It was a regular April night around the Luttrell home near Huntsville, Texas. It had been five years since Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell fought the 2005 firefight with the Taliban that was portrayed in the film Lone Survivor. Since then, he received a Yellow Labrador puppy to help him recover from the unseen wounds of the war. He named the pup Dasy, an acronym of the names of his fellow SEALs — the ones that didn’t survive the battle.
A shot rang out throughout the area of the house. Luttrell sprang into action, grabbed a 9mm pistol, checked to see if his mother was alright, and then ran outside to check on Dasy. He found the puppy at the end of a trail of blood.
“When I saw she was dead, the only thing that popped into my head was, ‘I’ve got to take these guys out,'” Luttrell told NBC News.
Dasy was just four years old when gunmen shot and killed her.
He then spotted a suspicious vehicle nearby and tried to sneak up on it with a 9mm pistol. When he was 25 yards away, the car left — and Luttrell hopped in his pickup in hot pursuit.
“I saw my dog in a ditch and two men standing outside the car,” Luttrell said. “I could hear them laughing.”
He called the local emergency line and warned the 911 operator that he was chasing the men who killed his dog.
“I told them, ‘You need to get somebody out here because if I catch them, I’m going to kill them,'” Luttrell told the operator, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Navy Cross recipient stayed on with the emergency operator as he chased the gunmen across three Texas counties in a 40-mile, high-speed chase. Luttrell was still recovering from a recent surgery but it didn’t stop him from attempting to catch the fleeing suspects.
Dasy was more than just a therapy dog to Luttrell. The four-year-old dog helped Luttrell at a time when he wasn’t talking about what happened and had trouble sleeping. Dasy wasn’t just a pet, she was like a daughter to the former SEAL.
Luttrell’s pickup truck couldn’t keep up with the car in which the suspects fled the scene, but the Texas Rangers eventually stopped the vehicle, arresting two of them for cruelty to a non-livestock animal and the driver for not having a license. According to the Rangers, the shooting was the latest in a series of five dog killings in an area Luttrell describes as “the middle of nowhere.”
When Luttrell arrived on the scene, he immediately confronted the suspects, demanding to know which of them murdered Dasy. According to Luttrell, they started talking smack.
“Marcus is trained to do certain things; he fell back on his training,” a Texas Ranger told NBC News. “I wouldn’t advocate to the general public to do what he has done — to follow them at that rate of speed.”
Luttrell and his new therapy dog, Rigby.
(Marcus Luttrell via Facebook)
Alfonso Hernandez and Michael Edmonds were convicted in 2012 of shooting Dasy with a .357 pistol that night. The conviction was later upheld by a Texas appellate court. Edmonds turned on Hernandez, pleading guilty and testifying against him. Edmonds received five years probation while Hernandez received the maximum sentence, two years confinement and a ,000 fine.
Luttrell said losing Dasy was a huge setback in his life but he soon had another therapy dog in his life, another Yellow Lab named “Rigby.”
Reporting from CNN and The Wall Street Journal indicates that President Donald J. Trump has ordered a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, and U.S. officials are already giving notice to international partners while preparing the logistics of the move.
“Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate. These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign. The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support, and any means of infiltrating our borders.”
U.S. troops have been in Syria for years, mostly operating next to rebel forces and Kurdish units working to tear apart ISIS’s claimed caliphate and then kill what fighters they could find. At the same time, U.S-backed fighters still frequently clashed with pro-government forces.
To a certain degree, this had created a proxy conflict as the U.S. backed rebel units and the conflict and Russia and Iran backed government forces. All sides could agree that ISIS had to be destroyed, but the U.S. had a very different idea from Iran and Russia of what the post-ISIS region should look like.
Under President Barack Obama, there were indicators that the U.S. would help shape the peace, ensuring that Iran didn’t gain a strong foothold in the country and potentially limiting Russia’s control after the war. Syria is very important to Russia as it has historically provided one of the only politically secure allies that Russia has had in the region.
Russia’s largest air base and naval base in the Middle East were in Syria even before the conflict in that country broke out, and Russia sent additional forces there as it attempted to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power despite accusations of human rights abuses and clear evidence that the regime used chemical weapons against its own people.
The U.S. withdrawal will allow Iran, Russia, and Turkey to more heavily influence the peace process, possibly to the detriment of Kurdish forces who had hoped to secure a permanent country in lands they helped protect and liberate from ISIS-control. Kurdish forces have a long history of allying with the U.S., taking part in operations in Iraq and Syria that were closely coordinated with U.S. leaders.
The withdrawal announcement seems to have come as a surprise, even to senior leaders in the U.S. and partnered nations. Senator Lindsey Graham pushed back, saying that ISIS is not defeated and that a withdrawal would be a “huge, Obama-like mistake.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, a senior congressional correspondent, has been making the rounds at the Capitol while tweeting quotes from different leaders. Marco Rubio gave sentiments similar to Graham’s, reportedly calling the decision a great disservice to the country, making the U.S. a less reliable partner.
“I didn’t have a normal and safe childhood,” Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum said woefully. “I did this so my kids could live, and be safe.”
Kadhum was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. Growing up, he never considered the life he lived was anything out of the ordinary, until he was an adult and attending his first year of college in 2003, when U.S. forces entered Iraq.
“It was a complicated feeling then,” Kadhum remembered. “We were happy, but it was also scary, because during the Saddam regime we had nothing. In 2003, we had hope.”
Iraq had become a warzone right in front of his eyes.
“When the coalition forces had come to Iraq to free us from Saddam, I was in college and decided I needed to help.”
Kadhum was hired by a U.S. contractor and used the time to establish himself and work on his English. When the request for translators was made from the U.S. Army, he knew he could do more.
Kadhum learned immediately that his job as an interpreter could have either a negative or positive effect based on his translations.
“If I missed one word when translating, then something could have happened,” he said.
Kadhum started his job as an interpreter working with a Military Transition Team. His team worked directly with the Iraqi army, training them and providing guidance on how to use equipment, clear rooms and other necessary tactical skills.
Being in the position he was in, Kadhum was sometimes the only connecting piece between the Iraqi forces and U.S. forces. Eventually, he would become a target of the enemy and had to start concealing his identity whenever traveling outside of his job.
“Our people think we aren’t good people because we help the U.S. Army,” he said. “They started threatening us and following us many times. They would threaten us either directly or indirectly.
Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum, an 88M (truck driver) assists in fueling vehicles during a driver’s training class, July 26, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)
I had to move my family with me from place to place. “
As a result of the threats, Kadhum felt pressured to leave the Military Transition Team and started working at a prison, still as an interpreter.
“This was another challenge for me,” he said. “To help the prisoners, and most of them were terrorists. But it was their human right.”
Kadhum said he gained experience in the proper and fair treatment of prisoners, despite the crime they committed. Ensuring the imprisoned received the right food and water in accordance with their rights was, at times, difficult for Kadhum, but despite his struggle, he continued to help facilitate the standard.
In 2007, Iraq had become a more dangerous place. Enemy forces were relentless with their attacks on the government, U.S. forces and the people of Iraq.
Kadhum’s main purpose for working with U.S. forces was to benefit the country and people of Iraq. Unfortunately, others did not feel that was the purpose of the interpreters.
“I felt like I was serving my country more than I was serving the U.S. Army,” Kadhum said. “I don’t feel like I did something wrong in my country, but other people did.
“All the time I must hide everything, even the ID I had, I had to hide in my boot. We had to travel together [the interpreters] to go home to make sure we were safe.”
Kadhum continued his support to the American forces until he determined it was no longer safe to stay in Iraq.
“I was scared for my son when he went to school,” Kadhum explained. “My wife would go with him and wait because maybe someone would kidnap him; every time he went to school my wife stayed with him.”
With the help of the program established for interpreters who assist the U.S., he was able to get a Special Immigration Visa and come to America with his wife and two children in August 2016.
“I feel like at first when I came here I felt safe,” he said. “My oldest is almost ten and my daughter is now three. Now I feel safe.
“If my son wants to go to the playground, I’m not scared someone will kidnap him. I’m not scared someone will be threatening me through him,” Kadhum continued. “Now I feel like my kids can grow up normal.”
A few months later, Kadhum was in a U.S. Army recruiter’s office looking for a way to give back to the very institution that he had already given so much.
“Right now for me the Army is not a job, it’s not a career,” he started. “I’m serving. This is what I feel because at least I can pay back what the U.S. Army did for me.
I came here and the first thing I thought was I needed to serve; because this Army has worked to help people to do better in their life. I believed it at the time even when I was an interpreter.”
In early July 2018, Kadhum recited the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and became an official U.S. citizen with more than 15 other soldiers during a ceremony on Fort Hood.
“I’m really happy but at the same time it is a big responsibility,” he said. “While serving in the Army it is a responsibility, but even if I get out of [the] Army as a civilian I still have more responsibility.
When you choose to get that citizenship it is different from the people who are born with the citizenship. When it’s harder to get it, it is a big commitment. I have more appreciation for it.”
Kadhum is looking ahead to the future for himself and his family.
“The best thing is because of the naturalization, I can do anything now,” he said. “My hopes are for my kids that they get to live a normal life and every thing will be perfect for them.”
Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday they hope to forgive about 90 percent of cases involving thousands of California National Guard members that auditors say received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It is my hope that by the end of the year, we will have something between 1,000 and 2,000 cases total out of the universe of 17,000 that are subject to review,” Peter Levine, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Levine was among Pentagon and Army National Guard officials who testified at the Dec. 7 hearing to tell lawmakers how the Pentagon plans to resolve what some are calling a betrayal of the troops by next summer and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
“Compensation, whether it is a bonus for a service agreement or regular pay, is an obligation to our service members and their families that they should not have to worry about,” said Rep. Joseph Heck, a Republican from Nevada and chairman of the panel’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.
“I find it unacceptable that we would place the additional burden of years of concern about the legitimacy of a bonus payment or a student loan repayment on those who volunteer to serve,” he added.
Lawmakers have come up with a compromise as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loan benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.
The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last month that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to California Guard soldiers to help fill enlistment quotas for the wars. Many of the soldiers served in combat, and some returned with severe injuries.
Many of soldiers were told to repay bonuses of $15,000 or more years after they had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were also given out improperly to soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.
“Many reasons these cases are particularly troublesome,” Levine said. “Many of them are based on a technical deficiency.
“Particularly in cases like this, where we have a service member who made a commitment on the basis of a bonus and served out that commitment, so when we come in later after someone has fulfilled their commitment and then question on a technical ground why they received a bonus in the first place — that is a particular hardship,” he said.
There are two basic categories of cases, Levine said. One type involves about 1,400 cases already ordered to pay back bonuses. The second category of 16,000 cases involves soldiers who were put under suspicion or threat of recoupment of bonuses they received.
“For those cases that are in recoupment, we have the question of, ‘Are we going to dismiss the case? Are we going to forgive the debt? Are we going to repay the soldier if we decide it was improper?’ ” Levine said.
Through detailed screenings, “It’s my hope we can get from about 1,400 down to about 700 … that’s a goal; I don’t know what exact numbers we can get to.”
As for the larger category of about 16,000 cases, “We have greater discretion because we haven’t yet established the debt yet,” Levine said.
Several “rules of thumb” will be established in an attempt to:
— Screen out cases that are more than 10 years old.
— Screen out cases with a debt of $10,000 or less.
— Screen out most of the cases that involve enlisted members and lower ranking members without prior service on the basis that it’s unlikely they would be able to understand their contract fully without assistance.
“As we go through those screens from that second universe of 16,000 or so cases, I expect to reduce that by about 90 percent, so we get down to about 10 percent,” Levine said. “We will then put that universe through the kinds of substantive screens, and I hope to get that down further.
“The objective is to find that easy ones first, get rid of those, tell people ‘we are not pursuing you … we are telling you, you are off the hook; we are done with you,’ so we can focus our resources on the cases that are the most significant.”
Many lawmakers said they felt the California Guard scandal severely damaged the trust of current Guard members across the country.
“In some of these cases, there have been troops — through no fault of their own — that are suffering the consequences,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican from California. “It’s our fault, and I use that word collectively on behalf of all officers that are in positions of authority. We betrayed the trust of the troops, and there is no excuse for that.”
Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from the state, said it’s “critically important that we do not forget service members and their families that have been deeply affected by this.”
“Once these families have encountered financial hardships, we know it can be truly difficult to recover. Even if we return their bonus, we have already upended their lives by creating unnecessary emotional stress and financial instability.”
Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
But National Guard officials told lawmakers that many others were held accountable, including leaders who failed to provide proper oversight, said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general for the California National Guard.
“We punished, within the California National Guard, 61 people — including firing four general officers and two full colonels,” Baldwin said.
The Department of Justice prosecuted 44 soldiers. Of those, 26 were found guilty and convicted, Baldwin said. Another 15 cases are pending, and the remainder were either dismissed or acquitted, Baldwin said.
Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, told lawmakers that the National Guard Bureau has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.
In 2010, the bureau conducted a review of all incentive programs across all states territories and the District of Columbia and found “no systemic fraud,” Kadavy said.
In 2012, the National Guard stood up the Guard Incentive Management System, or GIMS, which now provides “a centralized oversight program for bonus and incentive payments,” he said.
In 2016, the Army Audit Agency conducted an “external review” of GIMS and validated its effectiveness, Kadavy said. Auditors found that the system “substantially improved the controls of eligibility monitoring and payment phases of the incentive process.”
Despite the steps being taken to resolve the problem, officials admitted that they should have known about this a lot sooner.
“We have oversight on the California National Guard, the Army has oversight, the National Guard Bureau has oversight,” Levine said. “We were not aware of this until we read it in the newspaper, and that is on us; we missed this.”
Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.
Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.
Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.
Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.
“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.
An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.
“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.
Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology. A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.” Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.
Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.
Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.
The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.
The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.
While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.
Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.
“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains. In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant. They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk. Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.
“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.
A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.
Army Defends Against Mini-Drones
While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.
This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.
The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.
Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.
As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.
The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.
The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.
“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.
There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”
Visiting France for the first time as an 18-year-old from the Midwest was a trip I will always treasure. After spending several days in and around London. I was ready to put my high school French to the test, and immerse myself in the French culture. I traveled by train from London to the southern coast to board a ferry to Northern France.
As the ferry got further away from the English coastline, the gray skies began to clear and I could see France in the distance. There was a subtle breeze blowing across the English Channel, which created a serine feeling. When the ferry slowed, signaling the final moments of the ride. I gazed at the beauty before my eyes. The lush green fields and trees on top of the slopes leading onto the beaches looked like a slice of heaven.
My first few steps in France were ushered in by the smell of freshly cut flowers being sold on the street. It was only a matter of minutes before the pastel hues of the flowers and landscape revealed their inspiration for the birthplace of Impressionism. For a moment, I felt I had been transported into a Manet painting.
Turning back around to look at the English Channel, I was overcome with an eerie stillness. It had been 55 years since Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day.
There were two contrasting French coasts viewed by an 18-year-old in 1999, and an 18-year-old in June of 1944. In those waters off the French coast, thousands of Americans boarded transporters that resembled an open-air commercial sized dumpster on water. There were young men from every corner of the country, split between the transport boats. On some of those small boats there were 18-year-old boys, who had never traveled far from home until that moment.
It’s likely they weren’t focused on the beautiful scenery they were about to disembark upon. Their final thoughts before stepping down the ramp into the choppy waters of the Channel weren’t of eager anticipation to sample the French cuisine, or leisurely strolls through street markets of small French villages. They were of their families back home, who were unaware of the impending horror their loved ones were about to endure, or unaware that by the end of the day, history would change course. Within hours, thousands of American families would be forever changed. Sons, brothers, husbands and fathers would meet their destiny on the shores of Northern France.
At the top of those slopes leading to the beach, Nazi forces opened fire on the thousands of Allied forces storming the beaches. Suddenly, dreams of owning a home or business paled in comparison to the hope of surviving long enough to feel the grass beneath their feet as they continued the bloody campaign inland.
For the American GI’s lucky enough to survive long enough to reach the sandy beaches. The water washing ashore was bright red. It became impossible to tell if the blood shed by Allied forces had overtaken the waters of the Channel.
If a famous Impressionist artist like Cezanne were to capture the moment in a painting, the landscape in the artwork would be void of any gentle pastels. Instead, grey, brown and red would capture the ominousness of the harrowing invasion.
Before the horror besieging the shores, the dark, early morning sky was littered with planes depositing thousands of American paratroopers scattered throughout Normandy. Many planes were shot from the sky as paratroopers leaped from them. Some blasts were so violent they knocked weapons out of the paratroopers’ possession. For those who landed safely on the ground, many found themselves alone in a foreign and hostile land. As they dodged German fighters, paratroopers began to link up to form a stronger offensive force.
The invasion took years to plan, and careful coordination between American, British and Canadian forces comprised of over 150,000 troops. Among the 150,000 troops, 14 Comanche “code-talkers” relayed critical messages in their Native American tongue, which German forces were unable to translate.
By the end of June 6,1944, the Germans had been bombarded by air, land and sea from Allied forces. The Atlantic theater began to shift from Nazi control of Europe to a liberated Western Europe. More than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion.
The success of D-Day was the turning point, and beginning of the end for the Nazis.
In the 76 years since D-Day, millions of people have blissfully explored the rich history, beauty and diverse cultures of Europe. It was the bravery and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of Allied forces on D-Day that helped save the world.
I was privileged to experience all the beauty Europe offers as an 18-year-old, because thousands of 18-year-olds on June 6, 1944 had the courage to face evil directly in the face.
Winston Churchill summarized it best, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.
Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.
Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?
We, of course, choose Animal Mother.
Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.
Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…
“Ain’t war hell?”
He was the guest of honor.
So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!
After achieving an awesome air-to-air kill ratio of 15-to-one, the F-35 trounced ground targets at the US Air Force’s Red Flag exercise — and now the world’s most expensive weapons system may finally be ready for the front lines.
For the first time ever, the F-35 competed against legacy aircraft and simulated surface-to-air missile batteries at “the highest level threats we know exist,” according to a statement from Lt. Col. George Watkins, an F-53 squadron commander.
“Just as we’re getting new systems and technology, the adversary’s threats are becoming more sophisticated and capable,” said Watkins, nodding to the expansive counter-stealth and anti-air capabilities built up by the Russians and Chinese over the years.
But the F-35 program has long carried the promise of delivering a plane that can outsmart, outgun, and out-stealth enemy systems, and the latest run at Red Flag seems to have vindicated the troubled 16-year long program. Not only can the F-35 operate in heavily contested airspace, which render F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s as sitting ducks, but it can get more done with fewer planes.
“I flew a mission the other day where our four-ship formation of F-35As destroyed five surface-to-air threats in a 15-minute period without being targeted once,” said Maj. James Schmidt, a former A-10 pilot now flying F-35s.
Four planes taking out five SAM sites in 15 minutes represents nothing less than a quantum leap in capability for the Air Force, which prior to the F-35 would have to target threats with long-range missiles before getting close to the battle.
“We would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out. Now between us and the (F-22) Raptor, we are able to geo-locate them and precision target them,” Watkins said, adding that F-35s are so stealthy, “we can get close enough to put a bomb right on them.”
But that’s only one of the multi-role F-35’s jobs. After obliterating ground threats, F-35 pilots said they turned right around and started hammering air threats.
The F-35 came out of Red Flag such a ringing success that Defense News reports that the strike aircraft is now being considered at the highest levels for overseas deployments.
“I think based on the data that we’re hearing right now for kill ratios, hit rates with bombs, maintenance effectiveness … those things tell me that the airplane itself is performing extremely well from a mechanical standpoint and … that the proficiency and skills of the pilots is at a level that would lead them into any combat situation as required,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, head of the Air Force’s F-35 integration office told Defense News.
With that success on record, Pleus will now consider deploying a small group of six to eight F-35s overseas as part of a “theater security package” to help train and integrate with US allies.
UK and Australian contingents participated in this installment of Red Flag. Both countries plan to buy and operate the F-35 in the near future.
Dogs have long been known as “man’s best friend” but it wasn’t until recently we knew how vital the connection and companionship would be. K9s for Warriors is saving lives because of it.
When retired Army National Guard Master Sergeant David Crenshaw enlisted in 2000, it was a lifelong dream realized. He was in the middle of Army Basic Training when the planes hit the World Trade Center and life was forever changed, for everyone. When he wasn’t drilling, Crenshaw was a volunteer firefighter.
He was deployed to Iraq in 2004, which had been invaded by U.S. troops the year before. Crenshaw was Military Police and assigned to Personal Protective Detail. Although he returned home 15 months later thinking he was fine, he wasn’t. 2005 began a slow decline, one which he never anticipated.
“I’m from the northeast right outside of New York so 9/11 had a huge impact on me,” Crenshaw shared. “It’s just one of those stories of a kid in America who wanted to go do his job. You do your job and what’s asked of you over there…I remember someone telling me if I ever wanted to do anything else not to tell them [the Army] I was having any mental problems.”
So he stayed quiet. Once he returned home, he became a 911 dispatch operator until he left to become a firefighter in 2006. A year later he went to the academy and became a police officer. It was a role he’d hold for seven years. In 2010 he began his new job as an instructor for the Army’s Officer Candidate School.
In 2014 he made a move from the police department to the prosecutor’s office in order to do special investigative work. Crenshaw spent almost a year undercover with the gang and narcotic operations. It took its toll.
“It started to play on me. Morally, it wasn’t who I was as a person. It also started to affect things that were happening around me. All the symptoms that come about with PTSD like the hyper vigilance, paranoia, always on guard – all that stuff was being amplified,” Crenshaw explained. His mother was also diagnosed with stage IV cancer during this time. “I didn’t realize this was PTSD, I thought it was just the stress of the job and my sick mother.”
It was toward the end of the investigation when Crenshaw began to realize something was wrong. A VA appointment would lead to being labeled with PTSD, but highly functioning. Unfortunately, all he heard was the past part of the diagnosis. “About a year to the day, I had what I like to call my fall from grace,” he shared.
During this time he became his mother’s hospice caretaker and watched her pass away. Simultaneously, he was in the middle of a divorce and a contentious custody battle. “The day she passed, that’s when my PTSD skyrocketed,” Crenshaw shared. “ I know of the process of how they remove the body. All I kept thinking about was Iraq and the two bodies we put on the helicopter.”
This would lead to thinking about death every time he knocked on a door with SWAT to execute a search warrant. With Crensaw always being first in, he knew the risk. “I kept saying, ‘Is this going to be the day I catch it?” but I was saying it almost with a sense of relief,” he said. Things got progressively worse, leading to an altercation with his now ex-wife.
His fall, as he called it, led to losing his job with the prosecutor’s office. “It was actually a load off my shoulders but it was short lived because then it became a fight for my life,” Crenshaw shared. He credits K9s for Warriors helping to save his life, thanks to his service dog, Doc.
From the moment they were paired, Crenshaw felt the connection. He realized it that first night by watching how Doc calmed him before he even knew he was becoming anxious. His life was forever changed. “He’s wearing all of my stuff. My burdens, worries and anxiety,” Crenshaw shared. “PTSD was a weight at my ankle holding me down. It’s no different than a drug or an addiction, it really does sit there and lie in wait.”
Crenshaw is open in sharing he’ll never be cured from his PTSD, however, Doc’s continuous presence manages it and allows him to lead a new and fulfilling life. But the path to getting a service animal isn’t easy and often comes with long wait times. It’s something K9s for Warriors is hoping to change.
The PAWS Act (Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers) was reintroduced into Congress on March 3, 2021. K9s for Warriors, the largest provider of service animals to veterans, is backing it. If passed, it would require the VA to provide grants to pay for service dogs for eligible veterans. “I hope the PAWS Act is just the first leg…We need to find a way to come together and make one loud unified voice on this,” he said.
Although Crenshaw was quick to point out his incredible mental health team at the VA, he was also open about the problems and continued barriers. Namely, the unending prescription pills fostered onto him for his symptoms. All of which he no longer has to take, thanks to Doc.
The endless bureaucratic red tape and fight Crenshaw endured for his medical retirement, mental health support and to get Doc was exhausting, he said. Although he made it out the other side, he wasn’t unscathed from the experience of seeking help. It’s a fight many veterans give up on.
“My main goal in life now is to just be here for veterans and cops, too,” Crenshaw said. “It’s amazing how many cracks there are and how many barriers there are from the military to the VA and even in the civilian world with the understanding. So, wherever and however I can advocate for them… I will.”
There have been countless pre-mission plans that state the proclaimed time outside the wire will only last a few hours. Then, after a few hours outside the wire, you learn you’re going to be outside until right before nightfall. Then, you receive notice you’re going to stay in the field and conduct an overnight ambush.
The words “holy sh*t” pass through your mind because you didn’t bring enough MRE crackers and peanut butter to feed yourself.
2. Write down the mission and patrol route
During a hectic firefight, it’s easy to lose your train of thought. Writing as much information down before stepping out on patrol can lower your chances of panicking and forgetting what you’re supposed to do while under fire. It happens.
3. Continuously “prep and check your trash”
Trash doesn’t refer to the empty bag of MMs from your MRE — it refers to your gear. Grunts continuously move their gear around for better access during their movement. This practice helps to keep your sling from getting all freaking tangled when you need to put rounds down range.
4. Don’t leave important personal sh*t behind
Sadly, not everyone returns to the FOB after the patrol. Some ground pounders get hurt and get medevac to the “rear” for treatment. There are times where unique personal belongings are left at the FOB like IDs, pictures, and religious items that don’t reconnect with their owners.
5. Pre-staging your tourniquets
No one wants to think about getting hit, but it’s a real possibility when manning the front lines. When I was deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan, we pre-staged our tourniquets on our legs with 550 cords since the IED threat level was so freakin’ high.
In the sad event we stepped on one, the grunt would tighten the pre-staged himself to avoid losing any additional blood before the Corpsman or medic arrive.
In 2019, the Army approved a new rifle qualification and individual weapons training strategy. The old qualification, the automated record fire, was developed back in 1956. Since then, the Army’s battles and the way it fights them have changed. The new qualification, the rifle and carbine qualification, was developed with the same principle as the Army Combat Fitness Test. It more holistically assesses a soldier’s ability to employ situational awareness, safe weapon handling, and core marksmanship competencies.
Due to COVID-19 considerations, full integration of the new rifle qualification in 2020 was slowed. However, more and more units in both Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command are starting to test their soldiers on the new standards.
Training and evaluation for the rifle and carbine qualification is broken down into six tables: preliminary marksmanship instruction and evaluation, pre-live fire simulation training, magazine and shooting position drills, grouping and zeroing, practice qualification, and qualification. “Soldiers start by receiving a series of classes on how to properly zero the rifle, whether it’s a bare rifle or with optics,” said Staff Sgt. Tadeysz Showers, assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “Soldiers received classes on laser bore sight, Minute of Angle (MOA), zeroing process, windage, ballistics, and also received EST training and practiced position changes before going to a live range.”
The rifle qualification consists of four firing phases for which soldiers will employ four magazines with 10 rounds each. 40 targets will pop up on their own or in groups for varying lengths of time depending on their distance. Soldiers will fire from the standing unsupported, prone unsupported, prone supported, kneeling supported, and standing supported positions. A barricade is used to simulate cover and provide a more stable shooting position for supported fire. Transitioning between positions and changing magazines are integrated organically into the course of fire in order to more closely simulate real-world combat situations. “The old rifle qualification did not help in combat situations, so they incorporated magazine exchanges and position changes by yourself to represent combat,” said Staff Sgt. Tadeysz Showers, assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “No matter the military occupational specialty (MOS), any MOS can teach a Soldier how to do this new weapons qualification.”
Whereas commanders could previously dictate whether or not their soldiers could shoot “slick” without their body armor and helmet, the new rifle qualification requires soldiers to wear them. Magazines are retained on the soldier’s gear rather than laying ready on the ground or on a sandbag in order to more closely simulate a combat situation. The first shot of the qualification will be on a close-range target from the standing unsupported firing position. From there, soldiers will transition into the prone unsupported firing position and engage the next nine targets through a port in the bottom of the barricade. The last 30 targets will appear in three waves of 10 with soldiers conducting magazine and firing position changes on their own in between.
The new qualification also includes guidance for night and CBRNE shooting. Soldiers will be expected to utilize night-vision goggles, IR lasers, and gas masks to engage targets under adverse conditions. The inclusion of these variables reflects the Army’s return to training for a near-peer fight against conventional armies. Additionally, soldiers will no longer be given alibis. Previously, if a soldier experienced a weapon malfunction during their course of fire, they could be given the opportunity to re-shoot. Now, soldiers will be expected to assess and clear the malfunction during the course of fire and continue to engage targets. Any missed targets during this time will count against them. While this can make the qualification more difficult, it encourages soldiers to build the muscle memory necessary to address such variables under stress.
Some aspects of the old rifle qualification have carried over though. Soldiers are still required to hit 23 of the 40 targets in order to qualify. 23-29 hits earns a Marksman qualification, 30-35 hits earns a Sharpshooter qualification, and 36-40 hits earns an Expert qualification. “This new weapons qualification is more combat oriented with changing positions, changing magazines and engaging the targets,” said Sgt. Octavius Moon assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “This will help Soldiers shoot better as well as make ranges faster and have more Soldiers qualified. It helps Soldiers become more knowledgeable about their weapon as well.”
Dating a service member or veteran can be challenging for a civilian unfamiliar with the world of military life. And it can even throw veterans dating other veterans into unfamiliar ground.
Whatever your background, here are nine things you’re going to have to get used to if you decide to date a servicemember or veteran.
1. Understanding dark humor
Learning a new sense of humor is something that has to happen when you date a veteran. They cope with things with a dark sense of humor, and this can be a little off-putting.
Thing is, you just have to learn to laugh when he takes his leg off at dinner, sets it on a chair and asks the waiter for another menu.
2. The things they carry
When you’re dating a civilian, they might sometimes leave a shirt or socks behind after a late-night visit. But if you’re dating a veteran, you may have to deal with a forgotten piece of their prosthetic, a utility knife, or something else you might not expect.
3. Bobby pins are everywhere
Just like dating a civilian woman, military women will leave bobby pins behind. To keep the crisp, clean bun many women in uniform rely on, it can take 15 or more bobby pins to make it work. Occasionally, they get left behind on night stands and kitchen sinks as an accidental territory marker.
4. Opening up takes a little longer
Any relationship is built on trust and understanding – a relationship with a vet is no different. Special importance has to be put on trust, though. When someone’s ready to open up, you have to be ready to listen and try to understand things you may have never experienced and couldn’t begin to comprehend. Many veterans are used to losing the people who are closest to them, whether from failed relationships, in combat, or to suicide. They may not want to get attached for fear of losing you, but you have to work to build their trust.
5. Inter-service rivalry is all in good fun
If you’re a veteran dating a veteran of another branch, you have to get used to the good-natured teasing of your service coming into all aspects of your life. Whether you forget something at home on a trip and hear “man, that’s why you can’t trust an Airman!” or if you’re late to a date and get a “sailors, always on their own time,” you have to learn to dish it back with a smile.
6. You learn to love listening to stories
Any veteran, young or old, loves to tell stories from their service. Whether they fought the Nazis in 10 feet of snow with an ax handle and a pocket knife, or they battled al-Qaeda as a member of Delta Team Six, the stories are always an interesting look into the way the military works. Whether they’re 100 percent true or a little embellished, you’ll learn to revel in the stories of your veteran significant other — especially over a few drinks.
7. You learn to give your all and try new things
Veterans can be intense people. They’re used to giving a mission their all and take that passion into the things they love most. Learning new things may include backpacking or kayaking or it could be a sport like football or basketball. No matter what, you have to learn to give 100 percent to anything you try.
8. Not every vet has post-traumatic stress, but some do
Life isn’t always sunshine and roses. While visible wounds may make people stare, the invisible wounds can be harder to deal with in a relationship. Traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress are big hurdles modern veterans face, and they can affect their closest relationships dramatically. Patience is key in a time where your significant other is facing something they may not want to – or be able to – talk about.
9. Commitment is more than a ten-letter word
Each branch of the military focuses on commitment, duty, honor, sacrifice, and service and others before self. This bleeds into their life outside of the military – dating and marrying a veteran can be one of the most rewarding things someone can do. It isn’t for everyone, but if you meet and fall in love with a veteran, you can be assured their service will be an asset in your life together.