Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Sitting in the White House reading the citation for the Medal of Honor doesn’t give the real flavor of why retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and special warfare operator Britt K. Slabinski is receiving the award.

The nicely air conditioned room with comfortable chairs, impeccable floors, historic artwork and gilt on many surfaces isn’t right, somehow.

The dispassionate words on the award talk of Slabinski’s heroism in assaulting bunkers, rallying his men, and going back into the center of the firefight.


The White House is literally half a world away from a mountain in Afghanistan in 2002, where Slabinski — and America — lost seven good men.

When the master chief talks of the action, you realize he is reliving his time atop Takur Ghar — a 10,000-foot mountain near Ghazni, on March 4, 2002. He is remembering his decisions. He is remembering what he felt. And he is remembering his brothers who were killed.

He speaks in present tense, because in his mind’s eye. It is still happening.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
An official portrait of retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and special warfare operator Britt K. Slabinski.

‘I Was Just Doing My Job’

He believes he did nothing special. “I was just doing my job that day,” Slabinski said during an interview.

Slabinski — then a senior chief petty officer — and his men were just supposed to set up an overwatch position on the mountain to support the conventional forces in the valley below. “Now the enemy gets a vote,” he said. “We plan, we train, we rehearse and we rehearse some more for every possible contingency, but sometimes the fog and friction of war is just out of your control and a leader has to adapt.”

The team was aboard an Army MH-47 helicopter and as it was landing, well dug-in al-Qaida fighters opened up. “When we land, the ramp goes down,” he said. “I’m standing on the very back of the helicopter … and almost immediately take an RPG rocket to the side of the aircraft. It goes off, fills the aircraft full of smoke and we are getting shot up right away. There’s bullets flying through the aircraft the size of your finger [from] 12.7 machine guns that were up there.”

The pilot was able to take off, but the bird was wounded and experienced what Slabinski called “the worst turbulence you could imagine.”

Those gyrations caused Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts to fall off the ramp. The crew chief grabbed Roberts’ pack, and the weight of the SEAL pulled him off the ramp, too. But the crew chief was tethered into the aircraft and was able to get back in. Roberts fell 10 feet into the meter-deep snow.

“It happens that fast,” Slabinski said as he snapped his fingers.

He told the pilot that he had lost a man, but with the chopper’s hydraulics shot out, there was no way the bird could circle and retrieve him. “[The pilot] was flying a brick,” Slabinski said. “It was basically a controlled crash into the enemy-held valley.”

The master chief assessed the situation. “Now my mission originally was to support the overwatch, then my teammate Neil fell out, and now I have a downed helicopter I have to deal with,” he said.

Calling For Support

The first problem he dealt with was the helicopter, and he called in a second aircraft to take the crew and team to a safe place. Once there, Slabinski was able to focus his attention on Neil.

The information he received was Roberts was alive. “I knew there was a superior enemy force up there and they had heavier weapons than I had,” he said.

The enemy, the cold, the altitude — “Everything that could be stacked against us, was stacked against us going back, and I had the feeling that this was a one-way trip,” he said. “I knew though, that if I go now, there’s a chance I could rescue Neil. I knew if I tried to develop a battle plan more on my terms, it would certainly be better, but I knew Neil didn’t have that time.”

The weight was on Slabinski’s shoulders. “I remember sitting in the helicopter,” he said. “The [rotors are] turning, it’s cold, trying to sort through the tactical piece of it … and this thought keeps coming back to me: If I go now what’s the cost going to be versus the cost if I wait. If you are the leader and you have peoples’ lives that you are responsible for, the decisions don’t come easy.”

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
Anu00a0MH-47 Chinook helicopter
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Matthew R. Loken)

This was Slabinski’s loneliest moment. He was sitting in the chopper with a headset on and people are talking to him. He was thinking of all the tactical problems and the lives. “And this thought kept coming back to me, and it’s the first line of the Boy Scout Oath … ‘On my honor, I will do my best,'” said Slabinski, who attained the rank of Eagle Scout at his hometown troop in Northampton, Massachusetts “The only thing that is in the back of my mind is, ‘On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best.’

“That’s when I said, ‘I’m gonna go do this.'”

The master chief assigned his men jobs, and the pilot of the first aircraft, Army Chief Warrant Officer Al Mack, went up to Slabinski and told him he would be flying them back in the new MH-47, even though he had just survived a harrowing experience with the first helicopter.

There was no other place to land, so the team had to go right back to the place the first bird took the fire. As the chopper took off, it got quiet for Slabinski and he thought of his son, who was 6 years old at the time. “I remember saying, ‘I love you. Sorry for what’s to come. Be great,'” he said. “Then I put it in another room in my brain and went on with my duties.”

Enemy Fire

This Chinook also took fire coming in to the landing area, and as soon as the ramp went down, the team went off the back of the ramp. Two men went to the right, two to the left and the master chief and Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, went out together.

Slabinski and Chapman were hit by a burst of automatic weapons fire. “The burst hit John and he went down,” Slabinski said. “The bullets from the same burst went through my clothes on each side, and I jumped behind a rock.”

The belt-fed weapon kept firing at them. “I looked for John and he is lying in a very odd position, and I look to my other guys and they are engaged with another dug-in position and the two to my left are engaged there. There are enemy muzzle flashes on three sides.”

There is no cover, and Slabinski tosses two grenades at the bunker, but the position is too well dug in. He looks to his men and sees Chapman still in the same odd position and the others engaging the enemy. His M60 gunner is next to me. “I have a 40mm grenade launcher … and I have six grenades,” he said. “I’m too close to the big bunker because they won’t go off. They have to spin to arm.”

Firefight Continues

He fired at the farther bunkers and silenced those, but the big bunker remains a deadly problem. He has the M60-gunner fire on the bunker and he wants to charge to the bunker to clear it under the cover of that automatic fire. Before he could do that, a grenade flies out of the bunker and explodes right in front of the barrel of the M60, wounding the gunner.

Slabinski again assesses the situation. “The gunner is down. John hasn’t moved and my other two guys are still engaged in contact,” he said. “The plan in my head isn’t working so I have to do something different.”

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
Artist rendition of The Battle of Takur Ghar.
(Painting by Keith Rocco)

He decided to get his small band out of direct fire. As he is doing that another SEAL was hit in the leg from the same machine gun Slabinski was trying to take out. “I sent the wounded over first and I crawled over to John, looking for some sign of life from John and didn’t get anything,” he said.

The place he chose to seek shelter from the fire was just about 30 feet away over the side of the mountain.

Mortar Fire

Slabinski called for support from an AC-130 gunship to hit the bunkers. At the same time as the aircraft was hitting the mountain he noticed shell fragments were landing around the team. Slabinski thinks at first it is the AC-130, but it is from an enemy mortar that is ranging his position.

He moves again to a more protected area and now the U.S. Army Ranger quick reaction force is coming in. The first chopper is hit and crashes on the top of the mountain. Slabinski contacted the second bird and it lands on another spit of land and the Rangers work their way to the SEAL position and attack up the mountain to secure the top.

The master chief can’t move his wounded to the top of the mountain, so he moved to a place he could secure and await medevac, which came that night.

Estimates of the number of al-Qaida fighters on the top of that mountain range between 40 and 100. They had heavy weapons galore with automatic machine guns, mortars, RPGs and recoilless rifles. It was the headquarters for al-Qaida operating against U.S. forces engaged in Operation Anaconda. The SEAL team went in to try to rescue Roberts with six men.

Footage taken by a remotely piloted vehicle and examined later showed that Chapman was not dead. The technical sergeant regained consciousness and engaged the enemy killing two of them — one in hand-to-hand combat. “I was 100 percent convinced that John was dead,” Slabinski said. “I never lost track of John.”

He never would have left the airman on that mountain, he said, if he thought for an instant that Chapman was alive.

For his actions that day, Slabinski received the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor. As part of then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive to the services to re-examine all of the valor awards beginning in 2001, the Navy recommended upgrading that award to the Medal of Honor. The master chief — who retired from the Navy in 2014 — received a call from President Donald J. Trump in March telling him of the decision.

The master chief is conflicted about the award. He believes he was just doing his job and still feels the loss of the seven men — Navy, Army and Air Force — he served with that day. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about them,” he said. “If I could give up this medal to have them back, I would.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

12 things NOT to say to a military spouse during the holidays

1. Well, at least you don’t have to get him/her a gift right away.

I’m sorry, what? I will more than likely still get my spouse a gift and squirrel it away until they get home, but also why is that the one thing you think I am thinking about the most? Our gift to each other will be a phone call or a quick Skype call. That is better than any other gift either one of us could get each other.


2. Well, you signed up for this, why are you surprised?

I may shank the next person that says that. Just saying. I fell in love with a human not their occupation. Their occupation is a small part of who they are and we adjust to the situation. We are simply making it each day at a time.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Photo by Alexander Dummer)

3. Wait, the military won’t send him/her home for the holidays?!

You realize that the military does not care what day of the week it is let alone a holiday. Stop with the silliness. The service members are on a deployment, field exercise, staff duty, etc. they cannot come home.

4. Why are you staying here? Why aren’t you just moving home?

Well, I have a whole life and network system I have established at the base that I can’t just abandon. Yes, I miss my family and will come home to visit them, but it isn’t possible for me to move home while my spouse is away.

5. He’s only in overseas why don’t you just go visit him/her?

Are you planning on paying for the ticket or…? We are living on a budget and don’t have the luxury of always going to visit each other. The idea is great but not practical. Also, do you know what a war zone is?

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. displays some holiday spirit as he speaks to the soldiers of 1st Armored Division in Germany.

(US Army photo)

6. At least you don’t have kids, it would be so much worse.

Thank you? It is still hard to be apart from my spouse even though we don’t have kids. Can someone just hand me a bottle of wine the next time someone tries to comfort me with that.

7. Well at least the kids are young, they won’t remember.

The kids will still miss their parent. The kids will still ask where they are first thing in the morning. Looking around the house, seeing if their dad/mom will surprise them or waiting patiently by the phone to hear their voice. No it won’t be easy no matter the age of our kids, but we make it work.

8. Isn’t it nice to have your own space? I love when my husband isn’t home.

Well, I much prefer when he is home, but that is just me. We have spent enough time apart I am ready to be together again. Sure a nice weekend apart spent with family or my girlfriends is nice, but after a few months I am more than ready for him/her to be home.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Lancer Brigade soldier makes it home for the holidays.

(US Army photo)

9. Ask when is he coming home and immediately respond with, “Well, that isn’t too far away.”

One day is too far away. Yes, my countdown app has helped me stay focused and able to remember we are one day closer, but somedays (most days) it is far too many days away. Minutes feel like days, days feel like weeks, weeks feel like months, and so forth. It is a long and frustrating experience I would not wish on my worst enemy.

10. Why are you visiting his side of the family? He’s not even home.

They are still family. No matter if my spouse is home or not I am going to see my in-laws at holidays. They are as special to me as my own family and I want to see them. It is silly to think that just because my spouse isn’t home I would not go see that side of the family.

11. Aren’t you scared he’s going to get lonely being so far away?

Well, yes he may get lonely, but so will I. Yes, we will have struggles, but we also have each other. We also have our phones, Skype, Facebook messenger, various apps that will get us through the time apart. We also have our friends that will help us deal with the frustrations that come with time spent apart.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Soldiers gather together during a Christmas service at Combat Outpost Shur Andam, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

12. Well, one year my spouse had to go out of town for an extended weekend so I completely understand what you are going through.

Seriously, if anyone comes to me with this this holiday season you better be handing me a bottle of chardonnay with that comment. Yes, some couples go through time apart from their loved one, but no one understands the separation like other military significant others. It is a different, it is an everyday struggle, a daunting task that only can be dealt with by fellow military spouses that understand the hardships that will happen and that are happening.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army and Uber to develop new ‘UberAIR’ vertical lift tech

Uber and U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Army Research Laboratory, announced a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to advance technologies supporting Future Vertical Lift.

As part of this agreement, Uber and RDECOM ARL also signed their first joint work statement to jointly fund and collaborate on research development of rotor technology, which may lead to ground-breaking discoveries to support Army Modernization Priorities. Officials announced the agreement and work statement at the second Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, May 8, 2018.


The joint work statement focuses on research to create the first usable stacked co-rotating rotors or propellers; this is a concept for having two rotor systems placed on top of each other and rotating in the same direction.

Initial experimentation of this concept has revealed the potential for stacked co-rotating rotors be significantly quieter than traditional paired rotor approaches and improve performance for a flying craft. To date, stacked co-rotating rotors have not been deployed in existing flying craft.

Under this first joint work statement, Uber and the Army’s research lab expect to spend a combined total of $1 million in funding for this research; this funding will be divided equally between each party.

The CRADA allows for additional joint work statements in other aligned research areas. Uber and Army will continue to explore future developments in this sphere.

“This agreement with Uber displays the Army utilizing innovative approaches to collaborate with an industry partner that is truly on the cutting edge,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate. “This collaboration is an opportunity to access years of knowledge vested in subject matter experts within the lab. It will allow the Army to rapidly advance mutually beneficial technology to inform objectives for silent and efficient VTOL, or vertical takeoff and landing operation, for the next generation fleet of Army unmanned air vehicles. This supports the Army modernization priorities for future vertical lift aircraft.”

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
Army Research Laboratory researcher Ethan Corle discusses the future of aviation during a meeting at the DOD Supercomputing Resource Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, May 3, 2018.
(Photo by David McNally)

Uber is proud to be partnering with ARL on critical research on flying vehicle innovations that will help create the world’s first urban aviation rideshare network,” said Eric Allison, Head of Uber Elevate. “Our first jointly-funded project will help us develop first of its kind rotor technology that will allow for quieter and more efficient travel. We see this initial project as the first of many and look forward to continued collaboration with the lab on innovations that will make uberAIR a reality.”

Uber will also collaborate with Launchpoint Technologies Inc., a technology company focused on the modeling, design optimization, and fabrication of novel electric motors. LaunchPoint’s design approach will lead to motors best suited to power eVTOL technology with stacked co-rotating propellers. In the future, all three entities will exploit the experimental data and lessons learned from stacked co-rotating rotor testing. The result will be more predictive models and higher-performing next generation co-rotating propellers

Dave Paden, President of LaunchPoint Technologies, expressed his enthusiasm for the project — “LaunchPoint’s engineering team is excited to engage with Uber and ARL in this challenging and meaningful endeavor. The transformation of air transportation is right around the corner and collaborations like this are essential to developing the enabling these technologies.”

In 2017, Uber announced the first U.S. Elevate cities would be Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco Texas and Los Angeles, with a goal of flight demonstrations in 2020 and Elevate commercially available to riders in 2023 in those cities.

To make uberAIR a reality, Uber has entered into partnerships with several highly experienced aircraft manufacturers who are developing electric VTOL vehicles including: Aurora Flight Sciences (now a subsidiary of Boeing), Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer and Bell. Uber’s design model specifies that this fully electric vehicle have a cruising speed between 150-200 mph, a cruising altitude of 1,000-2,000 feet and be able to do trips of up to 60 miles on a single charge.

In 2017, Uber signed a space act agreement with NASA for the development of new unmanned traffic management concepts and unmanned aerial systems that will enable safe and efficient operations at low altitudes. To help create skyports for the uberAIR network, Uber has also entered into real estate partnerships with Hillwood Properties and Sandstone Properties.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How just one care package can change a deployment for the better

There are inherent dangers involved with a combat deployment. Even if you don’t have first-hand knowledge, you probably have a pretty solid understanding of what troops go through on a near-daily basis in a country that few can even point to on a globe. Our troops are up against a hostile environment filled with potentially hostile actors that hide behind civilian masks. But one thing that’s never really discussed is downtime — the rest period, the time between missions.

As bizarre as it sounds, it’s often the nothingness that can be most exhausting. At a certain point during a deployment, you adapt to the pressures of war and missions, but being left with nothing to do, without any real outlet to help you escape your surroundings and calm down for a moment, is what gets to some troops most.

So, it’s not unusual for troops to pick up some sort of hobby to pass the time. Some troops take up drawing or learn to play the guitar. Others head to the MWR tent to watch the same late-90s sitcom for the 80th time. Many others pass the time by picking up a controller and playing a video game with their friends.

But the luxury of popping the latest game into an X-Box simply isn’t afforded to all troops — and that’s where care packages from a loved one — or organizations like OSD — come in.


Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

The reason OSD is so in sync with what troops want and need is because many members of the organization are veterans themselves.

(OSD)

OSD has been filling in those gaps of nothingness with a wide assortment of highly-desired goods. Once the OSD team gets a hold of a deployed unit, that unit can usually expect a massive care package filled with entertainment. OSD shipped over 450 such “Supply Drops” in 2017, containing everything from video games to game consoles and televisions to coffee, junk food, and everything else troops might miss from back home.

Troops who are in outlaying bases, like the soldiers of the 101st Aviation Regiment, will now have something to look forward to when their shifts are over.

And that’s just their flagship program. OSD also provides mentorship and resources for veterans seeking employment opportunities through their Heroic Forces program, they assist wounded veterans throughout their recovery processes through Respawn, and they sponsor nominated veterans via Thank You Deployment, a program that celebrates service by giving individuals the day of a lifetime.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Because one care package really can change a deployment for the better.

(OSD)

This October, OSD is running their third annual Vetober, a charity donation drive that helps fuel all of the awesome programs above and more. You can donate the conventional way, but OSD is also staying true to their roots in gaming culture by introducing competition to the mix. Form or join a team, raise cash for veterans, and see if you can come out on top!

Every dollar donated goes to benefit the hundreds of thousands of troops and veterans. 0 raised means a new supply drop goes out to troops who desperately need some entertainment. 0 helps mentor veterans seeking employment. 0 sponsors events in veteran communities across the country. 00 helps OSD grow, allowing them to continue changing thousands of service members’ lives for the better.

Help us break the monotony of deployments and keep our troops happy and healthy. Whether you want to donate directly, help spread the word, organize a fundraising team, or join someone else’s team, you can help make a difference!

On a more personal level, I cannot recommend OSD highly enough. Not only do they hold a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, so you know they’re trustworthy, they also personally impacted my life.

My unit received a supply drop from OSD when we were deployed and, man, was it a welcomed sight. We opened a care package only to find, basically, everything we’ve ever wanted. For the first time in a while, we played games and relaxed. It helped give us a chance to come together as a platoon and take our minds off everything.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tehran warns the US about waging ‘economic war’ against Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has said during a meeting in Tehran with Germany’s foreign minister that Iran thinks the nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015 is worth saving despite current tensions.

“We still believe in saving the deal, and Germany and the EU can play a decisive and positive role in this process,” Rohani’s office quoted him as saying during his June 10 meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned after his talks with Maas that countries waging an “economic war” against Iran by conducting and supporting U.S. sanctions cannot expect to “remain safe.”

“One cannot expect an economic war to continue against the Iranian people and that those waging this war and those supporting it remain safe,” Zarif said on June 10.


A Marine general led a fictional Iran against US military – and won

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Related: A Marine general led a fictional Iran against US military – and won

Zarif said U.S. President Donald Trump “himself has announced that the U.S. has launched an economic war against Iran” after Washington in 2018 unilaterally withdrew from the agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from building nuclear weapons.

“Whoever stars a war with us will not be the one who finishes it,” he said.

“The only way to decrease tensions in the region is to stop the economic war,” Zarif said, adding that Germany and the European Union could have an “important role” to play in defusing the tensions.

For his part, Maas said Germany and other European countries want to find a way to salvage the deal. But he said there were limits.

“We won’t be able to do miracles, but we are trying as best as we can do to prevent its failure,” Maas said.

Also read: After lost court battle, US ends friendship treaty with Iran

“There is war in Syria and in Yemen, fortunately not here,” Maas said. “We want to do everything we can to keep it that way” for Iran.

“Nevertheless, the tensions here in the region are worrying, and we fear that single events can trigger developments that end in violence, and we want to prevent this under all circumstances.”

Ahead of his trip, the German minister expressed hope that the talks would help both sides find “constructive ways” to preserve the Iran nuclear agreement, while Zarif said he wanted to know “what exactly the partners have achieved to rescue” the accord.

The Western European signatories to the nuclear pact — France, Britain, and Germany — have been trying to salvage it after the United States withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy.

Trump argued that the terms of the agreement were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that the accord did not address the country’s ballistic-missile program or its role in conflicts around the Middle East.

The European signatories of the deal share the same concerns as Washington over Iran’s ballistic-missile development and regional activities.

Maas called Iran’s ballistic-missile program problematic during a visit to the United Arab Emirates on June 9.

In response, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said that European officials “are not in a position to question Iran’s issues beyond the nuclear deal.”

Iran denies it supports insurgent activity and says its nuclear program has been strictly for civilian energy purposes.

Related: Secretary of State visits Baghdad to warn of ‘imminent’ Iranian threat

In May, Tehran announced it was suspending several commitments under the nuclear deal, and threatened to step up uranium enrichment if European countries did not act to protect it from the effects of the U.S. sanctions.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington and its allies in the Persian Gulf have flared up in recent weeks, with the United States beefing up its military presence in the Middle East, citing “imminent threats” from Iran.

Tehran has rejected the U.S. allegation.

In Vienna, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said on June 10 that Iran had followed through on a threat to accelerate its production of enriched uranium.

Departing from his usual guarded language, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano also said he was “worried about increasing tensions” over Iran’s nuclear program.

“I…hope that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue,” Amano said as he opened a meeting of the agency’s board of governors.

Featured Image: Vladimir Putin meets with Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif, 2014 (Kremlin Photo).

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon names U.S. Ranger killed in Afghanistan

The Pentagon has named a U.S. soldier who died on Nov. 24, 2018, in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand and confirmed that the soldier had been critically wounded during a firefight against “enemy forces” in a neighboring province.

In a statement issued on Nov. 25, 2018, the Pentagon said 25-year-old Army Ranger Sergeant Leandro Jasso sustained his fatal wounds during combat in the Khash Rod district of Nimruz Province.

He died after being evacuated to the Garmsir district of Helmand Province, where U.S. forces operate an expanded forward operations base known as Camp Dwyer and a smaller military installation known as Camp Garmsir.


Jasso was the ninth U.S. soldier to die in Afghanistan in 2018.

Some 14,000 U.S. soldiers are currently serving in Afghanistan, where the United States and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014.

The remaining Western forces mainly train and advise the Afghan security forces, which have been struggling against attacks from a resurgent Taliban and other militant extremist groups.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said earlier in November 2018 that 58 Americans had been killed in Afghanistan since the start of 2015 when Afghan troops took over primary responsibility for Afghanistan’s security.

During the same period since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops from Afghanistan, Ghani said nearly 29,000 Afghan police and soldiers have been killed — a figure far higher than anything previously acknowledged by the government in Kabul.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This American Olympic gold medalist also fought in the Battle of Britain

William Meade Lindsley Fiske III was born in Chicago in 1911. The son of a wealthy New England banker, Fiske attended school in Chicago before moving to France in 1924. It was there that he developed his love of winter sports; especially bobsled.

At the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, 16-year-old Fiske drove the five-man U.S. bobsled team to its first Olympic win and became the youngest gold medalist in any winter sport, a record that stood until 1992. In the following years, he also took up European motorsport and participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1931. At the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, Fiske earned his second gold medal for bobsledding as the driver of the U.S. four-man team.


He was invited to lead the U.S. bobsled team at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany, but declined. It is speculated that Fiske declined because of his disapproval of German politics at the time. This sentiment towards Hitler’s Nazi regime would explain Fiske’s determination to join the war effort in the coming years.

At the outbreak of WWII, Fiske was working as a banker at the London office of the New York-based bank, Dillon, Reed Co. With an interest in his safety, the bank recalled Fiske to their New York headquarters. However, on August 30, 1939, Fiske returned to England with a colleague in order to join the war effort. Fiske’s colleague was a member of No. 61 (County of London) Auxiliary Air Force Squadron and inspired him to join the RAF.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Fiske’s passport. (Scanned copy from the Royal Air Force Museum)

Because of America’s declared neutrality at the time, Fiske pretended to be Canadian in order to join the Royal Air Force Reserve. Having “duly pledged his life and loyalty to the King, George VI,” Fiske wrote in his diary, “I believe I can lay claim to being the first U.S. citizen to join the RAF in England after the outbreak of hostilities.” He was promoted to Pilot Officer on March 23, 1940 and began his flight training, after which he joined No. 601 Squadron RAF on July 12.

Flying the Hawker Hurricane, Fiske flew his first patrols with the squadron on July 20. As the Battle of Britain raged on, Fiske continued to fly combat missions against the onslaught of German bombers. On August 16, No. 601 Squadron was scrambled to intercept a formation of Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers. Although the squadron shot down eight of the enemy bombers, Fiske’s Hurricane was hit in its fuel tank and caught fire.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Fiske’s official RAF Reserve portrait. (US Air Force archived photo)

Despite his aircraft being damaged and his hands and ankles being burned, Fiske refused to bail out of his aircraft. Instead, he nursed his knackered Hurricane back to the airfield and landed safely. Ambulance attendants rushed out and extracted Fiske from his plane shortly before its fuel tank exploded. He was taken to Royal West Sussex Hospital where he was treated for his wounds. Tragically, Fiske died 2 days later from surgical shock. He was buried on August 20 with both a Union Jack and Stars and Stripes draped over his coffin.

On July 4, 1941, a plaque honoring Fiske was unveiled at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London which reads, “An American citizen who died that England might live.” Additionally, in 2008, a stained glass window depicting Fiske’s Hurricane and an American flag was dedicated at Boxgrove Priory where he is buried. Fiske’s legacy is not forgotten, however, in his home country.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

The stained glass tribute to Fiske’s memory. (Photo by the Boxgrove Priory)

The United States Bobsled and Skeleton Foundation created the Billy Fiske Memorial Trophy as a tribute to the fallen pilot. The trophy is awarded to the national champion four-man bobsled team each year. Additionally, a line in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor is rumored to be a reference to Fiske. In it, U.S. Army Air Corps pilot Capt. Rafe McCawley (played by Ben Affleck), travels to England to fly with the RAF prior to America’s entry into the war. Showing McCawley the plane that he’ll be flying, the RAF commander remarks on the bravery of the plane’s previous pilot. “Good chap. Didn’t die till he’d landed and shut down his engine.” Finally, Fiske can be credited with the development of the popular Aspen Ski Resort. Along with his friend, Ted Ryan, Fiske opened up a ski lodge and built the first ski lift in Aspen in 1937. After the war, others would continue their work and develop Aspen into the world-famous skiing destination it is today.

Although Fiske didn’t shoot down any enemy planes, his determination to fight against the Nazis served as an inspiration for other Americans to join the RAF and eventually form the famous Eagle Squadrons. Despite his privileged upbringing and successful life in sports and banking, Fiske’s unwavering conviction led him to fight and die for the sake of freedom. Echoing the words of Winston Churchill, Fiske is one of the few who was owed so much by so many during the Battle of Britain.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Talented military child showcases her art in first exhibition

Victoria Reyes is a talented 11-year-old military child, who showcased her artful creations in her first exhibition, where she left people in attendance in such an awe that a few of them commissioned private artworks.


While walking through the exhibition room in Tampa, Florida, where artwork by Victoria Reyes was being showcased, attendees couldn’t help be drawn to the colorful representations of Japanese anime and the meticulous attention to details that had clearly gone into each piece. It didn’t take long for some of the people in attendance to commission the talented artist with private pieces, which she was happy to take on.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Discovering talent

Many of the great painters that have made art history began showing promising talent at a young age — Picasso, for example, was only nine when he completed his first painting. But the key figure behind most of these talented artists was usually a parent who had been able to first notice their child’s unusual creative abilities. In Picasso’s case, it was his father who noticed his talent two years before the young painter completed his first work of art.

Maxine Reyes, Victoria’s mother, first noticed her daughter’s talent when Victoria was only three years old. “I noticed how well she could draw people,” Maxine said, “and I remember how I used to just draw straight lines to make the body of a person. The level of detail that Victoria added to her figures was out of the norm.”

A talented singer who entertained not only troops in the Middle East, but also NBA teams and even a U.S. President, Maxine is an artist in her own right and a retired military member who served for over 20 years in the Air Force and the Army. “She wasn’t doing the normal scribble scrabble,” Maxine said, “and that’s why I encouraged her to nurture her talent.”

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Art as a coping mechanism

Victoria, who is also a singer like her mother and a talented piano player, began finding comfort in drawing, especially during the challenging times military life inevitably brings. When her active duty Army father, stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, had to leave home for work for an extended period of time, Victoria found art to be a coping mechanism.

Given how therapeutic she finds drawing to be for her, Victoria dedicates most of her spare time to making art. “I remember watching Japanese anime shows on TV,” Victoria said, “and I was surprised by how detailed those cartoons were.” Inspired by what she saw, the young artist would eventually place that same level of attention to details to her own art, which is what made her parents take notice and reflect on how they could support her.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Supporting and encouraging young talent

“When I saw her drawings,” Maxine revealed, “they looked like something I would buy at an art show.” An art lover like her husband, Maxine was able to appreciate her daughter’s talent and support it from the very beginning. “My husband and I decided that we were going to encourage her and invest in her talent so that one day she will be able to live out her dream.”

That was the reason why Victoria’s parents planned a surprise birthday party for their talented daughter. “I printed her best artwork on canvas and turned her birthday party into her very first art show.”

Showcasing her artwork brought Victoria enormous success, and she was happy with the outcome, although she admits that, “I was a bit shy at first.” The talented military child is committed to pursuing her dream and working on her talents so that one day she can achieve her goal of becoming a professional artist.

If interested in purchasing Victoria Reyes’s artwork or getting in touch with her to commission a private piece, please visit www.victoriareyes.com or @iamvictoriareyes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea grow closer at the Winter Games

North Korea’s state-sponsored news agency issued a rare press release on Feb. 12, in which the regime’s leader, Kim Jong-un, was said to have “expressed satisfaction” after the country’s delegation arrived back from a trip to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.


Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the propaganda outlet for the regime, claimed that Kim Jong-un said South Korea’s “specially prioritized” efforts to accommodate North Korea’s delegates were “very impressive,” according to a translation from KCNA Watch.

North Korea sent a delegation that included Kim Jong-un’s sister and head of its propaganda department, Kim Yo-jong, and the nominal head of state, Kim Yong-nam, to South Korea ahead of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
‘2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games’ Medal. (Image Republic of Korea Flickr)

After North Korea agreed in January 2017, it took several steps that, at least on the surface, appeared to be an effort to thaw its relationship with South Korea. The regime sent Kim Yo-jong there, the first time the regime’s ruling family visited the South in decades, as cameras fawned over images of her smiling with South Korean president Moon Jae-in.

During this trip, Kim Yo-jong invited Moon to visit North Korea. A potential visit by Moon would be the first meeting of Korean leaders in Pyongyang since then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for an inter-Korean summit in 2007.

North Korea’s recent statement and actions are a stark departure from its usual, bellicose rhetoric, and that has prompted White House officials and foreign-policy experts to be cautious about the overtures.

Vice President Mike Pence, who reportedly floated the possibility of diplomatic engagement with North Korea, said on Feb. 12 that President Donald Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” would continue.

“Despite potential talks, and irrespective of if they happen w/USA or S. Korea, new strong sanctions are coming very soon and the maximum pressure campaign will only intensify until North Korea abandons its nuclear program,” Pence tweeted. “All our allies agree!”

Also Read: The North Korean cold war will be paused for the Olympics

And despite being seen cheering for the joint-Korean Winter Olympics team and having luncheons with the North Korean delegation, Moon — who has been accused of being swayed by North Korea’s “charm offensive” — has given some indication that he remains wary of North Korea’s motives.

Instead of explicitly agreeing to North Korea’s invitation to Pyongyang, Moon responded by suggesting the two countries “accomplish this by creating the right conditions,” and encouraged the North to “actively pursue” talks with the U.S.

Moon is also believed to have signaled his commitment to exerting pressure on North Korea. According to Pence on Feb. 10, “both of us reiterated to each other tonight that we will continue to stand strong and work in a coordinated way to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US’ fresh Iran sanctions aim for the Revolutionary Guards

The US has imposed new sanctions on Iran, the first since President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

The new measures target six individuals and three companies said to be funneling millions of dollars towards an elite unite of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.


The US Treasury Department, acting jointly with the UAE, also accused Iran’s central bank of helping the IRGC access hundreds of millions in US currency which it held in foreign banks to avoid crippling sanctions.

“The Iranian regime and its central bank have abused access to entities in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund the IRGC’s malign activities, including to fund and arm its regional proxy groups, by concealing the purpose for which the US dollars were acquired,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
Steven Mnuchin, United States Secretary of the Treasury

Iran’s central bank was not formally sanctioned in the action, but the Treasury has recently said it will reimpose a number of widespread sanctions aimed at crippling oil and banking sectors in the coming months.

The IRGC is a powerful arm of Iran’s armed forces, established after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The sanctions specifically take aim at the IRGC’s Quds Forces, which operate the groups overseas operations, including in Syria. They are said to have been behind recent rocket attacks launched against Israel in the Golan heights.

The move came just says after Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. The agreement — signed with the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the European Union — promised Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this taste-test review of a 120-year-old ration

Steve from MREinfo has long been the go-to source for all things related to rations, but he may have just made his the most interesting discovery to date: an emergency ration from the Second Boer War, which ran from 1899 to 1902. Now, he’s going to taste it.

Viewer discretion is advised.


His website is beloved by many troops trying to figure out exactly which MRE offers the best snacks and which can be tossed to the FNG. Through his YouTube channel, he receives rations from all around the world and tries them out on camera for the world to see. It’s a great way to see how the other armies of the world treat their troops.

First, here’s a sample of his work with a 2017 Chicken Burrito Bowl to cleanse your palate.

Occasionally, he gets a ration that is well beyond its shelf life and, in the face of putrefaction, he bravely takes a bite — for science. In the past, he has reviewed rations from many historical conflicts, ranging from the Vietnam War to the present.

Recently, he checked off “Second Boer War” from his list of history taste tests. For context, this War happened well before the advent of refrigerating food, it was the war in which Sherlock Holmes’ author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, fought in, and, at the time, spreading the idea that people might someday watch a man eat a ration via a device that fits in your pocket would get you burnt for witchcraft.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
You know, definitely an era you wouldn’t associate with long-lastingu00a0food.
(Imperial War Museum)

The British Emergency Ration he opens is in remarkable condition. The meal contains dried beef broth that needs to be boiled and cooked before eating. To best satisfy our curiosity, he tries it before and after boiling. Before boiling, it has a flavor profile similar to a packet of instant ramen noodle seasoning — just without any flavor. He says, “it tastes like pulverized beef jerky and bread crumbs mixed with cardboard and a little bit of chlorine.”

He later prepared the broth as intended. The smell of it cooking is horrendous, but he bravely carries on with his experiment.

Seriously. You might not want to watch this unless you have a strong stomach. We won’t take it personally if you can’t handle it.

popular

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

When you think ‘sherpa,’ the first thing that comes to mind is probably the folks who help people climb Mount Everest, not an Army aircraft. Unless you’re a pro, you’re probably not thinking about the Army’s C-23 transport plane.


Wait, the Army has a transport plane? That’s right. You see, the Army operates unarmed, fixed-wing aircraft. After the Army and Air Force split, the Air Force got the armed aircraft in the divorce settlement.

One of the unarmed transports the Army flies is the C-23 Sherpa. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Sherpa was acquired to serve as an intra-theater transport between U.S. Army bases in Europe. However, the plane soon took on responsibilities beyond that limited role. The C-23 can haul up to 30 troops or three pallets of cargo. The plane is also capable of using smaller runways than the C-130 Hercules and is cheaper to operate than a CH-47 Chinook. With a top speed of 281 miles per hour and a range of 771 miles, this particular aircraft soon found work outside Europe as well.

 

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
A C-23 Sherpa over Europe in the 1980s. (Photo from USAF)

 

According to a 2014 United States Army release, the C-23 was used in the American peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula. The plane was also a valuable asset during Operation Iraqi Freedom, moving cargo to places where C-130s couldn’t land, which was particularly valuable in humanitarian relief missions.

Related: This is what happened when a C-130 aircraft and a C-17 had a baby

Ultimately, the United States bought 62 airframes and, aside from losing one in a crash, the planes remained in service until it was retired in 2014 to be replaced by the C-27J Spartan. Still, the C-23 isn’t going away just yet. Ethiopia, Djibouti, and the Philippines are receiving some of these short-haul airlifters as second-hand assets. As for the C-27J, it was retired by the Air Force and Air National Guard without replacement.

 

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
A US Army (USA) C-23B Sherpa aircraft assigned to Company H, 171st Aviation Regiment unloads Soldiers at an undisclosed airfield in Iraq, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. (USAF photo)

 

To learn more about this aircraft, check out the video below:

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of July 13th

It looks like the World Cup isn’t coming home to England. Such a shame to see the championship match of the sport you claim to have invented go to literally everyone else. Seeing as an estimated seven people from the United States give a damn about the World Cup — give or take six people — we’re finding it hard to care.

Meanwhile, American troops are about to do some dumb sh*t this weekend. Not for any particular reason — just that it’s a payday weekend and it’s Friday the 13th. Remember, if your weekend doesn’t involve you making the blotter and having your First Sergeant busting your drunk ass out of the MP station, did you really have a weekend?

No matter what you’ve got planned, enjoy these memes first.


Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Infantry Army)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

I guess screaming, “If you ain’t ordinance, you ain’t sh*t” is the Air Force’s way of feeling slightly less like POGs.

Fun Fact: Airman and Navy aviators have their own version of POG — “Personnel on the Ground.” But they’re all still POGs in the eyes of soldiers and Marines.

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via US Space Force WTF Moments)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via ASMDSS)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Military World)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Discharged)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Private News Network)

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions
Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

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