Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

The commanding officer and the executive officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain were relieved of duty and reassigned to different posts for “loss of confidence,” according to a US Navy statement on October 11.


Commanding officer Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez and executive officer Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez came under scrutiny after the McCain’s collision with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters in August. Ten sailors died and five were injured.

The collision tore a hole in the destroyer’s left rear hull, where several sailors were inside sealed compartments on the vessel, the Associated Press reported at the time.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
USS John McCain confronts Chinese ships in South China Sea. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Although the investigation is ongoing, the Navy called the collision preventable and said “the commanding officer exercised poor judgment, and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the ship’s training program.” The Navy’s strict adherence to customs and traditions dictate that commanders be relieved of duty when superiors lose confidence in their leadership.

The McCain incident followed another collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a commercial container ship in June, which killed seven sailors. The Fitzgerald’s executive officer and senior enlisted sailor were also dismissed in that case.

US Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the three-star commander of the US 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, whose command oversaw the USS McCain and Fitzgerald, was also relieved of duty in August following the series of deadly ship collisions. Four accidents involving ships have occurred in the western Pacific since February, according to The New York Times.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft finishes flight across the Pacific

US Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Darwin completed a trans-Pacific flight in MV-22 Ospreys for the fourth time, transiting from Darwin, Australia, to their home station on Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Sept. 19, 2019.

The flight consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced, supported by two KC-130J Hercules from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, and was conducted to improve upon the Osprey trans-Pacific concept that had been developed and refined over the past three MRF-D iterations.

“Being able to fly our aircraft from Australia to Hawaii is a great example of the flexibility and options that the Ospreys create for a commander,” said US Marine Maj. Kyle Ladwig, operations officer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced.


Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

MV-22 Ospreys takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 20, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

An MV-22 Osprey prepares to conduct air-to-air refueling from a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at sea, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

US Marines debark a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s take off during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130J Hercules parked during Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

The MV-22 Osprey is a highly capable aircraft, combining the vertical capability of a helicopter with the speed and the range of a fixed-wing aircraft.

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

Articles

Pentagon report clears coalition of wrongdoing in strike that killed Syrian soldiers

No misconduct was involved in the decision by personnel in the American-lead Combined Air Operations Center to carry out an air strike that killed a number of Syrian-government aligned forces on Sept. 17.


That is the central finding of an investigation by Air Force Brig. Gen. Richard Coe.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 5, 2016. The President has authorized U.S. Central Command to work with partner nations to conduct targeted airstrikes of Iraq and Syria as part of the comprehensive strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/Released)

“In my opinion, these were a number of people all doing their best to do a good job,” Coe said of the personnel on duty when the incident happened, according to an official report released Nov. 29.

The strike took place near Dayr Az Zawr. A release from Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve for that day noted the incident, stating that one strike “believed to have engaged an ISIL fighting position, may have mistakenly struck a Syrian military unit and destroyed Syrian military vehicles.”

While “friendly fire” is nothing new — in the War on Terror, coalition forces had over three dozen such incidents — the question is always the same: How did such a mistake happen?

Well, that’s been asked over the years after other incidents, like when Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate soldiers on a picket line, or when Allied ships off Sicily opened fire on C-47 transports carrying elements of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, downing 23 transports.

The report reveals a few of the causes. First, the Syrian forces were not exactly in uniform when they were first detected by an unmanned aerial vehicle. Yet they were packing a lot of firepower, and were near tunnels and other fighting positions.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes of for a mission. (Photo from DoD)

This lead planners to believe they’d spotted an ISIS unit out in the open. It was a classic case of mistaken identity, compounded by a misunderstanding (the United States personnel used the wrong reference point when informing the Syrian allied Russians of the strike).

And it was made worse by some good old-fashioned Russian paranoia.

According to the report, when the Russians called on a de-confliction hotline, they waited 27 minutes for their normal point of contact to arrive before passing on the news that Syrian forces were being hit. During that time, 15 of the 37 attack sorties were carried out.

Coe’s report not only recommended that in the future both sides not only pass critical information immediately, but also that the entire Flight Safety Memorandum of Understanding that helps keep Syrian and Russian targets from being struck by coalition air power be reviewed and updated.

Top CENTCOM commander Lt. Gen. Jeff Harrigian has ordered Coe’s recommendations be implemented, saying, “In this instance, we did not rise to the high standard we hold ourselves to, and we must do better than this each and every time.”

While the changes recommended will hopefully lessen the chance of friendly fire incidents in the future, friendly fire will still always be a risk on a complex battlefield.

Articles

This is why the US is considering sending weapons to Ukraine

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said August 24 the Trump administration is considering supplying weapons to Ukraine after a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev.


Mattis said he would return to the United States and advise leaders on what he learned during his visit to Ukraine.

Mattis’ trip is the first by a US defense secretary to Ukraine in more than a decade.

The meeting comes after US Treasury Department in June announced it would add 38 more individuals and entities to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of those sanctions due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
A Ukrainian soldier with the 1st Battalion, 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade fires a modified DSHsK heavy machine gun to cover the advance of fellow 1-28 soldiers during a live-fire training exercise. Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones

The move is an attempt to pressure Russia into following Minsk Protocol cease-fire agreement.

Mattis said the United States will continue to pressure Russia because it is “seeking to redraw international borders by force.” The Pentagon chief said the United States will continue to pressure Russia until Moscow changes its behavior.

“The US and our allies will continue to press Russia to honor its Minsk commitments and our sanctions will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them,” Mattis said.

Articles

Veterans describe what it’s like to kill in this powerful video series

What do you say when people ask if you killed anyone?


This question is almost inevitable when civilians find out you’re a war veteran. How do you explain that feeling to someone who never fought in a war?

I know it’s not right to do this, but I have to. If I focused on it for one minute, I would lose my mind. So I didn’t.

Most people, even many veterans, will never know what it’s like to kill another human being, especially in combat. A video series, On Killing, produced by Cut.com, asked six war veterans of various eras and countries the difficult questions about killing in warfare.

I didn’t give a f*ck who he was. I was trying to keep me alive.”
One minute you have somebody walking along and the next it’s just a lump of flesh.

Six war veterans discuss their experiences in the series. This includes Lonnie, an infantryman during the Vietnam War:

Josh, a sniper in Operation Enduring Freedom:
Daniel, a machine gunner during the Vietnam War:
Qassim, an Iraqi who was forced into Saddam Hussein’s army during the Iran-Iraq War:
Lance, a 3rd generation Army veteran and veteran of the Kosovo War:
Jonathan, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran:
MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy’s carrier-capable F-35C stealth fighter is now combat ready

The Navy has declared its carrier-capable F-35Cs “ready for combat,” a major milestone for the fifth-generation stealth fighter.

The Navy’s version of the F-35 has achieved initial operational capability (IOC), the Navy said on Feb. 28, 2019.

“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of naval air forces, said. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”


This news follows an earlier announcement by the Navy in December 2018 that the service’s first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, had completed the critical aircraft-carrier qualifications aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

“The F-35C will revolutionize capability and operating concepts of aircraft carrier-based naval aviation using advanced technologies to find, fix and assess threats and, if necessary, track, target and engage them in all contested environments,” Rear Adm. Dale Horan, the director of the US Navy F-35C Fleet Integration Office, said in a statement.

With Feb. 28, 2019’s IOC declaration, which follows decades of testing and development, the Navy has joined the Marine Corps and Air Force, both of which have already declared their F-35 variants combat-ready. The Marine Corps was the first service to take the F-35 into combat.

“This milestone is the result of unwavering dedication from our joint government and industry team focused on delivering the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter jet in the world to the men and women of the US Navy,” Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager for the F-35 Program, said in statement, CNBC reported.

Lockheed Martin developed the A, B, and C variants of the F-35 for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, respectively, with each version featuring different combat capabilities.

Recognized as America’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35 stealth fighter has faced constant criticism and numerous developmental setbacks, but now all three variants are officially ready to wage war.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump slaps North Korea with new sanctions over human-rights abuses

The Treasury Department issued fresh sanctions against North Korea Oct. 26, following a new State Department report on human rights abuses by Kim Jong Un’s regime.


The sanctions against seven individuals and three entities, including the North Korean government, freeze any property within US jurisdiction and prohibit any transactions by US citizens with those targeted.

The sanctioned entities include the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
Despite the extreme secrecy within the belligerent state, North Korean human rights abuses find their way into the light. Photo from Flickr user Roman Harak.

“North Korea is run by a brutal regime that continues to engage in serious human rights abuses,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “We are especially concerned with the North Korean military, which operates as secret police, punishing all forms of dissent. Further, the military operates outside of North Korea to hunt down asylum seekers, and brutally detains and forcibly returns North Korean citizens.”

The action comes about one week before President Trump embarks on his first trip to Asia, where he will visit Japan, South Korea, and China to hold discussions on curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Mr. Mnuchin said the sanctions “target the North Korean military and regime officials engaged in flagrant abuses of human rights.”

“We also are targeting North Korean financial facilitators who attempt to keep the regime afloat with foreign currency earned through forced labor operations,” he said.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
Photo released by the Korean Central News Agency

In September, the Treasury Department leveled sanctions against eight North Korean banks and 26 people linked to the country’s financial networks, seeking to curb Pyongyang’s belligerence.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said the new sanctions are aimed at North Korea’s Military Security Command and two of its top officials, Jo Kyong-Chol and Sin Yong Il, and Ri Thae Chol, the country’s first vice minister of the Ministry of People’s Security.

Also sanctioned are Ku Sung Sop, the consul general in Shenyang, China, and Kim Min Chol, an official in the North Korean Embassy in Vietnam.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s lack of sailing skills could cost it the next war

The US Navy has some of the world’s most advanced ships with electronics and automated systems that handle much of the manual tasks involved in the millenias-old craft of sailing — but that same technological strength may be its downfall in a fight against Russia or China.

“The next war will be analog, and the surface Navy is unprepared for it,” Jonathan Panter, a former US Navy Surface Warfare Officer begins an article in the US Naval Institute’s April edition of “Proceedings,” its monthly publication.


“Reliance on digital technologies is particularly acute in the realms of communications, propulsion systems, and navigation and has produced a fleet that may not survive the first missile hit or hack,” Panter writes.

Panter’s comments follow a 2017 incident that saw two US Navy destroyers suffer massive collisions with container ships. These ships are among the world’s best at tracking and defending against incoming missiles flying at hundreds of miles an hour, yet they failed to steer well enough to avoid getting hit by a relatively slow container ship the size of a small neighborhood.

“Navigation and seamanship, these are the fundamental capabilities which every surface warfare officer should have, but I suspect if called to war, we’ll be required to do a lot more than safely navigate the Singapore strait,” US Navy Capt. Kevin Eyer, former skipper of the cruisers Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and Thomas Gates said in December 2017. Eyer was speaking in reference to the USS John McCain’s crash with a container ship in the Singapore strait, as Breaking Defense noted at the time.


Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields)

“If our surface forces are unable to successfully execute these fundamental blocking and tackling tasks, how can it be possibly be expected that they are also able to do the much more complex warfighting tasks?” Eyer asked.

The Navy responded to the two major crashes by replacing the commander of its Pacific fleet, but concerns about its reliance on mutable, fallible electronic and automated systems remains an issue. Additionally, the Navy has begun teaching navigation based on the stars to its sailors in an effort to mitigate over-relaince on technology.

From Panter:

Navigation, that quiet background endeavor without which missiles cannot be launched or guns fired, is similarly teetering one casualty away from disaster. For a loss of GPS, you switch to another; for a loss of a VMS console, you switch to another. But what happens in a total loss-of-power casualty? Wait until the 30-minute batteries on the GPS and VMS wind down, then switch to a laptop version—also battery-powered. The assumption, of course, is that help will be on the way.

China has deployed jamming equipment to the South China Sea. Russia has already begun jamming US Air Force platforms over Syria. All expert accounts say that electronic warfare, possibly even space-based attacks on GPS infrastructure in the sky will factory heavily into future warfare, making Panter’s assessment all the more ominous.

Russia operates a more analog fleet than the US in both at sea and in the air, and China’s sea power is concentrated near its own shores where ground assets can back it up.

Through electronic warfare and a misstep in US Navy strategy, the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy could lose its next war as its strengths turn to weaknesses in the face of technological over-reliance.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s plans for J-20 will basically feed it to F-15s

The makers of China’s new J-20 stealth fighter revealed the combat mission of the aircraft, and one of its key tasks would most likely see it getting shot down by decades-old US and European fighter jets.

The J-20 has impressed observers with its advanced design and formidable weapons, but the jet’s actual combat mission has remained somewhat of a mystery.

But Andreas Rupprecht, a German researcher focused on China’s air power, recently posted an informational brochure from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the J-20’s maker, laying out its mission.


It described the J-20 as a “heavy stealth” fighter that’s “renowned” for its dominance in medium- and long-range air combat and first lists “seizing maintaining air superiority” as its core missions.

It also lists interception and deep strike as missions for the J-20, falling roughly in line with Western analyses of the jet’s capabilities.

But the J-20s purported air-superiority role is likely to raise more eyebrows.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

J-20 stealth fighter jet.

(Flickr photo by emperornie)

J-20 loses the old-fashioned fight for the skies

Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that for the J-20, fighting US or European jets for control of the skies represents a losing battle.

The J-20 is “certainly likely to be more capable as an air-superiority platform than anything else the People’s Liberation Army Air Force” — China’s air force’s official name — “is currently operating,” Bronk said.

“With a powerful radar and multiple internal air-to-air missiles as well as long range, it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as an air-superiority machine,” he continued.

But just because it’s China’s best doesn’t mean it can hold a candle to Europe’s Typhoon fighter or even the US’s F-15, which first flew in 1972.

“In terms of thrust to weight, maneuverability, and high-altitude performance, it is unlikely to match up to the US or European air-superiority fighters,” Bronk said.

China’s J-20 made a solid entry into the world of stealth fighter aircraft and became the only non-US stealth jet in the world. It’s designed to significantly limit the ability of US radar to spot and track the large fighter, but the stealth mainly works on the front end, while the J-20 is flying straight toward the radar.

Tactically, experts have told Business Insider, the J-20 poses a serious threat in the interception and maritime-strike roles with its stealth design, but so far the jet has yet to deliver.

China has suffered embarrassing setbacks in domestically building jet engines that would give the J-20 true fifth-generation performance on par with the F-35 or the F-22.

Bronk said China still appears years away from crossing this important threshold that would increase the range and performance of the jets.

“The engines are a significant limiting factor” in that they require inefficient use of afterburners and limit high-altitude performance, Bronk said.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

An F-15C Eagle preparing to refuel with a KC-135R Stratotanker.

(US Air Force photo)

What air superiority looks like

As it stands, the J-20 couldn’t match the F-15 or the Eurofighter Typhoon, or even get close to an F-22, Bronk said.

“Against the F-15C and Typhoon, the J-20 has a lower radar cross section but worse performance, and its air-to-air missiles are unlikely to yet match the latest [US] series and certainly not the new European Meteor,” Bronk said.

Bronk said that China had made great strides in air-to-air missile development and was testing at an “extremely high” pace, so the capability gap could close in a few short years.

But how does the J-20 stack up to the greatest air-superiority plane on the planet today, the F-22?

“The F-22 likely significantly outperforms the J-20 in almost every aspect of combat capability except for combat radius,” Bronk said, referring to the farthest distance a loaded plane can travel without refueling.

Undoubtedly, the J-20 represents a significant leap in Chinese might and poses a serious and potentially critical threat to US air power in its ability to intercept and launch deep strikes.

But in the narrow role of air superiority — beating the best fighters the other side can offer to gain control of the sky — the US and Europe could most likely beat down China’s J-20 without much trouble.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mississippi airmen help restore communications on Tyndall

Total devastation. No power. No running water. The scene on the ground at Tyndall Air Force Base was a grim, ‘post-apocalyptic’ one when a five man team from Keesler AFB’s 85th Engineering Installation Squadron arrived in mid-October 2018, just days after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm to hit Florida in nearly a century. Tyndall Air Force Base took a direct hit, resulting in catastrophic infrastructure damage.

“The closer we got to Tyndall, there was more and more devastation. All the trees were snapped and laid over, buildings completely devastated with no power, no clean water, when we first got to the base,” said Capt. Nathan McWhirter, 85th EIS operations flight commander.


Quickly getting to work, the engineering team began assessing the buildings for any useable equipment and materials to get base communications up and running.

“We were doing all of our inspections using headlamps and hard hats, going into these buildings that are completely gutted. It looked like a complete war zone honestly,” he said. “We were one of the first teams on base, so there were very few people here at the time too. It was kind of eerie and surreal surveying some of these buildings.”

Despite the power outages and limited communication material, the crew has been able to successfully restore connectivity and avenues of communication around base. The engineering team has been able to get the base-wide ‘giant voice’ mass notification system up and running, as well as patching up new antennae’s and fiber work to get air to ground communications connected. The biggest challenge to completing these projects McWhirter said, was the lack of usable equipment and lack of power.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

Tech. Sgt. Skyler Shull, Airman Hunter Benson and Staff Sgt. Charlie Hegwer, 85th Engineer Installation Squadron, install three recycled antennaes on fabricated mounts for the Tyndall Enterprise Live Mission Operations Center facility at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 2, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

“The hurricane knocked out all sorts of antennae’s so we’ve been scrounging around, taking them off damaged towers and putting them on good towers. There’s no material here, so we are just trying to salvage what we can,” he said.

“A lot of the buildings don’t have power still so that’s a big limiter. [Civil engineering] is working super hard and trying to do it smartly. We don’t want to turn power on to a building that’s been destroyed and risk having a fire,” McWhirter added. “We are trying to work on relocating these large communication nodules safely and cost effectively.”

Although it has a long way to go before it’s fully functional again, McWhirter said the base has come a long way in the short amount of time their team has been there. A tent city has been set up, with places to sleep and hot meals being provided, as well as clean water for bathing and drinking, making life easier for the on the ground reconstruction teams and returning personnel.

“More and more people started coming in, we were able to bring more and more assets in,” he explained. “Just seeing the difference from when were first got here to today, is remarkable. There is still obviously tons of work that needs to be done, but just in these short couple of weeks things have gotten way better.”

As the team prepares to transition back to Keesler AFB, conditions at Tyndall AFB have improved dramatically. More and more resources and personnel are arriving, all dedicated to bringing Tyndall AFB back to life. While they were just one piece of the overall restoration effort, McWhirter acknowledges that his team played a key role in the early recovery efforts.

“I just want to say how proud I am of my team and the work they are doing and the support we are getting back home from the 85th EIS and the 81st Training Wing; getting us out the door quickly and making sure we have everything that we need,” said McWhirter. “The guys out here are really killing it and I’m proud to be part of a restoral effort. This is unprecedented thing to be able to build up a base that’s been devastated. We’ve come a long way.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how ‘Ripley at the Bridge’ became a Marine Corps legend

It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.


Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
Think about that when you have trouble getting out of bed for PT.

Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
That second trip though…

The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.

As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.

At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
The tanks would drive down Highway 1 and into Saigon unless someone did something about it… SOME body… hmm…

“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.

With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.

Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.

By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
And the Marine attached to those hands.

Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”

Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.

The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.

“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
Think about that when you have trouble getting out of bed for PT.

For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.

Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.

Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
Colonel John Ripley, hanging out in Dong Ha, one more time.

(Cover Photo: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.)

Articles

SECDEF says ‘no exceptions’ to women in combat

Women in the armed forces of the United States will no longer be limited to being “in the rear with the gear.”


Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will order the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders will give the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st. This includes infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.

“There will be no exceptions,” Carter said at a news conference.

The only branch to attempt to exclude women from combat roles was the Marine Corps, who conducted an internal study of gender-integrated units vs. all-male units and found the integrated ones to be less effective.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
Lance Cpl. Chandra Francisco with the female engagement team in support of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines talks to Afghan women inside a compound during an operation to clear the village of Seragar in Sangin, Afghanistan. (Marine Corps photo)

Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015.

The defense secretary’s order is not without consideration for potential recruits. His rationale is simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash
Pfc. Julia Carroll after a six-hour patrol during patrol week of Infantry Training Battalion near Camp Geiger, N.C (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why service animals are a perfect match for veterans

This article is sponsored by Nulo Pet Food.

The rigors of combat leave a lasting impact on many veterans who have proudly served. As painful as it is to admit, as a society, we’ve mostly left these troops to fend for themselves and find their own path in coping and healing.

No two roads to recovery are alike, but there’s one method that’s proven, time and time again, to be an effective way for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress to see through the haze — and that’s adopting a support animal.

Whether it’s an officially certified and properly trained service animal or just a pet that offers its unconditional love, it’s been proven that animals can get veterans through their struggles.


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As many veterans who are accompanied by a support animal can tell you, a little nudge of love can make the biggest difference in the world. Such is the story of Andrew Einstein and his dog, Gunner.

Navy sacks 2 more officers over USS McCain crash

And the two have been inseparable ever since. ​

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When he was deployed in August, 2011, a grenade went off near Andrew. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost the hearing on his right side. The road to recovery was long, lonely, and painful. Without adequate support, Andrew went through dark times. He reached his lowest point less than ten months after the injury, and intended to end his own life.

Thankfully, he made it through the night. The very next day, he met Gunner. He wasn’t the biggest or the most energetic dog, but this little puppy didn’t want to leave Andrew’s side. Gunner chose to stick by Andrew, despite of all the hardships he’s endured.

The bond between the two grew with each passing day. Today, Andrew and Gunner participate together in various runs and obstacle courses across the country. Competition after competition, the pride Andrew has for Gunner, as he successfully navigates the various challenges, can only be described as the pride a parent has for a child.

“Service dogs allow people to live a life they otherwise wouldn’t be able to live because of whatever issue or disability they’re suffering from,” says Andrew. “It’s near impossible to do anything on your own and having a support system — whether it be one dog, a team of people, it doesn’t matter the number — if you don’t get help, you’re gonna get worse. But if you ask for help, you’ll get better. You’re still the same person, nothing changes, except your life getting better.”

Andrew found that support system in Gunner.

To learn more about Andrew and Gunner’s incredible journey — and to explore the amazing ways a service animal can impact lives — visit Nulo’s website.

This article is sponsored by Nulo Pet Food.