Rodney Smith is preparing to pack his trusty Toro lawn mower into the back of his vehicle — the one with 320,000 miles on the odometer — and hit the road again.
Smith is scheduled to begin his “Thank you for your service and sacrifice” tour on Friday, Sept. 18, in Huntsville, Alabama. During a condensed three-week window, Smith plans to cut the grass of veterans, Gold Star families, Purple Heart recipients, POWs, those missing in action and families of active-duty service members in 48 states. He intends to fly to Alaska and Hawaii to complete his mission, but those dates are undetermined.
“It’s an honor just to hear those stories firsthand and thanking them for their service,” Smith said. “A lot of them never heard a ‘thank you’ before. They have, but they need to hear it more.”
Smith, a 31-year-old social worker, started the Raising Men Lawn Care Service in 2016. The organization, which began including girls in 2018, pairs youth with veterans, the elderly, the disabled and single parents to perform outdoor chores such as cutting grass and raking leaves.
(Military Families Magazine)
According to weareraisingmen.com, 700 youths in the program have mowed a total of 15,000 lawns. Smith’s 50-state tour is a one-man job, though. He goes it alone but follows a similar pattern. He cuts one or two lawns per state, interviews the homeowner, takes a picture with him or her and asks for a photo of the person in his or her military uniform.
“There have been a lot of World War II veterans that I met,” Smith said. “Meeting them, I feel like a little kid because I get to hear the stories firsthand. They were telling me [stories] like it was yesterday.”
Smith, who never served in the military, recalled meeting a veteran who served as a former medic in Vietnam. The veteran was awarded five Purple Hearts and told Smith about soldiers dying in his arms, the sense of despair and hopelessness returning with each tragic memory. Smith gave a boy whose father was killed in Afghanistan his lawn mower on the spot.
“The feedback that I’m getting is, they did it because they loved their country,” Smith said. “They would do it again if they had to.”
While growing up, Smith hated cutting the grass in much the same way that most children dislike eating broccoli. That changed for the native New Yorker while he was a student at Alabama AM University. Smith noticed an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn one day. Smith offered to help.
“[God] was preparing me for that moment,” Smith said.
(Military Families Magazine)
Smith developed that chance encounter into the idea behind his foundation. The veterans tour will be his ninth such 50-state odyssey. He did a similar one for veterans last year, but not all of his trips support the military.
Others, for example, have benefited breast-cancer survivors and promoted increasing dialogue between police and the communities they serve.
Smith is excited to get behind the wheel of his 2012 Ford Edge again. He purchased the used vehicle in 2018, when it had only 58,000 miles. All those lonely stretches of road later, Smith still does not mind the drive because of the payoff at each stop.
“They’re everyday heroes,” Smith said of veterans. “They [gave] their all for this country. We need to appreciate them and honor them while they’re here.”
Smith will auction off each lawn mower at the end of the tour and donate the proceeds to charities supporting veterans.
The schedule of cities where Smith plans to be is posted at Raising Men Lawn Care Service. Families with military ties can sign up there by clicking on the “More Info” tab and selecting “Service Sacrifice.”
Whenever a branch of the armed forces makes it into the news, a sense of dread washes over the troops. Most times, it’s not good news. Maybe a brother or sister in arms fell, or the leadership is accused of misconduct, or, perhaps worst, those we serve with did something devastating.
On one hand, yes, it is understandable that the U.S. Navy would need to react after civilians got the wrong impression of the men and women who protect them.
“The actions of this aircrew are wholly unacceptable and antithetical to Navy core values” said a statement issued on Nov. 17 by NAS Whidbey Island. “We have grounded the aircrew and are conducting a thorough investigation and we will hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”
On the other hand, these patriots took part in a time-honored military tradition of marking the area under the protection of troops. It is a symbol that can be found on tables, port-a-johns, and many walls. It’s as if Batman himself was there to tell the good people of Okanogan that, “It’s okay. The Navy is here. You’re safe.”
If you think about it, the aircrew was just doing their heroic duty.
But yeah. It’s a huge penis. A giant penis made out of the contrail of a E/A-18 Growler.
The aircrew may never fly again (we hope that’s not true, given pilot shortages), but their deeds will never be forgotten. The aircrew and pilots have not been identified, but if they did, the world owes them a beer. These memes are for you, you glorious bastards.
6. Bob Ross would have approved. He was in the military after all.
5. It’s a show of force. It’s America saying we’re going to f*ck them up.
4. You’ve never been forgotten, sweet prince.
3. No one can ever outdo this dick joke. This aircrew won.
2. Basically, deployments are really about doing operator sh*t and drawing penises everywhere.
Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.
Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.
“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.
“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.
US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.
(US Coast Guard photo)
‘Era of experimentation’
Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.
They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.
“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”
The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.
“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”
There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.
The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.
Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.
The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.
Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.
Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.
(US Southern Command)
‘A drop in the bucket’
The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.
“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.
“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”
“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.
Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.
A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.
(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)
Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.
“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)
Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.
“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”
Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.
The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Every April veterans and volunteers gather at the Rose River Farm in Madison County, Virginia for an annual 2-fly fishing tournament known as “Project Healing Waters.” This year was the 10th anniversary and the event raised over $200,000 for veterans services.
WATM sat down with keynote speaker Tom Brokaw and several veterans who have found physical and mental improvement through the program.
Listen to the interview with Tom Brokaw:
More than 7,500 vets from every war since WWII have taken part in Project Healing Waters in 2015 alone. There are hundreds of local programs in addition to the national events.
Along with the psychological benefits of the camaraderie and being out in nature, the technical aspects of fly-fishing help those with all sorts of injuries recover, from a physical therapy perspective. They have taken blind people and quadriplegics out to catch fish.
84 cents of every dollar raised goes to the veterans services making it one of the leanest veterans services programs.
To learn more about Project Healing Waters, visit their website.
If you’ve had difficulty recovering from combat trauma, Captain Danny Maher, USMC (Ret), and best friend, Sergeant Ryan Loya, USMC have a prescription: camping, karaoke, and going on a 22-mile hike in your underwear.
Really? Let’s back up.
Ryan’s comrade in arms Sgt. Jeremy Sears committed suicide on Oct. 6, 2014 and six months later, Danny’s good friend L.Cpl. Artem Lazukin took his own life on March 29, 2015. Both men suffered from combat PTSD.
The loss of these two brave souls was profound, but in typical military style, Ryan and Danny decided to go to work. The conclusion that they came to: hanging out with guys who have experienced war and having a good belly laugh in the face of adversity is damn fine medicine.
What started as the “Silkies Hike, 22, with 22, for the 22”, a 22-mile hike for vets on July 25, 2015, has become a nationwide community 20,000 strong. The number 22 is significant because it is estimated that 22 vets commit suicide each day in the US.
Sporting official Irreverent Warriors “ranger panties”, these guys go on excursions that take them out into nature (or sometimes right through the city) where they can goof off, bond, and get a little respite from the demands of civilian life.
To get a sense of just how outrageous these guys are, check out this video:
While the event is high-spirited, the goal is a serious one: to let other vets know that they are not alone, that help is available, and that suicide is not the answer. It also helps spread awareness among the civilian population to ensure these brave men and women get the support they need.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD affects 31% of veterans and there is a substantial link between combat injuries, PTSD and suicide.
There are many things you can do if you experience PTSD symptoms, which include:
Reliving the trauma
As one vet put it, “You forget how to have fun.”
The first step in conquering PTSD is knowing that there is no way to think your way out of it. It’s actually your body’s sophisticated method of protecting you, a response known as “fight, flight, or freeze”. It’s got nothing to do with bravery and everything to do with having a fully functioning parasympathetic nervous system.
Though we have made remarkable headway as a nation in understanding the threat of PTSD and its relationship to suicide, often, family members do not grasp the effects combat has on our minds and bodies. What starts off as a legitimate medical condition can spiral out and destabilize the dynamics of our homes.
The Irreverent Warriors are not just a good group of guys willing to help and have fun, they also partner with other military-friendly organizations that supply vets with much-needed services, everything from buying a home to starting a business.
Brotherly love and humor is not the cure-all for PTSD, but it can go a long way in speeding up the healing process and preventing tragedy. If you or a veteran family member is exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, reach out to the big-hearted guys at Irreverent Warriors.
The US Army is working on new camouflage systems to protect soldiers waging war on future battlefields from one of the greatest threats to their survival, a top Army general told lawmakers on April 9, 2019.
“Advanced camouflage technologies are critical,” Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, Military.com first reported. “We are putting a fair amount of money into advanced camouflage systems, both individual, unit, vehicle, etc.”
The general said that future battlefields are likely to be “highly lethal” environments where “units will be cut off and separated,” making soldier lethality and survivability key.
“We know that adversary [target] acquisition systems are very, very capable in that, if you can see a target, with precision munitions … you can hit a target,” he said. “So camouflage systems that break up electronic signatures and break up heat signatures are critical.”
Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team pull camouflaged netting over an artillery emplacement during platoon evaluations on Fort Bragg.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)
In an era of renewed great-power competition, the Army is increasingly looking closely at protecting soldiers against advanced threats from countries such as China and Russia. Among the greatest threats soldiers face is advanced sensing technology, a top US Army sniper previously told Business Insider.
“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing that a sniper has to do, especially with the emerging technology by our near-peer enemies,” Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, said, explaining that while it is easy for snipers to hide in the visible spectrum, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to disappear as US rivals “creep into the thermal arena.”
A US Army soldier may be concealed and well hidden from the watchful eyes of the enemy but light up like a Christmas tree on a high-end thermal imaging device, which can detect the temperature difference between a human body, typically 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and the environment they’re hiding in.
Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning, Ga., Nov. 3, 2012.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Cross)
Milley didn’t identify which systems the Army is working on, but the projects would likely include systems like the new Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS) and possibly the Improved Ghillie System (IGS) being developed for snipers.
ULCANS, developed by Fibrotex, is a kind of advanced camouflage designed to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more. The Army awarded Fibrotex a multi-million contract last year to supply US troops with this technology.
The IGS is in testing right now and is expected to eventually replace the older Flame Resistant Ghillie System (FRGS) Army sharpshooters are wearing now. It is unclear if this new system is designed to counter thermal sensors, but it is being put through full-spectrum testing.
It’s not enough to just hide, Army soldiers are having to change the way they conceal themselves to disappear like they have never done before as adversaries step up their game.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of killing an al-Qaeda suspect in a combat zone during a 2008 deployment to Iraq. A military court sentenced the officer to 25 years in prison, though an appellate court noted his argument of self-defense. The former lieutenant was paroled in 2014, but won’t be going back to prison. On May 6, 2019, President Donald Trump signed a full pardon for the soldier.
Behenna led a platoon in Iraq while working counterinsurgency operations in Salahuddin province. One day in April 2008, a convoy led by Behenna was returning to base with two captured suspects when it was hit by an IED. Two soldiers were killed, many more were wounded, and the convoy lost two vehicles. The next month, his unit received intelligence that the man responsible for that attack was named Ali Mansur Mohamed. They also learned where Mohamed lived.
The suspect’s house was immediately raided by Behenna and his men, who found an RPK heavy machine gun, Syrian passports, and a cache of ammunition. The Army took Ali Mansur Mohamed into custody and turned him over to intelligence agencies.
But the suspect was released less than two weeks later. Behenna would be in charge of returning him to his home.
Behenna after his 2014 parole.
It was on the way back to Ali Mansur Mohamed’s home that things started to go south. Behenna and his convoy stopped outside of the town of Baiji, where Behenna, a sergeant under his command, and an Iraqi interpreter began to question Mansur. They removed his clothes, cut his handcuffs and ordered him to sit before questioning him about the April attack on the Behenna’s convoy.
After some time and questioning, Lt. Behenna finally pulled the trigger and fired the shot that killed the suspected insurgent. They covered up the corpse with a grenade. Behenna was charged with murder in July 2008. In 2010 a jury found Behenna guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced him to 25 years. That was later reduced to 15, of which he served fewer than five.
The Northern Iraqi oil town would later be captured by ISIS.
But none of that matters now, as the President’s executive order of clemency is a full pardon for the onetime military officer. Behenna admitted to the killing at his trial, saying Mansur moved to try and take his sidearm from him. A government witness found Mansur’s wounds corroborated the self-defense story, but the evidence was not presented in his court-martial.
The Oklahoma native has been working as a farmhand since his release from the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
James Zumwalt is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served in the Vietnam war, the 1989 intervention into Panama and Operation Desert Storm. The son of the late Navy Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., he’s also a best-selling author, speaker and business executive. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.
On Jan. 2, 2000, less than 48 hours into a new millennium, the U.S. Navy lost a 20th-century hero and revered, visionary leader.
Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., 79, had succumbed to mesothelioma — a lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure, incurred during his naval career. He died at Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.
As a grieving family focused on making preparations for a funeral to be held Jan. 10, 2000, at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Marine Col. Michael Spiro stepped forward to escort the remains home.
Spiro had served as Zumwalt’s Marine aide, initially during the Vietnam war and later when the admiral was promoted to the Navy’s top position as (the youngest ever) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in the summer of 1970.
Zumwalt had been most impressed with Spiro’s professionalism and sense of duty. As CNO, the admiral was about to embark upon various programs that would shake up the naval service. He knew success turned on having a loyal staff in place to support his changes.
When Zumwalt asked Spiro to join him at the Pentagon, there was no hesitation on the colonel’s part. Immediately accepting, Spiro knew by doing so, time spent working for Zumwalt’s Navy was not time spent working in a Marine Corps billet to further his own career. Yet, driven by a sense of personal loyalty, Spiro answered the admiral’s call. The two men developed a close friendship.
As CNO, Zumwalt faced enormous challenges implementing changes that TIME magazine credited with bringing the U.S. Navy “kicking and screaming into the 20th century.”
With re-enlistment rates at an all-time low in 1970, Zumwalt focused on making the Navy a much more people-oriented service. His changes eventually leveled the playing field for all serving — especially for long, over-looked minority service members.
Meanwhile, Spiro, who might well have gone on to make brigadier general had he elected to leave Zumwalt and take a Marine Corps command billet, opted instead to serve at his friend’s side.
Spiro was committed to helping Zumwalt achieve his goal — and with him, Zumwalt did. By the time the admiral retired in 1974, the Navy’s re-enlistment rates had tripled. The evidence the playing field for minorities has successfully been leveled today can be found by examining the faces of the Navy’s top leadership.
Although Spiro retired in 1976, he donned his Marine Corps uniform during the first week of January 2000 to escort Admiral Zumwalt’s remains home from North Carolina.
Having become an Annapolis resident after his own retirement, Spiro, for years after the admiral’s death, often visited the gravesite. Brushing off winter leaves or recently-cut summer grass, Spiro occasionally left a rock on the headstone. The significance of this custom, lost to many today, is a sign of respect a friend had visited.
The year Zumwalt died, then-President Bill Clinton announced the Navy would build a new class of warship — unlike any other ever built. A stealth ship, it was to be the world’s largest destroyer. The ship would bear Zumwalt’s name.
Sixteen years after Clinton’s announcement, USS ZUMWALT became a reality. Built by General Dynamics Corp.’s Bath Iron Works in Maine, this magnificent vessel is now to be commissioned Oct. 15, 2016, in Baltimore.
After her commissioning and official entry upon the Navy’s active ships registry, USS ZUMWALT will depart from Baltimore, undertaking a most unique mission.
Col. Spiro, 86, passed away on Nov. 28, 2015. As was his wish, he was cremated.
Upon the USS ZUMWALT’s arrival in Baltimore in October, Spiro’s son, Peter, will present his father’s remains to the ship’s commanding officer. Following her Baltimore departure, somewhere in route to her homeport of San Diego and at the mandatory distance offshore, USS ZUMWALT will come to a dead stop. The ship’s crew will then conduct a brief ceremony rendering Spiro final honors as the colonel’s ashes are committed to sea.
Sixteen years earlier, Col. Spiro was honored to escort Admiral Zumwalt’s remains home. Later this year, the USS ZUMWALT seeks to return the honor.
The Air Force is progressing with a massive technological overhaul of its warzone-tested C-130 aircraft, giving the platform new radios, digital avionics, collision avoidance technology and reinforced “wing-boxes,” service officials said.
The Air Force remains vigilant about its C-130 fleet to ensure the airframes, wingboxes, avionics and communication systems remain safe and operational well into the 2030s and beyond. This is particularly true of the older 1980s-era C-130Hs, Air Force developers explained.
“The thing that causes the greatest risk to the airplane is the life of the wing. We monitor the wing of the aircraft and as the wings get past their service, life we bring the airplanes back in and bring in new structures — with the primary focus being the center wingbox which is the area where the wings mount to the fuselage,”Col. Robert Toth, Chief of Tactical Aircraft, Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue Division, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
As for when a C-130 is in need of a maintenance upgrade to preserve and maintain service life, the Air Force uses an assessment metric referred to as “equivalent baseline hours.” The wing-boxes are changed once the aircraft reaches a certain “severity factor” in its operational service time. This is necessary because the wear and tear or impact of missions upon and airplane can vary greatly depending upon a range of factors such as the altitude at which a plane is flying, Toth said.
“Low-level flight may be three to four times the severity factor of flying at a higher level,” he said.
Also, by January of 2020 the entire fleet of C-130s will need to comply with an FAA mandate and be equipped with systems that will relay aircraft position to a greater fidelity back and forth between the airplane and the air traffic management authorities, he added. This will allow them to sequence more aircraft closer together and enhance an ability to move commerce.
Avionics Modernization Program, Increment 1 involves adding new 8.33 radios to the aircraft to improve communication along with initiatives to upgrade cockpit voice recorders and digital data recorders. C-130s will also receive new collision-avoidance technology designed to prevent the planes from hitting terrain or colliding with one another mid-air. Inc. 1 is currently ongoing and is slated to complete by 2019.
AMP Inc. 2 involves a larger-scale effort to integrate digital avionics throughout the airplane. Inc. 2 will require nine-months to one year of work and be completed by 2028, Toth explained.
“This will allow us to bring the airplane from analog to digital, integrate a glass cockpit and use touchscreen displays. We will get away from the old systems of avionics where we had dial-driven instrumentation to where it is all digital. This makes us able to process a lot more information,” Toth said.
As part of the C-130 modernization calculus, the Air Force will consider retiring some C-130Hs and replace them with newly-built C-130Js; the service has authority to acquire an additional 20 C-130Js, Toth added.
“We continue to evaluate where it makes sense to retire and older airplane and instead put that money into buying new airplanes,” he said.
AC-130 gunships make up a small portion of a fleet of roughly 500 C-130 planes throughout the Air Force and Special Operations Command, Toth explained.
The cargo planes are used to airdrop supplies, equipment, weapons and troops in forward deployed locations.
As a propeller-driven aircraft, the C-130s are able to fly and land in more rugged conditions and withstand harsh weather such as obscurants. The propellers make the aircraft’s engines less susceptible to debris flying in and causing operational problems for the engines.
“It really allows you to do that tactical movement of equipment and personnel to take the airplane to the last tactical mile. A lot of our transport strategic airlifters are meant to go to a hard runway to a hard runway somewhere and then they turn over the cargo to be moved to the forward areas to a C-130 or a vehicle. The C-130 allows you to take that cargo and land on a smaller runway or an unimproved airfield,” Toth added.
C-130s are used for domestic, international and warzone transport including homeland security, disaster relief and supply deliveries, among other things.
“There are probably missions that have yet to be dreamed up for the C-130,” Toth said.
The fleet consists of 135 more modern C-130J aircraft and 165 older C-130Hs which have been around since the 80s, Toth explained.
Also, MC-130Js are specially modified airlifters engineered to transport Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.
“They are essentially a C-130J further modified with defensive systems with radar countermeasures and infrared radar and advanced sensors for specialized missions. They also can perform in-flight refueling,” Toth explained.
When Elvis Presley turned 18 years old in 1953, he registered for the draft – just like every other young American male during that time. The rules governing the draft stated that all young men that were in good health were required to serve in the United States military for a minimum of two years. When he signed his name on that line, promising to serve, he had no idea of the superstar fame that would soon be coming his way.
After signing up for the draft, he graduated high school and soon began his entertainment career. Three years later in 1956, he was a film and recording star. Presley was in the middle of filming King Creole when he received his draft notice. He requested a delay so he could finish filming, which he was granted.
On March 24, 1958, with his family and friends by his side, The King reported to the Memphis draft board. Once he was sworn in and processed with others into the Army, he boarded a bus to Arkansas.
He would go on to coin the phrase “hair today, gone tomorrow” after he received his G.I. haircut.
Once Presley finished his basic training, he was on leave and managed to do a concert and recording session in Nashville. He then headed back to Ft. Hood, Texas, to complete his advanced training. His mother became ill during this time and passed away and Presley was granted leave to be with her.
When he returned to Ft. Hood, he was assigned to the Third Armored Spearhead Division. He soon boarded the U.S.S. Randall and sailed for Germany. Upon arrival, he served in Company C, which was a scout platoon. He was declared off limits to the press.
Presley would be right there in the thick of things alongside his unit. He completed all required duties. Some research suggested that he did more than what was required of him because he didn’t want people to assume he got special treatment. He would go on to earn a medal for expert marksmanship and rise to the responsibility of an NCO, all without seeking celebrity treatment.
He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1960.
It was only a matter of time before the current climate of unrest led back to the U.S. military — and its 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals, all spread throughout the former Confederacy.
Whether to rename them continues to be a contentious political issue, but the practical-minded among us have moved on. If they are renamed, what will they be called?
So, without once using the term “Forty McFortFace,” here are a few suggestions — some entirely serious, some very not — for changing those 10 antiquated base names.
1. Fort Benning (Georgia)
This Columbus, Georgia, base was named after Confederate Gen. Henry L. Benning, who fought against the Union armies at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg. It was named for him in 1918, while many Civil War veterans were still alive. That doesn’t mean it needs to keep the name.
For sheer coolness factor, the base could be renamed for former NFL Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson, whose hometown is just an hour away from Columbus. Enemies would think twice if they knew they would be facing soldiers from Fort Megatron.
They both also have a lot of touchdowns. (U.S. Army photo by Ismael Ortega)
In all seriousness, though, renaming Fort Benning will likely be the easiest rechristening of this whole list, as the military’s basic paratrooper training is conducted here. The base could be named for Maj. General William C. Lee, the “Father of the U.S. Airborne,” and the first commander of the Army’s “jump school.”
Naming it “Fort William C. Lee” isn’t weird, either. Just ask the residents of Fort George G. Meade.
2. Fort Lee (Virginia)
So what to do with Fort Lee, Virginia, now that Fort William C. Lee is in Georgia? The current Fort Lee was named for Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Even though the federal government seized his estate and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery, it still somehow thought it appropriate to name a base after him.
Robert E. Lee, history’s most undeservingly beloved loser.
A decent thing to do would be to name the base, once a training center for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), after the WAC’s first director, Oveta Culp Hobby. As the WAC accepted women of all races, it would be a fitting rebranding effort. Gen. Douglas MacArthur did call the WACs “his best soldiers,” after all.
If that doesn’t garner enough support, renaming the installation for Lee’s famous adversary should. Situated in the greater Richmond region, renaming Fort Lee to Fort Grant would send a positive message to the people who look up to the U.S. Army. Grant owned one slave in his life, acquired from his father-in-law, and set the man free in less than a year.
3. Fort Bragg (North Carolina)
Besides being named for a Confederate general, Fort Bragg should be renamed because it’s the home of Army Special Forces, the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Air Force Combat Control School — and it’s named for American history’s worst general.
Is this who we want the home of Army Special Forces to be named for?
Lemme answer that for you: No. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)
There are a bevy of candidates that would be better suited for the name of such a place. “The President of the Underground Railroad,” Levi Coffin, got his start helping fugitive slaves in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Fort Coffin,” however, sounds, well … So maybe that’s a no.
Then there’s Hiram Revels, born a free man in Fayetteville, he helped organize two regiments of the then-called United States Colored Troops and served as their chaplain. Later, he became the first African American U.S. senator, representing Mississippi.
Fort Revels sounds like a name appropriate for a base in Fayettenam.
4. Fort Hood (Texas)
This Killeen, Texas-based installation is named for John Bell Hood, a Confederate who wasn’t even from Texas. Known for his bravery, all that bravado didn’t help him even slow down Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman on his way to burn down the South and everything they loved. Surely, Texans have a number of people they would prefer to honor over a Confederate. It’s Texas. TEXAS.
For starters, how about the most decorated soldier who ever lived, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient born in Kingston, Texas, who went from enlisted man to officer, then starred in the hit movie about his own life: Audie Murphy.
Fort Murphy would have much better pedigree than Fort Hood, named for a general who peaked before the Civil War was even halfway over.
5. Fort Polk (Louisiana)
What does one rename the most reviled duty station in all of the U.S. Army? Surely, we can honor someone other than a guy with no previous military experience whose Civil War claim to fame is that he died in it.
Louisiana is one of the most unique states in the Union, with a history unlike any other. But again, for sheer coolness factor, we could rename this for Union Col. Algernon Sidney Badger. Badger was from Massachusetts but served at the Battle of Mobile Bay and ended up in Louisiana. He liked it so much, he stayed there when the war was over. Plus, the symbolism of a badger killing a snake is too good to pass up.
Who wouldn’t want to be stationed at Fort Badger?
But the top candidate for Fort Polk‘s new name has to be William C.C. Claiborne, the first American governor of Louisiana. He was conciliatory toward native tribes under his jurisdiction and tried to secure clemency for the captured organizers of the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. He also negotiated for the help of the pirate Jean Lafitte for the defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812.
Fort Polk is dead. Long live Fort Claiborne.
6. Fort Gordon (Georgia)
Only in the old Confederacy could you be hailed a hero upon your return from losing a war. Besides getting that particular participant trophy, John Brown Gordon’s career can’t be discussed without mentioning how many times he was wounded in action.
This photo would be more accurate if you could see the four wounds on his head.
This installation also housed Camp Crockett, a training area for special operators and airborne troops preparing for action during the Vietnam War. It would be an easy historical nod to American legend Davy Crockett, who fought against the Indian Removal Act and later died fighting at the Alamo. If we want to stick to soldiers of the U.S. Army, Fort Gordon is notable because Alvin York, the famed conscientious objector-turned Medal of Honor recipient in World War I, was trained here.
Fort York has a nice ring to it. But Fort Flipper would be more appropriate.
Georgia was home to Henry O. Flipper, the first African American graduate of West Point. Can you imagine the level of harassment this man endured? Commissioned and sent to the frontier areas, he did his job well until he was improperly accused of embezzling quartermaster funds and court-martialed, an injustice to which the Army later admitted. President Bill Clinton would later pardon him.
7. Fort Pickett (Virginia)
Fort Pickett is a National Guard Base in Virginia named after a guy who led one of the most ill-advised infantry charges in history. Not just in American history, but all of world history. While Maj. Gen. George Pickett didn’t order the charge at Gettysburg (Robert E. Lee did, despite all advice against it), his name got slapped on it, whether he liked it or not.
Just like no one cares what they called meat on bread before the 4th Earl of Sandwich started passing them out on card night.
Pickett’s charge led to the defeat of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, a loss from which the South couldn’t recover and ultimately ended their war with loss. And we named a base after him.
A much better choice for the name of the fort would probably be Gibbon, named for Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, commander of the Union forces who stopped Pickett’s part of the infamous charge.
But since this is a base belonging to the Virginia National Guard, they might want to name it after a Virginian. Luckily, there’s no shortage of good Virginians, and two of them are giants of the U.S. Army’s history. Gen. Douglas MacArthur considered Norfolk his home, and Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff during World War II, attended the Virginia Military Institute.
Pick one, Virginia.
8. Fort A.P. Hill (Virginia)
Then, use the other one to rename Fort A.P. Hill.
Although one of the more capable commanders on the list, this Confederate general’s accomplishments include not being Stonewall Jackson, getting shot seven days before the war ended and having gonorrhea for 21 years.
9. Fort Rucker (Alabama)
Fort Rucker is named for Col. Edmund Rucker, a Confederate Army chef who designed a way for Confederate troops to live on eating grass. While that’s not even remotely true, no one outside of Fort Rucker knows that or cares to Google it. Rucker wasn’t even from Alabama, he just made a lot of money there.
The first suggestion for renaming the base goes to Gen. Oliver W. Dillard, the fifth African American flag officer in Army history, the first black intelligence general and a National Intelligence Hall of Famer. He joined during World War II and served through Korea, Vietnam and most of the Cold War.
But if time in service is what we’re looking for, look no further than Alabama’s own Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson. Johnson first enlisted in the Army in 1923 and was discharged as a corporal six years later. After four years as a civilian, he again enlisted, this time in the Navy. “Hashmark” was aboard the USS Wyoming when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Later that year, he was one of the first black men to join the United States Marine Corps.
If there’s a problem with an Army base named for a Marine, look at who it’s named for now, then look at this photo of Hashmark. (U.S. Marine Corps)
Johnson spent another 17 years in the Corps, with a total of 32 years in service. He earned the name “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than stripes indicating his rank. Welcome to Fort Hashmark.
10. Camp Beauregard (Louisiana)
Louisiana’s National Guard runs this base, named for Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, one of the South’s most able commanders — and one who would end up arguing for racial cooperation after the Civil War’s end.
While that’s admirable, there’s a good chance he just wanted the votes of newly freed black men against Reconstruction-era radical Republicans, so let’s not go crazy about how reconstructed Beauregard was. If we’re going to choose a Louisianan with questionable motives, let’s name the camp after the aforementioned pirate Jean Lafitte.
Who wears the same facial expression as your First Sergeant.
Lafitte turned from sailor/pirate/merchant to soldier in nearly a heartbeat to help the Americans defend the port city of New Orleans from outside attack, and if that doesn’t sound like the National Guard, I don’t know what does.
A legendary sergeant first class who gave his life to pull fellow soldiers out of a burning vehicle in Iraq 15 years ago has been approved by the Defense Department to receive the military’s highest combat award, a close family member said.
Kasinal White told Military.com that she’d gotten a call from the Pentagon saying a formal request had been made by the DoD to award the Medal of Honor to her brother, Alwyn Cashe.
“We’ve heard that the official request has been made,” White said Tuesday. “We’ve also heard that everyone feels it will be signed [by President Donald Trump] rather quickly. After 15 years, ‘rather quickly’ works for me.”
Cashe, 35, was in Samara, Iraq, on Oct. 17, 2005, when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, puncturing a fuel tank. Drenched in fuel, Cashe nonetheless returned to the burning vehicle again and again, pulling out six soldiers.
He would die Nov. 8 from the burns he sustained in that rescue effort.
The Army posthumously awarded Cashe the Silver Star for his bravery, but obstacles surrounding witness accounts and the circumstances of the rescue stymied momentum to give him the Medal of Honor.
Since then, the lawmakers, including Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Florida; Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas; and Michael Waltz, R-Florida, have successfully passed legislation to waive a statutory five-year time limit from the time of the events for Cashe, clearing the way for his award.
“It’s not every day you read an extraordinary story like Alwyn Cashe’s,” Waltz said in a statement when the Senate passed the waiver in November. “His bravery in the face of danger has inspired so many already — and this is a significant step forward to properly recognize him for his heroism. I’m incredibly proud to see both sides of the aisle, in the House and the Senate, come together to honor Cashe’s legacy and award him the Medal of Honor.”
With the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden weeks away on Jan. 20, there are indicators the process could move unusually quickly, both with Trump’s approval of the medal and the actual award ceremony.
“Christmas just came, I guess,” White said. “I’m beyond ecstatic right now.”
A female National Guard soldier is set to graduate and don the coveted Green Beret at the end of the month. SOFREP has learned that she passed Robin Sage, a unique Unconventional Warfare exercise and the culminating event in the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), earlier this week.
This marks a significant milestone for women across the force. She will be the first woman to have successfully completed a Special Operations pipeline and join and an operational team since President Obama opened all jobs within the military to women.
The graduation at the end of the month definitely will not be typical. Because of this historic milestone, graduation will be held in a closed hangar to conceal her identity. A Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (18C) with the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, the female soldier has big hopes of going active duty. However, her warm welcome may not be as welcome as she may like.
Just over five feet tall, her walking into a Special Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) team room will not be high fives and handshakes. Culture takes time to adapt to change. There are plenty of older generations still within the Regiment that believe there’s no place for a woman on a team. However, when talking to newer graduates, they accept it, if she can pass the same standards. So did the new graduate pass with the same standards? All reports indicate yes. She did, however, have her fair of challenges, recycling at least one phase.
For personal security reasons, SOFREP is withholding her identity.
While this is an incredible feat, she won’t be the first. Captain Kathleen Wilder became the first woman to be eligible for the Army’s Special Forces in the 1980s (the selection was somewhat different back then). Captain Wilder attended the Officers Special Forces Course at Fort Bragg but was told just before graduation that she had failed a field exercise and could not be a candidate for the military’s premier Unconventional Warfare unit. She filed a complaint of gender discrimination. Brigadier General F. Cecil Adams, who investigated it, determined that she had been wrongly denied graduation. No reports were found on whether or not she ever graduated.
Additionally, in the 1970s, Specialist Katie McBrayer, an intelligence analyst, had served with Blue Light, a Special Forces counterterrorism element before the creation of Delta Force, in an operational role. She hadn’t graduated the Q Course, however.
Delta Force and other units Tier 1 units have been recruiting women for a variety of roles for decades. So what took the SF Regiment so long? Well for one, combat fields were previously closed to females. However at Group, since 2016, women have been working at the Battalion level. So to walk around Battalion these days and see women is now a very normal thing. And these roles could be right beside the operators while deployed as mechanics, SOT-As, intel, and now as actual operators themselves. So watch out Fort Bragg, you soon may see this woman wearing a long tab.