Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

In the parking lot of the National Guard armory, a soldier reaches into his glove box and carefully unfolds a letter safeguarded in the confines of his car for five months. Sitting on the edge of his passenger seat, in the late afternoon sun, he begins to read the pages once again. At first, he reads silently as if wanting to keep the special message private. Then, in little more than a whisper, he reads out loud the sentiments of a woman he has never met but whose life he would be responsible for saving. Occasionally, he looks up to explain a bit more about the woman behind the precious missive. While he reads, the front of the envelope can be seen addressed to ‘My Donor.’ One glance at the top of the first page, clearly written in very large print is an emphatic, ‘Thank you.


A member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin, a 23-year-old from Houston, says he is no hero, “I am just doing what is right.” The journey to the right thing started nearly five years ago when he was an 18-year-old freshman at Central Texas College. Martin recalls, “I really didn’t think about it, we were going to lunch one day and they [Be The Match] were having a drive, giving away pizza and I signed up, they took a mouth swab and that was the last time I heard anything.” Shaking his head he continues, “then last year… I got a call from Be The Match saying that I had been matched with a person with leukemia and asking would I like to donate for them.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

Martin could have said no, but that is not in his character. “Because I signed up for it, just like any other commitment you make, you did the paperwork you said you were gonna do it, so…” Martin leaves the statement hanging as if the conclusion is obvious: you do what you say and say what you do; no more discussion needed. This attitude serves him well in both his military and civilian careers.

Martin has been a firefighter for two years with the South Montgomery County Fire Department. In the Texas Army National Guard, he is a chaplain’s assistant deployed to the southwest border for Joint Task Force Guardian Support with El Paso-based, 3rd Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment. As the chaplain’s assistant he gets many opportunities to counsel service members and help on an emotional level. “These Guardsmen have lives going on back home, and life happens every day. I am just glad I can help,” Martin says.

The letter

Just before deploying, Martin received the letter. “I keep the letter in my car, it was really touching. I guess I was waiting to meet her,” he says. “I got the letter and then I came on mission a couple of weeks later. I didn’t get a chance to write her back.”

When LaShonda Goines, a cancer nurse from Houston, Texas, wrote that letter four months after being diagnosed with two different forms of cancer, she knew for certain only two things; there was a perfect ten-out-of-ten match, and without a doubt, everything was going to be okay. “I never asked for the odds of survival, I would not accept them anyways. I just knew that God was going to bring me out of this. I knew I was going to beat it,” said Goines.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

In her letter to Martin, Goines wrote, “I rejoice in the fact that God did not break the mold after he made me because he knew you were needed to help with repairs to my body. He created you to be a perfect match to repair my malfunctions. In this journey, I have learned to appreciate life, I want to take trips and do things once my body is strong enough. I am a very religious person. Your cells are going to a good and generous person.” After reading the letter once again, Martin points to his heart and with an awkward giggle says, “this letter really hits you in the feels,” while he takes a little extra time refolding the letter. Goines conveys a similar sentiment when she learns Martin has kept the letter all these months. She responds with a voice full of emotion. “That’s got me in tears. Yes, I am surprised. I know my son would be like, ‘I don’t know where that letter is.’ I did not know that letter was that precious to him.”

Goines closed the letter with a hope and a prayer, “I want to meet you one day. Hug you one day, whenever we can, if you like. Be blessed my friend, my life-sharing brother.” Little did she know all that she dreamed would come to fruition, in less than a year.

The good news came over the phone just 30 days after receiving Martin’s stem cells. “I am cancer free. Hearing those words was awesome. I mean I ran through the church. I gave my testimony. It was something, absolutely unbelievable, especially being a cancer nurse. Listening to the other patients in the holding area waiting to be seen, you hear their stories, how some of them had tried transplant and it didn’t work for them and this is maybe their second go around. But for me, this was a one-shot deal and now, I am cancer free,” Goines’ smile can be heard through the phone.

Donor meets recipient

Martin and Goines were invited to meet for the first time in Minnesota at the annual Be The Match council meeting. Their first time meeting each other would be onstage in front of more than two thousand people.

“I can’t even describe how amazing that moment was, it was so precious,” says Martin. He attempts to describe the event, seemingly at a loss for words, shrugging his shoulders and says, “I was really anxious and super excited. I was just really happy to get to that point. Just seeing her and being able to say that we got to that point because she made it, she was a fighter, it was something really special.”

Goines was anxious to finally meet the young man who saved her life. “The event was awesome. They had us separated through the entire meeting until Saturday night, even when they played the video of both of us. They called me to the stage first, and they would not tell me where he was in the room. And so, to see him walk up to the stage with his mother, he just has this heroic walk. It was awesome. He has a very heroic and humble walk, he never bolstered or anything. He’s an amazing fellow.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

When asked if they attributed the success of the transplant endeavor to just science or God, they had similar, but not identical, responses. Both have careers in the medical field and strong religious beliefs. Martin holds out his hands out as if making a scale for demonstration, “I have my religious background and I work in the medical field too. I feel like there is science and there is God, and they both work together.”

Goines praises God’s intervention, “God, this was nothing but divine intervention, divine intervention from God. Sitting in the room for 30-days doing my transplant I was crying out to God and this just shows me that God had his ear inclined to my cries.” Continuing she describes how special and lucky she felt, “I felt like I touched the hem of God’s garment and I was made whole again.”

Donor saves life

Few people can say they saved a life, but for Martin, saving lives is a reality, as a fireman and now as a stem cell donor. He says there is a uniquely strong bond between him and Goines, compared to other lives he has saved as a fireman. “I guess because we have such a bond now, when I met her it was like I’d known her my whole life, it was really weird. I met her sons as well and it was like we’ve been brothers forever. It was really something amazing.”

The special bond forged between the two gives each a bigger family. Without hesitation or searching for the words she would say to Martin, Goines exclaimed, “I got a new son out of this process. I want to tell him I love him and he’s an awesome human being and he needs to keep doing what he’s doing because God has bigger and better plans for him.”

The effects of this profound, life-changing match are clear, nearly 800 miles away, across the state of Texas, with one look at Martin’s cubicle inside the armory. The cubicle appears to be much like anyone’s cubicle. There are pictures of his family and another one of his fire truck, along with a cross and some obligatory notices and guidelines. There are two items quite unique and conspicuous amid the varying drab tones of tan, hanging proudly both inside and outside his partitions: two capes, one green the other blue, both emblazoned with the ‘Be The Match’ logo. Martin explains everyone gets the blue cape, but the green one is special for those donor-recipient matches that ended in saving a life.

Martin believes to care for others, you have to take yourself out of the equation. “When it comes down to saving a life, you should not think about yourself, there’s gonna be pain, you know everything good comes with a little pain. That little bit of pain goes a long way because there is someone whose life is really counting on you. Putting in a little work and a little pain will go a long way,” he says.

Goines went from a double cancer diagnosis to being cancer free in seven months because Martin decided to be a difference and saw it through. She says, “Sign up for Be The Match. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Hispanic, just sign up.”

Martin says his firsthand experience doesn’t make him a hero, but did make him want to share his story. “It is really important to educate people on the ‘Be the Match’ program or any marrow donor program because it does save lives. It does make a difference,” he says.

Be The Match is a nonprofit international organization that matches stem cell and bone marrow donors with recipients inflicted with certain cancers. The matches are based, partly, on ethnicity, and more often than not the match will come from outside one’s family. To find out more visit bethematch.org.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways parenting changes when your child joins the Army

I held on to my son until it was time for him to go. My heart felt empty as he walked through the departure gates on his way to Army Basic Combat Training (BCT.)

Although I was happy for him as he left to live his lifelong dream of serving our great nation, I felt lost with an emptiness that filled my heart. Despite the tears that streamed down my face, I was proud to see my son started his journey with strength and determination.

It’s far from easy to watch as your child embarks on a journey aimed at transforming them from civilian to soldier; where you won’t hear from them and don’t know what they’re doing.

As your child goes on this journey, you go on a journey too.


You may not have planned for this or even wanted it, and yet here you are, transitioning to becoming the parent of a soldier.

Parenting changes in unexpected ways when your child joins the army. Instead of feeling stranded in a place of sadness, let your child’s hard work, dedication, and patriotism, inspire you to be your best. Here are some ways that parenting changes when your child joins the army.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart/Released

1. You’re no longer in control.

Parenting never stops, but when your child joins the army a new set of challenges emerges. After spending 18+ years preparing them for life and protecting them, a parental shift happens.

One day they’re home with you, the next day they’re thousands of miles away with little communication.

The casual calls, endless chore reminders, and days spent together are sweet memories of another season of life.

Take a step back and realize how your role is different now. Instead of taking the wheel for them, your role may be to just be there for them, to support their decision to join the Army or to help keep them moving forward.

You may not hear from your Soldier as often as you like but that’s part of your new normal.

Instead of resisting it, lean into it. It can be truly wonderful if you let it. Just think: you raised a child with the passion, courage, and grit to do one of the most important jobs in our nation. Make sure your child knows that you have confidence in them as a soldier and defender of freedom.

Transition takes great effort and doesn’t happen overnight. Know how you are changing as a parent. Put your feelings to paper where you can look back in a few months or a year and see how far you’ve come on this incredible military parenting journey.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

2. You learn resilience.

Awful thoughts will undoubtedly run rampant through your mind. At some point, your Soldier will transition from BCT to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) or may deploy somewhere in the world.

I wasn’t as excited as my son when he deployed; he thought of it all as a big adventure while I cringed at the thought of him flying high in his helicopter over the Afghanistan Mountains.

Holding on to his enthusiasm through my range of emotions, and looking at this as an adventure was my first step to building resilience.

Embracing change and learning to adapt as a parent of a Soldier is one way to build resilience and manage your emotions. Resilience gives you the ability to cope with stressful situations (there will be some) and carry on with your life. You can’t change the fact that your child is now a Soldier, one of the few who chose to defend our country. Nor can you change where they go next. But you can learn resilience, become more confident in your ability to deal with tough emotions, and find joy in your journey.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Photo courtesy of 2nd Cavalry Regiment

3. You find new ways to enjoy the holidays.

Christmas brings with it sweet memories, family gatherings, and lots of food. It’s always a happy occasion, except for that first year my son joined the Army. He would be celebrating at his first duty station in Germany, while we all missed him terribly at home.

In subsequent years, we found new ways to celebrate. We’ve had Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas tree, gifts, and holiday decorations in the middle of November or birthdays celebrated a month before or after the event.

Don’t forget technology, which creates new ways to enjoy your Soldier. You can engage with your loved one, whether it’s a text message, phone call, or video and open up communications in a positive way.

Is it the day that is more important or the gathering of loved ones to celebrate events? Learning to enjoy celebrations on days other than the event is a unique way to celebrate. After all, any time you can gather with your Soldier is time for celebration!

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

4. Oh, the places you’ll go.

That first 9 weeks of basic training seemed like forever. With over 2,000 miles between us, how would I ever see my son? As the years passed, the miles expanded as his duty stations took him to Germany, South Korea, and far-flung states.

Let the adventure begin! With passport in hand, I visited my Soldier son in every country and state he lived in. We traveled through Europe and had a grand time experiencing new places and cultures.

Keep an open mind about the places you can visit and explore with your Soldier. The best part is your child can be your tour guide as you trek off together with enthusiasm and curiosity, creating new grown-up memories.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart

5. You see your child in a different light.

When my son left for basic training, I clung to our past relationship where I was the mom and protector. Clearly that wasn’t going to work.

As time progressed, it dawned on me one day that my son is a Soldier. He spoke to me about his passion for defending our freedoms and how much it meant to him. As I slowly began to understand him as a grown man and Soldier, I began to see, appreciate, and respect this side of him.

You may not realize it but your Army Soldier is a skilled and highly-trained warrior, ready to defend our nation on a moment’s notice. That’s a lot to take in but it’s true.

No matter how much you want your child to be five years old again, they’re not. They left their childhood behind and went out into the world armed with all the loving ingredients you instilled in them. When you look at them as grown-up, you give way for a new relationship to blossom—one that includes the sweet memories of yesteryear and new adventures of today.

New Beginnings

Throughout a successful 15-year Army career, my son’s story isn’t finished and neither is mine. Every “see ya later” hug at an airport is another building block towards mental toughness and staying ready for the changes ahead (and there will be many.)

When your child joins the Army, your parent-child relationship adapts and grows as both your lives change over the years. I wouldn’t change a thing about being the mom of my Soldier son. From the people I’ve met, to the things I’ve learned, and the places I’ve been, this army mom life has been amazing.

You control your journey or your journey controls you. Enjoy the adventure!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how many US troops would be wounded in a war with North Korea

US military leaders who attended a classified exercise in Hawaii learned that a war with North Korea could result in around 10,000 American combat-related casualties in the opening days, according to a New York Times report published on Feb.28, 2018.


The tabletop exercise (TTX), which tests hypothetical scenarios, lasted several days and included Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley and Special Operations Command commander Gen. Raymond Thomas.

Also read: North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

While the number of troops who could potentially be wounded in such combat may be startling, civilian casualties were predicted to range from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands, according to The Times. The US stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea, while the capital of Seoul — which is in range of North Korea’s crude, yet devastating artillery fire — has a population of about 24 million.

Given the scope of a war, Milley said that “the brutality of this will be beyond the experience of any living soldier,” officials familiar with the TTX said in the report.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
(KCNA)

According to The Times, military leaders looked at various factors, including how many Special Operations forces could deploy to target nuclear sites in North Korea; whether the US Army’s conventional units could end up fighting in tunnels; and methods to destroy the country’s air defenses to pave the way for US aircraft.

Immediate tensions between North Korean and US-South Korean leaders appear to have subsided in recent weeks after the North’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. But US officials remain skeptical of North Korea’s diplomatic overtures.

Related: South Korea’s plan to convince President Trump to visit North Korea

Though various Trump administration officials have given conflicting statements on US policy, Trump said on Feb. 26, 2018 that he would be open to talks with North Korea “only under the right conditions.”

The US State Department also echoed Trump’s assertions: “Our condition is denuclearization,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“Our policy has not changed. We have talked about this policy since day one of this administration; and that’s maximum pressure, but it’s also the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force knowingly left F-22s in the hurricane’s path

When Hurricane Michael hit Florida as a Category 4 storm, it was a historical record — and it just happened to land a direct hit on a major U.S. Air Force base, Tyndall. Unfortunately for American warfighters and taxpayers, some of the Air Force’s most-needed and most-expensive assets were stuck in hangars damaged by the storm, leading to losses that might total hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, why did the Air Force leave these highly mobile and expensive assets in the path of a predictable, easily-tracked storm?


Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron retracts its landing gear during takeoff at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz)

Well, it’s not always as simple as people like to imagine — and commanders had to deal with a series of huge issues when the storm came barreling towards them. The numerous aircraft on base (including 55 F-22s) in their care was just one of many immediate problems.

F-22s are prized assets, but they can’t always fly. Pick your metaphor, whether it’s racehorses, racecars, boxers, or what-have-you, these are complex assets that require multiple maintenance hours for every single hour of flight. F-22’s have a readiness rate around 50 percent. You read it right — only about half of our F-22s can fly, fight, and win at any given moment.

So, while Tyndall hasn’t released their exact maintenance numbers at the time the storm was first projected to hit the base, it’s unlikely that even 30 of them were able to fly away at that moment. And the commanders had to look at the full picture — not just at their fifth-generation fighters.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron retracts its landing gear during takeoff at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 14, 2018.

They couldn’t know exactly how strong the storm would be when it hit them, but they could clearly see it was a hurricane — and a big one. The hangars and barracks on base simply weren’t up to the task of safely housing airmen during a category-3 or -4 hurricane. Michael hit the base as a category 4, and there wasn’t a single housing structure on base that completely survived the storm. The damage was so severe that the base might be a complete loss.

Yeah. A complete loss. As in, the Air Force might shut down the base and sell off the land, though leadership has said they’re “optimistic” that it will be worth rebuilding.

So, yes, the Air Force needed to get as many F-22s flight-worthy and out as possible, but they also needed to evacuate their airmen, protect other aircraft, and get everything secured before the storm hit. That includes the massive amounts of classified materials on a base like Tyndall.

And so they juggled — and the F-22s were only one of the balls in the air.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., lands at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio for safe haven, Oct. 9, 2018. The F-22 is one of several planes taking safe haven at Wright-Patterson AFB as Hurricane Michael threatens their home station.

(U.S. Air Force Wesley Farnsworth)

The F-22s that were already flyaway-ready flew away, and parts were scavenged from some aircraft to get the others airborne. Anything that could be quickly bolted together was. That got somewhere between 37 and 52 of the 55 aircraft out.

That’s between 67 and 95 percent of the aircraft flown safely away — remember, the aircraft’s general readiness rate is 50 percent. That’s not failure, that’s a logistical and maintenance miracle.

But why didn’t they drive the other aircraft out? Or load them into C-5s with their wings removed?

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

U.S. Air Force maintenance Airmen from the 325th Maintenance Group prepare to marshal a 95th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor toward the taxiway at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz)

Well, taking the wings off of an airplane is actually a really difficult, time-consuming procedure and every minute that ticked by increased the difficulty of getting pilots and maintainers out ahead of the storm. Not to mention that removing the wings is guaranteed to damage the aircraft to some degree. Then, the plane needed to be loaded onto a C-5, risking that plane and crew should anything go wrong.

All of this would be done just to protect the aircraft from possible damages suffered in a storm. After all, it wasn’t guaranteed that Michael would break through the hangars.

But maybe you could throw a tarp over the plane, load it onto a truck, and drive it out?

Well, that would require a massive convoy with specialty trucks that would take up at least three lanes of a highway (usually four) at the exact same time that millions of people are trying to use the same roads to get to safety. F-22s are 44.5 feet wide, and most highway lanes are standardized at 12 feet wide.

That means protecting the planes would’ve risked the lives of Americans. You know, the exact same Americans that the planes are designed, purchased, maintained, and piloted to protect.

So, the commanders, likely unhappy with their options, got the remaining, unflyable weapons loaded into hangars and sent the rest of their personnel away.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor pilot with the 95th Fighter Squadron performs a preflight inspection prior to night flying operations at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Isaiah J. Soliz)

Zero Tyndall personnel were killed in the storm — and only 93 had to ride out the storm on base. The bulk of the F-22s and other aircraft were saved without damage — and that’s in a storm that damaged nearly every structure on the base, completely destroying some of them. Remember, this was a storm that removed some entire towns from the earth.

As for the damaged F-22s, initial reports from the base indicate that the damage to the airframes might not be severe. The leaders “assumed risk” by trusting the hangars, and it looks like the gamble worked.

So, sure, the military should take a look at what could have been done better. Maybe F-22s in need of maintenance should be flown to other bases during hurricane season in order to prevent a rush evacuation. Maybe we can increase investment in structures to deal with strengthening storms and rising seas, an initiative for which the Navy has requested money.

But we can’t place all the onus on base and wing commanders. Their job is to retain as much of their warfighting power as possible, and weathering such a big storm with all of their personnel and the bulk of their assets isn’t failure, it’s an accomplishment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon says everyone who watches terrorist video helps ISIS

The Pentagon is refusing to confirm whether a disturbing video released by the Islamic State actually shows the Oct. 4, 2018 ambush in Niger that killed four soldiers, and a DoD spokesman warned reporters that they would be helping ISIS if they even reported on its very existence. A quick sampling of media that have reported on it: The New York Times, Fox News, and the BBC.


According to the Pentagon, you aid ISIS by even watching the shocking video, which appears to show how the soldiers were unable to get out of a killzone, first using a vehicle for cover and then running in the open, where one of them was felled by enemy fire.

Also read: New photos may show ambushed US troops killed in Niger

“ISIS is suffering significant losses in both personnel and territory and they are using this type of propaganda as a desperate recruiting tool,” Col. Rob Manning told reporters March 5, 2018. “We ask the media and the public and all responsible entities not to aid these terrorists in recruiting efforts by viewing or bringing to attention these images, these videos. You are complicit in amplifying ISIS propaganda video if you do that.”

The fallen soldiers were reportedly part of a 12-member Army Special Forces unit that was accompanying about 30 Nigerian troops when they were ambushed by up to 50 militants. An investigation into the attack is ongoing.

The video includes footage from the soldiers’ helmet cameras that was later captured by the Islamic State. It shows one of the soldiers being dragged toward cover and another falling to the ground after being hit; he is later shot again. It is unclear whether any media outlets paid ISIS to obtain the video.

Because the Defense Department did not create the video, defense officials are unable to determine if it is authentic or if it has been digitally manipulated, said Manning, who has not seen the video.

When asked why the Pentagon cannot authenticate this particular video, Manning did not answer directly.

“No. 1, this is terribly difficult on the families — the images alone,” Manning said. “No. 2, this is an ISIS-produced and developed propaganda video. I cannot confirm or verify — the department can’t verify — at this current time any portion of it.”

Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, has completed an investigation into the ambush, which is now being reviewed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Manning said.

More: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

AFRICOM announced on Jan. 24, 2018 that it was also investigating the video after it was posted on Twitter by a user named Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Maali, Military Times reported. The tweet with the video was later deleted.

The Twitter user claimed that some of the pictures had been taken by one of the soldiers caught in the ambush and ISIS captured the images after the soldier was killed, according to Military Times.

Four U.S. soldiers died in the attack: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson.

Johnson’s body was recovered two days after the ambush. Although local villagers initially told media outlets that it looked as though Johnson had been captured and then executed by ISIS, a military investigation ultimately found that he died in a firefight, the Associated Press reported.

Related: 9 places where ISIS is still a major threat

News of the deaths of American soldiers in Niger sparked a brief public debate about why U.S. troops are in the African country. Although a small number of U.S forces have been in Niger for years, most Americans had no idea that the U.S. military is operating there, or why.

One reason why the general public was caught off guard is the U.S. government has not made clear that U.S. mission in Niger and other African countries involves combat operations, said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington.

“There’s a fine line between advisory missions and actual combat missions, and in this case, special operations forces accompanied a patrol of Nigerian forces in what should be considered a combat zone,” Roggio told Task Purpose in January 2018. “When this happens, you’re liable to get into combat.”

For example, U.S. special operations forces in Somalia are increasingly being caught up in combat while their official mission is to advise and assist local forces, he said.

More reading: Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

Since President Trump took office, the U.S. military has also launched airstrikes against al Shabaab in Somalia and ISIS in Libya. It’s time for the U.S. government to be explicit that the military has a combat role in Africa, Roggio said.

“That would answer a lot of questions,” he said. “Then people wouldn’t be wondering why did we lose four U.S. soldiers in Niger in an ambush? They were lost because they were in an advisory role that brought them into combat. If you are clear about that at the outset, then you don’t have to ask those questions.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Apparently Russia can’t even afford Putin’s problematic nuclear cruise missile

Russia can’t afford its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which still doesn’t work right and may not be combat ready for another decade, CNBC reports, citing US intelligence assessments.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proudly boasted last year that the weapon could skirt enemy defenses and fly indefinitely, giving it unlimited range, but the farthest this missile has ever flown in testing is 22 miles.

The most recent test took place in late January 2019, The Diplomat reported in early February 2019, noting that Russia had decided to restart testing after a pause last summer.


The test was apparently only “partially successful,” The Diplomat explained, indicating that the weapon still doesn’t function as intended. No country has ever fielded a nuclear-powered cruise missile, although the US briefly flirted with the idea many years ago.

US intelligence currently assesses it might be another decade before the Burevestnik cruise missile is ready for combat, but even then, Russia is expected to only produce a few of these potentially powerful missiles because they are too expensive for the country to develop, CNBC reports.

This certainly isn’t the first superweapon Russia has hyped up that turned out to be unobtainable due to budget limitations.

Russia unveiled its hard-hitting T-14 Armata tank at the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade, where one embarrassingly broke down and had to be towed away during rehearsal.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Russian T-14 Armata tank.

Russia had initially planned to mass produce and field as many as 2,300 Armatas by 2025, but that number was reduced to 100, as the cost of this state-of-the-art tank, which includes an unmanned turret and other expensive features, was way over budget.

Instead of buying more Armatas, Russia opted to upgrade and improve its older T-72, T-80, and T-90 tanks, capable armor units but definitely nothing like what Russia promised for the Armatas.

The country decided to do the same with its fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighter.

Rather than mass produce the aircraft, which was built to take down the US F-35s, Russia instead chose to purchase only a limited number and focus on improving its fourth-generation fighters.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia appears to be lying about size of military exercises

In September 2018, Russia kicked off its Vostok-18 military exercises, drills that defense officials claim involve some 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, 1,000 aircraft, and scores of warships and have touted as “unprecedented in scale.”

That’s roughly a third of the entire Russia military, much of which would have to be moved to the far east to participate in these large-scale maneuvers.

2018’s version of the Vostok, or East, exercise is billed as the largest ever, topping the 1981 Zapad, or West, military exercise, which took place in the Baltic Sea area and Eastern Europe amid heightened tension with the US after President Ronald Reagan took office.


Vostok is a no doubt a major undertaking for Russia’s armed forces — and a major geopolitical development, given the inclusion of Chinese forces for the first time — but there are a number of reasons to believe Moscow is overstating the forces it has mustered.

The logistical challenges of moving that many personnel and their equipment cast doubt on the stated numbers.

The 300,000 troops Russian officials have said would participate would be roughly one-third of the country’s military. Gathering such a force would be a considerable financial challenge in light of Russia’s decreasing defense spending and its standing military commitments elsewhere, according to The Diplomat. By comparison, that force would represent roughly two-thirds of the much better funded and equipped active-duty US Army.

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Tanks rolling during the Vostok 2018 military exercises in Russia.

A conservative estimate of the vehicles in the Central and Eastern military districts is around 7,000 to 10,000. Bringing in roughly 25,000 more vehicles would clog railways and highways, and shuttling in that many troops would likely overwhelm Russia’s military logistics structure.

The size of the force involved is likely around 50,000 to 100,000, according to The Diplomat. Other estimates put it around 150,000 — about the size of the Vostok-81 exercise — which is still very massive force.

Inflating the number of military personnel involved in such exercises is nothing new for Russia. And there appear to be a number of types of legerdemain through which Russian officials carry it out.

The stated total — 297,000, to be precise — likely includes all units stationed in the Central and Eastern military districts, as well as those in the Northern and Eastern Fleets and in the airborne units that are taking part.

“For every battalion fielded they will likely count the entire brigade, and for a few regiments an entire division, etc.,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA and the Wilson Center.

Many of those are involved may not ever venture into the field, instead remaining at command posts. (The US has also counted geographically dispersed units as taking part in certain exercises, but typically at much smaller scales.)

Participation may go beyond uniformed troops and include civilian reserves, Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director for the National Security Council, told Voice of America

Edmonds noted that other units, like those operating in western Russia, may be included in some tallies.

Moscow has also likely counted under-strength units at full strength and included units that have been alerted or are indirectly involved — like those that are taking over assignments from units that are redeploying to actually take part, according to The Diplomat.

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Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The figures presented by Moscow for these kinds of exercises could be called “true lies,” Kofman told Voice of America, “in that they’re statistical lies whereby the Russian army’s General Staff tallies every single unit-formation that either sends somebody to the exercise or has some tangential command component in it.”

“So these numbers are not entirely fictional, but you have to divide them by a substantial amount to get any sense of how big the exercise actually is,” Kofman added.

Such sleight of hand is not new — similar tactics were used during the Cold War — and using them now may also be meant to avoid adding to anger over reduced social spending and proposed hikes to pension-eligibility ages.

Russia faces economic and demographic challenges, and, as noted by Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and fellow at the European University Institute, the government spends an outsize portion of its federal budget on security.

Overstating the number of forces involved also likely serves broader geopolitical purposes.

Over the past decade and a half, President Vladimir Putin has turned a weakened military into a capable force, but the Russian leader is aware that his country lags in objective measures of strength, Galeotti notes at The Atlantic.

“Instead, [Putin] relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play,” Galeotti writes. “He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged.”

China’s inclusion may also indicate a shift in Moscow’s thinking.

Previous iterations of the Vostok exercise were meant to send a message to Beijing, which Moscow long viewed as a rival. The relatively small Chinese contingent taking part this year has been interpreted as a message to the West that Russia is not isolated and could further embrace China.

Many doubt a formal military alliance between China and Russia is in the offing, instead seeing their cooperation on Vostok — they have carried out joint military exercises elsewhere — as an effort by both sides to balance against US and by Russia to allay Chinese concerns about the target of the exercises.

“Maybe the announcements of how big it’s going to be is a reaction to hostilities with the West, but the actual exercise itself is a pretty standard Russian military activity,” Edmonds, now a research scientist at CNA, told Voice of America.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines train to save lives from downed aircraft

Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 conducted an aircraft recovery convoy exercise during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 2, 2018.

The exercise prepared the Marines for an aircraft mishap and ensured they were properly trained to recover personnel and equipment if called on.

“We used our own vehicles to conduct the convoy and assisted with the recovery process,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Contreras, the motor transportation operations chief with MWSD-31. “There were multiple training evolutions that pertained to different parts of the convoy.”


During the course of the exercise, MWSD-31 conducted convoy and sweeping operations by planning a route to the downed aircraft and back while simultaneously sweeping the area with combat mine detectors for explosive threats. Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron also aided in the training by salvaging the aircraft while also defueling the fuselage of the simulated aircraft to prevent fires and fuel leaks.

“I’m just one piece of the puzzle when we’re doing these kinds of events,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Moody, a combat engineer with MWSD-31. “Once we get to a site, everyone has a job to do. We could be sweeping up and looking for ordnance while AARF Marines are defueling a gas tank. This exercise really painted a picture on how important teamwork is to mission accomplishment.”

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Cpl. Danny L. Clark and Sgt. Jose R. Trujillovargas help to guide a downed F/A-18 Hornet into a secure position during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

MCAS Beaufourt is unique because it has the ability for Marines to conduct this type of training on base as opposed to having to go to another Marine Corps base in the fleet.

“Some of the Marines here only have the ability to do exercises like this during Integrated Training Exercise at Twentynine Palms, California and other places,” Contreras said. “If they don’t have the ability to do it there, we can do it here. We were fortunate that one of the squadrons gave us a retired aircraft to allow us to conduct this training.”

ITX is a month-long joint exercise that trains Marines so they can merge more easily into a Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as, to maintain familiarity with basic military requirements.

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Cpl. Tristin L. Hoffmaster inspects a simulated downed F/A-18 Hornet to ensure it’s secured properly during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

The mission of MWSD-31 is to provide all essential aviation ground support to designated fixed-wing component of a Marine Aviation Combat Element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group. They offer support with airfield communications, weather services, refueling, and explosive ordinance disposal.

“I’m not sure if most Marines are familiar with what we do,” Moody said. “We’re here to support the wing units when stuff like this actually goes down. At the end of the day, if MCAS Beaufort needs something done, they can always rely on us.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 photos that prove troops can sleep anywhere

The rigorous demands and stress of military service often lead to sleep deprivation.

Soldiers and sailors endure prolonged periods of training and operations — and they often get creative on where they drift off.

That’s why they’re skilled at sleeping where they can, when they can.

From torpedo rooms to tanks, aircraft to truck beds, here are some of the strangest and most uncomfortable places troops nod off.


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Paratroopers catch some sleep after working through the night to prepare for an early morning combat jump in Italy.

(Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall/173rd Airborne Brigade)

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Capt. Jesse Zimbauer, commanding officer of the submarine USS Indiana, gives an interview in the submarine’s torpedo room.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey Richardson)

2. Torpedo rooms on US submarines.

Junior members of submarine crews are often required to “hot rack,” where another crewmember sleeps in their bunk while they are on duty.

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Sailors of the USS Indiana sleep in the boat’s torpedo room while the ship is underway.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey Richardson)

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US soldiers sleep during a flight home from Afghanistan on C-17 Globemaster.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

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Soldiers sleep during cold weather gunnery training, where they had to use only sleeping bags for five nights in single-digit temperatures.

(Airmen1st Class Ariel Owings/325th Airborne Infantry Regiment)

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Sailors assigned to USS Preble prepare to launch their rigid hulled inflatable boat off the boat deck.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Bryan Niegel)

6. Small boat operations are extremely dangerous. But when they’re not launching their boats, US sailors sometimes use them to catnap.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX’s new ‘Endeavour’ spaceship just made history by docking to the International Space Station with 2 NASA astronauts inside

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have once again helped make history for SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, by docking to a football field-size laboratory above Earth.

After careening into space on Saturday atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the astronauts’ spaceship — a Crew Dragon capsule they later named “Endeavour” — disconnected from its launcher and entered orbit. The ship then completed a series of engine burns to catch up to the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits about 250 miles above the planet’s surface while traveling 17,500 mph.


On Sunday morning, Behnken and Hurley finally caught up to their target. Endeavour flew below the 0 billion orbiting laboratory, later pulling up to a stopping point about 220 meters in front of the space station.

The two men then spent a few minutes manually controlling the ship’s thrusters through touchscreens while connected to NASA’s Johnson Space Center and SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

“It flew just about like the [simulator], so my congratulations to the folks in Hawthorne. It flew really well, very really crisp,” Hurley said during a live webcast, adding that its handling was “a little sloppier” in an up-down direction, though as expected.

Behnken and Hurley then turned Endeavour’s autopilot back on, and the spacecraft ever-so-carefully flew itself toward a docking port called Node 2, located at the forward end of the space station.

The ship’s docking mechanism connected to the node at 10:16 a.m. ET while flying over northern China and Mongolia. Latches on the ship then tightly sealed Endeavour to the ISS, allowing the crews to begin a roughly two-hour-long hatch-opening procedure.

‘A new chapter in human space exploration’

SpaceX’s docking at the ISS is thefirst by a privately developed spaceship with a crew on board.

The last time an American spaceship attached to the space station was July 2011 — the flight of space shuttle Atlantis, a mission that Hurley flew on.

“It’s been a real honor to be a super-small part of this nine-year endeavor, since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” Hurley said shortly after docking. “We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX at Hawthorne, McGregor, and at Kennedy Space Center. Their incredible efforts over the last several years to make this possible cannot go overstated.”

Hurley then thanked NASA’s staff, after which the ISS commander and astronaut Chris Cassidy rang a ceremonial bell while welcoming Behnken and Hurley.

NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where US mission control for the ISS is based, then chimed in with its own congratulations.

“Endeavour this is Houston. Bob and Doug, welcome to the International Space Station,” said Joshua Kutryk, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut in the control room, calling the crew’s flight a “historic ride” and a “magnificent moment in spaceflight history.”

“You have opened up a new chapter in human space exploration,” he added.

An historic 110-day test mission begins in earnest

After docking, the crews of Endeavour and the ISS prepared to open their hatches, which they did at 1:02 p.m. ET. After about 20 minutes of safety checks, Behnken and Hurley soared through Endeavour’s hatch and into the waiting arms of commander Cassidy, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and cosmonaut Ivan Vagner.

The crews then grabbed a mic to talk to mission control in Houston, where NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rep. Brian Babin of Texas awaited a chance to speak.

“The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world,” Bridenstine said.

“It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business,” Hurley responded. “We’re just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex.”

Bridenstine also asked if the two astronauts got any sleep: “We did get probably a good seven hours or so,” Behnken said.

Cruz asked about the handling of the Crew Dragon: “It flew just like it was supposed to,” Hurley said.

The junior senator also asked the astronauts what Americans could learn about coming together from their test mission, called Demo-2, during a “tough week” for the country — a reference to protests that have erupted across the US in response to a white police officer’s killing of George Floyd, a black man. Hurley spoke about SpaceX and NASA working together through years of sacrifice to restore the US’ ability to launch people into orbit.

“This is just one effort that we can show for the ages in this dark time that we’ve had over the past several months,” Hurley said.

Sen. Babin asked what it was like to rocket to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

“We were surprised a little bit at how smooth things were off the pad. The space shuttle was a pretty rough ride heading into orbit with the solid rocket boosters,” Behnken said. But he noted the shuttle was “a lot smoother” after its boosters fell off than Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon was for the duration of that flight.

“Dragon was huffin’ and puffin’ all the way into orbit. We were definitely driving and riding a dragon all the way up. So it was not quite the same ride, the smooth ride, as the space shuttle was,” Behnken said, adding that SpaceX’s launch system was “a little bit more alive.”

The successful docking means Behnken and Hurley have a home in space for up to the next 110 days. When their stay ends, the astronauts will climb back into the Endeavour, disembark from the ISS, and careen back to Earth.

The overarching goal of the test mission is to show SpaceX’s ship is safe to fly people.

If NASA determines it is, then the agency can fully staff the space station with astronaut crews and maximize its ability to perform research.

SpaceX, meanwhile, will gain the ability to fly private astronauts to space — even including Tom Cruise, who hopes to film a movie aboard his planned stay on the ISS.

NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV

www.youtube.com

Watch the ongoing Demo-2 mission live on NASA TV:

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

‘I met a hero:’ Air Force Doctor who treated Alwyn Cashe says he’s never forgotten him

Maj. Mark Rasnake was exhausted. The 32-year-old Air Force infectious disease specialist had worked through the night treating some of the worst trauma he’d seen in his life — seven soldiers who’d been brought in after sustaining catastrophic burns when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device near Daliaya, Iraq, and erupted in flames. But back at his bunk at Balad Air Force Base, north of Baghdad, he couldn’t sleep.

He opened his laptop and began to type a letter home. “I met a hero last night,” he wrote. “I did not realize it at the time … This is a place where the word “hero” is tossed around day in and day out, so much so that you sometimes lose sight of its true meaning. His story reminded me of it.”


As a medical professional, Rasnake never identified his patient, even in a letter only intended for family members. As it happened, though, his words would travel further than he imagined. His local newspaper in Eastern Tennessee took it as a submission and reprinted it; and eventually, Air Force officials reached out to the paper so the service could publish it too.

Rasnake’s letter survives on the Air Force’s official website as the first public account of the bravery of Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who sacrificed his life running again and again into the fiery vehicle, ignoring his own burning uniform. It has been 15 years to the day since Cashe hauled his teammates out of the Bradley on Oct. 17, 2005; but Rasnake, now the residency program director for the University of Tennessee’s Division of Infectious Diseases, says he’s never stopped thinking about him.

“I kind of think about the guy all the time,” Rasnake told Military.com in an interview earlier this month. “I’ve got a helmet bag that I use to carry stuff to and from work, and I put a 3rd Infantry Division patch on that thing, just to always have the visual thing to remember what he did. That’s just always been important to me, to at least carry that memory.”

Cashe, the most severely burned of the soldiers, was ultimately evacuated to Germany for intensive treatment, and then to Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he would succumb to his injuries Nov. 8, at age 35. As the anniversary of his death approaches, those who loved him are newly hopeful: in August, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he’d support a push to award Cashe the Medal of Honor. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a bill waiving a five-year time limitation for awarding the medal; a similar measure is expected to pass soon in the Senate.

Rasnake said he didn’t learn Cashe’s story until a few hours after he and more than a dozen other military medical professionals had finished treating the soldiers and loaded them on an air evacuation flight bound for Germany. He can’t remember who shared the account of what happened in the aftermath of the Bradley explosion. But as word spread among his colleagues and across the base, it provoked a common feeling of awe.

“The discussions we had is, you know, if his actions don’t deserve the Medal of Honor, we had trouble imagining anything that did that would,” Rasnake said.

Cashe was initially nominated for a lesser award, the Silver Star, by his battalion commander, Gary Brito, now a major general. Brito, by his own account, pushed for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor as soon as he learned of the severity of Cashe’s injuries. But as the years passed, no medal upgrade came.

At issue, according to various reports, was difficulty ascertaining accurate witness statements of what took place. While initial accounts led the Army to determine Cashe’s heroism did not take place in active combat, current descriptions — championed by lawmakers — say he dodged enemy fire while hauling body after body out of the vehicle: six soldiers plus an interpreter, who died on the scene. Cashe refused medevac until the others were taken away, according to his Silver Star citation.

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Mark Rasnake (right) along with doctors Col. Ty Putnam and Maj. James Pollock, Oct 17, 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)

What Rasnake saw is in none of those accounts, but speaks to the pain and trauma Cashe’s body endured because of his choice not to leave his brothers-in-arms behind.

“The surgeons worked for hours on his wounds and we worked for hours in the intensive care unit to stabilize him for transport. In the end, damage to his lungs made him too sick to be safely transported by plane to our hospital in Germany and then on to a burn center in San Antonio,” Rasnake wrote in his later-published letter home. ” … Our air evac team loaded him into the plane for the six-hour flight to Germany. They had to deliver every breath to him during that flight by squeezing a small bag by hand.”

Rasnake still has clear memories of that night, although the conditions and treatment of specific soldiers is a blur. Off-duty medical staff were called back up before the casualties arrived. A field intensive care unit was heated to treat those suffering from the hypothermia sometimes brought on by severe burns. Doctors had to intubate to keep the badly burned soldiers’ blood oxygenated, and some required surgical incisions to allow burn-traumatized limbs to swell.

Six of the men needed ICU treatment; ultimately, three would succumb to their injuries.

Rasnake had arrived in Iraq earlier that fall, and it wasn’t common for doctors at Balad to keep track of the wounded troops they’d treated once they moved on for additional care. But this case was different.

“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “For the next two weeks … Some of them didn’t make it, including Sgt. Cashe ultimately, and he was the last one to expire of the ones that ultimately died. And it was just heart-wrenching for us to hear what was happening back home … he had the entire [Air Force] 33nd Medical Group following daily what was happening.”

As Rasnake sat typing that first night in his sleeping quarters, not knowing the fate of Cashe or the other men he’d treated, he thought of a hero from his hometown of Greeneville, Tenn.: Marine Sgt. Elbert Kinser, who threw himself on a Japanese grenade in 1945, saving his men and earning the Medal of Honor. A bridge in the city of Tusculum, Tenn., bears his name.

“How many of his friends are still alive to remember the story? How many grew old and had grandchildren because of his sacrifice?” Rasnake wrote. “Did they thank him every day of their lives? The next time I cross that bridge I will stop for just a few minutes of my life to read about a man that gave all of his.”

Now 47, and 13 years out of the Air Force, Rasnake said he never lost hope that Cashe would receive the Medal of Honor that he never doubted the soldier deserved.

“The fact that he’s up for the MOH, reliving this and kind of seeing some closure for him and his family is just amazing,” Rasnake said. “I’m so glad; it’s probably the first piece of good news I’ve gotten in 2020.”

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane

The U.S. Air Force anticipates that a number of F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, during Hurricane Michael were damaged by the storm, an official said Oct. 12, 2018.

“A number of aircraft were left behind in hangars due to maintenance or safety reasons, and all of those hangars are damaged,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement. “We anticipate the aircraft parked inside may be damaged as well, but we won’t know the extent until our crews can safely enter those hangars and make an assessment.”

Neither the extent of the damage nor how many fighters were left behind was disclosed.


Officials also did not describe what maintenance was taking place that led officials to leave the jets at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing moved.

The damage could hamper operations for the already dwindling Raptor fleet as the Defense Department aims to restore its fighter readiness rates.

While some aircraft have come out of active status for testing purposes, the Air Force has 183 of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22s in its inventory today. More than 160 belong to active-duty units; the remainder are with Air National Guard elements. Four aircraft were lost or severely damaged between 2004 and 2012.

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An Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing flies over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 27, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

The Pentagon last estimated the F-22 unit cost at 9 million in 2009, roughly 3 million in today’s money. The last F-22 was delivered in 2011. But in a classified report submitted to Congress in 2017, the Air Force estimated it would cost “6 million to 6 million per aircraft” should it ever want to restart the production line for newer, more advanced F-22s.

The DoD said that would amount to approximately ” billion to procure 194 additional F-22s.”

Roughly 120 fifth-generation stealth Raptors are combat-coded, or authorized to perform in wartime operations, at any given time. But the platform’s mission-capable rate has decreased over the years.

According to Defense News’ fiscal 2017 statistics, F-22s had a 49.01 percent mission-capable rate, meaning less than half were flyable at any given time. In 2014, more than three-quarters of F-22s were deemed mission capable.

The Pentagon wants to increase readiness rates for the F-22, F-16, F-35 and F/A-18 to 80 percent by September 2019 — a 31 percent bump for the Raptor alone.

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An F/A-18 lands on the flight deck USS Theodore Roosevelt.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Luke Williams)


In July 2018, the Government Accountability Office said the F-22 is frequently underutilized, mainly due to maintenance challenges and fewer opportunities for pilot training, as well as the fleet’s inefficient organizational structure.

In October 2018, an F-22 at Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson made an emergency landing on a base runway. Photos showed the jet, from the 3rd Wing, leaning on its left side, which the Air Force said was the result of a landing gear malfunction.

The latest incident comes months after an F-22, also assigned to JBER’s 3rd Wing, experienced engine failure April 6, 2018, during a routine training flight at Tyndall. Days preceding the engine failure, another F-22 experienced a belly skid at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are some of the best federal jobs for veterans

The federal government invests a lot of time and money into training service members of the armed forces. As a result, it’s to the advantage of the government to retain service members for as long as possible. Retention programs and bonuses incentivize service members to stay in, but if you no longer wish to volunteer for an all-volunteer service, you can leave (provided your contract is up, of course).

After all, skills and certifications acquired in the military are highly sought after in the civilian workforce. Whether you’re a missileer who goes to work for Raytheon, an intel analyst with a secret clearance who gets scooped up by Booz Allen Hamilton or a diesel mechanic who takes a job with Union Pacific, your experience and training in the military makes you a valuable asset to any organization. For those that want to continue serving their country outside of the military, many federal agencies are more than willing to hire vets to fill their ranks.


In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Veterans Employment Initiative. Meant to promote the hiring of veterans in the executive branch, the program has also served as a model for companies in the private sector to make hiring veterans a priority. “As the nation’s leading employers, the federal government is in need of highly skilled individuals to meet agency staffing needs and to support mission objectives,” said the director of veteran services at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Air Force vet, Hakeem Basheerud-Deen. “Veterans get a lot of training and development during their military service, and their wide variety of skills and experience—as well as their motivation for public service—can help fulfill federal agencies’ staffing needs.” In no particular order, these are some of the best federal jobs for veterans of any background.

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(National Park Service)

1. Park Ranger

If you’ve been stationed in Alaska, Colorado, Fort Drum (you have our condolences) or any other location where outdoor activities are plentiful, you may have developed an affinity for open-air recreation. If you have, you might consider a job as a ranger for the National Park Service. As a ranger, you would investigate complaints and violations of park regulations, provide visitors with guidance and information, and generally protect the land set aside for future generations to enjoy. If an office job sounds like a prison sentence, this might be the job for you.

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(Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office via DVIDS)

2. Law Enforcement

Looking for a post-military career that will keep you in the action? You might consider a job in federal law enforcement. This is a very broad job field, though. You could work as a federal police officer at a military installation, a park police officer under the National Park Service or even an FBI agent serving as a legal attaché to an overseas embassy.

Another commonly thought of job under this umbrella is Border Patrol Agent. However, under Customs and Border Protection, you can also find CBP Officers. These are the men and women who protect the country at all ports of entry. From screening passengers at passport control to combing through cargo containers for illicit cargo, CBP Officers oversee everything coming into the country. Aside from DEA and FBI agents who train at Quantico, Federal Law Enforcement agents train at specialized Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers. FLETC is headquartered at the former Naval Air Station Glynco in Georgia and operates two other residential training sites in Artesia, New Mexico and Charleston, South Carolina.

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(207th Regional Support Group via DVIDS)

3. Human Resources

Paperwork is the lifeblood of the government. It moves information, initiates action, and can mean the difference between you getting paid or owing money. Though many systems have moved online to database or system entries, there is still a plethora of Standard and Agency-specific Forms that the federal government relies on.

Coming from the military, you’ll be familiar with having to fill out paperwork for everything from life insurance and emergency contacts to leave requests and requisition forms. Though more senior positions might require civilian HR certifications (a good time to use that post-9/11 GI Bill), there are still entry-level positions that allow veterans to get their foot in the door with their service experience alone. If it’s not on paper, it didn’t happen.

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(U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy via DVIDS)

4. Range Tech

Almost everyone who has donned the uniform has been to a range. Even some chaplains hop on the firing line to test their aim (unofficially, of course). You know those civilians who run the computers? You could be one of them! Though some bases contract these jobs out to private companies, there are still jobs that pop up on USAJobs.gov for range tech positions across the country.

As long as you have some experience learning something new and working with your hands (you went to basic training, after all), you’re good to go. Now, there’s a bit more to it than just pressing buttons, laughing at the people who struggle to qualify, and refreshing the ancient program running on Windows 95. But, if you like being on the firing line and you’re willing to learn how to maintain and operate a range, this job could be your perfect fit.

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(USPS)

5. Postal Service

As of February 2020, the USPS employs more than 97,000 veterans and is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country. Don’t want to be a letter carrier or work customer service? Contrary to popular belief, Postal Service careers extend beyond the aforementioned positions. USPS offers careers in accounting and finance, operations, marketing and sales, human resources and admin, processing and delivery, and many more. If you’ve deployed overseas, you know just how valuable mail is. Especially during the COVID-19 timeframe, the personal touch of a physical letter can be just what someone needs to brighten their day. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…

Whether you’re retiring from the military or separating after your first contract, your service and experience in the armed forces sets you apart from people that haven’t served. A federal job allows you to continue that service. A steady paycheck and maintaining your TSP aren’t bad perks either.


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