This guardsman saved a little girl's life during a mall shooting - We Are The Mighty
Mighty Moments

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.

A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.

“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”


Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out

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The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.

“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”

Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.

Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.

“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”

Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.

“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.

“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”

Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.”
“I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”

When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.

Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.

“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”

Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.

“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.

“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”

Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.

Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commanders are excited about US Space Force

President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2019, signed into law the US Space Force, the sixth military branch and first devoted to organizing, training, and equipping personnel to use and defend military space assets.

Trump signed a directive organizing the Space Force as part of the Air Force in February. With the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that Trump signed Dec. 20, 2019, US Air Force Space Command becomes Space Force but remains within the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department.


“Going to be a lot of things happening in space, because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain,” Trump said Dec. 20, 2019. “Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital … The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

President Donald Trump speaks during an event at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 20, 2019. Trump visited Andrews to thank service members before signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 which support the Air Force’s advanced capabilities to gain and maintain air superiority and the airmen that are essential to our nation’s success.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)

Space Force is separate from NASA, the civilian space agency. Other agencies that work on space-related issues, like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, will continue operating as before.

But most of the Pentagon’s space programs will eventually be housed under the Space Force. Staffing and training details for the new branch will be sorted out over the next 18 months, Air Force officials said Dec. 20, 2019.

Space Force is not designed or intended to put combat troops into space; it will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which was set up in August and will lead military space operations.

The exact division of responsibilities and assets has not been fully worked out, but when the creation of Space Command was announced in December 2018, then-Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan compared the relationship to that of the other five military branches with the four functional combatant commands, such as Transportation Command, which manages transportation for the military, or Strategic Command, which oversees US nuclear arms.

There are “still a lot of things that we don’t know,” Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command and US Space Command, told reporters Dec. 20, 2019. Raymond can lead Space Force as chief of space operations for a year without going through Senate confirmation, which his successor will have to have.

“There’s not a really good playbook on, how do you stand up a separate service?” Raymond said. “We haven’t really done this since 1947,” when the Air Force was created.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

US Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida, May 7, 2017.

(US Air Force)

While much remains to be decided about Space Force and Space Command, conversations about how the latter will support operations on earth have already started, according to Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, one of the six geographic combatant commands.

“I talk to Gen. Raymond on a very regular basis. I would say probably once a week,” Wolters said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast on December 10, when about potential partnerships between Space Command, European Command, and European allies.

“From a US EUCOM perspective, we have space componency that Gen. Raymond extends to us to allow us to better defend and better deter, and with each passing day we’re going to find ways to align the assets that exist in space to better deter and to better defend.”

Wolters spoke after NATO officially recognized space as an operational domain, alongside air, land, sea, and cyber, on November 20.

That recognition allows NATO to make requests of members, “such as hours of satellite communications,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time. NATO members own half of the 2,000 satellites estimated to be in orbit.

Wolters called that recognition “a huge step in the right direction.”

“In our security campaign, from a US EUCOM perspective and from a NATO perspective, we always have to improve in indications and warnings. We always have to improve in command and control and feedback, and we always have to improve in mission command. And we have to do that in space,” Wolters said.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

The Air Force launches a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017.

(US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)

Supporters see a Space Force as a national security necessity in light of other countries’ advancing space capabilities and because of potential threats in space, such as interference with systems like GPS.

Critics say it’s not clear what capabilities a Space Force brings that Air Force Space Command doesn’t already provide and that its creation will spur an arms race in space.

In recognizing space as a domain, NATO ministers agreed that space was “essential” to the alliance’s ability to deter and defend against threats, providing a venue for things like tracking forces, navigation and communications, and detecting missile launches.

Stoltenberg declined to say how NATO’s space-based capabilities could work with US Space Command, telling press on November 19 that he would “not go into the specifics of how we are going to communicate with national space commands and national space capabilities.”

“What NATO will do will be defensive,” he said, “and we will not deploy weapons in space.”

Wolters didn’t mention space-based weapons in his remarks this month but did tout capabilities offered by operations in space.

“Obviously there are things that take place in space at speeds and with a degree of precision that are very, very attractive for deterrence, and space-to-surface [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] is one of those key areas,” Wolters said, adding that he and Raymond have discussed and will continue to discuss those “big issues.”

“It all has to do with seeing the potential battle space, seeing the environment, and being able to have quick feedback on what is taking place in that environment,” Wolters said. “If you can obviously utilize the resources that exist in space, you can probably do so at a speed that makes commanders happy because they have information superiority.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The drone that tipped the scales at the Battle of Takur Ghar

A once quiet landscape turned battlefield, the clash of gunfire and shouts ripped through the Shahi-Kot Valley in the early hours of March 4, 2002. As part of an early war effort that targeted al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Battle of Roberts Ridge is still known as one of the deadliest engagements during Operation Anaconda.

Above the Takur Ghar mountain top, an MQ-1 Predator aircrew became an unforeseen, close air support asset for a desperate joint special operations team in their time of need.


Deep, black smoke from a crashed, bullet-riddled MH-47 Chinook helicopter filled the air. Among the wreckage were the lead combat controller on the ground, Maj. Gabe Brown, then a staff sergeant, along with the rest of the special operations team who worked to secure casualties and defend their position on the summit.

Pinned down on the landing zone and under direct fire, Brown established communications with an MQ-1 aircrew in the area who had visual of the team. Col. Stephen Jones, then captain and Predator pilot, had already been in the cockpit and was ordered to support just moments after the crash.

Before Jones arrived on station that early morning, he had no idea what he and his team were in for.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

An MH-47 Chinook Helicopter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)

“I remember coming in on shift that night and there was a lot of commotion,” Jones said. “I was told to get out to the ground control station as soon as possible.”

Throughout the day, Brown said he developed rapport with the Predator pilot as he gave situational awareness updates and assisted with targeting enemy combatants.

“When I had fighters check in, he would buddy lase for those inbound fighters and would help me with the talk-on, so it cut my workload dramatically having him there,” Brown said.

Many other U.S. and coalition aircraft were simultaneously entering and exiting the area. Before authorizing a strike, Brown needed to “talk-on” the respective aircrew, which meant he briefed the situation on the ground to every aircraft that entered the airspace.

With a bird’s-eye view, Jones and his aircrew alleviated some of Brown’s duties and took control of liaising information within the zone, while serving as forward air controllers in the battle.

“(From our cockpits) we were serving as forward air controllers airborne or FACA, and I was serving as the on-scene commander,” Jones said.

He began looking after the survivors, deconflicting airspace for coalition aircraft coming in and out, as well as communicating back to the joint command and control elements about the survivors’ condition as they put together an evacuation plan.

“Gabe was doing a phenomenal job being a controller on the ground calling in close air support, but it was a lot of work,” Jones said. “There were a ton of coalition aircraft coming in and out and some of them didn’t have much play time, meaning they had to get in, develop an understanding of what was going on, receive a nine-line and then drop bombs or shoot their missiles.”

The aircrew took some of the burden from Brown who remained on frequency with Jones, ready to voice commands at any moment.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Brown was able to conserve radio battery life due to the aircrew’s initiative and the MQ-1’s ability to loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of time.

Ground forces were still pinned down from continuous bunker fire when Jones relayed the evacuation plan to Brown. Their team was in need of a precise airstrike that could eliminate the enemy hunkered down deep in the mountainous terrain.

Brown first called upon fighter aircraft.

“We were basically trying to use walk-in ordinance off the fighters, using 500-pound bombs to frag (blast) the enemy out of the bunker and we were unable,” Brown said.

After numerous attempts, Brown and his team were running out of options and daybreak quickly approached…

Brown and his team were considered danger-close due to their proximity to the target, causing concern for aircrew and senior leaders. However, Brown’s need for immediate aerial support outweighed any apprehension.

“It was late in the morning, he (Jones and aircrew) had one shot left and we had been on the ground for a few hours,” Brown said. “I gave my own initials and cleared him hot.”

Jones released the hellfire missile and successfully destroyed the bunker, which allowed U.S. forces on the ground to recuperate and devise a mission plan going forward.

“When that hellfire went into that bunker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bunker had been neutralized,” Brown said.

The enemy may not have seen the MQ-1 as it soared overhead, but radical terrorists felt the Predator’s wrath.

Jones and the rest of the MQ-1 aircrew loitered above the combat zone for approximately 14 hours, relaying critical information and laser-guided munitions during the entire fight. Their actions provided key reconnaissance for senior leaders commanding the situation, and directly enabled visual relay between forces on the ground and the combatant commander.

“I credit that pilot, the technology and that airframe with saving my life, as well as the team’s and getting the wounded and KIA (killed in action) off the hilltop that day,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these vets give advice on dating in the military


In this episode of Vets Get Real, WATM talks to a group of former service members about how to manage relationships in the military.

Be sure to keep an eye out for other episodes of Vets Get Real where WATM hosts discussions with vets on topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.

Editor’s note: If you have questions that you’d like to see Vets Get Real about, please leave a comment below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things that made the Infantry Training Battalion terrible

For the ten days immediately after you graduate Marine Corps boot camp, you’ll feel like the world’s biggest badass. That brief high comes to a crashing halt when you report to the School of Infantry. If you’re a poor crayon-eater who signed an infantry contract, you go to the Infantry Training Battalion. You’ll arrive thinking that becoming a Marine means you’ve been given superhuman abilities only to very quickly find your all-too-human limits.

There, you’ll be deprived of sleep (yet again) and you won’t be fed on a regular schedule. It’s not a fun experience, but you’ll come out the other side a better warrior, a lethal Marine. Still, that doesn’t mean we should ignore all the following reasons why the Infantry Training Battalion is terrible.


This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

In retrospect, boot camp isn’t so bad…

(U.S. Marine Corps)

You thought boot camp was as bad as it gets…

…and you were wrong. So, so wrong. Your Drill Instructors built you up to think that earning the title of Marine was the toughest task on Earth. You used that promise to reason with yourself — nothing else will ever be this bad, right? Then you get to the School of Infantry and realize that boot camp was only the worst time of your life up until that point.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

Spoiler alert: You’re not as tough as you think you are.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

You’ll show up cocky

There’s a level of pride that comes with becoming a Marine. Fresh out of boot camp, many of us take that pride a step too far and become just plain cocky. When you get to SOI, you learn the hard way the pride comes before the fall. You’re quickly put in place and realize you’re just a small detail in a much bigger picture. You are far from the toughest guy around.

Truth hurts.

You actually get some time off

West Coasters know what we’re talking about — you get your weekends, if you’re lucky enough to be spared the wrath of your Combat Instructors, that is. This sounds like a good thing, but it makes Sunday mornings unbearable. Dread sets in as you anticipate the return of the week… and your Combat Instructors.

You’re sleep deprived the entire time

In boot camp, Drill Instructors are required to allow you eight hours of sleep per night — with the exception of the Crucible. Maybe that’s a rule for Combat Instructors, too, but, if you’re a grunt, it sure as hell doesn’t seem like it is. You’ll find yourself standing in front of your wall locker at 2 a.m. wondering what the f*** you’re doing.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

Combat instructors are just… scary.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The Combat Instructors are scarier

Drill Instructors are scary at first, but you get used to them. Your Combat Instructors are plain terrifying and they never stop being that way, not even after you graduate.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

You get used to them after a while.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

You eat MREs all day

Nobody likes MREs — nobody. This sucks, but it’s best to consider it training in its own right because, as a grunt, you’re going to eat a lot of them.

Still, that doesn’t make them taste any less like cardboard dog sh*t.

MIGHTY GAMING

How this video game was one of the best Army recruiting tools

The U.S. Army Recruitment Command has always struggled to find new and innovative ways to connect with the ever-evolving youth. A poster of Uncle Sam saying he “wants you for the U.S. Army” may have worked wonders for one generation, but in 2002, young adults needed something new. The answer was a video game: America’s Army.


Conceived by Colonel Casey Wardynski, the Army’s Chief Economist and a professor at West Point, the idea was to provide the public with a virtual soldier experience that was engaging, informative, and entertaining. Wardynski felt that the best way to convey this was through the booming video-game market.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
(U.S. Army)

America’s Army approached the market in a pretty unique way (by 2002 standards). First of all, it was completely free to play — all it required to get started was an internet connection. The game was developed, published, and distributed entirely within the U.S. Army and was built upon the Unreal Engine.

The next major selling point was the game’s realism. When the first iteration of America’s Army was released, many of its competitors were over-the-top action games, like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or 007: Nightfire. Others popular titles of the time, like Splinter Cell or Ghost Recon, portrayed the military in a fun but unrealistic manner.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
The game makes it realistic by having a Drill Sergeant scream at you after you load into Fort Benning. 10/10.
(U.S. Army)

America’s Army went in a different direction. It put a heavy emphasis on little things. The focus was on immersion rather than spectacle. The game’s tutorial, for example, placed you with a virtual Drill Sergeant and gave pointers on real-world weapon etiquette — things more important to real life than to the game itself. The game also focused on the Army’s seven core values.

Realism wasn’t just about details, though — it was about gameplay. For example, being shot in the leg would make your character go limp and slug around. The game even went into great depth regarding practical medical aid lessons, and has since been credited with saving lives after a player remembered skills developed in-game as he approached a horrific car accident.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
The lesson was given via the most, uh, accurate-to-real-Army-life wayu00a0possible… Powerpoint.
(U.S. Army)

Above all, the game was enjoyable. It’s hard to find accurate recruitment numbers related to the game as it was released on the first 4th of July following the September 11th attacks, but the game was highly decorated within the gaming community and even earned Computer Gaming World Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award in 2002.

To this day, the series continues to be free-to-play. The 2015 release of America’s Army: Proving Grounds still has an active player base.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

Over the weekend, you may have heard that the Argentinean submarine ARA San Juan, and its crew of 44 sailors, has gone missing. This is not unusual. In 1968, the Skipjack-class nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN 589) went missing – and was declared “overdue and presumed lost.”


Let’s be honest about submariners. They are doing a very dangerous job – even in peacetime. They are taking a ship and deliberately going underwater – where immense forces are acting on the vessel. When submarines sink – either by accident or due to an act of war, the usual outcome is that all hands are lost.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
Argentinian submarine ARA San Juan. (Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes, though, the crews beat the odds, like for about half the crew of USS Squalus (SS 192). They survived the sinking of their vessel, and were later rescued. In fact, one device first developed and proven in the rescue of the Squalus survivors, the McCann Rescue Chamber, is still in service today.

According to a release from Southern Command, this chamber can reach a submarine as far as 850 feet below the surface of the ocean. Six sailors can be brought to the surface at a time. While this is a good start, keep in mind, some submarines can have as many as 155 personnel on board.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
A visitor at Deep Submergence Unit (DSU), located on Naval Air Station North Island, takes a peek at the interior of a Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) that is used to rescue the crew from a submerged disabled submarine. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephanie Tigner)

That said, there are parts of the ocean that are a lot deeper than 850 feet where a submarine could still maintain enough integrity to keep crews alive. For those rescues, the Navy can turn to the Pressurized Rescue Module. This can reach submarines as far down as 2,000 feet, and it can retrieve 16 personnel at a time. These are known as the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System. Both systems have been deployed to render aid to any survivors on the San Juan, assuming the sub can be located in time.

Now, you may be wondering, “Where are the DSRVs?” Well, that’s the bad news. The United States had two Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles, named Avalon and Mystic. Those vessels could go as far down as 5,000 feet and could pull up 24 personnel at a time.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
Sailors assist in steadying the deep submergence rescue vehicle Mystic (DSRV 1) as it is lowered on to the fast-attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700) at Askaz Naval Base in Turkey. (U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Jason E. Miller)

The United States sent a NASA P-3 and a Navy P-8 to help look for the San Juan. Hopefully, the sailors can be found and rescued.

Articles

Iran just shot a barrage of ballistic missiles into Syria

Iran says its ballistic missile strike targeting the Islamic State group in Syria was not only a response to deadly attacks in Tehran, but a powerful message to arch-rival Saudi Arabia and the United States, one that could add to already soaring regional tensions.


The launch, which hit Syria’s eastern city of Deir el-Zour on June 18th, appeared to be Iran’s first missile attack abroad in over 15 years and its first in the Syrian conflict, in which it has provided crucial support to embattled President Bashar Assad.

It comes amid the worsening of a long-running feud between Shiite powerhouse Iran and Saudi Arabia, with supports Syrian rebels and has led recent efforts to isolate the Gulf nation of Qatar.

It also raises questions about how US President Donald Trump’s administration, which had previously put Iran “on notice” for its ballistic missile tests, will respond.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force in charge of the country’s missile program, said it launched six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from the western provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdistan. State television footage showed the missiles on truck missile launchers in the daylight before being launched at night.

The missiles flew over Iraq before striking what the Guard called an Islamic State command center and suicide car bomb operation in Deir el-Zour, over 370 miles away. The extremists have been trying to fortify their positions in the Syrian city in the face of a US-led coalition onslaught on Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital.

Syrian opposition activist Omar Abu Laila, who is based in Germany but closely follows events in his native Deir el-Zour, said two Iranian missiles fell near and inside the eastern town of Mayadeen, an Islamic State stronghold. He said there were no casualties from the strikes. The IS group did not immediately acknowledge the strikes.

Iraqi lawmaker Abdul-Bari Zebari said his country agreed to the missile overflight after coordination with Iran, Russia, and Syria.

The Guard described the missile strike as revenge for attacks on Tehran earlier this month that killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 50, the first such IS assault in the country.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
Photo released by the Iranian state-run IRIB News Agency on Monday, June 19, 2017. (IRIB News Agency, Morteza Fakhrinejad via AP)

But the missiles sent a message to more than just the extremists in Iraq and Syria, Gen. Ramazan Sharif of the Guard told state television in a telephone interview.

“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” he said. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.”

June 18th’s missile strike came amid recent confrontations in Syria between US-backed forces and pro-government factions. The US recently deployed a truck-mounted missile system into Syria as Assad’s forces cut off the advance of America-backed rebels along the Iraqi border. Meanwhile, the US on June 18th shot down a Syrian aircraft for the first time, marking a new escalation of the conflict as Russia warned it would consider any US-led coalition planes in Syria west of the Euphrates River to be targets.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

The Zolfaghar missile, unveiled in September 2016, was described at the time as carrying a cluster warhead and being able to strike as far as 435 miles away.

That puts the missile in range of the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command in Qatar, American bases in the United Arab Emirates, and the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

The missile also could strike Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. While Iran has other ballistic missiles it says can reach longer distances, the June 18th strike appears to be the furthest carried out abroad. Iran’s last foreign missile strike is believed to have been carried out in April 2001, targeting an exiled Iranian group in Iraq.

Iran has described the Tehran attackers as being “long affiliated with the Wahhabi,” an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. However, it stopped short of directly blaming the kingdom for the attack, though many in the country have expressed suspicion that Iran’s regional rival had a hand in the assault.

Since Trump took office, his administration has put new economic sanctions on those allegedly involved with Iran’s missile program as the Senate has voted for applying new sanctions on Iran. However, the test launches haven’t affected Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Israel is also concerned about Iran’s missile launches and has deployed a multilayered missile-defense system. When Iran unveiled the Zolfaghar in 2016, it bore a banner printed with a 2013 quote by Khamenei saying that Iran will annihilate the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa should Israel attack Iran.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

On June 19th, Israeli security officials said they were studying the missile strike to see what they could learn about its accuracy and capabilities. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

“We are following their actions. And we are also following their words,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “And I have one message to Iran: Do not threaten Israel.”

Iranian officials meanwhile offered a series of threats of more strikes, including former Guard chief Gen. Mohsen Rezai. He wrote on Twitter: “The bigger slap is yet to come.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How a ragtag band of civilians got strong for service women

On the day I reported for duty as a volunteer in an extreme Army experiment of women’s strength, I stopped my car at the gate, watched the guard approaching, and thought about turning around. I’d seen the movies. I’d watched A Few Good Men and Private Benjamin and winced at the exhausting runs, pushups, shouting by grouchy drill instructors and general toughness required to thrive on a military base. I was a civilian at the edge of a world full of camo and shorn heads and running in formation and all I could think was, Do I have what it takes to get through this?

It was May of 1995, and scientists at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) on the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command (USASSC) base in Natick, Massachusetts, were kicking off a seminal study to determine if women could get strong enough to perform the toughest military tasks usually assigned to men. With only one female soldier available for the seven-month program, the scientists had recruited 45 ordinary civilians. I was a 24-year-old cub reporter in average shape who loathed running. It was time to put on my big-girl pants and push myself past my limits.

From the start, our ragtag band of women seemed an unlikely crew to take on such a lofty pursuit. More weekend walkers than G.I. Janes, we came to the base at varying fitness levels, shapes and sizes, and our ranks included stay-at-home moms, teachers, a landscaper, a student, a prison guard, a bartender and one journalist. But with mighty hearts and iron will, we intended to smash through those expectations. They said women couldn’t do it. We hit back: Watch me.

Sara and several other women she trained with

We did everything asked of us and more. I strapped on a 75-pound backpack and hiked two miles over rugged terrain, and though I ended up shuffling more than running the first time, I finished (albeit with shredded heels and blood blisters). I ran until I was sick while dragging a 110-pound trailer through thick woods and a meadow choked with weeds and wildflowers. I lifted more, more, more each week, carried sandbags and heavy metal boxes until my hands were calloused, pushed through five-mile backpack hikes and sprinted up steep hills.

I was honored to carry water for the women doing the work of defending our country, and I felt pressure to show up for them—a lot of people were watching us, after all. The experiment had made international headlines even before it began when a controversy about women in combat almost shut us down, and now the big TV networks were pressing for access to the base to film us in action (they never got it—my newspaper had the exclusive). At the time, females were still banned from most ground combat roles. I knew that on average we possess around 50 to 60 percent of males’ upper body strength, but I also knew women who could perform incredible physical feats. I didn’t think it was fair for anyone to be banned from a job based on averages.

The test subjects formed fast, tight friendships to help get us through the rigorous training regimen and quickly developed our own rallying cry. In the first week, one of us blurted, “Do what?” when told to do something that seemed near impossible. “F— that!” I replied under my breath. For the rest of the study, we’d shout that call and answer to get psyched up before our toughest tests. Everyone on post knew who we were, and for a long time I noted skeptical glances and heard a snide remark or two while running through the base. But by the end, the soldiers, officers and civilian personnel were openly cheering us on.

This week marks exactly 25 years since the research scientists who designed the study, principal investigator Everett Harman and Pete Frykman, released their results. The full story of our journey is a little-known piece of military history that will be told for the first time in my forthcoming book The Strong Ones: How a Band of Civilian Women Made Their Mark on the Armyout February 9.

Spoiler alert: We did it. The data showed 78 percent of test subjects could now qualify for Army jobs categorized as “very heavy,” in which soldiers must occasionally lift 100 pounds, whereas only 24 percent could at the beginning. We also showed a 33 percent improvement on the 75-pound backpack test, going from 36 minutes to 27.5 minutes for two miles. And we did it all efficiently by training 1 ½ hours a day, five days a week.

News clip of the study proving women could pass army tests

In 2016 when I learned all military jobs were opened up to women, I began my research for The Strong Ones to find out how we might have helped change things. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say the test subjects affected future military women in more ways than one.

It’s been inspiring to watch women kicking butt in so many new roles in every branch over the past few years, and interesting to hear more than a few I’ve met along the way hit back at their doubters the same way we did back then: Watch me.

For a sneak peak, see The Strong Ones book trailer below.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Navy made Tom Cruise and Jerry Bruckheimer Honorary Naval Aviators

Naval aviators are often considered to be the best aviators in the world. The training is intensive and it can take students years to earn their wings of gold as fully qualified aviators. Although the Navy does confer the designation of Honorary Naval Aviator upon select individuals, the title is extremely exclusive. On September 24, 2020, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actor Tom Cruise became the 35th and 36th Honorary Naval Aviators, respectively.


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Bob Hope receives his wings at NAS Pensacola on May 8, 1986 (U.S. Navy)

The Honorary Naval Aviator Program was started in 1949 as a way for the Navy to honor individuals who have greatly contributed to or have provided outstanding service to Naval Aviation. Individuals who receive the title earn the right to wear the coveted gold wings and are entitled to all honors, courtesies, and privileges afforded to Naval Aviators. The program is managed by the Chief of Naval Operations, Director Air Warfare and final approval of a nomination is made by the Chief of Naval Operations. Famous Honorary Naval Aviators include Jim Neighbors of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. fame and Bob Hope.

On September 24, Bruckheimer and Cruise received their wings of gold from the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, prior to an advance screening of Top Gun: Maverick at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The citation read:

In the history of motion pictures, there is not a more iconic aviation movie than the 1986 Paramount Pictures film Top Gun. Its characters, dialogue and imagery are ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of Americans. The movie captured the hearts of millions, making a profound positive impact on recruiting for Naval Aviation, and significantly promoted and supported Naval Aviation and put aircraft carriers and naval aircraft into popular culture.

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Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Rear Adm. Kenneth R. Whitesell following the winging ceremony (U.S. Navy)

Top Gun‘s contribution to Naval Aviation was arguably even greater than its box office success of 0 million. Following the civil unrest and turmoil of the 60s and 70s, the military was not an attractive prospect for many Americans. Top Gun made the military, and particularly Naval Aviation, cool again. Michael Ironside, who played Lt. Cdr. Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly, noted how effective the film was at recruiting after two sailors approached him angrily following the release of Top Gun saying, “We joined because of that f*****g movie.” Perhaps it was too effective a recruiting tool.

In the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster hit and cultural icon, Cruise reprises his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell with Bruckheimer returning to produce the film. Reportedly, Val Kilmer also returns to reprise his role as Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. Top Gun: Maverick follows America’s favorite hotshot pilot into the cockpit as an instructor and is scheduled to premiere on July 2, 2021.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Seasoned astronaut has a big problem with NASA spacesuits

NASA, you have a spacesuit problem.

That was the crux of a message delivered on Sep. 6, 2019 by Sandra “Sandy” Magnus, a seasoned former astronaut, during an official meeting of spaceflight safety experts in Houston, Texas, on Sep. 6, 2019.

Magnus brought up the issue on behalf of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), which held its latest quarterly meeting at Johnson Space Center. The group operates independently and is tasked with “evaluating NASA’s safety performance and advising the Agency on ways to improve that performance.”


NASA is racing to send people back to the moon, ideally landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface in 2024, with its new Artemis program. (The last time anyone visited the moon was December 1972.) Naturally, ASAP had a lot to say about NASA’s ambitious new effort.

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Astronaut Bruce McCandless II floats outside NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger.

(NASA)

Magnus, who flew to the International Space Station (ISS) twice and has spent more than five months in orbit, zeroed in on spacesuits required for the Artemis program’s missions.

“An integral system required to put boots on the moon are the boots,” Magnus said.

She added that spacesuits are essentially “one-person spaceships” that deserve similar levels of funding and scrutiny.

“They’re complex and they have stringent safety requirements, and are a critical component of not only the lunar program, but actually any potential exploration path that human spaceflight may engage upon in the future,” Magnus said.

NASA is struggling to keep its current spacesuits operational

Right now, NASA’s only operational EVA spacesuits are aboard the ISS. They’re each about 40 years old — and not getting any younger.

The panel previously reported that NASA is struggling to upgrade the suits, let alone maintain them.

“The problem does not lie simply in the fact that the suits are old; the fact that manufacturers of several critical suit components, including the very fabric of the suits, have now gone out of business,” ASAP wrote in April 2019.

This in part led to the cancellation in March 2019 of what was supposed to be the first all-female spacewalk.

NASA has been working on a new spacesuit system called the xEMU, which stands for “Exploration Extra-vehicular Mobility Unit.” The xEMU program is designed to both replace the aging relics that astronauts wear outside the space station and also pave the way for crewed exploration of the moon and Mars.

Magnus acknowledged that NASA has invested some money into researching, developing, and building prototypes, like the Z-2 spacesuit (shown at the top of this story). But she argued that the program isn’t moving fast enough.

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A prototype of NASA’s xEMU spacesuit program called the Z-2. The agency is designing new suits for astronauts to explore planetary surfaces.

(NASA)

“Up to this point there’s been a lack of priority placed on producing these next-generation spacesuits,” Magnus said.

She added that, while the xEMU project is now being managed by a division of the Artemis program called the Gateway — a small space station that would orbit the moon, and what astronauts may eventually use as a pit-stop for surface missions — ASAP feels the program needs to break out on its own and get more resources.

“In order to produce a safe and reliable lunar suit to meet the Artemis program’s 2024 deadline, and — because of the broad applicability, complexity, and critical safety aspects of spacesuits — in general, we think NASA needs to immediately create a formal, structured spacesuit program,” she said, noting that it should have “a well-defined budget, a schedule including critical milestones, and provide both the authority and responsibility to this entity to produce this critical piece of equipment.”

She added: “We believe anything less than full, robust program-level attention to this system reduces the potential to not only field the capability, but do so in a safe manner.”‘

‘It appears that Artemis is off to a great start’

But Artemis still needs to clear its first major hurdle, which it is the bureaucracy of federal budgeting.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in May 2019 that the agency needs a id=”listicle-2640265340″.6 billion “down payment” to get started in earnest on the program. A month later he added that landing on the moon in five years may require -6 billion annually — a total of -30 billion — on top of NASA’s existing yearly budget of about billion.

Despite that challenge, ASAP member George Nield, a former FAA associate administrator who led its Office of Commercial Space Transportation, was optimistic about the prognosis.

“It appears that Artemis is off to a great start. If Congress agrees to provide the needed funding, NASA may have a real shot at achieving the 2024 goal,” Nield said. “At the same time it will be important to remember what can go wrong along the way, and what things need to be done to ensure crew safety.”

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

Articles

The F-35 may soon carry one of the US’s most polarizing nuclear weapons

The Air Force designed the F-35A with nuclear capability in mind, and a new report indicates that the Joint Strike Fighter may carry nuclear weapons sooner than expected.


The Air Force originally planned to integrate nuclear weapons in the F-35 between 2020-2022, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus told Defensetech.org that “it would definitely be possible,” to hasten the deployment of B-61 nuclear gravity bombs on the F-35 should the need for it arise.

Also read: How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

As it stands, the B-61’s “military utility is practically nil,” wrote General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2012. The B-61s “do not have assigned missions as part of any war plan and remain deployed today only for political reasons within the NATO alliance,” Cartwright continued.

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Lockheed Martin’s F-35A aircraft displays its weapons load-out at Edwards Air Force Base in California. | Lockheed Martin photo by Matt Short

Currently among fighter jets, only the F-15E and F-16C carry the B-61. Neither of these planes can penetrate contested enemy airspace, so they could only drop the gravity bomb on an area unprotected by air defenses.

The F-35, a polarizing defense project in its own right, could change that with its stealth capabilities. However, President-elect Trump has voiced concerns about the F-35 project while simultaneously stressing that the US needs to “expand its nuclear capability.”

Immediately this lead to talk of a new nuclear arms race, much to the horror of nuclear experts and non-proliferation advocates. The fact is that Russia and the US already have more nuclear weapons than necessary to meet their strategic needs.

Additionally, nuclear modernization is due to cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades, and around a trillion dollars in total.

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Image courtesy of Armscontrol.org

But not only do experts find nuclear expansion costly and unnecessary, they also find it dangerous.

The US has 180 B-61 nuclear bombs stationed in five bases throughout Europe. Russian intelligence services monitor deployments of fighter jets across Europe, and the fact that the F-15E and F-16C regularly deploy to these bases could lead to a catastrophic misinterpretation.

Kingston Reif, the director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider that the US “should be seeking to strengthen the dividing line between nuclear and conventional weapons, not blur that line.”

F-35s, with their excellent stealth attributes, taking off from European bases that may or may not house the B-61s (it would be extremely difficult for Russia to know) and flying near Russia’s borders could put Moscow on high alert. This could even potentially spook the Kremlin into launching an attack on the US.

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting
A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart at Barksdale Air Force Base. | Department of Defense photo by SSGT Phil Schmitten

Furthermore, the B-61s are low-yield bombs, meaning they don’t pack much of a punch. In the event of an actual nuclear conflict, “the likely hood is that we’re going to use the big bombs, and not the little bombs,”Laicie Heely of the nonpartisan Stimpson Center think tank points out.

So while the F-35 may provide a stealthy, sleek new delivery method for nuclear bombs, they may destabilize already fraught relations between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers — Russia and the US.

“There can be no winners in a nuclear war and that as long as each side has nuclear weapons, strategic stability will remain central to their bilateral relations,” Reif said of US-Russian relations.

Articles

Homes for our Troops builds homes while rebuilding lives

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Sgt. Mendes in his new Homes for our Troops home.


On a chilly May morning, the city of Murrieta, CA dispatched a firetruck to a new home. Dozens of men, women and children congregated the driveway. The sounds of  Rolling Thunder could be heard in the distance. As if on cue, the wind picked up and the huge American flag streaming from the ladder of the firetruck began to wave. American Legion Riders escorted wounded Army veteran Sgt. Nicholas Mendes to his new specially adapted home, and the community was there to welcome him.

This is the work of Homes for our Troops.

HFOT builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes across the United States for those who have been severely injured in theater of combat since September 11, 2001. The non-profit’s purpose is to assist wounded warriors with the complex process of integrating back into society.

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Army Sergeant Nicholas Mendes, who was a gunner with the 10th Mountain, 3rd Brigade, is one of 214 veterans to thus far be living in one of these homes. On April 30, 2011, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle in Sangsar, Afghanistan. The explosion, set off by a 1200-pound command wire device, caused multiple fractures to his vertebrae and rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Mendes had previously served in Iraq in 2008.

After being presented with the key to his new home, Mendes’ wife held the microphone up to his mouth so he could address the audience of well-wishers.

“Bear with me, I didn’t write anything down – because my arms don’t work.” Mendes joked. “It’s just crazy looking back on everything, this all started with a Google search, and then putting in an application to a foundation that I didn’t know if they’d ever write me back…”

Not only did they write him back and build him a home, Homes for our Troops is working with Mendes to allow him to reclaim his independence. The adapted features in his home remove much of the burden from his wife and family and allow him to focus on recovery and his plans to  pursue a career in real estate.

“These men and women are not looking for pity. They’re looking to rebuild their lives.” said Bill Ivy, Executive Director of HFOT.  “We have an extremely talented group of men and women who are either in homes or that we are building homes for. The whole idea is to get them back going to school, back into the work force, raising families. Since 2010 we’ve had over 100 children born to families living in our homes. So it is about the next generation and moving forward. We have a tremendous amount of successes out there.”

Homes for Our Troops lays a foundation for these men and woman to continue on after their injuries. Although their way of life has undergone major changes, their spirit and desire to serve remains. Many of these home recipients are able to rehabilitate to the point where they enter the workforce and give back to their community as teachers and counselors.

Two HFOT recipients started a non-profit together called Amputee Outdoors.  Another recipient, Joshua Sweeny is an American gold medal sledge hockey player and Purple Heart recipient who competed in 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Four recipients participated in the recent Invictus games, and one even spent a month in a tent to raise awareness for veteran homelessness.

“There’s duty, there’s honor and self sacrifice. Death nor injury does not diminish those qualities in our soldiers. It is a testament to the love of this country” said David Powers of Prospect Mortgage – one of the key ceremony speakers. “Duty is the mission, the lesson is the sacrifice for our country, and for our freedom.”

For more information visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

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HOFT Executive Director, Bill Ivy raising a flag outside Sgt. Mendes’ new home.

 

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