NASA has selected two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
The agency announced the concepts Dec. 27, following an extensive and competitive peer review process. The concepts were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in April under a New Frontiers program announcement of opportunity.
“This is a giant leap forward in developing our next bold mission of science discovery,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These are tantalizing investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today.”
The CAESAR mission seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet that was successfully explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, to determine its origin and history. Led by Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, CAESAR would be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Dragonfly is a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of dozens of sites on Saturn’s moon Titan, an ocean world in our solar system. Elizabeth Turtle from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, is the lead investigator, with APL providing project management.
The CAESAR and Dragonfly missions will receive funding through the end of 2018 to further develop and mature their concepts. NASA plans to select one of these investigations in the spring of 2019 to continue on to subsequent mission phases.
The selected mission will be the fourth in NASA’s New Frontiers portfolio, a series of principal investigator-led planetary science investigations that fall under a development cost cap of approximately $850 million. Its predecessors are the New Horizons mission to Pluto and a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of the asteroid Bennu.
NASA also announced the selection of two mission concepts that will receive technology development funds to prepare them for future mission competitions.
The concepts selected for technology development are:
Enceladus Life Signatures and Habitability (ELSAH)
The ELSAH mission concept will receive funds to develop cost-effective techniques that limit spacecraft contamination and thereby enable life detection measurements on cost-capped missions. The principal investigator is Chris McKay of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and the managing NASA center is Goddard.
Venus In situ Composition Investigations (VICI)
Led by Lori Glaze at Goddard, the VICI mission concept will further develop the Venus Element and Mineralogy Camera to operate under the harsh conditions on Venus. The instrument uses lasers on a lander to measure the mineralogy and elemental composition of rocks on the surface of Venus.
The call for concepts was limited to six mission themes: comet surface sample return, lunar south pole-Aitken Basin sample return, ocean worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus), Saturn probe, Trojan asteroid tour and rendezvous, and Venus in situ explorer.
New Frontiers Program investigations address NASA’s planetary science objectives as described in the 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan. The program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.
Three military spouses say they hope to change the world, through one act of kindness at a time.
To accomplish this, they aim to encourage more than one million acts of kindness in the military community through a viral movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition, set for Dec. 3, 2019.
“One million acts sounds like a lot,” admitted Maria Reed, an Army spouse and organizer for the event. “But, it just takes one act to inspire another, and if enough people are inspired — we can reach a million acts together.”
It was Reed’s optimistic thinking that initially helped her form a bond with two like-minded spouses: Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse.
Three military spouses, Maria Reed an Army spouse, Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse visit Los Angeles, Calif., Nov. 6, 2019, to promote their online movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition.
The three first met in May at the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards ceremony, held in Washington, D.C. All three won that night for their respective branches.
Following the ceremony, the three connected “easy and effortlessly,” Reed said, largely due to their shared goal to use their platform to bridge together the military community and help others.
At first, they didn’t know exactly how they would collaborate, they said. But, that changed soon after a plan was hatched to contact GivingTuesday, the parent organization of their group. Shortly after they made contact, GivingTuesday representatives agreed to partner up and the military edition was created.
“It’s inspiring to see military service members, veterans, and their families who already have committed so much to something bigger than themselves, lead the way to encourage one million acts of kindness,” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday chief executive officer, in a news release.
The military edition kicked off in September 2019, and since it was announced they have received nation-wide attention. However, according to Reed — who is a military spouse of 16 years — the need to help others is just a part of being in the military community.
U.S. Army Spc. Janerah W. Glaze, 253rd Transportation Company, New Jersey Army National Guard, grills hamburgers during the Sgt. 1st Class Robert H. Yancey Sr. Stand Down at the National Guard Armory in Cherry Hill, N.J., Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Mark Olsen)
Her husband, who is currently deployed, plans to responsibly participate from his undisclosed location overseas.
“Military families are called to serve, it’s in our DNA and [GivingTuesday] is a way that we can all serve and give back to the community,” Reed said.
No act of goodwill is too small, she added. “It doesn’t matter, kindness is kindness.”
Whether serving food to the homeless, volunteering at an animal shelter, buying coffee for a stranger, or simply holding a door open for someone — there are no shortage of options, she said.
In addition to individual acts, Reed said various schools, companies, and blood drives across the country have committed to join in the effort to meet their seven-digit goal.
But, the true measure of success, Manfre said, is simply to inspire others to be kind.
“If all we do is inspire just one person to be kind to someone else, that’s what matters,” she said.
The inaugural event will be documented online with #GivingTuesdayMilitary.
With more than 50 chapter ambassadors at the forefront of local efforts, and thousands of eager participants who are affiliated with more than 800 military installations worldwide, the trio agree their movement will grow every year.
Social media pages have been set up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the campaign, all with the handle @GivingTuesdayMilitary.
Sure, the Academy Awards have categories like “Best Actor” and “Best Adapted Screenplay,’ and, yes, military movies like “American Sniper” and “The Imitation Game” are in the mix this year. But all of that falls somewhat short of capturing the true military cinematic essence that this year’s crop of films produced. Here are nine categories that the Oscars forgot and the winners in each:
1. Best Misuse Of Government Property By A Leading Man: Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Because Bradley Cooper’s Chris Kyle was a super badass sniper, he had a phone so that generals and even the president could call him to tell him who he should put the crosshairs on next. What did Cooper’s Kyle use the phone for? To call his wife, usually right before a firefight was about to break out. And once it did he wouldn’t hang up (in order not to alarm her or anything).
2. Best Use of Kristen Stewart’s Bitch Face By An Actress In A Leading Role: Kristen Stewart, “Camp X-Ray”
Kristen Stewart plays a U.S. Army guard at Gitmo who develops a sympathetic relationship – through a prison door – with one of the detainees. But her sympathy is buried under the same expression she’s used in every movie she’s ever been in, that signature bitchy pouty girl face, so it’s hard to tell when she’s sympathetic and when she’s bored or pissed off. But, hey, like B.B. King said, “You can play just one note if it’s the right one.” We say bravo, Ms. Stewart.
3. Best Supporting Actor In A Role About The Fact All Vets Are Doomed: Brad Hawkins, “Boyhood”
Brilliantly filmed over a 12-year period, director Richard Linklater’s gem focuses on the life of a sometimes single mom and her two kids. The mom’s third love interest is a returning vet who’s just back from Iraq. He seems like a nice, well-adjusted guy, but after a while he’s holding down a job as a prison guard and sitting on the front porch guzzling beer and yelling at the son about being a good-for-nothing, which is to say they got it exactly right because that’s what always happens to returning vets.
4. Best Portrayal Of The Perils Of Having Sex In Combat: “Fury”
Brad Pitt’s Sherman tank crew stumble across the home of a war-weary German family with a hot daughter, and they enjoy a bit of normalcy. One of the crew hooks up with the daughter, and once they’re done the crew leaves and minutes later the family’s house gets blown to smithereens by an air strike.
5. Best WTFO? Moment: “300 – Rise of Empires”
In the middle of a kick ass war-at-sea between ancient sailing ships, General Themistocles suddenly produces a horse that he rides all over the deck while slashing and stabbing his foe. But it really gets good when the horse – without any hesitation – gallops through flaming wreckage, leaps into the water, and then jumps onto an enemy ship where Themistocles continues his savaging of the enemy – truly the year’s best WTFO? military movie moment.
6. Most Dramatic Flame-out Of A Military Movie Franchise: “Jarhead 2”
Three words: Straight. To. DVD.
7. Best Actress In A Role About The Joys Of Being A Military Mom: Michelle Monaghan “Ft. Bliss”
Michelle Monaghan plays a single mom soldier who returns home after 15 months in Iraq only to find that her 6-year-old son has forgotten who she is. (What, did the rest of family hide all the pictures of her? And no Skype?) About the point her son starts to warm to her she’s sent back to Iraq because that’s how the Army rolls. If the military wanted you to have a kid they would have issued you one.
8. Most Groundbreaking Guerrilla Warfare Sequence: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
One of the conniving chimps uses cute chimp moves to mollify two humans just long enough to get one of their automatic weapons and blow them away with it.
9. Best Actor In A Role About The Tortured Souls Of Those In The Intelligence Community: Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the intel genius who knows a thing or two about code breaking. Cumberbatch’s Turing is at odds with his sexual orientation and anti-social and basically pained by everything in his life – in other words, he’s a lot like most of those in the intel community.
Snipers face countless threats on the battlefield. Ambush. Exposure. Separation from friendly forces. But, one of the most dangerous is being hunted by another deadly sharpshooter.
“It becomes a game of cat and mouse,” US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, the sniper instructor team sergeant at the sniper school at Fort Benning, said in a recent interview with Business Insider. “You have to be very cautious.”
Sniper duels like those seen in “Enemy at the Gates” and that well-known scene from “Saving Private Ryan” are rare, but they do happen. During the Vietnam War, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock battled several enemy snipers, reportedly putting a shot clean through the rifle scope and eye of a North Vietnamese Army sniper.
We asked a handful of top US Army snipers, marksman with years of experience and multiple combat deployments, how they hunt enemy sharpshooters. Here’s what they had to say.
Spc. Dane Pope-Keegan, a Scottsdale, Arizona native and sniper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, performs reconnaissance and collects information during air assault training on July 10, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
US snipers have been fighting insurgents in the Middle East for nearly two decades. These enemies, while dangerous, are often considered lower level threats because they lack the training that US forces have.
“Some of our lower threat level [enemies], just because they are carrying a long gun, they may not have the actual experience of a sniper,” Rance told BI. The far greater threats are from professionally trained shooters from advanced militaries like those of China, Russia, and possibly even Iran.
“As you get into the near-peer threats, adversaries that have the proper tools and training, it’s a greater challenge for us to go get them because often they are professional school-trained snipers,” he said. They know the tricks of the trade, and that makes them much more deadly.
When there is a suspected sniper holed up nearby, there are a few different options.
“The best answer might be to go around,” Army Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at Fort Benning, told BI. “But, if your mission requires you to go through, you have a lot of different offensive options that are available.” They don’t necessarily have to hunt the enemy down one-on-one.
Snipers regularly support larger military force elements, scouting out enemy positions and relaying critical information to other components of that larger force, which can strike with mortars, artillery or infantry assault to “root out and destroy” the enemy. The snipers can then assess damage caused by the strikes from a safe distance.
But, sometimes eliminating the threat falls squarely on the shoulders of the sniper.
A U.S. Army sniper and infantryman with the U.S. Army Sniper School poses during a video shoot at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2018.
(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Capt. David Gasperson)
The hunt is a tedious and dangerous game, as Rance said. US troops must pinpoint the emplaced sniper and range them without exposing themselves to fire.
“It’s going to take patience,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of experience, explained to BI recently. “You are waiting to see who is going to make a mistake first. Basically, it is going to take a mistake for you to win that fight, or vice versa, you making a mistake and losing that fight.”
Snipers are masters at concealing themselves from the watchful eyes of the enemy, but disappearing is no easy task. There’s a million different things that go into hiding from the enemy, and a simple mistake could be fatal.
According to the story of Hathcock, the renowned Vietnam War sniper, it was reportedly the glare of the enemy’s scope that gave away his position. “As a sniper, you are looking for anomalies, anything that sticks out, going against the pattern,” Rance explained.
U.S. Army Spc. Artemio Veneracion, a native of North Hills, Calif., a sniper with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, looks through the scope of an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), during a combined squad training exercise with the Finnish Soldiers of the Armoured Reconnaissance Platoon at the Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 15, 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)
These fights could easily be long and drawn out.
“In a real scenario, you could be in a situation for two, three weeks, a month maybe, determining a pattern, waiting for a mistake to be made,” Sipes said. Eliminating a threat could involve taking the shot yourself or using your eyes to guide other assets as they force the enemy “into a position to effectively neutralize them.” Either way, it takes time.
And, the waiting is tough.
“Staying in a position for an extended period of time, obviously it’s difficult,” Sipes told BI. “Patience is key. It’s terrible when you’re in that situation because it’s incredibly boring and you’re not moving. I’ve come out of situations with sores on my stomach and elbows and knees from laying there for so long.”
“It’s a cool story later,” he added.
No matter how tough it gets, a sniper must maintain focus, keeping his concentration. A sniper really only gets one shot, maybe two best case scenario.
“If they were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do that second shot correction before that target, seeks cover and disappears.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Bacha Bazi” – a.k.a. “boy play” – is a practice in which young boys are coerced into sexual slavery, sometimes dressed as women and made to dance. It was popular among the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in the years preceding Taliban rule. The centuries-old custom was abolished under the Taliban, a ban that carried a death sentence for those who broke the law. That ban was in effect from 1996 until after the 2001 NATO invasion when it resurfaced.
In Uruzgan province, in central Afghanistan, north of Kandahar, the custom affects many of the local police chiefs. It’s so deeply ingrained in the society there, Taliban insurgents use young boys coerced into the act in Trojan Horse attacks.
The boys infiltrate the ranks of the Afghan national police or are recruited by the Taliban with the promise of revenge. According to reports from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Afghan policemen say the boys are known to be commanders’ sex slaves and can move about freely. One teenager waited until all the policemen were asleep, then went on a shooting rampage. He allowed the Taliban into the base to finish off any survivors. Such attacks have been going on for two years. There have been many in the first six months of 2016, an indication of a Taliban tactic that seems to be working.
AFP reports all of the 370 Afghan police checkpoints have such sex slaves. The boys are recruited illegally and also used as fighters when necessary. Many policemen in Uruzgan will not work for a checkpoint that doesn’t have these young boys. Provincial governors have difficulty enforcing the laws against Bacha Bazi because the men jailed for it are needed to fight the war against the Taliban or because the leaders are complicit in the crime.
Though the U.S. Department of State considers the custom “culturally sanctioned male rape,” one U.S. Army Special Forces NCO, Charles Martland, was almost kicked out of the Army for trying to prevent the practice. Martland assaulted an Afghan police commander to prevent the commander from raping a young boy. He spent years in limbo before being allowed to stay in the Army.
Central government authorities are afraid to investigate local police commanders, considering the amount of power they yield. They fear the commanders will not allow anyone investigating them for Bacha Bazi crimes to leave their jurisdiction alive. When the UN raised the issue with the first Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his response was curt.
“Let us win the war first,” Karzai said. “Then we will deal with such matters.”
The Russian government-funded Russia Today (widely known as RT), produced a short documentary about the practice in early 2016.
Russia is planning to supply its troops with small-scale drones that can drop bombs, Russian news site Izvestia reported July 2019. The quadcopters outfitted with explosives are modeled after similar commercial drones rigged with explosive devices used by ISIS fighters in Syria.
“This is a very tactical [unmanned aerial vehicle], we’re talking about small UAV with a close range,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, and a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, told INSIDER.
“Downrange, they will probably be able to strap a couple of grenades or bombs” to the UAVs, Bendett said.
While the UAVs aren’t yet outfitted with weapons, Izvestia cited sources in the Ministry of Defense saying the upgrade is imminent, and Bendett told INSIDER via email “given the relative simplicity in turning them into strike drones so they can drop grenades or mortar rounds, I would say that can happen relatively quickly.”
U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in the Unmanned Aerial System Operations Program familiarize themselves with quad-copter flight controls at the Cadet Field House, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., March 4, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua Armstrong)
The US has pioneered drones in military operations, and many of them are larger than piloted planes and carry a suite of surveillance sensors and missiles. The armed MQ-9 Reaper has a 66-foot-long wingspan that’s twice that of an F-16 fighter. In contrast, the kind of small drones favored by remote-control hobbyists weren’t thought of as a weapon until their use by ISIS combatants.
“Suddenly ISIS does a 180 and turns these very simple, unsophisticated devices into very deadly ones,” he said. “So there was that realization that anything and everything could be turned into a weapon and therefore the Russian military should look at the successful adoption of the systems that have proven successful.”
ISIS fighters used drones to terrifying effect against the US-led coalition, the attacks did not result in a “large number of deaths,” according to a report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.
Russian law enforcement agencies already use small drones, Bendett said. What’s new is Russia’s decision to weaponize them — and the Ministry of Defense announcement of the decision.
It’s unclear how large the drones will be, or how many Russia will utilize, although Bendett said they could number in the thousands.
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac)
“I don’t believe that very small weaponized drones pose a particularly dangerous threat simply because a drone that weighs 33 grams simply can’t carry much of a payload,” Jeff Ellis, a partner at Clyde Co. in New York, told INSIDER via email.
“That being said, slightly larger drones can be used to target individuals or small groups and remain very difficult to detect and interdict,” he said.
The drones will need to be able to support secure communication and small-scale sensors before they are useful to the Russian military, Bendett said.
But anything that the military uses, Bendett noted, would eventually trickle down to Russia’s state security apparatus, including the FSB, but only for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts “for now.”
While the adoption of terrorist tactic by a state might seem ethically dubious, Bendett said that Russia has adopted other technologies used by extremist groups, like technicals — a pick-up truck that has a mounted machine guns.
Furthermore, Bendett said it’s important to note that the Russian military is thinking tactically. “For Russians it’s a very matter of fact thing right now,” he told INSIDER. “They’re seeing what works best, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll discard it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With a baby on the way, Spc. Donald Ulloa and his wife were up all night preparing for the arrival of a new child. With no such luck on this particular day, he went about his normal routine.
Ulloa, a soldier with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was at a gas station with his Family in the car when he witnessed a vehicle accident. He looked toward the road and saw a car hit a motorcyclist before the motorcyclist flew through the air.
His soldier skills kicked in and he didn’t hesitate, he ran toward the accident and immediately began to assess the situation. He quickly realized the bike on the motorcyclist’s leg needed to be moved, so he threw the bike off the man before looking around to delegate tasks. One person called 911 and another woman was able to translate from Spanish to English for Ulloa, while he began applying his combat lifesaver course techniques until emergency services arrived.
“That’s just the type of soldier he is,” said Sgt. 1st Class Billy Thornton, human resources NCO, HHC, 1st Bn., 38th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT. “To be the first one on scene was great — whether here or overseas — he would do the same. I was surprised by the event, but not by Ulloa’s actions. I had immediate praise for him.”
When it comes to chaotic events, Thornton said he knows Ulloa is always ready. The office staff is constantly training to be prepared for any situation, and Ulloa is always looking for ways to improve.
Spc. Donald Ulloa, a soldier with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, helps Soldiers on the range.
The military taught Ulloa to remain calm in hectic situations. Whether on a range, at a shoot house or downrange, Ulloa said the first thing he realized was that he needed to be calm. But looking back, he believes he did what anyone else would have done.
“I don’t think that I could have done anything differently … as infantrymen we are taught to run toward it and provide help,” he said.
Not wanting to see any child grow up without a parent, Ulloa said it doesn’t matter who it is. He would have done the same for anyone, because he believes “it’s everyday soldier training; its selfless service, sacrifice, integrity … day one or 20 years later it’s all the same core values that are instilled in you.”
Ulloa’s quick actions that day demonstrated only a fraction of the soldier he is.
“I’ve only known Ulloa since May of this year,” Thornton said. “We showed up at Fort Carson at the same time. He does everything he is asked and in a timely manner, and he is respectful to superiors and peers. He is a model soldier.”
He recently was named “4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Soldier of the Week” for his accomplishments within the unit. The company started a program that prepares the brigade for deployments, called “Raider Onboard.” The unit ensures soldiers are deployable with the three-week program by ensuring their paperwork and annual online classes are completed. The second week focuses on buddy aid and the combat lifesavers course, and week three hones in on driver training and issuing military licenses.
Since June 2018, Ulloa has processed nearly 900 soldiers through the program, making the unit, battalion, and brigade more readily deployable.
Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery, congratulate one another on the M4 iron sights zero range at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 10, 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Liesl Marelli, Colorado National Guard)
“Because of the manning, it became difficult,” Thornton said, before asking Ulloa to help as an assistant instructor. “Ulloa just took over … that when I came in; my commander and sergeant major said they wanted a volunteer program.”
Before moving to Fort Carson, Ulloa completed hundreds of volunteer hours, without recognition, at his last duty station.
So it was right up his alley when he was asked to pitch in with the unit’s designated driver program.
Ulloa earned his volunteer service medal by doing various things with the unit. He also volunteered for cleanup through the city of Colorado Springs, including gathering about 50 people to help clean up the area.
“It was a massive undertaking,” Thornton said.
He volunteered to raise money through a silent auction for a children’s hospital. This along with many other volunteer events is what pushed him over his hours for his first Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
“It was my pleasure to write up his award. Ulloa is about to receive his second volunteer service medal,” Thornton said.
It takes many soldiers years to get the award, but he is not surprised Ulloa is about to earn his second. Thornton said he can always count on Ulloa in areas where volunteers are needed.
“Ulloa’s work ethic and values supersede his rank,” he said.
Thornton said that regardless of the task, he is confident when Ulloa fills in for him, he “takes it and runs with it.”
Thornton said he has worked with a lot of good soldiers and despite the recent attention on Ulloa, he is humble about it.
Ulloa said he wasn’t looking for recognition but instead wanted the unit to be highlighted for the designated driver program.
Because of the program that Ulloa helped set up, other soldiers have come forward to volunteer as part of the program and some have chosen to quit drinking because of this program, he said. And to date the 1st Bn., 38th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT, does not have any DUIs.
Due to an accident while serving, Ulloa is set to get out of the Army soon.
“I wish Ulloa the best of luck,” Thornton said. “I hope he continues to support his community and I am quite sure he will.”
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon patrol the sandy streets of Djibouti, the hot East African sun scorches their path with temperatures upwards of 115 degrees. Passing through impoverished villages, Rodriguez began to notice a devastating trend — most of the children are barefooted.
It was during his visit to an orphanage that, Rodriquez immediately thought of his own two daughters and made it his personal mission to do something about the shoeless orphans.
“While on patrol, every few weeks we passed a local orphanage where children gather for their meals,” Rodriguez said. “Children aged 5-8 sleep along the walls outside and wake up to shower in the orphanage. They eat cups of peanut butter for protein with crackers. Since there is no refrigeration, that is the most protein they are able to get. That’s their lunch — crackers. So I thought you know what? This would be a great mission for my church back home.”
While on emergency leave due to his father’s passing, Rodriguez pushed past his grief to talk to students and coordinate a sandal drive with the school that his daughters attend, Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Laredo, Texas. Their Catholic school is part of the parish that Rodriguez and his family belong to.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, stands with several of the children in Djibouti. Rodriguez gifted 500 sandals to barefoot orphans and children during their deployment.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“I am very active in my daughter’s school and I wanted to get my daughters involved and proactive in something in Africa as well,” Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, said. “I talked to the principal, who said she would talk to Father Wojciech, the priest in charge of his church in Laredo. The school sent out flyers thru the National Junior Honor Society asking parents to donate one pair of sandals.”
On Veteran’s day, Rodriguez who is completing his fourth deployment, visited his daughter’s school to talk about his service in the military and the children in Djibouti.
“I described how the weather was there, how hot it was and asked them to imagine standing outside, barefooted in Laredo,” Rodriguez said. “My daughters and their classmates are at that age where they are learning to help others and how to ask for help as well. I want them to learn a sense of compassion.”
From September to December, his daughter’s school collected six boxes filled with roughly 500 sandals of varying sizes. After the sandals were collected, the students raised money to send the two by three-foot shipping boxes to Djibouti for Rodriguez and his unit to deliver to the children.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, hands out sandals to barefoot orphans and children with his platoon during their deployment, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“This is the first time that we have done something so big that reaches out of the country,” Cynthia Sanchez, math and science teacher at Blessed Sacrament School. “It’s a trickle-down effect, from parents, and at school they are learning how to help others so that they can teach their own kids.”
Normally, the school participated in blanket, canned food and sweater drives, and periodically will make trips to feed the homeless.
“They feel good and warm inside about helping others with no incentives but because they want to give it,” said Sanchez. “We weren’t expecting that amount. A lot of parents and kids wanted to do their part and National Junior honor Society members went outside of the school into their communities to get donations.”
Anxiously waiting for the packages to arrive, Rodriguez received the sandals in February.
In order to distribute the sandals in the community, Rodriguez coordinated with the local orphanage and the village elder for approval.
After he received approval, Rodriguez and his platoon set out to deliver the sandals to the children of the community.
“When we handed out the sandals the children were so surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Their happiness turned into overwhelming joy, to trying to be next, I made sure they all were good. It got chaotic at times but these children had nothing but what they were wearing and most were barefooted.”
Rodriguez, who kept close contact with his daughter’s school immediately alerted the school, via e-mail, that he had handed out the sandals to the children.
Children from Djibouti pose for a photo after receiving sandals from Texas Army National Guard Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
In response, Anacecy Chavez, a Blessed Sacrament School teacher wrote:
“When I read this my heart jumped. You are a super hero for me and many others for serving our country and helping those around you.”
The Director of the orphanage, Caritas Djibouti, also thanked Rodriguez and his daughter’s school for their donation.
“We had the good surprise a few days ago to receive, through Mr. Rodriguez, a nice and generous donation of shoes for the street children here at Caritas,” said Francesco Martialis, director of Caritas Djibouti. “It was such a generous support which will be usefully used for sure! And also many thanks for the Church support that we feel, from here Djibouti, an isolated place, through your donation. It is precious to us.”
Rodriguez, who has been a soldier on the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force for 18 years, is no stranger to getting involved into the community. Task force members routinely support local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in an effort to detect, interdict and deter illicit drug activity.
In addition to being an involved member of his church, Rodriguez said that his experience as a task force member enhanced his ability to build relationships on an international level, communicate and coordinate with partners in order to make the drive a success.
Although Rodriguez’s tour is coming to a close, he has continued to solidify the connections of his church at home with the local Djibouti church — which coincidentally are both named Blessed Sacrament.
Rodriguez spoke to the Bishop of the Djibouti Catholic Church about maintaining contact in the case that they may be able to provide more donations for the children.
“It is great to hear that our young youth are striving to be humanitarians as that is something this world is missing more of,” Rodriguez said. “It gives me great pride to know that the sacrifices we make as soldiers to protect our country is giving our youth the opportunity to grow into caring, responsible and giving citizens of our communities.”
Minutes after Tate Jolly arrived at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, a mortar hit the compound where an ambassador and another American had been killed and dozens more were trapped.
The Marine gunnery sergeant was one of only two U.S. troops with a small task force that rushed to respond to what quickly became clear was a coordinated attack on the U.S. State Department facility.
It was a remarkable mission. The closest military backup was hours away, which later led to fierce debate about how U.S. troops should be postured to protect Americans and diplomatic posts overseas.
“There was no one even remotely close to being able to go and get them in North Africa,” a source familiar with the operation planning said. “The nearest airplanes were hours away and the nearest ground troops a day away or further.”
The source spoke under the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the Sept. 11, 2012, incident, which remains a topic of controversy in Washington seven years later.
The scene was chaotic when the team arrived, and they quickly tried to restore order. There were nearly 30 panicked people who needed to be evacuated quickly, but the compound was under fire from multiple sides.
“Unfortunately, it was not a whole lot of offense; it was a whole lot of just holding guys off as long as they could to try and get out,” the person familiar with the mission said.
Jolly, who declined a request for an interview, would ultimately be awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism there. The soldier with him, Master Sgt. David Halbruner, received the Army‘s Distinguished Service Cross. The valor awards are exceeded only by the Medal of Honor.
Little has been known about the Jolly’s actions in Benghazi. There was no public ceremony when he received his valor award and, until recently, his name has not been publicly tied to the mission in media reports.
His hometown paper in North Carolina,the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, recently reported that the 36-year-old who’d graduated from high school about 90 miles north of Charlotte was the Marine who’d gone above and beyond to save other Americans. Jolly recently retired as a master sergeant.
According to testimony, public documents and the person familiar with his actions, Jolly was calm in the face of deadly chaos. He and Halbruner are credited with saving numerous lives that day.
With a rifle strapped to his back amid an onslaught of mortars and machine-gun fire, Jolly tended to the wounded, at one point throwing a man onto his back and shuffling him down a ladder amid a barrage of enemy fire. He helped some get back into the fight and provided vital care to others with life-threatening injuries.
Here’s how then-Gunnery Sgt. Jolly helped get other Americans to safety during a situation that caused a years-long political firestorm thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.
A Delta Force Marine
Jolly, an infantry assault Marine, was assigned to a Delta Force detachment in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack. It’s rare, though not unheard of, for Marines to join the elite Army special-operations teams.
The Marine had deployed to Iraq twice before joining the secretive counterterrorism force, spending about five years carrying out clandestine missions before the Benghazi attack and another five after, according to information about his career obtained by Military.com.
He racked up more than a dozen total deployments with Delta Force.
The Navy Cross Jolly received for his actions in Benghazi was his fourth valor award. He has two Bronze Stars with combat “V” devices — one of which he earned for undisclosed reasons during his time with Delta Force, and a second from a 2004-2005 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq.
Jolly also earned a Navy Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during that deployment.
(Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)
According to his award citations, Jolly repeatedly braved enemy fire in Ramadi to help take out an enemy sniper who had ambushed a government center. He received the Navy Commendation Medal for risking his life to destroy roadside bombs when an explosive ordnance disposal team couldn’t reach his unit.
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Jolly was about 600 miles away from Benghazi in Tripoli — roughly the same distance between Chicago and Washington, D.C. Since Jolly and Halbruner were some of the only troops in-country, the operation was coordinated not by U.S. Africa Command, but the CIA.
Team Tripoli, made up of Jolly, Halbruner and five others, arrived in Benghazi at about 1:30 a.m. That was about four hours after the attack began, and two since Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens had last been seen alive.
The team was led by Glen Doherty, a Global Response Staff (GRS) security officer and former Navy SEAL, who was later killed. He was Team Tripoli’s medic.
The plan, according to the person familiar with the mission, was to leave the airport and head to the hospital, where they believed Stevens was being treated. When they found out Stevens had died, the first ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979, the team headed to the consulate to bolster the diplomatic security personnel and GRS, a group of private military contractors who were fending off the attackers.
“It could’ve gone really, really bad,” said the source familiar with the mission. “It could’ve become 30 American hostages in North Africa. There were seven shooters going in to protect people who don’t shoot for a living.”
By the time they arrived, Sean Smith, a State Department foreign service officer, had also died. It was still dark, just after 5 a.m., according to a congressional timeline of the attack. Within minutes, the first mortar hit.
The attacks continued, with one witness estimating there were as many as 100 insurgents spotted surrounding their location in 20- or 30-man groups. It was a skilled enemy, one of the troops there later told members of Congress.
“It’s not easy … to shoot inside the city and get something on the target within two shots — that’s difficult,” the witness testified. “I would say they were definitely a trained mortar team or had been trained to do something similar to that.
“I was kind of surprised,” the service member added. “… It was unusual.”
They were there a matter of hours, but at times witnesses said the team feared they wouldn’t make it out alive. It began to “rain down on us,” one of them told lawmakers.
”I really believe that this attack was planned,” the witness said. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries.”
In total, six 81-millimeter mortars assaulted the annex within a minute and 13 seconds, a congressional report on the attack states. Doherty and Tyrone Woods, another former SEAL with the GRS, didn’t survive.
Dave Ubben, a State Department security agent, and Mark “Oz” Geist, another GRS member, were badly hurt. The men were defending the compound from the rooftop, determined to make it look like they had a lot more firepower than they actually did.
“There was a lot of shooting, a lot of indirect fire and explosions,” the source with knowledge of the response said. “It was just guys being really aggressive and doing a good job at making it seem like their element was bigger than it was, like they were less hurt than they were.”
Ubben — who’d testified before a federal court in 2017 that he took shrapnel to his head, nearly lost his leg, and had a grapefruit-sized piece of his arm taken off — was losing blood fast. Geist also had a serious arm injury that needed immediate attention.
Jolly and Halbruner were determined to save them. Amid the fight, they were tying tourniquets to the men’s bodies.
Ubben is alive because Jolly helped move him from the rooftop to a building where diplomatic personnel were hunkered down. Gregory Hicks, who became the acting chief of mission after Stevens died, later described how the gunny did it during a congressional hearing.
Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens.
“One guy … full of combat gear climbed up [to the roof], strapped David Ubben, who is a large man, to his back and carried him down the ladder, saved him,” Hicks said.
Jolly and Halbruner also went back out to the rooftop to recover the bodies of the fallen.
“They didn’t know whether any more mortars were going to come in. The accuracy was terribly precise,” Hicks said. “… They climbed up on the roof, and they carried Glen’s body and Tyrone’s body down.”
It was for Jolly’s “valorous actions, dedication to duty and willingness to place himself in harm’s way” to save numerous unarmed Americans’ lives that he earned the Navy Cross, according to his citation.
Bracing for the worst
That attack was traumatic for many of the civilians trapped inside one of the buildings, according to the person with knowledge of the operation. They’d lost their ambassador and another colleague, and they had no experience being caught in a life-and-death combat situation.
Once Jolly and Halbruner brought the injured men in from off the rooftop, the diplomatic staff helped treat their wounds, according to the source familiar with the situation. It gave them a mission as the onslaught continued outside.
As the sun came up, the remaining team members worried that terrorists would overtake the facility. First believed to be the work of the Benghazi-based Ansar al-Sharia group, the attack was coordinated by several networks in the region, including al-Qaida affiliates.
Throughout the night, the Americans had the advantage of night vision, the person familiar with the mission said. In the daylight, it could quickly become an even playing field.
Surprisingly though, it got quieter. They gathered inside one of the buildings and formed an evacuation plan to move the diplomatic staff to the airport and eventually out of Benghazi.
“[They had to talk about] things like, ‘What happens if they came under attack on the way out? Do you know where to go if you are separated from the group or are being shot at?'” according to the person familiar with the plans.
They prepared for the worst: that as the convoy left the compound, they’d be ambushed, everyone would panic, and the terrorists would take hostages. But they made it to the airport without issue and, by 7:31 a.m., the first plane with survivors took off for Tripoli.
“Who would’ve thought seven people could go into Benghazi and get more than 25 people out? Especially without traditional military support?” the person familiar with the mission said. “… But you can do a lot if you’re determined and have no other choice.”
The Defense Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later faced a host of criticism over their response to the attack. Critics called it too slow — a congressional investigation finding that despite President Barack Obama and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta clearly ordering the military to deploy response forces, none were sent until almost eight hours after the attacks began.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton honor the Benghazi attack victims at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony held at Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 14, 2012.
(State Department photo)
Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked to explain why he hadn’t dispatched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from Italy. He told lawmakers it would’ve been “the wrong tool for the job.”
The Marine Corps, the nation’s go-to crisis-response force, has been particularly responsive in the aftermath of the attack. Since there aren’t enough amphibious ships to stage Marines everywhere they’d like to be at sea, they’ve set up land-based crisis-response forces built to respond to emergencies quickly. Those units include up to 2,200 personnel, along with aircraft and logistics capabilities.
Those units are now based in Europe, the Middle East and Central America. Those assigned to Africa and the Middle East have fielded several State Department requests to evacuate embassy personnel or shore up security when intelligence has indicated a high risk for attack.
The Marine Corps and State Department have also bolstered the number of embassy guards placed at diplomatic posts around the world, standing up dozens of new detachments that previously did not have military personnel.
It was a tragedy to see a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in Benghazi but, sadly, it sometimes takes an awful situation to get the attention of those in charge of policy, the person familiar with the response said.
“It was a bad situation, but a lot of priorities changed after this tragedy that would otherwise never have gotten fixed.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
If there’s any single artistic medium that draws in a remarkable amount of veterans, it’s comic books. Oftentimes, it takes the mind of someone who has served in the military to create a truly believable, relatable superhero.
It’s widely known that many of the godfathers of the comic book industry served in the U.S. military. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Syd Shores, for example, all fought in the Western Front in WWII. But many of the other writers and artists served, too — like these 6 creative minds.
Jim Starlin — Navy
Many of Marvel’s space-themed comics come from the mind of Vietnam War photographer and Navy veteran Jim Starlin. After returning home to Detroit, he initially made a living working on cars. Eventually, he broke into the comic book industry with many originals and revisions to existing cosmic characters.
Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, and even Thanos were all co-created by him. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ultimate MacGuffins, the Infinity Stones, and the much of the basis for the latest blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, come from Starlin’s storylines.
Humbly enough, she never wrote herself into a comic… even though she kinda earned it.
Alice Marble — OSS
Before becoming one of the first women to play a prominent role in comic books, Alice Marble lived an insane life. Not only was she a world-class tennis player but, during World War II, she served as a spy for the American government. She recovered from being shot in the back by a German agent and started to share her life through the adventures of Wonder Woman.
She served as the associate editor for Wonder Woman and was the creator of the Wonder Women of History strips. These shorts were page-long bookends attached to the end of each Wonder Woman issue that showcased the badassery of one woman per issue.
He’s also responsible for making superheroes jacked as hell under their spandex.
(Photo by Alan Light)
Curt Swan — Army
DC’s most respected artist of the Silver Age served in the Minnesota National Guard during WWII. Curt Swan was activated and deployed to Europe when his peers discovered his amazing gift for drawing. He was immediately reassigned by his superiors to make comics for Stars and Stripes.
After falling in love with a Red Cross worker (who he would eventually marry), Swan got a job at DC Comics, drawing Superman from 1948 until 1986. His ability to convey frenetic superpowers in print, like the iconic wooshings that show speed or the powerful impact bubbles that denote heavy punches, was heavily imitated.
He worked on ‘The ‘Nam’ with the next entry on this list…
Doug Murray — Army
Doug Murray served in Vietnam and later crafted what is considered one of the truest depictions of the war through his series, The ‘Nam. Remarkably, Murray was clever enough to stay true to the horrors and ugly sides of war while also keeping the Comics Code Authority happy.
The ‘Nam wasn’t pretty and touched on many horrific truths of war, but it cleverly hid its punches to get approved for publication. Outside of The ‘Nam, Murray also wrote the Weapon X series, which gave Wolverine his definitive backstory.
The ‘G.I. Joe’ character Tunnel Rat is entirely based on him and his life.
Larry Hama — Army
After fighting in Vietnam as a combat engineer and “tunnel rat,” Larry Hama began a career in acting before coming back to his childhood passion, comic books.
Not only did he work on The Warlord, Wonder Woman, and Batman for DC, but he earned his place as one of the Marvel greats when he took over the G.I. Joe comics and turned it into the deep franchise fans love today instead of just a line of generic military toys. He also co-created The ‘Nam, Wolverine, Punisher: War Zone, and Venom.
Sgt. Rock’s service number was Kanigher’s in real life.
Bob Kanigher — Army
There was a drastic dip in comic book popularity in the 1950s that nearly destroyed the industry. Only kids and troops read comics — and kids started losing interest. The day was saved when an Army veteran by the name of Robert Kanigher burst onto the scene.
He took over Wonder Woman after William Moulton Marston’s death and ushered in the Silver Age of Comics. His works include nearly everything in DC that wasn’t created during the Golden Age. His artistic baby, however, is one of the military and veteran community’s favorite comics, Sgt. Rock.
Richard Overton, a 112-year-old World War II veteran who lived to be the oldest American man, was laid to rest Jan. 12, 2019, at a historic cemetery in his hometown of Austin following days of tributes.
The grandson of slaves, Overton volunteered to join the Army in his 30s and served in the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion, an all-African American unit. He deployed to the Pacific Theater from 1942-45 with stops in Guam, Palau, and Iwo Jima.
Overton left the Army in 1945 at the rank of corporal. He went on to work in furniture sales and later in the state treasurer’s office when future Texas Gov. Ann Richards headed the agency, according to a Stars and Stripes article.
He will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery, the final resting place for many notable Texans, including Richards.
Richard Overton, a World War II veteran who lived to be the oldest American man, presents the game ball before the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 9, 2016.
(Photo by Sgt. Bethany L. Huff)
Before his death on Dec. 27, 2018, Overton was believed to be the second oldest living man in the world at 112 years and 280 days old, according to data by the Gerontology Research Group.
On Jan. 9, 2019, both U.S. senators from Texas introduced a Senate resolution to honor Overton.
In it, the resolution called Overton “an American hero that exemplified strength, sacrifice, and service to the United States of America.”
In recent years, the supercentenarian was honored at several ceremonies and sporting events.
He visited the White House multiple times and, in 2013, then-President Barack Obama spoke of him during a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
“When [WWII] ended, Richard headed home to Texas, to a nation bitterly divided by race,” Obama said in his speech. “And his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home. But this veteran held his head high.”
Richard Overton, a World War II veteran who lived to be the oldest American man, meets with President Barack Obama before a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11, 2013.
(White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Earlier that year, Obama said the veteran visited Washington, D.C., for the first time as part of an honor flight. During the trip, he paid his respects at the WWII Memorial. He also saw the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
“As Richard sat in a wheelchair beneath that great marble statue, he wept,” Obama said. “The crowd that gathered around him wept, too — to see one of the oldest living veterans of World War II bear witness to a day, to the progress of a nation he thought might never come.”
On Jan. 3, 2015, Overton represented the Greatest Generation at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, where he presented the game ball before the annual high school football all-star game.
Then on March 23, 2017, the San Antonio Spurs brought a 110-year-old Overton down to the basketball court during one of its NBA games and gave him a personalized jersey with “110” on it.
In 2017, the City of Austin also officially renamed the street where Overton lived to “Richard Overton Avenue.”
While in his 100s, Overton was still known to drive his own car and mow his lawn. In a 2013 interview with CNN, he credited God for living such a long life that included a few vices.
“I drink whiskey in my coffee. Sometimes I drink it straight,” he said at the age of 107. “I smoke my cigars; blow the smoke out. I don’t swallow it.”