The woman who unsuccessfully ran for vice president on the ticket of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008 may soon be in charge of the agency tasked with taking care of America’s veterans.
Several news reports indicate former Alaska governor and Republican VP pick Sarah Palin has been in discussions with the Donald Trump transition team in recent days to become the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
A Palin aide told ABC News that the conservative firebrand had told Trump her “megaphone … can be used in a productive and positive way to help those desperately in need.”
The reports on Palin don’t come out of left field, as the former governor has made veterans’ issues a major subject of her speeches across the country. In 2015, Palin addressed the massive Conservative Political Action Conference with a 30-minute speech devoted entirely to military and veterans issues.
“This bureaucracy is killing our vets,” Palin said of the VA in her CPAC speech. “They wait for months, they wait for years to get treatment at the VA, and they’re losing hope. The VA’s mistakes and coverups have cost the lives of over 500 vets in the last four years — and that doesn’t account for those who took their own lives.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest U.S. government agencies, with over 300,000 employees and a 2017 budget of $187 million.
Palin’s oldest son Track served in the Army with a combat tour to Iraq and her daughter Bristol is married to Medal of Honor recipient and former Marine Dakota Meyer
Afghanistan. Distant, foreboding, little understood.
Known as the “Graveyard of Empires” the carcasses of countless soviet war machines rust away in mute testimony to the futility of that savage war. The more I read about Afghanistan the less I seemed to know. Watching the news was even more confusing and it appeared America had entered this same graveyard and that we were now fighting elusive ghosts otherwise known as the Taliban.
I remember watching the newscasts in the 1990’s of the Taliban as they rose like a cancer throughout the country, oppressing women, killing those who opposed them and imposing their radical version of Islam on all. Nothing made a deeper impression on me than the public destruction of the massive Banyam Buddhas and the wholesale “cleansing” of Afghanistan’s precious ancient history. Then came 9/11.
In 2010, then our 9th year of the war, I was still struggling with understanding why we were there, who we were fighting and maybe most importantly who were we helping? I got it in my mind that I wanted to make a sort of “combat travel film” that didn’t just following brave men in combat but one that also helped to explain more about the land and the people. Digital technology now makes every soldier a potential documentarian and it was under these auspices that I started to look for a story. It didn’t take long and it would change my life.
Enter Team Cobra
A Sergeant friend of mine told me about a group of all-volunteers from the Oregon National Guard who, in 2008, wanted to deploy to Afghanistan to “impart change” by helping the local population and training the Afghan National Army. They would return a year later as one of the most decorated units in Oregon National Guard history. While I didn’t at the time know the particulars, I knew I had to tell their story.
Of the 17 men that deployed, I interviewed 6 of them. I had between 2 and 4 hours of initial interview footage from each man. With each interview their stories started to intertwine and after the interview process my real work began. I listened to these stories on my headphones over and over again. Their journey to Afghanistan was over, but mine was just beginning. I watched countless video clips and looked at thousands of photos, each one representing a puzzle piece. Weeks turned to months. The sound of the newspaper being delivered in our driveway served as a reminder that I might have missed another night’s sleep. I was learning about Afghanistan, about the diversity of the people, about courage, about honor and about loss.
Watch Gary Mortensen’s ‘Shepherds of Helmand’ on The Mighty TV here.
Earlier that year I had lost my mom to a long and protracted battle with cancer. My father followed a few weeks afterwards. In my own sorrow I consumed myself with telling the story of Team Cobra. They too knew loss. One of their leaders, Bruno DeSolenni had died in an IED attack and the impact on these men would be profound and everlasting.
Each night as I worked on the film I felt closer to these guys, even though they had only met me months earlier for a few hours. But that didn’t matter, I felt a huge responsibility to tell their story in a way that would honor them. I was nervous to show the final cut to them because I wanted to tell the story right. They were gracious and thankful and said to my relief that it was faithful.
When the film finally debuted almost a year later everyone of the soldiers were there for the premiere. They stood on the stage after the screening and answered questions. It was after this that I really got to know them, not just as soldiers but as people.
In my attempt to make a film about Afghanistan, I ended up making a film about America. It’s seems so easy to accept the popular indictment that we have lost it as a country. But I would submit that all around us are exceptional people. I am proud to say I know six of them. They are simply some of the finest people I have ever met and I know that if I was ever in need I could call any of them and they would be there for me. Not because I’m special, it’s because that’s just what they do. They went to Afghanistan to help, some of have gone back, one didn’t come back and some of them are there today.
I am honored to call Jerry Glesmann, Paul Dyer, Marking Browning, Dave Hagen, Dominic Oto and Steve Cooper my friends. They helped me more than they will every know.
Gary Mortensen is an award-winning documentary film director, President of Stoller Family Estate (a premiere Oregon winery), and is active in helping to preserve and share the stories of our veterans. See more at www.veteranslegacies.com.
More than 120 wounded warriors from the Air Force and Army gathered March 1, 2019, to officially open the sixth annual Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base.
The Air Force Trials, which run through March 7, 2019, are part of an adaptive and resiliency sports program designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of the wounded, ill and injured service members who participate.
Retired Capt. Rob Hufford, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program ambassador and athlete, celebrates as he is honored for his Invictus Games achievements.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
The Paralympic-style competitive event showcases the resiliency of wounded warriors and highlights the effectiveness of adaptive sports as part of their recovery. It also highlights the impact the Wounded Warrior program, or AFW2, has in helping with the restorative care of wounded warriors enrolled in the program.
Members from the Air Force Wounded Warrior team pay respect to the flag during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
The Trials are also a test of the athletes’ resiliency, strength, and endurance, according to Col. Michael Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director.
“It’s vitally important for their recovery we rebuild their sense of purpose, their sense of self and their sense of confidence,” said Flatten, during remarks at the ceremony. “Everybody in the world is going to tell them what they can’t do, we’re here to tell them what they can.”
A member of the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Team glides into the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
The event features 10 different adaptive sports: powerlifting, cycling, wheelchair rugby, swimming, shooting, rowing, track and field, archery, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball.
The Air Force Trials is the primary selection location for the 40 primary and 10 alternate members of Team Air Force at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games June 21-30, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.
Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey, Air Force Personnel Center command chief, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
“It’s an awesome day here at Nellis,” said Air Force Personnel Center command chief Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey. “The intent of this event is to promote the health, wellness and recovery of seriously wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans,” said Lindsey. “During these trials, participants will build comradery and confidence as they continue to recover.”
This year, the participants are made up of 53 active duty, 15 Air National Guard and Reserve and 72 Air Force veterans. Also attending the Trials are 32 caregivers, who play an important role in athlete care and recovery.
Col. Michael J. Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
During the ceremony, the athletes were recognized by service, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue performed a parachute demonstration, two HH-60 Pave Hawks from the 66th Rescue Squadron flew a two-ship formation and the Trials torch, carried by Air Force members from the 2018 U.S. Invictus Team, was lit.
Athletes pose for a group photo during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)
The Trials are part of the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior program (AFW2), which is a congressionally mandated and federally funded organization administered by AFPC in San Antonio, Texas. The program includes recovery care coordinators, non-medical care managers, and other professionals who work with wounded warriors, their families and caregivers to guide them through various day-to-day challenges.
The DoD Warrior Games is an annual event recognizing the importance adaptive sports plays in the recovery and rehabilitation of the wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.
Born in 1920, Anderson Washington just celebrated his 100th birthday. A Coast Guard veteran of World War II, he’s experienced a lot during his lifetime.
Washington grew up in New Orleans during a time of deep segregation. As a Black man, it was especially difficult for him and his family. When he was asked what it was like as a young boy growing up, he shook his head in sadness. “It wasn’t pleasant,” he shared. Washington said that he tries not to think of those times because they were so bad. He continued, “I try to avoid remembering certain things. So much unpleasantness that I try to block it all out.”
Later in his life during his early 20s, World War II broke out and he watched the United States join the fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Washington knew that he would most likely be drafted and wanted to retain some manner of control over where he went. “The day I enlisted was a couple of days after the segregated laws were changed in the military. I chose to join the Coast Guard rather than the Army, where I felt I was sure to have disadvantages,” he explained.
Following basic training, Washington was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Comanche in 1942. Although often referred to as the “lifesaving service,” the Coast Guard was so much more than that. Much of the American public may not even realize how involved they were during World War II and how integral their service was to the nation. During the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany had taken over Denmark. Greenland, a Denmark territory, was then assigned to be a part of a defense system.
President Roosevelt put the Coast Guard in charge of it.
In Greenland, the Coast Guard was responsible for search and rescue operations, convoy assignments and defending it from Nazi invasion. One of the cutters assigned was Washington’s. One of the others, the Northland, was actually the first American unit to engage with the enemy during World War II. They would go on to support land, air and sea forces in all of the combat theaters during the war.
When Washington was asked what it was like to serve in the Coast Guard as a Black man, he was conflicted. “At the time, it was pretty bad with ups and downs throughout. Looking back, it was a good experience for me though. It was a great chance to see the world,” he said.
Washington was a Coxswain during his time in the service. “We were on troop transport, bringing troops overseas,” he explained. He remembers bringing soldiers and marines to places like North Africa and along various stops in Europe. In 1943, a German submarine launched torpedoes on the convoy his cutter was escorting. A torpedo hit the USAT Dorchester on her starboard side.
It exploded and sank almost immediately.
Washington’s cutter sped ahead alongside the Escanaba to rescue survivors. Together, they managed to save the lives of 229 men. Hundreds died in the water, mostly likely due to hypothermia. Four of the men that would perish aboard the Dorchester were Army Chaplains, who gave up their own life preservers for others. Reports later detailed this heroic act and how they came together in prayers as the ship sank.
The Coast Guard is often overlooked when discussions of the Battle of the Atlantic arise. But her fleet served a vital and important role in convoy escort and combat. Her warships not only protected allied convoys but sank enemies and captured their crews.
The Coast Guard even helped plan the naval operations for the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.
In 1945, the war was ending. The Coast Guard captured the first enemy vessel once American joined the war and then she captured the last of them as it ended. Washington left the Coast Guard in 1946 and came home to a segregated United States. “It was miserable,” he said. Despite serving his country proudly during the war, he was still looked at as less than due to the color of his skin when he returned.
Washington would become integral in the fight for Civil Rights. “I was one of three plaintiffs who fought and sued to desegregate New Orleans,” he shared. He is the only plaintiff still alive from that successful suit today.
When asked what advice he would give to activists who are still fighting for social justice and equal rights, Washington got right to the point. “Any way you cut it or talk about it, it boils down to voting,” he explained. He encouraged those championing causes to find their platforms, use their voices and vote.
Washington never dreamed he’d make it to 100 years old.
Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the city of New Orleans and the United States Coast Guard came together to safely celebrate his big day. Washington also didn’t realize how many lives he had touched with his own. At his celebration, he was saluted by Captain Michael Paradise, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Base New Orleans and thanked for his dedicated service.
Washington is grateful for his long life and hopeful for the future for this country. He knows the best is yet to come.
One man’s hero is another man’s tyrant, a popular aphorism goes.
But while we can argue the validity and virtue of certain political agendas, the callous methods by which some leaders attain their goals are less up to interpretation.
After all, no matter how a historian tries to spin it, ordering a tower to be constructed out of live men stacked and cemented together with bricks and mortar is pretty brutal.
Business Insider put together a list of the most ruthless leaders of all time featuring men and women who employed merciless tactics to achieve their political and military agendas.
Note: All people on the list ruled prior to 1980, and no living figures were included. People are arranged in chronological order.
Qin Shi Huang
Reign: 247-210 B.C.
Qin, also called Qin Shihuangdi, united China in 221 B.C. and ruled as the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. He was known to order the killing of scholars whose ideas he disagreed with and the burning of “critical” books.
During his reign, he ordered the construction of a great wall (roughly speaking, the prequel to the modern Great Wall of China), and an enormous mausoleum featuring more than 6,000 life-size terra-cotta soldier figures. Large numbers of conscripts working on the wall died, and those working on the mausoleum were killed to preserve the secrecy of the tomb.
“Every time he captured people from another country, he castrated them in order to mark them and made them into slaves,” Hong Kong University’s Xun Zhou told the BBC.
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (aka Caligula)
Reign: A.D. 37-41
Caligula was quite popular at first because he freed citizens who were unjustly imprisoned and got rid of a stiff sales tax. But then he became ill, and he was never quite the same again.
He eliminated political rivals (forcing their parents to watch the execution), and declared himself a living god. According to Roman historian Suetonius, Caligula had sex with his sisters and sold their services to other men, raped and killed people, and made his horse a priest.
He was eventually attacked by a group of guardsman and stabbed 30 times.
After killing his brother, Attila became the leader of the Hunnic Empire, centered in present-day Hungary, and ended up becoming one of the most feared assailants of the Roman Empire.
He expanded the Hunnic Empire to present-day Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the Balkans. He also invaded Gaul with the intention of conquering it, though he was defeated at the Battle of Catalaunian Plains.
“There, where I have passed, the grass will never grow gain,” he reportedly remarked on his reign.
Wu went from 14-year-old junior concubine to empress of China. She ruthlessly eliminated opponents by dismissing, exiling, or executing them — even if they were her own family.
The Chinese empire greatly expanded under her rule, and though she had brutal tactics, her decisive nature and talent for government has been praised by historians. Notably, military leaders who were handpicked by Wu took control of large parts of the Korean peninsula.
Khan’s father was poisoned to death when Khan was 9, and he spent time as a slave during his teenage years before he united the Mongol tribes and went on to conquer a huge chunk of Central Asia and China.
His style is characterized as brutal, and historians have pointed out that he slaughtered civilians en masse. One of the most notable examples was when he massacred the aristocrats of the Khwarezm Empire, decimating the ruling class, withunskilled workers taken to be used as human shields.
Torquemada was appointed Grand Inquisitor during the Spanish Inquisition. He established tribunals in several cities, put together 28 articles to guide other inquisitors, and authorized torture to extract confessions.
He reportedly encouraged King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to give Spanish Jews the choice between exile or baptism, causing many Jews to leave the country. Historians estimate that Torquemada was responsible for about 2,000 people burning at the stake.
Interestingly, some sources say Torquemada himself came from a family of Jewish converts.
Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (aka Vlad Drăculea or Vlad the Impaler)
Reign: 1448; 1456-1462; 1476
When Vlad III finally became the ruler of the principality of Wallachia, the region was in disarray because of the many feuding boyars. According to the stories, Vlad invited his rivals all to a banquet, where he stabbed and impaled them all. (Impaling was his favorite method of torture.)
Though it’s difficult to determine whether this story was embellished, it characterizes Vlad’s rule: He tried to bring stability and order to Wallachia through extremely ruthless methods.
Reign: Grand Prince of Moscow: 1533-1547; Czar of All the Russias: 1547-1584
Ivan IV began his rule by reorganizing the central government and limiting the power of the hereditary aristocrats (the princes and the boyars).
After the death of his first wife, Ivan began his “reign of terror” by eliminating top boyar families. He also beat his pregnant daughter-in-law and killed his son in a fit of rage. He earned the nickname “Ivan Grozny” (aka “Ivan the Formidable” — which has been mistranslated to “Terrible”).
The only child of the notorious King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Mary I became queen of England in 1553 and soonreinstalled Catholicism (after previous rulers championed Protestantism) as the main religion and married Philip II of Spain — a Catholic.
Over the next few years, hundreds of Protestants were burned at the stake, and for that she earned the nickname “Bloody Mary.”
Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (aka the Blood Countess)
Killing spree: 1590-1610
The countess lured young peasant women into her castle, promising them jobs as maids before brutally torturing them to death. According to one account, she tortured and killed as many as 600 girls, though the actual number is likely to be much lower.
Her torture methods included sticking needles under finger nails, covering girls in honey before unleashing bees on them, biting off chunks of flesh, and, most infamously, bathing in the blood of virgins to stay young and beautiful.
One of the many influential figures involved in the French Revolution, Robespierrebecome one of the dominant players during the “Reign of Terror,” a period of extreme violence when “enemies of the revolution” were guillotined, arguing that this terror was an “emanation of virtue.”
According to historical sources, Robespierre was soon corrupted by power and was executed by guillotine as well.
King Leopold II “founded” the Congo Free State as “his own” private colony, and went on to make a huge fortune from it by forcing the Congolese into slave labor for ivory and rubber.
Millions ended up suffering from starvation, the birth rate dropped as men and women were separated, and tens of thousands were shot in failed rebellions. Demographers estimate that from 1880 to 1920 the population fell by 50%.
This forced-labor system was later copied by the French, German, and Portuguese officials.
Historians believe that Talat Paşa was the leading figure in the Armenian genocide. As minister of the interior, he was reportedly responsible for the deportation and ultimately the deaths of some 600,000 Armenians.
He was assassinated in Berlin in 1921 by an Armenian. As an unusual bit of history, Adolf Hitler sent his body back to Istanbul in 1943, hoping to persuade Turkey to join the Axis powers in World War II.
In 1917, Lenin led the October Revolution to overturn the provisional government that had overthrown the czar. About three years of civil war followed, after which the Bolsheviks came out on top and took over the country.
“During this period of revolution, war and famine, Lenin demonstrated a chilling disregard for the sufferings of his fellow countrymen and mercilessly crushed any opposition,” the BBC reported.
After escaping military service, Mussolini founded Italy’s Fascist Party, which was supported among disillusioned war veterans, and organized them into violent units called Blackshirts. He began to disintegrate democratic government institutions, and by 1925 he became “Il Duce,” or “the leader” of Italy.
Surviving multiple assassination attempts, Mussolini once said: “If I advance, follow me. If I retreat, kill me. If I die, avenge me.”
In 1936, Mussolini formed an alliance with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in which he introduced anti-Semitic policies in Italy. In April 1945, already removed from power, Mussolini tried to flee as Allied forces closed in on him, but he was shot and killed by anti-Fascists and hung upside down in a Milanese square.
Stalin forced quick industrialization and collectivization in the 1930s that coincided with mass starvation (including the Holodomor in Ukraine), the imprisonment of millions of people in the Gulag labor camps, and the “Great Purge” of the intelligentsia, the government, and the armed forces.
During World War II, Stalin’s son Yakov was captured by or surrendered to the German army. The Germans proposed trading Yakov for Field Marshal Paulus, who was captured after the Battle of Stalingrad, but Stalin refused, saying he would never trade a field marshal for a regular soldier.
By the end of 1941, Hitler’s German Third Reich empire (and Axis) included almost every country in Europe plus a large part of North Africa.
He also devised a plan to create his ideal “master race” by eliminating Jews, Slavs, gypsies, homosexuals, and political opponents by forcefully sending them to concentration camps, where they were tortured and worked to death.
According to some reports, the Nazis deliberately killed about 11 million people under Hitler’s regime. After learning that Soviet forces were closing in on Berlin, Hitler and his wife killed themselves in his Führerbunker.
After several meetings with Stalin, Choibalsan adopted the Soviet leader’s policies and methods and applied them to Mongolia. He created a dictatorial system and suppressed the opposition, and tens of thousands of people were killed.
Later in the 1930s, he “began to arrest and kill leading workers in the party, government, and various social organizations in addition to army officers, intellectuals, and other faithful workers,” according to an report published in 1968.
With the help of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, Gen. Franco overthrew Spain’s democratically elected Second Republic during the 1930s.
Under his regime, many Republican figures fled the country, and those who stayed were tried by military tribunals. Catholicism was the official (read: only tolerated) religion, Catalan and Basque languages were prohibited outside the home, and the regime had a vast secret police network.
As Franco got older, however, police controls and censorship began to relax, free-market reforms were introduced, and Morocco gained independence.
A communist leader, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China. Under his leadership, industry was put under state control, and farmers were organized into collectives. Any opposition was swiftly suppressed.
Mao’s supporters point out that he modernized and united China, and turned it into a world superpower. However, others point out that his policies led to the deaths of as many as 40 million people through starvation, forced labor, and executions.
Interestingly, he is sometimes compared to Qin Shi Huang (the first man on this list).
Pol Pot and his communist Khmer Rouge movement in Cambodia orchestrated a brutal social engineering that aimed to create an agrarian utopia by relocating people into the countryside. Others were put in “special centers” where they were tortured and killed.
Doctors, teachers, and other professionals were forced to work in the fields to “reeducate” themselves. “Anyone thought to be an intellectual of any sort was killed,” the BBC reports. “Often people were condemned for wearing glasses or knowing a foreign language.”
Up to 2 million Cambodians were executed or overworked or starved to death in just four years.
Gen. Amin overthrew an elected government in Uganda via a military coup and declared himself president. He then ruthlessly ruled for eight years, during which an estimated 300,000 civilians were massacred.
He also kicked out Uganda’s Asian population (mostly Indian and Pakistani citizens), and spent large amounts on the military, both of which led to the country’s economic decline.
Pinochet overthrew Chile’s Allende government in 1973 with the help of a US-backed coup. Reports say numerous people “disappeared” under the regime and as many as 35,000 were tortured. Pinochet died before he could stand trial on accusations of human-rights abuses.
He brought back free-market economic policies, which led to lower inflation and even an economic boom in the late ’70s. Notably, Chile was one of the best-performing economies in Latin America from the mid-’80s to the late ’90s.
Karina Kabalan met her husband Todd while the two were deployed to Iraq. He’s now a U.S. Air Force master sergeant. She’s a producer on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
The Dec. 9 episode of Fallon’s show featured Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has a special appreciation for military veterans and their families.
“If we ever have the opportunity to give back to our troops, I think we all should because we live and enjoy the life we have because of them,” Johnson said on the show.”I would love to give back to a military family that’s actually here in the audience. … This person does not know.”
Johnson then walks to the control room backstage where confused Tonight Show staffer Kabalan asks “What is happening right now?”
The film, television, and WWE star tells Kabalan that he hears she is “the most amazing person” and that he knows she and her husband have been apart for much of 2016. As The Rock describes the situation she and her husband are in, a man in USAF senior enlisted dress blues sneaks up behind her.
Then, The Rock says, “Turn around and hug your husband.”
It’s a big moment for Fallon too, who looks like he’s having trouble holding back tears.
The married couple hug as everyone looks on. Then they pull in Fallon and Johnson for a group hug.
“How could you even do this without me knowing?” Kabalan says to Fallon.
Soldiers are about to get their hands on the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), and the first unit will start receiving the trucks as 2019 begins.
These deliveries keep the program right on schedule, following an Army Systems Acquisition Review Council decision in December 2018 to move forward with fielding JLTVs to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The unit, located at Fort Stewart, Ga., will start receiving its own JLTVs in January 2019, and should be fully equipped with about 500 new JLTVs by the end of March 2019.
“The JLTV program exemplifies the benefit of strong ties between the warfighter and acquisition communities,” said Dr. Bruce Jette, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. “With continuous feedback from the user, our program office is able to reach the right balance of technological advancements that will provide vastly improved capability, survivability, networking power, and maneuverability.”
The new trucks represent a significant modernization success for the Army and Marine Corps, with the program on track to replace many venerable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV).
“I simply could not be prouder of the team that is bringing JLTV to reality,” Jette continued. “Our single focus is giving soldiers better capabilities, and our team of soldiers, Marines, and civilians worked tirelessly to deliver an affordable, generational leap ahead in light tactical vehicles.”
Joint Light Tactical Vehicles demonstrate their extreme off-road capability at the U.S. Marine Corps Transportation Demonstration Support Area at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
(U.S. Army photo by Mr. David Vergun)
The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to restore payload and performance that were traded from light tactical vehicles to add protection in recent conflict. JLTVs will give soldiers, Marines, and their commanders more options in a protected mobility solution that is also the first vehicle purpose-built for modern battlefield networks.
“We are very excited to get these trucks into the hands of our soldiers,” said Col. Mike Adams, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team commander. “It’s an honor to be chosen as the first unit to receive such an improved capability, and I look forward to getting it into our formations.”
The JLTV program remains on schedule and on budget as it wraps up its low rate initial production phase, yet the program office’s work is far from over. As warfighter needs change, the team will continue to explore ways to refine the design and the capability it offers.
More deliveries are slated across each service in 2019. Ultimately, the Army anticipates purchasing 49,099 vehicles across its Active, Reserve, and National Guard components, and the Marine Corps more than 9,000.
The JLTV will be fielded in two variants and four mission package configurations: General Purpose, Close Combat Weapons Carrier, Heavy Guns Carrier, and a Utility vehicle.
CLEMSON, S.C. — Expect to be impressed when you meet a Marine, but when that Marine is a 96 year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who challenges you to a pull-up contest, prepare to be blown away.This is one of many things Clemson University student Will Hines of Spartanburg has learned in conducting the Veterans Project, an ongoing undergraduate research project to collect and preserve the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations can hear those stories directly from the men and women who lived them.
Former Marine Staff Sgt. Robert A. Henderson’s story begins in Hawaii on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, as a plane with a perplexing paint job thunders overhead “close enough that I could have thrown a rock and hit it” toward a row of U.S. Naval ships docked in the harbor, he said.
He thought it was part of a drill until the plane dipped and released a torpedo. The violent chaos in the two hours that followed would define much of the 20th century.
Henderson, relaxed in a comfortable chair in his Spartanburg living room, describes in gripping detail the 51 months of combat he experienced, culminating in the Battle of Okinawa.
“I was in the first and last battles of the war,” he said.
Hines videotapes every word. One copy will go to Henderson and his family, and one copy will go to the Library of Congress to be preserved forever.
When asked how he stays so healthy at 96. Henderson takes Hines out to his garage to show off his home gym, where he exercises three times a week. He demonstrates by doing 12 pull-ups without breaking a sweat, and dares Hines to match him.
Interactions with truly amazing veterans like this are just some of the fringe benefits students who participate in the project enjoy. The Veterans Project is an example of community-engaged learning at Clemson, which has a military history dating back to its founding in 1889.
Hines, a junior business management major from Spartanburg, became involved in the project because of his life-long fascination with history.
“I’ve been interested in veterans since I was little. I met my great uncle when I was about 7 years old. I found out he landed on five islands in the Pacific, and I asked him a ton of questions,” he explained. “I was able to interview him in high school — for fun, not for anything specific — which helped me become closer to him. He was wounded twice — once on Okinawa from a grenade rolled down a mountain. Meeting him really influenced how I became interested in studying the history of America’ s conflicts.”
For most people, joining the special operations community is just a dream — a fantasy born of countless hours playing video games and watching cool-guy action movies.
To a much smaller group, though, joining the military’s most elite is not boyhood fantasy — it is destiny. It is for those few that this article posted. And since we are not simply dreamers, I thought I’d begin with a sobering question: What makes you think that you will succeed while so many others fail?
Really, think about it for a moment before you simply answer with “because I will never quit.” I’ve heard this same line parroted by some of the most impressive physical studs, to only see them one-by-one drop out. What makes you any different?
It all comes down to mindset.
Sure, be in incredible shape. Yes, be highly competent and motivated. But what it all boils down to — what proves to be the great separator of men — is what is between your ears.
If you are truly committed to joining special operations then you need to understand that preparing your mind for what is coming is even more important than preparing your body. When the pain starts and your body begins to fail you (no matter how fit you are you will reach this point many times over), your dedication, character, work ethic, and toughness will be put to the ultimate test.
I cannot prepare you for this, but what I can do is pull back the veil to give you some practical advice and mental “cheats” to master your pain and misery. Practice the following tips and store them away for the gut-checks that await you.
Imagine your girlfriend hiding her shame at your failure, then keep going. (US military photo)
Good luck to you. Train Hard. Train smart.
Tip #1: Keep your mind busy and distracted so it cannot dwell on the pain.
To focus on the pain is to certainly amplify it. Force yourself to think about something else. Think about fun memories, old flames, funny movies, future planning, pray, sing songs in your head – do anything except be alone with the pain.
Tip #2: Focus on your goal and draw strength from your commitment.
Remember that quitting is not an option. See yourself succeeding through the temporary anguish and draw strength from those that fall beside you.
If this doesn’t work, flip it and imagine your dream slipping away. Ponder the cost of failure. Imagine failing your friends and family who have bragged about you. Imagine having to explain for the rest of your life how you just couldn’t hang on a little longer.
Imagine your girlfriend hiding her shame at your failure.
Tip #3: Revel in the pain.
Convince yourself that the pain feels good or that the whole thing is just a hilarious game. Get furious at the pain if you like. Rebuke your body for being weak and your mind for trying to buckle for something so small as shaky arms from doing pushups. Also, if you can laugh at your misery, it is a great sign that you may survive it (just don’t let the instructors see you laugh or they will take it as a personal challenge to dole out more misery).
One veteran will receive the medals earned during Vietnam thanks to the nephew of his late battle buddy.
Three years ago, Curtis Sidwell of Watson, Illinois decided to research his uncle Donald Sidwell’s experience in Vietnam. Donald passed in 2009, and never shared his experiences behind enemy lines with his family.
While searching through his uncle’s effects, Curtis found that Donald had written two letters to the wife of a man named Phillip Taylor. In the first letter, Sidwell had written the worst news any friend might have to deliver to a loved one. Donald’s letter said that Taylor had been killed in a helicopter crash. The second letter corrected the first. It wasn’t true; her husband was not dead. Sidwell had been misinformed. Taylor was in fact, alive.
Stars and Stripes described the situation in an article titled, “A Whisker”:
“Severely injured during a firefight south of Pineapple Forest on Oct. 18, 1968, Taylor waited for an medevac chopper to transport him to a hospital in Chu Lai. When a chopper came, it took fire as it hovered over a row of trees, went into a tailspin, and then crashed. Taylor was thrown from the chopper, and was the only survivor of that accident.”
Curtis Sidwell was able to track down Taylor, and during a phone conversation Taylor recounted his ‘lone survivor’ incident. He also said that one of his superiors had promised he would receive a citation for how he’d conducted himself. Sadly, decades had gone by and no such thing happened.
“You could tell in his voice that he was bothered about that,” Curtis said in an interview with The Edn.“Knowing the day that Philip had and what he went through for the United States of America and for us, it only seemed fair to get him his medals.”
Sidwell embarked on a three-year effort to ensure Taylor got the recognition he was due, and his work paid off in the form of Taylor receiving a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Star awards, a Combat Infantryman Badge, a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, a Sharpshooter Badge, and a Marksman Badge. According to The Edn, a review is underway at Fort Knox for a Bronze Star related to Taylor’s bravery.
“It’s the least I can do,” said Sidwell. “And I think my uncle would be tickled if he could know what I’ve done.”
Make-A-Wish Foundation sets up special experiences for kids diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. While kids can wish for forts in their backyard, shopping sprees, or trips to Disney, some choose to get in the dirt and mud with the U.S. military. These 7 kids used their wishes to join (and in a couple of cases command) military units.
1. Evan takes command of Naval Air Station Fallon.
When Evan was offered a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he wished to become a Top Gun fighter pilot. The commander of Naval Air Station Fallon welcomed Evan into his office and had an instructor escort him around the school. Evan was then able to attend a Top Gun graduation ceremony where he received an honorary certificate. His escort, Major Chip Berke, told a Marine Corps journalist, “There were so many volunteers to help escort Evan and his family, but I was fortunate to get the job. Evan tells me that I work for him. He even asked to be taken back to ‘his office’ a few times after leaving Base Admiral Mat Moffit’s desk.
3. Ian Field packs a 20-year career into two days.
The Army’s 1st Infantry Division learned Ian Field wanted to be a soldier for his wish and their 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team set up a two-day event for Ian to climb from private to command sergeant major April 14-15, 2011. He began by enlisting in the Army and being promoted to private first class. He then fired weapons, trained with grenades, shot artillery, rode in a helicopter, drove a tank, and rescued an injured comrade. As a final event, now-Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Field led his squad during a ceremony commemorating their time together.
4. Carl “pilots” his plane right into the ocean.
Carl, an avid history buff, asked to be a World War II pilot for the day. Specifically, a pilot on the run after being downed. The Air Force trained him in survival skills before he flew to Hawaii. Soldiers and Marines welcomed him at the Hawaii airport with 1940’s military vehicles and gave him a tour of military museums and installations on the islands. Then, he was flown in a Navy bi-plane to a remote beach where he had to cut himself out of a parachute, find his gear, and lead his dad to safety. While they were setting up their position, a pair of Navy SEALs swam in and Carl led their assault on an enemy camp.
5. Andrew becomes a Marine, sailor, soldier, and airman in one day.
Andrew toured multiple bases and served with the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps in a single day for his wish. First, he visited March Air Reserve Base and toured a C-17 in a custom flight suit and helmet and saw a Predator drone and F-16 up close. Then he headed to the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton where he became an honorary sergeant major. The Navy showed him some of their inflatable boats and let him fire weapons on a computerized shooting range before the Army showed him around their vehicles.
6. Riley learns the Ranger’s Creed in time for graduation.
Riley Woina chose to be a Ranger for a day and practiced jumping out of planes with them before witnessing an actual airborne parachute drop with the 6th Ranger Battalion at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. During airborne training, a Ranger pulled Woina’s reserve parachute for him and accidentally gave the boy a black eye, but Woina decided to continue with training. He also assisted the Ranger candidates in clearing a room and was able to fire off some blank rounds from an M4 and M249. At Ranger graduation, he recited the Ranger Creed from memory.
Riley gave an interview to the Fort Benning Public Affairs Office where he discussed why he chose to be a Ranger for his wish, available here.
7. Jacob makes a World War II movie to honor the military.
Jacob Angel wished to be a World War II soldier in a movie depicting the exploits of World War II heroes. In the film, embedded above, he has to take a hill and fly the American flag over it.
The U.S. Army made a lot of training videos for World War II. Think of them as the PowerPoints of yesteryear. And when it was time to teach infantry to fight tanks, the Army hired an actor that looks suspiciously like the character Gaston and then filmed him drinking beer in a hunting lodge.
Seriously, even the lights hanging from the ceiling are similar. He’s one dentally-challenged sidekick away from being this guy…
Considering the fact that the new Beauty and the Beast revealed that Gaston was a veteran, it’s starting to look like Disney based their character on an old War Department training film.
But while Gaston is known for being an idiot, the staff sergeant in the training film knows his stuff. He’s a tanker who takes a little time out to teach infantryman how best to destroy armor.
He starts with how small arms can be used to force tankers to “button up,” diving into their hatches. Once the tanks are buttoned, they can be completely blinded by rounds hitting the view slits and periscopes:
Then, it’s time for grenadiers to try and shoot the crew through the armor with anti-tank rifle grenades:
But if the tanks make it past the grenadiers, the rest of the riflemen can throw Molotov Cocktails at the fleeing armor:
All of these were real weapons and tactics in the fight against German armor, and Gaston helped make it happen.
You can see the whole clip — and learn how to destroy Axis tanks — below: