family to me,” said DeYoung. “It’s always been him and me against the world, and losing him has devastated me to my core. Goodbye, my most faithful friend. I will never forget you.”

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

How America’s top snipers fire from helicopters with deadly accuracy

It can be hard to take a precision shot on the ground. It can be even harder to do in the air. Helo-borne snipers are elite sharpshooters who have what it takes to do both.

“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” veteran US Army sniper First Sgt. Kevin Sipes previously told Business Insider. When you put a sniper in a helicopter, that list can get even longer.

“Shooting from an aircraft, it is very difficult,” US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a native Texan who oversees an advanced sniper training program focused on urban warfare, told BI.

“Getting into the aircraft is a big culture shock because there are more things to consider,” he added. “But, it’s just one of those things, you get used to it and learn to love it.”


Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, provides aerial sniper coverage during a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)

“Eyes in the sky”

Helo-borne snipers are called on to carry out a variety of missions. They serve as aerial sentinels for convoys and raid teams and provide aerial support for interdiction missions.

“As far as taking the shot, it is not often that we do that,” Bernius explained to BI. “Our primary mission is reconnaissance and surveillance, just being eyes in the sky for the battlefield commander.” But every aerial sniper is prepared to take the shot if necessary.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

A lead scout sniper with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force, tests his Opposing V sniper support system on a UH-1Y Huey aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20) prior to a simulated visit, board, search and seizure of a ship, underway in the Coral Sea, July 7, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Cantrell)

‘It can throw you off’

Helo-borne snipers typically operate at ranges within 200 meters, closer ranges than some ground-based sharpshooters, and they’re not, as Bernius put it, “shooting quarters off fence posts.” That doesn’t make hitting a target from a helicopter any less of a challenge.

Either sitting or kneeling, aerial snipers rest their weapon, a M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) in the case of the Marines, on a prefabricated setup consisting of several straps the sniper can load into to reduce vibration. “We’re constantly fighting vibration,” Bernius said.

Like resting your gun on the hood of a big diesel truck while it’s running, the helicopter vibrates quite a bit, Bernius explained. “If you’re talking about a precision rifle, it’s substantial when you are looking through a small scope at a hundred meters. It can throw you off a few inches or even more.”

The vibration of the aircraft isn’t the only concern. Aerial snipers also have to take into consideration rotor wash (the downward pressure from the rotating blades impacting the bullet as it leaves the barrel), wind direction and speed, altitude, and distance to target, among other things.

Communication with the pilots, who often act as spotters for these elite troops, is critical. “Going in without communicating is almost like going in blind,” Bernius explained.

Before a sniper takes his shot, he loads into the rig to take any remaining slack out of the straps and dials in the shot, adjusting the scope for elevation and wind. Breathing out, he fires during a brief respiratory pause. If the sniper misses, he quickly follows with another round, which is one reason why the semi-automatic rifle is preferred to slower bolt-action rifles.

Helo-borne snipers can put precision fire down range regardless of whether or not the helicopter is in a stationary hover or moving. In cases where the aircraft is moving, the aerial snipers will sometimes use a lagging lead, counterintuitively placing the reticle behind the target, to get an accurate shot.

Scout Snipers – Aerial Sniper Training On Helicotper

www.youtube.com

‘Very familiar with being uncomfortable’

The urban sniper training that Bernius oversees is an advanced course for school-trained snipers, Marine Corps sharpshooters who have gone through the preliminary basic sniper training at Camp Pendleton in California, Camp Geiger in North Carolina, or Quantico in Virginia.

In the advanced sniper program, Marine Corps snipers go through four weeks of ground-based sniper training before transitioning to the air. “It’s primarily 600-meters-in combat-style shooting from tripods, barricades, and improvised positions,” Bernius told BI.

“The first three days is laying down in the prone, and then after that, they will never shoot from the prone again,” he explained. “These guys get pretty good at putting themselves in awkward situations. They get very familiar with being uncomfortable,” which is something that helps when the sniper moves into a cramped helicopter.

Nonetheless, moving from the ground to a helicopter is tough, and a lot of snipers get humbled, Bernius said. Fighting the vibrations inside the helicopter is difficult. “Some guys can really fight through it and make it happen, and some guys really struggle and they just can’t get over it and can’t make accurate shots,” he explained.

In many cases, Bernius told BI, aerial snipers have to rely more heavily on instinct than the guys on the ground. That takes repetition. That takes practice.

But once a sniper has mastered these skills, they can use them not only in the air, which is the most challenging, but also in any other vehicle. The skills are transferable.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius, a scout sniper with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Lufkin, Texas native, shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)

‘I’m doing this for the love of my country’

Not everyone can be a Marine Corps sniper, and each person has their own motivations for serving. “I grew up in a small town in East Texas hunting, playing in the dirt, hiding in the woods. It was a lot of fun. I could do that all day, day in and day out,” Bernius explained to INSIDER.

That’s not why he joined up, though.

Bernius had the opportunity to play baseball in college, but in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he decided to join the Marines instead. “I don’t regret it one bit.”

“I’m very patriotic,” he said. “I’m doing this for the love of my country. I’ve been in 13 years. There’s been a lot of ups and a hell of a lot of downs. But, I would say love of the country is what’s keeping me around.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 times the Russian and Chinese got dangerously close to the US military

A Russian fighter buzzed a US Navy reconnaissance plane Nov. 5, 2018, coming dangerously close to the American aircraft during a decidedly “unsafe” incident.

“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said in a statement, adding, “The intercepting Su-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 [Aries] and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away.”


The Department of Defense said there was “no radio contact,” explaining that they came “came out of nowhere.” The department explained that these actions “put our aircrews in danger,” stressing that “there is no reason for this behavior.”

Nov. 5, 2018’s intercept is one of many close encounters the US military has had with the Russians over the years, and the US has similar problems with the Chinese as well.

Here are seven times the Russian and Chinese militaries came so close to US ships and aircraft they risked disaster.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur operates in the South China Sea

(US Navy photo)

1. Chinese Type 052 Luyang II-class destroyer nearly collided with US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer on Sept. 30, 2018.

In response to a US Navy freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea, the Chinese military dispatched a People’s Liberation Army Navy warship to challenge the USS Decatur near the Spratly Islands.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to alter its original course to avoid a collision with the Chinese ship.

“You are on dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio, according to a transcript of the exchange obtained by the South China Morning Post. The PLAN warship told the US vessel that it was on a “dangerous course,” reportedly stressing that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not change course.

In the video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

An EP-3E Aries, assigned to the “World Watchers” of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1, left, escorted by an EA-18G Growler, assigned to the “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, performs a flyby over aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bobby J Siens)

2. Russian Su-27 Flanker buzzed a US Navy EP-3 Aries surveillance plane over the Black Sea on Jan. 29, 2018.

During this intercept, the Russian military aircraft came within five feet of the US Navy plane.

“For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the US Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe,” US Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, Task Force 67 commander, said in a statement at the time. “The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action.”

The Department of State accused Russia of “flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law,” CNN reported.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

A dramatic photo of a Russian jet coming within a few feet of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea June 19, 2017, in a maneuver that has been criticized as unsafe.

(U.S. European Command photo by Master Sgt Charles Larkin Snr.)

3. Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepted a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft on July 19, 2017.

The Russian Flanker “rapidly” approached the US reconnaissance plane, coming within five feet of the US aircraft. The Russian pilot engaged in “provocative” maneuvers, according to US defense officials, who accused the Russians of flying “erratically.”

Intercepts occur frequently, but while most are routine, some are considered “unsafe.” This incident was classified as such “due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept,” Fox News reported.

In photos from the incident, the pilot can be seen clearly in the cockpit of the Russian Su-27. At those distances and speeds, the slightest miscalculation increases the odds of a mid-air collision.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

U.S. Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft is refuelled from an air tanker.

(US Air Force photo)

4. Two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets flies inverted over a US Air Force radiation detection plane over the East China Sea on May 17, 2017.

A pair of People’s Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 derivatives came within 150 feet of the aircraft, with one flying inverted over the top of the American plane, US defense officials told CNN at the time.

The incident, which was deemed “unprofessional” by the US military, followed a close encounter a year earlier between the US Navy and a pair of Shenyang J-11 fighter jets. The fighters flew within 50 feet of an EP-3 Ares spy plane.

Two years prior in the summer of 2014, a Chinese fighter flew within 30 feet of a US Navy US P-8 Poseidon aircraft, doing a “barrel roll” over the top.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

In this image released by the U.S. Air Force, a U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, is intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker on June 19, 2017.

(US Air Force photo)

5. Russian Su-27 Flanker “barrel rolls” over a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on April 29, 2016.

The Russian Flanker flew within 25 feet of the US plane before conducting a “barrel roll” over the top of the American aircraft.

“The SU-27 intercepted the U.S. aircraft flying a routine route at high rate of speed from the side then proceeded to perform an aggressive maneuver that posed a threat to the safety of the US aircrew in the RC-135,” a defense spokesperson told CNN.

In an earlier incident that same month, a Russian pilot “performed erratic and aggressive maneuvers,” including another barrel roll, within 50 feet of another US aircraft.

That April, Russian jets also buzzed the US Navy repeatedly, at one point coming within 30 feet of a US Navy destroyer.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

f the Military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), forcing the ship to conduct an emergency “all stop” in order to avoid collision.

(US Navy photo)

6. Five Chinese vessels harass a US Navy surveillance ship in the South China Sea on March 8, 2009.

Five Chinese vessels — a mixture of military and paramilitary vessels — “shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity to USNS Impeccable, in an apparent coordinated effort to harass the US ocean surveillance ship while it was conducting routine operations in international waters,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The fishing vessels, assessed by experts to be part of China’s paramilitary Maritime Militia, closed to within 25 feet of the Impeccable. One stopped directly in front of the US Navy ship, forcing it to make an emergency “all stop” to avoid colliding with the Chinese vessel.

The US crew members used firehoses to defend their vessel as the Chinese threw wood into the water and use poles to snag the acoustic equipment on the Navy surveillance ship. The Pentagon described the incident as “one of the most aggressive actions we’ve seen in some time.”

A few years later in 2013, China and the US clashed again in the South China Sea, as a Chinese warship forced a US Navy guided-missile cruiser to change course to avoid a collision.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Damaged EP-3 spy plane at Lingshui Airfield after the fatal collision.

(Lockheed Martin photo)

7. Chinese J-8 fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 Aries spy plane over the South China Sea on April 1, 2001.

While most intercepts, no matter dangerous, pass without incident, some have been known to be fatal.

During the unsafe incident, the two Chinese J-8 interceptor fighters made multiple close passes near the US aircraft. On one pass, one of the aircraft collided with the US spy plane, causing the fighter to break into pieces and killing the pilot — Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei. The EP-3 was damaged in the collision and was forced to make an unauthorized emergency landing at Lingshui Airfield on Hainan Island.

The crash, a definitive tragedy but not the unmitigated disaster it could have been, proved extremely damaging to US-Chinese relations.

The incident was preceded by a pattern of aggressive intercepts that began in December 2000, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Between December 2000 and April 13, 2001, there were 44 PLA interceptions of US aircraft. In six instances, Chinese fighters came within 30 feet of the American planes, and in two cases, the distance was less than 10 feet.

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

MIGHTY FIT

How my transition impacted my health

It’s been nearly three years since I officially ended my Active Duty service. The first six months of my transition were rough. After speaking to a lot of fellow former service members, I realize that my experience is not an outlier, but rather, it’s the norm.


Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Hardest part about the military… logging into sites that don’t take a CAC card.

(Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash)

Civilian stress vs. Military stress.

In the Marine Corps, I was trained to deal with all sorts of tactical stresses. But civilian stresses? Not so much. When it came to work, insurance, or liberty, I could blame Uncle Sam for everything:

  • “Sorry, can’t make that baptism/wedding/ graduation/ (insert family event here). I have to move to Japan for work.”
  • “Yeah, the healthcare system is fugged; I’m on Tricare though, watch anything good on Netflix lately?”
  • “I put my name on a list to live off base, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just be put in the tower, end of story.”
  • “I PCS in June. I’ll either go to Camp LeJeune or get sucked into the vortex that is the Pentagon. Not much I can do.”

In the military, every moment of my life was planned out for me, until suddenly… it wasn’t. When I “got out,” all I had was choice, and I didn’t always make the right ones. In fact, it sometimes seemed like there were no right choices–just varying degrees of wrong.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

There wasn’t a big picture for me anymore.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Robert Knapp/Released)

I lost my sense of purpose.

I was actually embarrassed about these realizations for a long time. I was a Marine Corps Officer. I did alpha stuff for a living. There are literally thousands of movies made about my old job.

How could I fess up to being lost and stressed? It felt like I would be admitting defeat to an enemy that hundreds of millions of Americans deal with every single day. That’s not very alpha.

On top of the stress and state of general lostness, my sense of purpose was gone. I felt that my time in uniform had been helping the greater cause. I was helping people. At the very least, I was impacting my Marines’ lives and helping them become better every day.

It’s a lot harder to become excited about sending emails and filing TPS reports in the civilian world when it seems that the only people that are being helped are the company owners or stockholders. That’s not really a mission statement I can get behind.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

1 turns into 10 very quickly.

(Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash)

My health suffered.

I had spent the most testosterone-packed years of my life under the government’s thumb. I signed up at 17. For a decade, I was expected to be: sober, on time, awake at 0600, on-call 24/7, and never take more than 96 hours of liberty/leave.

As soon as I was let off the leash, I had some catching up to do. I slept when the sun was up and spent all night howling at the moon for months. It took a toll on my body; I gained weight, I lost energy, and I got sick a lot.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

My cornerstone was gone.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

Worst of all, I stopped training.

Staying up late and spending all day stressing about “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” made me lose sight of the one thing I actually had control over. Me. More specifically, my training and diet.

This was the hardest-hitting of all my issues because it made everything else worse. It’s a lot harder to stay healthy if all you’re putting into your body is junk food and not moving.

Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Without it, I was living in a state of chronic stress.

I had the all too common reaction to physical training that I’ve seen dozens of times first hand. No more PFT…no more PT for me. The overwhelming majority of us do it. It’s like the military induces some traumatic memory of what exercise is supposed to make us feel like as well as how much we should hate ourselves for not working out.

It becomes a physical punishment when we train and a mental punishment when we don’t train.

Recognizing that it doesn’t have to be either one of those punishments was the key to me getting back in the gym.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Great advice.

(Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash)

Combating civilian stress with training.

I knew I had to make changes. I wasn’t in the position to come up with some grand overarching ethos that would cure all my woes. I needed something simple.

I started by making my training mandatory. I knew it made me feel better. Having stress hormones pumping through my veins 24/7 was the literal reason I felt like I was failing. Training hard helps relieve some of that cortisol and frees up the body to actually repair itself. That was the state I needed to get into regularly if I ever wanted to think clearly enough to actually turn my business into a success.

I started losing some of the extra fat I had put on, I got stronger, my performance increased, but the most important benefit of training hard was that I didn’t hate myself anymore.

SAF Survey Video Hook cut out

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Getting your sense of purpose back.

My military service was a high-point in my life, but it isn’t the summit I need to plant my flag on. That’s much higher, and I have a lot more work to do. I was great then, but I’m greater every day that I decide to train and sink my teeth into another bite-sized piece of life.

The Marine Corps made it easy to feel like I was part of something bigger and helping people. Military service isn’t the only option in life to help other people though. By taking care of myself first, getting my training in line, and staying healthy, I’m able to take all the skills and discipline I gained from my service and directly apply them to my current mission.

I know that objectively my life looked fine, but internally, I felt like I was crumbling. Plenty of us live our whole lives with that feeling. I’m lucky that I managed to shift my perception after only six months of the vicious cycle.

Maybe it took you years.

Maybe you’re still in it.

Maybe you never served in the military, but you experienced a different transition that made you feel helpless, alone, and chronically stressed.

It doesn’t matter. Our perception is our reality. If your reality isn’t great, the only thing you can do is change your perception.

The best perception shifter I know of is…training hard.

If you aren’t training, start training.

If this resonates with you at all, I’d love to hear your story no matter what stage of the process you’re currently in. This link will take you to a survey that will allow you to do just that.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops are laying miles of razor wire on the border

By the end of the day on Oct. 5, 2018, there were more than 5,000 active-duty troops deployed to the US-Mexico border, where they are laying razor wire in preparation for the arrival of migrant caravans consisting of potentially thousands of people from across Latin America.

There are roughly 2,700 active-duty troops in Texas, 1,200 in Arizona and 1,100 in California, the Department of Defense revealed Oct. 5, 2018. These figures are in addition to the more than 2,000 National Guard troops that were deployed to the border in April 2018.


Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

As many as 8,000 troops, if not more depending on operational demands, could eventually be deployed to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

“Barbed wire looks like it’s going to be very effective, too, with soldiers standing in front of it,” Trump, who considers the approaching caravans an “invasion” said at a rally in Cleveland on Oct. 5, 2018.

Source: ABC News

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

“There is no plan for US military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry to the United States,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters Oct. 5, 2018, “There is no plan for the soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or to reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capability.”

Source: CNN

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

Articles

Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

About 35 local boat captains simulated swarming attack maneuvers in fishing boats rigged with machine guns while fighter jets, attack helicopters, and the A-10 “Warthog” simulated attacks from above in the Choctawatchee Bay, Florida.


The Air Force at Eglin Air Force Base organized the simulation, called Combat Hammer, to address one of the more pressing threats to the US navy — attacks from swarming fast-attack craft.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

In the Persian Gulf, Iran has repeatedly used small, agile attack craft to harass US Navy ships in dangerous encounters that could lead to a broader conflict in a moment’s notice.

US Navy ships have had to go as far as firing warning shots at approaching vessels, but that was before Iranian-backed Houthi militants used a suicide boat laden with explosives to kill two aboard a Saudi Arabian Navy vessel off the coast of Yemen.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
An A-10 Thunderbolt IIs with the 74th Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., flies over the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 7 during Combat Hammer. The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron’s Combat Hammer is a weapons system evaluation program at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

The Navy was already aware of the threat posed to their large, multi-million dollar ships by small, cheap ships — but the January Houthi attack demonstrated the threat was even more acute.

The Air Force’s annual Combat Hammer exercise sought in part to answer the question of how the Navy would deal with a large mass of erratic attack craft — and that involved A-10 Warthogs firing inert 30-millimeter rounds at unmanned ships.

The exercise also included attack helicopters, multi-role fighter jets, and Canadian F-18s dropping simulated guided munitions.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
Local boat captains and mariners operate fishing boats equipped with makeshift guns and weapons invaded the Choctawatchee Bay area Feb. 6 during the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron exercise, Combat Hammer. The boat swarms helped create a realistic environment to provide exercise participants an opportunity to train like they fight. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

“We evaluate precision guided munitions against realistic targets with realistic enemy defenses,” said Lt. Col. Sean Neitzke, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron commander in an Air Force statement. “There are plenty of places in the world where low-tech adversaries can mount 50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers on small boats for use against us. They could also use other types of shoulder launched weapons, all of which could be a threat to American assets.”

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

The situation described by Neitzke bears eerily similarities to the situation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

Patrick Megahan, an expert on Iran’s military with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told Business Insider that even without the Air Force, the US Navy has plenty of ways to counter the threat posed by Iranian-style swarm attacks.

“US Army Apache attack helicopters also frequently drill aboard US Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf for countering exactly this threat,” Megahan said of the swarming boats.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man
An MH-60 Seahawk. | US Navy

“This doesn’t include the Navy’s own Hellfire-equipped Seahawk helicopters or the Marine Corps’s very capable attack helicopter squadrons that maintain an almost constant presence in the waters off the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In fact, two fully-load American attack helicopters would likely wreak havoc on an Iranian small boat swarm.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Place, The Legend, The Man: Honoring an incredible Marine

ARLINGTON, Va. —

The residents of Bishopville, a small South Carolina town, filled the streets, Aug. 29, for a special celebration honoring their hometown hero. The motto “Heritage, History, Home,” proudly painted on the Main Street mural perfectly embodied the town’s spirit as everyone gathered for the return of retired Major James “Jim” Capers Jr.

Maj. Capers, described by his comrades as the “utmost Marine”, is the recipient of a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, and three Purple Hearts. Most notably for his time in Vietnam, he is one of the most decorated Marines in Force Reconnaissance history. He became the first African American to command a Marine Reconnaissance company and to receive a battlefield commission.


“This is what you call a great moment in America. What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.” retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command

The townspeople cheered and waved small American flags as the celebration began with the “Parade of Heroes.” Led by the recently turned 83-year-old Capers, veterans and active duty, from near and far, marched proudly in uniform, veteran’s attire, old unit gear, or simply an American flag T-shirt.

Followed by speeches from the Bishopville mayor, South Carolina state senators and representative, retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, a letter written by the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue read by his council, and the presentation of the highest civilian award in the state, every speech or letter addressed Maj. Capers’ service beyond the battlefield.

“This is what you call a great moment in America,” former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command and friend of Capers since 2009. “What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.”

When asked to describe Maj. Capers in one word, common choices included hero, brave, brother, patriot, family, strong, inspiration and American. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he continued his life of service by working closely with those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and always lending a helping hand to anyone in need. After losing his wife and son, those who consider him family are those he “adopted” along the way.

The crowd stood in awe, followed shortly by an eruption of applause as an elaborate plaque titled “The Place, The Legend, The Man” was unveiled in the town’s Memorial Park. The Place, showing North and South Vietnam; The Legend, a textured recreation Maj. Capers’ iconic Marine Corps recruitment campaign poster with the text “Ask a Marine;” and The Man, his story from the beginning in Bishopville.

Capers addressed the crowd stating he was overwhelmed with emotion. “All of the awards that were bestowed upon me this morning, I don’t deserve any of this,” said Capers. “It really doesn’t belong to me, I’m just a caretaker.”

Family and friends standing teary eyed close by, he continued to address all the service members who never had a parade held for them, the ones who weren’t taken care of when they came home, and the ones who never returned.

The celebration concluded with a gathering at the Veterans Museum, where the man who proudly became the face of the Marine Corps when he could barely stand after being wounded 19 times, the man who devoted his life to a country who continued to judge him based on the color of his skin, the man who turned strangers into family, stood in astonishment at the number of people willing to come see him on a Saturday morning.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Valkyrie drone suffers damage during Air Force flight test

An XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle undergoing testing with the U.S. Air Force was damaged during its third flight test, forcing its next test to be delayed until an investigation is complete, officials announced Oct. 10, 2019.

The Valkyrie drone was hit by “high surface winds” and also suffered “a malfunction of the vehicle’s provisional flight test recovery system” and landed in a damaged state at the testing ranges in Yuma, Arizona, on Oct. 9, 2019, the Air Force said.

The drone is part of the Air Force’s Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program, an effort to develop unmanned attack aircraft that are intended to be reusable, but cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant loss.


“We continue to learn about this aircraft and the potential … technology [it] can offer to the warfighter,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, in a released statement.

“This third flight successfully completed its objectives and expanded the envelope from the first two flights,” Cooley added. The flight lasted 90 minutes, officials said.

XQ-58A Valkyrie Demonstrator Inaugural Flight

www.youtube.com

“We have gathered a great deal of valuable data from the flight and will even learn from this mishap,” Cooley said. “Ultimately, that is the objective of any experiment and we’re pleased with the progress of the Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program.”

The Air Force did not say how long it will take to investigate the setback, nor when officials can anticipate its fourth flight.

In partnership with Kratos Defense, the drone’s manufacturer, officials previously completed a second test in Yuma on June 11, 2019.

The Air Force has been working to expedite the prototype program, which in the near future could incorporate artificial intelligence. AFRL in recent months has also been working on the “Skyborg” program, aimed at pairing AI with a human in the cockpit.

The goal is to incorporate the Skyborg network into Valkyrie. The drone’s purpose would be to operate alongside manned fighters, so the machine can learn how to fly and even train with its pilot.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

The XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle.

(YouTube)

Valkyrie, a long-range, high-subsonic UAV, has incorporated a lot of lessons from Kratos’ other subsonic drone, the Mako, according to Kratos Defense CEO and President Eric DeMarco.

“Mako continues to fly for various customers with all types of payloads,” he said during an interview at the Paris air show in June. It was designed to carry electronic warfare or jamming equipment, infrared search and track sensors and offensive and defensive weapons, he said.

“Mako [is] a test bed, running a parallel path with the Valkyrie, so when the Valkyrie is ready, those payloads can more easily be ported over and integrated into Valkyrie because they’ve already been demonstrated in an unmanned platform,” DeMarco said.

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said during the show that there’s potential to field some Valkyrie UAVs quickly — roughly 20 to 30 — for experimentation before the service pairs manned fighters with the drone by 2023.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia doubles down on its version of the beloved A-10

The Su-25 Frogfoot, known as the Grach or “Rook” by Russian pilots, is one of those aircraft that may not be at the cutting edge of technology, but still has seen widespread service around the world because it offers an effective and useful solution to the need to blast targets on the ground.

As such, its obvious stablemate is the American A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane. But while the U.S. Air Force wants to retire the A-10 starting in 2022, the Su-25 is undergoing extensive upgrades to keep with the times.


Also unlike the Thunderbolt, it has been disseminated it all over the world and seen action in over a dozen wars, including in the air campaigns over Syria, Iraq and Ukraine.

Not only has Russia had a lot of experience flying Su-25s in combat — it has shot several down as well.

During World War II, Russia’s armored Il-2 Sturmovik attack planes, nicknamed “Flying Tanks,” were renowned for their ability to take a pounding while dishing it out to German Panzer divisions with bombs, rockets and cannon fire.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

An A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Unlike the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s, which was enamored with the concept of “winning” nuclear wars with strategic bombers, the Soviet air service, the VVS, placed more emphasis on supporting ground armies in its Frontal Aviation branch. However, no worthy successor to the Shturmovik immediately appeared after World War II

In 1968, the VVS service decided it was time for another properly designed flying tank. After a three-way competition, the prototype submitted by Sukhoi was selected and the first Su-25 attack planes entered production in 1978 in a factory in Tbilisi, Georgia. Coincidentally, the American A-10 Thunderbolt had begun entering service a few years earlier.

Like the A-10, the Su-25 was all about winning a titanic clash between the ground forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact by busting tanks and blasting infantry in Close Air Support missions. This meant flying low and slow to properly observe the battlefield and line up the plane for an attack run.

Flying low would also help the Su-25 avoid all the deadly long-range SAMs that would have been active in a European battlefield. However, this would have exposed it to all kinds of antiaircraft guns. Thus, the pilot of the Su-25 benefited from an “armored bathtub” — ten to twenty-five millimeters of armor plating that wrapped around the cockpit and even padded the pilot’s headrest. It also had armored fuel tanks and redundant control schemes to increase the likelihood of surviving a hit. And in their extensive combat careers, Su-25s have survived some really bad hits.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

A Sukhoi Su-25SM at the Celebration of the 100th anniversary of Russian Air Force.

Despite the similarities with the A-10, the Su-25 is a smaller and lighter, and has a maximum speed fifty percent faster than the Thunderbolt’s at around six hundred miles per hour. However, the Frogfoot has shorter range and loiter time, can only operate at half the altitude, and has a lighter maximum load of up to eight thousand pounds of munitions, compared to sixteen thousand on the Thunderbolt.

More importantly, the types of munitions usually carried are typically different. The Thunderbolt’s mainstays are precision-guided munitions, especially Maverick antitank missiles, as well as its monstrous, fast-firing GAU-8 cannon.

The Su-25’s armament has typically consisted of unguided 250 or 500 kilogram bombs, cluster bombs and rockets. The rockets come in forms ranging from pods containing dozens of smaller 57- or 80-millimeter rockets, to five-shot 130-millimeter S-13 system, to large singular 240- or 330-millimeter rockets. The Su-25 also has a Gsh-30-2 30-millimeter cannon under the nose with 260 rounds of ammunition, though it doesn’t have the absurd rate of fire of the GAU-8.

The lower tip of the Frogfoot’s nose holds a glass-enclosed laser designator. Su-25s did make occasional use of Kh-25ML and Kh-29 laser guided missiles in Afghanistan to take out Mujahideen fortified caves, striking targets as far as five miles away. KAB-250 laser-guided bombs began to see use in Chechnya as well. However, use of such weapons was relatively rare. For example, they made up only 2 percent of munitions expended by the Russian Air Force in Chechnya.

The Su-25 was still packing plenty of antipersonnel firepower—and that’s exactly what was called for when it first saw action in Afghanistan beginning in 1981. The Su-25 was the workhorse fixed-wing attack plane in the conflict, flying more than sixty thousand sorties in bombing raids on mujahedeen villages and mountain strongholds. They often teamed up with Mi-24 attack helicopters to provide air support for Soviet armored units.

However, as the Afghan rebels began to acquire Stinger missiles from the United States, Su-25s began to suffer losses and the Soviet pilots were forced to fly higher to avoid the man-portable surface-to-air missiles. In all, some fifteen Su-25s were shot down in Afghanistan before the Soviet withdrawal.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Su-25s were passed onto the air services of all the Soviet successor states. Those that didn’t use Su-25s in local wars—on both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, for example—often exported them to countries that did. Frogfoots have seen action in the service of Macedonia (against Albanian rebels), Ethiopia (against Eritrea, with one shot down), Sudan (target: Darfur), and Georgia versus Abkhazian separatists that shot down several. And that list is not comprehensive.

In one notable episode, Cote d’Ivoire acquired several Su-25s and used them in its civil war. When the government of President Laurent Gbagbo was angered by the perceived partisanship of French peacekeepers, his mercenary-piloted Su-25s bombed the French camp, killing nine. Whoever ordered the attack didn’t consider that there was a French contingent stationed at the Yamoussoukro Airfield where the Frogfoots were based. The French used anti-tank missiles to destroy the fighter bombers on the ground in retaliation.

Russian Su-25 were back in action in the Chechnya campaign of 1994 to 1995, flying 5,300 strike sorties. Early on they helped wipe out Chechen aircraft on the ground and hit the Presidential Palace in Grozny with anti-concrete bombs. They then pursued a more general bombing campaign. Four were lost to missiles and flak. They were again prominent in the Second Chechen War in 1999, where only one was lost.

Of course, it’s important to note at this juncture that the Su-25 is one of a handful of Soviet aircraft that received its own American computer game in 1990.

Modern Su-25s

In addition to the base model, the Frogfoot also came in an export variant, the Su-25K, and a variety of two-seat trainers with a hunchback canopy, including the combat-capable Su-25UBM.

There were a number of projects to modernize the Su-25, including small productions runs of Su-25T and Su-25TM tank busters. But the Russian Air Force finally selected the Su-25SM in the early 2000s for all future modernization.

The SM has a new BARS satellite navigation/attack system, which allows for more precise targeting, as well as a whole slew of improved avionics such as news heads-up displays (HUDS), Radar Warning Receivers and the like. The Su-25SM can use the excellent R-73 short-range air-to-air missile, and has improved targeting abilities for laser-guided bombs. Other improvements reduce maintenance requirements and lower aircraft weight.

The National Interest‘s Dave Majumdar has written about the latest SM3 upgrade, which includes the capacity to fire Kh-58 anti-radar missiles, which could enable Su-25s to help suppress enemy air defenses, as well as a Vitebskelectronic-countermeasure system that could increase its survivability against both radar- and infarred-guided surface to air missiles.

Georgia and Ukraine also have limited numbers of their own domestically upgrade variants, the Su-25KM and the Su-25M1 respectively. You can check out the Su-25KM variant, produced with an Israeli firm, in this video full of unironic 1980s flair.

Speaking of Georgia, things got messy in 2008 when both Russia and Georgia operated Frogfoots in the Russo-Georgian War. The Georgian Frogfoots provided air support for Georgian troops seizing the city of Tskhinvali. Then Russian Su-25s assisted Russian armor in blasting them out. Russia lost three Su-25s to MANPADS—two likely from friendly fire—and Georgia lost a similar number to Russian SAMs. To the surprise of observers, however, the Russian Air Force did not succeed in sweeping Georgian aviation from the sky.

In 2014, Ukraine deployed its Frogfoots to support ground forces combating separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. They assisted in the initial recapture of the Donetsk airport in May, would be followed over a half year of seesaw battles ending in a separatist victory in 2015. Ukraine lost four Su-25s in the ensuing ground-attack missions—three were hit by missiles (one MANPADS, two allegedly by longer-ranged systems across the Russian border), and a fourth was reportedly downed by a Russian MiG-29. Two others survivedhits from missiles. As a result, Su-25 strikes were sharply curtailed to avoid incurring further losses.

In 2015, the Russian separatists of the Luhansk People’s Republic claimed to have launched airstrikes with an Su-25 of their own. Depending on who you ask, the airplane was restored from a museum or flew in from Russia.

The Iraqi Air Force has deployed its own Su-25s in the war against ISIS, purchasing five from Russia in 2014 and receiving seven from Iran that had been impounded during the 1991 Gulf War.

Finally, in the fall of 2015, Russia deployed a dozen modernized Su-25SMs in support of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Many observers noted that of the aircraft involved in the mission, the Su-25s were the best adapted for the close air-support role. The Frogfoot flew 1,600 sorties against rebel-held Syrian cities, and expended more than six thousand munitions, mostly unguided bombs and S-13 rockets. They were withdrawn this year, leaving attack helicopter behind to perform more precise—and risky—close air support missions.

Lessons Learned from Flying Tanks?

While it’s fun to admire high-performing fighters like the MiG-29 or F-22 Raptor, the unglamorous Su-25 has so far had a greater impact on a wide range of conflicts. We can draw a few lessons from its recent combat record.

First, the significant losses suffered by Su-25s demonstrate that without effective air-defense suppression and electronic counter-measures, low-and-slow ground support planes are poised to take heavy losses against Russian-made surface-to-air missiles deployed in sufficient numbers.

Second, observation of Russia’s Syrian contingent suggests that despite possessing a diverse arsenal of precision guided munitions, the Russian Air Force continues to rely primarily on unguided bombs and rockets for the close air support mission.

Lastly, aircraft capable of delivering punishing attacks on ground targets while retaining a good chance of surviving hits taken in return are going to remain in high demand worldwide.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China rattles missiles as tensions with America rise

Chinese media touted the mobilization of a “far-reaching, anti-ship ballistic missile” Jan. 10, 2019, specifically highlighting its ability to target ships in the South China Sea.

China’s DF-26 ballistic missile has reportedly been mobilized in northwestern China, according to the Global Times, citing state broadcaster China Central Television. The weapon, commonly described as a “carrier killer,” is an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear warheads to targets on land and at sea.


The report from the Global Times notes that the activation of the DF-26 comes just “after a US warship trespassed into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands (Paracel Islands) in the South China Sea on Jan. 7, 2019,” a reference to a legal freedom-of-navigation operation conducted by destroyer USS McCampbell.

“We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in response, accusing the US of having “gravely infringed upon China’s sovereignty.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

The USS McCampbell.

“We will be on high alert and will closely monitor the air and sea situation to strongly defend our sovereignty and security,” the ministry spokesman added.

September 2018, a Chinese destroyer attempted to intercept a US warship during a freedom-of-navigation operation in the Spratly Islands, risking a collision. It was the Chinese navy’s most aggressive response to US actions in the South China Sea to date.

The DF-26 missiles mobilized in the northwest regions are far from the South China Sea, but Chinese military experts assert that it has the range to cover the contested waterway. “Even when launched from deeper inland areas of China, the DF-26 has a range far-reaching enough to cover the South China Sea,” an anonymous expert told the Global Times. The missile is believed to have a range of about 3,400 miles.

That expert added that missiles fired from the interior are harder to intercept because they can realistically only be intercepted in the terminal phase.

Amid Chinese bravado, there remains skepticism about the DF-26 missile’s ability to serve in an anti-ship role. The weapon was previously nicknamed the “Guam Killer” or the “Guam Express,” as it offers China the ability to strike Andersen Air Force Base, a key US base in the Pacific, with force.

The article in the Global Times reflects an aggressive tone that is becoming more common in Chinese discussions.

Recently, a retired Chinese admiral suggested sinking two US aircraft carriers, which would end the lives of roughly 10,000 American sailors. “What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Rear Adm. Luo Yuan said. “We’ll see how frightened America is.”

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

Articles

These US Marine veterans are trying to help Afghanistan earn Olympic gold

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man


Three veterans of the war in Afghanistan are returning to the country later this month with the hopes of unifying Afghans around international competition.

While working as a civilian contractor in 2008, Jeremy Piasecki — who grew up playing water polo in Fallbrook, California — took on the nearly impossible task of establishing a men’s national water polo team in Afghanistan. It wasn’t easy, especially considering most Afghans don’t know how to swim and there are just 12 pools in the entire country.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

From The Military Times:

Water polo is a physically aggressive game. Teams work to throw a ball into their opponent’s goal, while preventing their opponent from doing likewise. Piasecki first got the idea to teach locals about it while working near Kabul as a civilian about seven years ago.

While aboard a military base, he recalled seeing a swimming pool devoid of water and filled with trash. He convinced the Afghan base commander to clean it up, and began teaching Afghans how to swim and play the game.

“It was the first ever water polo team in Afghanistan,” Piasecki told The Times.

Today, the team is officially sanctioned by the Afghanistan Olympic Committee and is currently training under American coaches. They continue to train and “will take their first steps toward representing their country — one deserving of more positive athlete role models — in international competition,” according to its official website.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

Afghanistan was banned from the Olympics in 1999 while under Taliban rule. It was reinstated in 2002, but has had only a few athletes make it onto the world stage since, where they have competed in sprinting and Taekwondo (Afghan Rohullah Nikpai won Bronze in 2008 and 2012).

In 2010, Piasecki met Dan Huvane and Lydia Davey while on joint duty in Stuttgart, Germany for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe, and bonded over a shared desire to help the Afghan people. Now all three are trying to bring together a new team — of Afghan women.

“I promised myself that someday we would launch a women’s team,” Piasecki said in a statement. “I’m glad to start delivering on that promise.”

Joined by American Water Polo Coach Robbie Bova, the three Marine veterans will fly to Kabul next week and hold tryouts for 125 Afghan women, select and begin training a core group of 30 promising athletes, and — if all goes to plan — establish a network of teams throughout Afghanistan while building a team that can compete internationally by 2020.

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

The group faces a variety of challenges. Kabul only has one pool that women can use, and the country is still very dangerous, especially for women wanting to engage in any kind of sport.

“During my deployments in Afghanistan, I have witnessed sport played out on the international stage serve as a tremendous rally point for the people of all factions and ethnicities – a desperately needed sign of hope and pride,” Dan Huvane, a U.S. Marine reserve lieutenant colonel and communications consultant who is participating in the project, said in a statement. “Alongside those stories, I have seen the women of Afghanistan defy systematic oppression and outright death threats in order to be bold pioneers.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

To fund travel for coaches, provide uniforms and equipment, and help with weekly training sessions, the team established an IndieGoGo campaign. You can check it out here.

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