Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Shortly after converting to Islam, then-Sgt. Khallid Shabazz struggled to find his way while his devout Lutheran family and fellow soldiers questioned his move.

And with a few Article 15s for insubordination on his record, Shabazz, a field artilleryman at the time, wanted out of the military.

Then, one day while training out in the field, an Army chaplain approached him and struck up a conversation.


“Honestly, it was like a revelation from God,” Shabazz said. “When it hit my ears, I knew that was what I was going to do in life. It was incredible.”

The Christian chaplain had told Shabazz, who was a teacher before he joined the Army, that he should consider being a Muslim chaplain. That way, the chaplain said, he could help other Muslim soldiers in need of guidance.

Shabazz later became a chaplain, and proudly wore his uniform with the Islamic crescent moon stitched onto it. The career change was a catalyst for him, as he went on to achieve several other goals.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service, which is held on Fridays, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Sept. 21, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)

Currently a lieutenant colonel, Shabazz holds two doctorate degrees on top of four master’s degrees. He has written three books and teaches online courses at four colleges. This fall, he plans to teach at a fifth one, the University of Hawaii.

He recently was chosen to study at the National War College, a rare feat for chaplains — only three of them are accepted each year.

And in 2017, Shabazz became the U.S. military’s first Muslim division-level chaplain, a position he held with the 7th Infantry Division.

Now the lead chaplain of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command here, he plans to surpass yet another milestone. That’s when he is slated to be promoted to colonel, which will be the highest rank ever attained by a Muslim chaplain.

“It’s phenomenal first, but it’s unbelievable second,” Shabazz said of his pending promotion.

Becoming Muslim

Born as Michael Barnes, Shabazz grew up in a large Lutheran family in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Once a faithful Lutheran himself, Shabazz often attended church and even graduated from a Christian college.

His religious views changed in the Army when he decided to debate a Muslim soldier on the merits of both religions. He admits he was ill-prepared for the debate and had misinformation about what Muslim people actually believed in.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)

Afterward, he became curious about Islam and began to study the Quran.

“I didn’t want to convert; I was happy where I was,” he said. “I’m a very inquisitive person. If I don’t know something, I’m going to get to know it.”

While Shabazz found more peace and solace by switching faiths, which included the Islamic custom of changing his name, many people in his life stopped talking to him.

His commander at the time, Shabazz said, even asked why he sided with the enemy.

“I was so hurt by those statements,” he said.

He eventually came to realize it was a lack of understanding some people had with Islam, which he was also guilty of until he studied it.

Islam is sometimes distorted by extremist groups, he said, similar to how other religions can be twisted to incite violent acts.

“Whether it’s the Bible, Quran, or the Torah, I want people to understand that religion really has nothing to do with violence,” he said. “99.9 percent of the people in religion are good people.”

Problem solver

As a whole, he said, the Army has improved its inclusiveness of Islamic culture. Religious accommodations allow Muslim soldiers to worship on Fridays and now give female soldiers the option to wear a hijab and males to have a beard.

He also educates leaders and soldiers about Muslim holidays and other traditions.

For those struggling as he once did, he encourages them to pursue knowledge, too. Often, he receives calls from Muslims across the Army asking for help on issues or how to deal with blowback from others in their unit.

“What I ask you to do is, keep doing your job and keep working hard,” he said he tells them. “Go to school at night and stay focused on everything else besides the treatment.

“That’s coming from a person like me who went through that type of turmoil. I was an E-5 and I received some pretty tough treatment back then. I can tell them those stories and I think it helps.”

As a chaplain, he strives to inspire soldiers to be successful, no matter their religious preference. To date, he has helped at least 70 soldiers become officers and many other NCOs gain promotion points by taking college courses.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz speaks during his Change of Stole ceremony inside the Lewis Main Chapel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 23, 2017.

“I’m like a chaplain life coach,” he said, laughing. “I’m telling them don’t quit.”

While proud of his faith, he does not want to be known only as the Muslim chaplain — he is one of five currently in the Army. Unless a soldier wants to talk about religion, he will leave those types of discussions at the door.

“I meet soldiers where they’re at. I attack problems,” he said. “My job is not to be your spiritual advisor, your religious guru. I want to help soldiers with school, with their family, their marital problems, and be almost like an arbitrator or a mediator.”

Life changer

Years before, he had to overcome many of his own issues.

In high school, he failed the 9th and 12th grades. He was not able to graduate with his class and had to go to summer school. His destructive behavior continued throughout his first stint of college, he said.

When he was later able to get a job as a teacher, he made just under ,000 per year.

So, he decided to join the Army as a 23-year-old private to take care of his wife and children.

He also sought discipline and stability, which the Army could provide. As he initially thought it was a good idea to sign up, he admits it was a difficult change.

“I found myself getting into a lot of trouble. Having a 19-year-old sergeant cussing at you and telling you what to do didn’t go over very well with me,” he said, laughing.

Then that chaplain decided to stop and take the time to chat with Shabazz, who had just turned Muslim but still wrestled with his identity.

“I was at my lowest level and the chaplain came by and gave me what I needed at that point,” he said. “I wanted to dedicate my life, and I have, to helping people who are in that position. Not by converting them, but by being a person who can put their arm around them and try to help them get to the other side.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

27 nations and over 30,000 troops to participate in DEFENDER Europe 21

U.S. Army Europe and Africa will organize and host the most significant military exercise in Europe this year. Last year’s pandemic restrictions might have caught most militaries off guard, and certainly had an enormous impact on the DEFENDER Europe 20. However, this year’s exercise includes a COVID prevention and mitigation strategy. DEFENDER Europe 21 kicked off in March and will last until June in an activity that consists of 27 nations and over 30,000 troops from Europe and North America.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
Over 70 Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, received their second and final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 24 in Wiesbaden, Germany as part of the preparations for DEFENDER Europe 21.

DEFENDER Europe is a yearly exercise planned and led by U.S. Army’s Europe and Africa Service Component Command. It is a joint and multinational exercise designed to strategic and interoperability readiness between NATO, U.S. and partner militaries. Although last year was a success, this year’s increased participation and widened geographical posture will further test the integration of air, land, sea and cyber capabilities. 

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
The infographic for DEFENDER Europe 21. See the full infographic here.

The multi-domain nature of modern warfare will be tested by significant participation of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force as air and sea routes will be utilized and tested to connect allies across Europe, Asia and Africa. Existing and new sophisticated assets such as air and missile defense equipment will be tested to ensure partner interoperability. The recent merger of United States Army Europe and the United States Army Africa into one service component command aims to increase the capability to conduct joint, large-scale and multi-domain operations. 

The recently reactivated V Corps will also lead the charge in readiness and interoperability both at the operational and tactical level. The Forward Command Post is located in Poland, and it will control the rotational forces in Fortress Europe and operational command and mission control. The exercise will include U.S. Army’s Security Force Assistance teams who provide training and assistance to partner nations at lower echelons.

Logistically, it will be one of the most challenging exercises conducted with five logistic centers located in four countries. The use of naval routes will be done through five ports with over 1200 pieces of equipment transferred from the U.S, while the only Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore operation will be conducted in Albania. The U.S. Army will have three Prepositioned Stock sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, with over 1000 pieces of equipment being drawn. 

defender europe 2020
A stevedore drives a military vehicle onto the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command’s USNS Bob Hope at the Port of Jacksonville, bound for DEFENDER-Europe 21 linked exercise, Immediate Response. Photo by Kimberly Spinner

What makes this year’s exercise complex and challenging is the fact that it consists of five other exercises:

  • Immediate Response
  • Saber Guardian
  • Swift Response
  • African Lion
  • Steadfast Defender

A combination of different exercises in size and nature, with some of the events co-occurring in over 31 training areas around Europe, sends a clear message to any threat. While DEFENDER Europe 21 is defensive in nature, it can quickly shift to any other type of operation in response to any crisis in Europe, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Africa. Although Russia remains the most significant threat in Europe and around Europe, the exercise also aims to provide strategic security partnerships to the Western Balkans and the Black Sea regions.

The commanding general of the V Corps, Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, is excited for his corps’ opportunity to cooperate with European allies in deterring NATO’s threat. “DEFENDER Europe 21 is a critical exercise that will provide V corps with another great opportunity to build readiness in our march towards full operational capability and promote interoperability as we work alongside allies and partners,” he said.

defender europe 2020
Florida National Guard’s 53d infantry Brigade Combat Team equipment and vehicles are prepositioned March 25, 2021 to be loaded on a ship at the Port of Jacksonville. The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is moving around 750 vehicles from this port in support of DEFENDER-Europe 21. Photo by Kimberly Spinner

The Russian annexation of Crimea and other parts of Ukraine back in 2014 was a wake-up call to Western Allies and its NATO-chartered grouping. The increased U.S. posture of forces and U.S.-led exercises are seen as the mechanisms to deter and prevent any additional attempt by Russia to destabilize the Old Continent. This year’s exercise will reaffirm the determination of the U.S. and its European NATO allies after a turbulent year marked by the global health crisis.

As expected, this year’s exercise will include strict COVID prevention and mitigation measures consisting of pre-deployment virus testing and quarantining. Such insistence only reaffirms the U.S.’s resolve to provide strategic support and interoperability to NATO and partner militaries, regardless of the widespread infections. Such an approach will undoubtedly give much-needed reassurances after an absent NATO summit in 2020. One thing is for sure, without long-term stability and peace in Europe, the U.S. cannot even begin to battle the military threats posed by Russia and China.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army extends infantry school to make grunts more lethal


The U.S. Army is refining a plan to extend by two months the service’s 14-week infantry one station unit training, or OSUT, so young grunts arrive at their first unit more combat-ready than ever before.

Trainers at Fort Benning, Georgia will run a pilot during summer 2018 that will extend infantry OSUT from 14 weeks to 22 weeks, giving soldiers more time to practice key infantry skills such as land navigation, marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, fire and maneuver, and first aid training.


Currently soldiers in infantry OSUT go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about 4.5 weeks of infantry advanced individual training. This would add an additional 8 weeks of advanced individual training, tripling the length of the instruction soldiers receive in that phase.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets Timothy Dudley and Nicholas Calderon move into position to rappel out of a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter during the last phase of the Air Assault Course at Dickman Field, July 23, 2013 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
(Photo by Ashley Cross)

“It’s more reps and sets; we are trying to make sure that infantry soldiers coming out of infantry OSUT are more than just familiar [with ground combat skills],” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning, told Military.com in a June 21, 2018 interview. “You are going to shoot more bullets; you are going to come out more proficient and more expert than just familiar.”

A better trained infantry soldier

The former infantry commandant, Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, launched the effort to “improve the lethality of soldiers in the infantry rifle squad,” Hedrick said.

“In 14 weeks, what we really do is produce a baseline infantry soldier,” said Col. Kelly Kendrick, the outgoing commander of 198th Infantry Brigade at Benning, who was heavily involved in developing the pilot.

This works fine when new soldiers arrive at their first unit as it is starting its pre-deployment train-up, Kendrick said.

Unfortunately, many young infantry soldiers arrive at a unit only a few weeks before it deploys, leaving little time for preparation before real-world operations begin, he said.

“I was the G3 of the 101st Airborne and if a [new] soldier came up late in the train-up, we had a three-week train-up program and then after three weeks, we would send that soldier on a deployment,” he said.

With 22 weeks of infantry OSUT, “you can see right off that bat, we are going to have a hell of a lot better soldier,” Kendrick said. “I will tell you, we will produce infantry soldiers with unmatched lethality compared to what we have had in the past.”

The new pilot will start training two companies from July 13 to mid-December 2018, Kendrick said. Once the new program of instruction is finalized, trainers will start implementing the 22-week cycle across infantry OSUT in October 2019.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
U.S. Army Live fire training at Galloway Range, Fort Benning, GA. C Co 2nd Btn 11 Infantry Regiment.
(Photo by John D. Helms)

The effort follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training early 2018 designed to instill more discipline and esprit de corps in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience, poor work ethic, and low discipline.

“If there are two things we do great right now, that’s physical fitness and marksmanship; I really think everything else has suffered a little bit,” said Kendrick. “If you went and looked at special operations forces … the SOF force has realized they have to invest in training and teaching. And they have done that, so we have been the last ones to get it.”

The Army has prioritized leader training for both commissioned officers and sergeants.

“[But] the initial entry, soldier side of the house, has not [changed] whole lot from the infantry perspective for a long, long time,” Kendrick said.

A new emphasis on land navigation training

Currently, soldiers in infantry training receive one day of classroom instruction on land navigation and one day of hands-on application.

“We put them in groups of four and they go and find three of about four-five points — that’s their land navigation training,” Kendrick.

The new land-nav program will last a week.

“They are going to do buddy teams to start with, and at the end, they will have to pass day and night land navigation, individually,” he said.

One challenge of the pilot will be, “can I get to individual proficiency in land-nav or do I need more time?” Kendrick said.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
Ranger Training Class 4-11 completes a knots test early on day two of the Mountain Phase and moves immediately to rope bridge training and vertical haul line exercises.
(Photo by John D. Helms)

“Part of this what we haven’t figured out is hey, how long do those lanes need to be — 300, 600, 800 meters?” said Kendrick, adding that it would be easy to design a course “and have every private here fail.”

“Then I can turn around and have every private pass no matter what with just a highway through the woods,” he continued. “We’ve got to figure out what that level is going to be — where they leave here accomplished in their skills and their ability and are prepared to go do that well wherever they get to. That is really the art of doing this pilot.”

A new marksmanship strategy

Currently, infantry OSUT soldiers train on iron sights and the M68 close combat optic at ranges out to 300 meters.

The new program will feature training on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, or AGOG, which offers 4X magnification.

“We don’t do much ACOG training; you go out to most rifle units, the ACOG is part of the unit’s issue,” Kendrick said. “It’s a shame that we don’t train them on the optic that half of them when they walk into their unit the first day and [receive it].”

Soldiers will also receive training on the AN/PAS-13 thermal weapon sightand the AN/PSQ-20 Enhanced Night Vision Goggle.

Soldiers will train with these system and their weapons “day and night with qualification associated,” Kendrick said.

The new program will also increase the amount of maneuver live-fire training soldiers receive.

“Everything from a buddy-team to a fire team to a squad, we are going to increase the time and sets and repetitions in getting them into live-firing, day and night,” Kendrick said. “Today when you do a fire-team, react to contact live fire, you do that twice — daytime only. At the end of this thing, when you are done, we will be doing live-fire [repetitions] on the magnitude of 20-plus.”

As with land navigation, Kendrick said, the time allotted for additional marksmanship training is not yet finalized.

“Like anything else, with being an infantryman, it’s sets and reps that make you proficient,” he said. “So now we are talking about the time to do that amount of sets and repetitions that will give them the foundation that can they can work in the rest of their career.”

More combatives and first aid training

Infantry OSUT trainees receive about 22 hours of combatives, or hand-to-hand combat training.

“We are going to take that to 40 hours,” Kendrick said. “At the end of 40 hours, we are going to take a level-one combatives test, so every soldier that leaves here will be level-one combatives certified.”

Level-one certification will ensure soldiers are practiced in basic holds instead of just being familiar with them, Kendrick said.

“We are talking about practicing and executing those moves.”

It will be the same with first aid training, he said.

Soldiers will spend eight days learning more combat lifesaver training, trauma first aid and “how to handle hot and cold-weather injuries … which cause more casualties than bullets do right now in some of these formations,” Kendrick said.

“You will have a soldier that understands combat lifesaver, first aid and trauma, all those things because right now you just get a little piece of that,” he said.

Infantry trainees will also receive more urban combat training and do a 16-mile road march instead of the standard 12-miler, Kendrick said.

The plan is to “assess this every week” during the pilot and make changes if needed, Kendrick said.

“Is it going to be enough? Do we need more? Those are all the things we are going to work out in this pilot,” he said. “In December, there will be a couple of 14-week companies that graduate at the same time, so part of this is to send both of those groups of soldiers out to units in the Army and get the units’ feedback on the product.”

The effort is designed to give soldiers more exposure to the infantry tasks that make a “solid infantryman here instead of making that happen at their first unit of assignment,” Kendrick said. “This is really going to produce that lethal soldier that can plug into his unit from day one.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

These ISIS-fighting women are getting an Amazon Studios film

The Yazidi women who have fought the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will be the subject of a new feature film in production by Amazon Studios and directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro.


This will mark Shapiro’s feature film directorial debut.

According to a report by Deadline.com, the exact plot details are unclear, but Shapiro has done much research into the plight of the Yazidi. Among the stories Shapiro has looked into is that of captured humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

The report notes that Mueller was forced into sex slavery and a marriage to ISIS leader Abu Bake al-Baghdadi, and that both the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders and the Obama Administration failed to negotiate for her release.

Mueller’s parents claimed they were told that if they did make an offer to the terrorist group, they would risk prosecution. Details of Mueller’s captivity were provided by at least one former sex slave who escaped ISIS, and a letter smuggled to her family.

Mueller died in February 2015, with ISIS claiming she had been killed in an air strike carried out by the Royal Jordanian Air Force, after being held for 18 months. Earlier this month, some reports claimed that Al-Baghdadi was also killed by an air strike.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
At 23, Joanna Palani, a young Danish-Kurdish student, dropped out of college to join the fight against jihadists in Syria.

Shapiro is also reportedly researching the so-called “European jihadi brides” in preparation for the project. Some of the worst torture suffered by Yazidi sex slaves has been at the hands of the spouses of ISIS fighters.

Shapiro is best known as the creator of the Lifetime series “UnREAL,” starring Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby, and also worked behind the scenes on the ABC Reality show “The Bachelor.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

U.S.-backed Syrian forces liberated the city of  on Oct. 17 from Islamic State militants, a senior commander said, in a major defeat for the collapsing extremist group that had proclaimed it to be the capital of its “caliphate.”


Although clashes in  have ended, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are in control, combing the city in northern Syria for land mines and searching for any IS sleeper cells, Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo told The Associated Press.

Sillo said a formal declaration that  has fallen would be made soon, once troops finish their clearing operations in the city on the banks of the Euphrates River.

Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said it has not yet received official reports that the city was cleared, describing mines and booby traps throughout  that have killed returning civilians and senior Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commanders in recent days. One of those killed Oct. 16 was the head of the internal security force affiliated with the SDF.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
SDF fighters at the mouth of a tunnel used by ISIS at Jabar Castle in Raqqa. (Photo from VOA.)

Another challenge for the troops is searching the tunnels that were dug by the militants around the city, Dillon said.

“This will take some time, to say that the city is completely clear,” he told AP. “We still suspect that there are still (IS) fighters that are within the city in small pockets.”

The loss of  will deprive the militants of a major hub for recruitment and planning, Dillon said, because the city attracted hundreds of foreign fighters and was a place where attacks in the Middle East and Europe were planned. He added that the militants remain active in Syria, farther south around the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

“This has been the wellspring of (IS) as we know it,” he said. But he stressed that the military defeat of the militants “doesn’t mean the end of (IS) and their ideology.”

Dozens of militants who refused to surrender made their last stand earlier Oct. 17 in  sports stadium, which the group had turned into a notorious prison in the more than three years it held the city.

The SDF forces earlier captured  main hospital, the other last remaining IS holdout that had served both as a medical facility and an IS command center. The SDF fighters have not gone through it to clear it, Dillon said.

Also read: This is how the US decides when and where to drop bombs on ISIS

Dillon said the coalition has not carried out any airstrikes in the past three days to allow civilians to leave. The SDF has also called on IS fighters to surrender, and about 350 have turned themselves in, he said, adding that none were high-value targets.

In recent months, the Islamic State has steadily lost territory in Iraq and Syria, including Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul.

After the group seized  from other Syrian rebels in early 2014, it transformed the one vibrant metropolis into the epicenter of its brutal rule where opponents were beheaded and terror plots hatched.

IS militants had been cornered in and around the stadium, and it was not immediately clear after Sillo’s statement whether any were still inside it.

“The stadium is a huge structure with underground rooms and tunnels. There are also buildings around it” still under the control of IS, said SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali.

A senior Kurdish commander said later that the stadium has been checked and cleared of land mines. SDF forces raised their own flag in the stadium, he added.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
ISIS used to patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. (Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Earlier, he said 22 IS militants were killed in the advance on the hospital.

On Oct. 17, the SDF captured “Paradise Square,”  infamous public square that was used by the militants to perform beheadings and other killings in front of residents who were summoned by loudspeakers and forced to watch. Bodies and severed heads would be displayed there for days, mounted on posts and labeled with their crimes, according to residents, who later dubbed it “Hell Square.”

With the capture of the hospital, the last black IS flag was taken down, according to the Kurdish-run Hawar news agency. A video released by the news agency showed the clashes around the hospital, which appeared riddled with bullets and partly blackened from a fire.

A senior Kurdish commander said there was no sign of civilians in the stadium or around it, but he added that his troops were being cautious because of possible land mines. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The battle for  began in June and has dragged for weeks as the SDF fighters faced stiff resistance from the militants. The city suffered devastating damage, with most of its buildings leveled or in ruins. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 1,000 civilians were killed in the campaign.

Articles

This WWII Navy vet finally received his service medals after 71 years

A U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II finally received his service medals April 12 at the American Legion in Fort Smith, Arkansas — 71 years to the day from when he honorably discharged.


James Donald Neal Burnett, 91, of Alma was presented several medals, including the World War II Victory Medal, by U.S. Sen. John Boozman.

The senator called Burnett among the “greatest generation” and thanked him for his service.

“It’s a real honor to pat Mr. Burnett on the back and thank him for his service,” Boozman said before a large group of veterans gathered at the American Legion Ellig-Stoufer Post 31. “We do want to thank this special generation that went off and did incredible things, ordinary people who did extraordinary things, came back and just went back to work. They not only rebuilt our country but provided the protection for Europe and much of the rest of the world so they can rebuild. We forget about this sometimes.”

The veterans were there to have a closed-door discussion about their issues with the Veterans Choice health-care program. Boozman is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is hosting a series of listening sessions with Arkansas veterans. Boozman also had listening sessions two other local cities.

Before presenting the medals, Boozman also thanked the veteran’s wife, Imogene Burnett, and their family because “being in the service regardless of how long…is a family affair and we always want to remember the families that sacrificed.”

One of the Burnetts’ sons, James Alan Burnett, gave the ultimate sacrifice in 2002 on the Kate’s Basin fire in Wyoming. He was the first Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Services employee to lose his life fighting a fire.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
The Purple Heart is one of many medals that veterans have waited decades to receive.

Kathy Watson, constituent services manager for Boozman’s office, said many World War II veterans did not receive medals simply because they went home after the war and did not apply for them. Boozman said his father, a B-17 waist gunner during WWII, also didn’t talk much about the war, and when asked to talk about his experiences would usually only offer a short description: “It was cold.”

James and Imogene Burnett’s son, Bob Burnett, said his father was among those who simply came home after the war and did not request the medals. A relative, state Rep. Rebecca Petty, District 93, “got the ball rolling” on Burnett’s medals after a family visit last year, Bob Burnett said.

In the recent 91st General Assembly, Petty entered House Resolution 1039 to honor Burnett for his service from 1943-1946 as a motor machinist’s mate third class on the USS Oak Hill LSD 7. He entered the Navy a few months after his 18th birthday, Nov. 11, 1943.

Anita Deason, Boozman’s senior military and veterans liaison, read a commendation letter in Burnett’s file for the ship’s crew from Capt. C.A. Peterson, dated June 14, 1945: “At Okinawa, Oak Hill participated in one of the largest and most important amphibious assaults in the history of warfare. Then for a period of 71 days, this vessel shared in the hazards of supporting armed forces on that island, often under continuous attacks by enemy planes. One suicide plane apparently aimed for this ship was splashed by the fire of our gun crews. By the cheerful cooperation of all hands, every mission assigned this ship was successfully carried out.”

Also read: WWII veteran receives long overdue Purple Heart

The letter goes on to say that “outstanding” work was done in particularly by the repair force in the task of maintaining landing ships and craft in operation condition.

“Higher authority at first considered this job beyond the capacity of this ship, but by efficient administration and hard work it was done and earned high praise for the task force commander,” Peterson wrote.

“As often happens, service members do not receive all of their medals when they are released from the military, and so we’re going to try and make up for that today,” Deason said.

Burnett, who was born Aug. 31, 1925, at Clayton, Okla., served two years, four months and 25 days in the Navy. He was honorably discharged, coincidentally, on April 12, 1946.

In addition to the WW II Victory Medal, the National Personnel Record Center also authorized Burnett to receive the Combat Action Ribbon, China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Honorable Discharge Button, and Honorable Discharge Lapel Pin.

Burnett is also eligible for the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, a foreign award that is not funded by the Department of Defense.

MIGHTY TRENDING

State Dept. issues warning when traveling to India

The US State Department updated a travel warning to India during violent escalation in fighting along the border between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.

The State Department warned women against a troubling rise in sexual violence and all travelers against potential terror attacks.

India and Pakistan, bitter rivals for decades, have been fighting inside Kashmir, a disputed border region which each country administers in part. The fighting kicked off after a Feb. 16, 2019 terror attack killed 40 Indian security forces.


Air battles, shelling, and ground fighting have followed sporadically since that attack, with planes being shot down and Pakistan temporarily closing its airspace.

The State Department has called for “increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism,” and for US citizens to stay at least 10 kilometers away from the disputed border region, and not to enter Kashmir at all.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

An Indian Air Force Mirage 2000.

(US Air Force photo)

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and government facilities,” State warned.

State also cautioned about the larger India-Pakistan border, ethnic insurgent groups in the northeastern states of India, and Maoist extremist groups in Central and Eastern India.

Across India, the world’s largest democracy, State cautioned that “rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India.”

“Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations,” the warning continued.

“If you decide to travel to India… Do not travel alone, particularly if you are a woman,” the statement read, linking to a guide for women travelers.

Across the border in Pakistan, the State Department urges visitors to reconsider travel to anywhere in the country, but has not revised this recommendation to reflect recent fighting.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect that the State Department had a similar travel warning in place before the terror attack in Kashmir.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this Taliban tunnel bomb detonate in Afghanistan

While typically used in medieval warfare, tunnel bombs have made a comeback over the last few years, especially in Syria. This video shared on Twitter on July 16 by researcher Hugo Kaaman shows just how powerful these bombs can be, and this time, in Afghanistan.


Twitter

twitter.com

Tunnels have seen a resurgence in “popularity” in the last few years, after being a very effective means of warfare utilized throughout history. They are exactly as they sound: bombs placed in sub-terrain under enemy forces. We’ve seen them in every major conflict, but in the middle east, they took a bit of a back burner to the more frequently used roadside IED. There’s an excellent history of the tunnel bomb here.

To see the “inside look,” watch this video uploaded to social media.

Twitter

twitter.com


Articles

This is how the Special Forces turn North Carolina into Afghanistan

Welcome to Pineland, the fictional country made up of more than 20 North and South Carolina counties — including Alamance — that US Army Special Forces students will infiltrate to overthrow its oppressive government.


Students at the US Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, based out of Fort Bragg, and role-players will conduct training missions during the exercise, dubbed “Robin Sage,” such as controlled assaults, but also live, eat, and sleep in civilian areas, according to a Fort Bragg news release.

The Army notified local law enforcement agencies, said Randy Jones, spokesman for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office. This is something the Army has done several times a year for many years,” Jones said.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
Army photo by Sgt. Derek Kuhn, 40th Public Affairs Detachment

“We just know they’re in the area and how they’re flagged,” he said.

Students will wear civilian clothes only if instructors determine the situation warrants it and then will wear distinctive armbands, according to Fort Bragg, and training areas and vehicles used during exercises will be clearly labeled.

Service members from other units at Fort Bragg will support the exercise by acting as opposing forces and guerrilla freedom fighters — Pineland’s resistance movement. Civilian volunteers throughout the state also act as role-players.

Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares, according to the release. Controls are in place to ensure there is no risk to people or property.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
A US solider treats a role-player while another watches for the use of proper procedures, during the Robin Sage exercise. Photo from public domain.

The Army has been conducting Robin Sage since 1974, but it has not always gone smoothly.

In August 2002 a Moore County deputy, who didn’t know Robin Sage troops were in his area, shot and killed one army trainee and wounded another. The soldiers, who were dressed in civilian clothes, were shot after they tried to disarm the deputy, who they thought also was part of the exercise.

US Army officials have since modified the exercises to make the public and law enforcement aware of what is happening, and to make sure troops know how to deal with civilians and civilian authorities.

Residents with concerns should contact local law enforcement officials, who can contact officials in charge of the exercise.

Articles

This is the grim novel John Kelly reads when he gets a promotion

Shortly after he became an officer in the Marines, John Kelly met a captain who told him that he should approach his new position as “a real professional.”


“A doctor who doesn’t read peer articles and stay attuned to the developments in his field is not the kind of doctor you would want to go to, and the same is true for officers in the Marine Corps,” the captain told him.

Kelly recounted the story in “The Leader’s Bookshelf,” a collection of essays from four-star generals about their favorite books. We first read his essay in an excerpt run by Foreign Policy.

“He got me going on reading, specifically focused on military things, and I just never stopped,” Kelly said.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton

The Wall Street Journal reported August 4 that Kelly picked up C.S. Forester’s 1936 novel “The General” after accepting the role of chief of staff, just as he did after accepting the role of DHS chief six months prior — and just as he did every time he was promoted during and after his military career, since he was 25 (he is now 67).

It’s essentially a parable about the dangers of patriotism and duty unaccompanied by critical thinking. Kelly went through it again to remind himself “of what to avoid as a leader,” the Journal reported.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
Image from Harper Collins Publishers.

“The General” tells the fictional story of General Sir Herbert Curzon, a leader in the British Army during World War I. Curzon is an unremarkable man who attained his position of power largely through luck and the failings of the superiors who preceded him. He is eventually put in charge of 100,000 men during WWI, where he leads many of them to their death and loses his leg in the process. Despite his failings as a leader, he is lauded in his retirement as a military hero.

When Kelly read the book as a young officer, he thought of his captain’s words on leadership.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
USMC photo by Sgt. Zachary Mott.

Describing Curzon, Kelly wrote in “The Leader’s Bookshelf,” “He is a brave guy, a dedicated guy, a noble guy, but a guy who in the end has become a corps commander — a three-star general — and when presented with an overwhelming German attack couldn’t figure out how to deal with it because he’d never developed himself intellectually.”

Every time Kelly has read the book, he wrote, he’s noted where he was at that point in his life, and how the novel’s lesson resonates with him.

He wrote that, “depending on as you get older and higher in rank, it’s a different book every time you read it. When a lieutenant reads that book it’s different from when a lieutenant general reads it. … So it’s just kind of a fun thing I’ve done over the years and with this book in particular just to remind me of the critical importance of thinking.”

Articles

‘Vets Versus Hate’ joins anti-Trump protests during the Republican Convention

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
Marine vet Alexander McCoy wears a brick wall poncho at a Vets Vs. Hate protest in Public Square in downtown Cleveland. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


CLEVELAND, Ohio — As Republican delegates and party officials wrangle through their strategy to capture the White House inside the Quicken Loans arena here, protesters outside the party’s national convention have plenty to say about presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Among them is a group of military veterans who call themselves “Vets Versus Hate.”

“Vets Versus Hate is a national, non-partisan, grassroots movement of veterans standing up against the rhetoric of bigotry and division that has started to really come to the fore during this election season,” Marine Corps vet Alexander McCoy explained. “We’re not here to oppose any political party; we’re here to say that the kind of language Donald Trump is using is absolutely inconsistent with our values that we swore to uphold when we joined the military.”

McCoy, who served as a guard at the American embassies in Saudi Arabia, Honduras and Germany among other duty stations while in the Marine Corps between 2008 and 2013, explained that the group came to Cleveland to show solidarity “with everyone who lives in America . . . calling upon members of [Trump’s] party that have engaged in similar rhetoric to stop this politics of division.”

But in the same breath McCoy conceded that “they don’t seem to be listening, but we’re going to continue to make our voices heard.”

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
Media seemingly outnumber protesters during Vets Versus Hate event in Public Square in downtown Cleveland. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

While McCoy is certainly not the only vet protesting what he sees as the Trump campaign’s divisive style, Republicans here have plenty of support from veterans groups and high-profile former military members who took the stage on the convention’s opening day to underscore the real estate mogul’s support for the military.

“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” said former military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”

But on the streets among the protesters it’s a different story.

Army vet Chris Abshire, an Ohio native who deployed to Afghanistan during his 4 years as a soldier, joined Vets Versus Hate to make the public aware that other people are affected by war, not just soldiers.

“The Afghan people that I interacted with on a daily basis are forgotten about, and politicians who spew hatred toward them and say, ‘We’re going to bomb ISIS back into the Stone Age and steal their oil’ forget that that’s not even their oil,” Abshire said just before joining a circle of protesters forming a human wall in the center of Public Square here, several blocks away from Quicken Loans Arena where the RNC is being held. “That belongs to the Iraqi people, who have been victimized for years now. And I want to stand up against that.”

“Ultimately what we need to make clear to American voters is that [veterans] will not allow themselves to be used . . . as political props,” McCoy said.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain
Police from several states line the entrance to the RNC complex in Cleveland. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

Earlier Trump advisor on veteran’s issues New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro reportedly told a radio host he thought Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

The Trump campaign has since distanced itself from the former Marine, who’s been with the GOP nominee on several military-related campaign events, saying it doesn’t “agree with his comments,” the NH1 network reported.

“There’s no place in politics for talk about putting your opponents in front of a firing squad,” said Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6, an organization dedicated to veteran civic empowerment. “It goes against the ethos of every person who raised their right hand and swore to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. We’re calling on the campaign to condemn it immediately.”

Some analysts have said the Trump campaign’s tone during the primary season combined with the national mood in the wake of terror attacks across the globe, as well as the tension between law enforcement and the African-American community here at home, have prompted concerns from RNC officials and Cleveland’s leaders that there might be significant unrest during the 4-day convention.

But nearly three-quarters of the way through the event, there have been no major incidents. Protests have been mostly confined to Public Square, and the potential for them to spread beyond that is severely limited by the force protection measures the city put in place ahead of the event — including a temporary perimeter fence erected around the Quicken Loans complex that now separates the zone from the rest of the city — and a massive influx of law enforcement from other states, including police and state troopers from as far away as Florida and California.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the worst things to drink out of a grog bowl

Attending military balls is one of those things that everyone has to do. Sure, they’re occasionally mandatory, but it’s great to see everyone in the unit unwind for a single night. Your first sergeant can get roaring drunk and tell everyone stories of when they were a young, dumb private and the specialist can flex on the butterbar for their lack of medals.

The one thing that everyone secretly dreads, however, is the grog bowl. It’s hilarious watching everyone in the unit have to stomach what is, essentially, the bottom-dwelling juices of a trash compactor, but no one actually wants to be the person next in line to grab a glass.


In essence, it’s a concoction of random things that are poured into a giant punch bowl (or, occasionally, an unused toilet). The chain of command usually grabs some random thing off the shelf and pours it in. Each addition is followed by some BS excuse — there’s a symbolic reasoning behind every addition.

For example, a unit at Fort Campbell might add in some Jack Daniel’s because the distillery isn’t too far from post and it’s kind of the unofficial drink of the 101st Airborne. You might also see someone throw coffee into the mix because of the many sleepless nights endured by troops in the unit. Those are awesome, fun additions — but you’ll you have to bite your tongue when something gross gets tossed in.

Like these:

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

That’s all you, buddy.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Robin Cresswell)

Tabasco — to represent the blood shed by troops

This is the go-to mixer that seems to find a place in every unit’s grog bowl. If you’re a fan of spicy foods, it’s not that bad… in small doses, that is.

Unfortunately, the person adding the Tabasco won’t just add a few drops like they’re making a Bloody Mary. It’s almost always the entire bottle. Thankfully, just as it does with undesirable MREs, the taste of Tabasco will overpower the taste of the rest of the garbage — that’s why Tabasco is the best of the worst things in the grog.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Yep. It tastes like nothing.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jacob Massey)

Water — to represent the seas

On one hand, it’s great because the water is going to dilute whatever crap is in the bowl already. Each ounce of water offsets an ounce of garbage. On the other hand, it’s freakin’ water. It’s also going to dilute the good stuff that kind souls put in there.

There are kind souls out there that take pity on everyone who has to drink from the bowl and you’ll, on rare occasions, get a grog bowl that isn’t going to unintentionally poison the unit. Putting water in there is just going to ruin what was otherwise a reasonable sip.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Everything is forgiven if the salt is added in the style of Salt Bae.

(nusr_ett/Twitter)

A bunch of salt — to represent sweat

Just like Tabasco, salt would be fine in small doses but, just like Tabasco, salt is almost always poured in en masse. And, as you’ve probably guessed, it just makes everything salty.

This one is just lazy. At least you have to go to the store to buy a bottle of Tabasco. Usually, people just grab the salt shaker off the table in front of them and head up to the bowl.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Just because we ate our fair share of sand while deployed doesn’t mean we want to eat more of it stateside.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lt. Dave Hecht)

Sand — to represent the wars in the deserts

The rules dictating what kind of garbage you can put in the grog bowl typically limits the selection to things you’re willing to actually drink. This rules out, thankfully, things like battery acid. However, for some reason, this same logic doesn’t rule out sand.

Why? Because in the sandstorms of Iraq and Afghanistan, you’re going to unintentionally eat a lot of sand. Therefore, it must be okay to just drink sand, right? Wrong. Thankfully, if you’re just trying to screw everyone over, know that the sand will just sink to the bottom of the bowl and nobody will actually have to drink it.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

At least pretend like you’re making an effort to be an asshole.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Andrew Goff)

Milk — to represent… who knows, f*ck it.

There’s rarely any actual reasoning behind adding milk to the bowl. Now, if anyone were to say something along the lines of, “this is for the mothers that are waiting for us,” it’d make a little sense — but I just made that one up on the spot and have never heard it actually uttered at a ball.

It’s typically just tossed in because it’s readily available and someone didn’t want to spend time and effort on screwing everyone else over.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Same goes for putting old socks in it… jerk.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adelita Mead)

A boot — to represent… hard work?

Come on. This one is just plain unhygienic. It’s rare that someone will spend the effort (or cash) to buy a fresh, never-worn, boot just to plop it in the grog bowl.

Sometimes, justice intervenes and whoever put their boot in the bowl will have to drink from their own footwear. Believe me, when that jerk ends up at sick call the next week, nobody’s shedding a tear.

MIGHTY SPORTS

4 amazing disabled NFL players who came to play at the top of their game

When we think of NFL payers, we often think of incredible athletes. Most are taller than six feet and most pack more than 230 pounds of pure muscle. We might even believe they have to be physically perfect to compete at a level where people are considered more of an investment than just an athlete – but that’s not true.

Many NFL players over the years have overcome mental and physical handicaps to become some of the best examples of football athleticism throughout their careers.


These are just the players with physical handicaps to overcome. Other players, like the Steelers Terry Bradshaw, the N.Y. Jets Brandon Marshall, and Houston Texans legend Arian Foster, have all overcome mental troubles like PTSD, ADHD, and alcoholism. They are still remembered as their respective teams’ all-time greats.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Rocky Bleier, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bleier was sent to serve in the Vietnam War during his tenure in the NFL. His unit was ambushed by the NVA in 1969 and Bleier took extensive wounds in his legs. Instead of focusing on the damage, he fouced on recovering from it, going on to play in four Super Bowls with the Steelers.

Read: This Steeler went to four Super Bowls after being wounded in Vietnam

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Tedy Bruschi, New England Patriots

Tedy Bruschi was at the top of his career when he woke up with numbness in his body and a pounding headache. The 31-year-old suffered a stroke after playing in his first Pro Bowl. Doctors found he also had a hole in his heart. Within eight months, Bruschi was back in the game, winning more and more with the Patriots.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Tom Dempsey, New Orleans Saints

That’s not photoshop. Kicker Tom Dempsey was born without toes but that didn’t stop him from making a record 63-yard field goal with the New Orleans Saints. He had a special boot made for his foot that turned it into a swinging club. He made his record kick in 1970 and played for a number of teams.

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Shaquem Griffin, Seattle Seahawks

Shaquem Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, which cause terrible pain in his hand for much of his younger years. The young Griffin to play football – but his hand (or lack thereof) never stopped him. He and his brother played side-by-side through high school football, college ball, and now the Seattle Seahawks. With that team, he played in a playoff game during his rookie year.

How this one-handed Seahawk proves anything is possible

Do Not Sell My Personal Information