What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

A 10th Mountain Division squad leader credited with saving the lives of three of his soldiers by throwing himself atop a suicide bomber in Iraq will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the White House announced March 12, 2019.

Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins went above and beyond the call of duty on June 1, 2007, while his unit — Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team — conducted route clearance southwest of Baghdad.

During the mission, Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, heard a report over the radio of suspected insurgents crossing an intersection in the Iraqi town of Abu Samak.


As the truck commander in his Humvee, Atkins ordered the driver to pull the vehicle up to the intersection so they could interdict the suspected insurgents. Once stopped, Atkins exited the vehicle and approached one of the men to check him for weapons while another soldier covered him.

When Atkins attempted to search him, the man resisted. Atkins then engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, who was reaching for an explosive vest under his clothing, according to an award citation.

Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins: Final Mission

www.youtube.com

Atkins then grabbed the suicide bomber from behind with a bear hug and slammed him onto the ground, away from his soldiers. As he pinned the insurgent to the ground, the bomb detonated.

Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast. With complete disregard for his own safety, he had used his own body as a shield to protect his fellow soldiers from injury. They were only feet away.

Soon after, another insurgent was fatally shot by one of Atkins’ soldiers before he could detonate another suicide vest.

For his actions, Atkins was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. Now that award has been upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

President Donald J. Trump will present the medal to Atkins’ family on March 27, 2019.

Before he joined the Army, Atkins worked for concrete and painting contractors and as an engine mechanic in Montana. He enlisted into the infantry in 2000 and less than three years later he deployed to participate in the invasion of Iraq.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.

Atkins left the Army in late 2003, but rejoined two years later and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.

He deployed to Iraq again with the division in the summer of 2006 and became a staff sergeant in May 2007, a month before his death.

At Fort Drum, New York, the division honored Atkins by naming a fitness center after him in 2013.

During the dedication ceremony, then-Sgt. Aaron Hall, who was Atkins’ battle buddy, described the staff sergeant as a “quiet professional” who always had the respect of others.

“When my 4-year-old son Travis tells me his favorite superhero is Captain America and asks me who my favorite superhero is, my reply always has and will be Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins,” Hall said.

According to his obituary, Atkins was also known to hunt, fish, camp, and ride snowmobiles. His first love, though, was his son, Trevor Oliver, who was 11 years old at the time of his father’s death.

Atkins was buried June 12, 2007, in his hometown of Bozeman in south-central Montana. He is also survived by his parents, Jack and Elaine Atkins.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How one man defeated the US military by enlisting 8 times

In 1980, Walter Banks Beacham enlisted in the United States Navy. He was excited for the signing bonus of $4,000, a cool $12,000 when adjusted for inflation in 2018. In 1984, Mark Richard Gerardi joined the U.S. Army Reserve. In 1986, Cedrick L. Houston joined the Navy. The next year, Chris Villanueva joined the Army. Zachary Pitt joined the Navy in 1989. And, finally, in 1992, George Perez joined the Army.

The trouble was that these were all the same person.


Beacham assumed the identities of six different individuals he came across through his life in coastal California. The Oakland native even somehow managed to enlist as himself, social security number and all, twice. The Los Angeles Times reported that Beacham was able to do this because he looked like he could be any of a number of ethnicities and he was able to procure fake drivers’ licenses, social security cards, and other identifying paperwork to support his claims.

Keep in mind, this was during the height of the Cold War and military recruiters have quotas to make. They relied a lot on personal integrity to make sure they put good — and real — people into the U.S. military. And there was a time when young Walter Beacham really did want to serve his country, but he failed to adapt to military life when it counted, and the rest is history.

*Note: Beacham is not in any of the photos below. I used photos that give an idea of how much time passes.

1. Walter Banks Beacham

The first time he enlisted, Beacham was drawn in by the guaranteed signing bonus and he really wanted to defend his country. When the recruiter came to his home, he saw Beacham and a few of his friends sitting, smoking, and drinking. He was able to recruit them all.

But the Navy wasn’t really for him. After six weeks and a few AWOL incidents at boot camp near San Diego, he was done.

“I put away my uniform, I got my money, I took a cab out of the front gate and then a Greyhound to L.A.,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

What graduating from Army basic training looked like in 1980.

2. Walter Banks Beacham, Jr.

Maybe it wasn’t the military that was the problem — maybe he just wasn’t cut out for the Navy. Six months after leaving the Navy, he was on a bus, headed for Army basic training. This time, he simply threw a “Jr.” on the end of his name. When the Army asked if he’d ever served before, he said no, and that was that.

For about six months.

The Army eventually realized his Social Security Number matched that used during his previous, Navy life and he was promptly discharged from the U.S. Army.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

What graduating from the Navy’s boot camp looked like in 1980.

3. Walter Banks Beacham

When he got back to his native Oakland, it was only three months before he decided to give the life of a sailor another chance. He dreamed of foreign lands and exotic ports and was ready to forego the sign-on bonus (if necessary). He again used his real name and was shipped back to San Diego. He made it through five weeks this time.

“I would have made it through but, five weeks into it, they found drugs in my urine and one of the company commanders was still there from the time before and he saw my name on a list,” Beacham said. “I went AWOL.”

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

A U.S. Army Korean DMZ patrol in 1984.

4. Mark Richard Gerardi

In 1984, he joined the Army again, this time using an alias of his high-school friend. Beacham borrowed his friend’s diploma and birth certificate and was off to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for basic training — which he completed.

He was sent back to California, attached to a unit in San Francisco, and eventually sent over to Korea for three weeks. It was all for naught when he got a girl pregnant and then left her. She threatened to turn him in to the Army. Beacham tried to play it cool, but eventually bolted. He never heard from them again.

“I guess they just cut you loose after awhile. I don’t know,” Beacham told the Los Angeles Times.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Navy boot camp graduates in San Diego, 1986.

5. Cedrick L. Houston

In 1986, Beacham used the name of someone he met in Hollywood who was trying to be a dancer. He told the aspiring dancer he would get him work if he could use his identification papers… to join the Navy.

He actually finished Navy basic training this time around and was sent to learn to be a submariner on the East Coast of the United States. Of course, it didn’t last. He used a racial slur during the course of his duties and the Navy ended up booting him out for it.

“I was selling doughnuts on the base there until classes started and I called this sailor a silly-ass cracker,” Beacham said.
“And they put me out of the Navy for that.”

6. Chris Villanueva

Back in California in 1987 and using the name Walter Banks Beacham again, he went down to Glendale, outside of Los Angeles, to join the Army as a truck driver, which is where he got his new name, Chris Villanueva. The real Villanueva was an unemployed truck driver Beacham ran into in the Valley one day. The born-again Villanueva (Beacham) was sent to basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. and was sent to Germany right after.

He survived another boot camp only to come under suspicion for some cocaine found in soldier’s duffel bags while in Germany. He was afraid he would get arrested for it, so he went AWOL again and headed for home.

7. Zachary Pitt

Beacham doesn’t even remember the real Zachary Pitt, but the new Zachary Pitt made it through Navy training in San Diego in 1989 and was inducted into the Navy as a Mess Management Specialist — better known as “a cook.” When his ship was set to leave for Japan, Zachary Pitt just walked out and disappeared.

“I met him in the Bay Area. I don’t even remember if he was white or Mexican,” Beacham said of the real Zachary Pitt.
What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Army basic training graduates in 1992.

8. George Perez

In his last enlistment in 1992, he left before he even received his signing bonus. Now George Perez, Beacham completed Army basic training at Fort Bliss in Texas and was back at Fort Sill for AIT, where he became an artillery unit’s forward observer. This time, he just couldn’t do it.

“Something happened,” he recalled later. “I couldn’t stick around. Time was choking up on me. I was in trouble for staying out late, and I was afraid I’d be busted right then.”

Eventually, he was caught by civilian police officers and turned over to the U.S. military, who court-martialed him on multiple counts of wrongful enlistment, AWOL charges, and desertion. At age 34, he pled guilty to all of them. The old U.S. military would have executed this guy. Luckily for Beacham, there was no war on and he spent just under eight months in an Army prison and was released with a dishonorable discharge.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army testing new and improved combat boots

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center at Natick is testing new Army Combat Boot (ACB) prototypes at three different basic training and active duty installations over the next four months. The effort will gather soldier feedback toward development of improved footwear.

The Army’s current inventory of boots includes seven different styles designed for different environments and climates. The boots issued initially to recruits are the Hot Weather and Temperate Weather Army Combat Boots. Requirements for these are managed by the Army Uniform Board as part of the recruit “Clothing Bag.” The Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment maintains and updates the specifications for both boots.


The current generation of Army Combat Boots has not undergone substantial technical or material changes since 2010. New material and technologies now exist that may improve physical performance and increase soldier comfort.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Great strides have been made recently in the Army’s environment specific footwear, for jungle, mountain, or cold weather locations, but there is substantial room for improvement in the general purpose boots which are issued to new recruits,” explains Anita Perkins, RDECOM Soldier Center footwear research engineer and technical lead for the Army Combat Boot Improvement effort. “Most components of these combat boots have not been updated in almost 30 years.”

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

Surveys conducted by the Soldier Center report soldier satisfaction with ACBs is lower than that with commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, boots, leading many soldiers to purchase and wear COTS boots.

“The survey of over 14,000 soldiers world-wide discovered that almost 50% choose to wear COTS combat boots instead of Army-issued boots,” Perkins said. “Many soldiers reported choosing combat boots from the commercial market because the COTS boots are lighter, more flexible, require less break-in time, and feel more like athletic shoes than traditional combat boots or work boots.

Unfortunately, these characteristics often come at the cost of durability and protection.”

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

The Soldier Center’s Footwear Performance team believes new technologies can bridge the gap between the lightweight, comfortable, COTS boots and the durable, protective, Army boots. Recent advancements in synthetic materials and rapid prototyping can produce a boot with potentially the same protection, support, and durability of current Army boots, but lighter and more comfortable out of the box. To reach this goal, the Soldier Center is evaluating new types of leather and even some man-made materials which are much more flexible than the heavy-duty, cattle hide leather used in the current boots.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Also included in the prototypes we are testing are new types of rubber and outsole designs, which are more than 30% lighter than the outsoles on the current boots,” said Al Adams, team leader for the Soldier Clothing and Configuration Management Team at the Soldier Center.

When working with industry to develop the prototype boots for this effort, Adams and Perkins put an emphasis on cutting weight. The boots being tested are up to 1.5 pounds lighter per pair than the ACBs currently being issued.

“In terms of energy expenditure or calories burned, 1-pound of weight at the feet is equivalent to 4-pounds in your rucksack,” Adams said.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

The test boots will be fitted and fielded to 800 basic trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by 800 pairs going to infantry Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas. The Soldier Center team will be hand-fitting each pair of prototype boots throughout the month of January 2019 and then return in March and April 2019 to collect surveys and conduct focus groups to gather specific feedback.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“Soldiers live in their boots and many will tell you that there is no piece of equipment more important to their lethality and readiness,” said Adams. “A bad pair of boots will ruin a soldier’s day and possibly result in injuries, so we really believe that each of these prototype boots have the potential to improve the lives of soldiers”.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

Simultaneous to the field testing, lab testing will be conducted on the boots at the Soldier Center to quantify characteristics like flexibility, cushioning, cut/abrasion resistance, and breathability. The combination of lab testing and soldier recommendations will identify soldier-desired improvements to the boot prototypes and rank the state-of-the-art materials and designs for soldier acceptance, durability, and safety. The Soldier Center will then provide recommendations to PM SPIE and the Army Uniform Board to drive the next generation of Army Combat Boots.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)

“The development of new boots take advantage of the latest materials technology, and are functional and comfortable, is critical to ensuring that our soldiers are ready to fight and win in any environment,” said Doug Tamilio, director of the RDECOM Soldier Center. “Soldiers are the Army’s greatest asset, and we owe it to them to make them more lethal to win our nation’s wars, and then come home safely.”

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

Articles

SECDEF says ‘no exceptions’ to women in combat

Women in the armed forces of the United States will no longer be limited to being “in the rear with the gear.”


Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will order the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders will give the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st. This includes infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.

“There will be no exceptions,” Carter said at a news conference.

The only branch to attempt to exclude women from combat roles was the Marine Corps, who conducted an internal study of gender-integrated units vs. all-male units and found the integrated ones to be less effective.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor
Lance Cpl. Chandra Francisco with the female engagement team in support of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines talks to Afghan women inside a compound during an operation to clear the village of Seragar in Sangin, Afghanistan. (Marine Corps photo)

Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015.

The defense secretary’s order is not without consideration for potential recruits. His rationale is simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor
Pfc. Julia Carroll after a six-hour patrol during patrol week of Infantry Training Battalion near Camp Geiger, N.C (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the greatest phrases you hear as lower enlisted

To the absolute surprise of no one in the military, being enlisted personnel can suck. Of course, the magnitude of that suckiness depends on your unit but, overall, there’s a very good reason it tops many peoples’ lists of “worst jobs in the world.”

Being the lowest guy on the worst totem pole isn’t all bad, though. There are genuine moments of levity that keep troops reenlisting — despite how much bile they spew about their unit.

Leaders in the military aren’t the troops’ mothers. They won’t pat them on the back for tying their boots properly or washing their hands like a big kid. What a good leader will do, however, is commend good troops when it’s warranted. And, to be completely honest, there was no better feeling than knowing you’ve impressed your chain of command.

As a lower enlisted, these are the six greatest things you’ll hear.


What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

The thing about being commo was that no one notices you until something goes wrong — and then it’s your fault. Being commended means a lot.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“Huh… I guess you’re right”

Good troops will always try to better themselves in their given field. If they’re an infantryman, you know they’re going to try to be the best infantryman they can. If they’re a waterdog, you better believe they’ll be be best damn waterdog the world has ever seen.

Acknowledgement of one’s hard work is rarely direct. You’ll likely never hear, “good job, Pvt. Smith. You really cooked one hell of a batch of eggs this morning.” True gratification usually comes when a leader admits that they’ve been bested at a given task by the person they’re training.

Having a superior admit that you’re in the right is a sweet, sweet feeling.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Or the commander could just have you mop the grass in front of the company. That’d be a surprise to everyone.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“The commander has a surprise for you at close out formation”

Surprises are almost never a good thing. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it means that the poor Joe has to go clean the latrines or sweep all that sunshine off the sidewalk.

When it’s specifically noted that a surprise is coming “at close out formation,” however, it usually means either a promotion ceremony or an award. You know, the kind of surprises you actually want.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

If your barracks room actually does need cleaning, then it’s not a subtle clue. Clean your damn barracks room.

(U.S. Army)

“I got nothing else for you. Go clean your barracks room or something”

The military can’t stop for a single second. That’s just how it works. So, when the business day is reaching its close, the company area has already been cleaned for the seventh time that week, and there aren’t any pending connex layouts, leaders still need to find something for their troops to do.

There’s an understanding between good leaders and troops that the phrase “clean your barracks room” doesn’t always mean “clean the barracks.” Sometimes, it means go hide out in your room with your phone on. It definitely mean, “start drinking” — you’ll be called back in at any moment.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Training rooms are like those sloths in Zootopia except the reason they’re so slow is because no one cares enough.

(U.S. Army)

“Your paperwork was pushed through”

You’d think that with the stupid amount of bureaucracy in the military, accountability of paperwork would be paramount. It isn’t. Not by a mile. When people tell you to make copies of everything and keep your originals, it’s not an off-handed suggestion. Things will get lost.

That being said, there are those once-in-a-blue-moon moments when everyone in the training room and battalion S-1 are in sync and absolutely nothing gets lost, torn, or rejected. When everything works in concert and a leave form is involved, it’ll bring a tear to your eye.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

All you can do is keep being the troop that your leader knows you to be.

(U.S. Army photo)

“My guy is one hell of a soldier/Marine/airman/sailor”

Leaders are in a perpetual pissing contest, trying to prove that they lead best. That’s part of the reason they push for their Joes to make the “Soldier of the Month” boards. Sure, it looks good for the soldier, but it’s more about getting some bragging rights over other leaders.

Still, knowing that you’re one of the guys that your leader is willing to put on a pedestal is one hell of a feeling.

“Zonk!”

This list wouldn’t be complete without the one-word phrase that makes a morning so much better:

“Zonk!”

It means that the first sergeant is fine with giving the troops a morning of PT off if they can sprint to their barracks room/car before they have time to change their mind. Legend has it that the first sergeant will do something if they catch someone — but nobody has ever been slow enough.

This is basically what it looks like.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US will not stop arming anti-Russian forces

The Pentagon on July 20, 2018, announced it’s giving $200 million to Ukraine to bolster its defenses as its conflict with pro-Russian separatists rages on.

This move comes as President Donald Trump continues to defend his controversial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the two world leaders met in Helsinki in July 2018, highlighting the disconnect between the president’s rhetoric and his administration’s policies.


“The added funds will provide equipment to support ongoing training programs and operational needs, including capabilities to enhance Ukraine’s command and control, situational awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night vision, and military medical treatment,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The statement also said the US has given more than id=”listicle-2589292724″ billion to Ukraine since conflict broke out there following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Meanwhile, Trump on July 19, 2018 tweeted his meeting with Putin had been a “great success” while once again stating the “Fake News Media” was the “real enemy of the American people.”

The Trump administration this week also said discussions are “underway” to host Putin in Washington in fall 2018, a visit that could occur close to the 2018 midterms.

Trump and the US intelligence community’s Russian rift

The US intelligence community, which concluded Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election under Putin’s guidance, has warned the Kremlin is also planning attacks on future US elections — including the midterms.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appeared to be shocked when he learned Putin was being invited by the Trump administration to the nation’s capital after spending much of the week reiterating warnings about Russia’s dubious intentions regarding the US electoral process.

Trump sided with Putin over the US intelligence community on the subject of Russian election interference during a press conference in Helsinki, only to walk back on his statements upon returning to the US.

The president claimed he’d misspoke during his summit with Putin and agreed with the US intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election, though he added it could be “other people also.”


The White House on July 20, 2018, also said it was rejecting a proposal from Putin to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine, calling the Russian leader’s suggestion “illegitimate.”

The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of roughly 10,000 people, including 3,000 civilians, and displaced roughly 1.7 million.

Though Trump has long signified a desire to have a strong relationship with Putin and often complimented the Russian leader, his administration has maintained support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian-leaning separatists in the Donbass region.

The US government in recent months delivered Javelin anti-tank missiles to the Ukraine, a move met with resounding approval by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis

(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Mattis: ‘Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive and destabilizing behavior’

Defense Secretary James Mattis has maintained a hawkish stance on Russia but on July 18, 2018, urged Congress to waive sanctions on allies who purchase Russian arms over an apparent concern it could push these countries into the Kremlin’s arms.

“Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive and destabilizing behavior as well as its continuing illegal occupation of Ukraine,” Mattis said in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain.

The letter added, “[But] as we impose necessary and well-justified costs on Russia for its malign behavior, at the same time there is a compelling need to avoid significant unintended damage to our long-term, national strategic interests.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea claims to have tested a new weapon I guess?

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “supervised” the test firing of a new tactical guided weapon, according to the country’s propaganda outlet on April 17, 2019.

It is unclear what type of weapon it was, but the regime claimed the test served as an “event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power.”

North Korea claimed the weapon has a guiding system and was capable of being outfitted with “a powerful warhead.”


The test comes months after the summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Vietnam ended with no tangible results. Last week, Kim said he was willing to meet Trump for the third time later this year, but tempered expectations by saying it would be “difficult to get such a good opportunity.”

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

President Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

North Korea has long argued that the United State’s “maximum pressure” sanctions policy was detrimental to diplomacy.

“If it keeps thinking that way, it will never be able to move the DPRK even a knuckle, nor gain any interests no matter how many times it may sit for talks with the DPRK,” Kim said, according to North Korea’s propaganda agency.

North Korea made similar statements on an undisclosed weapon system in November, when Kim was said to have supervised a test of a “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon.”

Experts theorized at the time that the purported weapon was not nuclear in nature. Instead of a long-range missile with the capability to strike the US, South Korean experts suggested the weapon could have been a missile, artillery, anti-air weapons, or a drone, The Associated Press reported.

INSIDER reached out to the Pentagon for more information and will update as necessary.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

There are many famous people who served in the United States Military. Some were drafted, some had the choice between jail or service, and some felt the call and volunteered.

From World War II to 9/11 and beyond, these celebrities served their country before they became famous — except for Elvis. Elvis was always a star.

Note: There are some celebrities who are already well known for their military service (like everyone’s favorite Gunny, R. Lee Ermey). You won’t see them on this list, since our goal was to point out celebrities whose military service isn’t as well known.


In no particular order, these are ten awesome celebrities who served in the U.S. Armed Forces:

Rob Riggle Is Golfing For Veterans

www.youtube.com

1. Rob Riggle, United States Marine Corps

Rob Riggle served in the United States Marine Corps for over 20 years. After graduating from the University of Kansas, he went through Officer Candidate School. Though he originally had the intention of becoming a pilot, he realized that he wanted to pursue comedy, so he became a Public Affairs Officer instead. After his Active Duty service commitment was complete, he transitioned into the reserves, where he served for 14 more while doing comedy and acting full time.

Riggle served in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan during his time in service. Now retired, he continues to help the veteran community through initiatives like his Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic, a veteran-celebrity golf tournament that raises money and awareness for veteran non-profits, like Semper Fi Fund, an organization that assists service members and their families.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

(Photo by Bob Sandberg)

2. Jackie Robinson, United States Army

Jackie Robinson was drafted to the United States Army in 1942, where he was assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit before applying to Officer Candidate School. His application was delayed due to the color of his skin, but, after protests by heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, he was accepted. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in January, 1943.

In August, 1944, he faced court-martial for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, a segregated location known for its racism.

On July 6, 1944, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus. Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. Angry from the way he was treated and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait for the MPs in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.

He was charged with two accounts of insubordination. His defense would win out, however, and Robinson was freed. He medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle and went on to become the first African American to play Major League Baseball.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

It looks like a mug shot, but that’s an OG CAC picture on the left.

3. Bea Arthur, United States Marine Corps

The late Bea Arthur served as a truck driver in the U.S. Marine Corps. She enlisted into the Women’s Reservists during World War II at the age of 21 under her maiden name, Bernice Frankel. A handwritten letter of hers states,

I was supposed to start work yesterday, but heard last week that enlistments for women in the Marines were open, so decided the only thing to do was join.

She was stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. She was honorably discharged after the war at the rank of Staff Sergeant. She would marry a fellow Marine, Private Robert Aurthur, and go on to have a successful career in the arts.

Any fan of Arthur’s incisive Dorothy on Golden Girls won’t be surprised to hear that Arthur’s enlistment interviewer described her as “argumentative” and “officious — but probably a good worker — if she has her own way!”

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

4. Bob Ross, United States Air Force

Robert Norman Ross, better known as the friendly painter Bob Ross, enlisted in the Air Force at age 18 and went on to serve for 20 years. While stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, Florida-native Ross saw snow and mountains for the first time, which would influence his serene landscape choices as he began his prolific painting career.

It might be surprising to know that while in the Air Force, Ross became a Drill Instructor.

I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.

True to his word, he developed The Joy of Painting, his famous program where he taught others to paint with an uplifting and soft-spoken demeanor that has become famous around the world.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Semper Fi,​

5. Adam Driver, U.S. Marine Corps

Adam Driver, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became an infantry mortarman after the 9/11 attacks. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton with 81s (eighty-ones) Platoon, Weapons Co. 1st Battalion 1st Marines and was training for his first deployment when he sustained an injury that would result in a medical discharge.

After his service, Driver founded a non-profit organization called Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings high-quality arts programming to active duty service members, veterans, military support staff, and their families around the world free of charge with the intention of bridging the divide between civilians and the military.

Of his military career, Driver once said, “In the military, you learn the essence of people. You see so many examples of self-sacrifice and moral courage. In the rest of life you don’t get that many opportunities to be sure of your friends.”

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Montel Williams at the premiere of ‘War, Inc.’

(Photo by David Shankbone)

6. Montel Williams, United States Marine Corps and United States Navy

Talk show host Montel Williams enlisted in the United States Marines Corps after high school and completed basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, before going to the Desert Warfare Training Center at Twentynine Palms, California. After impressing his superiors with his leadership skills, he was recommended for the Naval Academy Preparatory School at Newport, Rhode Island. He was then accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Upon graduation, he became a cryptologic officer for the United States Navy. He served in Guam before transferring to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where he studied Russian for a year before putting his linguistic skills to use for the National Security Agency. He served aboard submarines for three years before he decided to separate from the military and pursue public and motivational speaking full time.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Elvis Presley inventing ‘Blue Steel’ during his military service in Germany.

7. Elvis Presley, United States Army

After one deferment to complete the film King Creole, Elvis Aron Presley reported for U.S. Army basic training at Fort Hood on March 24, 1958, where he was assigned to the Second Armored Division’s ‘Hell on Wheels’ unit. His induction was a major event that attracted fans and media attention.

After basic, Presley sailed to Europe aboard the USS General Randall to serve with the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. By March, 1960, Sergeant Presley finished his military commitment and received an honorable discharge from active duty.

Reflecting on his service, Presley once told Armed Forces Radio and Television that he was determined to go to any limits to prove himself — and he did, though his career as an artist was never too far from reach. Shortly after returning to the United States, he shot the film G-I Blues, a musical comedy where Presley played a tank crewman with a singing career.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

8. Jimi Hendrix, United States Army

Jimi Hendrix, one of rock’s greatest guitar players, served a brief, thirteen-month stint with the famed U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division — nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles” — just a few years before his epic rise to rockstardom in the late 60s. Hendrix wanted to enlist as a musician but had no formal music training, so he opted for the 101st Airborne Division.

Months after joining the Screaming Eagles, life as a paratrooper began to wear on Hendrix’s morale. He was constantly reprimanded for dereliction of duties.

Jimi just wanted to play his guitar. His days as a paratrooper came to an end on his 26th jump when he broke his ankle.

Hendrix began exploring the Fort Campbell area nightlife before venturing down to nearby Nashville where he began jamming with local bluesmen. It was in that vibrant music scene that he met fellow service member and bassist Billy Cox. In September, 1963, after Cox was discharged from the Army, Hendrix and Cox formed a band called the King Kasuals, but it was later in New York City where Hendrix would catch the break that would help him become the rockstar he’s remembered as today.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

9. Kurt Vonnegut,  United States Army

Kurt Vonnegut enlisted in the United States Army during World War II. In 1944, then-Private First Class Kurt Vonnegut was captured by the Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge. He, along with boxcars full of fellow POWs, were taken to the German city of Dresden and forced to work – until the city was firebombed by the Allies. Vonnegut and a few others survived the devastation, in what looked like a different, horrifying new world.

Slaughterhouse Five is named after the underground bunker in which he waited out the bombing. The book is the story of a man who became “unstuck in time,” floating back to the past at seemingly random times. It has become one of the most famous PTSD flashback stories and one of the most banned books of all-time.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

10. Kris Kristofferson, U.S. Army

Before he was a recording artist, Kris Kristofferson, under pressure from his family and following in the footsteps of his Air Force General father before him, joined the U.S. Army.

Kristofferson trained as a Ranger and a helicopter pilot, eventually reaching the rank of Captain while stationed in Germany. But then he received orders to West Point to teach English.

He chose to separate from the Army to pursue a music career instead, but served in the Tennessee National Guard when he needed to make ends meet. It was during that time when he infamously stole a helicopter and landed it on Johnny Cash’s lawn, a bold move that would pay off when Cash, a fellow veteran, recorded Kristofferson’s song and began an epic musical friendship.

In 2003, he was presented with the “Veteran of the Year” Award at the 8th Annual American Veterans Awards.

MIGHTY SPORTS

10 greatest Army-Navy spirit videos

Every year, Army cadets and Navy midshipmen spend hours or weeks making spirit videos to taunt the opponent during the week before the annual Army-Navy game.

Once the game is over, most of us never think about them again. This year, we decided to go back and resurface some of the finest spirit videos from the last decade. No matter which side you’re on, these videos feature some sick burns.


Lead From The Front: An Army/Navy Short Film 2017 [4K]

www.youtube.com

1. Army: Lead From the Front (2017)

This is more like a short film than a spirit video. It’s a heist movie with Bill the Goat substituted for a vault full of money.

STAR WARS at Navy

www.youtube.com

2. Navy: Star Wars (2015)

Rescue fantasies seem to be a recurring theme in Navy videos. This time, midshipmen are sent on a mission to rescue Princess Leia from the West Point Death Star.

Alexis: Army Navy Spirit Video 2018

www.youtube.com

3. Army: Alexis (2018)

How do you get a squid to run? Computer hacking seems to be the key.

Mission Bond (Army-Navy Spirit Spot 2017)

www.youtube.com

4. Navy: Mission Bond (2017)

Who knew there was a Midshipman James Bond? Bond rescues Navy Pride with the aid of the USNA Parachute Team.

Army Navy 2017 Spirit Video: Sing Second

www.youtube.com

5. Army: Sing Second (2017)

Who says a spirit video has to be funny? West Point cadets show their spirit with an inspiring musical performance.

We Give a Ship

www.youtube.com

6. Navy: We Give a Ship (2014)

Stuck for an idea? You can always fall back on your favorite joke from second grade: Ship sounds like another word that’ll get you sent to the principal, so use it freely!

Operation Calamari – Army Navy Spirit Video 2017 | ThomasVlogs

www.youtube.com

7. Army: Operation Calamari (2017)

West Point cadets break in at Annapolis and then demonstrate how easy it can be to pass as a sailor.

Army Navy Spirit Spot 2012 – Game for the Real Players

www.youtube.com

8. Navy: Game for the Real Players (2012)

Back when Navy was overwhelming Army every year, rapper Baasik’s spirit video taunted cadets over their losing streak.

Child’s Play – Army/Navy Spirit Video 2016

www.youtube.com

9. Army: Child’s Play (2016)

Kids play soldier, not sailors. It’s that simple.

USNA Look At Me Now Army Navy Spirit Video

youtu.be

10. Navy: Look at Me Now (2013)

The rhymes are savage. Does the fact that this middie needs closed captioning detract from his game?

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia and Japan still haven’t signed a WW2 peace treaty

When Japanese President Shinzo Abe addressed a packed audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2018, held in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, he had a direct message for his host.

He appealed to Vladimir Putin, like he does every time the two leaders meet, to help expedite the signing of a treaty that would formally, and finally, end World War II.


A little later, Putin turned animatedly to Abe. “You won’t believe it, but honestly, it’s a simple thought, but it came to my mind just now, right here,” he said. “Let’s sign a peace agreement by the end of the year,” he told Abe, “without any preconditions.”

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese President Shinzo Abe.

The room erupted in applause, and Russian state media hailed the offer as a breakthrough. “This is a sensation,” gushed a Rossia-24 presenter covering the event. “Unbelievable progress has been reached.”

But as Putin and Abe prepare for talks in Moscow on Jan. 22, 2019, a territorial dispute that has remained unresolved since the war continues to stall efforts toward a Russo-Japanese peace deal, and analysts say there is little indication the latest round of negotiations will change that.

‘Inherent part of Japan’

For the past 70 years, Japan has waged a dogged diplomatic campaign to reclaim what it calls its Northern Territories, a handful of islands off the coast of Hokkaido, its northernmost prefecture, that the Soviet Union captured in the final days of World War II.

Today they are referred to by Moscow as the Southern Kuriles, an extension of the archipelago that extends southward from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Japan established sovereignty over the islands in dispute — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and a group of islets known as Habomai — in an agreement with the Russian Empire in 1855. They are still considered by Tokyo to be an “inherent part of the territory of Japan.”

“There’s a historical and ancestral aspect to this discussion from the Japanese standpoint,” says Stephen R. Nagy, an associate professor with the department of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo. “Many feel they have left the lands of their ancestors.”

For Russia, the Kuriles provide its naval fleet with access to the Pacific, and serve as a symbol of the Soviet role in the World War II victory.

Following the war, the two countries failed to sign a peace treaty, although the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of October 1956 formally ended hostilities and opened diplomatic relations between the two sides. The declaration also annulled previous Soviet claims of war reparations against Japan and provided for two of the disputed territories — Habomai and Shikotan — to be returned to Japan following the conclusion of a formal peace treaty.

When Putin and Abe followed up on their Vladivostok meeting with talks in November 2018 in Singapore, they agreed to use the 1956 agreement as a foundation for further discussion. But that leaves Putin’s offer of “no preconditions” in question.

What comes first?

After talks in Moscow in January 2019 between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, Moscow made clear that Japan must accept Russian sovereignty of the disputed territories before any peace treaty is signed. “Questions of sovereignty over the islands are not being discussed. It is the Russian Federation’s territory,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

And there have been key developments since 1956: namely, the deepening of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, and more recently the decision to station a U.S. missile-defense system on Japanese territory. The Japanese press has reported that Abe assured Putin no U.S. bases would be built on the islands once under Japanese possession, a fear that Russia has voiced many times. But Japan’s partnership with the United States remains a sticking point.

Artyom Lukin, an international-studies expert at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, says there is little reason to believe a treaty will be hammered out immediately.

“I don’t think that anything substantive, anything which could be pronounced publicly, will come out of this meeting,” Lukin says of the Jan. 22, 2019 talks. “They may make a tentative, preliminary agreement, but because the issue is so complex they’ll need more high-level meetings before the issue is settled. My guess is that we’ll see no public announcement until Putin’s planned visit to Japan in June.”

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia In Global Affairs, says that Putin’s statement in Vladivostok was blown out of proportion. In fact, Lukyanov argues, the Russian president was just reiterating a long-held stance.

“The Japanese position is the territorial issue first, and then, after having settled that, we can discuss the peace treaty,” Lukyanov says. “And the Russian position, strongly supported by Putin in that speech, is just the opposite — first normalize the relationship and then maybe we can discuss this issue.”

Lukin agrees. “I wouldn’t read too much into Putin’s statement in Vladivostok,” he says. “I think we should pay much more attention to Abe’s statement in Singapore, when he said that Japan was ready to negotiate on the basis of the 1956 declaration. For me this basically means that Japan is ready to accept the fact that it can’t get from Russia anything more than Habomai and Shikotan. So the question is, how much and what will Russia demand from Japan in exchange for those two islands.”

Generosity not popular

At a press briefing in Tokyo following Putin’s appearance with Abe in Vladivostok in September 2018, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga insisted that Japan’s position remained that “the Northern Territories issue is resolved before any peace treaty.” But few expect Russia to yield.

An opinion survey carried out in November 2018 by the independent pollster Levada Center found that only 17 percent of Russians support the handover of the disputed territories to Japan in exchange for a peace deal to end World War II. Almost three-quarters were against the idea.

Russian Protesters Decry Possible Territory Handover To Japan

www.youtube.com

Russian state media has helped keep those numbers up. On Jan. 13, 2019, flagship news program Vesti Nedeli dismissed the Japanese suggestion that the islands be returned before a treaty is ratified.

“We have the hypersonic Avangard rocket, we have the hypersonic Kinzhal,” host Dmitry Kiselyov said, referring to two nuclear-capable weapons ceremoniously unveiled by Putin during his state-of-the-nation address in March 2019. “We don’t need anything from Japan…. And how can we politely explain that one should behave politely?”

In November 2019, the independent Russian daily Vedomosti wrote in an editorial that “much time has been lost” in settling the Kuriles question. “The Kremlin has succeeded in reviving imperialist passions,” it wrote. “Any territorial concession after the annexation of Crimea will damage Putin’s image as a gatherer of Russian lands, and will raise the level of discontent among his traditional support base.”

Lukyanov says that Putin is aware of Russian public opinion and unlikely to advance such a controversial cause at a time when his approval ratings are already slipping.

“Any territorial concession in any country is a very unpopular move, and to make it, a leadership should be in a strong position,” he says. “Theoretically, I can imagine that something like this would be doable immediately after the Crimean takeover five years ago, but now the situation is different, and the whole atmosphere in the country is much less optimistic, because of economic and other problems. And in this situation, to give such a juicy piece to opponents, to accuse Putin of unpopular territorial concessions, that’s certainly not what he needs right now.”

In recent weeks, several rallies have been held across Russia to protest the possible handover of the islands. On Jan. 20, 2019, some 300 nationalists and members of the Russian far right gathered in central Moscow, chanting slogans including “Crimea is ours! The Kuriles are ours!” and “We won’t return the Kuriles!”

In its bid for a diplomatic breakthrough, the Japanese leadership has suggested that Russia’s cession of the islands would open up trade with its Asian neighbor at a time of debilitating Western sanctions. But Lukyanov describes as a “primitive interpretation” the notion that Russia might relinquish the Kuriles because it needs Japan for its economic development.

“Russia’s real calculation is much more geostrategic,” he says. “Because Russia’s drift toward Asia is inevitable and will continue, because the whole of international politics is shifting to the East, and to Asia.”

The Russian leadership is aware of the risk of becoming overly dependent on China, he adds.

“For Russia, strategically it’s much more important to have a stable and constructive relationship with the big powers in Asia — South Korea, Japan, India, and Indonesia — all those that might play a role as counterweights to China. And this, to me, is the only reason why the whole discussion [about the Kuriles] is still going on.”

Also read: Yes, Japan and Russia are technically still at war.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Wild West’s toughest lawman was born a slave

The real-world exploits of this U.S. Marshal sound like the stuff of legend, up there with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Except most of what you’ll hear about Bass Reeves is real. He escaped slavery in Texas by beating up his owner’s son. Then he lived among the natives in the Indian Territory of what is today Oklahoma. He memorized arrest warrants and always brought in the right criminal.

Bass Reeves was exactly what the Wild West needed.


What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

While he could neither read nor write, Reeves knew the Indian Territory. He escaped there after beating up his master’s son in a dispute over a card game. The need to survive led him to the tribes of the Cherokee, Seminoles, and Creek Indians, whom he befriended and lived with until the end of the Civil War made him a free man. While he was illiterate, his mind was like a steel trap, and his heart was as brave as they come. When U.S. Marshal James Fagan was tasked with cleaning up the Indian Territory of its felons and outlaws, his first hire was Bass Reeves.

Reeves was now the first black lawman west of the Mississippi River and was perfectly suited for duty in the Indian Territory, speaking their language and knowing the terrain. For 32 years, Reeves would bring in the most dangerous of criminals without ever being wounded in action, despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor

Reeves and his Native American partner might have inspired “The Lone Ranger.”

At the end of his long, illustrious career, Reeves claimed to have arrested more than 3,000 felons and shot at least 14 outlaws dead during shootouts – he even had to arrest his own son for murder. Even though he claimed he’d never been hit by an outlaw’s bullet, there were times where they got the drop on the lawman. His favorite trick, one he used many times, was a letter ruse. When his quarry got the better of him, he would ask his captors to read him a letter from his wife before they shot him. Once the outlaws took the letter, Reeves used the distraction to draw his weapon and disarm or take down the bad guys.

His exploits were soon famous, and he earned the nickname “The Invincible Marshal” for all the times he’d escaped the jaws of death. Only at age 71 did death come for Bass Reeves – not in the form of an outlaw’s bullet, but rather kidney disease, in 1910.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The truth about why the US released ISIS’ leader in 2004

In President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address, he mentioned that the U.S. military captured Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi but released him. This may have been a surprise to many watching.


“We have foolishly released hundreds and hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield — including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi,” Trump said.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor
President Trump delivers the State of the Union address to Congress, Jan. 30, 2016 (U.S. Army photo)

The U.S. did capture Baghdadi in February 2004, in the early days of the Iraq War. He was held at Camp Bucca, a prison facility in Garma, Iraq, along the country’s border with Kuwait.

But back then he was just Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry, a civilian detainee. He was one of some 80,000 detainees who were held at one of four detention facilities throughout Iraq. They were a mix of petty criminals and insurgents captured in house raids over the course of the war.

Baghdadi was captured in a house raid near Fallujah in 2004; he was described by U.S. officials as a “street thug” at the time.

Nine U.S. military review boards worked six days a week reviewing the detainees’ cases over the lifetime of the prison system, resulting in 20-45 percent of captured prisoners being released.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor
Sgt. Adonis Francisco, Alpha Company, 2-113th Infantry Battalion, patrols along a catwalk at the Camp Bucca Theater Internment Facility, the largest detention center in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo)

The man who would become the Islamic State’s caliph was held from February to December of 2004. But the U.S. didn’t simply release him, they transferred him to the Iraqi justice system.

It was the Iraqi government who released Baghdadi.

Eventually, the 2008 U.S. Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq would set the terms for closing the prison system and moving the detainees to Iraqi custody. The American government was primarily concerned with some 200 prisoners they deemed most dangerous.

Baghdadi was not one of them.

At the time of his release, Baghdadi and the others who were released were considered “low level” and not much of a threat. After his release, he gravitated to the insurgent group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which came to be known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor
Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi around 2005.

Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in 2006. The Americans continued to systematically eliminate AQI’s leadership. In 2010, Baghdadi was promoted to a leadership position in what was left of the network.

No one really knows how Baghdadi rose in the ranks. When his name was revealed as one of the group’s leaders (which then started calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq), no one in U.S. intelligence knew any of their names. The seeds of what would become ISIS were sown.

Articles

Here’s how the Army is assisting Iraqi forces in the fight for Mosul

Although the U.S. mission in Iraq is often referred to as one of advising and assisting, only about 25 percent of the 101st Airborne Division‘s 2nd Brigade Combat Team was doing that during its deployment to Iraq, which concluded in January, the brigade’s commander said at the Pentagon May 3 during a media roundtable discussion of the deployment.


Army Col. Brett Sylvia, the brigade’s commander, told reporters that the other 75 percent of his Task Force Strike soldiers were engaged in route clearance, expedited communications, air and ground coordination, and logistics, which enabled Iraq to build up its forces up and get to their tactical assembly area for the push into eastern Mosul, which began Oct. 17 as part of the effort to liberate Iraq’s second-largest city from the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

When Task Force Strike arrived in Iraq in April 2016, the Air Force was delivering all the precision strike capability to the Iraqis fighting ISIS, Sylvia said. Over the course of the deployment, Task Force Strike soldiers augmented much of that strike capability with their own artillery and unmanned aerial vehicle assets. About 6,000 artillery rounds were fired, he added.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor
Army Col. Brett Sylvia, commander of the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, conducts a key leader engagement with Iraqi forces on advancements into Mosul at Tactical Assembly Area Filfayl, Iraq, Nov. 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Sylvia said he was pleased with the authorities the U.S. commanders on the ground were given to call for fire to enable the Iraqi ground forces to move forward. In March 2016, the month before the task force arrived in Iraq, the authority was granted not only to the general in charge of the operation, but also for colonels, lieutenant colonels, and in at least one case, a captain near the front of the fighting, he explained.

Also read: Islamic State terrorists launched a chemical attack in Mosul

Although the Iraqis did the fighting, some limited situations arose when U.S. soldiers accompanied them to provide “niche capability,” Sylvia said. For example, he said, soldiers accompanied an Iraqi battalion on a bridge-building mission on the Tigris River, where the enemy had blown up the bridge. The soldiers advised them on establishing area security as the U.S.-made bridge was erected, he told reporters.

Militia fighters not attached to the Iraqi army who also were fighting ISIS were pretty much segregated from Iraqi forces, Sylvia said. U.S. forces were aware of their location and movements, he added, but did not interact with them in any way.

Threat From Above

It’s been some time since the U.S. faced a threat from the sky, Sylvia said. During the battle for Mosul, UAVs began appearing in the air in and around the city, and it was quickly determined that they did not belong to friendly forces.

In one day alone, 12 appeared, he noted — mostly quadcopters operated by Wi-Fi with about 45 minutes of flight time.

What you need to know about the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor
A private drone with imaging capabilities, similar to those acquired by enemy combatants. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

At first, he said, the enemy used them for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and to obtain video for use as propaganda on social media sites.

Over time, Sylvia said, the enemy managed to mount 40 mm grenades on the UAVs and drop them. It was primitive, such as when World War I pilots tossed bombs out of their airplanes by hand, he said. It’s not precision bombing, but it’s more effective than their indiscriminate bombing, the colonel told reporters.

Over time, U.S. forces employed countermeasures that stopped or slowed their flight, enabling Iraqi ground forces to shoot them out of the sky, he said, noting that the new threat from the air led to dusting off old manuals on how to respond to threats from the air with countermeasures such as camouflage.

Best Day in Iraq

Sylvia said he clearly recalls his best day in Iraq. It was Christmas Day, and Iraqi forces, who are Muslim, invited him and his soldiers to a Christian church just outside Mosul to attend services. ISIS had gutted the church, but the Iraqis had rebuilt it with their own money.

“It was a powerful symbol, and was amazing,” he said of the visit to the church, adding that he hopes the relationship forged with the Iraqis will be enduring.

Task Force Strike returned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in January, replaced in Iraq by the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information