Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Iraqi government forces launched an operation against Kurdistan’s Peshmerga military forces over the weekend to capture Kirkuk, a disputed, oil-rich city in the country’s north.


The Kurds defeated Islamic State fighters to take control of Kirkuk in 2014, but Iraq’s central government had refused to recognize their sovereignty over the city since it falls outside of Kurdistan’s internationally recognized autonomous region.

As the details continue to develop, here’s a breakdown of the basics.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
An Iraqi pilot walks to a Iraqi AC-208 Caravan for a training mission at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq. For the first time since the re-formation of the Iraqi air force, an Iraqi pilot fired a missile from an a AC-208 Nov. 04, 2009, at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

What’s happening?

Conflicting stories emerged Oct. 16 as clashes broke out in areas outside the city, causing an unknown number of casualties. Iraqi forces claimed they had seized military bases and oil fields around Kirkuk, and had forced the Kurds to withdraw from the city. The Kurdistan Regional Government has rejected those claims.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the US military said it believed any clashes between the Kurds and Baghdad “was a misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions.”

Army Major General Robert White, the commander of US-led coalition forces in Iraq, called for both parties to reconcile their differences through peace, and “remain focused on the defeat of our common enemy,” ISIS.

President Donald Trump weighed in on Monday afternoon, as well, saying the US would not back one side over the other. “We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” Trump said in a press conference.

Three days before clashes erupted, rumors surfaced of an impending Iraqi government assault on the Kurds. In response, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took to Twitter to debunk the accusation.

“Our armed forces cannot and will not attack our citizens, whether Arab or Kurd,” he said. “The fake news being spread has a deplorable agenda behind.”

Amid reports of a looming attack, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani ordered Peshmerga forces on Sunday to not “initiate any war, but if any advancing militia starts shooting, then Peshmerga have been given a green light to use every power to stand against them.”

By Monday afternoon, Reuters reported that thousands of Kurds had fled the city of Kirkuk, which has a population of over 1 million people. About 6% of the world’s oil comes from Kirkuk province, according to CNN.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi. Photo from Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Why now?

Kurdish nationalism has long been a source of tension between Iraq’s central government and the Kurds, both of which are strong US allies.

This tension was exacerbated after close to 93% of Kurds, which control a large swath of territory in northern Iraq, voted to declare Kurdistan an independent state on September 25. Baghdad has condemned the referendum and urged Kurdish leaders to reject it. Neighboring countries Iran and Turkey also opposed the vote.

The White House also warned against holding a vote on independence and called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to pursue dialogue with Baghdad.

“Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing,” the White House said in a statement before vote.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Why does it matter?

The independence referendum and latest round of clashes between Kurdish and Iraqi forces puts the Trump administration in a particularly strangling bind. Over the years, the US has trained and supplied weapons and equipment to both sides of the conflict with the intention of defeating ISIS. Now those very same weapons are being used by US allies against other US allies.

Iran’s interference in the conflict also remains a top concern for American officials. The Iraqi-backed Popular Mobilization Forces — Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary units that have been fighting against the Kurds — presents another challenge for US mediation efforts in the region. Iran not only supports these Popular Mobilization Forces, but provides direct training and weaponry to its fighters.

The New York Times reported in July that Iran’s presence in Iraq was a consequence of former President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw US troops from the country in 2011. This move has divided Republicans and Democrats in the US, and was a key campaign issue in the 2016 elections.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the newly-formed Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division are jointly training Kurdish and Iraqi forces, to become the first self-sufficient local military force.

What could happen next?

No one is really sure. The situation is still unfolding, with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders shifting blame on their opponents for the escalation in violence.

Even though the US has downplayed the clashes as simply a “misunderstanding,” it’s difficult to ascertain the true level of tension on the ground.

Conflicting claims from Iraqi government and Kurdish officials further complicate the situation. No matter what happens, these developments will surely add to Trump’s challenges in the Middle East.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Discovery’s ‘Deadliest Catch’ features Coast Guard’s search for survivors

Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski’s year started tragically.

A Navy veteran, Wichrowski is one of the captains on “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel series about Alaska’s crab industry. He was close friends with two of the five men who died when the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat, went down in icy, turbulent conditions in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. Two crew members survived.


The Coast Guard’s 20-hour search for survivors will be featured on “Deadliest Catch” at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern time).

“It’s hard to drum all this up again, really,” Wichrowski said. “You lose friends. You lose family. And the part that sticks is that any time, it could be you.”

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski is in the wheelhouse at the helm of the Summer Bay.

The episode of the long-running reality series follows the Coast Guard’s role from the time it received a distress call until the search, which covered 1,400 square miles, was suspended.

Although Wichrowski was not in contact directly with the Coast Guard during that time, he followed the rescue mission’s progress closely.

“They’re our lifeline,” Wichrowski said. “Some of the stuff they do with the helicopters and the C-130s and the ships and the hard-bottom inflatables [boats] is truly amazing. The Coast Guard’s our last chance for survival when we’re having trouble.”

The investigation into the Scandies Rose disaster is ongoing and could last “many months,” said Scott McCann, the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer for the 17th District.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski stands proudly on deck of his boat.

Wichrowski’s own ties to the military began early.

His father, Charles Thomas Wichrowski, was a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina during the Korean War. The youngest of three brothers, Wichrowski said he did not always appreciate his strict upbringing in Pennsylvania.

“I probably didn’t really like [my father] that much at the time, but he was training me to be a leader from Day One,” Wichrowski said. “In his eyes, there was only one place to be, and that was in charge.”

Wichrowski’s tour in the Navy happened almost by accident.

Before he wrecked his father’s new car on homecoming night, he had planned to go to school and study business administration. The cost of the repairs, along with other financial constraints in his family, prompted Wichrowski to enlist in 1975.

Armed with a love of the ocean, he headed West. He served as an electrician’s mate at naval stations in California, Idaho and Washington State.

Wichrowski enjoyed the camaraderie and travel in the military and proved to be invaluable in stressful situations. He recalled one time a typhoon in Taiwan knocked out a generator. Wichrowski ran to the other end of the tossed ship on a wall, hurdling people along the way, to work on it.

On another occasion in San Diego, Wichrowski was about to go on liberty when a transformer caught fire. He was not on duty, but he restored the power anyway, then left suddenly to meet his girlfriend before other potential issues arose.

“When I got back, the XO [executive officer] on the bridge, he had seen the whole thing,” Wichrowski said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get my butt reamed.’ But he said he was pretty amazed about how quickly I reacted.”

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Wichrowski said the bonds of boat crews are similar to those in the military. Photo courtesy of Discovery.

Wichrowski, who served for four years, said what he learned in the Navy resonates today.

“It’s the whole reason why I’m successful,” he said.

The bonds formed among boat crews are not unlike those developed in the military. That’s why the sinking of the Scandies Rose hit Wichrowski hard. He knew the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr., and engineer, Art Gacanias, well, but thankfully the loss of life was not worse.

Landon Cheney, Wichrowski’s No. 2 man on the Summer Bay, used to work on the Scandies Rose and considered returning before it sank.

“I’m pretty certain that if he was on board, he wouldn’t have made it,” Wichrowski said.

As painful as the loss of the Scandies Rose remains, Wichrowski intends to watch Tuesday night.

“I hope to,” he said. “… It should never be forgotten, but it’s still tough to review over and over.”

Visit Deadliest Catch on Discovery for information on upcoming episodes.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

Army’s new Futures Command will ‘determine victory or defeat’

In an empty office space on the 19th floor of a University of Texas System building in Austin, Aug. 24, 2018, the Army unveiled the location for the headquarters of its new Futures Command, which has the monumental task of modernizing the service’s future force.

For the first time, the Army will place a major command within an urban setting instead of on a military base. The goal is to bring itself closer to technology innovators and researchers in one of the nation’s top growing technology cities.


“We needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs, at speeds far faster than our current process allows,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “We searched for a location that had the right combination of top-tier academic talent, cutting edge industry and an innovative private sector.”

The Army announced in October 2017 its intent to create a new command that would be responsible for modernization. Initially, some 150 cities were considered as possibilities to house the new command’s headquarters. Eventually, that number was pared down to five, including Austin.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper spoke Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas, during activation of the Army Futures Command.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)

Ultimately, Austin scored the highest among those remaining five cities. Criteria for the final selection included density of industry and academic talent and proximity to private sector innovation. Austin boasts a growing number of professionals in the science and tech industries and hosts academic institutions with thousands of graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career fields.

“Austin’s already a hub of innovation,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “And [it’s] a business-friendly environment … this will allow our military Department of Defense personnel access to the countless startups and emerging technology entrepreneurs already at work here.”

The Army Futures Command is tasked with, among other things, developing future warfighting concepts, generating innovative solutions through research and development, and building the next generation of combat systems.

Gen. John M. Murray, who served previously as the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-8, has been named director of the new command.

“Our Futures Command will have a singular focus: to make soldiers and leaders more effective and more lethal today and in the future,” said Murray. “This must be a team (effort). It’s about working together to ensure our soldiers have the capabilities they need when they need them, to deploy, fight and win on the modern battlefield against an incredibly lethal enemy.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Gen. Mike Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley unfurl the Army Futures Command flag during a ceremony, Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)

“We will bring the best talent we can — inside and outside the capital to address the Army’s most pressing problems,” Murray continued. “And deliver solutions at the speed of relevance — at the speed our soldiers deserve. For too long, we have focused on the cost schedule or performance. We must now focus on value.”

For now, the Army Futures Command will lead eight cross-functional teams that are responsible for furthering the Army’s pursuit of six modernization priorities, including long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities, and soldier lethality.

Army leadership said it will take about a year before Army Futures Command reaches full operational capability. The new command is expected to eventually include about 100 military positions and 400 civilian roles.

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley credited the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona with helping spur development of the new command. “He planted the seed,” Milley said.

The Army’s chief of staff said that the character of war is changing, and that private sector innovations in both robotics and artificial intelligence will eventually find their way onto battlefields in the hands of enemies. Army Futures Command will ensure U.S. soldiers also have the best technology.

“We know there’s a multitude of emerging technologies that are going to have, whether we like it or not, impact on the conduct of military operations,” Milley said. “It is this command … that is going to determine victory or defeat.”

Featured image: Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas, during activation of the Army Futures Command.

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

Articles

US aircraft carrier is heading back to Med to hammer ISIS


After a brief absence of US aircraft carrier presence in the eastern Mediterranean, the USS George H. W. Bush will be returning to Syria’s coast to hammer ISIS forces in the region.

This marks the first time the US Navy has had a carrier in the region since US guided-missile destroyers struck Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force after his regime carried out a deadly chemical weapon attack on civilians.

In the immediate aftermath of that strike on April 6, Russia, Assad’s stalwart ally, sent two corvettes of their own.

The US has dispatched the Bush and four guided-missile destroyers as part of a carrier strike group.

The carrier arrives at a time when US and coalition forces have all but stomped out the last remaining ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, though they increasingly find themselves under attack from new adversaries — Iranian-backed pro-Assad forces.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock. (Photo by: Department of Defense)

Iran recently released footage of one of its drones scoping out a US drone, and the very next day the Pentagon announced a US aircraft had shot down a pro-Syrian drone.

Increasingly, US-led coalition forces find themselves bombing pro-Syrian and Iranian-backed forces that threaten US troops in deconfliction zones.

With the addition of the aircraft carrier, the US will have an additional few dozen F/A-18s handy to police the skies.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This former Defense Secretary has the solution to the shutdown and border security

Seldom has there been a public servant who cares more about the people he represents than Robert Gates — and no one more bipartisan. The onetime U.S. Air Force officer has worked under eight administrations, held the post of Director of Central Intelligence, and, of course, was once the Secretary of Defense. The former Cold Warrior has a Ph.D. in Soviet History, but keeps a firm grasp on the nation’s security needs, even today.

And he has a solution for the government shutdown and the border security issue and is calling on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue to “put the interests of the country above their power struggles and political mud wrestling.”


Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reviews troops at the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute at the Pentagon, June 30, 2011.

(DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, elder statesman Gates chides both the Democratic members of Congress as well as President Trump and his Republican support for the impasse that has left thousands of federal employees into forced joblessness, or worse: forced, unpaid labor. He calls out both sides of government for the hypocrisy and the misinformation they spread trying to get their way.

All while reminding everyone who’s getting stuck in the middle of the fighting. It isn’t al-Qaeda, ISIS, or drug traffickers. He says, “all those involved share responsibility for the fiasco and its lamentable consequences for millions of Americans.”

But his solution isn’t to think smaller, he wants the United States to think big.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

President George W. Bush, and Secretary of Defense nominee Robert Gates, right, look-on as Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses the nation during a news conference from the Oval Office, shortly after the President announced his replacement.

(DoD)

Gates sees the current deal offered by the Trump Administration to House Democrats — building his proposed .7 billion border wall in exchange for a reprieve on deportations for “dreamers” affected by the end of DACA — as too small. Instead, he believes the United States should look to President George W. Bush’s 2006 border security proposal for the solution.

Bush called for a mix of border security increases along with immigration reform measures, recognizing that deporting all 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. at the time was not only too costly, but likely impossible. Bush’s reform measures would have made it possible for all illegals working in the country to be counted — and taxed. It also allowed them to stay where they live without the fear of deportation.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Gates with then-President George H.W. Bush

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill of 2006 was a draft reform bill focused solely on the border areas, and had wide bipartisan support. Illegal immigrants in the U.S., for a certain number of years, could apply for citizenship after paying back taxes and fines. Others who have been in the U.S. not as long could stay, but would have to leave and apply for entry abroad. Most importantly, it shifted the focus to skilled workers from high-tech fields, allowing them special authorizations to stay longer.

In terms of border security, the bill added increased federal- and state-level funding for vastly more fencing, vehicle barriers, surveillance technology, and nearly double the personnel manning those measures. The Senate passed the bill easily, by a nonpartisan vote of 62-36, but the House of Representatives never voted on the measure, and the bill expired at the end of that year’s Congress.

Articles

Navy study recommends smaller, more agile carriers

The Pentagon and the U.S. Navy must increase submarines, strengthen the surface fleet size and build new smaller, more agile carrier-type ships — as as part of a broader effort to rethink the way it constructs the American fleet for future conflicts and operations, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (CSBA) contends in a just-released report.


“Today’s approach of using large, high-end platforms such as aircraft carriers to support the whole range of naval operations will not be effective at providing the prompt, survivable, high-capacity firepower that might be required to deter aggression in the South or East China Seas,” CSBA says in its report, CSBA “Restoring American Seapower, A New Fleet Architecture for The United States Navy,” released Feb. 9.

Related: Chinese play chicken with a US P-3 Orion over South China Sea

The CSBA does not recommend the U.S. abandon its carrier-centric force altogether, but says the Navy needs to focus more on submarines and calls for a resurgence of the surface fleet. The report also calls for a new smaller carrier-sized ship.

“It may be better to rely upon submarines and surface combatants as the primary instruments of deterrence and reassurance and deploy aircraft carriers from the open ocean where they can maneuver to engage the enemy once aggression occurs,” CSBA says.

While the study does not call for a decrease in the current numbers of carriers, it does maintain that smaller, more maneuverable type carriers might make certain high-risk missions more plausible in light of emerging threats such as long-range anti-ship missiles and enemy coastal defenses.

The report cites growing international naval competition as a reason for altered strategy.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

“Today the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Navy (PLAN) boasts the second largest fleet in the world, with a large portion of ships built in the last decade. The PLA includes a rapidly modernizing air force in addition to a Rocket Force (formerly the Second Artillery Corps) that deploys a wide array of conventional land-attack and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) as well as the country’s nuclear arsenal,” CSBA notes.

“Combined with China’s long-range surveillance network of satellites and shore-based radars and sensors, these forces create a formidable reconnaissance-strike complex that can threaten U.S. and allied forces on or above the water hundreds of miles from China’s borders,” the report says.

The old nuclear trump card may come up short now, too.

“An American nuclear response would likely further damage the international and political systems upon which American prosperity depends,” CSBA says.

“Therefore, adversaries may no longer find U.S. nuclear deterrence to be credible in these situations, making effective conventional deterrence necessary.”

A return, the CSBA says, to the “deny-and-punish” approach used during the Cold War to deterrence will increase America’s reliance on forward-postured forces—particularly naval forces.

“American aircraft, troops, ships, sensors, and weapons would need to be postured in proximity to a likely area of confrontation,” CSBA says. “The United States, and U.S. naval forces in particular, will need to return to their Cold War deterrence concept of denying an aggressor’s success or immediately punishing the aggressor to compel it to stop. Compared to the Cold War, however, naval forces in the 2030s will face a more challenging threat environment and more constrained timelines. They will have to adopt new operational approaches to deter under these conditions.”

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle (R 91). One of these carriers could launch aircraft equipped with a long-range nuclear-tipped missile – and it isn’t the Big E. (US Navy photo)

But, CSBA says, the current strategy remains focused on “efficiently sustaining forward presence rather than posturing and preparing forces to deter and respond to great power aggression.”

A new course will require more than just altered thinking.

And some others are on board. For example, in a recent white paper, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recommends a “$640 billion base national defense budget (including Department of Energy nuclear activities) in Fiscal Year 2018, which is $54 billion above (former) President Obama’s planned budget. Over five years, this plan represents a $430 billion increase above current plans/”

McCain says, “These recommendations should be regarded as reasoned estimates.

Today, the U.S. Navy is 274 ships. This was already short of the joint force requirement of 308 ships. And that was before the Chief of Naval Operations announced that the Navy should grow to 355 ships to address the growing fleet sizes and capabilities of our adversaries.”

Whatever the right fleet size ultimately is, McCain says, the “key objective for the next five years is the same: The Navy must ramp up shipbuilding. It is unrealistic to deliver 81 ships by 2022.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force cancels the OA-X flyoff after a deadly crash

The remaining flyoffs involved in the OA-X program, the U.S. Air Force’s search for a new light attack/armed reconnaissance plane, have been cancelled. The announcement comes after the fatal crash of an A-29 Super Tucano plane, which was one of the two finalists that made the cut for the second phase of the program.

The flyoff was being carried out at Holloman Air Force Base after a planned combat demonstration was cancelled. Lt. Christopher Carey Short, a Navy pilot, was killed in the accident.


The OA-X program, which is officially the “Observation/Attack-X” program, originally evaluated four planes: The Embraer A-29, the Beech AT-6B Wolverine, the AT-802 Longsword, and the Textron Scorpion. Both the AT-802 Longsword and Textron Scorpion were eliminated after the first round of the evaluations.

The objective of the OA-X program was to find and field a partial replacement for the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack plane. Though any partial replacement will find it hard to stack up to the reputation or capabilities of the A-10, it would likely be able to operate in permissive environments, like Afghanistan.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

The T-6 Texan serves as the basis for the AT-6B Wolverine.

(USAF)

Now, however, all flying portions involved in the OA-X program have been concluded.

The eventual winner of the OA-X program is likely to see interest from a number of countries the United States works with in the fight against terrorism. Some of those allies, including the Afghan Air Force, already use the A-29 Super Tucano, while others are already using the T-6 Texan II trainer, the basis for the AT-6.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

The Afghan Air Force used the AT-29 Tucano.

(Photo by Nardisoero)

The planes flying as part of the OA-X program are all able to operate GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Both of those precision-guided bombs are 500-pound weapons. Eligible planes are also able to use rocket pods, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and gun pods.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

The OA-X is intended to replace the A-10 Thunderbolt in providing close-air support in counter-insurgency missions.

(USAF)

The United States Air Force put the A-10 into service in 1977 and bought 716 of the planes. At present, they’re found in 13 squadrons. The Air Force plans to keep these planes in service through 2040, but the search for a replacement (or several partial replacements) is ongoing.

Despite the devastating crash, the program will continue but, until further investigation, all tests will take place on the ground.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine went from flutes to Fallujah

Mike Ergo enlisted with the Marine Corps Band but then decided to go Infantry and wound up engaged in heavy urban fighting in the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004.


One of Ergo’s defining tattoos from the war is an image on his left forearm of St. Michael holding a scale of justice and a foot on the face of a dead Iraqi he came across in a combat.

“For a long time I was seeing this person’s face every single day, sometimes every single hour of the day,” said Ergo. “My thinking was if I had to see his face, everyone else had to see it as well. It was a tattoo I got out of anger.”

“Vietnam vets talk about their experiences coming back and the big gulf that happened between the veterans and civilians,” continues Ergo. “This is an opportunity for our generation to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Ergo’s story is part of War Ink: 11 for 11, a video series presented by We Are The Mighty.  The series features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.

Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.

Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

Although a scheduled Sept. 25 flyover of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was cancelled due to weather, event organizers still honored World War II Veterans and the 75th anniversary of the end of the war.


World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

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World War II Veterans honored, even as event cancelled

More than 16 million Veterans served during World War II, some of whom participated in the events prior to the scheduled flyover.

One of those Veterans is 95-year-old Marine Corps Veteran Paul Hilliard. On his 13th birthday, Hilliard listened to Winston Churchill deliver his famous “Their Finest Hour” speech. During the speech, Hilliard said he took to heart Churchill’s message warning, “If we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age” if they didn’t defeat the German military. As a teenager, Hilliard said he ran outside his family farm, watching airplanes fly overhead. He would also read stories about SBD Dauntless dive bombers. The crews on those airplanes sank four Japanese carriers during the Battle of Midway.

Although he wanted to join earlier, Hilliard’s mother wouldn’t sign the paperwork for him to enlist. In 1943, the 17-year-old farm boy left for Marine Recruit Depot San Diego, celebrating his 18th birthday shortly after. He then went to Jacksonville, Florida, for training. Soon after, he deployed to the Pacific where he served as a radioman and gunner in the same SBD Dauntless dive bombers he read about a few years earlier.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Paul Hilliard as a teenager.

Off to war

After boarding a ship, their first stop was Guadalcanal, following a major attack against the Japanese.

“We just stopped for a few hours,” Hilliard said. “They let us go ashore and get off that damn ship. First thing I did was take my combat knife and tried to open a coconut because I’d never seen a coconut before, and cut my finger so I could say, ‘I was injured on Guadalcanal,'” he joked.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Paul Hilliard, left, stands on an SDB Dauntless dive bomber with another crew member.

After a few stops, Hilliard ended up on Bougainville Island. Hilliard trained for a few months. Soon after, he left for Luzon in the Philippines. There, he flew combat missions as airborne artillery for Army units. Hilliard said he was so focused on missions, he didn’t even realize the impact. He said he found out several years ago when a retired Marine colonel handed him a book on Marine missions in the Philippines.

“I found out all sorts of stuff we were doing,” he said. “I had no idea. We had no TV, no maps and charts. When we took off, we didn’t know where we were going because we were flying for the Army. We were flying close support missions.”

Hilliard said the crews used to jokingly refer to the flights as “Columbus missions.”

“We didn’t know where we were going when we took off, we didn’t know where we were when we got there, we made a big mess, and we were extremely unwelcome,” he said. “When we got back to base, we didn’t know where we’d been, and we did it all at government expense.”

Hilliard’s next trip was a small island near Borneo, where they continued to fly close air support missions for the Army. In all, Hilliard flew 45 combat missions during the war.

Headed home

By July 1945 and with the war nearing an end, Hilliard headed home.

“They said, ‘You got 30 minutes to get in the truck, you’re going back to the States for reassignment,'” Hilliard said. He said the crews were so happy, they wanted to leave in a hurry.

“All I remember is one of the gunners said, ‘I don’t need 30 minutes. Give me 30 seconds to find my toothbrush. That’s the only damn thing I want here.'”

Hilliard then boarded a ship in Guam and headed back to San Diego. When he arrived, the combat Veteran was still only 20 years old—still too young to buy an alcoholic drink.

Post war

Discharged in 1946, Hilliard used his GI Bill to attend college. He later founded an oil corporation and served as president of the Louisiana Independent Oil and Gas Association.

Hilliard joined The National World War II Museum‘s Board of Trustees in 2006. A self-proclaimed history junkie, he has funded the acquisition of several aircraft and artillery pieces for the museum, including an SBD Dauntless dive bomber.

Over the years, he also used VA for various benefits throughout his life. In addition to his GI Bill, Hilliard said he bought his first home with the assistance of a VA home loan in 1951. He also receives his medication through VA.

“They’ve been so good to me,” he said. “I’ve got nothing but the highest regard for them [VA].”

Flyover serves a reminder

Hilliard said the flyover is a reminder to the American public on the 75th anniversary of the war ending.

“I think it reminds people who we are and what we’ve done,” he said. “America has been a force for freedom. How many countries have sent huge forces overseas to help people? I think it’s a great sign of appreciation and recognition for America and what it’s done for the world.”

One of the pilots scheduled to fly was Mark Reynolds. He pilots a North American PBJ-IJ B-25 Mitchell named “Devil Dog,” which has a giant bulldog with a Marine Corps hat on its head. Reynold said piloting the warbirds is personal. His dad was a Korean War-era Veteran who passed away. Reynolds previously carried the flag from his father’s casket on a flight. He said he started flying the missions for fun, but the focus changed.

“I thought it would be just fun, but it’s way past that,” Reynolds said, noting he likes to hear World War II Veterans’ stories. “That’s what’s kept me in it. This is a lot of fun. We know what those guys did.”

About the flyover

Originally scheduled for May, organizers postponed the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover due to COVID-19. The second attempt saw cloud cover over the National Capital Region Sept. 25-26, cancelling the event.

The warbirds were supposed to fly in historically sequenced formations representing the war’s major battles – from Battle of Britain through the final air assault on Japan and concluding with a missing man formation.

More than 20 different types of vintage military aircraft flew into D.C. for the scheduled event. Multiple organizations and individuals whose mission is to preserve these historic artifacts in flying condition provided aircraft. Some of the historic aircraft included the P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacobra, P-51 Mustang, F4U Corsair, B-25 Mitchell, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress.

2020 Arsenal of Democracy Flyover – Live (Saturday 9/26)

www.youtube.com

Watch the online tribute

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Ghost Boats’ full of dead North Korean fishermen may be China’s fault

So many North Koreans have disappeared from fishing villages along the Hermit Kingdom’s east coast that the villages dotting the coastline are becoming known as “widow’s villages.”

Where do their husbands go?


They end up dead on boats adrift in the Sea of Japan. Their ships and bodies wash ashore on Japan or are picked up by the Japanese Coast Guard. Last year alone, 50 or more North Koreans were found on Japanese beaches.

For years, the phenomenon of these fishing boats full of dead men was a mystery. But now a few anonymous complaints to the United Nations may explain the “Ghost Boats” phenomenon. China has been poaching fish in North Korean waters, according to an investigation by the Irish Times.

In March 2020, two countries reported that 800 Chinese fishing vessels violated the sanctions placed on North Korean fishing waters. The sanctions were intended to prevent the North from selling the rights to fish in those waters. The area is a heavily-contested and poorly watched region of the ocean as it is but Chinese fleets compound the issue by switching off their location transponders.

Two countries provided the UN with satellite imagery that prove China is operating fishing fleets in the areas. External watchdogs estimate the Chinese have depleted the waters of stocks by up to 70 percent for some species.

The flotilla of Chinese fishing boats has also allegedly forced smaller, less well-equipped North Korean fishermen to pursue waters further from their villages, further from shore and further than their victualing can reasonably accommodate the crews of those ships. Once too far from shore, the North Korean peasants’ boats are susceptible to engine failures and storms – but don’t have the supplies to survive being adrift for very long periods.

Once the engines fail, the boats are likely caught up in the Tsushima current that runs up the west coast of the Japanese home islands. These flat-bottomed boats, filled only with fishing supplies and a few jugs of water, are usually found with tattered North Korean flags, and heavily decomposed bodies, if any remains are found at all.

The fishermen chase squid populations and end up with dead engines in the middle of the ocean, where they will probably spend the rest of their days, dying of thirst or exposure.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5,200 troops sent to southwest border, Northcom says

The Defense Department will deploy more than 5,000 active-duty personnel to aid the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to harden the southern border,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command.

“Border security is national security,” the general said at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan Building Oct. 29, 2018. He briefed the press alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan.

The active-duty troops will be participating in Operation Faithful Patriot, the general said.


“As we sit here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas,” the general said. The troops are coming from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, Kentucky.

“By the end of this week we will deploy over 5,200 soldiers to the Southwest border,” he said. “That is just the start of this operation. We will continue to adjust the numbers and inform you of those.”

The active duty soldiers will join 2,092 National Guardsmen participating in Operation Guardian Support. The deployment “fully adheres to our current authorities and governed by law and policy,” the general said. The troops that deploy with weapons will carry them, the general said.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, discusses the Defense Department deployment to the Southwest border during a joint news conference in Washington, Oct. 29, 2018.

The troops will be in support of law enforcement with Customs and Border Protection, McAleenan said. The agency is facing something new. “What is new and challenging about this caravan phenomenon is the formation of multiple large groups, which present unique safety and border security threats,” he said at the news conference. “Due to the large size of the potential caravans that may arrive at the border, however, the Department of Homeland Security has further requested the support of the Department of Defense.”

The agency has requested aid in air and ground transportation, and logistics support, to move CBP personnel where needed. Officials also asked for engineering capabilities and equipment to secure legal crossings, and medical support units. CBP also asked for housing for deployed Border Protection personnel and extensive planning support.

Two caravans 

The commissioner said there are two caravans that the agency is watching. One has already made illegal entry across two international borders, and the second – still in Guatemala – “has deployed violent and dangerous tactics against Guatemalan and Mexican border security teams,” he said. “Accordingly, we are preparing for the contingency of a large group of arriving persons intending to enter the United States in the next several weeks.

Operation Faithful Patriot will harden the U.S. border with Mexico. “In a macro sense, our concept of operations is to flow in our military assets with a priority to build up Southern Texas then Arizona and then California,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We will reinforce along priority points of entry to enhance CBPs ability to harden and secure the border.”

Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will bring their experience to the border, the general said. They will be joined by three combat engineer battalions with expertise in building temporary barriers and fencing. The battalions will bring their heavy equipment “which as we speak is long hauling toward Texas,” the general said.

Military planning teams are already engaged with CBP counterparts.

The military is also providing three medium lift helicopter companies and military police units. There are already three C-130 Hercules and one C-17 Globemaster III aircraft standing by to provide strategic airlift for CBP.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 essentials for that ‘super-serious-ROTC-kid’


Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Energy drink

If you’re a true super-serious-ROTC-kid it is an absolute must that you have an energy drink on you at all times. You can’t get your hands on an actual Rip-It yet, but don’t let that stop you from letting people know that you’re in the military.

It doesn’t matter what kind you have: Monster, Red Bull, some random off-brand one you found at Big Lots called like “Pulse” or something—it doesn’t matter, just have one. You’re on a college campus swarming with seas of people zonked out on Adderall, and you simply don’t have that luxury.

You need an equally unhealthy way to spike your energy levels in the early morning. So chase down that convenience store donut with an energy drink during your 8 a.m. You were up at 6 a.m for PT, right? You need 24 ounces of gasoline and sugar.

And that’s exactly what you’ll tell every student within earshot who didn’t ask.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
Giphy

Always using military time

If you truly want to be a super-serious-ROTC kid, then when someone asks you what time it is—answer in military time. No matter what. Class at 4 p.m.? Nope. Class at 1600. Throw in a “0” before the time for bonus points. Even if it’s wrong. Now I know what you’re thinking, “But what if someone asks me for the time, and it’s not after 1200?” Easy. Shoehorn it in, let them know you’re ROTC.

Example:

student: Hey, do you know what time the McDonalds on campus stops selling egg mcmuffins?

super serious ROTC kid: At 11 a.m… And, in case you’re wondering, they close every night at 2200.

student: Oh, uh. Okay. Thanks?

Well done. Another pleb slightly confused unnecessarily, super-serious-ROTC-kid.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Digital watch

Okay, so, oddly enough… This one doesn’t use military time.

But every single other super-serious-ROTC-kid has one on their wrist for some reason, so don’t be caught without one of these bad boys. Be sure to get one with a velcro strap so you sound like the shoe rack at a nursing home every time you try to take it off before a test.

Bonus points if you buy the model that is permanently loaded with the function of beeping every 4 (also known as 04) hours, with no way of turning it off. Your classmates will look at you, and they will know. And you will nod and give them a thumbs up.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Fort Sam Houston hosts annual Military Appreciation Weekend

Wrap around sunglasses

Thor has his hammer. Legolas had his bow and arrow. Super-serious-ROTC-kids have their wrap around sunglasses. An important note with these, however—due to new union regulations, if they are not bleach-white/midnight black Oakleys—they must have a neck lanyard attachment.

Indoors: they must be worn on your face over your eyes. Outside: it’s optional, but if you want bonus points prop them atop your head on your bent billed baseball hat.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Camo tactical backpack

“Woah buddy! Almost didn’t see all your schoolwork there. Your digital camo backpack blends in with all these massive red brick buildings like a chameleon.” That’s the kind of stealth and tactical advantage you will have over all your classmates dressed in loud throwback NBA jerseys and pastel-colored khaki shorts.

Do you need a tactical backpack to carry notebooks and old Lunchables you forgot to throw away? If you want to be a super-serious-ROTC-kid you do.

A super-serious-ROTC-kid must also fill the backpack to the brim. It doesn’t matter with what: bundled up sweatshirts, copies of “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” or literal bricks—just make sure it bulges outward behind you no less than 2 (also known as 02) feet.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

A good mustache

Without this—nothing else matters.

Every super-serious-ROTC-kid since the dawn of time has had this. This tight bristled lip tickler is to you what flowing locks of hair were to Samson.

It is not to be confused with the super-serious-police-academy-kid mustache. Those are bulky, rounded, and accompanied by aviator sunglasses.

Note: your hair does not have to be in regs, but if you want it to match the mustache, maintain a nice tight fade.

Congratulations. You’re now a super-serious-ROTC-kid.

Articles

NASA has a job opening for someone to defend Earth from aliens

US government scientists work hard to protect the public.


Some study infectious diseases and effective treatments. Others ensure that drugs, food, vehicles, or consumer products live up to their claims and don’t harm anyone.

But the concerns at NASA’s headquarters are, quite literally, extraterrestrial — which is why the space agency now has a job opening for “planetary protection officer.”

The gig? Help defend Earth from alien contamination, and help Earth avoid contaminating alien worlds it’s trying to explore.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
USAF photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley

The pay? A six-figure salary, from $124,406 to $187,000 a year, plus benefits.

A rare and cosmically important position

While many space agencies hire planetary protection officers, they’re often shared or part-time roles.

In fact, only two such full-time roles exist in the world: one at NASA and the other at the European Space Agency.

That’s according to Catharine Conley, NASA’s only planetary protection officer since 2014. Business Insider interviewed Conley most recently in March.

“This new job ad is a result of relocating the position I currently hold to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, which is an independent technical authority within NASA,” Conley told Business Insider in an email on Tuesday. (She did not say whether she planned to reapply for the position, which is held for at least three years but may be extended to five years.)

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
Catharine Conley, NASA’s sole planetary protection officer. Photo from Paul E. Alers/NASA

The position was created after the US ratified the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, specifically to support Article IX of the document:

“States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.”

Part of the international agreement is that any space mission must have a less than 1-in-10,000 chance of contaminating an alien world.

“It’s a moderate level,” Conley previously told Business Insider. “It’s not extremely careful, but it’s not extremely lax.”

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
Photo from NASA.

This is why NASA’s planetary protection officer occasionally gets to travel to space centers around the world and analyze planet-bound robots. The officer helps ensure we don’t accidentally contaminate a pristine world that a probe is landing on — or, more often, is zooming by and photographing.

For example, Congress and the president have given NASA the green light to explore Europa, an icy, ocean-hiding, and potentially habitable moon of Jupiter. The goal of the initial $2.7 billion Europa Clipper mission is not to land on the moon, though, but to map its surface and look for clues about its hidden ocean and habitability.

Still, there’s a chance the robot could crash-land — so someone like Conley comes in to mitigate risk.

Conversely, the officer helps ensure something from another world, most imminently Mars, doesn’t contaminate Earth.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
The oceans of Mars. Illustration from European Southern Observatory.

The red planet is a frequent target for NASA because it’s similar to Earth. It may have once been covered in water and able to support life, which is why many scientists are pushing hard for a Mars sample return mission, ostensibly to seek out signs of aliens.

While the expectation is not to scoop up freeze-dried Martian microbes — only ancient, microscopic fossils — there’s always the chance of contamination once those samples are in earthbound labs.

Again, this is where the planetary protection officer and her team come in. They help establish the equipment, protocols, and procedures to reduce such risks.

“The phrase that we use is ‘Break the chain of contact with Mars,'” Conley previously said.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
Photo from NASA JPL

No one ever said defending Earth had to be glorious all the time, though — Conley said a typical week mostly involved a lot of emails and reading studies, proposals, and other materials.

Who qualifies as a candidate

An out-of-this-world job like Conley’s requires some equally extraordinary qualifications.

A candidate must have at least one year of experience as a top-level civilian government employee, plus have “advanced knowledge” of planetary protection and all it entails.

If you don’t have “demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance,” you may be wasting your time by applying.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other
Photo from NASA.

The job involves a lot of international coordination — space exploration is expensive, and the costs are frequently shared by multiple nations — so NASA needs someone with “demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions.”

Did we mention the advanced degree in physical science, engineering, or mathematics? You should have that on your résumé, too.

The job comes with a “secret” security clearance, and non-citizens aren’t technically eligible, thanks to an executive order signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976.

NASA is accepting applications at USAJobs.gov from July 13 through August 14.

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