Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet's life - We Are The Mighty
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Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.


Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”

Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.

“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”

Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.

“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”

Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.

“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”

On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.

“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”

It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.

“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”

Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.

“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”

It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.

“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”

CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.

The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.

“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.

Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”

Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).

“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”

Now: Artist takes his craft to war and back again

Articles

The Air Force’s search to find a new ground attack plane is getting intense

The Air Force is 10 days into its “light attack experiment” at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, where four aircraft — AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword; Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano; and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion, as well as their AT-6B Wolverine — have been strutting their stuff.


Air Force pilots already have flown basic surface attack missions in the A-29 and AT-6, according to the service, and conducted “familiarization flights” in the Scorpion and AT-802L as part of the month-long event.

The live-fly exercises will move into combat maneuver scenarios and weapons drops, some of which have already happened.

“This experiment is about looking at new ways to improve readiness and lethality,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement August 9. Goldfein, along with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, stopped by the event, which the service has been putting together for months.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
A Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano A-29 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range. Photo by Ethan D Wagner

How service leaders plan to evaluate the performance of four very different aircraft — from jet to turboprop plane to an armored cropduster — is still to be determined.

The aircraft were on static display for leaders, including Air Combat Command commander Gen. Mike Holmes and Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition at the Pentagon, to check out.

Goldfein even flew in the AT-6 and the A-29, according to reports.

“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” Wilson said of the experiment, dubbed OA-X. “Experiments like these help drive innovation and play a key role in enhancing the lethality of our force.”

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range. Photo by Ethan D Wagner.

Goldfein added, “We are determining whether a commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft and sensor package can contribute to the coalition fight against violent extremism. I appreciate industry’s willingness to show us what they have to offer.”

The service has said the prolonged conflict in the Middle East, with the Islamic State and other extremist groups extending their influence in the region, is the impetus for buying another plane — just one that won’t cost taxpayers a fortune.

“We want to look at a concept so we could have a lower operating cost, a lower unit cost, for something to be able to operate in a permissive … environment than what I would require a fourth- or a fifth-gen aircraft to be able to operate in,” Bunch said in March.

But no matter what the outcome, some in Washington, DC are already pleasantly surprised the Air Force has become more hands-on in potential future weapons and aircraft buying strategies.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

“The light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, provides an example for how rapid acquisition and experimentation can help our military procure the needed capabilities more quickly, more efficiently, and more affordably than we have in the past,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain said.

“Our adversaries are modernizing to deploy future capabilities aimed at eroding the US military advantage — and reversing that trend will require a new, innovative approach to acquisition and procurement,” he said in a statement August 9.

The Arizona Republican in January released his white paper assessment on how the Defense Department should move forward in military spending.

The former Navy pilot stressed that, while the Air Force should sustain its A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter fleet for close-air support, “the Air Force should procure 300 low-cost, light-attack fighters that would require minimal work to develop.”

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
A Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft sits at Holloman AFB. USAF photo by Christopher Okula

McCain on August 9 stressed his committee has been supportive of the action, and “included $1.2 billion in authorized spending for the program in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.”

“I am encouraged to see the Air Force using the rapid acquisition authorities that Congress has given the Department of Defense in recent defense authorization bills,” he said. “The light attack aircraft will be an integral part of building our military capacity to combat current threats, and this experiment is a new model for quickly getting our warfighters the capabilities they need to bring the fight to the enemy.”

The event is scheduled to run through August 31.

Articles

A shoulder to cry on? Service secretaries bemoan lack of progress on the job

In what should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the current state of Washington, the three service secretaries complained Oct. 24 about how hard it was to get anything done because of the cumbersome Pentagon bureaucracy and Congress’ inability to approve a spending budget on time.


In a forum sponsored by the Center for a New American Security in D.C., Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James said she had been surprised by “how difficult it is to get anything done in Washington, how difficult it is to move your agenda.”

James specifically mentioned the political stalemate in the Congress and “the need to get back to compromise.”

Navy Sec. Ray Mabus said his biggest surprise and frustration was “how slowly the bureaucracy moves, particularly DoD-wide.” If you want to do something, he said, the response is “we have to study this, or you have to do it DoD-wide” instead of letting the individual services act.

Army Sec. Eric Fanning said he was surprised by “how much time that would be spent on the budget every year,” because “we don’t have any stability” in the congressional budget process.

All three of the secretaries said they were trying to take steps within their service to bypass the ponderous procurement process, with James and Fanning citing the rapid capabilities offices their services have established to get gear fielded quicker — even if it wasn’t “a 100 percent solution.”

The procurement system is set up to seek the ultimate solution, which is a problem because the adversary moves quicker, Fanning said.

Mabus endorsed that view and said the Navy has “been doing pilot programs,” to move prospective systems out to the fleet instead of following the lengthy process for a program of record. The idea, he said, “is to get something out faster,” and possibly to “fail faster.”

He cited the Navy’s deployment of an experimental laser defensive weapon system on the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf, which is influencing decisions on follow-on weapons.

James said the advice she would offer her successor in the next administration would be to spend less time on review and oversight on smaller programs so the acquisition specialists could have more time for the biggest programs.

The three secretaries, who would be expected to leave office when a new president and defense secretary take over next year, said they are involved in a detailed process run by Defense Sec. Ash Carter’s office to prepare briefing papers on programs, budget and personnel issues for their successors.

The secretaries were introduced by Michele Flournoy, CEO of CNAS, who is widely rumored to be the next defense secretary if Hillary Clinton becomes president.

The three officials insisted that their services were ready to fight the current battles against violent extremists, such as ISIL, but said they were concerned about their ability to prepare those forces for a future fight against a high-end adversary due to the uncertain and constrained defense budgets, the intense pace of operations and reductions in their force levels.

Among the emerging threats they were trying to prepare for, the secretaries cited cyber attacks from high-end rivals such as Russia, and armed unmanned aerial vehicles, which already are showing up in Iraq.

James noted the explosive loaded UAV that killed three Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq recently. And she said the Air Force detected an “unmanned system in the vicinity” of its deployed forces and “was able to bring it down with electronic means” rather than shooting it down. She declined to say how that was done.

Asked if they would be able to conduct a “no-fly zone” over rebel-held areas of Syria, which some have advocated, James said, “we know how to do this,” but it would require money, people and resources that would have to come from other commitments.

But because the Air Force would be supported by the Navy and perhaps coalition partners, “I have to believe we would figure out how to do it,” she said

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force reveals first base for stealth, thermonuclear B-21 Raider

The Air Force announced Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, has been selected as the preferred location for the first operational B-21 Raider bomber and the formal training unit, March 27, 2019.

Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas, will receive B-21s as they become available.

The Air Force used a deliberate process to minimize mission impact during the transition, maximize facility reuse, minimize cost and reduce overhead.

“These three bomber bases are well suited for the B-21,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson. “We expect the first B-21 Raider to be delivered beginning in the mid-2020s, with subsequent deliveries phased across all three bases.”


Ellsworth AFB was selected as the first location because it provides sufficient space and existing facilities necessary to accommodate simultaneous missions at the lowest cost and with minimal operational impact across all three bases. The Air Force will incrementally retire existing B-1 Lancers and B-2 Spirits when a sufficient number of B-21s are delivered.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

A B-1B Lancer flying over the Pacific Ocean.

(US Air Force photo)

“We are procuring the B-21 Raider as a long-range, highly-survivable aircraft capable of penetrating enemy airspace with a mix of weapons,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “It is a central part of a penetrating joint team.”

Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, and Minot AFB, North Dakota, will continue to host the B-52 Stratofortress which is expected to continue conducting operations through 2050.

The Air Force will make its final B-21 basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes. That decision is expected in 2021 and is part of the overall Air Force Strategic Basing Process.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just announced the 2018 global temperatures – and it’s not good

Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.


“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.

Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). This warming has been driven in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities, according to Schmidt.

2018 Was the Fourth Hottest Year on Record

www.youtube.com

Weather dynamics often affect regional temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced similar amounts of warming. NOAA found the 2018 annual mean temperature for the contiguous 48 United States was the 14th warmest on record.

Warming trends are strongest in the Arctic region, where 2018 saw the continued loss of sea ice. In addition, mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continued to contribute to sea level rise. Increasing temperatures can also contribute to longer fire seasons and some extreme weather events, according to Schmidt.

“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Schmidt.

NASA’s temperature analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life


This line plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2018, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean, as recorded by NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). Though there are minor variations from year to year, all five temperature records show peaks and valleys in sync with each other. All show rapid warming in the past few decades, and all show the past decade has been the warmest.

These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heat island effects that could skew the conclusions. These calculations produce the global average temperature deviations from the baseline period of 1951 to 1980.

Because weather station locations and measurement practices change over time, the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences has some uncertainties. Taking this into account, NASA estimates that 2018’s global mean change is accurate to within 0.1 degree Fahrenheit, with a 95 percent certainty level.

NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but with a different baseline period and different interpolation into the Earth’s polar and other data poor regions. NOAA’s analysis found 2018 global temperatures were 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit (0.79 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century average.

NASA’s full 2018 surface temperature data set — and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation — are available at:

https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

GISS is a laboratory within the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.

NASA uses the unique vantage point of space to better understand Earth as an interconnected system. The agency also uses airborne and ground-based monitoring, and develops new ways to observe and study Earth with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. NASA shares this knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science missions, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/earth

The slides for the Feb. 6 news conference are available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/noaa-nasa_global_analysis-2018-final_feb6.pdf

NOAA’s Global Report is available at:

http://bit.ly/Global201812

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 next-level ways to celebrate Independence Day

With the Fourth of July nearly upon us, let’s consider how we go about celebrating the independence of the United States. American-as-f*ck movies, barbecues, and brews (before we go ahead and start our own explosive light show) are the most popular ways to go about it.

But there’s nothing wrong with upgrading a few of those ideas.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Beware of going Full Veteran.

Related: 8 veteran AF ways to celebrate Independence Day

Right now, everyone is thinking of celebrating July 4th in the same way you are — and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with however you want to celebrate independence; that’s the beauty of it. But there’s also nothing wrong with constantly trying to outdo each other in a race to create the best party either.

It’s time to Manifest Destiny all over your backyard with these simple ways to upsell everyone on American democracy.


Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

“Yeah, spruce ale. Prove me wrong.” – Ben Franklin

1. Upgrade your brew to something an American Patriot might drink.

Since Budweiser is now owned by a Brazilian-Belgian transnational conglomerate, it’s hard to call it the official beer of America’s independence. And while there are many more American beers not yet owned by other countries, we might as well drink what the Founding Fathers drank. Now we just need to find out what this was…

Luckily for us, Yards Brewing Company already did. Using letters and other documents written by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin, the brewers recreated a golden ale, porter, and spruce ale, each of which were once brewed by the Fathers themselves.

2. Upgrade those movies.

I know, the story of a Maverick fighter pilot who plays by his own rules gives you a massive bard-on. But did you know there are other movies that make Top Gun look a high school kid’s fevered daydream while dropping some real knowledge on you?

For example, First Blood, while fictional, has all the same badassery of Top Gun without being so over-the-top that it’s laughable. And it comes with a real message at the end.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Philadelphia, home of Benjamin Franklin, has to use sparklers.

3. Take advantage of state laws when buying fireworks.

The great thing about these United States is that powers not reserved for the Federal government are delegated to the States — and the Feds don’t give a damn about fireworks. So, just because it might be illegal to purchase in one state doesn’t mean you can’t drive to another to pick up your 4th of July Arsenal of Democracy ammunition.

Sorry, Pennsylvania.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Even if you prefer the hot dog, you can even expand those flavors, like with Chicago-style dogs.

4. The meats.

Burgers and hot dogs are classics. No one will argue with you there. But that doesn’t mean that’s all you have to make. There are a lot of crowd-pleasing ways to use those coals you got fired up: brisket, pork chops, steaks, chicken, ribs… the list is endless.

And while the meat is where good BBQ starts, remember the many flavors of America. There’s the tangy mustard-based sauce of the Carolinas (try that with some cole slaw). Or maybe you’re into a heavier, smoky Kansas City-style sauce. There are many to choose from — don’t skimp out.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

“We already have Tim Hortons. Next stop, Ottawa.”

5. Succeed where the Revolutionaries failed.

In 1775, Col. Benedict Arnold tried to capture Quebec and free the Canadians from the British yoke. Outnumbered, cold, and outgunned, he was turned back in a rout. It ended the American excursion in Canada during the Revolution — but it doesn’t have to be forever. Arnold tried to invade Canada in November.

SAD.

This is July and they’ll never expect it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

10 details you should know about the Bergdahl case

On Oct. 16, 2017, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy.


Following the plea, a military judge has heard testimony from numerous witnesses who either knew Bergdahl or were involved in the search to find him. Soon the military judge is expected to issue Bergdahl’s sentence based on his actions, his time in captivity and the impact on the soldiers who spent weeks searching across Afghanistan. We are the Mighty has been in the courtroom since the plea and has heard many details that haven’t been released before.

Here’s a list of ten things you should know before the Judge issues his sentence.

10. Bergdahl was a waiver Soldier

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl entered the Army in 2008 with a waiver after being discharged from the Coast Guard nearly two years earlier. The Army has yet to confirm if his waiver was related to mental health issues, but upon his release from captivity, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder include difficulty adjusting to social situations and a distrust of others. During the pre-trial hearings, the Army did rule that despite his diagnosis, Bergdahl did understand his actions when he walked away from his post in 2009.

9. He was described as “Squared Away”

During the trial testimony, some fellow soldiers — including his former leaders — have described Bergdahl as “squared away.” Numerous witnesses have said Bergdahl was always in the designated uniform, on time and in the right place. During his free time, he even read field manuals and philosophy books. This is one of the most interesting turns in the case and begs the question: “How did Bergdahl go from a squared away soldier to a deserter?”

Also read: This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty

8. He deployed late

While the rest of Bergdahl’s unit, 4th Brigade 25th ID, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009, he stayed behind with a staph infection. After recovering, Bergdahl finally deployed as an individual augment and was with his Platoon in Afghanistan for less than two months before he walked off.  When asked by the military judge during the trial if he knew that his service in Afghanistan was important, Bergdahl responded, “At the time, it was hard for me to understand.”

7. There were some red flags

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Bowe Bergdahl in a photo after his capture by Taliban insurgents. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the days and weeks before he walked off, Bergdahl displayed some behavior that might have seemed normal until strung together by investigators, revealing that he may have planned his desertion in advance.

First, he sent his computer home, which to many other soldiers would been weird since writing emails and watching movies is a great way to pass the down time of deployment.

Second, he went to finance and asked for a cash advance before he rotated back to his outpost and subsequently walked off.

Lastly, he left all his serialized gear (weapon, night vision, etc.) at his outpost. One soldier testified that when he found the gear in a neat pile he knew Bergdahl had left on his own.

6. His outpost was “Hell on Earth”

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Observation post Mest-Malak, where Bergdahl was stationed before leaving his post. (Photo from Reddit user OnlyBoweKnows.)

Bergdahl’s platoon was assigned to OP Mest, a small checkpoint in Paktika province close to the Pakistani border. OP Mest guarded a road intersection and was located literally right next to the village of Mest. The outpost was built in a dry river bed that often flooded during the spring rains. As a result of the poor weather and living conditions, many soldiers in the Platoon suffered from bad cases of dysentery. Additionally, the outpost was built over an Afghan cemetery; some soldiers even found bones as they were digging their fighting positions.

5. His platoon searched for 10 days straight

After Bergdahl was found missing, the other soldiers in his platoon took it upon themselves to find him.

In the first few hours and days, the platoon conducted a nearly constant rotation of patrols in the area to try and find Bergdahl. At one point, they stretched themselves so thin that only a Fire Team of three was left at the outpost to man the radio. Many of the soldiers describe the initial days of searching as a “complete hell.”

After 10 days, the platoon was allowed to rest and refit. Many soldiers had to buy new socks and uniforms that had literally rotted of their bodies. According to the Army lawyers, the official search for Bergdahl would last another 45 days.

4. SEAL Team 6 went after Bergdahl and the enemy killed their dog

During the first week of the search, SEAL Team 6 was ordered to find Bergdahl given their unique and specialized training in hostage recovery missions. When one of the SEALs testified at the trial, he remembered saying that “someone is going to get hurt or killed looking for this kid.” A few nights later, the SEALs raided a house where they suspected Bergdahl was being held. During the mission one of the SEALs was shot 7 times and his military working dog was killed by the enemy.

Related: Bowe Bergdahl just apologized to those hurt searching for him

3. The Afghan elections ended the search

The summer of 2009 was a critical point in the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan elections were scheduled for August and a major mission of U.S. forces was to protect the polling sites from attack and corruption. When Bergdahl walked off in late June, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

For weeks, thousands of soldiers across Afghanistan were ordered to shift their focus from counterinsurgency missions to search recovery operations to find Bergdahl. So many soldiers were flooded into the area where Bergdahl went missing that the Commanders on the ground created a second unit to coordinate the search effort.

By August, the focus shifted away from Bergdahl to the elections and the future of Afghanistan.

2. He’s been an Intel source since his return

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
A clip from a video released during Bergdahl’s captivity.

When Bergdahl returned to U.S. forces in 2014, he was immediately questioned about his time in captivity. During the trial, some of intelligence officers testified that Bergdahl was a “gold mine” of information.

Bergdahl’s intelligence value has been defined in two ways. First, a DOD representative of the group that runs Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) school stated that Bergdahl’s detailed description of his captivity will help “prepare forces in the future.” Secondly, the lead intelligence analyst who follows the Haqqani Network, the group that held Bergdahl for nearly 5 years, told the military judge that the information from the debrief helped “build [an understanding] of the capture network like it’s never been done before.”

1. His charges were reduced before he pleaded guilty

The Army initially charged Bergdahl with Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during Combat Operations in Afghanistan. However, after months of arguments by the lawyers on both sides, Bergdahl finally pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during guard duty at OP Mest and a possible convoy patrol scheduled for the following day.

While this change may seem minor, the distinction is critical during the sentencing phase of the trial. The military judge will now only consider Bergdahl’s actions for the first few hours before he was captured by the enemy instead of the nearly five years Bergdahl was missing.

Articles

The Air Force will have lasers on planes soon

By 2020, the U.S. Air Force expects to have “directed energy combat weapons pods” on its jets. During the Air Force Association Air Space conference, the Air Force General with the most Air Force name ever, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said “I believe we’ll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon. That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.”


Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
DARPA Air Force Laser Concept

The lasers will be a weapon against unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), missiles, and other aircraft, according to Gen. Carlisle. The Army, Marine Corps, and the Navy, thinks of lasers as a defensive weapon. The Army, Navy, and Marines’ laser weapons are designed shoot down incoming artillery shells, rockets, and drones, their objective is developing a defensive weapon to shoot down incoming high-speed ballistic and cruise missiles.

The Air Force’s ideas for laser tactics is actually much more aggressive then Gen. Carlisle would lead us to believe. Since directed energy weapons can shoot multiple shots at the speed of light on a single gallon of gas, the Air Force sees a nearly unlimited weapon, capable of taking out not only incoming missiles, but also their source.

“My customer is the enemy. I deliver violence,” Air Force Lt Gen. Brad Heithold, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, told an audience at a directed energy conference in August 2015. Heithold wants the chance to mount such a laser onto one of AC-130 gunships.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
For the uninitiated, this is what the current gun on the AC-130 looks like.

Laser weapons are becoming much more compact and capable of being mounted on aircraft as small as a Predator drone. Portability is what makes the difference in battlefield development. Such a laser used to be the size of a passenger jet. The previous restrictively large sizes were based on their cooling methods. Liquid lasers that have large cooling systems can fire continuous beams, while solid state laser beams are more intense but must be fired in pulses to stop them from overheating.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
It’s like Star Wars lasers vs. Star Trek lasers. So that debate might be settled soon too.

Now, General Atomics is field testing a DARPA-funded weapon it calls “High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System” (or HELLADS), which is roughly five feet long.

The actual HELLADS system doesn’t have video of tests yet but here’s a similar American-Israeli system being tested to take out incoming mortar rounds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=11v=LThD0FMvTFU

 

NOW: The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

OR: The Navy’s new weapon system is a laser pointer on steroids

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy uses drone to deliver supplies to submarine for the first time

Commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) in partnership with the University of Hawaii, tested their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities by delivering supplies onto a submarine off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, Oct. 10, 2019.

The UAV took a 5-pound payload consisting of circuit cards, medical supplies, and food to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) while it was underway.

“What started as an innovative idea has come to fruition as a potentially radical new submarine logistics delivery capability,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Keithley, assigned to COMSUBPAC. “A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than 5 pounds, so this capability could alleviate the need for boats to pull into ports for parts or medical supplies.”


Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a 5-pound package to the USS Hawaii during an exercise off the coast of Oahu, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)

The concept itself came from the Commander, Submarine Force Innovation Lab (iLab) one year ago. Since then the iLab, in partnership with the University of Hawaii Applied Research Lab, has worked on developing the means to make it possible.

“Our sailors are visionaries. Their ideas benefit the submarine force, making an incredible difference,” said Rear Adm. Blake Converse, commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet. “We are already seeing the impact that this one idea can have on the entire fleet. The joint effort between the sailors at COMSUBPAC and the University of Hawaii has resulted in delivering necessary supplies to submarines that can save time and money, allowing us to stay in the fight.”

This idea led to the creation of the Submarine Force’s first UAV squadron at CSP. Submarine sailors stationed at Pearl Harbor volunteered to attend weekly training at Bellows Air Force Station, in Waimanalo, Hawaii, to become proficient drone pilots and to develop the concept of converting a UAV and a submarine sail into a package delivery and receiving platform.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Outrigger Canoe Club members escort the USS Hawaii as it arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, June 6, 2019.

(Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki)

“Members of University of Hawaii Applied Research Lab worked alongside COMSUBPAC sailors to develop a ‘snag’ pole and payload release mechanism from the drone, practicing the concept using the prototypes on the back of trucks and jeeps,” said Keithley. “As the training progressed and the drone innovations became more reliable, the team was able to demonstrate the capability onto a small patrol boat out of Pearl Harbor.”

After final adjustments and last-minute training, the team assembled on the shore of western Oahu and flew a small 5-pound payload over a mile offshore to USS Hawaii.

“The snag pole and drone delivery mechanisms performed perfectly as the payload of parts was safely delivered onboard the submarine, making history as the first ever drone delivery onboard an underway submarine,” said Keithley.

“I am very proud of the joint effort and the capability they have created out of nearly thin air. The success of this project is a true testament to the ingenuity of our team and I am very thankful for them and our submarine sailors, who volunteered their time to make it a success.”

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

Articles

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

Over this past weekend, Iran reportedly threatened two U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft operating in international waters. The P-8A Poseidon and the EP-3E Aries II operating in the Persian Gulf received the threatening radio messages but proceeded with their mission.


Iran could very well have the means to shoot down U.S. spy planes. Iran has the SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300) missile system from Russia and also has developed a home-brew version of the air defense missile called the Bavar 373. Iran has a number of other surface-to-air missiles in service as well as fighters like the MiG-29 and F-4 Phantom.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to the Bureau of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 replicates the characteristics of an MK-54 torpedo. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)

The P-8A Poseidon is a modified version of Boeing’s 737 airliner, slated to replace the legendary P-3 Orion. The P-8 can carry torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and even AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense, and it has a range of 4,500 nautical miles. The plane has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force.

The EP-3E Aries II is a modified version of the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that specializes in electronic intelligence, or ELINT. The plane has a range of 3,000 miles. This was the aircraft that was involved in a 2001 incident off Hainan Island that killed the pilot of a Chinese J-8 Finback after a mid-air collision.

The threats come after a series of incidents between Iranian and American naval vessels. Notable incidents included harassment of the Aegis destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) and an incident where the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian Boghammers. American surveillance aircraft have also faced harassment from Russian and Chinese forces in recent years, including incidents where aircraft have come within ten feet of P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and RC-135 surveillance planes.

In 1988, tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region led to a series of clashes, including Operation Praying Mantis in April after the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) was mined. During a day of heated clashes, American forces sank a frigate and missile boat and destroyed or damaged other Iranian maritime assets, in exchange for one AH-1 Cobra helicopter. Later that year, an Airbus was shot down during a clash between the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Vincennes and Iranian Boghammers.

The current state of tensions between Iran and the United States raises the specter of another round of clashes. How would an Operation Praying Mantis II go down? It could very well start with a shoot-out between Revolutionary Guard speedboats and a U.S. Navy vessel. After that, we could very well see a sharp series of naval and air clashes, combined with cruise missile strikes on Iranian bases.

If Iran were to launch missiles at Israel in the event of a conflict breaking out (Saddam Hussein tried that gambit in 1991), the entire Middle East could be on the precipice of a conflagration.

Articles

This new Army Stryker vehicle is America’s latest plane killer

Remember how the Stryker was supposed to be a family of fighting vehicles? Well, now, a new member of the family has emerged… and it’s a plane killer.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, Boeing and General Dynamics have teamed up to create the Stryker Maneuver SHORAD (SHOrt Range Air-Defense) Launcher. Plain and simple, this variant will be murder for enemy planes – and it can be mounted with a wide variety of munitions that can make this new Stryker an effective distributor of surplus MiG, Sukhoi, Mil, and Kamov parts.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
The Stryker Mobile SHORAD Launcher. SHORAD stands for short-range air defense. The four Hellfires can also ruin any tank’s day. (Photo from General Dynamics Land Systems)

While one configuration displayed at a Huntsville, Alabama, expo was armed with a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders (technically MIM-9X, since they are vehicle-launched) with four Hellfire missiles, a display at the show listed numerous options. These included the FIM-92 Stinger, the Mk 44 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun, 70mm Hydra rockets, multiple machine guns (bringing back the Meat Chopper?) and lasers.

How this was done was shockingly simple. A Stryker chassis was modified to operate the turret from the Avenger, a HMMWV-based air defense system. The Avenger has eight FIM-92 Stingers and a single M3P .50-caliber machine gun, and was intended to replace the Chapparal and M163/M167 Vulcan Air Defense System.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
MIM-72 Chapparal (US Army photo)

Most of the Army’s land-based surface-to-air missile systems have been focused on the missile-defense mission. The MIM-104 Patriot, for instance, was initially designed to kill aircraft and provide area air defense, but it has since become a specialist in killing shorter-range ballistic missiles like the SS-1 Scud.

The Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system has capabilities against a wider variety of missiles.

The Navy has a wider array of surface-to-air missiles for tactical purposes against aircraft. The RIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-162 surface-to-air missile scored kills against anti-ship missiles this fired at the destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) in October 2016.

The SM-2 was also used by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49) to shoot down an Iranian airliner misidentified as a hostile fighter during a July 1988 incident in the Strait of Hormuz.

Articles

How the US military used social media to help hurricane victims in Texas and Florida

As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.


“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”

Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.

While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
USAF Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel testifies before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services at a confirmation hearing for his appointment to the grade of general and to be chief of the National Guard Bureau on June 21, 2016. US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez.

The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.

Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.

“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.

For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
US Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard arrive in Houston Aug. 27, 2017, to aid citizens in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. US Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

Coordinating Efforts

The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.

For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.

Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.

Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.

Thousands of National Guard troops remain on the ground in Texas for relief efforts, and the Pentagon mobilized nearly 30,000 military personnel for Irma recovery.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard rescue Houston residents as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Monday, August 28, 2017. More than 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard have been called out to support local authorities in response to the storm. US Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

That’s all thanks to planning.

“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.

Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Emergency supplies are removed from a pallet and stacked by members of the US Coast Guard, Marines, Army, and Air Force at Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 14, 2017. US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier.

Special Mission Unit Milestone

This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.

For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.

Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
A US flag mounted to a Texas Army National Guard vehicle waves in the breeze during Hurricane Harvey rescue operations in Katy, Texas August 29, 2017. US Army Photo by Sgt. Steve Johnson.

The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.

And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s oldest deployable warship takes two days to get to sea

The USS Blue Ridge is the lead ship of her class and the oldest deployable warship in the U.S. Navy.


Assigned to the United States Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, the Blue Ridge is one of the U.S. Navy’s two command ships.

When the U.S. Navy’s ships are in port and undergoing maintenance, they are put in dry dock — a narrow basin that a ship can sail into and then have all of the water in it drained. This enables workers to access the ship’s underside, and enable stability during construction and upgrading operations.

Related: The 5 greatest warships of all time

Footage released by the Department of Defense shows that it takes the USS Blue Ridge two days to get out of dry dock.

See the time-lapse video here: