Army vet finds brotherhood through competition - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

1:23 a.m. It’s pitch black in Ramadi, Iraq, except for the cold moon above.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Major and his squad creep silently closer.

The enemy has already killed and maimed American troops with roadside bombs. Intel says the largest cache of explosives is right here. Major is part of the late-night raid to bring them down. This is where he wants to be.

“I was a junior in high school when the Towers were hit. I knew I wanted to do something then. And when it came time to choose college or something else, I wanted to get my hands dirty. It all stemmed from the Towers. I wanted to do my part.”

He’s in the desert as part of a light infantry unit. As he and his team get closer, the insurgents wait.


“We were two or three blocks away and I watched two squads cross that intersection,” he says.

He’s only a couple feet away now.

“I took like five steps … “

Major steps down with his right leg.

The enemy pushes the remote control.

The bomb explodes with a deafening roar, and fills the air with a lethal mix of fire and shrapnel.

“I was awake for the whole thing,” he said. “I remember going up and facing the stars.”

Major, 22, is blown up and over a steel gate and six-foot concrete wall.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

Ryan Major loves rugby because it’s loud, fast and has lots of crashes. He is hoping for gold at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

His team, many with shrapnel injuries themselves, jump into their armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle, smash through the concrete and rush him back to the base camp.

“My guy, he had me laying on the floor and he is covering my leg. I’m losing blood like crazy. Trying to go to sleep. He smacks the p— out of me a couple times. I knew I was in a bad situation.”

“Read me my Last Rites. Tell my mom I love her,” Major says to his soldier.

“No! Wake your b— ass up! I’m not telling her anything! You’re telling her!”

They make it back to base.

“The surgeons and the doctors, they did their thing. Then they induced me into a coma.”

Doctors cut off his right leg and right thumb in Iraq. An infection while he was still in the coma took his left leg, two fingers on his right hand, his thumb on his left, part of his elbow and forearm.

Major wakes up six weeks later, December 26, in a hospital room inside Walter Reed.

And his nine years of dark depression begins.

Thirteen years after waking up in that hospital room, Major is one of the most vocal and energetic competitors at the 39th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Louisville, Kentucky, with quad rugby his favorite sport because it’s loud, it’s fast and there’re lots of crashes and smack talk.

“Hey, it’s sports. I’m a competitor. I was competing in the military. I’m competing still. It’s fast and I like to go fast.”

Major whips around with a white ball in his hand. A wheelchair cracks into him from behind and throws him from the chair and to the ground. He gets helped back in and shakes it off. Another chair crashes into him from the side as Major smacks down on his wheel into a backspin and then scores.

He crosses his arms, leans back his head and howls to the rafters.

“WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

He makes it look easy, but it wasn’t always this way.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

Ryan Major races down the court on the way to a score.

“Dude, it was rough,” he said. “So rough, and I was in a really dark spot. A deep, weird depression. It was a lot of self-doubt and being hard on myself. It’s typical, going from a 100 percent independent man, having to depend on everybody for everything. That took a really big shot to my pride.

“It took me so long. I don’t have my legs. I can’t play football or anything I used to do and love. I used to play football. I wrestled. I did track and field. Now I can’t do any of that.”

Days turned into weeks, months and years.

His mom, Lorrie Knight-Major, said she and his brothers — Michael and Milan — along with Ryan’s friends, rallied to do whatever needed done.

“I credit his brothers, his family and his amazing friends who have been there all the way for him, and for all of us,” Knight-Major said. “To this day, he has a great support system. I wished every veteran and every person recovering had that kind of love.”

Corey Fick, Ryan’s best friend since the 6th grade, visited him almost every day in the hospital and made him get out and about.

“Everybody was crying when we found out he got hurt, but he is a soldier through and through,” Fick said. “He is a soldier through and through, and whatever his cause, he’ll die for it. There’s no fight he’s not going to win. I think he had a 4 percent chance of making it out of Ramadi alive.

“If this happened to anyone but Ryan, I don’t think they could do what he is doing. He has no fear and is living life to the fullest.”

As Major watched others in a wheelchair living their lives, that’s when he knew he had to do it, too.

“I’m watching other vets in my situation who had been hurt for a few years. They’re walking and talking and out having fun and I’m overhearing them. Why am I moping around when you got other amputees going out and having the time of their life?

“It was time for me to get my ass out of this bed and start getting active.”

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

Besides quad rugby, you can find Ryan Major kayaking and even skiing.

The first thing he did was the Hope and Possibilities handcycle race around Central Park.

“You hear people cheering you and that started to boost me back, but it was easy. I went back to my therapist and said, ‘What’s next?'”

“There’s an Army 10-miler,” the therapist said.

He did it and wanted more. So he did the New York Marathon — 26.2 miles on a hand cycle.

“I went from a 5K to a 10-miler to a marathon all in a year,” Major said. “The best part of a marathon, is all the fans on the side, yelling at you and telling you you’re doing awesome. The worst part of a marathon, in my opinion, are those last two miles. Those last two miles were the longest two miles ever.

“I was hurting bad. My fingers were cramped and locked in place. But I crossed that finish line and said, ‘God, I am a freaking trooper. I am the biggest bad ass in this whole, entire race!”

He hasn’t stopped since.

“I found out I can still do sports. I didn’t ski before I was injured. I had my first skiing experience in Colorado and didn’t anticipate liking that. They had me going down that mountain fast and I fell in love with it. I’m kayaking. I’ll do anything.”

Besides rugby, Major is competing in javelin, table tennis and even bowling this year.

“But I want that gold in rugby,” he said. “That’s the goal. Haven’t gotten it yet. Got close and made it to the final round once. I’ll get it.”

“I am so very proud of him,” his mom said. “I am amazed at the adversity he had to overcome. Ryan has always been a fighter. He wakes up every morning happy, and makes the most out of each day of his life.”

He sometimes thinks back on that day when everything changed, but doesn’t stay in that place too long.

“Those thoughts creep in my head every once in awhile. The what ifs, the woulda, coulda thing. Those are never good,” he said. “There are positives and negatives to every situation. If I wouldn’t have joined the military, wouldn’t have met my brothers in arms, who are a huge part of my life. I never would have had that experience. I never would have traveled. I never would have had those life experiences.

“I still keep in touch with those guys from Walter Reed and with some of the staff. All these years back, and we still talk.”

It’s that brotherhood, he said, that makes these Games so important.

“I like to be loud out there and have fun. Other vets look at me and that makes them proud. They say it inspires them. Well, they inspire me.”

Major just has one request if you see him on the street. Don’t call him disabled.

“I’m an athlete. And I hope when they look at me, they think I’m a good athlete. That’s what they can call me.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan pilots in U.S. Black Hawks are attacking Taliban fighters

Firing machine guns at Taliban fighters, reinforcing attacking ground troops, and scouting through mountainous terrain to find enemy locations are all things US-trained Afghan Air Force pilots are now doing with US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The ongoing US effort to provide anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with Black Hawks has recently been accelerated to add more aircraft on a faster timeframe, as part of a broad strategic aim to better enable Afghan forces to attack.


The first refurbished A-model Black Hawks, among the oldest in the US inventory, arrived in Kandahar in September of last year, as an initial step toward the ultimate goal of providing 159 of the helicopters to the Afghans, industry officials say.

While less equipped than the US Army’s most modern M-model Black Hawks, the older, analog A-models are currently being recapitalized and prepared for hand over to the Afghans.

Many of the Afghan pilots, now being trained by a globally-focused, US-based aerospace firm called MAG, have been flying Russian-built Mi-17s. Now, MAG is helping some Afghan pilots transition to Black Hawks as well as training new pilots for the Afghan Air Force.

“We are working on a lot of mission types. We’re helping pilots learn to fly individually, conduct air assaults and fly in conjunction with several other aircraft,” Brian Tachias, Senior Vice President for MAG, Huntsville Business Unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter transports soldiers from Bagram Airfield over Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2004.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)

The current MAG deal falls under the US Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization. Tachias said, “a team of roughly 20 MAG trainers has already flown over 500 hours with Afghan trainees.” MAG trainers, on-the-ground in Kandahar, graduated a class of Afghan trainees this month. According to current plans, Black Hawks will have replaced all Mi-17s by 2022.

Tachias added that teaching Afghan pilots to fly with night vision goggles has been a key area of emphasis in the training to prepare them for combat scenarios where visibility is more challenging. By next year, MAG intends to use UH-60 simulators to support the training.

While not armed with heavy weapons or equipped with advanced sensors, the refurbished A-model Black Hawks are outfitted with new engines and crew-served weapons. The idea is to give Afghan forces combat maneuverability, air superiority and a crucial ability to reinforce offensive operations in mountainous terrain, at high altitudes.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

An Afghan Air Force pilot receives a certificate during a UH-60 Black Hawk Aircraft Qualification Training graduation ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2017. The pilot is one of six to be the first AAF Black Hawk pilots. The first AAF Black Hawk pilots are experienced aviators coming from a Mi-17 background.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Veronica Pierce)

The MAG training effort is consistent with a broader Army strategy to arm, train, and equip Afghan forces such that they can continue to take over combat missions. In recent years, the US Army has placed a premium on operating in a supportive role wherein they train, assist and support Afghan fighters who themselves engage in combat, conduct patrols and do the majority of the fighting.

Standing up an Afghan Air Force has been a longstanding, stated Army goal for a variety of key reasons, one of which simply being that the existence of a capable Afghan air threat can not only advance war aims and enable the US to pull back some of its assets from engaging in direct combat.

While acknowledging the complexities and challenges on continued war in Afghanistan, US Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel voiced this sensibility earlier this summer, stating that Afghan forces are increasingly launching offensive attacks against the Taliban.

“They are fighting and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” Votel said, according to an Army report from earlier this summer.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

People are raising money for Australia by hanging from workout benches

First, it was the Ice Bucket challenge then it was the Mannequin Challenge. Now, the Koala Challenge is going viral — and for good reason.

FITAID, a fitness beverage company, has challenged people to participate in the Koala Challenge to help raise money for the people, firefighters, and wildlife affected by the wildfires in Australia. For every video that is posted on social media of someone doing the challenge, the company will donate $5.


In the Koala Challenge, you must start by lying flat on your on top of a work out bench then shift your entire body to the underside of the bench without ever touching the floor. If done correctly, you will be hanging from the underside of the bench, looking just like a relaxed koala.

The challenge isn’t for everyone, as it does take a great deal of strength, but some have succeeded.

Others gave it their best shot.

Meanwhile, some partipants took a more creative approach.

If the Koala Challenge is too hard for you, there are plenty of other organizations that accept donations to help fight the fires in Australia.

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

Read more:

Articles

Air Force says F-35A ready and waiting to be unleashed on ISIS

A U.S. Air Force Operational F-35A may soon attack ISIS over Iraq and Syria, fly to the Baltics as a deterrent against Russian aggression or deploy to the Pacific theater as part of a key force posture build-up, service leaders said.


“We have a global force management process. The F-35 move into the Middle East is scheduled further down the road. If a combatant commander needed it sooner they would ask for it,” Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, Commander of Air Combat Command, told reporters last year.

Related: Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

While actual combat deployment could be imminent orseveral years away, declaring the new stealth multi-role fighter operational means Combatant Commanders around the globe do now have the ability to request the F-35A when mission demands require its abilities, he explained.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
The F-35 doesn’t sleep. It waits. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer

This means that the operational aircraft is now ready for combat and could soon be called upon to meet mission requirements in the ongoing air campaign against ISIS. Although the US-led coalition already enjoys air superiority over Iraq and Syria, the F-35 could be useful firing laser-guided air-to-ground weapons or drop GPS-guided bombs on identified ISIS targets.

This would involve the additional combat deployment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs. Precision and laser-guided air-to-ground weapons such as the Paveway II, a dumb munition converted into a precision-guided missile which made up more than one-half of the air-ground precision weapons fired during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The weapon has already been sucessfully test fired from an F-35.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

Alongside the Middle East and Europe, Carlisle also addressed the prospect of moving F-35s to the Pacific Theater, explaining that groups of F-35s could go to the region as part of what the Air Force calls “Theater Security Packages.”

“These small deployments of about four ships are dispatched rapidly to global hotspots when needed. It’s kind of like providing the Combat Air Forces on tap. It’s possible that the F-35A’s first combat deployment will be in one of these TSPs,” Benjamin Newell, spokesman for Air Combat Command, told Scout Warrior.

Also read: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

Carlisle explained the potential deployment of F-35s to Europe and other strategic locations in terms of a prior move to deploy the F-22 to Europe as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

“When you send F-22s to the European theater last fall, it was great messaging that goes along with that.

Sending an F-35 would reassure friends and allies. It is a deterrent to potential adversaries. I don’t think it is provocative at all,” Carlisle said.

He went on to describe the stealth F-22 Raptor as the best air-to-air platform in the world and the F-35 as the best air-to-ground fighter in the world.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
F-35s and F-22s. Dream team? | US Air Force photo

In addition to functioning as a deterrent in key global locations, the F-35 could readily be called upon to perform the widest possible range of missions, Carlisle added.

“When you have airplanes you have pre-planned strike missions, interdiction offensive counter air, defensive counter air and air superiority. Many of these are missions I could use it for. It would depend upon the threat environment,” he said.

For instance, should the F-35 attack ISIS, it would be in a position to use both high-altitude precision-guided air-dropped bombs and also use its 25mm gun and other weapons to perform close-air support missions.

The Air Force is now preparing to increase its number of operational F-35s in order to better refine tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs.

“The F-35A is fully combat capable now, and can perform missions as requested by combatant commanders. Our next hurdles are to ramp up the forces to provide an adequate number of aircraft to create a working fleet, on which we build TTPs, test new weapons and most importantly, train adequate numbers of Airmen who are the experts in their assigned platform,” Newell explained.

In order to make this happen, the service would need 2 full fighter wings consisting of 144 aircraft and 6 squadrons.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the last enemy ship sunk by the US Navy in combat

When the last Perry-class frigate, the USS Simpson, lowered her flag for the last time in 2015, it left only one ship in the active fleet which sank an enemy in combat. The USS Constitution sank an enemy ship, the British HMS Guerriere, during the War of 1812. The target sank by the Simpson was much more recent than that. She sank an Iranian patrol boat in the Persian Gulf in 1988.


There are just no more deepwater targets threatening the American Navy these days.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

Russia’s garbage scow of a carrier can go sail off the edge of the world.

In 1988, the war between Iran and Iraq was winding down but could still break out in hot spots here and there. But the Iranian Navy’s most intense battle of the war came against the U.S. Navy, not Iraq’s. For the United States, it was the most explosive surface battle it faced since World War II. When the USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine in the Persian Gulf, the Navy launched Operation Praying Mantis, a massive retaliation that destroyed half the Iranian Navy and a number of the Islamic Republic’s oil drilling platforms.

The cost to the U.S. Navy was just two Marines, who died in a helicopter accident that day.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

Iran’s oil platforms burning during Praying Mantis.

It was a long day for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Navy. U.S. Marines were raiding oil platforms with precision that would have made Chesty Puller proud. Naval aviators were dropping precision bombs down the enemy’s smokestacks. It was a free-for-all as the United States just unleashed the full power of the Navy in the Gulf. Frigates, gunboats, speedboats, and more all became target practice.

One of those targets was the Joshan, a Kaman-class fast attack craft that decided to run head-on against an entire surface action group. By itself.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

Yeah, they all died.

Joshan engaged the USS Simpson and USS Wainwright after the latter ship’s skipper warned the Iranians that further movement would cause for the Americans to sink her. Her response to the warning was to fire a harpoon missile at the ships. Wainwright and Simpson evaded the missile using chaff and then turned their attention back to the Iranian gunboat.

It only took four missiles from the Oliver Hazard Perry-class missile destroyers to put the Joshan at the bottom of the Gulf.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Sebastian Stan stars as US official who risked his career to honor a fallen hero in ‘The Last Full Measure’

Airman 1st Class William “Pits” Pitsenbarger was a Pararescueman during the Vietnam War. Less than a year after receiving orders, he would go on to fly nearly 300 rescue missions and save over 60 men before sacrificing himself to aid others during one of the most brutal battles of an already harsh war. When offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of the combat zone, Pits stayed behind to protect the lives of others and was later killed by Viet Cong snipers.

The Last Full Measure is the long-awaited story of how the men he saved would try to procure him the Medal of Honor — and the dark reason why the American government resisted.

Check out the final trailer, released today:


“The sacrifices of the fallen will never be forgotten,” intones Christopher Plummer, who plays the father of William Pitsenbarger. The Last Full Measure, written and directed by Todd Robinson, also stars Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.

“Todd Robinson’s riveting drama chronicles one man’s sacrifice and valor on the battlefield, and we believe it also highlights an aspect of American patriotism overdue for recognition. Everyone should know about William Pitsenbarger’s bravery and life, and it’s a privilege to bring this film to theaters where it should be seen,” said Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, as reported by Deadline.

Pits was initially posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, becoming the first enlisted Airman to receive it, before it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

William “Pits” Pitsenbarger

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Medal of Honor Citation

“Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on April 11, 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground.

On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties.

Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible.

In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.”

He was also posthumously awarded the rank of Staff Sergeant. Other awards and medals include the Air Force Cross, the Airman’s Medal, and two Purple Hearts. His name can be found on Panel 06E Line 102 of the Vietnam Wall.

Following the battle, Pitsenbarger’s fellow PJ’s and soldiers who he saved in combat embarked on an over 30 year effort to upgrade his Air Force Cross to a Medal of Honor. In the trailer, William Hurt, who plays a fellow PJ, describes the situation as “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Finally, in 2000, Pitsenbarger received the Medal of Honor in a cermony attended by his parents, fellow veterans and the Secretary of the Air Force. The Last Full Measure will release in theaters on January 24th, 2020.

Articles

This is one idea on how the US military could fight a war in space

A major strategic think-tank suggested that assuring US victory in a space war requires the military to develop a network of small satellites capable of rapidly replacing destroyed space assets.


During a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that took place on June 22nd, military experts and space industry representatives suggested the US invest in the technology to launch swarms of small satellites into orbit as an insurance policy for larger military satellites in the event of a conflict in space.

Developing the capacity to rapidly launch small and cheap satellites would create a “layer of resiliency,” preventing any disruption to space assets by quickly replacing any destroyed satellites.

The current network of large US military and intelligence satellites provide a major war-winning advantage over other countries, but “was really built in an uncontested environment,” Steve Nixon, vice president for strategic development for the satellite firm Stratolaunch, told SpaceNews. “It’s no longer resilient to threats and probably cannot operate through a contested military environment.”

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
The International Space Station. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The military relies on a network of Global Positioning System satellites to provide precision navigation, communications, weather monitoring, and to find intelligence assets. But those satellites could be vulnerable to Chinese and Russian weapons, according to General John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command.

“We believe that for just one percent of what we spend on national security space, you could add this layer, both in terms of satellites and launch systems,” Nixon said. “One percent is your insurance or deterrent capability that preserves the rest of your architecture. It seems like a really good deal.”

Nixon’s company is developing technology to launch satellites into space from small aircraft, which could be done much more rapidly than a full rocket launch.

Experts believe the threat against satellites has been obscured in today’s asymmetric warfare against terror cells that lack the ability to target US space assets, according to a report published in August by the US National Academies.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
A map of currently tracked satellite objects. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

China successfully destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007 and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.

“Despite world interest in avoiding militarization of space, potential adversaries have identified the use of space as an advantage for US military forces, and are actively fielding systems to deny our use of space in a conflict,” Hyten wrote in a white paper published in July.

The Trump administration seems interested in maintaining space dominance. The Air Force requested $7.75 billion, a 20 percent increase, in their space budget from last year. The service could spend upwards of $10 billion on space operations from combined public and classified budgets last year, according to The Air Force Times.

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of Jan. 12th

It’s the second week of January and the gym seems to be about back to normal.


The weather is getting there, so take advantage of drawing d*cks in the snow while you can. Looking at you, Navy.

13. “But the Marines took a lot of little islands!” — “We took a lot of little countries.”

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
(Image via Army as F*ck)

12. Pick something that has a weak enough scent that whatever you mix it in will over power it (like rum in a coke) and sip from it all day.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
Everyone below E5, and most LTs. (Image via Army as F*ck)

11. “I keep paying $20 towards it a month. Why does it keep going up?”

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
We told you not to buy that stupid TV. (Image via Army as F*ck)

10. The PX barbershop only ever gives, like, four or five different haircuts. And yet they f*ck them all up.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
Now you’re *really* not getting laid this weekend. (Image via Army as F*ck)

9. If a girl in a bikini can get 10,000+ likes, how many can we get for our homeless veterans?

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
Make it rain, America. (Image via ASMDSS)

8. Since it’s the same four HDDs floating around, that means you probably re-downloaded the same videos at least twice by now…

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
You’re gross and we’re all judging you. (Image via Decelerate Your Life)

7. “But Sergeant! I need you to-“

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
Back away slowly. Don’t make eye contact. (Image via Decelerate Your Life)

6. “Hearts and minds,” right? Two in the heart. One in the mind.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
Double-tap so terrorists know you care. (Image via Military Memes)

5. If the Coast Guard goes to the range more than you do, you’re a super POG.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
Semper Paratus. (Image via Military Memes)

4. Whatever you say, Staff Sergeant. Your neckline can only help you out so much.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
January PT hurts. (Image via Pop Smoke)

3. It’s even worse if you’re drunk.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
You’re probably why we even have safety briefs. (Image via Pop Smoke)

2. Can’t tell which one gave the least amount of f*cks: the NCO who signed off on the original DA 5988-E or the mechanic that typed it up.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
It’s next to the adjustable powerband. (Image via USAWTFM

1. Looks like an ingenious plan but if he got locked in there that CBRN gear will be Hell.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
I am begging you to shut those doors. (Image via USAWTFM)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Brand-new Air Force tanker is being tested with the service’s biggest plane

The US Air Force’s newest air refueling aircraft, the KC-46A Pegasus, is undergoing a variety of tests out of Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Starting on April 29, 2019, the KC-46 conducted the first refueling test with a Travis AFB C-5M Super Galaxy. The testing is a part of a larger test program to certify aerial refueling operations between the KC-46 and 22 different receiver aircraft.

Maj. Drew Bateman, 22nd Airlift Squadron chief of standardization and evaluation and a C-5M pilot, flew the Air Force’s largest aircraft for testing on April 29, 2019. He flew it again May 15, 2019.

“The April 29 sortie was the first where the KC-46 and the C-5M made contact,” Bateman said. “That was awesome to be a part of. You have a few pinch me moments in life and this was one of them for me. Not everyone gets to be a part of something like this. We were able to get two aircraft together for the first time.”


“Every test flight begins with a continuity check so the KC-46 crew ensures they can connect and disconnect safely with our aircraft,” Bateman added. “From there, we continue testing a variety of items at multiple speeds and altitudes throughout the sortie.”

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

A Boeing KC-46A.

One capability Bateman and his C-5M crew mates tested with the KC-46 was the ability to connect with both aircraft near max gross weight.

“For these tests, we were required to be over 800,000 pounds with cargo and fuel,” Bateman said. “Our 60th Aerial Port Squadron Airmen developed a load plan. The expediters loaded the cargo onto the airplane, and our maintainers ensured the C-5M was flyable. It’s a huge team effort to ensure we are mission ready. I feel like I have the smallest part of it. I just fly the airplane.”

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

A KC-46A Pegasus during testing with a C-5M Super Galaxy for the first time on April 29, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Christian Turner)

On April 29, 2019, Master Sgt. Willie Morton, 418th Flight Test Squadron flight test boom operator, oversaw operations in the back of the KC-46 during the testing process.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Morton said. “I was a KC-10 Extender boom operator at Travis for about 13 years so going to the KC-46 and being a part of the next step in aerial refueling is pretty awesome. I have the chance to provide input on an aircraft that will be flying missions for many years.”

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

A United States Air Force KC-10 Extender.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

To complete refueling with the KC-46, boom operators must use a series of cameras that project a 3D image on a screen. These refueling experts then use that image to carefully guide aircraft into position, Morton said.

“We are testing capabilities at low altitudes, high speeds, high altitudes and high speeds, as well as heavy and light gross weights so we know how the aircraft will respond,” he said. “We have to find the optimal speed the C-5M can fly at to support refueling. We are also doing our best to ensure the mechanical compatibility of the KC-46 and C-5M.”

According to Lt. Col. Zack Schaffer, 418th FLTS KC-46 Integrated Test Force director, the testing is a joint effort between the USAF and Boeing.

“The KC-46s being used for this test effort are owned by Boeing and operated by a combined Air Force and contractor crew,” Schaffer said. “All the test planning and execution is being led by the 418th FLTS, part of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards. The flight test program evaluates the mechanical compatibility of the two aircraft at all corners of the boom flight envelope, as well as handling qualities of both the tanker, boom and receiver throughout the required airspeed and altitude envelope at different gross weights and center of gravity combinations.”

The 418th FLTS is also responsible for developmental testing of the C-5M, and is providing a test pilot to support the C-5M side of the certification testing, Schaffer added. The C-5M was crewed primarily by the 22nd AS with augmentation from the 418th.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

A United States Air Force C-5 Galaxy in flight.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Brett Snow)

“Additionally, the military utility, lighting compatibility and fuel transfer functionality is also being evaluated,” Schaffer said. “The testing is expected to take approximately 12 sorties to complete.”

Once the testing is complete, the results will be used to develop the operational clearance necessary to allow KC-46s to refuel the C-5M for missions.

“The C-5M is also one of the receivers required to complete the KC-46 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation program, which is a prerequisite to the KC-46 being declared operationally capable,” Schaffer said. “Completing the testing necessary to expand the operational capabilities of the KC-46 is a critical step in modernizing the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. The 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis has provided outstanding support to ensure this testing can get the warfighter expanded capabilities as soon as possible.”

Identifying potential problems is also a focus of the testing, Moore added.

“It’s important, if any issues are identified during the testing, to ensure counter measures are created to overcome those issues,” Moore said. “We want to get the best product to the warfighter to extend global reach and mobility.”

Travis is scheduled to receive its first KC-46 in 2023.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

NATO forces are converging on Norway for Trident Juncture, which will be the alliance’s largest military exercise in nearly two decades.

But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.

Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.


It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.

Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.

Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.

It was “the biggest move we’ve seen” in regard to Russian military activity in Kaliningrad, a US defense official said at the time. The Kremlin said it had a “sovereign right” to put forces there.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

Russian crew members service an Iskander missile.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.

Other imagery detailed in June 2018 by the Federation of American Scientists showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site.

Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.

That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.

Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”

“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.

The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”

Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.

St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”

Russian officials reportedly told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in early 2017 that they would be willing to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO if there was a war in the Baltics.

‘There’s a big regional adversary right there’

Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.

The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.

More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.

Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”

The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.

EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.

The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.

North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.

Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.

The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.

Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.

Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.

The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.

“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A big change is coming to the GI Bill transfer benefit

For the longest time, the GI Bill was one of the most effective recruiting incentives. Even for recruits who had no intention of using some of the many perks, the ability to pass it on to their spouses or children was a huge factor in deciding whether or not to enlist. For some U.S. troops, that benefit is at an end.

A new policy reported by Military Times shows that the Pentagon sees the transferability benefit as a recruiting tool and that those military members with more than 16 years of service are closer to retirement than they are to being a recruit. As a result, the Department of Defense will place a cap on transferring those benefits, clearly believing the possibility of retirement at 20 years is a much better retention incentive than giving a free education to military children.


Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
Kinda like that but with one giant asterisk.
(National Archives)

The current policy states that any member with six years’ time in service can transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children as long as they serve another four years. That will not change. Members with 10 years of service also received transferability benefits even if they were unable to extend their service for any reason. That provision will also go away – unless the member was forced out due to force-shaping policies.

“The fact that nobody was consulted about this is alarming,” Paul Frost, a retired Navy captain who serves as MOAA’s program director for financial and benefits education, told Stars & Stripes. “What else is being discussed on the changes of this bill, which is one of the key benefits that a service member gets?”

Current service members will have until that year to decide their course of action. The new Forever GI Bill does not affect this new policy and all transfer requests must still be made while the service member is on active duty.

“As a matter of principle, The American Legion is against the curtailment of veterans’ earned benefits,” said American Legion spokesperson Joe Plenzler. “We understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it and disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the full use of this earned benefit.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is ready for Russia’s new stealth fighters

After watching an F-22 Raptor twist and turn during an impressive demonstration at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, we asked the 1st Fighter Wing’s commander if he’s worried about Russia’s new Su-57 stealth fighter.


“It’s always good to be chased,” Col. Jason Hinds, commander of the 1st Fighter Wing, told Business Insider. “When people are trying to beat you, you know you got an impressive airplane.”

Russia has touted its new Su-57 as superior to the U.S.’ F-22 Raptor, but the Su-57 is still undergoing testing and has yet to be mass-produced.

Also Read: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

While many have called into question its stealth capabilities, Moscow claims the Su-57 is a fifth-generation fighter and that it hopes to turn it into a sixth-generation fighter.

“I don’t know what they’re trying to call it,” Hinds said. “I can tell you that anytime you’re going into combat, you got to be concerned about whatever the adversary brings, whether it’s a fourth-gen airplane or a fifth-gen plane — you got to be ready for both.”

Hinds said what’s most important for the “entire operational kill chain” is their own training and the maintenance of the plane and its weapons.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition
A Russian Su-57 in flight. Wikimedia Commons photo by Alex Beltyukov.

“You really can’t be focused on the adversary — you got to be focused on yourself,” Hinds said.

“You’ll train on the adversaries, you’ll train against everything you need to be ready for — and we got to be ready for all of it.”

While analysts have criticized some of the Su-57’s capabilities, many have also maintained that the Su-57 is highly maneuverable — perhaps even more so than the F-22.

“I’m not concerned — I’ll tell you that,” Hinds said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 courses open to civilians that actually teach you how to operate

Look, we get it. You have an unquenchable thirst — a yearning for the trumpets and cannon-fire, but the kids have soccer practice on Tuesdays and you have bowling league on Thursdays. What is a would-be operator to do?

High-end training is seeing an incredible boom right now. Whether you’re a Global War on Terror (GWOT) veteran looking to relive some of those glory days or just a red-blooded American looking to add a little spice to your life, there are training opportunities aplenty.


But what about the serious student who wants to challenge themselves at the same level as some of our most elite warriors? We’re going to give you a rundown of some of the best private training opportunities available because this is America — and the only reason you need to drive fast, shoot stuff, and jump out of airplanes is that you want to.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

U.S. Army Rangers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, helocast into the water from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, at Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii, Nov. 14, 2018.

(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy)

You can’t jump right into a high-level class though, so we’ve provided a roadmap to keep it fun and relevant. If you’re already at a high skill level, go ahead and jump right into the deep end, but don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Many of the classes and events are also physically demanding, so make sure you prepare before beginning your own special Q course. Once you’ve been training and start feeling good about yourself, amp it up and challenge yourself with our first training event:

1. GoRuck. The lads over at GoRuck have been doing their thing for a while now, and the GoRuck Challenge has evolved into a multi-event destination. As special as the Special Forces are, they’re all ground-pounders at heart, so you’ll need to be able to put weight on your back and get to the objective. If you really want to have some ruck credibility, be prepared to complete the two-day H-T-L, a combination of their Heavy, Tough, and Light events. Before you can be special, you gotta be tough. GoRuck also offers Ascent, a three-day “adventure” that will immerse you in wilderness survival, first-aid, and mountaineering — minus the granola-eating hippie garbage from your REI wilderness survival classes.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

GoRuck Ascent is legit wilderness training.

(Screen grab from YouTube video uploaded by Tony Reyes)

2. Courses of Action. Leadership training is paramount in the military. Courses of Action, led by former U.S. Army Special Forces NCO Johnny Primo, offers a Small Unit Tactics course that focuses on rapid decision making, communication as a leader, and other essential skills in highly stressful situations. The four-day course is held in Texas and rotates students through leadership roles and at least 12 missions, always facing an opposing force. Regardless of the small unit you lead — family, work team, weekend softball league — you’ll learn effective skills that will impact every aspect of your life.

Land, sea, air … it doesn’t matter where! If you’re special, you take the fight wherever it shows up. The next two courses are all about that life aquatic. If you can’t swim or haven’t in years, you might want to check out the local Y to get your feet wet before diving in.

3. PADI Open Water Diver. A basic diving certificate is just the beginning — like any other skill, you have to keep improving. PADI provides classes and certifications all over the country, so don’t let a lack of an ocean get in your way. The Advanced Rebreather Diver is where all the cool kids are, so be prepared to put in the time to claim your throne as the King or Queen of Atlantis.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

PADI offers courses across the country, including everything from basic diving certification to advanced rebreather diver.

(Photo by Jennifer Small/PADI)

4. OC Helicopter PADI Heli-Scuba Course. Any weekend warrior can dive out of a boat. If that’s not good enough for you, you’re, well, special. And special people dive out of helicopters. That’s right, it’s time to take your diving to the next level with helo-inserts. At id=”listicle-2641265805″,250 per person, it’s not cheap, but think of how impressed that chick over in accounting is going to be. You can’t be the office alpha if you’re not doing alpha stuff.

Well, we’ve covered land and sea — now it’s time to take to the air. Hold on to your security blanket and prepare for the airborne lifestyle. It’s not cheap or easy, but you’re up to the task. Besides, you can’t look down on the regular grunts doing grunt stuff if you’re not Airborne!

5. HALO Loft. There are great skydiving instructors all over the country, but there’s only one civilian High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jump, and that’s HALO Loft. How high are we talking? How does 28,000 to 43,000 feet sound? Honestly, it sounds terrible to me, but I’m not special. If you want to claim those bragging rights, tuck your pants into your boots and get ready to regale the world with tales of airborne glory.

HALO Tandem Skydive from 30,000ft

www.youtube.com

You’re almost there. You’ve forged yourself into something better than you were, but now that your body and will are steel, it’s time to sharpen. These are the skills that really set you apart from the pretenders — skills that have real-world, everyday applications for the safety and security of you and your loved ones.

6. ShivWorks ECQC, Extreme Close Quarter Concepts. There are a lot of folks out there teaching great things, but Craig Douglas at ShivWorks has been teaching people how to work in close and nasty with blade work, weapon retention, clinching, groundfighting, and striking, mixed in with plenty of force-on-force. His 20-hour ECQC course has been taught all over the world to all sorts of very special folks and is one of the most refined curriculums out there when it comes to getting it done up-close and personal. It doesn’t matter if you’re a white belt or you’ve been sweeping the leg since the 1980s, you’ll learn something that will have an immediate impact on the way you live your life.

7. Jerry Barnhart Training. There are many shooting programs ranging from very good to complete crap, but there is only one Jerry “The Burner” Barnhart. Even though The Burner has been teaching deploying units since 1987, his classes have become a rite of passage in the wake of the GWOT. There are plenty of competition guys who have worked with our special warriors, but none have had an impact on the industry like Barnhart. From helping guys situate their kit to refining trigger presses, he’s next level. He doesn’t publish a training calendar (he doesn’t have to), but get a hold of him and get into a class.

Burner Series Intro

www.youtube.com

8. Rogers Shooting School. This is one of the granddaddies of the tactical shooting world. Bill Rogers has been training military and police instructors from around the world for more than four decades. This school is recognized as one of the most challenging shooting schools in the world and has humbled some of the best shooters from some of the most elite units. Rogers and his cadre tolerate no crap; be ready to go out into the Georgia woods and come out a week later a whole new shooter. Focusing on targets that stay still for a maximum of one second, this advanced school is not for the easily defeated.

9. Greenline Tactical. Don Edwards spent over 20 years in the Special Operations community fighting everywhere from Operation Just Cause (Panama) to Operation Enduring Freedom. He spent this time perfecting the skill of fighting under night vision, and when he retired, he went to work consulting and teaching for TNVC, cementing himself as a go-to source for all things night vision. When it comes to getting your night-jiggling on, no one speaks with more authority than Edwards. Check him out to find out why the good guys own the night.

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

Tim O’Neil has won five U.S. and North American Rally Championships; he was a factory driver for Volkswagen and Mitsubishi through the late ’80s and early ’90s and drove for the official U.S. Air Force Reserve team in the early 2000s.

(Photo courtesy of Team O’Neil Rally School)

10. Team O’Neil Rally School. Cars kill far more people every year than gunfire, so one of the best things you can do as a prepared citizen is to get some advanced driver training to even those odds. The Team O’Neil Rally School has become one of the most prominent providers of advanced driver training to Department of Defense clients. Their Tactical Mobility Package focuses on skills ranging from recognizing vehicle ambushes to high-speed loose surface training to skid pads — and even high-angle ascents and descents. If you’re going to be driving a Hilux on a crappy road in the dark — or just driving your kids home from school — Team O’Neil is where you need to go.

Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.