Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

In the aftermath, and from the ashes of Dec. 7, 1941, which propelled the United States into World War II, rose a new call and opportunity to serve in the Navy, the Naval Construction Battalions. Today, they are known as Seabees.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy used civilian contractors to construct and support bases and other locations. However, with an increasing need to be able to defend and resist against military attacks, civilians could no longer be used. According to the Seabee Museum and Memorial Park, under international law it was illegal to arm civilians and have them resist the enemy. “If they did they could be executed as guerrillas.” On Jan. 5, 1942, Rear Adm. Ben Moreell received approval to organize the Naval Construction Force. In a matter of days, the first naval construction unit deployed.


Today, with seven rates ranging from Builder (BU) to Engineering Aide (EA) to Utilitiesman (UT), Seabees are a fully-functioning construction crew. They are strategically placed, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, and able to build, erect and salvage in various types of environments. Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor is one such unit.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Construction Electrician 3rd Class Mitchell Labree, a Sailor assigned to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, measures a wooden beam in order to build a shipping crate for a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)

CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor has the unique opportunity to assist and service the land from which they were birthed. One of their current projects is assisting Jim Neuman, History and Heritage Outreach Manager at Commander Navy Region Hawaii, and his team with the USS Arizona Relics Program.

“The USS Arizona Relics Program was born in 1995 when Congress authorized the Navy to move pieces of the wreckage out to educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations,” said Neuman.

The program is currently focusing on a part of the Arizona that was removed in the 1950’s due to corrosion and safety concerns. Before its removal it acted as a foundation for a makeshift platform where visitors to the Arizona could stand and where ceremonies could be conducted. It was a precursor to the white memorial structure known and visited today.

The Seabees and Neuman have taken on the responsibility to cut sections of the previously removed portion of the Arizona and ship them to various approved locations.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)

“Mostly people come to us. We have a lot of Pearl Harbor survivors that know about this [effort],” said Neuman. “They will reach out to local museums and share what they would like to see. As long as you are a legitimate educational institution or not-for-profit and the piece will be on public display, you can acquire a piece.”

A sentiment both the Seabees and Neuman have in common is the need to share a piece of history with others.

“Because of the amount of time [the section] has been out here, we want to make sure we get as much of it out to the public as possible,” said Neuman. “It doesn’t help for it to sit here and no one get a chance to see it.”

Builder 1st Class Christian Guzman, attached to CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor, who has helped lead the Seabees in this project, appreciates the opportunity for he and his team to recover sections for the public worldwide.

“We have a special tie to Pearl Harbor and World War II because that’s how we began. It is of historical significance that we, as Seabees, are able to work on the USS Arizona,” said Guzman.

Neuman explained that the Seabees were the obvious choice when considering how to satisfy the different request through the program.

“It is Navy history, Navy legacy, so it made sense that if we were going to have somebody actually cutting pieces of the [Arizona] wreckage we should have the Seabees do it,” said Neuman. “Because of their legacy, what they do historically and their mission, they have enthusiastically embraced it, which I really appreciate.”

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Steelworker 3rd Class Cameron Fields, crew leader at Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 detachment Hawaii, cuts a piece of steel salvaged from the USS Arizona.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael McNair)

To date, the Seabees of CBMU 303 Detachment Pearl Harbor have completed three phases of the project. Those phases consisted of cutting and shipping out various sized pieces to: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona, the Panhandle War Memorial in Texas, and the World War II Foundation in Rhode Island.

They are currently working on phase four which will be shipped to the Imperial War Museum in London, England.

“Britain was an ally in World War II. When the Empire of Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri, they didn’t only surrender to the U.S. they surrendered to the allies as well. They all signed the document so I’m thrilled that the museum sees the significance,” said Neuman. “They want to tell the whole story of World War II, not just the part they played. Visitors to the museum will be able to see part of the USS Arizona, and I think that’s great.”

The Seabees and Neuman will continue to partner together, work on the removed section of the Arizona and ship pieces out until there is nothing left.

The Seabees are proud to be a part of this undertaking as well as other jobs they execute around the island of Oahu.

“We have a whole spectrum of skill sets. This project only showcases a snippet of our diverse capabilities,” stated Guzman.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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This is what it takes to walk on the moon

Former Vice President Mike Pence once said in a statement at the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar that we will one day put American boots back on the Moon. It reaffirms his position he made at the Kennedy Space Center awhile back that Americans are going back to the moon at some point.


“We will return astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” said Vice President Mike Pence.

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Photo by Sgt. Amber Smith

 

Before we get our hopes up about signing up as a Space Shuttle Door Gunner (99Z) in the beloved Space Corps, there a long road to go. But there’s hope! We went to the Moon back in ’69 and we’re a few years past landing probes on comets. Surely sending more people to the moon with 2017 technology shouldn’t be that difficult.

Except it still is. It’s still very costly (average of $450 million per mission) to send people to space, let alone to the Moon.

To be worth the money and risk, NASA has a very brief list of requirements in astronaut selection. At least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, 3+ years of professional experience or 1,000+ hours of flight time, and the ability to pass the NASA physical. Seems easy enough, but NASA will only send the best of the freaking best to the Moon.

What better way to figure out what would make you stand out than by looking at those who’ve made the cut before?

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
This could be you. *Puppies not included* (Image courtesy of NASA)

 

At the time of writing this, 560 humans have been to space (according to the USAF’s definition) and only 12 have left their boot marks forever on the lunar surface. Of the 560 to go to space, 61.6% (337) have been American — including all twelve astronauts who’ve been to the Moon.

All twelve men were between the ages of 36 and 47. All from very prestigious universities, with seven of them having degrees in various military academies. And all but one, Harrison Schmitt, served in either the Air Force or Navy as well as ten being on active duty. Neil Armstrong was a veteran at the time of his flights.

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Basically, Neil Armstrong won ETS-ing. (Image courtesy of NASA)

 

Of the eleven military personnel, all were pilots. The least amount of flight time logged was by Neil Armstrong, who had over 2,400 hours. The standard just went up from there. John Young, the 9th person to walk on the moon, had 15,275 hours flying jets, props, helicopters, rocket jets; 9,200 hours in a T-38; and 835 hours in space.

You would need to also be fairly high in rank. Neil Armstrong, still the exception, was the lowest rank at Lieutenant Junior Grade — and a veteran, at that. Everyone else was an O-6, (Air Force Colonel or Navy Captain) and above.

If you want to walk on the Moon – you’re going to need to either be an aviation golden child, have a PhD from Harvard, or be veteran AF like Neil Armstrong.

Articles

Watch this bird strike take out a jet…from the pilot’s POV

What does a bird strike look like from the perspective of a fighter pilot? We actually have that — thanks to cockpit video that was released about a decade ago.


Bird strikes do a lot of damage. Even legends like the B-52 can be brought down by seagulls.

Now, when this video first appeared, it was believed to have been from the cockpit of a F-16. According to FlightGlobal.com, though, the actual plane was a CT-155 Hawk assigned to NATO Flying Training Canada.

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
A Canadian CT-155 Hawk performing a flyby at the Alliance Air Show 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. The video below is from a similar plane. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

For a single-engine fighter like the CT-155, this bird strike prove to be very fatal. As heard in the video, the two pilots on board tried to get the engine to re-start. When that fails, there’s only one option left for the pilots: GTFO.

That’s exactly what these pilots did, leaving the stricken Hawk to its fate.

The pilots who ejected, RAF Flight Lieutenant Edward Morris and Captain John Hutt of what was then the Canadian Defense Forces Air Command (now the Royal Canadian Air Force), were both recovered alive and well. It was a close call. You can see that close call from their perspective below.

Lists

4 ways you can tell the firefight in Afghanistan is over — for now

There are two types of firefights that ground troops experience: fun ones and others that suck.


The fun ones consist of taking enemy contact, maneuvering in on them, and clearing them out with tons of firepower without any good guys injured.

The ones that suck are the few that we don’t see coming — the ones where we take casualties. Although predicting when a firefight is going to happen is semi-possible, it’s a different skill altogether to know when they’re about to end.

Related: 14 images that portray your first day on a field op

So, check four ways you can tell when the firefight in Afghanistan is over — for now.

4. After an A-10 performs a perfectly executed gun run

During a firefight, it’s common for the platoon sergeant to call for air support if there is “air-on-station,” especially when the enemy is firing at you from a well-fortified position.

Witnessing the power of the A-10 nose-diving toward the enemy with its guns blazing is an excellent way to end the firefight for a while.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
We love that song.

3. When the local kids come back out to play

We’re not exactly sure how this one works, but right before rounds start flying, the locals tend to seek cover. Again, we’re not sure how it happens, but somehow the kids know when the area is clear and they come back outside and resume playing.

It’s crazy!

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Afghan children play soccer with multinational service members outside the Bazaar School at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Tracy Hohman)

2. When the intel troops arrive to conduct a BDA

Most of the military’s intel offices have access to satellites and view enemy activity from space. Typically, when a grunt unit is assigned to conduct a BDA, or Battle Damage Assessment, after a firefight, that means the coast is clear.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
U.S. Army Capt. DeShane Greaser stands in a crater caused by a bomb dropped during an air strike conducting a Battle Damage Assessment outside a combat outpost in Afghanistan. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Also Read: 6 questions you asked yourself after your first firefight

1. When it’s getting close to prayer time

Islam is a beautiful religion and the men and women who loyally follow the practice pray five times. Since prayer takes place throughout the day, ground troops commonly schedule missions and patrols according to those times.

It’s been frequently noted that firefights come to a quick halt if they overlap with prayer schedules.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Muslim Soldiers bow down in prayer during the celebration of Eid-Al-Fitr Sunday at the Joe E. Mann Center. Eid-Al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims worldwide. (Photo from U.S. Army)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin personally just launched 4 ballistic missiles

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently oversaw the launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and apparently pulled the trigger on four of them himself, the Associated Press reports.


The large-scale military drill exercised Russia’s land, air, and sea-based nuclear capability with test launches from submarines, supersonic bombers, and a launch pad.

“The goal of the launch was to test advanced ballistic missile warheads,” a Russian defense ministry spokesman said. And the missiles, as well as the warheads, were very advanced.

Not only does the land-based missile boast a range of over 6,000 miles, enough to hit anywhere in the US with hundreds of kilotons of explosive force, but it has been tailor-made to evade US missile defenses.

Also read: This is what Vladimir Putin looked like when he was a KGB spy

Russian media reports that the Yars ICBM tested by Russia flies in a jagged pattern to evade missile defenses. Once the missile breaks up, it carries multiple reentry vehicles and countermeasures to confuse and overwhelm missile defenses.

Even in test conditions, US missile defenses struggle to intercept ICBMs, but the US doesn’t even stock a sufficient number of interceptors to repel a Russian attack.

Russia’s ministry of defense reported that all missiles hit their targets. Russia last launched the Yars in September during a massive military drill near its border with Eastern Europe.

Watch the ICBM launch below.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Army’s new helmet protects against blunt force impact

It was around lunchtime when the shots rang out across Camp Maiwand in eastern Afghanistan.

Two gunmen — one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other operating a mounted PKM machine gun in the rear of a pickup truck — had just opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade visiting the Afghan base.


“The plan was the fully automatic machine gun was going to open up on us, and the AK was going to pick us off one by one,” said Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen, assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen accepts his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet from Program Executive Office Soldier officials during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“It just so happened that the terrain we were operating in, there was a choke point that we were walking through — it was a perfect opportunity to attack us,” he added.

During the insider attack, McQueen was struck in the back of the helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of about 20 feet, knocking him off his feet, he said. Understanding the gravity of the situation, McQueen quickly recovered and started checking on his soldiers as they worked to secure their position.

“It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in my life that I can relate it to,” McQueen said. “If I had to guess, [it would feel like] you stood there and let a horse kick you in the back of the head.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I was surprised that I was able to react as quickly as I did because I knew what had happened … I knew I was shot,” he added.

The attack lasted about 10 minutes before Afghan National Army forces moved in to apprehend the rogue policemen, McQueen said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard was fatally shot in the attack and was laid to rest at the West Virginia National Cemetery later that month. McQueen was sent to Germany and treated for a traumatic brain injury.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I had no surgeries. Basically, the eight days that it took me to get [from Germany] to Fort Benning [in Georgia], the brain bleed was healed,” he said. “Other than some physical therapy to correct some balance issues, that’s the only treatment I’ve had.”

Equipment return

On March 4, 2019, leaders at Program Executive Office Soldier presented McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, Program Executive Office Soldier officer in charge, presents Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“My dad used to have this saying. He would say, ‘Son, Superman is not brave,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, said at the ceremony. “My dad was telling me [that] Superman was invincible. He couldn’t be hurt. The reality is our servicemen and women can be hurt.”

Affixed to a plaque, the section of McQueen’s damaged headgear shows clear signs of distress with a portion ripped open to expose layers of shredded padding underneath.

“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts added. “We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return.”

Soldier protection system

After the presentation, PEO Soldier officials met with the media to discuss the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS. The new system provides soldiers with a modular, scalable integrated system that can be tailored to meet their mission requirements.

The fact that McQueen is still alive today is “a testament to what we do as acquisition professionals, in terms of providing capabilities that will bring our soldiers home safely,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, soldier protection and individual equipment project manager.

The Enhanced Combat Helmet, he noted, resulted from collaboration between the services after it was procured by the Marine Corps.

“This allowed us to provide the highest level of capability to our warfighters going into harm’s way,” Thomas added.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

The new SPS features an Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and the ballistic combat belt. Overall the new system is said to weigh less while maintaining the same level of ballistic protection and mobility than current systems, officials said.

The IHPS, for example, has shown a 100 percent improvement against a blunt force impact, when compared to the ECH, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, soldier protective equipment product manager.

In simple terms, blunt force protection refers to the way the energy is dissipated after a round strikes the helmet, Whitehead added.

Additionally, the IHPS will feature a boltless retention system, making it easier for soldiers to mount accessories to their helmet, or have the ability to integrate a visor or mandible protection device. When compared to current head protection technology, the boltless retention system eliminates the need for pre-drilled holes, which has the potential to weaken the ballistic material, she said.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Program Executive Office Soldier displays the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, at Fort Belvoir, Va, March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Security force assistance brigades are currently using a version of the SPS, Thomas added. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be the first conventional force to receive the upgraded personal protective equipment.

Even if it is the new SPS or the current equipment, McQueen has a newfound appreciation for his military-issued gear.

“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” said McQueen, joking that he once preferred to wear a ball cap and a plate carrier. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”

A lot of science and a lot of innovation go into producing the helmet and other protective equipment, he said.

“From now on, all my soldiers will wear [their helmet] — and if they are in a hostile environment, they won’t take it off,” he said.

Having served for seven years, McQueen is determined to meet the goals he set for his Army career. And while he is slightly delayed, he said. The sergeant is still committed to making the selection for Special Forces and completing Ranger training.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vice President Pence delivers commencement address to Air Force Academy class of 2020 and first cadets to join Space Force

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivered on Saturday the commencement address to the 62nd class of Air Force Academy graduates, which was modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“America is being tested,” Pence said. “While there are signs we are making progress in slowing the spread, as we stand here today, more than 700,000 Americans have contracted the coronavirus, and tragically, more than 30,000 of our countrymen have lost our lives.”


He added: “But as each of you has shown in your time here, and as the American people always show in challenging times, when hardship comes, American comes together. We rise to the challenge and the courage and compassion and generosity of the nation you will defend are shining through every day.”

Pence’s remarks came the same day as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in New York, the US state hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic, was “past the plateau” as the number of hospitalizations resulting from the novel coronavirus has continued to fall.

The vice president told the graduates they would now “commence [their] duties to defend this nation against all enemies foreign to us,” evoking President Trump and calling the novel coronavirus the “invisible enemy.”

“Class of 2020 – this is your day,” VP tells graduating cadets, seated 8 feet apart in accord with social distancing.pic.twitter.com/WAcCsbpago

twitter.com

Pence addressed the academy’s 2020 class in person at the Saturday afternoon ceremony, which occurred on US Air Force grounds in Colorado Springs, Colorado despite past reports that the vice president had considered sending pre-taped video remarks in lieu of an in-person appearance, according to CNN.

All gatherings in Colorado are currently prohibited under Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order.

To comply with social distancing, the Air Force Academy graduates marched into the ceremony six feet apart and were seated eight feet apart. No family members or other spectators were allowed to attend the closed ceremony. The ceremony, which lasted about an hour and thirty minutes, was previously scheduled to occur on May 28 but occurred Saturday — six weeks earlier than scheduled.

“You know your family couldn’t be here because of the extraordinary times in which we live,” Pence said. “We know they’re watching from afar.”

The ceremony was live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube so spectators could tune-in.

United States Air Force Academy Graduation 2020

www.youtube.com

Pence brought attention to the 86 graduates who would become the first Air Force Academy graduates to work as part of President Trump’s Space Force, which was officially established at the end of last year.

“We are a nation of courage,” the vice president said. “With the courage strength and compassion of the American people, we will get through this. We will protect the most vulnerable and we will heal our land.”

He added: “The American people are doing their duty now comes your turn to do yours: to defend the people of this nation, and this we know you will do. For long after the coronavirus is defeated, your mission will go on.”

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

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This Marine single-handedly cleared a rooftop in Fallujah

During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.


Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.

You can read the full account of what Adlesperger did that day here.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how airmen keep B-52 bombers flying on a moment’s notice

The US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress has been in service since the 1950s and is still a major player in the mission of deterrence to our adversaries.

The maintainers of the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, deployed out of Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, traveled to RAF Fairford, England, to ensure the success of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1.

“Our mission is to give confidence to our allies to show we are capable of going anywhere, anytime,” said US Air Force Senior Airman Braedon McMaster, 2nd AMXS 96th AMU electronic warfare journeyman.


Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

US Air Force airmen perform maintenance on a B-52 Stratofortress at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

Maintainers accomplish their mission by providing routine and unscheduled maintenance to the B-52s to ensure it is ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

“Back home, people are focused on their job and will occasionally help out here and there,” said US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Crowe, 2nd AMXS 96th AMU B-52 expediter.

“Here, what seems to work is that everyone is all hands on deck. You may have an electronic countermeasures airman change an engine or an electrical environmental airman helping crew chiefs change brakes.”

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

US Air Force airmen assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing prepare a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress for take off during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

US Air Force 1st Lt. Kevan Thomas, a pilot assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, does a preflight inspection on a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

US Air Force Airmen 1st Class Thomas Chase, left, and Christian Lozada, right, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chiefs, walk around a B-52H Stratofortress to conduct final pre-flight checks at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Zbinovec, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, inspects the inside of the engine of a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress after it has landed at RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

US Air Force Maj. “Feud,” a pilot assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, looks out at two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, over the Baltic Sea, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

The airmen of the 96th AMU are excited to be a part of the BTF for a variety of reasons.

“Being able to join with our allies is exciting,” Crowe said. “We [join them] from home too, but here it feels different.”

Spending time in England not only allows the maintainers to accomplish extra training, but they also use it to become closer and build trust with each other.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

US Air Force Maj. “Feud” and US Air Force 1st Lt. Kevan Thomas, pilots assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, prepare to fly by Tallinn Airport as a show of force during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, in Tallinn, Estonia, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron fly in formation during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, over the Baltic Sea, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

Without the 96th AMU at RAF Fairford, the B-52s would not be able to fly. “It’s like your car,” Crowe said. “If you are driving your car and you don’t have anyone to take care of any of the parts that break, you may be able to drive it once or twice but that will be it.”

The mission of the BTF is to assure our allies and deter our adversaries, and maintainers play a major role in ensuring we are able to accomplish our mission to respond at a moments’ notice.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses parked after arriving at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

“The B-52 is capable of going anywhere and in any point of time,” McMaster said. “It launches fast and it puts fear into the hearts of our adversaries.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Newman’s Own awards $200k to veteran organizations

The nation, writ large, has a moral responsibility to ensure the needs of veterans are met, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a ceremony where the Newman’s Own Foundation distributed funds to charities serving service members, their families and veterans.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford praised Newman’s Own for its dedication to service members, veterans and their families. The group distributed $200,000 to five organizations during the Oct. 5, 2018 ceremony in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.

Actor and World War II veteran Paul Newman founded Newman’s Own in 1982 with the goal of donating all of the company’s after tax profits to charities. In the years since, Newman’s Own has donated more than $530 million to thousands of charities. In 1999, the company partnered with the Fisher House Foundation and Military Times publications to aim donations at innovative groups that improve the quality of life for service members, veterans and their families. Since it started, Newman’s Own has recognized 179 programs with awards totaling $1,925,000.


Quality service members

“The reason the United States military has been able to do the things it does … throughout my career is because of the quality of young men and women we’ve been able to recruit over time,” the general said at the ceremony.

When Dunford entered the military, the all-volunteer force, which began in 1973, was in its infancy. There were many critics who believed the force would fail. The all-volunteer military has become the superb force of today.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to James Ferguson, founder of the Warrior Reunion Foundation of Cockeysville, Maryland, during the 2018 Newman’s Own Awards at the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon, Oct. 5, 2018.

(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The American people do appreciate the military and the sacrifices military families make, Dunford said. “But I am concerned about keeping this up,” he said. “It goes back to something George Washington said … ‘The manner in which we treat our veterans will determine the willingness of future generations to serve.'”

He said the recipients of the Newman Own Awards this year cover the full spectrum of services Americans want their vets to have. “We would want them to have housing. We would want them to have a job. We would want them to have health care, and a piece of that is we would want them to be connected to men and women with which they served so they don’t feel isolated when they leave active duty,” he said.

Appreciation of troops’ service

What these groups — and many more like them across the nation — do “really does send a loud and clear message that we really do respect, we value, we appreciate the service of those in uniform,” he said.

In 2018, the Warrior Reunion Foundation of Cockeysville, Maryland, received a ,000 grant from Newman’s Own. The group looks to help combat vets reconnect with their comrades they served in combat with. It lets veterans sit down with each other knowing that they experienced the same conditions, same uncertainties and sometimes the same traumas.

The Vets on Track Foundation of Garrisonville, Virginia, received a grant of ,500. The foundation furnishes homes for vets and their families who were previously living in shelters or the streets.

Code Platoon of Chicago received ,500 to educate vets and spouses to become software developers.

The West Virginia Health Right of Charleston received ,500 to provide free dental care for West Virginia vets without dental coverage.

And finally, Healing Warriors Program of Boulder, Colorado received ,500 to help provide non-narcotic therapies for the treatment of pain and symptoms of post-traumatic stress for vets.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

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6 times superstition turned the tide of battle

Whether it’s salt tossed over the shoulder after the shaker is spilled or not walking under a ladder, most superstitions are pretty harmless. But sometimes superstitions cause Communist rebels to abandon their camp or a revered Navy admiral to refuse to sail.


Here are 6 stories of wartime decisions that hinged on superstition:

1. Rudolph Hess’s failed diplomatic mission to England happened after a series of dreams.

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Rudolph Hess. Photo: Wikipedia/Bundesarchiv Bild

 

Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess was Hitler’s favorite sycophant right up until he flew himself to Britain on May 10, 1941 to negotiate a peace as Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Historians argue back and forth about whether Hess did his mission under Hitler’s orders or on his own.

But two people were definitely consulted; an astrologer and a dreamer. The astrologer advised that May 10 was a good date to depart while a friend of Hess’s told Hess that he’d dreamed of Hess’s success on three different nights.

It turned out the dreams were wrong. The British captured Hess soon after he landed and kept him in prison for the rest of his life.

2. The feared Red Baron wouldn’t fly without his lucky scarf and jacket.

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
(Photo: Public Domain)

 

Just the appearance of the Red Baron, Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, could change the tide of an air battle.

Credited with 80 victories in the air, he was a formidable aviator who wouldn’t enter the fray if he couldn’t find his lucky scarf and jacket. In spite of this, both the jacket and scarf were shot through, and the Baron was wounded by a bullet to the skull while wearing them.

 

3. American PSYOPS officers created vampires to vanquish communist rebels.

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Photo: Wikipedia

 

Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale was a U.S. Army psychological operations officer sent to help the Philippine government defeat communist rebels. Lansdale capitalized on a history of superstitions in the Philippines, specifically one that centered around the “asuang,” a shapeshifting vampire.

Lansdale and his men circulated a rumor that one was prowling the hills near the communist camps. Then, they waited for a patrol, snatched the last person in it, drained out all of his blood with two needles inserted in the neck, and left the body for the communists to find.

Rebels soon fled the area and the government forces took it for themselves.

4. Grant’s superstitions led to victory.

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials

 

Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s success in the Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee led to the Siege of Petersburg from 1864 to 1865 and the Lee’s eventual surrender in Apr. 1865. Grant’s victory came despite the fact that he lost every battle in the campaign.

How? By refusing to retreat or withdraw, decisions that some have chalked up to Grant believing that a person shouldn’t retrace their own steps. Where previous forays into the area by other generals had ended with retreats, Grant was forced by his superstitions to lead his army any direction but back. This kept him and his men in the fight until they were finally able to outmaneuver Lee.

5. British magician Maskelyne may have created a massive scarecrow to scare Italian peasants.

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Jasper Maskelyne and his magic act crew in 1950. Photo: Public Domain

 

The British magician Jasper Maskelyne offered his professional services to his nation when World War II broke out. As Maskelyne was known to exaggerate his actions in the war, tales surrounding him have to always be taken with a grain of salt.

But, his claims from the Allied invasion of Italy suggest that Maskelyne helped the Allies take over rural Italy by building a 12-foot tall scarecrow of fire and metal that convinced some superstitious Italians that the devil was fighting side-by-side with the British. The Italians locked themselves in their homes, leaving the British to continue north unmolested.

6. Adm. Halsey demanded his task force number and sailing date be changed because the number 13 is unlucky.

 

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Task Force 16 during battle in 1942. Photo: US Navy

 

Adm. William Halsey Jr. was an ensign on the USS Missouri on April 13, 1904 when an accidental fire burned and suffocated 31 men to death. After that, he was very superstitious about the number 13.

So, when he was assigned commander of the new Task Force 13 that was set to sail on Friday, February 13, Halsey sent one of his officers to protest. The command relented and changed the task force designation to 16 while promising that an oiler would be late, delaying TF 16’s departure until Feb. 14.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: One Iranian ‘dying every 10 minutes’; Romania urges expats to stay away

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Iran

The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran continues to rise as the worst-affected country in the Middle East prepares for scaled-down celebrations of Norouz, the Persian New Year.

“With 149 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on state television on March 19.

“Unfortunately, we have had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” Raisi added.

Iran has the third-highest number of registered cases after China and Italy.

With the country reeling from the outbreak, officials have recommended that Iranians stay home during the March 20 holiday, a time when hundreds of thousands usually travel to be with friends and relatives.

The government has closed schools at all levels, banned sports and cultural events, and curtailed religious activities to try and slow the spread of the virus.

Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Health Ministry’s public relations and information center , noted on March 19 that the data on the outbreak means an Iranian dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19, while 50 infections occur each hour of the day.

“With respect to this information, people must make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” he added.

Despite the dire circumstances, many Iranians were angered by the temporary closure of Shi’ite sites, prompting some earlier this week to storm into the courtyards of two major shrines — Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.

Crowds typically pray there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine. That’s worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran’s Shi’ite clergy to close them.

Earlier on March 19, officials announced that the country wouldn’t mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear program because of the outbreak.

Georgia

The Georgian government has ordered the closure of shops except grocery stores and pharmacies beginning March 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure, announced on March 19, also exempts gas stations, post offices, and bank branches. The South Caucasus country has so far reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and no deaths.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 19 said he would declare a state of emergency, as many countries in Europe already have, if health authorities advise him to do so.

“As of today, I would like to emphasize that there is no need for this. However, in agreement with the president, we have decided, as soon as that need arises, that we will be able to make this decision within a few hours,” he said.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians working abroad to refrain from traveling home for the Orthodox Easter amid fears of a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Romania has been under a 30-day state of emergency since March 16.

Iohannis made the appeal in a televised speech on March 19 as thousands of workers returning from Western Europe were slowly crossing into Romania after having clogged Hungary’s borders both to the west and the east for two days in a row.

Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.

The bottlenecks were worsened by Hungary’s decision to close its borders on very short notice from March 17 at midnight — a measure relaxed by Budapest after consultations with the Romanian government.

“Romanians from abroad are dear to us, and we long to be with them for Easter,” Iohannis said. “However, that won’t be possible this year…. We must tell them with sadness but also with sincerity not to come home for the holidays,” he added.

Some 12,500 mostly Romanian travelers had crossed into Romania in 4,600 vehicles as of the morning of March 19, Romanian border police said.

They said 180 people were immediately quarantined, while some 10,000 were ordered into self-isolation once they reached their destinations.

The rest were mostly travelers in transit toward Moldova and Bulgaria, according to the police.

Romania has confirmed 277 coronavirus cases.

One of the patients is in serious condition in intensive care, while 25 people have recovered, according to health authorities.

No deaths have been reported so far.

However, authorities are concerned that the massive number of Romanians returning, mostly from Italy and Spain — the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to a spike in infections in the run-up to Orthodox Easter on April 19.

The Romanian military has started building an emergency hospital in Bucharest amid fears that the country’s crumbling health-care system will not be able to cope with the outbreak.

Ukraine

Some 900 Ukrainians are embarking on March 19 on a train journey from Prague to Kyiv as part of an evacuation plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The train is set to travel through the Czech Republic and Poland, where it will make a stop at Przemysl, before heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the capital.

Yevhen Perebiynis, the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague, tweeted that more than 3,000 Ukrainians residing in the Czech Republic had asked to be evacuated.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhiy Sukhomlyn, said the city located 140 kilometers west of Kyiv recorded its first coronavirus infection.

Sukhomlyn said the patient, aged 56, had recently returned from Austria.

As of March 19, there were 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in six regions and the capital, Kyiv, the Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine recorded its third death linked to COVID-19 in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

An elderly woman died one day after visiting a hospital with severe flu-like symptoms, according to the Health Ministry.

Russia

Russian officials have reported the country’s first death connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but quickly backtracked, saying an elderly woman perished due to a detached blood clot.

The Moscow health department said on March 19 that the 79-year-old, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in a Moscow hospital from pneumonia related to the virus.

Svetlana Krasnova, head doctor at Moscow’s hospital No. 2 for infectious diseases, said in a statement that the woman had been admitted with “a host of chronic diseases,” including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin then confirmed the coronavirus-releated death, saying on Twitter, “Unfortunately, we have the first loss from the coronavirus infection.”

Hours later, however, health officials put out another statement saying an autopsy had confirmed the woman had died of a blood clot.

A subsequent official tally of the number of official coronavirus cases in Russia showed 199 confirmed infections but no deaths.

It was not clear whether the woman’s death would eventually be counted as a result of the virus.

Though President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the situation was “generally under control,” many Russians have shown a distrust for official claims over the virus, and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.

Amid a recent rise in the number of cases, officials have temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings.

The national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions for all travellers from abroad with a decree requiring “all individuals arriving to Russia” to be isolated, either at home or elsewhere.

Serbia

Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and said it will shut its borders for all but freight traffic in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The government banned commercial flights to and from the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade on March 19.

However, the airport will remain open to humanitarian and cargo flights, according to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure.

Later in the day, President Aleksandar Vucic said that as of March 20, Serbia’s border crossings will be closed for all passenger road and rail transport.

“Nothing but trucks will be allowed to enter,” Vucic said. “From noon tomorrow we will also halt commercial passenger transport inside the country.”

The move comes after some 70,000 Serbs working in Western Europe and their families returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.

Serbia currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.

The Balkan country had already imposed a state of emergency, introduced a night curfew for all citizens, and ordered the elderly to stay indoors.

Pakistan

Authorities in Pakistan have closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere while access to museums, archaeological, and tourist sites have been banned as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.

Two Pakistanis who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became the country’s first victims when they died on March 18 in the northwest.

Schools have already been shut in Pakistan.

Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been placed into quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst affected countries.

Pakistani authorities on March 19 plan to quarantine hundreds more pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for 14 days.

Uzbekistan

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s influential son-in-law says police have identified individuals who allegedly published the names of Uzbek nationals who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Otabek Umarov, who is also the deputy head of the president’s personal security, said on Instagram that officials are now trying to determine the legality of the perpetrators’ actions.

A joint working group set up by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office has also identified 33 social media accounts involved in “disseminating false information that provokes panic among people,” Umarov wrote.

He called the accounts a “betrayal” of the country and a matter of “national security.”

Umarov’s comments come amid a campaign by the Uzbek government to crack down on information that incites panic and fear among the public amid the coronavirus crisis.

On March 16, the country’s Justice Ministry said that, according to Uzbek law, those involved in preparing materials with the intention of inciting panic — and those storing such materials with the intent to distribute them — will face up to ,400 in fines or up to three years in prison.

Those who spread such information through media and the Internet face up to eight years in prison, the ministry added.

The statement came a day after the Central Asian nation announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, which prompted the government to introduce sweeping measures to contain the outbreak, including closing its borders, suspending international flights, closing schools, and banning public gatherings.

The number of infections had risen to 23 as of the morning of March 19, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry said that the 23 individuals are all Uzbek nationals who had returned home from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Health Ministry regularly updates its social media accounts with information on the outbreak in Uzbekistan. Posts are frequently accompanied by the hashtag “quarantine without panic” in both Uzbek and Russian.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

The Kazakh national currency, the tenge, has continued to weaken sharply as the number of coronavirus cases in the oil-rich Central Asian nation reached 44.

Many exchange points in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the former Soviet republic’s largest city, Almaty, did not sell U.S. dollars or euros on March 19, while some offered 471 tenges for id=”listicle-2645571641″, more than 25 percent weaker than in early March when the rate was around 375 tenges.

The tenge has plunged to all-time lows in recent days following an abrupt fall in oil prices and chaos in the world’s stock markets caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Kazakh Health Ministry said on March 19 that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had increased by seven to 44.

In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, three people, who returned home from Saudi Arabia several days ago, tested positive for the virus, which led to three villages being sealed off in the southern Jalal-Abad region.

In two other Central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded to date.

Armenia

A relative of an Armenian woman blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the South Caucasus country alleges that criminal offenses have been committed against members of their family.

It emerged last week that the woman had traveled from Italy before attending a family gathering with dozens of guests in the city of Echmiadzin, disregarding health warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.

The woman, whose name was not released, later tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized. Dozens of other people who attended the gathering were placed under a 14-day quarantine.

Armenia has reported a total of 122 cases so far, including dozens in Echmiadzin. It has not yet reported any deaths.

Echmiadzin was locked down and a nationwide state of emergency has been announced in a bid to slow the spread of infection in Armenia.

Many on social media in Armenia expressed anger over what they said was irresponsible behavior by the woman.

Some ridiculed the woman and used offensive language against her. A photo of her also was posted online.

The woman’s lawyer, Gohar Hovhannisian, said that one of her relatives who lives abroad filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on March 17.

The complaint alleges that personal information about infected people was illegally obtained and published by the press and social media along with insults and photographs.

“It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such language is used against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” Hovhannisian said.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office forwarded the report to police to investigate the case.

Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian, who is not related to the lawyer, noted that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law. He said that disclosure of personal data in this case made it possible to identify the infected woman.

“Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” the activist said.

Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a complaint with police alleging that he had been attacked by three relatives of the woman in question for posting a joke about her on Facebook.

Police said they had identified and questioned three people over that complaint. But the authorities did not reveal their identities.

Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, has been sealed off to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the South Caucasus state.

According to a government decision, as of March 19 entrance to Baku, the nearby city of Sumqayit, and the Abseron district has been banned for all cars, except ambulances, cargo trucks, and vehicles carrying rescue teams and road accident brigades. The measure will run until at least March 29.

All railway links between Baku, Sumqayit and the Abseron district, and the rest of the country were also suspended.

Azerbaijan has reported 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, with one fatality.

In neighboring Armenia, where authorities announced a state of emergency until April 16, the number of coronavirus cases is 115.

Elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 40.

Afghanistan

The United States is temporarily suspending the movement of new soldiers into Afghanistan as a way of protecting them from the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. Army General Scott Miller said in a March 19 statement that the move could mean that some of the troops already on the ground in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended to ensure that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission continues.

“To preserve our currently healthy force, Resolute Support is making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into the theater,” he said.

“We are closely monitoring, continually assessing and adjusting our operations so we can continue to protect the national interests of the NATO allies and partners here in Afghanistan,” he added.

About 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in Afghanistan have been quarantined, Miller said, stressing that this was purely a precautionary measure and “not because they are sick.”

Earlier this month, the United States began reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February with the Taliban.

The agreement sees an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.

Miller did not mention the agreement in his statement.

So far, 21 U.S. and coalition staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care, Miller’s statement said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


Articles

The latest Medal of Honor is the 11th to come from Afghanistan’s ‘Wild East’

“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.


Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Photo: US Army

Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.

Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.

“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”

Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.

On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.

Seabees salvage parts of the USS Arizona to build memorials
Photo: US Army courtesy photo

At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.

All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.

“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”

In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.

The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.

Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.

“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”

The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.

Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.

“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.

Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.

The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated.  They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”

Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”

“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”

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