Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

U.S. Army officials at Fort Hood today said that there is no evidence that a male soldier who killed himself this week to avoid police capture sexually assaulted 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who has been missing from the Texas post since April.

During a news conference, Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Damon Phelps named the now-deceased soldier as Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who was assigned to A. Company, 3rd Cavalry Regiment at the time Guillen, a fellow 3rd Cavalry soldier, disappeared April 22.


Before the event, Natalie Khawam, an attorney representing Guillen’s family, announced that CID officials told her that Robinson had murdered her in the unit armory on the day of her disappearance.

“The murderer sexually harassed her and then killed her,” the Whistleblower Law Firm attorney, told Military.com in a statement. “We believe he murdered her because he was going to report him.

“This gruesome murder should never have happened.”

Law enforcement officials attempted to make contact with Robinson, 20, on Tuesday in Killeen, Texas, but he displayed a weapon and took his own life, Phelps said during the news conference.

“We are still investigating their interactions, but at this point, there is no credible information of reports that Spc. Robinson sexually harassed Spc. Guillen,” Phelps said.

Phelps would not comment on the allegations made by Khawam that Robinson murdered her because it is still an ongoing investigation.

Officials did not identify a civilian woman they arrested Tuesday in connection with Guillen’s disappearance, described earlier as the estranged wife of a former soldier. She remains in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities.

Fort Hood officials said that the human remains discovered recently have not been identified. They did not confirm details cited by Khawam about where specifically remains were found and what condition they were in.

Army officials said on Tuesday that they found partial human remains near the Leon River about 30 miles outside Fort Hood. The remains have been sent to a forensic anthropologist for analysis, though no official confirmation on the identity of the remains has been completed.

“Our agents are working very closely with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner to expedite identification of the remains,” Phelps said. “We will release information on those remains as soon as we can and after notification is made with the next of kin.”

Army officials also stressed repeatedly at the news conference that there is “no credible information” that Guillen was the victim of sexual harassment or assault.

“The criminal investigation has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa’s disappearance,” Maj. Scott Efflandt, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. “However, all sexual harassment allegations are being investigated, as they are in every other instance.”

At Efflandt’s request, Army Forces Command ordered a seven-member inspector general team to Fort Hood to review the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, (SHARP). The inspection will assess whether the command climate at Hood is supportive of soldiers reporting sexual harassment and seek to identify any potential systemic issues within the program at Hood, Efflandt said.

Phelps said investigators are aware Guillen’s family members made statements early on to the media concerning sexual harassment allegations.

He acknowledged that agents uncovered statements on May 7 that could be considered sexual harassment.

“After subsequent investigation, another allegation of verbal harassment involving the same individual was discovered. However subsequent interviews have failed to [confirm] this allegation,” Phelps said. “Nevertheless, we are still investigating.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

After more than a year of speculation, the word comes straight from the commandant of the Marine Corps: Grunts, including those outside the squad, are getting the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle — and a whole lot of other goodies to boot.


Military.com first reported in November 2016 that the Marine Corps was eyeing the idea of fielding the weapon more broadly within the infantry, and had issued M27s to members of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the service’s experimental infantry battalion, to observe how it improved their effectiveness.

With the battalion’s deployment to the Pacific at an end, Marine leaders are considering a list of 41 different recommendations generated by the unit, and M27s are at the top of the list.

In an interview with Military.com in late December, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller confirmed that a decision had been made to move forward with fielding the M27 more widely within the infantry.

Every Marine in an infantry squad, he said, will receive the high-end rifle. And while not every Marine in a grunt battalion will carry the IAR, others outside of the squad will also be issued one.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

“I don’t think mortars and javelin guys need the M27,” Neller said. But, he added, artillery forward observers, fire support teams, and even engineers might be good candidates for the weapon.

“I’m going to wait and see,” he said. “It’s not that much [money].”

The exact number of weapons needed has yet to be determined. In February, the Marine Corps put out a request for information for 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles, enough to equip every squad. But in August, the service published a pre-solicitation for up to 50,800 M27s, to ensure that manufacturer Heckler Koch was up to the task of meeting an order that large.

Neller has in the past expressed reservations about investing in new weapons and technology for Marine grunts. The IAR, based on the Heckler Koch HK416, offers a longer effective range and better accuracy than the M4 carbine currently fielded to infantrymen, but it also has come with a steeper price tag: about $3,000 a piece compared to less than $1,000 for the M4.

That may no longer be the case.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner for 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, told Military.com that competition and economies of scale have pushed the cost of the M27 down significantly.

“The price for that rifle is comparable to what we paid for the M4s the riflemen currently have,” he said. “These companies are competing against each other. And we now have bought the finest infantry rifle for the same price the current infantry rifle is.”

Kitting out the grunts

But with major Marine Corps investments for new rotary-wing and fixed-wing aviation platforms well underway, cost may not be the obstacle it once was for the service. The commandant signaled his plan to invest heavily in the infantry when speaking with deployed Marines during his yearly Christmas tour.

The Marines’ new 5th-generation fighter, the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, costs roughly $100 million per copy, Neller told troops at one of a dozen town hall-style addresses he gave in the span of seven days in late December.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
Magpul’s 60-round drum is currently undergoing range tests by the U.S. military. (Image via Magpul)

“I could kit out every grunt in the Marine Corps with the coolest s*** head-to-toe for $100 million,” he said. “And I intend to do that.”

For what else may be coming for the infantry, look to the “Über Squad,” an experiment started this year by Wade.

This summer, the 13-Marine unit from 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, was kitted out with M27s, suppressors, and high-tech Ops-Core helmets borrowed from Marine Corps Special Operations Command that feature built-in hearing protection, but also magnify other sounds to improve situational awareness.

The Marines used light MARSOC body armor and advanced AN/PVS-31A night vision devices. They also got 60-round Magpul drums, allowing them to increase the amount of ammunition they carried.

Wade said that the high-end night vision equipment had proved its worth recently during a nighttime exercise at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California.

“That rifle squad moved faster at night than the live fire-safety chaperones,” he said. “The Über Squad moved too fast for them to keep up because they had better night vision goggles.”

Also Read: Marine ‘Uber Squad’ will get suppressors, M27s, commando gear

The squad is expected to deploy to Europe sometime this spring to continue testing out gear, but Wade is already working on requirements documents as a starting point to get some of the equipment to every infantry squad.

He said he’s ready to begin writing requirements for a helmet with all the features of special operations gear, including hearing enhancement, communications infrastructure and ear protection.

Suppressors and scopes

Early efforts to pursue suppressors are also underway.

In September, the Marine Corps published a request for information about a commercially available suppressor that could be used on the M4, the M4A1, and the M27– effectively covering all service weapons used by the infantry. While an early effort, the document instructed prospective suppliers to be ready to supply in large numbers.

“Future procurement quantities of suppressors could span between 18,000 and 194,000,” the RFI reads.

Wade said he’s not yet happy with the suppressor currently in use by the Marine Corps for specialized jobs. He plans to start tests on a flow-through design that reduces signature, he said.

Add to all that one more key piece of gear: a variable power optic that, combined with the M27 and a suppressor, would essentially kit out every Marine in the squad as a designated marksman. Wade said he wants to equip infantry squads from different platoons with various optics and compare their performance to make the case for more powerful equipment.

Currently, Marine grunts carry a 4X power rifle scope; Wade said the idea capability would be a 1-8X power scope.

An RFI published in September described such a scope, the “squad combat optic,” that would work on the M4, M4A1, and M27, and be able to identify and acquire targets at a range of 600 meters or more.

Some of this gear carries with it a sizable price tag. The AN/PVS-31A NVGs, for example, cost about $13,000, compared with about $4,000 for the AN/PVS-14 NVGs currently in use. And all of it isn’t guaranteed to end up with the squad.

But Neller said he’s likely to approve a lot of it, and soon.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris Bastian with Marine Rotational Force Europe (MRF-E) uses a suppressor to conduct live-fire range in preparation for exercise Joint Viking, in Porsangmoen, Norway, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Victoria Ross)

“The money to buy all that other stuff, the suppressors, the ear protection enhancement, the different helmets, it’s not a lot of money in the aggregate,” he told Military.com. “So I’m just waiting for them to come back, and I’m ready to say yes.”

And it’s possible all these items are just the start of a full-court press to equip the infantry for future fights.

In an address to Marines with the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania, Neller hinted at future developments.

“Helmets, [ear protection enhancement], lighter body armor, boots, utilities, everything on the infantry from head to toe is probably going to get changed,” Neller said. “Every Marine’s a rifleman, but not every Marine’s a grunt.”

The infantrymen in the room roared.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine and his service dog have a hilarious comedy routine

Michael Garvey is a Marine veteran and alumnus of the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) Comedy Bootcamp program. ASAP is an organization based in Virginia that builds communities for veterans, servicemembers, and military families through classes, performances, and partnerships in the arts. As part of their mission, ASAP offers their Comedy Bootcamp as a way for veterans to explore and develop their comedic abilities.


Michael was able to use the program as a form of therapy for his issues with PTS, and comedy has helped him address his problems by giving him a new way of looking at life and its frustrations. Accompanied by his faithful service dog, Liberty, Michael has made it to the stage at Gotham Comedy Club with several other veteran comedians who took part in the ASAP Comedy Bootcamp program.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

On June 6, 1944, Onofrio “No-No” Zicari stormed Omaha Beach in one of the deadliest battles of World War II: D-Day. The 21-year-old New York native survived the sniper fire and artillery bombardment, enduring what he would later remember as one of the most harrowing memories of his life. The experience was so traumatic, it would give him nightmares for the remainder of his life. But at the suggestion of his caretaker and with the support of charitable donations, the 96-year-old Las Vegas resident is making his first trip back to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

“Maybe this will bring me some closure,” Zicari said. “So that’s why I’m going. Maybe there is something there that will help me put this all behind me. I’m 96 years old, how much longer can it go, you know?” he laughed. “Maybe I’ll see the beach.”


Zicari was offered the opportunity by Forever Young Senior Veterans, a nonprofit that organizes trips for veterans of U.S. wars, granting them an opportunity to return to the places they fought. Before he would accept the invitation, which includes joining a group of surviving World War II veterans to travel to several sites in Normandy, Zicari had one stipulation — he needed his caretaker and family friend Diane Fazendin to accompany him. “If she wasn’t going, then I wasn’t going,” he said. A GoFundMe set up for Zicari raised ,222, with nearly half of that coming from a donation from the Italian-American Club. With that amount, Fazendin can accompany Zicari throughout his journey, which begins June 3 and runs through June 10, 2019.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (left) mans a machine gun position.

However, the logistics of travel hasn’t been the only thing keeping the D-Day veteran from returning to France. The trauma of that day left Zicari with PTSD that continues to this day. “I was having nightmares, in fact, I just had one the other night. This all brings back a lot of memories for me,” he said.

To face those beaches again, Zicari found encouragement through his PTSD support group at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System. The group of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans meets every Friday, and enjoys camaraderie in addition to the peer support. “They’ve really helped me,” he said. “It was a huge relief for me when I found this group. It wasn’t until I moved to Nevada 30 years ago that I enrolled at this VA. Another Vet told me about the PTSD support groups at the VA. So I said, ‘alright, I’ll go.’ I was relieved when I was talking to the other veterans. They understood my feelings. And I’ve stayed right there with them for nearly 30 years.” When Zicari joined the group, there were six other World War II veterans who regularly attended the meetings. “Now it’s just me,” he said.

Zicari was drafted into the Army at the age of 19, where he trained to become a supply soldier. After training for months for desert warfare in preparation for deployment to Northern Africa, he soon found himself in Scotland and Wales, preparing for a completely different kind of warfare. His company began practicing for amphibious landings in preparation for the inevitable invasion of continental Europe in what would eventually come to be known as Operation Overlord. “We knew we would have to go, but we didn’t know when,” Zicari said. That day, June 6, 1944, would soon arrive. Despite months of preparation of training, nothing could prepare him for what would come. “The night before, we were joking around. We didn’t know what to expect. We were all gung ho. Until we landed, then it stopped.”

The next morning, Zicari’s unit arrived in Normandy in preparation to land on Omaha Beach – the most heavily defended area of five sectors allied infantry and armored divisions would land on during the D-Day invasion. “We were the fifth or sixth wave to hit Omaha Beach,” he said. “Our landing craft was knocked out, it took a couple of direct hits and killed a couple of sailors that were on board. The boat got grounded on a reef. After it beached, we had to get off and landed in the water and almost drowned. I was the ammo man for a machine gun crew, and I carried two boxes of ammo, another guy carried two barrels, one carried a magazine, one carried the tri-pod, it was the five of us. Our gunner lost the barrels. He didn’t want to drown, so he just dropped them. I had the ammo, and I said, ‘what am I going to do with this ammo?’ So, I let go of the ammo.”

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (right) poses for a photo with Mickey Rooney (middle) and fellow soldiers.

Once Zicari finally got his head above water, he was struck by the chaos that laid in front of him. “We didn’t know where we were,” he said. “All we kept hearing was ‘gotta go inland, gotta go inland! Can’t go back!’ But we got pinned down there for quite a long time. We saw a lot of dead soldiers. It was havoc. I can’t explain what war is. We were all gung ho before we landed, but once we saw what was going on, I said ‘I want to go home.’ A lot of prayers were said on that day, believe me.”

Zicari was able to join up with the remainder of his outfit, but struggled to shake loose many of the horrors around him. “I was in shock. I was numb. I didn’t know what to do. Everybody was lost. I got pinned down by a pillbox, and we had shells landing all over. I got up and went alongside a landing craft that was beached. I looked over and I see this redheaded soldier, and he was sitting on his helmet. He got hit bad. He looked at me and just started to laugh, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home.’ Whether he made it home or not, I don’t know. But that stuck with me.”

After several hours of intense fighting, Zicari was wounded by a piece of shrapnel in the knee. Although the wound was relatively light, medics recommended he seek immediate care. “They wanted to send me back to the hospital ship, but I told them no. I didn’t want to lose my outfit.” Zicari said. “They might send me to the infantry, and I didn’t want to go to the infantry, that’s for sure.”

When the intensity of the battle had died down, and the Germans were pushed back from their positions on the beachhead, Zicari and his unit had the task of bringing the ammunition and supplies onto the beaches. While the initial intensity of the fighting had decreased, they still faced occasional artillery and sniper fire. But the worst job was soon to come. “On the third day, we had to go back and pick up the bodies and equipment on the beaches,” he said. “After that, I never went back again. It was too sad.”

After Normandy, Zicari continued fighting across France, even making it to Belgium and relieving the 101st Airborne following the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne and surrounding Ardennes Forest. But it was June 6 that would shape his memories of the war; memories that he hopes to put to rest 75 years later.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (middle) with his PTSD peer support group.

Following the war, Zicari moved to California with his wife, where they raised six children. His family became close friends with their neighbors, Fazendin and her husband. Even after the Zicaris moved to Nevada, they kept in touch. “We’ve been friends for many years,” said Fazendin, who currently lives in Florida and has acted as Zicari’s caretaker for a recent cruise and other short trips. This will be her first time traveling to Europe, and the furthest the two will travel together.

Zicari lives independently in his Las Vegas home, near much of his family. Even though he doesn’t own a cell phone or watch, he stays sharp by doing four crossword puzzles each day and completing woodworking projects. His garage is adorned with massive birdhouses and wooden trains that he has perfected over the years. He gets his socializing by meeting with his fellow veterans at the VA. His PTSD peer support group even meets up for a holiday meal at the Medical Center cafeteria. And it was with their encouragement, the help of his caretaker, and financial support of charitable donations that Zicari will finally be able to make his return to Omaha Beach in June 2019.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Featured

The first Native American woman to die in combat was also the first female military death of the Iraq War

American women risk their lives for their country every day. In fact, women have served alongside men in combat long before they were legally “allowed.” That being said, women didn’t have the option of joining the military in fields outside of nursing until after the Vietnam War. With such a history, it’s important to tell the stories of the women who served and lost their lives while defending our country.


Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
Pfc. Lori Piestewa waiting for deployment at Fort Bliss, Tex., on Feb. 16, 2003. (U.S. Army photo)

Honoring our fallen warriors is a longstanding, sacred traditional in our military. It’s part of our DNA to recognize the sacrifice of those that die in combat.

Let’s take a moment to remember Pvt. Lori Ann Piestewa, who was not only the first woman in the U.S. military to lose her life in the Iraq War, she was also the first Native American woman to die in combat with the United States Armed Forces. Piestewa was a Native American of Hopi descent with Mexican-American heritage.

Her native name was White Bear Girl.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
Piestewa is the first American Indian woman to die in combat on foreign soil. (U.S. Army photo)

Hailing from her hometown of Tuba City, Ariz., Piestewa was from a military family. She was the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the granddaughter of a World War II veteran. Her own interest in the military began in high school, where she participated in a junior ROTC program. Piestewa enlisted in the Army and was attached to the 507th Maintenance Company in Fort Bliss, Texas and deployed to Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Her company, the 507th, was infamously ambushed near Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 23, 2003.

Piestewa was driving the lead vehicle in a convoy when one of their vehicles broke down. They stopped to make a repair, then continued north to catch up to the rest of the convoy. Along the way, they made a wrong turn and were ambushed by Iraqi troops.

The missing numbered 15 total.

A few days later, Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital. Nine members of the 507th were killed in action, including Piestewa. A rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee she was driving.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
Piestewa with her best friend, Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Lynch was also in the convoy ambushed by Iraqi forces in March 2003. (Piestewa Family photo)

Piestewa left behind a son, a daughter, and a mother and father, Terry and Percy Piestewa, who toured the country attending memorial services held in her honor.

She was posthumously promoted to Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa and Arizona’s offensively-named “Squaw Peak” was renamed Piestewa Peak. It was “given the name of hero,” as her tribe described it.

Lori Piestewa will live forever in our memory and in the memory of her fellow soldiers as the Hopi woman warrior that gave her life for her country: White Bear Girl.

Articles

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.


Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.

Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
F-15Cs of the 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron (US Air Force)

As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.

When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.

By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.

What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
A Soviet Air Force MiG-23 Flogger, similar to the one which flew pilotless across Europe (US Air Force)

After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.

Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
The crash site of the MiG-23 in Belgium (Public Domain)

Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.

As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.

But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.

The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.

Articles

See the dramatic footage of an ISIS attack on Iraqi tanks

On Oct. 17 an Iraqi-led coalition began the long battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and an important hub for ISIS.


And the Internet is already getting flooded with videos and photos from the fighting.

The Twitter feed Conflict News (@conflicts) released footage of the Iraqi Army’s 9th Armored Division rolling towards the fighting near the outskirts of Mosul:

About an hour later, Kurdistan24, a Kurdish news channel, released this footage of Iraqi Army tanks suffering a vehicle-borne IED attack by ISIS fighters:

The fight for Mosul has been expected for some time and the U.S. military has built up logistics and command and control capabilities at nearby bases to assist the Iraqis in their fight. Army Col. Brett G. Sylvia commands some of the soldiers operating in Northern Iraq. He sent a Facebook update to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team “STRIKE,” 101st Airborne Division’s families on Oct. 3 to prepare them for the Battle of Mosul:

The tireless work of STRIKE Soldiers has set the conditions for the final push against Daesh in Iraq. In the coming months, your Soldiers will advise and assist the Iraqi army from disparate locations, working together as one team towards the final objective: the liberation of Mosul, defeat of this cowardly enemy, and the establishment of a stable environment for the peace loving citizens of Iraq.

American, Iraqi, Kurdish, and other forces are expected to slowly push ISIS from the city in the coming weeks.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ trailer TOTALLY redeems the franchise

Writers Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman have made a very, very smart decision.

By the looks of things, they’re giving the belovéd Ghostbusters universe a complete makeover by honing in on supernatural mystery while still maintaining the comedic levity of the original film. After the underwhelming 2016 reboot (ahhhh there was so much potential there and yet…so much disappointment), it looks like Juno’s Reitman (who will also direct) just might strike the perfect chord for this franchise.

Hop in your Ectomobile (because the kids in this film sure do) and let’s go for a ride:


GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE – Official Trailer (HD)

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GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE – Official Trailer (HD)

Opening on a sleepy rural town plagued by unexplainable earthquakes, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a true sequel to the original films, including references to the supernatural activity of the 80s.

Single mother Carrie Coon (who is fantastic in everything she does — did you see Gone Girl? Why isn’t everyone talking about her at every moment?) and her kids (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard and The Haunting of Hill House’s Mckenna Grace, who is also a killer talent) inherit a family farmhouse that’s definitely definitely haunted.

With the help of Paul Rudd, they learn that they are descended from an OG Ghostbuster, which explains the ghost traps and Ectomobile on the property.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

I’d watch him do anything. Honestly, anything. He’s perfect.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Sony Pictures

The trailer hints at a great Stranger Things-like vibe, which is very sexy right now, mixed with just the right amount of nostalgia and humor. And if that’s not enough to tingle your Twinkie then I’ll remind you that the film is rumored to include cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife will open in theaters July 2020.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
popular

The incredible effort milspouses make to achieve life goals

My story begins at Abilene Christian University in Texas, where I began college in the late 1980s. The summer after freshman year, I met my husband Bob who was serving in the Air Force. Engaged within weeks and married following my sophomore year, my plan was to finish college in our new hometown of Austin.

Due to strict state university standards, I was required to enter college as a second-semester freshman instead of a junior. I was angry – so I took one class and quit.


Fast-forward about 10 years to our new home with two little boys in Altus, Oklahoma. I had a couple of friends from church who were preparing to graduate from community college. Those ladies had families with full-time jobs (and active-duty husbands that went TDY often). That “fire inside” finally found a spark again.

I worked hard over the next two years to earn two associate degrees, one in arts and one in science. I had been told that if you had an associate’s degree, universities had to accept it and couldn’t make you take their designated core classes. With one in each track, I thought I was set. It was also during this period that my dad got sick and passed away. I was able to pause my studies and finish up after I returned home. But once again, we found out we were moving. I didn’t have enough time to finish one last class, so the instructor permitted me to take an incomplete and finish it from Alabama – my first “true” tele-course!

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

I took another break from school after that because our assignment was only for one year. After seven years (and another four PCS moves), we got the surprise of our lives when our family increased to include two more sons. We had two in junior high/high school and two preschoolers. I volunteered when I could, and one of those opportunities turned into a flex-time job in accounting, my dream job.

Then something changed. A situation came up, and I needed to leave that position. I was unwilling to give up that little bit of time at home with our last child. I understand that it’s not the choice for everyone – but this was my decision, and I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity.

But now, with no job, I suddenly had a great deal of time on my hands. It felt like I was a fish out of water, and I couldn’t breathe.

My husband (who had by then RETIRED – and usually that means no more moving…) asked if I had considered going back to school. And that spark? It flickered again. I didn’t have too much time to decide, but I applied at the local university and was told that there were nine credit hours that Texas required before I could truly begin my junior year. That wasn’t too bad – so I earned those at a local junior college and had everything transferred.

At this point of my education “battle,” I was now up to SEVEN colleges. And in my FIRST SEMESTER at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, guess what? Bob got a promotion and another job offer – in San Antonio. Even I couldn’t believe my luck at this point. I took one last class from San Antonio but couldn’t continue because MSU didn’t have many online offerings – especially the upper-level accounting courses that I needed.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen
Midwestern State University

So, I quit again. Or so I thought…

In 2015, I read about a new program that Champlain College Online was offering. It provided affordable degree and certificate programs that were 100 percent online. Moving was no longer an excuse to quit!

Speaking of life experiences, my own include three major neck surgeries, 11 moves (including one to Germany, during finals week), eight different colleges, and – as of spring 2017 – one well-deserved bachelor’s degree in accounting! I’m currently serving as the treasurer for our church and looking forward to performing more financial duties next year.

For some, it only takes four years to complete a degree, and for some of us more than 30 years. All that matters is that we as military spouses persist and eventually achieve our goals.

Jane Brumley has been a military spouse for 30 years. Her husband Bob retired from active duty in 2008 and currently serves as a Department of Defense civilian. They have four children, two who are still at home. They are currently stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Jane spends her time volunteering with both schools, serving as Treasurer of her family’s church and at the base tax center, utilizing her Accounting degree. She is thoroughly enjoying her time traveling throughout Europe.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Veterans Golden Age Games torch delivered ‘Mission Impossible’ style

Staff Sergeant Tom McArthur of the Alaska Air National Guard practices it regularly: rappelling by rope from a helicopter. Whether it’s to rescue people who are lost in the woods, who are stranded because of a snowmobile accident, or who have been attacked by animals, making that descent is a standard part of his job.

So after descending from a height of 70 feet on June 5, 2019, with the torch for the 2019 National Veterans Golden Age Games in Anchorage, Alaska, he sounded nonchalant about it.

“We’re pretty consistent about this,” McArthur says. “It’s one of the things we train for. Throughout the year, we do it a number of times.”

McCarthur’s breathtaking feat was the opening stage of a ceremonial passing of the torch, the theme of which was “Mission Impossible.”


The torch will be on display during the “Parade of Athletes” at the opening ceremonies of the Golden Age Games on June 6, 2019, at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. The Golden Age Games, which include nearly 900 veterans age 55 and older and serve as one of VA’s premier sports events, began on June 5, 2019, and run until June 10, 2019.

On a clear, sunny day amid the backdrop of the snow-sprinkled Chugach Mountains outside of Anchorage, McArthur descended from a Black Hawk helicopter that hovered over the fairway of the 10th hole at the Moose Run Golf Course. One of his colleagues, Technical Sergeant Jason Hughes, rappelled just before him.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

McArthur ran for a short distance with the gold-covered torch and handed it off. Master Sergeant Chris Bowerfind of the Alaska Air National Guard. Bowerfind and 21 other people then ran three-quarters of a mile in one direction along Arctic Valley Road, which is parallel to the golf course, and three-quarters of a mile in the other direction back to the starting point.

Taml, an emotional support dog who has spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, ran alongside Bowerfind. He was also accompanied by four officials from the Alaska VA Healthcare System, which is sponsoring this year’s Golden Age Games, some Veterans who are competing in the event, and members of the local community that support VA and the military.

The officials from the Alaska VA Healthcare System included Dr. Tim Ballard, director of the facility. He’s excited that the Alaska VA is sponsoring the Golden Age Games.

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An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment hovers over a field to drop off two Alaska Air National Guard pararescuemen of the 212th Rescue Squadron and a torch for this year’s National Veterans Golden Age Games at Moose Run Golf Course, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, June 5, 2019.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pvt. Grace Nechanicky)

“We’re one of the smallest VA stations in the country,” he says. “So for us to be given this opportunity is really great. It’s a testament to our staff who are very dedicated to taking care of veterans. Often times, it’s the big facilities that get this sort of stuff. So it’s really cool that we’re a small fry in a great big VA, and we’re having an opportunity to host this event.”

Ballard explains that even though the Alaska VA is an outpatient ambulatory care facility, it has a major partnership with Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, a combined Army and Air Force installation.

“We have in-patient staff assigned to the hospital at JBER who see both Department of Defense and VA patients,” he says. “Roughly 85 members of our staff are embedded in JBER doing many inpatient activities. We’ve got a myriad of staff that are in the specialty clinics over there, including orthopedics, urology, cardiology, and the like. So even though we are outpatient from VA’s perspective, we really consider JBER’s hospital our hospital.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The candy man who revolutionized tank design

The most-produced tank in World War II was fast, powerful, and well protected by sloped armor, and it was made by a candy maker who got tired of confections and decided to make a revolutionary tank instead.

Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.


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The Christie tank designs were ultimately a failure in the U.S., but elements of the company’s designs would become part of dozens of tank designs across Western and Russian militaries.

(Harris Ewing)

Mikhail Koshkin was working in a candy factory until he decided that he wanted to study engineering. Thanks to a series of Josef Stalin’s purges, Koshkin quickly found himself at the top of a program to improve the BT tank. The BT tank series was based on the U.S. Christie design and patents that were sold overseas after the Army turned the Christie down.

Stalin, wanting to see whether his armored forces were worth the price tag, wanted to test the new tanks in combat and got his chance in the Spanish Civil War. The BT tanks proved themselves useful but far, far from perfect. Despite thick armor, anti-tank infantry still often held an advantage against them, and the vehicle engines would burst into flame from light hits or, sometimes, simply from the strain of propelling the tank.

The BT tanks were sent back to Russia by rail for analysis and Koshkin and his team quickly found the flaws in design. The improvements program quickly became a replacement program, and Koshkin started working on a new design in 1934 which he would name for that year, the T-34.

It incorporated a number of design changes being flirted with around the world. It wasn’t the first tank with sloped armor or the first with a diesel engine or the first with a large cannon in a rotating turret, but it was a solid design that incorporated all of these evolutions in design. At the same time that he was working on the T-34, Koshkin had to work on a new BT tank design: the A20.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

Mikhail Koshkin worked in a candy factory but then decided to become an engineer before World War II. His inspired T-34 tank design would become the most-produced tank of World War II.

(Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau)

The A20 would later become the BT-20. It, too, sported a number of improvements, including sloped armor and an improved engine, but it still had relatively little armor for the crew or engine — as little as 20mm in some places.

Both designs, the T-34 and the BT-20, reached Soviet leaders in 1939. There, the officers sidelined the T-34 in favor of the BT-20, partially because the proposed T-34 design would’ve required much more steel for manufacture and much more fuel to run. A prototype BT-20 was created.

But instead of accepting the defeat of his design, Koshkin wrote a letter to Stalin and continued making tweaks before creating a full prototype. Stalin requested to see the tank, and Koshkin drove it 800 miles to Moscow to show it off. The tank proved itself fast, effective, and well-protected, and so Stalin sent it into production instead of the BT-20.

Koshkin died of pneumonia soon after, but his tank design would go on to become the most-produced tank of World War II. Russia took part in the invasion of Poland, but later found itself attacked by Nazi Germany in June, 1941.

As history shows, the Soviet Union soon found itself in a fight for its very survival during World War II. Tanks and other weapons would be imported from America, but the best homegrown option the Soviet Union had was still, easily, the T-34.

The final design pressed into production featured a 76mm gun capable of taking out anything Germany had to offer, its thick and sloped armor could survive hits from most German tanks at the time, and it was easy to maintain in the field, meaning the T-34s were nearly all available for the fight.

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A T-34 tank during battle re-enactments.

(Cezary Piwowarski CC BY-SA 4.0)

When a clash first came between German tanks and the T-34, the Soviet crew surprised the Germans by piercing the German tank in a single shot. German tank crews had convinced themselves that they were nearly invincible until they faced the T-34.

But the Germans had prepared well for the invasion, and they charged east, deep into Russia, overrunning the original T-34 factory and nearly breaching Moscow’s defenses before they were stopped at the final defensive line as the true Russian winter set in.

The relocated T-34 production lines were able to crank out hundreds of copies before the spring thaw, and those tanks were key parts of battles for the coming years. But German tank designs were evolving as well, and the arms race necessitated upgrades to the T-34.

Over 35,000 T-34s were built during the war, with later models featuring upgraded 85mm guns as space for an additional crew member, allowing the tank commander to give up their gunner duties to keep a better eye on what was happening around the vehicle.

Suspect named, new details released in case of missing soldier Vanessa Guillen

A German soldier inspects a Russian T-34 knocked out during combat. T-34s were super powerful upon their debut, but German bombers and artillery were always a threat to them, and later German tank designs like the Tiger could shred the T-34.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

The Soviet Union was, eventually, successful in driving the Germans out of Russia and back into Berlin. This success was partially due to America sending so much equipment east as part of lend-lease, partially thanks to the U.S., Britain, and Canada opening a new front with the D-Day invasions, and partially thanks to a candy man who decided to make a world-class weapon of war instead of sweets.

Admit it: You’d watch a Willy Wonka sequel like that.

(Some of the information in this article came from the second episode of Age of Tanks on Netflix. If you have a subscription, you can watch the episode here.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what National Guard units across the country will be doing on Election Day

From New Jersey to Washington state, National Guard members across the country are gearing up for election-related missions — ranging from cybersecurity support to responding to civil unrest — in an already record-breaking year for state activations.

Governors have continued to activate National Guard troops in the final days leading up to the presidential election, which has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. Soldiers and airmen are supporting polling stations, leading cybersecurity missions, and even preparing for civil disturbances in the wake of what could prove to be a contentious election in which results might not be known for weeks.

As of Friday, 10 states were actively planning for Guard members to handle election-related missions and 15 were indicating they plan to do so. Those missions include working polling stations and cybersecurity missions.

No Uniforms, No Weapons

Armed troops won’t be guarding polling places on Tuesday.

Leaders in several states said the hundreds of Guard members activated by their governors will be wearing civilian clothes and won’t be carrying weapons. That’s true in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Nebraska, officials from those states say.

“Our service members are placed on state active duty, and they show up in civilian clothes to the polling stations, so any member of the community that is coming into a polling station isn’t going to be able to recognize that they are in the Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, assistant adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard. “They are going to look like anyone else from the community.”

Several hundred Guard members assisted at polling places during the primaries, Military.com reported this summer. They were under strict orders to stay out of the actual voting process, filling gaps created during the pandemic since older people who tend to volunteer at polls were staying home to prevent contracting COVID-19.

In New Jersey, one of the states where Guard members assisted during the primaries, troops are helping process mail-in ballots. The country has seen a huge uptick in mail-in ballots during the pandemic. About 240 New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen are already supporting 18 counties’ board of elections, Lt. Col. Barbara Brown, a Guard spokeswoman there, said.

“This support is an extension of the Guard’s active role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey,” she said. “The [New Jersey National Guard] is fully capable and prepared for this mission.”

Guard members in other states, such as Washington and Delaware, are taking on cybersecurity missions. U.S. intelligence officials warned earlier this month that Iran and Russia obtained voter registration information, and were already attempting to interfere in the election.

The National Guard has 59 cyber support units, Wayne Hall, a National Guard Bureau spokesman, said.

“Each state is different and has the advantage of tailoring its National Guard forces to their specific requirements to support elections, especially the states with cyber units,” he said. “We consider this flexibility one of the National Guard’s primary strengths.”

The National Guard for Washington State has been working with state officials since the 2018 midterm elections, performing vulnerability assessments on firewalls and ensuring that software is up to date, Air Force Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, assistant adjutant general for the Washington Guard, said this week.

“One of the unique things about the Guard is we dip into the talent that we’ve got in the civilian areas so having companies like Microsoft and Amazon … allows us to draw those folks into the Guard that have got cutting edge experience working in a tech company is able to pair that with the military training they have,” Welsh said. “And then when we have issues like we are having with our election system, we’ve got some really, really talented and qualified folks to do that work.”

Bracing for Conflict

Guard members say they’re not anticipating trouble at the polls, but if a problem breaks out, they say troops working on election day would respond the same way a civilian would.

“In that case it’s a 911 event to call in local law enforcement to handle any violence or any threats of violence,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general for the Nebraska National Guard, said.

If violent protests erupt after the election, Guard officials said it will be up to state leaders to coordinate with law enforcement units for potential National Guard response.

“I think the chief executives of each state are already thinking about these kinds of issues and they would be the focal point for any use of the National Guard for any civil unrest or disturbance following the election,” Bohac said.

After a long and often contentious campaign though, some National Guard members have for months been preparing to respond. In Tennessee, the Guard has a contingency plan to support the state highway patrol, Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general, said.

“That has been a pretty established drill we have been executing since May and we do have a number of contingency plans,” he said. “We do talk with them more frequently; we have had a number of planning meetings just so we have a multitude of options that might be available.”

Guard personnel would primarily be tasked with providing protection for state and local facilities to free up the highway patrol to conduct law enforcement activities, Holmes added.

“We know our mission,” he said. “We have had to deploy for civil unrest, so we have a very good working relationship with them.”

In New Jersey, the Guard has a reaction force to assist the state for contingency responses when requested by proper authorities, Brown said.

“Our 8,500-member force remains committed to responding to our state and its citizens during times of need,” she said. “We live, work and raise families in these communities and will stay during this critical time for as long as we are needed.”

For now, though, leaders say they’re focused on ensuring troops aren’t burned out after a busy year for the National Guard.

“Our state leadership worries about our Guardsmen being overworked during our state call ups, but they work with our soldiers and airmen to ensure they are getting the rest they need and they are rotated out so they can take leave,” Joseph Siemandel, director of public affairs for the Washington National Guard, said.

The state activations follow National Guard missions for the pandemic, wildfires, border missions and protests across the country. Missions inside the U.S. peaked for the Guard in June, when more than 86,000 of its soldiers were engaged in domestic missions.

The National Guard provided 8.4 million days of support for domestic operations in fiscal 2020, which ended on Sept. 30.

“Due to all the peaks we’ve had, there’s no way that we would have been close to that in any previous year,” Hall said.

The missions haven’t come without controversy though, particularly after tens of thousands of Guard members were called on to support law enforcement personnel in responding to protests in dozens of states following the May death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody.

As Americans brace for the possibility of more unrest, National Guard leaders say they’ve reinforced law enforcement earlier this year and are prepared to do so again.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

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Col. Teresa Bisnett, Department of Defense – Veterans Affairs Joint Venture Hospital and 673rd Medical Group commander, and Maj. Suzanne Green, 673rd Medical Group Emergency Department Flight commander on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, speak with Robert McDonald, secretary of Veterans Affairs, as part of a tour around DoD/VA Joint Venture Hospital


The Department of Veterans Affairs says that it is “amending its regulation” on the copays that veterans pay for medications they receive that are not for service related conditions.

Currently, veterans pay $8 and $9 for a 30-day (or less) supply of prescriptions.

The VA says that the new system will “keep outpatient medication costs low for Veterans.”

Dr. David J. Shulkin, the VA Undersecretary for Health, said “Reducing their out-of-pocket costs encourages greater adherence to priscribed outpatient medications and reduces the risk of fragmented care that results when multiple pharmacies are used.”

The new system tossed out the old way of determining costs, which was based on the Medical Consumer Price Index.

Three classes of outpatient medications have been designed to help curb the costs.

  • Tier 1 is for preferred generics, and will cost veterans $5 for a 30-day or less supply.
  • Tier 2 is for non-preferred generics, which includes over the counter medications, and will cost veterans $8 for a 30-day or less supply.
  • Tier 3 is for brand name medications, and will cost veterans $11 for a 30-day or less supply.

The new system will go into effect February 27th, 2017, and only apply to medications that are not for service connected issues.

Veterans who are former Prisoners of War, catastrophically disabled, or are covered by other exceptions will not have to pay copays.

Veterans who fall into Priority Groups 2-8 will have a $700 cap on copays, at which point the copays do not apply. To find out which Priority Group you fall into, check out the VA’s list of Priority Groups in their Health Benefits tab (here).

According to 38 U.S.C. 1722A(a), the VA is compelled to require veterans to pay a minimum copay of $2 for every 30-day (or less) supply of medications which are prescribed for non-service related disabilities or connections, unless there is an exemption for the veteran. 38 U.S.C. 1722A(b) gives the VA the authority to set the copay amount higher and to put caps on the amount veterans pay.

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