Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

Ailani Myers wasn’t even three years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), an aggressive cancer of the blood. Although her battle is far from over, she and her family are focusing on something else too: saving other children.

Giggett Johnson is the sister of Ailani’s mom, Princecine Johnson, a 23-year veteran of the Navy.


“Ailani was born without complications and was healthy up until her second year, when they came to visit the family in Texas. We noticed she was acting different. She had a rash and an odd spot on her head so we rushed her to the hospital,” Johnson said.

It wasn’t long after that first hospital visit that Ailani received her diagnosis of ALL. The family quickly dove into treating her cancer and tried desperately to find a blood stem cell donor. But there wasn’t one on the registry. One barrier to finding a match that Ailani and many children like her face is being of mixed race. Her mother is black and her father white, which greatly reduced her chances of finding a transplant match.

Without a readily-available match, the family made the decision to bring Ailani to Johns Hopkins. It is one of the world’s leading experts in treating pediatric cancer and specifically doing haploidentical bone marrow transplants — a half-match transplant usually from a mother or father.In part because of her ethnicity, it was her greatest chance at a cure.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

Ailani with her dad.

Ailani’s father, Kurt Myers, is an active-duty chief warrant officer in the Navy. The Navy gave the family orders to Fort Meade, Maryland, to allow the family to be close to the hospital. Ailani received a haploidentical transplant from her father in 2019 which was successful. But three days before her one-year transplant anniversary, a scheduled bone marrow biopsy indicated her leukemia had relapsed. Despite the devastating setback, she and her family remain committed to a cure.

Beth Carrion is the family’s Be The Match representative and she is imploring the public to register to be a possible donor, especially those with diverse ethnic backgrounds.

“We have to end the healthcare disparity and bridge that gap. We need help to do that,” Carrion said.

According to the Be The Match website, for over 30 years it has managed the largest and most-diverse marrow registry in the world. In the years since its founding, the nonprofit has helped lead the way for innovative advancements in transplants — and in the process, saved countless lives. But they need more people to register to donate, as there are thousands of children waiting.

Learn more about joining the bone marrow registry

Only 20% of patients will actually require a marrow transplant, with most of them being children under 10 years old. The rest desperately need parts of your blood for treatment. Unfortunately, medical television shows have dramatized the process and led potential donors away in fear. The donation is not as painful as it is portrayed in television and you are asleep while they do the procedure.

“I think when people hear the word ‘registry’ they think organ donation and that isn’t what it is. This is just a blood product and your body will replenish it,” Carrion explained.

The giving of blood and blood products is lifesaving. Ailani recently underwent a new treatment called CAR-T cell therapy where her own T-cells were filtered from her blood and re-engineered in a laboratory to target her leukemia. She then had to receive extensive chemotherapy to prepare her body to receive those re-engineered T-cells. Through it all, Ailani has remained positive – even as she continued to lose her hair yet again, something that broke her heart the first time she went through it.

If this treatment is unsuccessful, they will be going with another half-match transplant with her mother.

Although all seemed poised to be heading in the right direction, the family had another setback.

“She fell and scraped her knee and because she was immunocompromised from chemotherapy, she ended up with a fungal infection in the scrape. The fungus disseminated throughout her whole body resulting in several major complications. They had to give her white blood cell transfusions, extensive antifungals, and do surgery to clear the infection,” Carrion shared.

According to Ailani’s aunt, she was terrified when she got up from falling.

“When she fell, she said ‘Uh oh, uh oh. I fell I fell.’ She knew that something devastating could come out of a fall,” she said.

But even with the additional challenges Ailani is facing on top of battling her cancer, she hasn’t lost her happy disposition and sweet personality.

“Sometimes when my sister calls me to tell me how Ailani is, I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say other than we’re praying and trying to be strong for her,” Johnson said through tears.

Her family describes Ailani as a fighter, a beacon of light and good. It is their hope that by sharing their story more people will raise their hands and register for Be The Match. Registration is simple, easy and painless. For the potential children matched with prospective donors it’s a scientific miracle. It will also save their lives.

To learn more about how you can register for Be The Match and get your cheek swab, please click here or text “saveailani” to 61474.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Military Life

4 reasons why troops need to be a little salty

Parents tend to teach their kids that kindness is one of the greatest traits a human can exhibit. When those kids eventually join the military, they’ll learn that they need to drop the niceties before too long.

Troops should show a general politeness toward their peers — after all, the military wouldn’t function if everyone was truly spiteful toward one another. We’d never recommend that you treat others like dirt, but every service member must obtain a certain level of saltiness in order to get through their career.


In a way, military life is the reversal of civilian norms. In the military, kindness is negatively received; being assertive and salty is the only way to get what you want. We’re not saying this is bad or good — it’s just the weird life that troops live.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help others out.

(Photo by Spc. L’Erin Wynn)

Your kindness will be perceived as weakness

Before any of this gets twisted, kindness isn’t a weakness and showing genuine empathy toward your fellow troop isn’t going to kill you. In fact, showing your brothers- and sisters-in-arms compassion will take you far and may save a life some day.

However, the harsh reality is that there are no brakes on the military train. Slowing down for others and offering a helping hand isn’t always smiled upon. When you pause to help someone who’s stalled, in the eyes of many, there are now two impediments.

It’s not an pleasant circumstance, but that’s how life in the military goes.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

(Photo by Staff Sgt. R.J. Lannom)

Your kindness will get pushed to the limits

There’s another side to the compassion coin. Offer your help too readily and others will take advantage. One favor leads to three. “Hey, can you get me…” quickly turns into, “you don’t mind, do you?”

In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any toxic leadership in the military. Everyone would take unit morale into consideration, do their part, and ensure tasks are completed on schedule. Unfortunately, when people find it easier to get someone else to their job, they’ll take that road.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

But they’re not mutually exclusive in combat situations.

(Photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

Your saltiness will get things done

Aggression and anger are not essential traits of great leaders. A first sergeant who never yells still commands the same respect as a first sergeant who barks at everyone. It is entirely possible to be assertive and state your intentions to others without shouting.

…but most people won’t see it that way. The moment you raise your voice, people listen. If you’re of a lower rank, people will assume you’re ready for a leadership position — in actuality, yelling and true leadership skills are apples and oranges.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

Troops will rarely give an honest answer if their first sergeant asks them how are they doing, even if it’s meant sincerely.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Your saltiness won’t ever get questioned

Being nice will cause everyone to question your motives. Other troops will think you’re up to something, trying to work them over. Conversely, there’re almost no repercussions for being a dick to everyone.

The higher your rank, the less people will wonder why you’re grouchy. Everyone just accepts it as normal, everyday life. Niceties at that rank set off alarms in the lower ranks or just confuse everyone.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These World War I troops claimed to be rescued by angels

In August, 1914, British troops were in full retreat from the World War I Battle of Mons in Northern France. The Germans chasing them were far greater in number, and the men were desperate. In a turn of good luck, they happened to pass a celebrated old battle site that turned the tide of their retreat, in an almost supernatural way – and that’s exactly how it was remembered.


The Battle of Mons went as well for the Brits as could be expected. It was the first test of the British Expeditionary Force in continental Europe. They fought hard, and the Germans paid dearly for their advance. But the French Fifth Army gave way to the Germans, and the British could not hold the line on their own. An orderly battle turned into a two-week rout that would end with the epic Battle of the Marne – but not unless the BEF could escape the oncoming Germans. They retreated south as orderly as possible.

On their way, they passed the site of the famous medieval Battle of Agincourt, where King Henry V’s English longbowmen devastated a French Army that outnumbered the English with estimates as high as 6-to-1. The retreating British troops of 1914 were on the run from a numerically superior German force when legend says a British soldier said a prayer to Saint George that changed the outcome of their retreat.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

St. George, the Christian dragon slayer.

George was a Roman Praetorian Guard for Emperor Diocletian, and was executed for not recanting his professed Christian faith centuries before the emperor converted the empire to Christianity. He is probably the most prominent of all soldier-saints. So, when a retreating British soldier asked St. George for help, it makes sense for the men of the retreating army to believe he may have intervened when the Germans suddenly broke off their pursuit.

After the battle, men present during the fighting chalked the sudden turn of events up to a number of supernatural explanations, each more awe-inspiring than the next. In the most prevalent retelling, the prayer to St. George caused an army of spectral English bowmen to appear, which both frightened and slaughtered the pursuing Germans.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

Looks like St. George needs to train his angels a bit.

The claims of the English soldiers were grounded by a fictional short story called “The Bowmen” written by Arthur Machen after the battle. In the book, angelic archers appear after a British soldier prays for help from St. George. Led by the patron saint of England, a thousand archers appeared and mowed down the enemy. Afterward, the German generals determined the BEF must be using a new gas weapon, as there were no wounds on the dead German troops.

Machen’s story was a fabrication, of course, based on a different story by Rudyard Kipling. That one was set in Afghanistan. But veterans of the Battle of Mons soon began to claim they were eyewitness to the spectral event. In each retelling, the story changes: German soldiers are found with arrow wounds, the ghost army was actually a team of angels in the form of medieval knights and led by St. George, or the BEF was able to retreat into a wall of clouds.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

World War I Ex Machina.

The Angels of Mons very quickly entered the lore and legends of the First World War, joined there by stories of ghouls living in No Man’s Land, crucified Canadian soldiers, and the end of the war by Christmas.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After 5 years, Navy reunites two brothers while deployed

Two brothers, separated by service to their country, reunited aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) after five years apart.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Casey Halter met with his brother, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Lucas Halter in the captain’s in-port cabin May 17. Casey is assigned to CVN 75 and Lucas is currently forward deployed on USS Porter (DDG 78).


“We got word that one of our Sailors has a brother that’s also serving in the Navy,” said Truman’s Command Master Chief Jonas Carter. “Because of their two duty assignments, they haven’t seen each other in five years. This was an opportunity where we could bring them together for a reunion. We coordinated with his brother’s command for him to fly over. Their only request was a picture for their mom.”

The Halter brothers have been on opposites sides of the country and even an ocean apart during their assignments thus far. While both have wives and families, they said the opportunity to see each other has been more or less impossible for the last five years.

Both of the brothers admitted they didn’t think this was possible since both ships would have to be close enough for a helicopter to stop over. Casey said he thought he was in trouble when he was called up to the in-port cabin.

“I think this is one of the highlights of my career so far,” said Lucas. “I leave in [a few] weeks so this was the highlight of finishing out this patrol. I was looking forward to going home, but this kind of tops it now.”

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match
USS Harry S. Truman


The brothers toured Truman and watched nighttime flight operations from a variety of locations. Lucas stayed the night in the same berthing as his brother, catching up and taking the time to rekindle their relationship, said Casey.

“We can’t do this without the support of our families, and to have another family member serving alongside you across the world is huge,” said Carter. “That says a lot about the family and the support they have back home. They wouldn’t be able to do what they do here without that.”

“Everybody has their ups and their downs with the Navy and in general,” said Casey. “If I’m having a tough time or a problem with the Navy, [Lucas has] been through it so I can talk to him and vice versa.”

And while serving in the Navy has kept these two apart, it’s also brought them together.

“This is just proof that your chain of command will look out for you,” said Casey. “It’s amazing. I really didn’t think this would happen.”

Not many people can say that they’ve been on the same ship as their sibling during a combat deployment, added Casey.
“To be such a big organization and to have the opportunity for family members to one, serve with sacrifice; but two, come together, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Carter. “They may never get the chance to do this again.”

As the Carrier Strike Group EIGHT (CSG-8) flag ship, Truman’s support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) demonstrates the capability and flexibility of U.S. Naval Forces, and its resolve to eliminate the terrorist group ISIS and the threat it poses.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @usanavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Trump orders immediate deployment of hospital ship to Los Angeles, anticipating ‘hotbed’ surge of coronavirus cases in California

President Donald Trump has approved the US military’s deployment of a Navy hospital ship to Los Angeles, California, to bolster coronavirus response efforts.


During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor in the press conference that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Sunday, Washington state has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York.

California ranks fourth as of Sunday, with nearly 1,500 cases. Gov. Gavin Newsom, asked Trump in a letter on Thursday to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within one day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.

Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”

The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.

The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.

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

Humor

5 things recruits screw up the most in boot camp

The majority of recruits who ship out to boot camp are just a few months removed from graduating high school. They are, for the most part, still pretty wet behind the ears and haven’t had experience with the amount of structure they’re about to be exposed to.


We get it — recruits are flustered upon entering the intense world of boot camp. Don’t feel too bad; many newbies these make simple mistakes during their initial training.

Related: 5 ways troops always screw up a simple formation

1. Forgetting their lefts and rights

It’s a simple mistake, but in boot camp, any time is a crappy time to have a brain fart.

 

2. Not shaving properly

The military instills the value of paying close attention to detail. Leaving one, single hair uncut before a boot camp inspection is, in fact, a big deal. However, it’s not unheard of for the military to teach classes for those newbies who have never been clean-shaven before.

3. Not hydrating enough

Drinking water is one of the most important elements to staying healthy. Unfortunately, many recruits are so used to pounding sodas and energy drinks that they tend to forego water and end up falling out of simple hikes.

It’s probably because they don’t like the taste of high-quality H2O.

Also Read: 6 dumb things veterans lie about on the internet

4. Calling their drill sergeant “sir”

Unless you’re in Marine boot camp, where the first and last thing out of your mouth must be “sir,” you should always address your training instructors by their rank or proper title.

In the event you call one of them “sir,” you’re probably going to get the same response:

“Don’t call me, ‘sir.’ I work for a living.”

5. Taking a dump during morning clean up

Recruits are responsible for cleaning their squad bays and restrooms every day.  There’s always one person who has to use the “head” during cleanup or right afterward.

Nobody will like that recruit — at least not for the rest of the day.

popular

This video shows how ‘Full Metal Jacket’ was made

Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” is arguably one of the most influential military movies of all time. It’s the movie would-be troops romanticize about before enlisting in the military and it’s certainly the movie they watch to mentally prepare themselves before shipping off to boot camp to face their drill instructors.


However, as iconic as this 1987 film has become, it almost didn’t turn out that way. This 30-minute video shows how Full Metal Jacket was made and what the cast and crew did to “get it right.” There are plenty of interesting tidbits, like how relatively unknown actor Vincent D’Onofrio initially didn’t even want to do the film, and why a horrific scene between “Animal Mother” and the sniper was cut out.

Watch (profanity warning):


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY CULTURE

Operation Song changes tune for military community

Thank you for your service isn’t enough. Although service members are proud to wear the uniform and serve their country, their devotion often comes at a cost and with a heavy weight. Operation Song is working with the VA to help carry that burden, through music.

Nashville Grammy and Dove-nominated songwriter Bob Regan knows good music. He’s written a string of hits for the famous guitar-town over multiple decades and knows the power of a song. In the early 2000s he began touring for the Armed Forces Entertainment overseas. From the Emirates to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Djibouti, Japan, Western Europe and Kosovo, he met several service members whose stories stuck with him. Regan was made aware of the large number of service-related injuries and the difficulty of transitioning after service.


It was there in the hot desert of Afghanistan that he began to wonder if weaving their stories into a song might bring peace.

Regan founded Operation Song in 2012 and started at the VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro, TN. “Eight hundred and fifty songs later, we have veterans from all the way back to World War II, spouses, children and parents. None of this was planned out but the need was there so we just kept going,” he explained.

Initially, Operation Song was working specifically with the post 9/11 veterans but that quickly changed. “At the VA, we started to see a lot of Vietnam Veterans and then Korean War veterans. Once in a while we were getting a World War II veteran too. There’s not many of them left. We began to seek them out and we’ve been honored to tell some of their stories while they are still with us,” Ragan said.

He shared that for the first seven years, it was intensely busy and he was trying to do everything as Operation Song continued to grow. With support and sponsors, they were able to bring in Kyle Frederick as the Executive Director, who had a background as a songwriter, musician and nonprofit manager.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

(Operation Song)

“I love it. It makes perfect sense to me; I have family members that are veterans. I understand the concept and it is a great thing,” Frederick said. “We are fortunate to have great writers just down the road. These men and women who can listen for a few hours and literally a few hours later there is a work of art that’s therapeutic. It never doesn’t work.”

“Songwriters are really skilled at taking all these pieces and hanging them on an arc with a melody. I think what makes it so effective is when we work with veterans that have PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, is that they come in and say, ‘I could never write a song.’ We tell them, ‘Good, you are the perfect candidate,'” Ragan said with a laugh.

The songwriters tell them to just share whatever they want, starting with a simple conversation. The magic and healing begins from there. The guitar starts strumming and the songwriter takes those pieces of their lives, crafting them into a song. Regan shared that watching the veterans’ faces as the songs come alive is worth more than anything. “Over and over we’ve been told ‘I’ve never told that to anyone before,'” Ragan said.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

(Operation Song)

For several years they’ve been working with survivors of Military Sexual Trauma, bringing peace through melody and storytelling. As they were creating healing for veterans, they realized there was more they could do for the families of those veterans. Spouse retreats started and they began serving the children of veterans, too.

One memorable song, Lima Oscar Victor Echo, tells the story of falling in love with a service member, a song military spouses everywhere can relate to. One of the lines of the chorus is strikingly raw, saying, “I wasn’t ready for this mission but I guess I’m signed up, too.” The song highlights not only the reality of sacrifices made by spouses of service members but the love that makes it worth it all.

Operation Song also began bringing healing to Gold Star Families.

Nanette West lost her son, Kile West, to a roadside bomb in 2007 while he was deployed to Iraq. He died trying to rescue others who were trapped, receiving the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his heroism. Nanette journeyed to Iraq in 2011 to retrace her son’s steps, spending two years there as a defense contractor. The experience brought her closure and the music she created with Operation Song, peace.

The words of the song are a stark reminder of the cost of our almost 20-year war: “You swore to bring your troops back against all the odds and you kept your promise to every single one. If you could, I know you would stay. You gave your life on Memorial Day but I’m prouder than you could ever know. Even though it’s hard to let you go, so many miles away from home. You’ve always been the braver one. My hero, my soldier, my son.”

Nanette helped perform My Hero My Soldier My Son with Jenn Franklin at the Grand Ole Opry in August 2020. There were no dry eyes in the audience.

Although COVID-19 has made it near impossible to work in person for song writing, Operation Song isn’t letting that stop them. Instead, they are using technology to their advantage. “We’ve discovered that we can reach more people. We were like, ‘Wow, this works online,'” Frederick said.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding for me and the best thing I’ve ever done,” Regan shared. While he’s loved his long and successful career as a songwriter, using his abilities to give back to those who serve and sacrifice has been the joy of a lifetime. Despite writing over 850 songs for the military community since 2012, they are just getting started. Operation Song’s mission says it all: Bringing them back, one song at a time.

To learn more about Operation Song and the incredible work they are doing for our country’s military, veterans and their families, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This airborne sergeant re-enacts World War I

U.S. Army Sgt. Dustin McGraw is stationed with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the culmination of a life-long dream of being a paratrooper like the heroes of World War II movies that he watched as a child. But as he made his way up, he discovered a love of World War I that has led to him re-enacting battles in France.


His re-enactment group spends a lot of time at a park in Tennessee a few hours from Fort Campbell, allowing McGraw to indulge his passion while maintaining his active duty career. (That park is named for famed Doughboy and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York, making it a pretty appropriate place to host re-enactments.)

And there is more crossover between the passion and the job than one might initially assume. While re-enactors, obviously, do not face the dangers and many of the hardships endured by soldiers in combat, they do work hard to portray their chosen period accurately. That means that they have to get uniforms, tactics, weapons, and other details right.

And it’s hard to steep yourself that deeply in military history without learning an appreciation for the discipline and perseverance that it takes to succeed in combat. As McGraw points out in the video, maintaining your cool in wool uniforms and metal helmets in the broiling sun isn’t always easy. And, practicing World War I tactics can still help reinforce an understanding of modern warfare. After all, machine guns and rifles haven’t changed all that much.

But that leads to another benefit for McGraw and other soldiers who choose to re-enact past periods of military history: They learn a deep appreciation of modern systems, from weapons to logistics to medicine to gear.

Where modern troops have GPS, Kevlar, lightweight automatic weapons, aid bags, and helicopters, World War I Doughboys had to make do with maps, cotton, rifles of wood and steel, field bandages, and horses. So, while it’s easy to complain when your helicopters are late to the LZ, most people would be more appreciative of the challenges if they spent their weekends trying to simulate logistics with horses.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what you need to know about Mark Esper, the new Army Secretary

On Nov. 15th, Mark Esper was confirmed as Secretary of the Army by a seven vote margin in the U.S. Senate. He was President Trump’s third pick for the position after Vincent Viola, founder of Virtu Financial, and Sen. Mark Green were forced to drop out of the confirmation process before hearings began.


Esper rounds out the final Trump service secretary to be approved by the Senate. Heather Wilson was confirmed as Air Force secretary in May while Richard Spencer was confirmed as Navy secretary in August.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ go-to man for the U.S. Army has a long Army history that includes active and reserve duty as well as time in the National Guard.

The ‘Left Hook’ of the First Gulf War

Esper’s military career began after he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1986. He made the West Point Dean’s List and received the MacArthur Award for Leadership. From there, he became an infantry officer in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

In 1990, he deployed in support of the first Gulf War, where his battalion, the 3-187th Infantry Battalion, played a vital role in General Norman Schwarzkopf’s “Left Hook.” The idea was to avoid the heavily fortified Iraq-Kuwait border by coming in through Saudi Arabia to cut off the Iraqi Army and Republican Guard divisions still stationed in Kuwait. For his actions in Iraq, Esper received the Bronze Star and his Combat Infantryman Badge, among other awards.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match
(Image via Total War Center)

Esper then commanded an airborne unit in Europe before becoming an Army Fellow at the Pentagon. In 1995, he graduated from Harvard with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

Time in Washington

Esper was promoted to lieutenant colonel before retiring through service in the National Guard and Army Reserve. After two years as the Chief of Staff at The Heritage Foundation, Esper became a senior staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Between 2002 and 2004, Esper was the Bush Administration’s deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for negotiations policy, nonproliferation, and international agreements, where he was awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal for his work. From 2004 and 2006, he was the Director for National Security Affairs for the U.S. Senate.

He left the military side of Washington to be the executive vice-president of the non-profit trade group Aerospace Industries Association in 2006, but left to be Senator Fred Thompson’s national policy director during his short 2008 presidential campaign.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match
(Image via UPI)

Time at Raytheon

Esper went on to become the next vice-president of government relations at Raytheon. Raytheon is the world’s largest manufacturer of guided missiles and currently stands as the third largest defense contractor by defense revenue, earning $22.3 billion — with 93 percent coming from government contracts.

As a lobbyist for Raytheon, he was one of The Hill’s top corporate lobbyists for his “influence on major legislation such as the annual defense policy bill” in both 2015 and 2016.

In 2016, he earned $1.52 million at Raytheon, which includes his salary and bonuses, but does not include his stock options and deferred compensation at the company, worth anywhere from $1.5 million to as much as $6 million.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match
Raytheon produces munitions such as those used by the anti-missile defense THAAD. (Photo by Ben Listerman)

Moving Forward

Esper agreed before his confirmation that he would “recuse himself from matters related to Raytheon that may come before him” but the “deferred compensation” after five years mentioned above from Raytheon may still be a conflict of interest.

According to Breaking Defense, he will most likely become “a soft-spoken wingman to the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley.” Esper’s entire career has been defined by quiet and low-key performance so it would make sense that he would continue to serve as a diligent mediator between Defense Secretary Mattis and General Milley.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Commitee on Nov. 2, Esper reiterated Milley’s readiness first policy. “My first priority will be readiness — ensuring the total Army is prepared to fight across the full spectrum of conflict. With the Army engaged in over 140 countries around the world, to include combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, training rotations to Europe to deter Russia, and forward deployed units in the Pacific defending against a bellicose North Korea, readiness must be our top priority.”

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match
Mark Esper before the SASC on Nov. 2nd.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 crew members return to earth from International Space Station

Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station returned to Earth on Dec. 14, landing in Kazakhstan after opening a new chapter in the scientific capability of humanity’s premier microgravity laboratory.


Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos landed at 3:37 a.m. EST (2:37 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Also Read: Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

Together, the Expedition 53 crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, as well as Earth and other physical sciences aboard the orbiting laboratory. Their time aboard marked the first long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment of the International Space Station from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the station.

Highlights from the research conducted while they were aboard include investigations of microgravity’s effect on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a bacterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection in humans and animals;  growing larger versions of an important protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease; and delivering a new instrument to address fundamental science questions on the origins and history of cosmic rays.

The trio also welcomed three cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at station in November as the company’s eighth commercial resupply mission. One Russian ISS Progress cargo craft docked to the station in October. And a SpaceX Dragon completed its commercial resupply mission to station in August, the company’s twelfth resupply mission.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match
The Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 53 crew members, Dec. 14, 2017. (NASA Photo by Bill Ingalls)

During his time on the orbital complex, Bresnik ventured outside the confines of the space station for three spacewalks. Along with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, Bresnik lead a trio of spacewalks to replace one of two latching end effectors on the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2. They also spent time lubricating the newly replaced Canadarm2 end effector and replacing cameras on the left side of the station’s truss and the right side of the station’s U.S. Destiny laboratory.

Ryazanskiy conducted one spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin in August to deploy several nanosatellites, collect research samples, and perform structural maintenance.

The Expedition 54 crew continues operating the station, with Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos in command. Along with crewmates Mark Vende Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA, the three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

Scott Tingle of NASA, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), are scheduled to launch Sunday, Dec. 17 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. NASA Television will broadcast the launch and docking.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The USS Ford’s weapons are an impressive collection of firepower

The Navy is now integrating and preparing weapons systems for its advanced Ford aircraft carrier during a now-underway 12-month period called Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) — one of several key final steps designed to prepare the ship for ocean warfare when the ship deploys in 2022.

While the Ford’s electromagnetic catapult, larger deck space and nuclear power technology are heavily emphasized in public discussion of the ship’s newer technologies, layered ship defenses, are commanding commensurate developmental attention – given the global threat environment.


This includes efforts to build in the latest interceptor missiles and close-range guns, such as the Evolved Sea Sparrow Block 2 (ESSM) and the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS).

Therefore, alongside the more emphasized items for the PSA, such as the advanced weapons elevator and advanced arresting gear upgrades, preparing ship defenses for deployment will also function as an indispensable element of the Navy’s strategy for the Ford-class.

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USS Ford

(U.S. Navy photo)

“The scheduled 12-month PSA/SRA will install remaining combat systems, complete deferred work and correct remaining discrepancies identified during sea trials and shakedown,” William Couch, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman told Warrior Maven.

The PSA is intended to build upon lessons learned and adjustments emerging from previous testing.

The ship’s crew has been “conducting post-delivery testing and trial operations that identify construction and design issues. They have been extremely effective in identifying any issues early, which helps us address them prior to returning to the fleet.” Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said in a published Navy statement.

During testing and developmental phases immediately preceding the start of the PSA, the Ford successfully completed fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft integration and compatibility testing, air traffic control center certification and JP-5 fuel system certification, Couch added in the statement.

Demonstrating the ship’s defensive systems was also a vital element of these preparations for the PSA. While carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups, protected by cruisers and destroyers, the platforms are increasingly being viewed as ships in need of their own organic defensive weapons.

This is particularly true in light of the often discussed threats of Chinese DF-21D “carrier killer,” a long range anti-ship guided missile reported to reach ranges greater than 900 miles.

There is much discussion about how the USS Ford’s massively-increased onboard power technology, driven by four 26-megawatt generators, will potentially enable emerging weapons, such as defensive lasers and railguns.

In the near-term, however, the USS Ford will use the PSA to solidify integration of several upgraded ship defense weapons.

“Besides carrying over 75 warplanes, the USS Ford has some serious destructive capability. Engineers and designers included ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile), RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile), and a Mk-15 Phalanx CIWS,” a report from Engineering.com writes.

Navy child with leukemia inspires others to be the match

An RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missile

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew J. Haran)

Upgraded Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile

The USS Ford is expected to deploy with the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block 2, or ESSM, a weapon designed to track and destroy incoming enemy supersonic missiles and anti-ship missiles, among other threats.

The ESSM Block 2 is engineered with what’s called an active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can achieve improved flight or guidance to its target by both receiving and actively sending electromagnetic signals, Navy and industry ESSM developers told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.

The current ESSM missiles use what’s called a semi-active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can receive electromagnetic signals bounced off the target by an illuminator; the ESSM Block 2’s “active” guidance includes illuminator technology built onto the missile itself such that it can both receive and send important electromagnetic signals, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.

A shipboard illuminator is an RF signal that bounces off a target. The antenna in the nose in the guidance section [of the missile] sees the reflected energy and then corrects to intercept that reflective energy, the Raytheon officials told Warrior.

The emerging missile has an “active” front end, meaning it can send an electromagnetic signal forward to track a maneuvering target, at times without needing a ship-based illuminator for guidance.

Also, the missile is able to intercept threats that are close to the surface by sea-skimming or diving in onto a target from a higher altitude, Navy officials explained.

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The MK-15 Phalanx CIWS

Phalanx Close in Weapons System

The Phalanx Close in Weapons System, or CIWS, is an area weapon engineered to use a high rate of fire and ammunition to blanket a given area, destroying or knocking enemy fire out of the sky before it can reach a ship. The Phalanx CIWS, which can fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute, has been protecting ship platforms for decades.

CWIS fires a 20 mm Vulcan cannon mounted on a swiveling base. An essay in Naval Forces magazine called “CIWS – the Last Ditch Defense,” further specifics that the weapon fires “armor piercing tungsten penetrater rounds with discarding sabots.” CIWS fires a M61A1 Gatling gun out to ranges of 3 km.

Navy officials say the latest CIWS Block IB provides ships the additional capability for defense against asymmetric threats such as small, high speed, maneuvering surface craft, slow-flying fixed and rotary-winged aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

A CIWS overhaul in recent years has consisted of numerous upgrades to the weapon itself, converting the existing systems into what’s called the Phalanx 1B configuration. At the same time, the CIWS overhaul also includes the development and ongoing integration of a new, next-generation radar for the system called the CIWS Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2, Navy officials explained.

The Phalanx Block IB configuration incorporates a stabilized Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor, an automatic acquisition video tracker, optimized gun barrels (OBG) and the Enhanced Lethality Cartridges (ELC),

The FLIR also improves performance against anti-ship cruise missiles by providing more accurate angle tracking information to the fire control computer.

The OGB/ELC combine to provide tighter dispersion and increased first hit range, a Navy official added. The Phalanx 1B fires Mk 244 ammunition, using the Enhanced Lethality Cartridge specifically designed to penetrate anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Mk 244 ammunition is engineered with a 48 percent heavier tungsten penetrator and an aluminum nose piece, according to information from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems.

The Phalanx Block IB Baseline 2 radar upgrade is a new digital radar that provides improved detection performance, increased reliability and reduction in sailor man-hours for system maintenance, developers said.

The Baseline 2 upgrade mitigates obsolete components inherent in the existing analog radar by introducing COTS-based (commercial off-the-shelf) signal processing coupled with a new signal source and mixer.

CIWS uses “Ku-band radar featuring closed-loop spotting technology capable of autonomously performing its own search, detect, evaluation, track, engage and kill assessment functions,” the Naval Forces essay writes.

The Baseline 2 radar also provides the Phalanx CIWS with “surface mode,” meaning it adds the ability to track, detect and then destroy threats closer to the surface of the water compared with previous models of the weapon, developers explained.

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

Articles

The US attack sub made famous by ‘The Hunt for Red October’ heads for retirement

The most notable Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine – albeit for her fictional exploits – is headed for retirement. Well, actually, recycling. USS Dallas (SSN 700) completed her final deployment on Nov. 22 of this year.


The submarine is best known for its appearance in the 1984 novel “Hunt for Red October” by Tom Clancy, and its 1990 film adaptation. In Clancy’s story, USS Dallas, under the command of Commander Bart Mancuso, played a critical role in the successful defection of Captain First Rank Marko Ramius of the Soviet Navy and many of his officers, who brought along a modified Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, the Red October. USS Dallas also made an appearance in the novel “Cardinal of the Kremlin,” where she evacuated the wife and daughter of KGB Chairman Nikolay Gerasimov.

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USS Dallas conducting training operations in 2000. (U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Jason E. Miller)

In real life, USS Dallas had a distinguished career. The ship twice received the Meritorious Unit Commendation and also two awards of the Navy Unit Commendation. She was awarded the Battle Efficiency “E” seven times, and in 1993, received the Battenberg Cup as the best ship in the fleet. Commissioned in 1981, she served for 35 years. In 1984, the year the novel that made her famous came out, she carried out a seven-month deployment in the Indian Ocean, during which she went around the world.

In 1986, USS Dallas took part in Operation ELDORADO CANYON, when the U.S. retaliated against Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya for sponsoring a terrorist attack in Berlin that killed an American soldier outright and caused another to die from his wounds two months later. The submarine completed a North Atlantic deployment in 1988, the year the novel Cardinal of the Kremlin came out.

Ironically, USS Dallas did not play herself in the 1990 film. Instead, that honor fell to USS Houston (SSN 713) and USS Louisville (SSN 724). Her most memorable scene is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MehBu5crI2s

While many Los Angeles-class submarines have been slated for the scrapheap (the common euphemism being “recycling”), there are efforts underway to save at least some parts of USS Dallas and use her as a museum in her namesake city.

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