Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, a 10th Mountain Soldier who gave his life shielding Polish Army Lieutenant Karol Cierpica from a suicide bomber while deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James McConville, during a ceremony on Staten Island, New York June 8.
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army.
“Every generation has its heroes,” McConville said during his remarks. “Michael Ollis is one of ours.”
Robert Ollis, the father of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, greets Karol Cierpica, the Polish army lieutenant who Michael Ollis gave his life for on June 8, 2019 outside the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis Veterans of Foreign War post on Staten Island, N.Y.
(Photo Credit: Sgt. Jerod Hathaway)
Staff Sgt. Ollis’s father and sister, Robert Ollis and Kimberly Loschiavo, received the award from McConville at a Veterans of Foreign War post named in Ollis’s honor.
“Through the tears, we have to tell the story of Karol and Michael,” said Robert Ollis during the ceremony. “They just locked arms and followed each other. They didn’t worry about what language or what color it was. It was two battle buddies, and that’s what Karol and Michael did. To help everyone on that FOB they possibly could.”
The Distinguished Service Cross ceremony, held in a small yard just outside the VFW post, was packed with veterans, friends and Family members who all came to honor him.
Robert Ollis, the father of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, talks with General James C. McConville on June 8, 2019 inside the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis Veterans of Foreign War Post on Staten Island, N.Y.
(Photo Credit: Sgt. Jerod Hathaway)
“I was privileged to serve with Michael and Karol when I was the 101st Airborne Division commanding general in Regional Command East while they were deployed,” said McConville. “Their actions that day in August against a very determined enemy saved many, many lives.”
To close out the weekend, a 5 kilometer run will be held to commemorate the memory of Staff Sgt. Ollis and to raise money for veterans.
These are all words that have been used to describe military kids. They’ve certainly earned these badges of honor, but military kids are still young and in need of strong guidance along the windy road of military life.
And along the way, we parents often hear the chorus of military life echoing in our minds:
Are the kids okay?
Even as we are proud of them for adapting to big challenges and embracing the world’s diversity, we still wonder how our military kids feel deep down inside. And we still hope they know that they can rely on us, talk to us, trust us.
When we’re caught wondering, we can turn to practical strategies that are proven to strengthen relationships between parents and children. Doing so is more productive than wondering and worrying, and the results might just give us the answer to that echoing question.
The next time you’re wondering, give these four strategies a try:
Break out the art supplies
(Photo by Nicolas Buffler)
Engaging in artwork is not only a great way for children (and adults) to express their emotions, it’s also a great way to bond and relax.
Developmental psychologist Richard Rende studied the effects of parents and children engaging in creative work together. Children experienced cognitive, social and emotional benefits, but Rende also emphasized that 95 percent of moms reported that the quality time spent with their kids was one of the most important benefits.
The Cleveland Clinic’s clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea notes that people can feel calmer by coloring in books like the popular mosaic coloring books. He describes this as a “meditative exercise,” which helps people relax and de-stress.
If you can’t stomach complicated projects involving paints and glue, then opt for plain paper and markers or coloring books. The creative activity will be pleasurable, allowing your minds to take a break from worrying about deployments and transitions, and enjoy special time together in the process.
Good conversations don’t have to resemble a session with Freud, but the more you show your kids that you’re focusing on them and nothing else, the better. So leave your phone at home or keep it tucked in your purse or pocket. Do what you have to do to resist its temptation, so that you and your kids can enjoy talking, uninterrupted.
Go for a walk, have a picnic or take your kids out for a “date.” Ask simple questions about school or friends, and follow their lead from there. If a deployment or a PCS is approaching, ask them how they’re feeling about it. If they tell you, great – validate their feelings and help process them. But, if they don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay, too.
Clinical psychologist and developer of Parenting for Service Members and Veterans Peter Shore says, “Recognize and respect when children don’t want to talk, but be available when they’re ready.”
Tell them how you’re feeling, too. Military kids might not realize that their strong, confident parents also get nervous and frustrated (and excited and optimistic!) about major events in military life. Sharing your feelings and talking about how you cope with them will set a good example and build trust.
Create your own traditions
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey)
Traditions don’t have to be only about Christmas morning and birthday dinners – you can think outside the box and create traditions that are unique to your family and reflect your unique military life.
These can be as simple as family dinners, family game night or reading before bedtime. But you can also design traditions out of activities your family enjoys or the location where you’re currently stationed. If your family is adventurous, make the first Saturday of every month “Adventure Saturday,” and explore a different part of your current location. If you’re crafty, devote the first Sunday of every month to creating something to decorate your home or send to a family member.
As long as the focus is on the family bonding through that activity (i.e., no screens are on or within reach!), these moments can serve as special, reliable traditions that your children will grow to rely on and value, especially during times of added stress.
Open a book
(Photo by Neeta Lind)
Reading aloud to your kids, even when they’re independent readers, is one of the best ways to build a strong relationship with your child. Research shows that when parents read aloud to their children, the very sound of their voice is calming, and the feeling of being snuggled up on a bed or a couch provides a sense of security. This simple activity can be a welcome balance to the uncertain times of deployment or PCS.
Reading aloud can also prompt important conversations. When you read, pause and empathize with characters, or relate your own experiences to situations that occur in the story. Encourage your children to do the same, and remain open to discussing how stories relate to emotions and experiences in military life.
Reading just about any book will provide you with a great tool to bond with your military kid, but you can find suggestions for age-appropriate books that relate to military life here.
Even if you’re pretty convinced that the kids are, indeed, okay, trying one of these strategies could still reap some valuable rewards. Using the Month of the Military Child as an opportunity to make one of these activities a common practice in your house will show your military kids that you’re proud of them and you love them – something that even the toughest, most adaptable and most resilient kids still need to know.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has completed his policy review on transgender individuals serving in the military and his recommendations are likely to be forwarded to the White House late February 2018, the Pentagon said Feb. 21, 2018.
Pentagon spokesmen said the review and recommendations would be conveyed privately and disclosure would be up to the White House.
Mattis was under a Feb. 21 2018 deadline to complete the report that came about after President Trump caught the military by surprise July 2017 in sending out Tweets calling for a ban on transgender individuals in the ranks.
Trump said he wanted the future policy to be that the U.S. “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”
In August 2017, Trump issued a memo directing Mattis to conduct a review led by a panel of experts and make recommendations by Feb. 21, 2018.
Trump’s ban would reverse the directive issued by former President Barack Obama in 2016 that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly for the first time.
Trump’s proposals triggered a series of lawsuits by advocacy groups and four federal district courts have now ruled that a ban would be unconstitutional. The courts also ordered that the recruitment of transgender individuals should resume on Jan. 1, 2018 and the military has complied.
Mattis strongly endorsed the new rules for the military setting out that those who cannot deploy for 12 consecutive months should be discharged. Exceptions would be made for pregnancies and troops wounded or injured in combat.
There has been speculation that the “deployability” rules could be used against transgender individuals, but Matt Thorn, president of the OutServe-SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) advocacy group said that deployments were not generally a problem for transgender individuals currently serving.
“We don’t expect that policy to have much impact,” Thorn said of the new rules on deployments. “Most transgender individuals are deployable by the 12-month marker.”
The Defense Department has repeatedly declined to give an estimate on how many transgender individuals are currently serving. A Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the Reserves and National Guard.
The Bradley Fighting Vehicle has been around for a long time. It’s become a mainstay of the United States Army, although it hasn’t had quite as much export success as the M1 Abrams. Still, the Bradley is much beloved by the military community.
In the early 80s, however, when the Bradley was a spry, new armored fighting vehicle, it had more than its fair share of critics.
By now, many of us are very familiar with this vehicle. There’s the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and the M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CFV). Both systems come with a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, an M240 7.62mm machine gun, and the ability to launch the BGM-71 TOW missile.
These two M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting vehicles combined for 3,000 rounds of 25mm ammo, 24 TOW missiles, and four cavalry scouts.
(US Army photo by SGT Randall M. Yackiel)
The big difference between the IFV and the CFV is how much ammo they carry. The M2 Bradley IFV carries 900 rounds for the Bushmaster and a total of seven TOW missiles. The M3, however, carries 1,500 rounds for the chain gun and 12 TOWs. The trade-off here is in the number of grunts each vehicle can carry in addition to its three-man crew. The IFV carries up to eight additional troops while the CFV has room for two cavalry scouts.
Despite its impressive firepower, in the 1980s, the Bradley got trashed in the media. US News and World Report listed it among the “worst weapons” in the American arsenal. Others pronounced the Bradley as a coffin, “ready to burn.” Many wanted the Army to stick with the simple M113. Now, the M113 wasn’t a bad vehicle, but it lacked firepower.
The latest Bradley IFVs feature many improvements, but still pack a 25mm Bushmaster and the TOW missile.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Johancharles Van Boers)
As we all know, Desert Storm proved the Bradley had the stuff for the troops. It performed well, which quieted critics and, since then, it’s seen a number of improvements. Despite these upgrades, however, the Army has plans for a replacement.
But before the Army introduces a new vehicle, check out how the Bradley was introduced to the United States and our troops in the video below!
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has raised the possibility of conflict between his army and U.S. forces in Syria if they do not withdraw from the country soon — prompting a warning from the Pentagon.
In an interview with Russia’s RT television on May 31, 2018, Assad asserted that he is willing to negotiate with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are allied with and embedded with U.S. forces and currently hold about one-quarter of Syria’s territory.
But he said he will reclaim their territory by force, if necessary.
“The only problem left in Syria is the SDF,” Assad told RT, adding he sees “two options” for solving the “problem.”
“The first one: We started now opening doors for negotiations. Because the majority of them are Syrians, supposedly they like their country. They don’t like to be puppets to any foreigners,” Assad said in English.
“We have one option: to live with each other as Syrians. If not, we’re going to resort…to liberating those areas by force.”
Assad added that “the Americans should leave.” He said Washington should learn a “lesson” from its experience in Iraq.
“People will not accept foreigners in this region anymore,” he said.
Assad’s threat to use force against U.S. allies in Syria and about 2,000 American troops providing them with air support and training prompted a warning from the Pentagon.
“Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking U.S. forces or our coalition partners will be a bad policy,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff, said at a press conference in Washington on May 31, 2018.
The U.S. State Department also said that while Washington is not seeking conflict with Syria, it would use “necessary and proportionate force” to defend U.S. and partner forces, which have teamed up to fight Islamic State militants in the region.
In the RT interview, Assad responded sharply to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent description of him as an “animal,” saying, “What you say is what you are.”
Backed by Russian air power and Iranian and Hizbullah militias on the ground, Assad’s forces have gained significant ground in recent months in the seven-year civil war that has killed an estimated half a million people and driven another 5 million abroad as refugees.
After regaining control of Syria’s two largest cities — Aleppo and Damascus — Assad this spring set his sights on areas in the country that remain outside his control and in rebel hands.
The Kurdish militia group SDF that is backed by the United States holds the largest area of Syrian territory outside government control, but it has tried to avoid direct clashes with the government during the multisided war.
Kino Gabriel, a spokesman for the SDF, said in response to Assad’s comments that a military solution would “lead to more losses and destruction and difficulties for the Syrian people.”
The SDF wants a “democratic system based on diversity, equality, freedom, and justice” for all the country’s ethnic and religious groups, he said in a voice message to Reuters.
Assad in the RT interview also sought to minimize the extent of Iran’s presence in Syria. Israel, which is alarmed by what it claims is a growing Iranian military presence in Syria, has recently destroyed dozens of military sites that it claimed were occupied and used by Iranian forces and Hizbullah militias.
But Assad said Iran’s presence in Syria has been limited to officers assisting the army. Apparently referring to a May 10, 2018 air strike by Israel, Assad said: “We had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian casualty.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent Britain-based war-monitoring group, has said at least 68 Iranians and pro-Iranian forces have been killed in Israeli air strikes since April 2018.
How far would you go to reunite with a symbol you love?
For one Iraqi man, it took 13 years, 7,474 miles, help from a family member, a trip to an isolated field, and a rusty can to reclaim a treasured part of his life — an American flag.
Staff Sgt. Ahmed* shared how reuniting with the America flag changed the course of his life as he spoke to the Iron Soldiers of 1st Battalion “Bandits,” 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Sept. 11, on East Fort Bliss.
More than 200 soldiers listened intently as Ahmed gave tribute to the Bandits he served and fought with during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Remembering the Bandit legacy
In 2003, Ahmed was serving as the official military translator for the Iron Soldiers of the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. His assignment was to translate for the unit’s command team during meetings with local dignitaries and special missions. After a few months, however, the Iraqi native began to work heavily with infantry troops and accompanied them on raids, night missions and surveillances through downtown Baghdad.
The now 37-year-old vividly described the core of his job as working with U.S. soldiers, becoming part of their team and sharing in their comradery.
Staff Sgt. Ahmed speaks to Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division during a ceremony held at the 1-37 AR motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)
“I wanted to help these U.S. soldiers,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of rebuilding the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army. When I got the chance to become a linguist for the Bandits, I witnessed, learned and experienced many things.”
Ahmed recounted images filled with watching local streets in Iraq swarmed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks, convoys and barbed-wire fences. He said that even at a young age, he had a drive to bring change into his country. He added that although his own family was proud, and they respected his decision to help U.S. troops, he had to remain cautious, as the war-torn county remained in turmoil.
Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers, who believed in him enough to invite him into their inner circle of trust during his time with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. They continued working together on missions and conducting local surveillances. During this time, he began to appreciate the strength and core values of the U.S. Army and its soldiers.
“I began to see the Army as a melting pot,” he said. “There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity. As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood.”
Ahmed said the Bandits’ last ambush toward Fallujah was a memory that will always stay with him. It was an intense mission and not every soldier survived.
“You are never prepared to lose a comrade,” he said. “On that mission, I lost my best friend, Sgt. Scott Larson. It was hard to believe. These soldiers were the same age as me and we all bonded; we formed a team.”
When the Bandits’ deployment was extended and assigned to a different area of operation, the soldiers presented Ahmed with an American flag. Each of the soldiers signed the flag to solidify their loyalty and friendship. He recalled how proud and honored he felt to receive it.
“It meant so much to me to become a part of the team with these great soldiers,” he said. “I saw their discipline and integrity every day, and I was honored that they gave this U.S. flag to me.”
Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers. In 2005, two years after his time with the Bandits, he decided to take the flag to his home in Baghdad; he wanted to hang it in his room. He protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag. But, while traveling home, his bus driver received a call that there was an anti-American checkpoint ahead.
Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division with Staff Sgt. Ahmed pose after a ceremony held at the 1-37 motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)
Ahmed knew he could lose his life if he was caught with an American flag. In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway. He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using and old-rusty tin can as a shovel.
Why I serve
Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008. Inspired by his time with the Bandits and seeing their dedication for upholding the Army values, he took the oath of enlistment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and become a U.S. soldier. He now lives in California and serves as a staff sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve.
In 2016 Ahmed’s parents made a special trip from Iraq to visit him and celebrate his accomplishments. But before his parents departed the country, Ahmed called his father with one special request – locate the buried flag and bring it with him to the United States.
“Even though more than a decade had passed since I buried the flag in Iraq, I knew exactly where it was buried, and I instructed my father to please bring it to the U.S.,” said Ahmed. “When my father told me he had located the flag, a part of me was alive again.”
The proud father and husband said his dream came true when he arrived at Fort Bliss Sept. 11 carrying the framed flag and sharing its legacy with a new era of Bandits.
“The flag finally made it home,” said Ahmed. “I think of these soldiers every day when I put on my Army uniform and display the flag on my shoulder. Today, I did not see faces and ranks, but as I looked around, I saw the Old Ironsides patch and friendships that will last a lifetime. Larson did not live to see his flag again, but these soldiers did.”
For Cpl. James Klingel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT, seeing and hearing Ahmed was inspirational.
“I was shocked that the flag was buried for so long, had traveled so far, and still looks amazing,” he said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter how much time passes by. We still have the same Army traditions and the same Army values that should always be upheld, and deeply respected.”
Iran’s malignant influence is the most significant threat to Middle East security, according to the top U.S. general in the region.
The Middle East remains a highly unstable region, ripe for continued conflict, Army Gen. Joseph Votel warned the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday. Of the multitude of challenges in the region, Iran is the primary concern in the long term, according to the general.
“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”
He added that Iran’s support of the Assad regime in Syria and exploitation of Shia Muslim population centers are parts of its “malign influence.”
Votel’s assessment comes after a significant increase in Iranian provocation in the Middle East over the last several months. Iranian naval vessels harass U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf using boat swarm tactics and the regime in Tehran continues its fiery rhetoric against the U.S. and its allies.
Iran has also continued to support various proxy groups across the Middle East, including the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, which is actively engaged against the U.S. and Saudi-supported government. The Popular Mobilization Units, a conglomerate of mostly Shia militia units backed by Iran, continue to play a major role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, allowing Iran to continue to entrench itself in the Iraqi government.
“Since Iran cannot strike the U.S. homeland conventionally the way the United States can strike the Iranian homeland with near impunity, Tehran seeks ways to balance the deterrence equation by threatening U.S. interests worldwide through proxy terrorism and asymmetric operations,” said J. Matthew McCinnis, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in Iranian strategy, while testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in December.
McInnis added that Iran will likely continue to use proxy groups as a means of deterrence against the U.S., meaning Votel and the U.S. military will likely continue to face an Iranian threat for some time to come.
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Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot Parris Island is a sacred place that shapes everyday citizens into United States Marines. The journey from recruit in training to United States Marine is unforgettable and some even describe it as the best worst time of their life. Once a Marine leaves the island, most may never return.
U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, were given the opportunity to visit MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina during a professional military education trip on June 14, 2019.
The day started off with the Marines visiting the famous yellow footprints, the place where the training begins. They then made their way to the receiving bay where all recruits are allotted one phone call home to let their families know they arrived safely, followed by a tour of a recruit living quarters.
U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, pose for a group photo with Brig. Gen. James Gylnn, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and Sgt. Major William Carter, sergeant major of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
“Going back to MCRD Parris Island was an overwhelming feeling,” said Pfc. Johnny Francis, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 23, 2019, now a motor vehicle operator with 2nd TSB. “It is the place that broke me, made me want to give up, but also gave me the courage to keep going and in turn allowed me to become a United States Marine.”
Marines pride themselves on being the best, and it all starts at recruit training. The Marine Corps has the longest entry level training of any of the four branches.
U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, walk down the road at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.
Recruits endure 13 weeks of rigorous physical, mental, and spiritual challenges. Under 24/7 watch and care of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor, recruits are completely stripped of their civilian habits and relearn everything the Marine Corps way.
“Getting to see recruit training as a Marine made me understand why we are held to such a high standard,” said Lance Cpl. Charlene Yabut, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 29, 2018, now a landing support specialist with 2nd TSB. “Those recruits don’t know it yet but they will remember everything that was drilled into their head. Being a Marine takes everything you have to offer every day and without the foundation that is laid here, we wouldn’t be the U.S. Marines.”
U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Nicholas Underwood with Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, gives Marines from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group a tour of Company K’s recruit living quarters at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
2nd TSB ended their trip on the island with witnessing 570 new Marines from P and M Company march and graduate on the Pete Ross Parade Deck.
Graduation day marks the end of recruit training; it is the culminating and most awaited day by all new Marines.
“We wanted to bring the Marines from our unit here to allow them to reflect and remind them that we all stepped foot on those yellow footprints for a reason; we all wanted to become Marines,” said Capt. Brian Hassett, Alpha Company Commander, 2nd TSB, CLR 2, 2nd MLG. “We have earned the title, but it doesn’t end there. We have to keep working hard, stay dedicated and be prepared for when America calls.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Weight was the issue. The B-25B, carrying a full combat load, was just too heavy to takeoff from the deck of the USS Hornet.
While the nation was still reeling in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, Chief of Staff of the Army Air Force, assigned Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle to conduct a bombing mission on Tokyo to disrupt Japanese aggression and momentum and embolden the American public for the task ahead.
A seemingly impossible mission, as the United States had no aircraft with enough range to reach the Japanese home islands from any U.S. or allied nation’s runways.
The attack would have to be launched from the sea. However, carrier-based aircraft could only carry one or two small bombs each and had such short range that one of the U.S.’s precious few carriers would have to approach dangerously close to Japan, making it an easy target. The mission was seemingly over before it began.
Until the airmen examined the problem from a unique perspective – perhaps a longer range B-25B bomber, never designed to launch from an aircraft carrier, could be stripped of enough excess weight to launch at sea, bomb the target and then fly on to friendly airfields in China.
U.S. Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell bombers launch from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet on April 18, 1942 to bomb the Japanese home islands in what came to be known as the Doolittle Raid.
On April 18, 1942 Doolittle’s Raiders did just that, launching off the deck of the Hornet, with wooden broomsticks in place of machine guns to save weight and extra fuel tanks to make the journey, and successfully completed their mission over Japan.
While bombers haven’t flown off a carrier since, the same spirit of innovation and trust in airmen that made the Doolittle raid possible is still alive and well in today’s Air Force.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein has challenged leaders across the force to take risks, trust their people and embrace failure as a way to learn and grow.
One unit, the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, welcomed this idea with open arms.
A mobile chase car driver pursues a U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft during its landing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2015. Mobile chase car drivers act as a second pair of eyes and ears for U-2 pilots during their launch and landings, radioing adjustments to the aircraft to make up for the pilot’s limited sight of the runway. Pilots of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron have procured GPS-style aviation watches that aid pilots in communicating with ground chase crews and collect inflight data to help with training, tracking physiological aspects of the pilots.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)
“The path that we’re making for our new initiatives is actually modeled off the Doolittle Raider patch, and we actually look to that for inspiration,” said Capt. Syed, 99th RS pilot. “They achieved something in a moment of national crisis, and really lifted morale and mood of the nation by doing something everybody thought was impossible, and what we’re trying to do in our little squadron with a few people, is to change the make up and the culture, so that when people come into work they’re happy, they feel empowered, and the leadership has enabled that.”
Syed saw a need in the aging U2 and T-38 airframes around him that could be met by using off-the-shelf products. One was a GPS-style aviation watch that would aid pilots and collect inflight data to help with training, tracking physiological aspects of the pilots and, in some instances, aid in safely returning an aircraft when mishaps occur.
“It wasn’t anything that I did, it was really what the culture and the environment of this organization allowed us to do,” Syed said. “We were able to go from thought to having it on our wrist in 100 days. And in other organizations of the Defense Department, I think that’s almost impossible.”
Discover the future: A simple but powerful charge put forth by Lt. Col. Matthew Nussbaum, 99th RS commander, has invigorated his squadron with the willingness and enthusiasm to seek out what is possible within the constraints of the DoD.
Lt. Col. Matthew Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, fosters a command climate that encourages his airmen to start projects without being afraid of failing. Products of his command range from resourcing their own aviation watches to creating software applications built by 99th RS members that can benefit flying squadrons.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)
“There’s those that value initiative, mission command, execution, freedom of maneuver, but there’s a law of physics, so to speak, a law of humanity that bureaucracy grows. In the U.S. military, and the Air Force in particular, that bureaucracy has grown, and slowed us down,” said Nussbaum.
The culture of innovation being developed at the 99th is driving change, agility and initiative while disempowering the bureaucracy and putting the power of decision-making and freedom of maneuver back in its member’s hands, says Nussbaum.
In many ways, the 99th RS is similar to most Air Force squadrons, but what makes it stand out is its quest for information and learning.
“Knowledge is the key to everything,” said Maj. Ray, 99th RS pilot. “For us, in the case of being able to self resource and self heal, we’ve gotten into different areas to which we aren’t familiar like U.S. code, the defense, federal and Air Force acquisition regulation, and all these different entities, and what we’re discovering is that knowledge gives you the freedom to maneuver.”
Members of the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron prepare Lt. Col. Jeff Klosky for a U-2 Dragon Lady mission, April 19, 2014, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf)
Ray and Syed credit their leadership with giving them the leniency and the freedom to be able to try and experiment, discover, learn and learn about learning. This symbiotic leader-follower relationship has allowed the team to progress rapidly.
“It’s a dynamic instability, F-16s are agile airplanes because they’re inherently unstable,” Ray said. “We’re not trying to destabilize command and control of the organization, what we’re trying to do is effect that same command and control at the user level – at the level of those who are out fighting and defending their nation. To resource them, and allow them to resource themselves, in ways people previously did not think was possible.”
Maj. Ray and Capt. Syed are 99th Reconnaissance Squadron who took initiative in learning the acquisitions process in order to make sure their squadron is equipped and ready to execute the mission.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)
Freedom of maneuver isn’t without challenges, though. Some of the toughest challenges come from the individuals themselves and learning to work as a team.
Nussbaum cautions people who think the frozen middle is a place that exists in a certain group of people but instead that it is in all of us. A whole team approach is key to mission accomplishment and having the tolerance to let others try problem solving in their own way is vital. Allowing everyone to have a chance to participate and come up with solutions adds a sense of ownership and fun to the process.
Like Doolittle, the 99th and the Air Force face many challenges that require new approaches and open-mindedness. Untethering unit members to give freedom to explore all avenues of problem solving is a progressive way ahead and one the Air Force is taking seriously.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Generally, American presidents feel an obligation to see situations firsthand when they commit troops to war. To wit, here are 27 times commanders-in-chief left the White House and headed for combat zones:
1. FDR visits Casablanca as Allied forces assault Tripoli, January 1943
2. FDR visits the Mediterranean island of Malta to confer with Winston Churchill, February 1945
3. Roosevelt meets Stalin and Churchill at Yalta, February 1945
4. Ike goes to Korea, December 1952
5. LBJ stops in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1966
6. LBJ returns to Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1967
7. Nixon visits in Saigon, South Vietnam, July 1969
8. Reagan stops at the Korean DMZ for lunch, November 1983
President Reagan in the food line during his trip to the Republic of Korea and a visit to the DMZ Camp Liberty Bell and lunch with the troops (Reagan Library photo)
9. Bush 41 drops in for Thanksgiving with U.S. troops during Desert Shield, 1990
10. Clinton with U.S. troops at Camp Casey, South Korea, 1993
11. Clinton visits U.S. troops in Bosnia, January 1996
12. Clinton returns to Bosnia in December 1997 to visit NATO and U.S. troops
13. Bush 43 grabs chow with the troops in South Korea, 2002
14. Bush 43 surprises troops in Iraq, November 2003
15. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, Osan Air Base, 2005
16. Bush 43 visits Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, March 2006
17. Bush 43 visits troops in Baghdad, June 2006
18. Bush 43 visits Al-Anbar province, Iraq, September 2007
19. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, August 2008
20. Bush 43 makes one last stop in Iraq, December 2008
21. Obama stops in Iraq to see the troops, April 2009
22. Obama stops into Osan Air Base, South Korea, November 2009
23. Obama makes his first stop at Bagram Air Base, December 2010
24. Obama visits the DMZ, South Korea, March 2012
25. Obama makes his second trip to Afghanistan, May 2012
26. Obama visits Yongsan Garrison, South Korea 2014
27. Obama makes what could be his last trip to Afghanistan, May 2014
The Iraqi Army has been pushing forward with its tanks and infantry but has not released exact numbers for what they gained on the second day of fighting. According to reporting in Al Jazeera, they liberated 20 villages in the first day.
Meanwhile, Kurdish Peshmerga forces attacked and cleared nine villages around the outskirts of Mosul, freeing 200 square kilometers from ISIS control, according to CNN.
Both the Kurdish and Iraqi commanders told reporters that they expected gains to slow after the first day. ISIS has buried IEDs along most major roads and throughout many of the nearby villages, forcing troops to slow down to avoid the explosives and to create clear paths.
Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Sirwan Barzani told CNN that it would take two months to clear the city.
The international coalition supporting the ground advance releases a daily list of targets struck by air and artillery. Four strikes were launched against ISIS forces near Mosul on Oct. 18.
The release claims that these four strikes destroyed 10 mortar systems; five artillery systems; four buildings; four fighting positions; four vehicles; two supply caches; two generators for radio repeaters; a factory for creating suicide car bombs; and a car bomb.
The coalition also hit targets around the nearby city of Qayyarah where Iraqi forces are moving towards Mosul from the south. Strikes there destroyed a mortar position, a building, a tanker truck, and a rocket-propelled grenade.
On Oct. 17, strikes in the same areas hit three tactical units, two staging areas, 12 assembly areas, a bridge, six tunnel entrances, five supply caches; four generators for radio repeaters; four solar panels; two artillery systems; two vehicles; two tunnels; and an anti-air artillery system.
All that seems to spell a pretty horrible first 48 hours for ISIS at Mosul.
Ever since the release of Star Wars back in 1977, fans have dreamed of journeying to a galaxy far, far away to hop in the cockpit and take the controls of a starfighter. With the release of Star Wars: Squadrons, that dream is closer than it has ever been. Harnessing the power of virtual reality, Squadrons allows players to take part in epic space battles piloting eight different starships. The entire game can also be played using a VR headset and joystick for increased immersion.
Squadrons puts you in the cockpit (EA Games)
Squadrons features a single-player campaign that takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi and tells the story of two rival squadrons. The player follows both Vanguard Squadron of the New Republic and Titan Squadron of the Imperial Remnant. In the wake of the Battle of Endor, the New Republic is building a new class of starship that will help them defeat the Empire once and for all. With the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, the Imperial Remnant gains wind of this new starship and seeks to stop its creation. The player will fly on both sides of the conflict, meeting both new and familiar characters along the way.
Throughout the campaign, the player will be introduced to the four different classes of ships available in Squadrons—the Fighter Class, Interceptor Class, Bomber Class, and Support Class. For the New Republic, players can fly the T-65B X-Wing Fighter, RZ-1 A-Wing Interceptor, BTL-A4 Y-Wing Bomber, and the UT-60D U-Wing Starfighter/Support Craft. With the Imperial Remnant, players can pilot the Sienar Systems TIE/In Space Superiority Starfighter, TIE/IN Interceptor, TIE/sa Bomber, and TIE/rp Reaper Attack Lander. Each ship class offers unique strengths and weaknesses and must be flown accordingly to achieve maximum combat effectiveness. For example, while interceptors are quick and agile, they are not as effective at attacking capital ships as bombers.
Highlighting the detail put into the game’s development, the starships of each faction fly as differently as the different classes as a result of differing starfighter doctrine between the New Republic and Imperial Remnant. The Rebel Alliance and subsequent New Republic placed an emphasis on pilot survivability. As a result, all of their ships carry shield generators. The Imperial Navy, however, was originally designed to maintain order, not fight a war. As a result, the TIE Fighter is unshielded, a cost-saving measure implemented by the Empire in its design. Additionally, Imperial TIE Fighter doctrine emphasized offensive operations against small uprisings. To fit this role, the TIE Fighter offers excellent forward visibility thanks to its large front window, but offers little in the way of upward and rearward visibility. Side visibility is nonexistent due to the TIE fighter’s large vertical wings.
Battles take place over a multitude of new and familiar locations (EA Games)
Each starship offers players a different experience, since they can only be flown in first-person view. Ship customization, both internally and externally, is available. Though, because players will only see the inside of their ships during combat, external modifications like paint schemes will serve more to differentiate the player to other pilots.
To further increase the game’s immersion, Squadrons gives players the option to completely remove the traditional floating HUD. Instead, players can opt to have all relevant information displayed natively on the cockpit’s dash readouts. With this option, weapon systems, engine performance, shield status (if applicable), and even radar must be read on individual screens while the player simultaneously scans the battlefield. Players must also manage these systems, transferring power between them as the situation dictates. Getting blasted from your 6 o’clock? Allocate all power to your shields to keep from getting turned into space scrap. No shields on your TIE Fighter? Overcharge those engines and get the heck out of there. Maybe you have an unsuspecting enemy fighter lined up for the kill. Send all power to your laser cannons and vaporize them.
All of these Starfighter characteristics carry over into the game’s multiplayer mode as well. Players can fly in the traditional 5v5 Dogfight mode where victory is determined by kill count, but the premiere multiplayer mode in Squadrons is Fleet Battles. These multistage conflicts start in a social hub where each team devises a strategy. Players then launch from their respective hangars and attempt to push the frontline to the enemy’s side. Depending on which way the frontline moves, teams will have to defend or attack two capital ships accordingly. The final stage will have players attacking or defending a flagship with a shield generator, power, and targeting subsystems. Crossplay is also enabled, allowing players across gaming platforms to play together.
Maintain your situational awareness (EA Games)
The game’s developer, Motive Studios, has said that the game is not a live service. While the game could be augmented with future downloadable content, Motive insisted that the game be 100% complete for release. Another oddity for a game published by EA, Squadrons does not have any type of microtransaction system. All customization options are purchased with in-game currency earned by playing the game.
Thus far, reception has been mixed. While some players embrace the challenge and immersion of such a detailed game, others find the near-simulator game style too difficult. As a result, used copies can already be found at a slight discount. With its attention to detail and level of immersion, Squadrons carries on the legacy of Star Wars dogfighting classics like Starfighter and Rogue Squadron as a huge technological evolutionary leap forward. Just be sure to loosen up and stay on target.
When the Department of Defense first started buying AR-15s, they were clean, fast-firing, and accurate weapons popular with the airmen and Special Forces soldiers who carried them. But as the Army prepared to purchase them en masse, a hatred of the weapon by bureaucrats and red tape resulted in weapon changes that made the M16s less effective for thousands of troops in Vietnam.
During a lull in the fighting in the Citadel, a Marine takes time out to clean his M16 rifle.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
(A note on measurements in this article: Most of the historical data in this article came from when the Army still used inches when discussing weapon calibers. The most common measurements are .22-caliber, roughly equal to 5.56mm ammo used in M4s today and .30-caliber, which is basically 7.62mm, like that used by some U.S. sniper rifles. There is also a reference to a proposed .27-caliber, which would have been 6.86mm).
The AR-15 was a derivative of the AR-10, an infantry rifle designed by Eugene Stoner for an Army competition. The AR-10 lost to what would become the M14. But a top Army officer was interested in smaller caliber weapons, like the AR-10, and he met with Stoner.
Gen. Willard G. Wyman was commanding the Continental Army Command when he brought an old Army report to Stoner. The report from the 1928 Caliber Board had recommended that the Army switch from heavy rifle rounds, like the popular .30-cal, to something like .27-caliber. The pre-World War II Army even experimented with .276-caliber rifles, but troops carried Browning Automatic Rifles and M1 Garands into battle in 1941, both chambered for .30-caliber.
These heavier rounds are great for marksmen and long-distance engagements because they stay stable in flight for long distances, but they have a lethality problem. Rounds that are .30-caliber and larger remain stable through flight, but they often also remain stable when hitting water, which was often used as a stand-in during testing for human flesh.
If a round stays stable through human flesh, it has a decent chance of passing through the target. This gives the target a wound similar to being stabbed with a rapier. But if the round tumbles when it hits human flesh, it will impart its energy into the surrounding flesh, making a stab-like wound in addition to bursting cells and tissue for many inches (or even feet) in all directions.
That’s where the extreme internal bleeding and tissue damage from some gunshot wounds comes from. Wyman wanted Stoner to make a new version of the AR-10 that would use .22-caliber ammunition and maximize these effects. Ammunition of this size would also weigh less, allowing troops to carry more.
Stoner and his team got to work and developed the AR-15, redesigning the weapon around a commercially available .22-caliber round filled with a propellant known as IMR 4475 produced by Du Pont and used by Remington. The resulting early AR-15s were tested by the Army and reviewed by Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay. The weapons did great in testing, and both services purchased limited quantities for troops headed to Vietnam.
Pvt. 1st Class Michael J. Mendoza (Piedmont, CA.) fires is M16 rifle into a suspected Viet Cong occupied area.
(U.S. Army Spec. 5 Robert C. Lafoon)
Approximately 104,000 rifles were shipped to Vietnam for use with the Air Force, airborne, and Special Forces units starting in 1963. They were so popular that infantrymen arriving in 1965 with other weapons began sending money home to get AR-15s for themselves. The Secretary of the Army forced the Army to take another look at it for worldwide deployment.
As the Army reviewed the weapon for general use once again, they demanded that the rifle be “militarized,” creating the M16. And the resulting rifle was held to performance metrics deliberately designed to benefit the M14 over the M16/AR-15.
These performance metrics demanded, among other things, that the rifle maintain the same level of high performance in all environments it may be used in, from Vietnam to the Arctic to the Sahara Desert; that it stay below certain chamber pressures; and that it maintain a consistent muzzle velocity of 3,250 fps.
A soldier with an M-14 watches as supplies are airdropped into Vietnam.
(Department of Defense)
It was these last two requirements that made Stoner’s original design suddenly problematic. The weapon, as designed, achieved 3,150 fps. To hit 3,250 fps required an increase in the amount of propellant, but increasing the propellant made the weapon exceed its allowed chamber pressures. Exceeding the pressure created serious, including mechanical failure.
But Remington had told civilian customers that the IMR 4475-equipped ammo did fire at 3,250 fps as is. The Army tests proved that was a lie.
There was a way around the problem: Changing the propellant. IMR 4475 burned extremely quickly. While all rifles require an explosion to propel the round out of the chamber, not all powders create that explosion at the same rate. Other propellants burned less quickly, allowing them to release enough energy for 3,250 fps over a longer time, staying below the required pressure limits and preventing mechanical failure.
The other change, seemingly never considered by the M14 lovers, was simply lowering the required muzzle velocity. After all, troops in Vietnam loved their 3,150-fps-capable AR-15s.
A first lieutenant stands with his M-16 in Vietnam.
The new powders increased the cyclic rate of the weapon from 750 rounds per minute to about 1,000 while also increasing the span of time during each cycle where powder was burning. So, unlike with IMR 4475, the weapon’s gas port would open while the powder was still burning, allowing dirty, still-burning powder to enter the weapon’s gas tube.
This change, combined with an increase in the number of barrel twists from 12 to 14 and the addition of mechanical bolt closure devices, angered the Air Force. But the Army was in charge of the program by that point, and all new M16s would be manufactured to Army specifications and would use ball powder ammunition.
Pvt. 1st Class John Henson cleans his XM16E1 rifle while on an operation 30 miles west of Kontum, Vietnam.
Rifle jams and failures skyrocketed, tripling in some tests. And rumors that M16s didn’t need to be cleaned, based on AR-15s firing cleaner propellants, created a catastrophe for infantrymen whose rifles jammed under fire, sometimes resulting in their deaths.