This is how you thank someone for their service - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how you thank someone for their service

In 2006, Gina Elise decided to support the United States’ war effort by finding a creative way to help hospitalized veterans. She created a calendar inspired by World War II nose art — and in the thirteen years since, she has devoted herself to the military community. From donating tens of thousands of dollars in medical equipment, to visiting thousands of vets at their bedside in hospitals all over the country and overseas, to supporting Gold Star Wives and military families, she has been a beacon of light for service members and their loved ones.

And this week, Mike Rowe and his team decided to return the favor in a major way.

If you’ve never heard of Pin-Ups for Vets, this moving episode of Returning the Favor is a perfect introduction to Gina, her ambassadors, and some of the inspiring veterans she has impacted along the way.

Here’s your feel-good moment of the week:



Pin-Ups for Vets

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I dare you not to cry:

Gina was informed that a production crew wanted to film a documentary about her organization. She had no idea that this was actually for the Facebook show Returning the Favor, hosted by Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs, Somebody’s Gotta Do It). The show highlights “bloody do-gooders” and presents them with a gift that will support the great work they do.

For Gina, it wasn’t too far off from her normal routine: pamper some vets and military spouses with thank you makeovers, visit service members at a local hospital, and swap stories at the American Legion. You’d never know from her bright smile and picture-perfect look how much work she put in behind the scenes to coordinate all the activities.

That’s the thing about Gina — she’s one of the most generous and hard-working people out there, especially when it comes to supporting the troops.

I should know — I’m one of the vets whose lives she has changed.

This is how you thank someone for their service

Dani Romero, Gold Star Wife.

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

This is how you thank someone for their service

Adrianne Phillips, U.S. Air Force Veteran

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

This is how you thank someone for their service

Lindsey Stacy, spouse caretaker

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

This is how you thank someone for their service

Jessica Hennessy-Phillips, Army veteran

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

This is how you thank someone for their service

Mary Massello, wife of career Navy sailor

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

“One of the things we do is morale-boosting makeovers for military wives and veterans,” begins Gina, who has seen firsthand the effect a pin-up makeover in particular can have. There’s something about it that feels a little extra special, from the classic look dating back to a heroic time in our nation’s military history, to the bright colors, to the inherent playfulness that comes with a flower in the hair.

Female veterans have said it helped them reclaim some of the femininity they put aside in the military. Spouses and caretakers often set aside their own needs but being pampered for a day helps them restore their energy and health.

Even Mike Rowe got on board with a…transformation…of his own!

This is how you thank someone for their service

Mike Rowe and Navy wife Mary Massello have some fun on set!

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

If you can’t tell from this photograph, Rowe is as playful and kind as he is the professional host America has come to love. His altruistic show is a great match for him — every minute of Gina’s week, he was full of energy, genuinely interested in the stories the service members had to share, and perfectly tight-lipped about the surprise he had in store.

More: Pin-Ups for Vets brings out the bombshell in a military caregiver

“What do you need?” he asked Gina.

“I’ve always wished that we had a big sponsor that would sponsor the rest of the tour so we could meet our goal of visiting all fifty states and veterans across the country,” she confided.

Neither Rowe nor his crew even blinked. Talk about well-practiced poker faces.

This is how you thank someone for their service

Smiles abound when Gina is in town!

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

Navy Vet Jennifer Watson tends the bar at the American Legion post in Pomona where she shared what it was like being among the first women to serve on an aircraft carrier.

“It was very hard. It was very discriminatory. You cannot help but want to be active in the fight for everybody to get what makes us equal,” she shared. “I think everybody should do a little bit of service for their country so that you understand what it is to sacrifice.”

Also read: Pin-Ups for Vets proves women can be strong AND feminine

Rowe also sat down with Josephine Keller, one of Gina’s ambassadors and a 26-year Air Force air medic. Keller was there on 25 June 1996 when Khobar Towers was bombed in Saudi Arabia. It was her first deployment and one she’ll never forget. Rowe asked her how many lives she saved. With the kind of humility that leads me to suspect the number is both very high and also tempered by the number of lives lost, Keller responded, “I was part of a team, so we have touched thousands.”

Finally, it was time for Gina to feel appreciated.

This is how you thank someone for their service

American Legion Post 43 Adjutant and Army Veteran Dianna Wilson was the “Insider” for Gina’s big surprise.

“Gina thinks we’re continuing the photoshoot at a second location, but that’s because we lied to her!” Rowe winked. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, the veteran community was gathered for a celebration. Gina is graceful and the epitome of class, even when she has absolutely no idea what’s really happening.

Which makes it that much more meaningful when Rowe finally revealed the true intention of the week. When he handed Gina the check for ,000, her reaction was completely genuine and had every person in the lot in tears — and I guarantee a few more were shed at home.

This is how you thank someone for their service

“Thank you so much for helping us to continue what we do. This is a team effort. Thank you guys for supporting this vision that I have to give back. You give me the strength to keep going. From the bottom of my heart, I love you so much and I couldn’t do it without you, so thank you,” shared Gina, as eloquent as ever — in spite of the shock.

“Print more calendars than you think. I’m not kidding. You’re gonna sell a bunch,” suggested Rowe, who accurately predicted that people from all over the country would be eager to buy one.

At a calendar, there’s really no reason not to.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US warns against Russian meddling in coming elections

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said the United States must be ready to resist attempted Russian interference in the country’s elections later this year.

“I don’t think there is any question in the [intelligence] community or at [the Department of Homeland Security] that Russians attempted to infiltrate and interfere with our electoral systems,” Nielsen said at a security forum in Colorado on July 19.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that they did it, and I think we should be prepared given that capability and will, that they’ll do it again.”


MIGHTY TRENDING

That Russian nerve agent is an old Cold War weapon

Novichok, the powerful nerve agent that British Prime Minister Theresa May says was used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, means “newcomer” in Russian. But the military-grade chemical is anything but.


Developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, novichoks are a group of advanced nerve agents designed to circumvent chemical weapons treaties and penetrate protective gear used by NATO forces.

Also read: All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

They are made of two nontoxic components that become lethal only when mixed together, making them difficult to detect and relatively safe and easy to transport and store. Once mixed, however, they are believed to be five to eight times more potent than the notorious nerve agent VX.

Dan Kaszeta, a London-based expert in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN), said on Twitter that novichoks were “specifically developed to evade the West/NATO’s detection capabilities and foil intelligence collection efforts.”

This is how you thank someone for their service
An example of a Novichok nerve agent.

Russia has vehemently denied any connection to the attack, which has left the 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter in a “critical but stable condition” at a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to the chemical on March 4, 2018.

‘Enough to kill tens of millions’

Novichoks gained notoriety in the early 1990s when Soviet scientist Vil Mirzayanov revealed that the country had secretly developed the powerful binary nerve gas that is believed to take effect rapidly by penetrating through the skin and respiratory system.

Mirzayanov, a chemist, told The New York Times in 1994 that the Russian stockpile of chemical weapons, some 60,000 tons, “would be enough to kill tens of millions.”

More: Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former head of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear regiment, told the Daily Express that novichoks are “designed to be undetectable for any standard chemical security testing.”

“Skripal would only have needed to touch it, as he opened a parcel, for it to be absorbed into his bloodstream,” he said.

This is how you thank someone for their service
CCTV image showing Skripal buying groceries and scratch cards near his Salisbury home five days before he collapsed. (Photo by ITV News)

Despite the fact that novichoks were not developed in large quantities, de Bretton-Gordon said the Russians may have enough of them to kill several hundred thousand people.

Related: Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

He also warned that there could be hidden costs as well for those who come into contact with it such as “mutations in the next generation or future generations.”

The effects of novichoks are similar to other nerve agents.

It is believed that they attack muscles, especially around the heart and lungs, causing the collapse of body functions, including respiratory and cardiac arrest.

Articles

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

In 1968, then-Maj. Colin Powell was a Ranger assigned to the Army’s 23rd Infantry Division. It was his second tour in Vietnam.


Just five years earlier, he was one of the American advisors to South Vietnam’s fledgling army. While on a foot patrol in Viet Cong-held areas in 1963, the 25-year-old Powell was wounded by a VC booby trap.

This is how you thank someone for their service
Powell in Vietnam (photo via Academy of Achievement)

He stepped on a punji stick, which the VC laced with buffalo dung. The excrement created an infection that made it difficult for him to walk.

“The Special Forces medics cut my boot off, and they could see my foot was purple by then,” Powell said in an interview with the Academy of Achievement. “The spike had gone all the way through, from the bottom to the top, and then come right back out, totally infecting the wound as it made the wound.”

That ended his time in combat. Powell was reassigned to the 1st Army of the Republic of Vietnam division headquarters for the rest of that tour.

This is how you thank someone for their service
(Academy of Achievement photo)

On his second tour in Vietnam, he was again behind a desk as the assistant Chief of Staff for the Americal Division (as the 23rd was known). Though a staff officer, when you’re a man of destiny like Colin Powell, the action comes to you.

On November 16, 1968, the helicopter transporting Maj. Powell along with the 23rd ID commander crashed.

Powell, injured but clear of the wreckage, ran back to the burning helicopter several times to rescue comrades. Though the helicopter was in danger of exploding, he continued to attempt the rescue.

When he found one passenger trapped under the mass of twisted, burning fuselage, Powell tore away the burning metal with his bare hands.

This is how you thank someone for their service

Powell was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his actions that day. He managed to rescue every passenger from the downed helicopter.

During his deployments to Vietnam, he also earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army garners new award thanks to sustainable energy

A solar power plant with energy-storage capability that went online in 2018 at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and a biofuel power plant at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, were among projects that helped the Army gain recognition in 2018 with an award from the Federal Energy Management Program.

“This was recognition for a tremendous amount of teamwork,” said Michael McGhee, executive director of the Army Office of Energy Initiatives. His office oversees and facilitates privately-funded, large-scale energy projects on Army land.


OEI has facilitated 7 million in such projects on 17 Army installations over the past five years. Many of the projects allow utility companies to use Army land in exchange for developing electricity projects more affordably. Some of these projects will save the Army money over the long-term, states the Department of Energy award, but more importantly, they also improve energy security and resilience.

Increasing threat

Energy resilience is a top priority for the Army, said Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability.

“Uninterrupted access to energy is essential to sustaining critical Army missions,” Surash testified at a House energy subcommittee hearing Dec. 12, 2018. He went on to say such uninterrupted power is becoming more challenging “as potential vulnerabilities emerge in the nation’s utility-distribution infrastructure.”

This is how you thank someone for their service

This 1-megawatt utility battery that stores energy from Redstone Arsenal’s solar array in Alabama is the first of its kind for the Army.

(US Army photo)

Threats to the grid include more sophisticated cyberattacks and more frequent severe storms, earthquakes and tsunamis, McGhee said. In consideration of these threats, current Army policy requires critical mission activities to be provided with a minimum of 14 days of energy, which McGhee emphasized is focused on the mission-critical infrastructure that must anticipate the potential for long-term power outages. He added a couple of Army installations currently also have the ability to keep the whole base operating for more than three or four days if the grid goes down.

One of them is Schofield Barracks with its biofuel plant that became operational in May.

Paradise partnership

The Oahu project exemplifies a partnership with a utility company that helps maximize the value for another party’s investment while also serving the needs of the Army, McGhee said.

Hawaiian Electric needed to build a new power plant. The older ones were typically built along the coastline because most of the people lived there and that’s where the fuel shipments came in.

“Unfortunately, that’s also where the strongest effects of a storm surge would be felt in a tsunami or other extreme-weather event,” McGhee said. So the company was looking to place its new plant on higher ground with more security and less risk.

Behind the secure perimeter of Schofield Barracks was an obvious choice, McGhee said.

The biofuel plant provides power to Oahu during peak-demand periods. It has the capability to be decoupled from the grid in case of a grid emergency, McGhee said, and Schofield Barracks has the first right to power from the plant in such an emergency.

The 50-megawatt power plant can provide 100 percent of the power needed to keep Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield and Field Station Kunia running during a grid power emergency, according to OEI.

Several days of biofuel are stored on site at the plant and 30 days are available on the island, McGhee said. The plant also uses regular fuel oil and could even be operated on liquefied natural gas, providing what he termed as even more resilience.

For emergency power design, a reliable source of fuel and the ability to use more than one type of fuel is the key to long-term sustainability of operations, he said. In the case of severe weather, resupply of fuel for back-up power often becomes a problem, he added, so having the ability to resupply from multiple sources with multiple types of fuel is desired.

“We need something more than just your standard backup of diesel generators, in order to have a more resilient solution,” McGhee said.

Compelling technology

One of the problems with energy resilience from renewable-power sources, such as solar or wind power, has been the lack of ability to store the power for use when the wind stops or the sun goes down.

Until recently, storage options have not been affordable.

“It’s not so much the technology has gotten cheaper as it is that the manufacturing has gotten to be more extensive, lowering the unit cost,” McGhee said of large-scale battery storage units.

“It’s very exciting for us, because we’ve been looking forward to this moment to couple large-scale, utility-size batteries with our existing large-scale, energy-generation projects that we helped develop,” he said.

The Redstone Arsenal project was OEI’s first foray into large-scale utility batteries, McGhee said, but added several more “are in the works” and could be part of projects in the coming year.

This is how you thank someone for their service

Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Jordan Gillis stands in the center of those who helped the Army earn recognition with a 2018 Federal Energy and Water Management Award, including to his left, Michael McGhee, director, Office of Energy Initiatives. Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability, is to the right of Gillis.

(US Army photo)

“It’s happening very quickly,” he said, “Companies are better understanding the technology, but they’re also better understanding the value proposition.” More developers are now actively seeking partners for battery-storage projects, he said.

“That technology at an affordable price enables so many other technologies and so many design options that weren’t available before.

“Large-scale affordable battery storage … provides the most compelling new option paths available that are intriguing to improving resilience on Army installations,” he added.

The 1-megawatt battery that became operational on Redstone in February can provide power for 2 megawatt hours, McGhee said, and added that future battery projects are likely to be much larger

Additional components must be added to the Redstone project to enable long-term backup power, he said. But planning is underway for a potential microgrid that could provide sustainable power at the arsenal for a long-term emergency.

Way forward

Large-scale batteries are being evaluated to possibly be added to existing projects at other installations, McGhee said.

For instance, 30-megawatt alternating-current solar photovoltaic power plants have been operating for a couple of years now on Forts Gordon, Benning and Stewart in Georgia.

Fort Rucker and Anniston Army Depot in Alabama have 10-megawatt solar projects that are part of microgrids providing energy to the installations.

Fort Detrick, Maryland, has a 15-megawatt solar project with 59,994 panels that have been providing electricity to the post since 2016.

Fort Hood, Texas has both a 15-megawatt solar array on-post and a 50-megawatt wind turbine farm off-post that have been providing electricity to Fort Hood since 2017. All of these projects could potentially benefit from large-scale battery storage, according to McGhee.

“The batteries we are looking at have a relatively small footprint and require little maintenance,” he said, adding, “they’re a very low-touch kind of technology that has tremendous benefit.”

2019 trends?

Natural Gas may be a trend for the coming year, McGhee said. The cost of natural gas has come down, he explained, making it more economical to build smaller utility electrical plants fueled by gas.

A utility company in Lawton, Oklahoma, is looking at investing in a natural gas plant along with a solar array on Fort Sill, he said. His office is working with the utility on a design and they are beginning environmental reviews. If approved, the project would utilize an “enhanced-use lease authority” where the utility company would be allowed to use the land for siting the natural gas and solar plants in return for providing a backup power capability to the installation.

This is how you thank someone for their service

This biofuel power plant at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, became operational in May 2018 and in the case of an emergency can provide all the electricity needed to operate the installation.

(Courtesy photo)

Most of the OEI projects have used either the enhanced-use lease authority or power purchase agreements to provide energy sustainability, but McGhee said he looking at other options to enhance microgrids. Controls that enable energy from plants to be more efficiently applied to installation facilities could merit direct Army funding he said.

Energy Savings Performance Contracts are another option. ESPCs involve privately-financed design and installation of equipment that provides energy savings over time and those savings then enable the government to pay back the private investment.

Utility Energy ServiceContracts, or UESCs, can also provide services to improve installation power equipment reliability, or McGhee said with more creative thinking, create microgrids.

“We’re weaving together a collection of authorities that very often are not considered in concert,” McGhee said. OEI helps garrisons that that may not have the experience or resources to be working with all the different types of authorities.

“Our office tries to bring a more integrated solution,” he said.

Teamwork for readiness

OEI actually received the FEMP Federal Energy and Water Management Award on Oct. 23 from the Department of Energy. McGhee said he accepted the award on behalf of the many commands and garrisons that helped coordinate the 11 projects above. The Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters and Districts and Centers of Expertise, Installation Management Command, Mission and Installation Contracting Command and Army Materiel Command, along with the Defense Logistics Agency, were among organizations that McGhee said deserve credit for the team award.

The award states the projects generate a total of 350 megawatts of distributed energy that help stabilize and reduce the Army’s costs while improving its security, resilience and reliability.

“Supporting Army readiness is the No. 1 priority,” McGhee said. “Our systems are being designed to improve the Army’s installation readiness.

“In addition we are helping to modernize the Army’s energy infrastructure, adding new technologies, and adding new protections that help us be ready for the needs of tomorrow, to include things like cyber intrusion.”

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

Articles

This vet group says the Pentagon is disclosing private data on millions of troops

A veterans organization is suing the Pentagon for exposing private details about troops’ military service on “a truly massive scale” due to lax security on one of its websites.


The lawsuit filed by Vietnam Veterans of America says a Defense Department website “is currently exposing private details about the military service of millions of veterans to anybody at all, anonymously, for any purpose.”

The shoddy security measures allow virtually anyone to access sensitive data about veterans’ records by typing in a name and date of birth, which are easily available on the internet.

This gives “easy access to information about essentially all veterans or service members in the system” and thus violates the Federal Privacy Act, alleges the suit filed last week in federal court in New York.

This is how you thank someone for their service
Photo under Creative Commons license.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act website, which according to the Pentagon receives more than 2.3 billion searches a year, is mean to be used by authorized institutions like banks to confirm the active duty status that entitles service members to certain protections.

Instead, the information is available to con artists and scammers who can use it to impersonate government or other officials and gain veterans’ trust by discussing details of their service that only authorized organizations would have.

Thomas Barden, a veteran of the Vietnam War who served in the US Air Force for 21 years, found that out firsthand.

The plaintiff in the suit received a call from someone supposedly affiliated with Microsoft in March 2016. Since the caller knew details about Barden’s military service, Barden thought the government backed it. The scammer sold him software to “protect” his computer and nine months later used it to lock him out and demanded ransom.

Worried about data theft, Barden broke the hard drive into pieces and was so concerned about his privacy he threw them into different trash cans over several days.

This is how you thank someone for their service
US Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.

Since then, he has continued to receive harassing phone calls from the same scammers, causing him “significant anxiety and stress,” according to the lawsuit.

Impostor fraud and identity theft aside, the group says Vietnam veterans in particular want to keep details of their military record private, having “experienced the sting of rejection and public scorn on account of their service.”

Since they draw a steady, guaranteed income from the government, veterans are an attractive target for scammers. The numbers have increased in recent years, from 58,175 complaints by veterans in 2014 to 69,801 in 2016, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network.

“Veterans are disproportionately targeted by scammers and identity thieves,” Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan said in a statement.

This is how you thank someone for their service
Image courtesy of USMC.

The Pentagon “is fueling the problem by leaving veterans’ private information easily accessible on the internet (and) has refused to properly secure veterans’ information,” he said. “We are asking a court to order them to do so.”

The Defense Department has refused to make any changes since being alerted about the problems with the site, the suit says. It points out that the Defense Department could implement a strict user registration or online verification system, which are used by the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

The challenges of protecting the massive databases containing military records are not new. The Department of Veterans Affairs in particular has struggled with privacy issues.

In 2014, a joint Pentagon-VA benefits site had recurring issues with private information about veterans being disclosed to random visitors. The VA was also sued over a serious privacy breach in 2006, after an employee’s laptop was stolen that contained the private data of 26 million soldiers and veterans. The VA settled for $20 million for failing to protect their sensitive data.

This is how you thank someone for their service
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston

In other cases, veterans expecting to receive their own health care records opened their mail only to receive hundreds of pages of someone else’s private data.

“I got 256 pages of another person’s extremely confidential, extremely explicit mental health records,” Anthony McCann, a veteran in Tennessee, told a VA town hall in 2014.

The VA is the health provider with the most privacy complaints in the country, racking up 220 complaints between 2011 and 2014 according to a ProPublica analysis. In one case, an employee accessed her husband’s medical records more than 260 times. Another employee shared a veteran’s private health information with his parole officer. In yet another case, a VA employee posted details of a patient’s health records on Facebook after opening them 61 times, according to documents posted by ProPublica.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Listen to the cockpit audio of the Navy’s infamous ‘sky penis’ flight

After the laughter died down, many of us wondered what the hell the pilots who drew the Navy’s penis in the sky – now known everywhere as the “sky penis” – were thinking. We may never know exactly what was going through their minds, but now at least we know what they were saying when they drew the now-famous celestial phallus.

“You should totally try to draw a penis.”


It was a clear day over Washington state in 2017, when suddenly the skies were marred by what appeared to be a huge dong in the wild blue yonder. Thousands of feet above the earth, U.S. Navy pilots behind the sticks of an EA-18G Growler were giggling up a storm after noticing their contrails looked particularly white against the vivid blue backdrop of the sky.

They didn’t notice the contrails weren’t dissipating quite as fast as they hoped they would. At least, that’s what the official cockpit audio recording says.

“My initial reaction was no, bad,” the pilot wrote in a statement. “But for some reason still unknown to me, I eventually decided to do it.”

While the above recording isn’t the official audio – the Navy didn’t release the audio, just the transcripts – it’s a pretty good replica done by the guys from the Aviation Lo Down podcast. It includes such gems as:

  • “You should totally try to draw a penis.”
  • “Which way is the shaft going?”
  • “It’s gonna be a wide shaft.”
  • “I don’t wanna make it just like 3 balls.”

While everyone involved seemed pleased with their great work, including the commander of the training mission in another Growler, they soon realized the contrails were still there, their magnum opus firmly painted on the sky for all the world to see – and see they did. Residents of Okanogan soon called into their local news station to complain about the large drawing in the sky.

The Navy has not released the identities of those involved in creating the most memorable public achievement made by the Navy since Top Gun, it has only ever mentioned the two junior-ranking pilots were highly skilled and good leaders who one might think would know better.

More importantly, no one knows what became of them. Here’s to hoping they got tickets to the Army-Navy Game.

Articles

Pentagon reveals covert Chinese fleet disguised as fishing boats

The Pentagon’s new report on China’s developing military capabilities exposes the fighting force on the front-line of China’s quest to control the seas.


The Chinese Maritime Militia, a paramilitary force masquerading as a civilian fishing fleet, is a weapon for gray zone aggression that has operated in the shadow of plausible deniability for years. Supported by the People’s Liberation Army Navy “grey hulls” and Chinese Coast Guard “white hulls,” the CMM “blue hulls” constitute China’s third sea force.

The CMM engages in “low-intensity coercion in maritime disputes,” according to the Department of Defense report.

This is how you thank someone for their service
A Pentagon report reveals that China has a covert fleet of fishing trawlers intended to wreak havoc in the maritime ‘grey areas’ of the South Pacific. (US Navy photo)

“China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” the report explains. For instance, after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague discredited China’s claims to the South China Sea last July, Beijing dispatched the CMM to the territories China aims to control.

“China is building a state-owned fishing fleet for its maritime militia force in the South China Sea,” the Pentagon report introduced.

China presents the CMM as a civilian fishing fleet. “Make no mistake, these are state-organized, -developed, and -controlled forces operating under a direct military chain of command,” Dr. Andrew Erickson, a leading expert on Chinese naval affairs, explained during a House Committee on Armed Services hearing in September.

The maritime militia, according to the Pentagon, is a “subset of China’s national militia, an armed reserve force of civilians available for mobilization to perform basic support duties.” In the disputed South China Sea, “the CMM plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve China’s political goals without fighting, part of broader [People’s Republic of China] military doctrine that states that confrontational operations short of war can be an effective means of accomplishing political objectives.”

The Department of Defense recognizes that the CMM trains alongside the military and the coast guard. A 2016 China Daily article reveals that the maritime militia, a “less-noticed force,” is largely “made up of local fishermen.” The article shows the militia training in military garb and practicing with rifles and bayonets.

“The maritime militia is … a component of China’s ocean defense armed forces [that enjoys] low sensitivity and great leeway in maritime rights protection actions,” explained a Chinese garrison commander.

This is how you thank someone for their service
A helicopter attached to Chinese Navy ship multirole frigate Hengshui (572) participates in a maritime interdiction event with the Chinese Navy guided-missile destroyer Xi’an (153) during Rim of the Pacific. (Chinese navy photo by Sun Hongjie)

The CMM is not really a “secret” weapon, as it has made its presence known, yet throughout the Obama administration, government publications failed to acknowledge the existence of the maritime militia. “We have to make it clear that we are wise to Beijing’s game,” Erickson said in his congressional testimony.

The CMM harassed the USNS Impeccable in 2009, engaging in unsafe maneuvers and forcing the U.S. ship to take emergency action to avoid a collision. The maritime militia was also involved in the 2011 sabotage of two Vietnamese hydrographic vessels, 2012 seizure of Scarborough Shoal, 2014 repulsion of Vietnamese vessels near a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters, and 2015 shadowing of the USS Lassen during a freedom-of-navigation operation. China sent 230 fishing vessels, accompanied by several CCG vessels, into disputed waters in the East China Sea last year to advance China’s claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands administered by Japan.

Commissar of the Hainan Armed Forces Department Xing Jincheng said in January that the members of the Maritime Militia should serve as “mobile sovereignty markers.” He stated that this force is responsible for conducting “militia sovereignty operations” and defending China’s “ancestral seas,” territorial waters “belonging to China since ancient times.”

“I feel that the calm seas are not peaceful for us,” he said. “We have to strengthen our combat readiness.”

While the maritime militia has been mentioned by Navy officials, as well as congressional research and commission reports, the new Department of Defense report is the first high-level government publication to address the third sea force. “The fact is that it is there,” U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift said in November, “Let’s acknowledge that it is there. Let’s acknowledge how it’s being command-and-controlled.”

Dragging the maritime militia into the light significantly limits its ability operate. “It is strongest—and most effective—when it can lurk in the shadows,” Erickson wrote in the National Interest.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Army missile that will provide short-range air defense to maneuver units

For the first time in nearly 15 years, 7th Army Training Command’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center will soon begin observing, coaching, and training Soldiers using the FIM-92 Stinger Man-Portable, Air Defense Missile System during future exercises. In preparation for this, approximately 50 Observer Coach/Trainers, known as OC/Ts, attended their own training on the Stinger system at the Hohenfels Training Area, Jan. 10.


Based on the Chief of Staff of the Army’s initiative, getting Europe stood up with short-range air defense (SHORAD) Stinger teams is his first priority inside the initiative of getting Stinger teams back online,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Felter, the director of training and doctrine for the Air Defense Integrated Office. “We’re going to go to the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center, however, the immediate focus is Europe and getting Europe ready to fight tonight and defend Europe against any adversary.

Instructors from the Fires Center of Excellence in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, traveled to Germany on a whirlwind excursion to offer their expertise with the Stinger system. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen Ford and Sgt. 1st Class Edward Goldman, both instructors with the 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, joined Felter to provide hands-on instructions for the system that is now being reintroduced to brigade combat teams across the U.S. Army.

JMRC was the first combat training center to receive this Stinger training for OC/Ts.

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U.S. Army Capt. Richard Tran, an air defense officer, and an observer-coach trainer with the Warhog Team, Joint Multinational Readiness Center, trains with an FIM-92 Stinger Man-Portable, Air Defense Missile System at the Hohenfels Training Area, Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 10, 2018. The training was in preparation of future rotational exercises where the OCT’s will start evaluating two-man Stinger Teams for the first time in approximately 15 years. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. David Overson)

In the past 15 years, the Army slowly drifted away from the FIM-92 Stinger — which is an infrared, homing, surface-to-air missile that has been around since the late 1970’s — as it focused on counterinsurgency tactics. However, now it is one of the Army’s main focal points, Felter said.

“Bringing back the Stinger addresses a self-identified gap that the Army created and has recognized,” added Felter. “We’re getting back to the basics and providing short-range air defense to maneuver units.”

One of three air defense officers at JMRC, Capt. Richard Tran, who is the Headquarters and Headquarters Company OC/T for the Warhog Team, is prepared to share his knowledge with the rest of the OC/T teams at JMRC who could not attend the training.

“I have a much better picture of how to go about observing, coaching and training Soldiers,” said Tran. “I’m better equipped after this class. Initially, some of these Stinger teams who rotate through JMRC won’t be completely up to speed with the Stingers. They’re riflemen who cross-trained to operate the system, and it will be our job to help guide them along this learning process.”

Though the Avenger and other variants may be seen and used from time to time, JMRC will primarily observe, coach and train the individual two-man Stinger teams using the shoulder-fired configuration.

Also Read: This Russian beast is one of the biggest anti-aircraft missiles ever developed

While in the field at JMRC, the Stinger teams will be evaluated on the mission-essential tasks of site placement, determining air avenues of approach, defending a critical location, de-conflicting engagements of enemy aircraft based on sector of fire, and proper operation of the FIM-92 Stinger.

“In parallel efforts, the goal is to get 62 Stinger teams into the operational force as soon as possible,” added Felter. “In concert with that, additional SHORAD battalions are being stood up, which will result in aligning one SHORAD battalion with each division.”

Some of the Soldiers who have received this training include personnel from 173rd Airborne Brigade and 2nd Cavalry Regiment who recently took a five-week Stinger course with the 7th Army Training Command at Grafenwoehr, Germany. Soon, many of those same Soldiers and others will be observed, coached and trained during their participation in future exercises at JMRC.

Articles

This is how the KC-10 delivers airpower to the enemy’s front door

Three KC-10 Extenders flew from Hawaii and Wake Island Airfield to refuel five C-17 Globemaster IIIs carrying over 300 coalition paratroopers across the Pacific Ocean July 13.


Having received the gas they needed, the C-17s continued to Australia to successfully conduct Exercise Ultimate Reach, a strategic airdrop mission. The airdrop displayed US capabilities throughout the region, reassured allies, and improved combat readiness between joint and coalition personnel.

The aerial refueling also supported Exercise Talisman Saber, a month-long training exercise in Australia between US, Canadian, and Australian forces that began once paratroopers landed Down Under. The training focused on improving interoperability and relations between the three allies.

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A C-17 Globemaster III. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan.)

The KC-10s seamlessly refueled various aircraft over the Pacific Ocean supporting Talisman Saber. Some of those aircraft include Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets and Air Force KC-10s, among others.

“This is the bread and butter of what we do in the KC-10 world,” said Lt. Col. Stew Welch, the 9th Air Refueling Squadron commander and the Ultimate Reach tanker mission commander. “We’re practicing mobility, air refueling, and interoperability. This is practice for how we go to war.”

Though participation in such a large and complex exercise may seem like a unique occurrence for the aircraft and their aircrews, in actuality, this is done every day, all over the world.

For members of the 6th and the 9th ARSs at Travis Air Force Base, California, the global mission of the KC-10 is evident each time they step onto the tanker. For the rest of the world, it was on full display at Talisman Saber.

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A KC-10 Extender from Travis Air Force Base, California, refuels a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet over the Pacific Ocean July 14, 2017. (USAF photo by 2nd Lt. Sarah Johnson)

Ultimate Reach was the most prominent piece of the KC-10’s efforts during Talisman Saber. Despite that demand, the crews continued a full schedule of refueling sorties after landing in Australia, allowing other participating aircraft to complete their missions.

While its primary mission is aerial refueling, the KC-10 can also carry up to 75 passengers and nearly 170,000 pounds of cargo. This enables the aircraft to airlift personnel and equipment while refueling supporting aircraft along the way. Though it can go 4,400 miles on its own without refueling, its versatility allows it to mid-air refuel from other KC-10s and extend its range.

“With that endurance ability, we can go up first and come home last and give as much gas as everybody else,” said Maj. Peter Mallow, a 6th ARS pilot. “That’s our role is to go up and bat first and then bat last.”

The tanker’s combined six fuel tanks carry more than 356,000 pounds of fuel in-flight, allowing it to complete missions like Ultimate Reach where over 4,000 pounds of fuel was offloaded in a short time to the five waiting C-17s. The amount is almost twice as much as the KC-135 Stratotanker.

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A C-17 Globemaster III. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera.)

“KC-10s are critical to delivering fuel to our partners,” said Welch. “Not only can we get gas, but we have a huge cargo compartment capability as well. KC-10’s can bring everything mobility represents to the table.”

“The KC-10 is essential to the Air Force because we can transport any piece of cargo, equipment, and personnel to anywhere in the world… any continent, any country,” said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Cook, a 6th ARS instructor boom operator. “We’re able to refuel those jets who have to go answer the mission whatever it may be, or (engage in) humanitarian response.”

Additionally, the tanker’s ability to switch between using an advanced aerial refueling boom or a hose and drogue centerline refueling system allows it to refuel a variety of US and allied military aircraft interchangeably, as it demonstrated during Talisman Saber.

“KC-10s were able to provide force-extending air refueling,” said Mallow. “We were able to provide the capability to the C-17s that other platforms can’t. Because we can carry so much gas, we have more flexibility simply because we can provide the same amount of gas over multiple receivers. That inherently is the KC-10’s duty.”

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US Army Spc. Kaelyn Miller airborne paratrooper from the Higher Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, waits on board a USAF C-17 from Joint Base Charleston, S.C., July 12, 2017 to airdrop in support of Exercise Talisman Saber 2017. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

“When we refueled the C-17s, it helped them get to their location and drop those paratroopers so the world can see them flying out of the aircraft and see those angels coming down,” said Cook. “It’s a good feeling, knowing the KC-10 is a part of that.”

Ultimate Reach and Talisman Saber highlighted the KC-10 fleet as a fighting force, demonstrating the aircraft’s unique warfighting capabilities over a wide-array of locations, receivers, and flying patterns.

“Not only does this kind of exercise demonstrate what we can do, it demonstrates how we do it,” said Welch. “Our own interoperability — not just with the Air Force and the Army but with our coalition partners as well — sends a great message to our allies and those who are not our allies that we can get troops on the ground where and when we please.”

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DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Andy Kin

The tankers’ performance during the exercise proved its unwavering support to combatant commanders and allies. It showed versatility in meeting unique mission requirements and reassured people around the world that the Air Force will always have a presence in the sky.

“Maybe one of those kids seeing a paratrooper come down will take an interest and maybe become the next Technical Sergeant Cook,” mused Cook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Marines get an official history lesson on Iwo Jima

Sand shifts below service members’ feet as sulfur engulfs the air and humidity lingers across the island. The weight of reality and historical value settles among them as they take in the view of where so many of their fellow service members lost their lives. This is, Iwo To (Iwo Jima).


Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conducted a historical professional military education for squadrons stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 7, 2017.

They loaded service members on KC-130J Hercules aircraft and flew them from the air station to Iwo To.

Once disembarked from their flights, they broke off into groups and conducted a hike passing by caves, memorials, and old machine-gun nests before reaching the top of Mt. Suribachi.

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U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Olivia Raftshol, a KC-130J Hercules co-pilot, left, and Maj. Matthew Stolzenberg, a KC-130J Hercules pilot, with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152, prepare to land at Iwo To (Iwo Jima), Japan, Nov. 7, 2017. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Mason Roy)

As the service members gazed across the island from atop Mt. Suribachi they left behind items such as rank, belts, name tapes, and dog tags.

“Never in my entire life did I think I’d ever be in Iwo Jima,” said U.S. Navy Seaman Anthony Adams, a corpsman with VMGR-152. “It blew my mind; the best part of the day was being able to place my shield at the top of Mt. Suribachi.”

Mt. Suribachi was a key strategic position for the Japanese military, serving as the toughest line of defense for the island during World War II. U.S. Marines with the 28th Marine Regiment surrounded and climbed the mountain at an estimated rate of 400 yards per day until the famous raising of the colors atop the mountain.

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On Feb. 19, 1945, 30,000 Marines and sailors launched the first American assault against the Japanese on the island of Iwo Jima, resulting in some of the fiercest fighting of World War II. This moment, when Marines crested Mt. Suribachi, was captured Feb. 23 by photographer Joe Rosenthal.

“It tugs at my heart strings,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gregory Voss, an aviation ordnance technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12. “This is a huge piece of Marine Corps history. Marines shed blood, sweat, and tears here. Granted I’ve only been in for five years, but this is the most exciting thing that I’ve done in my career. I’m honored that I could be here.”

As the service members began their journey down to the black beaches to collect sand from the once blood-ridden island, exhaustion was present through the sounds of grunts and groans, but not one Marine backed down. They trucked though the beating sun and radiating heat of the active volcano that is Iwo To.

Related: The Battle Of Iwo Jima Began 70 Years Ago — Here’s How It Looked When Marines Hit The Beach

“It was demanding,” said Voss. “Though we didn’t go through what our brothers and sisters went though, it was definitely a challenging — but humbling — experience.”

Service members collected sand from the beaches in whatever container they had so they could take a piece of history with them to keep or give to their families back home. Collecting sand from the beach is a tradition that most guests partake in during their journey across the island.

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U.S. Marines from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, collect sand at Iwo To (Iwo Jima), Japan, Nov. 7, 2017. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Mason Roy)

The beach played a significant role in the advancement on the island. Hundreds of, Landing Vehicles, Tracked (LVTs) carried troops to the steep sulfur beaches of the island as U.S. Naval ships rained fire down upon the Japanese fortifications.

By the end of what was about a month of battle, 27 service members received the Medal of Honor, almost half of them posthumously.

“Tradition, lineage, and Marine Corps history means the world to me,” said Voss. “It reminds me of where we come from. Just to say I was in the same family as Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone is amazing.”

As we celebrate the Marine Corps birthday, it’s important to remember the Marines that drew the line, went above and beyond the call of duty, and their unselfish acts of valor. We must also remember the sailors that fought alongside them, through the bloody, tattered clothing to heal their wounds, and the Coast Guardsmen who replenished their brothers and sisters with supplies as enemy fire came barreling down upon them. On that island, we remember that U.S. Navy Adm. Chester Nimitz said, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Another woman is trying to make history as the Corps’ first female commando

A Marine who last year became the first woman to reach the end of Phase One in MARSOC’s assessment and selection course is planning to return for a second attempt early next year.


The woman, then a corporal, reached the conclusion of the 19-day course in August 2016, but did not have the minimum academic and physical training scores to move on to the secretive second phase.

She is planning to reattempt Phase One in January, Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, told Military.com.

The command declined to identify her to protect her privacy.

To date, two women have attempted to join the elite ranks of MARSOC Raiders as critical skills operators since the previously closed jobs opened to women in early 2016. Both women, the corporal and a staff sergeant, came from administrative backgrounds.

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Both women began assessment and selection, or AS, in early August 2016. The staff sergeant left the course a day in after failing to meet the minimum time requirement on a ruck march.

Officials said at the time that 31 men also washed out in the first week of the demanding special operations course.

All Marines who attempt the first phase of AS are given multiple opportunities to pass, Mannweiler said.

Demands of the course are physical and mental. Marines are required to complete a 12-mile march carrying a pack weighing more than 45 pounds within three hours, to swim 300 meters wearing their camouflage uniforms, and to pass classroom exercises during the 19-day phase.

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MARSOC Raiders conduct swim training. Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Donovan Lee

For Phase 2, the requirements and trials that MARSOC candidates face remain a closely guarded secret.

The three-week phase “is a mentally and physically challenging evaluation that enables MARSOC to identify Marines that have attributes compatible with special operations missions and the MARSOC way of life,” according to official informational materials.

Once Marines begin Phase 2, Mannweiler said, they do not have the chance to re-attempt it.

To date, no other women have identified themselves as candidates for AS, Mannweiler said, although recruiters continue to publicize the opportunity.

“We go out and send recruiting teams to all the bases,” he said. “It’s gender agnostic — here are the requirements we’re looking for, here’s the fitness program.”

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A U.S. Marine with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) crawls under an obstacle with a MARSOC canine during the MARSOC Multi-Purpose canine subject matter expert exchange conference on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 4, 2016. MARSOC specializes in direct action, special reconnaissance and foreign internal defense and has also been directed to conduct counter-terrorism and information operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler S. Dietrich, MCIWEST-MCB CamPen Combat Camera/Released)

Few women in any service have attempted to enter the elite and demanding field of special operations since previously closed jobs became available.

As of August, there were two women in the training pipeline to become Air Force Tactical Control Party (TAC-P) specialists; none have entered the field to date.

Earlier this year, Military.com broke the news that the Navy had its first female candidates for SEAL officer and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman, or SWCC. But the SEAL candidate for dropped out of the training pipeline in August.

The Army is slightly further ahead in integrating women into special operations. The first female soldier passed qualifications to enter the 75th Ranger Regiment early this year.

Articles

‘Missing Man’ honored after going MIA in Vietnam

Thundering jets above Colorado Springs the morning of May 9 bid a final farewell to a native son who went missing 48 years ago on a mission to bomb the Ho Chi Minh Trail.


It was a sound that Capt. Roger Helwig loved. Helwig, who was born in Trinidad and raised in Colorado Springs, was a free spirit known for meticulous honesty oddly melded with a wild streak that drove him to seek adventure in the sky.

“He was a tremendous guy,” said retired Maj. Jack Schnurr, a flight school friend, after an Air Force Academy memorial for the captain.

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The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Helwig loved the F-4 Phantom and new bride Carol in what some joking called equal measures when he flew off for his second tour in Vietnam in 1969.

“He didn’t have to be there,” Schnurr said. “He volunteered to go back.”

On his first tour overseas, Helwig flew in the second seat of the F-4, running the plane’s weapons systems and electronics as a GIB, the military acronym for “guy in back.”

After he came home, Helwig got more flight training and headed back to war as the guy in front.

He was a forward air controller, one of the legendary “fast-FACs” who ranged far and wide over Southeast Asia spotting targets for troops on the ground.

During his final flight, Helwig and Capt. Roger Stearns were 10 miles west of Vietnam on a mission to stop the flow of arms and troops that fueled the Viet Cong insurgency. Flights against targets in neutral Laos, though, were something the Air Force avoided discussing in public.

Also read: The last US troops killed in the Vietnam War actually died two years after it ended

Records say the two had just bombed a target, and the jet was trailing a mist of fuel before it exploded. Searchers later found shredded parachutes and the remains of a life raft, but they didn’t find Helwig or Stearns.

In 1990, a Defense Department team returned to the crash site and found Stearns’ remains. Helwig stayed missing until last summer.

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Dog tags are primarily used for the identification of dead and wounded service members. (Photo: U.S. Army Human Resources Command Daniela Vestal)

His widow got a visit from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in August. Searchers had found a tiny talisman at the jungle site: Helwig’s dog tag.

“It was surreal when I held that in the palm of my hand,” Carol said May 9. “It was as if I was reliving the past.”

Dozens gathered at the academy May 9 to relive the past with her and tell stories about the 26-year-old pilot.

Lt. Col. Mike Newton, a chaplain, told mourners they need to remember Helwig’s courage.

“I have no idea what it took to fly 100 missions in Vietnam, each one of them harrowing,” Newton said. “But he strapped it on every time.”

Carol remembered the kind but kind of crazy young man she met when he was riding his motorcycle from Arizona to Washington, D.C.

She knew she was competing with a twin-engined jet for Helwig’s affection.

“He loved flying,” she said.

Helwig left no children to mourn him, but a wide array of friends came to the Air Force Academy cemetery to remember.

The academy supplied an honor guard, rifle team, and a bugler to play taps.

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The 24 notes of Taps lay heroes to rest. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

Air Combat Command offered up four F-15 Eagle fighters to blaze overhead in the missing man formation.

Carol supplied her own touch. Bells played a last waltz for the man she loved — the theme song of Doctor Zhivago, the first film they had seen together.

And as the bells played, quiet voices whispered the song’s tale of love long lost but reclaimed.

“Somewhere, my love, there will be songs to sing. Although the snow covers the hope of spring.”

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