A former medic with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) that heroically fought his way up a mountain to render aid to his Special Forces teammates and their Afghan commando counterparts will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced Sept. 21, 2018, that former Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II went above and beyond the call of duty April 6, 2008, while assigned to Special Operations Task Force – 33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 1, 2018.
In April 2008, Shurer was assigned to support Special Forces operators working to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley.
As the team navigated through the valley, a firefight quickly erupted, and a series of insurgent sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms and machine gun fire forced the unit into a defensive fighting position.
Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II graphic.
Around that time, Shurer received word that their forward assault element was also pinned down at another location, and the forward team had sustained multiple casualties.
With disregard for his safety, Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down forward element. While on the move, Shurer stopped to treat a wounded teammate’s neck injury caused by shrapnel from a recent RPG blast.
Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II.
After providing aid, Shurer spent the next hour fighting across several hundred meters and killing multiple insurgents. Eventually, Shurer arrived to support the pinned down element and immediately rendered aid to four critically wounded U.S. units and 10 injured commandos until teammates arrived.
Soon after their arrival, Shurer and his team sergeant were shot at the same time. The medic ran 15 meters through a barrage of gunfire to help his sergeant. Despite a bullet hitting his helmet and a gunshot wound to his arm, Shurer pulled his teammate to cover and rendered care.
Medal of Honor.
(US Army photo.)
Moments later, Shurer moved back through heavy gunfire to help sustain another teammate that suffered a traumatic amputation to his right leg.
For the next several hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.
Shurer also helped evacuate three critically wounded, non-ambulatory, teammates down a near-vertical 60-foot cliff, all while avoiding rounds of enemy gunfire and falling debris caused by numerous air strikes.
Further, Shurer found a run of nylon webbing and used it to lower casualties while he physically shielded them from falling debris.
Shurer’s Medal of Honor was upgraded from a Silver Star upon review.
The first man on the moon held an American flag. In the not-too-distant future, astronauts on the moon may be holding fuel pumps.
The future for American commercial space activity is bright. Space entrepreneurs are already planning travel to Mars, and they are looking to the moon as the perfect location for a way station to refuel and restock Mars-bound rockets. As much as this sounds like the plot of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it is coming closer to reality sooner than you may have ever thought possible.
A privately funded American space industry is the reason. This industry is making progress in leaps and bounds. The global space economy is approaching $350 billion and is expected to become a multitrillion-dollar industry. There are more than 800 operational American satellites in orbit, and by 2024 that number could exceed 15,000. Thanks to public-private partnerships, for the first time in seven years American rockets will soon carry NASA astronauts into space. Long dormant, Cape Canaveral is now bustling with activity. America is leading in space once again.
Space tourism may only be a year away. Tickets for human flights into lower earth orbit have already sold for $250,000 each. Earth-based mining companies may soon face stiff competition from the mining of gold, silver, platinum and rare earths on asteroids and even other planets. A race is already developing to create the technology that will bring those crucial resources back to earth.
Competition is already fierce, with Russia and China challenging the United States for leadership, and about 70 other countries working their way into space. But today’s space race is different. It is driven by innovative companies that are finding new solutions to get to space faster, cheaper and more effectively.
As these companies advance new ideas for space commerce and nontraditional approaches to space travel, they seek the legitimacy and stability that comes with government support and approval. They yearn for a government that acts as a facilitator, not just a regulator. Government must create frameworks that enable, rather than stifle, industry.
Unfortunately, our system for regulating private space exploration and commerce has not kept up with this rapidly changing industry. For example, when it comes to licensing cameras in space, we review small, high school science-project satellites the same as billion-dollar national defense assets, leaving too little time and too few resources for crucial national security needs.
On May 24, 2018, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 2, which will make important strides toward modernizing our outdated space policies. These changes include creating a new office, the Space Policy Advancing Commercial Enterprise Administration, within my office to oversee coordination of the department’s commercial space activities, establishing a “one-stop shop” to work on behalf of the budding private space sector.
This will be a major change. At my department alone, there are six bureaus involved in the space industry. A unified departmental office for business needs will enable better coordination of space-related activities. To this end, I have directed all Commerce Department bureaus with space responsibilities to assign a liaison to the new Space Administration team, including the International Trade Administration, Bureau of Industry and Security, National Telecommunications and Information Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
When companies seek guidance on launching satellites, the Space Administration will be able to address an array of space activities, including remote sensing, economic development, data-purchase policies, GPS, spectrum policy, trade promotion, standards and technology and space-traffic management. The new office will also enable the department to manage its growing responsibilities in space.
The department will take on a greater role when it comes to regulation and promotion of space activity. But as the agency charged with promoting job creation and economic growth, we will not engage only in oversight, but will support American companies so they can compete and lead on a level playing field.
Collectively, these efforts will unshackle American industry and ensure American leadership in space. This is essential to technological innovation, economic growth, jobs and national security. But, perhaps more important, it is rejuvenating the American passion for space exploration.
I can still remember when President John F. Kennedy declared that America would put a man on the moon and when Neil Armstrong took that first step on the lunar landscape. Glued to televisions, Americans were filled with excitement and national pride during the Apollo missions.
In April 2018, I felt that same passion as I visited the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs with Vice President Mike Pence. “As we push human exploration deeper into space, we will unleash the boundless potential of America’s pioneering commercial space companies,” the vice president told the crowd.
This is a very special time in space history — there is a convergence of technology, capital, and political will. The United States must seize this moment.
June 25, 1950 saw troops from North Korea pouring across the 38th parallel into South Korea. This began a short, yet exceptionally bloody war. There are those that refer to the Korean War as, “the forgotten war” as it did not receive the same kind of attention as did World War II or the Vietnam War. However, despite the lack of attention given to it, the Korean War was one of great loss for both sides involved – both civilian and military. Even now, 70 years later, the Korean War is given less notice than other conflicts and wars in history. It is just as important and just as worthy of remembrance as anything else.
To honor those that fought, those that died, and those that were wounded in Korea between June 25, 1950, and July 27, 1953, here are 5 facts about the Korean War:
38th Parallel still divides the two countries:
The 38th Parallel was the boundary which divided the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the North and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the South. Despite the original desires of the UN and the U.S. to completely destroy communism and stop its spread, the Korean War ended in July 1953 with both sides signing an armistice which gave South Korea 1,500 extra square miles of territory, and also created a two-mile wide demilitarized zone which still exists today.
It was the first military action of the Cold War:
After World War II ended, the world entered a time period known as the Cold War. The Cold War lasted from 1945 until 1990. It was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and their allies. The Korean War was the first military action following the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War.
American leaders viewed it as more than just a war against North Korea:
North Korean troops invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. By July, U.S. troops had joined the war on South Korea’s behalf. This is partly due to the fact that President Harry Truman and the American military leaders believed that this was not simply a border dispute between two dictatorships, but could be the first step in a communist campaign to take over the world. President Truman believed that, “If we let Korea down, the Soviets will keep right on going and swallow up one place after another.” They sent troops over to South Korea prepared for war against communism itself.
General MacArthur was fired from his post:
By the end of summer 1950, President Truman and General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Asian theater, had set a new goal for the war in Korea. They set out to liberate North Korea from the communists. However, as China caught wind of this, they threatened full-scale war unless the United States kept its troops away from the Yalu boundary. The Yalu River was the border between North Korea and communist China.
Full-scale war with China was the last thing President Truman wanted, as he and his advisers feared it would lead to a larger scale push by the Soviets across Europe. As President Truman worked tirelessly to prevent war with China, General MacArthur began to do all he could to provoke it. In March 1951, General MacArthur sent a letter to House Republican leader, Joseph Martin stating that, “There is no substitute for victory,” against international communism. For President Truman this was the last straw, and on April 11 he fired General MacArthur from his post for insubordination.
Millions of lives were lost:
Between June 1950 and July 1953, approximately five million lives were lost. Somewhere around half of those were civilian casualties. American troops saw approximately 40,000 soldiers die in action in Korea, and more than 100,000 were wounded. These numbers made the Korean War known as an exceptionally bloody war, despite the fact that it was relatively short.
It was a program designed by the State Department to help the former Warsaw Pact countries break away from dependence on the Russian economy – the United States would straight up pay the newly liberated former Soviet Union allies to buy American-made weapons instead of buying them from their former patron.
That program is back, and the United States is expanding it.
A Russian-built Hind helicopter in the Macedonian Air Force
It’s called the European Recapitalization Incentive Program and Eastern Europe is signing on for arms made in the good ol’ US of A. But the U.S. isn’t stopping at limiting Russian influence through arms sales, the American government is using the program to limit arms sales from China too. It’s a function of the State Department working hand-in-hand with the Pentagon in an effort to project American economic power and military goodwill.
“The goal is to help our partners break away from the Russian supply chain [and] logistics chain that allows Russian contractors and service personnel, and Russian-manufactured spare parts onto either NATO allied bases or partner military bases,” a State Department official told Defense One.
A Russian-built T-72 tank in the Slovakian Army.
The countries signing on to the revitalized program can’t just promise not to buy Russian or Chinese weapons from now on. They will also need to get rid of their old ones as well as purchase new American replacements. So instead of gifting these countries a hodgepodge of military arms or vehicles, the countries can invest in American military power while getting rid of old systems and updating their military capabilities. Some of the partner countries are still using Soviet-built weapons.
In the past year, the U.S. State Department has signed on six former Soviet Bloc countries to the program to the tune of 0 million, including Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, North Macedonia, and Slovakia. The program will even bring these countries up to NATO standards in many areas. If successful, the U.S. will expand the program beyond Eastern Europe to help other countries break free of Chinese and Russian dependence.
The Marine Corps and Raytheon are developing a new precision-guided 120mm explosive mortar round so that forward deployed forces can more effectively target and destroy enemies from farther distances than existing mortars.
The weapon is designed to shoot up into the air in a vertical trajectory before identifying, tracking and exploding and enemy target upon decent to the ground. The vertical landing allows the weapon to achieve great precision, Raytheon officials said.
Called the Precision Extended Range Munition, or PERM, the program is test firing a GPS-guided mortar round able to extend the range of today’s mortar weapons from about seven kilometers to about 16 kilometers, Paul Daniels, Raytheon Program Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“This doubles their range and gives them precision,” Daniels added.
The extended range could provide a key tactical advantage because 16 kilometers stand-off distance from the enemy could enable Marines to destroy enemy positions without themselves being vulnerable to incoming fire.
Raytheon was recently awarded a qualification and production contract by the Marine Corps, which plans to use the new weapon as part of its emerging Expeditionary Fire Support System, or EFSS.
This system is put together to allow forward-deployed Marines to quickly maneuver into enemy territory with precision firepower and mobility. EFSS can deploy on board an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter or travel from ship-to-shore as part of an amphibious operation, among other things. The new weapon will serve as part of the Corps’ fires triad which includes 155mm artillery rounds, 120mm mortars and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or MLRS.
PERM can fill what’s called a needed “capability gap,” because there may be some targets that are not suitable for larger 155mm artillery rounds and are better attacked by 120mm mortars.
Precision mortar fire could bring tactical advantages for Marines in combat, particularly in condensed urban areas or mountainous terrain where elevation might separate attacking forces from the enemy.
“Mortars are particularly useful. They have a very high angle and rate of fire. They can fire almost straight up,” Daniels said.
For instance, the precision targeting technology integrated into PERM could allow forces to attack enemy positions in urban areas without risking damage to nearby civilians; this kind of attack would not be possible with today’s unguided 120mm mortar rounds.
“It will be ready within a couple of years,” Daniels said.
Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.
Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.
The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.
Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)
Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.
Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.
He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.
In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.
He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.
After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.
Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.
Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.
A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.
(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)
In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.
In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.
Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.
Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)
Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.
Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.
(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)
Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.
John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.
This is not the armor, but it is made of spiderweb.
Ten years from now, you might be on patrol with new super lightweight body armor. If you feel something tingling, cool it – you aren’t Spider-Man, but your vest might be made from spider silk – and you probably just need to drink more water. The latest armor under consideration by the U.S. Army isn’t a new kind of porcelain or chemical composition over kevlar. It’s spider stuff.
Making clothing from spider stuff isn’t necessarily new, but mass-producing it might be. The photo above is of a vest made of silk from the Golden Orb Spider, native to Madagascar. It took the designers eight years and a million spiders to make the vest, but the designers of the new body armor aren’t going for anything so intricate.
Ballistic spider silk panels.
Spider silk is a protein-rich liquid that dries into a solid filament that can vary in composition depending on what the spider is doing with the web, such as weaving a web for food or creating an egg sac. It’s flexible, able to stretch well beyond its original length, stronger than steel, and most importantly, can create a mesh able to stop a bullet. But until recently, no one has been able to create enough of the stuff to actually make and test viable options for stopping bullets.
Researchers from Utah State University were able to program the DNA of silkworms to integrate spider proteins into their own silk. Silkworms even spin the silk into threads on their own. The result is twice as strong and elastic as silkworm silk and can be created on an industrial scale. The result was able to stop a slow-moving .22-caliber round with only four layers. Standard Kevlar armor uses 33 layers.
A bullet can penetrate 29 layers of kevlar.
In 2018 Kraig Biocraft Laboratories announced it was creating panels like those shown above in large quantities for the United States Army. The fabric, called “Dragon Silk,” was also created without using entire colonies of spiders, who were more likely to eat one another than live in peace and create fabric. Kraig Biocraft created silkworms similar to those created at Utah State, using patented genetic proteins. Beyond standard body armor, the company may be the first to create real, popular protection for the groin area.
“After years of research and investment, developing this ground-breaking technology, we are very excited to now see it in the hands of the U.S. Army,” stated Jon Rice, COO. “For me, personally, and for the Company, the opportunity to help protect the brave men and women whom dedicate themselves to our protection is a great honor.”
Military leaders must appreciate the changing character of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Nov. 11, 2018, as he returned home from Paris, where he was attending ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford reflected on the anniversary, which signaled 100 years since the end of World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
“I think one of the things with World War I is the character of war hadn’t changed in some time,” he said. We saw … our own experience in the Civil War — machine guns, concertina wire, railroads, communications, and so forth. And I think even 50 years later, it’s pretty clear that leaders didn’t fully appreciate the changed character of war and the introduction of new technologies and how they’re going to change war.”
The general described that costs of subsequent wars has “an enduring lesson for all of us, [and] that one of our responsibilities as a leader is to appreciate the changing character of war, and ensure that we anticipate the changes and the implications of those changes.”
Alliances and partnerships
Dunford said the fact that the United States fought alongside allied countries for the first time during World War I resonates even today, as one of three lines of effort within the 2018 National Defense Strategy involves the nation furthering its alliances and partnerships with other nations.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Ellyn, visit the chapel at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial near the Belleau Wood battleground, in Belleau, France, Nov. 10, 2018.
(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“If you look back at the 20th century, [in] every conflict we were involved in, we participated as part of a coalition, participated with allies and partners on our side: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the main skirmishes that we had in between,” he emphasized. “And … the NDS recognizes that we certainly don’t anticipate being on any future battlefield without allies and partners.”
During his two-and-a-half days in Paris, the chairman participated in the 100th Armistice Day commemoration at the Arc de Triomphe with President Donald J. Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, and some 80 other heads of state.
He also attended ceremonies at World War I gravesites of U.S. servicemen at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood in Belleau, France; and Suresnes American Cemetery outside Paris.
Dunford noted some key leaders of World War I, but emphasized, “For me, World War I is less about an individual leader and more about the individual doughboy. Many of them, [at] 17, 18, 19, 20 years old left home for the first time [and] in many cases came from rural America and never had seen anything outside of their hometown before they found themselves on the battlefields of France. And so what I’ve been mindful of all weekend … [is] just the young faces for every young doughboy lost in France.”
EUCOM Joint Color Guard carry the colors at Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)
Dunford found his tour of Belleau Wood on Nov. 10, 2018 – also the Marine Corps 243rd birthday – to be a solemn experience. Before touring the gravesites, he and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly laid a wreath in front of the chapel at Aisne-Marne cemetery, where the names of 1,060 U.S. service members, whose remains never were found, are etched in stone, high on the chapel’s interior walls.
At the hallowed grounds of the American cemetery and the adjoining World War I battlefield – where the Marine Corps played a key role in securing Allied victory and earned distinction for their tenacity during the battle – the chairman said he was moved by the profound loss that takes place in combat: The human toll.
At the 100th Armistice Day commemoration at Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, Nov. 11, 2018, Dunford said he was struck by the number of leaders who all came together to replicate what took place when the deadly war came to an end.
“It was very powerful to see them all there … and to have them representing their countries; and frankly, I think in many ways making a commitment never to repeat the mistakes that led us into World War I,” the chairman reflected. “I think it was a reminder probably for all of us, and certainly those senior leaders in uniform, of the responsibility that we have to avoid the mistakes of the past.”
President Trump recently signed an executive order that will defer payroll taxes for all employees, including service members, from Sept. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020. The move was made to increase the funds federal employees have over the next few months so they will be able to help stimulate the economy, and to help with any financial burdens caused by COVID-19, according to the memorandum.
“This modest, targeted action will put money directly in the pockets of American workers and generate additional incentives for work and employment, right when the money is needed most,” Trump stated in the August guidance to the Secretary of the Treasury.
The payroll tax deferment only applies to those who make $4,000 or less per paycheck, or less than $104,000 per year. In military terms, this applies to the ranks of E-1 up to O-4 if no additional income is applicable.
The complicated nature of payroll taxes and the lack of guidance on implementation has created confusion for many. The memorandum put out by the president does not address if the deferment is mandatory for federal employees, and some tax experts believe that businesses may continue withholding the taxes from employees simply because it will be too complicated — and expensive — to change payrolls for just a portion of their employees.
As of Sept. 1, Defense Finance Accounting Services had not sent any notification to service members or DOD civilians in regard to payroll taxes being withheld over the next few months. DFAS confirmed in an email response they would begin deferring payroll taxes on Sept. 12 and continue to defer those taxes until the end of the year. Defense Department Federal employees, including service members, do not have the option to opt-out of the deferment program.
It is unclear if non-DOD employees themselves can opt-out of the deferment, or if they can pay the deferred taxes back ahead of tax season to avoid a hefty tax bill in the new year.
It has to be repaid
It is important to think of the payroll tax deferment as simply a “tax loan.” Although Trump said in an earlier press conference that he would like to make this deferment permanent, which would require an act of Congressional approval, it currently stands that any payroll tax funds that go into a federal employee’s pocket for the next few months will have to be repaid by Apr. 30, 2021, according to IRS Notice 2020-65.
For service members, this means any money withheld on a LES under the “social security” tab would compound and has to be paid back using tax form 1040 when filing taxes.
This can lead to a hefty tax bill for service members, right after Christmas, especially if they do not set that money aside to be repaid during tax season.
The purpose of the payroll tax deferment is to provide relief for those in need, Lacey Langford, The Military Money Expert®, stated in an email.
“If you need the money to pay your bills, then yes, spend it on your bills. Do not spend in on wants like trips or new clothes. If you don’t need the money, it’s best to put it aside in a savings account,” Langford said.
DFAS will participate in the tax deferral program
The offices of Management and Budget (OMB) and Personnel Management (OPM) also confirmed via email DFAS will start the deferment of payroll taxes this month.
“Partnering with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), DFAS will implement the guidance according to the expectation that all Federal Civilian Payroll Providers will act in unison. As such, no Payroll Providers, Departments/Agencies, nor employees will be able to opt-in/opt-out of the deferral. The elimination of the withholding of employee deductions for the applicable employees will be effective the second paycheck in September, pay period ending September 12, 2020. DFAS will defer the Social Security (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance or OASDI) employee deductions for all employees whose gross social security wages that are less than ,000 in any given pay period through the end of 2020. The deferrals will apply to all federal employees making less than 4,000 per year, or ,000 per pay period. In the short term, federal workers will see an increase in take-home pay, but absent action by Congress to forgive the debt that is effectively incurred on employees, workers will likely be expected to pay that money back sometime next year.”
Service members should check their LES bimonthly to see if social security is deferred and plan appropriately to pay those taxes back in the new year.
In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.
The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.
It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.
The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.
With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.
After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.
“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.
For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.
The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.
Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.
At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.
While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.
“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.
After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.
“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”
Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.
Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.
In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.
“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”
The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.
Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.
“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”
And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.
Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.
“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”
Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.
In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.
Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.
“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.
While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.
In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.
(US Army photo)
“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”
The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.
The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.
“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, sustained massive damage from a 70-ton crane falling on it after an accident at a shipyard, Russian media reports.
The Kuznetsov, a Soviet-era ship already known for having serious problems, now has a massive 214 square foot hole in its hull after a power supply issue flooded its dry dock and sent a crane crashing down against it.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov, is a floating hell for the crew
“The crane that fell left a hole 4 by 5 meters. But at the same time … these are structures that are repaired easily and quickly,” Alexei Rakhamnov, the head of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, told Russian media.
“Of course when a 70-tonne crane falls on deck, it will cause harm,” Rakhmanov continued, according to the BBC. “But according to our initial information, the damage from the falling crane and from the ship listing when the dock sank is not substantial.”
The Trump administration has agreed to delay joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next month, the Pentagon said Jan. 4.
A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Rob Manning, said President Donald Trump agreed to the delay in consultation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“The Department of Defense supports the President’s decision and what is in the best interest of the ROK-U.S. alliance,” Manning said, referring to the U.S. defense treaty with the Republic of Korea.
The decision pushes back a set of annual military exercises known as Foal Eagle, which normally are held between February and April. Foal Eagle is a series of exercises designed to test the readiness of the two countries’ militaries. North Korea routinely objects to such maneuvers as a rehearsal for an invasion.
The Jan. 4 decision came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reopened a key cross-border communication channel with South Korea for the first time in nearly two years.
In a tweet early Jan. 4, Trump claimed his tough stance on nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula is helping push North Korea and South Korea to talk.
Trump tweeted, “Does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong, and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North.”
Earlier this week, Trump seemed open to the possibility of an inter-Korean dialogue after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare overture toward South Korea in a New Year’s address. But Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations insisted that talks won’t be meaningful unless the North is getting rid of its nuclear weapons.
The overture about talks came after Trump and Kim traded more bellicose claims about their nuclear weapons.
In his New Year’s address, Kim repeated fiery nuclear threats against the U.S. Kim said he has a “nuclear button” on his office desk and warned that “the whole territory of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear strike.”
Trump mocked that assertion Tuesday evening, tweeting: “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Ever since Eugene Ely became the first person to take off from — and land on — a ship in 1911, naval aviation has forged a unique identity within the American military. They fly, but they’re not the Air Force. They’re sailors, but only some of them never drive ships.
With a record of accomplishment in peace and war, they have a few things to brag about. Some of them might even surprise you.
1. The U.S. Navy is the second largest air force in the world.
Judged on number of airplanes, the U.S. Navy is the second-largest air force, not just in the United States, but in the entire world. It has over 3,700 aircraft — far fewer than the U.S. Air Force’s 5,500 but more than the Russian Air Force’s 3,000 planes. That is, at least until Vladimir Putin buys more.
2. They were the first Americans in WWI.
The first American military force to arrive in Europe after the United States entered World War I was the 1st Naval Air Unit, commanded by Lt. Kenneth Whiting (Naval Aviator #16, who had been trained by Orville Wright… yes, that Orville Wright).
3. They completed the first crossing of the Atlantic by air.
Naval aviators must have decided riding colliers across the ocean wasn’t such a good deal because not long after the war, they started figuring out a better way to make the crossing. In May 1919, the Navy’s flying boat NC-4 made the transatlantic flight. Departing from Long Island with an unscheduled stop in Massachusetts, Lt. Cmdr. Albert C. Read and his crew routed via Halifax and the Azores before arriving in Lisbon eight days later.
It was the only plane out of three that started the journey to make it, the other two made forced landings along the way. Commander Read would later call it, “a continuous run of unadulterated luck.”
4. U.S. Presidents are naval aviation alumni.
Naval Aviation came of age in World War II, when — thanks, in part, to the Imperial Japanese Navy — the aircraft carrier replaced the battleship as the Navy’s most important capital ship. Future-President Gerald Ford served with ship’s company on USS Monterey, a light carrier, while George H. W. Bush flew missions from the decks of USS San Jacinto.
When Bush earned his Wings of Gold, he was the youngest pilot in the Navy. He was shot down in September 1944 and rescued by a submarine. His son would later become the first American president to make an arrested landing, flying in an S-3B Viking and trapping aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.
5. Naval Aviation in the Space Program.
The Navy has been well represented in space, too. Four of the Mercury Seven — America’s first astronauts — wore Wings of Gold. Alan Shepard, who flew F4U Corsairs before becoming a test pilot, was the first American in space. John Glenn, a Marine pilot (hey, they wear the same wings) who flew in WWII and Korea, was the first American to orbit the earth. He’d later be the oldest person — and, so far, only sitting senator — to fly in space.
And how about Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon? You guessed it — he flew in the Navy, too, taking the F9F-2 Panther to war in Korea. Jim Lovell, who commanded the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, flew Banshees and Demons before graduating first in his class at test pilot school. Eugene Cernan, the commander of Apollo 17, was the last man to walk on the moon; he bagged over 5,000 hours and 200 traps flying the FJ-4 Fury and A-4 Skyhawk.
And when NASA was ready to take their new hotness — the Space Shuttle — out of the atmosphere, who did they trust? Two Naval Aviators. John Young and Robert Crippen both flew from carriers before becoming test pilots.
If you find yourself near the gulf coast of Florida, you can visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation to learn more. Its director, Captain (retired) Sterling Gillam, and historian, Hill Goodspeed, graciously offered their time and expertise in helping with this article.