The guilt of a Gold Star friend - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The guilt of a Gold Star friend

It was Nov. 10, 2010 — the Marine Corps birthday. I was sound asleep and having another nightmare. I’d been having them randomly for years; PTSD does that to a person. Lately, the nightmares seemed real and more consistent.


My husband had recently deployed for his 4th combat deployment. A Platoon Sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Mike was in what was considered at the time to be the deadliest place in the world: Sangin, Afghanistan.

I was about to be diagnosed with some serious medical issues. While I waited for test results, I spent my days and nights in those early stages of deployment hiding that from everyone. I was alone with three children under 6-years old, and 50+ wives and mothers and families, all of whom depended on me to be strong and healthy.

Of the 50-something man platoon my husband was with, none but three had ever been in combat aside from him. Not even his lieutenant.

The wives were having issues with the Family Readiness Officer, and so the saltier wives took over helping the less experienced ones. It was very much like the beginning of the Iraq war for us — unreliable contact, unreliable information, unreliable family readiness program, unreliable EVERYTHING.

In short, it was a sh*t show just shy of becoming a sh*t storm.

So, I was having another nightmare. Somewhere in the distance I could hear knocking. A phone ringing. Was someone saying my name?

In my dream, Mike was whispering “Katie, answer the phone. Katie, get the door.” He coughed, his face contorted in pain. “Katie… Katie… Katie…”

I pulled out of a groggy, medication-induced sleep, and picked up my phone.

“Uh huh,” I muttered into the phone.

“Katie!” the frantic screaming felt like a bucket of ice water being thrown over me. “Katie, they’re at the door and I don’t know what to do!”

I jumped out of bed. “Who’s at the door,” I asked the young wife on the phone, my mini-me. At barely 19 years old, Katie Stack was my overly dramatic, neediest Marine’s wife, and she was a GD headache. I loved her, but I really wanted to knife hand her most days.

“The- the men! In blues! A chaplain!” I could tell that Katie was on the verge of outright collapse. Her voice was near hysteria. I could hear her movements; she was practically rushing around in a circle halfway through the house, screaming mostly incoherently, trying not to look at the men standing, knocking on her door.

“Sweetheart,” I said softly, “Is Joanne home?” Joanne was Katie’s little sister, and I knew that Katie was home in Chicago visiting family. I’d had to update the FRO just days prior in case something happened. In case she needed to be notified of…

“She is, but she’s just a kid!”

“Sweetheart, put your sister on the phone and go answer the door, you have to.” I waited for Katie’s little sister’s voice to greet me.

“Hello?” came the tiny, terrified, barely-a-teen, voice. In the background I could hear a sob, a wailing. Men talking gently.

“Joanne, honey. Where’s your mom?” Katie and Joanne’s mom, a school administrator, would’ve already left for work, I assumed.

“She’s at work. Miss Foley, there’s men at the door named CACO and they’re saying scary stuff about James…”

“I need you to go hand the phone to the men at the door, go upstairs and get your phone, and call your mother right now.”

“What’s going on Miss Foley?”

“Hon, I need you to do this right now and then you have to come back down stairs and sit with Katie until your mother gets there. Tell your mom it’s an emergency, and that CACO are at the door. Run now.”

The next voice I heard was deep and somber.

“Mrs. Foley, are you near Chicago that you could get here within the next few hours? Mrs. Stack is going to need you.”

“I’m in California. I’ll take the next plane, but her mother is en route now. Do you guys stay with the widow? She has stress related seizures, she can’t be left alone like this. There’s a baby in the house…”

My mind was running a mile a minute-

Get to Chicago, get childcare for my three kids, reschedule my upcoming doctors appointments, shoot an email to Mike- God is Mike okay? No time for that. Someone will come to my door if he isn’t.

I hung up and went to my kitchen, rushing around, pushing dishes into the sink, starting a pot of coffee, pulling my V-neck tee all the way on as I’d run out of my room with just one arm in the sleeve. Suddenly, I stopped moving.

“Katie, something’s happened to James! I can feel it. Something terrible, I just know it.”

The conversation from just the day before replayed in my mind as if the two of us were standing in front of me in my kitchen.

“Katie!” I’d angrily snapped at her. “God! James is fine. You’re fine. Everyone is FINE! Sh*t! Calm down.”

The scene played over and over until I leaned against my wall and slowly slid to the cold kitchen tile.

She’d called me multiple times a day, every day, from the moment our husbands had left. She’d wailed and cried and complained. She’d tried to send a Red Cross message when he was in pre-deployment training because she’d gotten a headache one night.

I’d finally lost my freaking mind and hollered at her.

“James is fine.”

The words repeated over and over.

“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”

Over and over.

“James is fine.”

Every time the words played again, I could feel my heart tighten. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. My chest hurt. I couldn’t feel my arm. My vision was going out.

“Mama?” a tiny voice called out from the top of the steps.

I crawled across my kitchen floor and peered around the bottom of the steps.

“Yeah?” I smiled up at my son at the top of the stairs, his pudgy little fingers gripping the baby gate.

“Lub you. I go back to bed now,” the 3-year-old ginger smiled at me from the top of the steps before skittering back to his bed.

I laid down on the tile right there between my kitchen and dining room and just sobbed.

“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”

James Bray Stack was killed in action by a sniper on Nov. 10, 2010, in Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

“James is fine.”

He left behind a wife and baby daughter, Mikayla.

“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”

He competed in the Junior Olympics in 2008, taking the Gold.

“James is fine.”

His daughter was 1 year and 7-days-old, and it was one year and four days after my father died.

“Everyone is FINE…”

Everyone is not fine.

I have, since that morning in 2010, been both wracked with guilt and rattled to my core. I’d never experienced combat deaths from the wife side of the field. When Marines died, it was Marines I knew. I didn’t know their wives. I knew them because I’d served with them. I’d ridden to boot camp with them or worked with them in an S3 shop somewhere or left Camp LeJeune on a bus with them at some point.

When Marines I knew died, I simply felt bad for their wives. But then again… I didn’t yell at them.

“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”

Years later, Katie would tell me what she remembered from that day. “It was November,” she’d tell me. “The Marine Corps birthday. James would’ve liked that.”

That’s all, really. She doesn’t particularly remember me yelling at her the day before. She doesn’t really remember most of it.

We are closer friends than most of either of our friends. She calls me out of the blue sometimes, and I text her every few random months to check in. But she isn’t far from my mind, ever. I stalk her on Facebook to make sure she’s okay, and she stalks me on Facebook to make sure I’m still married.

I haven’t seen her in five years. Sometimes I hear my words “Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.” in my mind and I feel like I’m being crushed. I might never stop feeling guilty about that.

“Is there such a thing as survivor’s guilt when the other person survived as well?” I asked my therapist one day.

“Yes. All that is required for survivor’s guilt is that you be dealing with some level of PTSD, and that the thing that happened did not happen directly to you. Stack’s death happened to his wife, not to you.”

“How effed up does that make me?” I asked her, laughing a bit at myself because it’s frowned on to laugh at other people.

“It makes you normal.”

“Other spouses feel like this?”

“They do.”

All these years, all this time, I thought I was alone in that. I thought I was some weird Marine/Marine wife hybrid that had gotten caught in the middle and was just short circuiting or something. But no. It’s normal.

We feel survivor’s guilt, too.

I wish I’d known that six years ago. I wish I’d known that it was normal, that there were other people who felt like I did. I could’ve been of far more use to other spouses, Gold Star and the others.

But most of all, I wish I’d known it was normal because maybe I could’ve helped Katie more.

MIGHTY TRENDING

WW2 Army dog receives posthumous medal for bravery

A U.S. Army dog that attacked a machine-gun nest during World War II was posthumously awarded Britain’s highest honor for animal bravery on Jan. 14.


Chips, a German shepherd-husky cross, was awarded the Dickin Medal for actions during a 1943 beach landing in Sicily. According to the U.S. soldiers, Chips raced into an Italian machine-gun nest, attacking an enemy soldier by the throat and pulling the gun from its mount.

The medal was awarded by veterinary charity PDSA in a ceremony at the Churchill War Rooms in London. The honor was accepted by 76-year-old John Wren of Long Island, New York, whose father donated Chips to the war effort in 1942.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
Chips, a U.S. Army dog, meets Eisenhower. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Lt. Col. Alan Throop, who attended on behalf of the U.S. Army, said that shortly after the battle Chips was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. The awards were later rescinded because army policy didn’t allow animals to receive medals.

Chips suffered scalp wounds and powder burns in the battle but survived the war, returning to his owners in Pleasantville, New York.

Also Read: 7 tales of heroism for cat people sick of all the military dog stories

The medal was awarded on the 75th anniversary of the Casablanca Conference, at which British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt plotted wartime strategy. Chips served as a sentry at the conference and met both leaders.

“It has taken over seven decades, but Chips can now finally take his place in the history books as one of the most heroic dogs to serve with the U.S. Army,” PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said.

Since 1943, the Dickin Medal has recognized gallantry by animals serving with the military, police, or rescue services. Recipients include 33 dogs, 32 messenger pigeons, four horses, and a cat.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why United States NASA, China, and UAE are all going to Mars at the same time

NASA just launched its Mars rover Perseverance, along with its first interplanetary helicopter, perched atop an Atlas V5 rocket.


But NASA wasn’t alone….In the past two weeks, space agencies from China and the United Arab Emirates also launched missions to Mars.

These spacecraft will travel over 400 million kilometers before all reaching their destination around February 2021.

But in the past 13 years, only seven rockets sent missions to the red planet. So, why are so many attempts to reach Mars all happening right now?

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Army officer is gunning for his next Olympic bobsled medal

The most senior military member on the U.S. Olympic team likely has stories for days. Aside from being a veteran bobsledder, he’s an Army captain in military intelligence.


Chris Fogt, 34, of Orange Park, Florida, is about to head to his third and likely final Olympics. He earned the bronze medal in Sochi in the four-man competition.

Like New York Army National Guard Sgt. Nick Cunningham, Fogt was also a track star before turning to the ice. He was a sprinter at Utah Valley University before he was recruited to bobsledding in 2007.

At that point, he’d been in the Army for two years — a choice he made, in part, because of his dad’s 33 years of service as a reservist.

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Fogt discusses what it’s like to be a Soldier and to train six days a week preparing for the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Photo by U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)

After competing in the 2010 Vancouver Games, Fogt deployed to Iraq for a year to help train Iraqi intelligence agencies on how to track terrorists via technology. He said with the help of the World Class Athlete Program, he was able to train full-time while there so he could stay in contention for future bobsled competitions.

“There is no way I would be as successful in this sport without the military’s support,” Fogt said in a 2013 Army interview. “I feel like the Army’s training and experience has made me mentally strong and drives me to excel. Being around Soldiers, both in and out of the World Class Athlete Program, always inspires me to strive for excellence.”

Fogt took about three years off after competing in the Sochi Olympics. But last year, while three-quarters of his battalion was deployed to Kuwait, he stayed behind in the U.S. because he was the rear detachment manager. So, he decided to get back into bobsledding.

Also read: This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

That decision has paid off, since he’s heading to one more Olympics. Fogt said after Pyeongchang, he plans to go back to the Army full-time.

Fogt has a degree in business management and is married with two kids.

Good luck to him and all our military Olympians!

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 items to make your field exercise less miserable

Let’s face it; no one actually likes going to the field. Round-the-clock operations, sleeping on the ground, and spending way too much time with the people you work with can take its toll. Next time you prep for the field, be sure to consider bringing these items to make your field experience a little more bearable. Just be sure that they’re not contraband. Sergeant Major yelling at you is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.


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Mags, check. Plates, check. Gloves, check. Jetboil, check (Jetboil)

1. Portable stove

In most cases, a portable stove is an approved item to bring to the field. One of the most common stoves is the convenient Jetboil. Available in a variety of sizes and powered by easily-packed fuel canisters, Jetboil stoves can be used to boil water to warm MREs, cook instant ramen, make coffee, and even shave with (just be sure to boil more water and wash it out afterwards). Also, be careful operating it so that you don’t end up like Cpl. Ray Person after Rudy’s espresso machine went off like a 40 mike mike (if you know, you know).

The guilt of a Gold Star friend

They fold flat and can easily be stuffed in an assault pack (Rothco)

2. Folding stool

Look, laying in the prone for hours sucks, especially if the ground is cold, wet, and full of bugs. Some grunts and snake eaters live for that sort of thing, but for those of us that don’t, there’s the folding stool. When you come off the line and into the center of the patrol base for some chow, a stool to sit on is a simple luxury that can make all the difference. Plus, you won’t have to fight with your buddies over who gets to sit on the few remaining unopened MRE boxes. You didn’t hear it from me, but you might even consider popping a squat on your folding stool while pulling security. Just don’t get caught.

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Maybe bring a spare pack for your buddies (Pampers)

3. Baby wipes

This one is almost a given, but you’d be surprised how often troops forget their baby wipes. If you do forget them, you’d better hope your buddies are willing to share theirs. Otherwise, it’s the MRE napkins for you. Aside from helping you answer nature’s call, baby wipes also provide the cooling relief of a “field shower”, which can be all you need to unwind after a day of patrols. If you’ll be wearing face camo during your time in the field, consider packing makeup wipes as well. They’re better suited for cutting through the thick and waxy face paint than regular baby wipes.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend

The Iceman knows the value of a can of Beefaroni (HBO)

4. Civilian food

Again, this one is almost a given. That said, packing lists can sometimes explicitly forbid bringing any type of food, so read yours carefully…or just hide your food well. Sunflower seeds can help relieve boredom when you’re static for hours on end, beef jerky can keep you going during those long foot patrols, and a can of Chef Boyardee (heated with your portable stove) might be the morale boost you need to make it through the final days of your op. Need a convenient way to carry your food while having it easily accessible? Consider adding a magazine dump pouch to your kit. Just don’t let First Sergeant catch you pulling gummy worms out of it.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend

The famous Gulf War Gameboy is completely original (Nintendo)

5. Nintendo Gameboy

Or really, whatever portable game system you want. I’ve seen everything from PSPs in sunglasses cases to a Switch stuffed in a Crown Royal bag. That said, an old-school Gameboy offers you an easily concealable platform, absurdly long battery life, and the chance to beat the Elite Four again. A Gameboy can also be quickly switched off and shoved into your pocket or an empty mag pouch if you see your squad leader coming towards your position.

By no means is this an all-encompassing list. Really, the best items to bring with you on a field exercise are the things that will make you happy, whether that be a book, a photograph, or fuzzy socks to sleep in. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, pay attention to your packing list…and your surroundings.


Articles

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

Veterans are likely to play a significant part in what has been called “the Moon shot” in cancer research — the plan announced by President Barack Obama last week for a cancer fight effort to equal the country’s determination to put a man on the moon during the 1960s.


Fittingly, the veterans’ role in the cancer Moon shot, as well as in scores of other research projects into illnesses that impact vets and non-vets alike, will be doing something they were prepared to do back in their active duty days: shed some blood.

“When they realize that this could help other veterans most of them volunteer right away” when asked, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said during a visit to the VA Medical Center in Boston on Friday, when he toured the lab and growing biorepository.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham | U.S. Navy

The VA project, called the Million Veterans Program, predates the cancer Moon shot by six years. Its goal is to collect blood samples — and with it the DNA — of at least a million veterans, and use it to research illnesses, including at the genetic level.

“This is fascinating what they’re doing here,” McDonald said. “The whole role of genomics will be huge in, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted you to see this, because I think the work of the Million Veteran Project underscores the importance of genomics in the Moon Shot in eradicating cancer.”

It is veteran-centric, for sure, and already is being used in alpha and beta projects that focus on veteran issues, according to the VA.

The veterans’ blood samples, informed by medical health records that, depending on the veteran, may go back 20 or more years, could hold the key to understanding causes and discovering treatments and cures for myriad illnesses. The VA is looking at some 750,000 genetic markers that medical researchers believe could be linked to illnesses that plague veterans, ranging from cancers to heart disease, kidney disease to post-traumatic stress disorder.

To date, the effort has collected close to 445,000 vials of blood, each one spun in a centrifuge prior to storing to divide red cells, white cells and plasma. The vials are kept in an oversized refrigeration unit within a lab at the hospital.

Although the project name suggests it will store a million samples, it will continue to grow the biorepository as long as there is funding support and vets who volunteer.  There is storage space for several million samples. During a tour of the lab, McDonald climbed a ladder to look into the storage site, where a robotic arm, kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, plucked newly deposited vials one at a time from small containers and moved them into trays that were then automatically transferred into the unit and stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius.

“When I do my recruiting speech to try to attract people to VA, this is exactly the issue — come be on the cutting edge, the tip of the spear [in medical research] that can make a difference in so many people’s lives,” McDonald said.

The department has spent about $130 million on the program since it began laying the foundation for it in 2010. Its nearly 445,000 samples have come from nearly 245,000 veterans. It currently is getting in about 100,000 samples per year, which means it will hit the million mark around 2022.

They hope the speed that up by opening the program to active-duty personnel. The VA estimates that would add an additional 25,000 samples a year to the collection and perhaps allow them to reach one million by 2020, said Dr. Mary Brophy, director of the biorepository.

Because the donations are for research purposes, neither the VA nor the Defense Department can simply request use of a veteran’s or service member’s blood for the project.

Donors — strictly veterans right now — may volunteer for the project at a number of VA sites across the country. In signing up, they are told their blood and medical information will be shared with researchers and that they may not benefit directly or immediately from any of the research.

But their identities are masked on the samples, so that researchers do not know whose blood or DNA they are working with. For its part, the VA does retain a link between the sample code and the veteran so that changes in health or long-term effects of drugs and medications can be incorporated into the veteran’s research profile.

While Britain began building its own biorepository before the U.S. and currently has more samples –about 500,000 — the VA is quickly catching up and will pass that number.

It’s not only because the veterans have volunteered in such large numbers, but because VA has been able to build the computing capacity to handle the data.

“It’s not just the samples, it’s the informatics platform. The reason VA can do that better than anyone … is that we have an electronic health record,” she said. “We have the health record already in a data base, and it’s been around for 20-30 years.”

The British Health System — it does not have a separate system for veterans – is largely decentralized, with many medical records still in paper form and residing in doctor’s offices across the country.

Not only has an existing data base of electronic records and a willing veteran population allowed VA to rapidly build its biorepository, it has already provided the VA enough samples and data to launch several research studies of benefit to veterans.

The projects include cardiovascular risk factors among African American and Hispanic Americans, to determine how genes influence obesity and lipid levels affect the heart; an examination of genetic risk from chronic use of alcohol, tobacco and opioids; and a study into how genes affect the risk and progression of kidney disease — a major risk factor for veterans, according to researchers.

The biorepository is essentially one-stop shopping for a specific patient cohort and control group for any research institution wanting to investigate an illness or try out a new drug, according to Brophy.

“If I want to do a study in Gulf War Illness, before I would have to go out and find all these patients with Gulf War Illness, do it myself, Then get the samples, store it and send it out” to research lab, she said. The biorepository eliminates those time-consuming steps, she said, by making VA the go-to place for medical researchers.

Now, she said, if a research lab needs 5,000 patients with Gulf War Illness, it can get that cohort from the VA, as well as a control group without Gulf War Illness.

“The infrastructure is there to do key PTSD research, Gulf War Illness research. The hard work of getting people together, knowing who has Gulf War Illness [is done],” she said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

Military uniforms have been made from a variety of fabrics over the years: Cotton, wool, polyester blends… all have had their turn as what uniforms are made of. Now a new spin on one of the oldest fabrics could come into play.


That fabric, of course, is silk, which first entered the scene in China almost four millennia ago. Only this isn’t the silk that is used for the high-fashion dresses you see on the red carpet. That is from silkworms. According to a report from Marketplace.org, this silk is from spiders.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
A female spider wraps her prey in silk. (Wikimedia Commons)

Okay, before you get carried away – no, this is not quite like the Spider-Man suits. The key, though is that the spider silk is strong. It has to be. Spider silk makes webs, which spiders usually use to catch food.

There’s just one problem. You need a lot of spiders to make silk, and spider’s just don’t get along with each other. We’re not talking things that can be worked out. Face it, when the critters you are counting on to produce material try to eat each other, productivity’s gonna be taking a nosedive. That doesn’t get the uniforms made.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
A small piece of artificial spider silk produced in a lab. (Wikimedia Commons)

So, the answer has been to genetically engineer silkworms to produce spider silk. This is not the only method in operation. Michigan State University researchers have figured out how to make a silk-like product from the deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, of spiders, and DNA sequencing is becoming much cheaper than it was in the past.

Either way, the material that is produced will have far more applications than the Kevlar used in the uniforms of present day. The spider silk could also be used to make protective underwear as well as improved body armor. That’s good news for the troops.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran’s ‘new’ fighter jet is actually part of a smart strategy

Iran drew widespread ridicule when it revealed that its supposedly “state of the art” and domestically designed and built new “Kowsar” jet fighter was really a 1970s US design with a fresh coat of paint — but according to an expert, the plane has an untold purpose that could save the Iranian air force.

What Iran billed as a “100% indigenously made” fourth-generation fighter with “advanced avionics” immediately registered with aviation experts as a knockoff of the F-5 Tiger, a US jet that first flew in 1959.


Iran still has a few F-5s and even F-14s in its inventory from before the Islamic Revolution, when it maintained relations with the US.

Joseph Dempsey, a defense and military analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, tweeted a useful comparison.

After the debacle of Iran’s latest entry into the world of fighter aircraft, the supposedly stealth Qaher-313, which appeared too small to even lift its pilot off the ground, many aviation watchers saw Iran’s Kowsar project as another failure or propaganda project for domestic consumption.

But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the real Kowsar project isn’t the F-5 Tiger reboot, but a new system of avionics simply parked in the F-5 as a placeholder.

Iran failed to produce the real Kowsar project by the date of the announcement, so it instead jammed the new avionics and software into an F-5, the defense analyst Babak Taghvaee tweeted.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend

The tiny Qaher-313.

(ali javid via Youtube)

Bronk said the real Kowsar wasn’t a fighter at all, but a jet trainer and a light attack plane that could save Iran’s air force.

The state of Iran’s air force

“The Iranian air force is an interesting mix,” Bronk told Business Insider. “They’re, unquestionably, extremely good at making use of older equipment against endless predictions” that those systems will break down — for example, Iran still flies US-made F-14s and F-4s, while the US abandoned those airframes decades ago.

But somehow, Iran, even under intense sanctions designed to ensure it can’t get spare parts from the US, keeps them flying.

“Given the state of their economy and the embargoes, that is pretty impressive,” Bronk said.

Even with the impressive feat of workmanship that is an Iranian F-14 flying in 2018, when asked to describe Iran’s air force’s fighters against a regional foe like Saudi Arabia, Bronk said that “‘hopelessly quaint’ would not be too far off the mark.” Matched against Israel or the US in air power, Iran sees its chances sink from bad to much, much worse.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend

An Iranian F-4 Phantom II armed with an AGM-65 Maverick.


But besides quaint aircraft having no chance against upgraded Saudi F-15 gunships, Iran has another problem in its shortage of pilots and trainer aircraft, which is where the real Kowsar comes in.

“Iran has been relying for a long time on basically a bunch of increasingly old veteran pilots, a lot of whom were trained by — or were trained by those who were trained by — the US before the revolution,” Bronk said.

Therefore, Iran needs to drum up its own indigenous fighter-pilot training program — and that’s the real purpose of the Kowsar: to train the next generation of Iranian fighter pilots.

“It’s not a bad play,” Bronk said. “It makes the most of the limited technology options they have.” Meanwhile, according to Bronk, Iran’s Gulf Arab enemies have ignored domestic training and had to bring in mercenaries from other countries.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia needs more mercenaries to go fight in Syria

After a massive battle that multiple reports cite as resulting in hundreds of dead Russian military contractors, Russian job listing websites are reportedly offering more high-paid work in the “security” field.


A Ukranian website posted several screenshots from Russian job listing websites offering high-paid but vague jobs for those willing to work on “security” projects abroad, and reported that such listings have spiked sharply in February 2018, when the battle took place.

More reading: Thousands of Russian private contractors are fighting in Syria

The ads seek recruits with good physical fitness who can go on “business trips” to Ukraine or Syria for about three months. Russia stands accused of sending “little green men” or military contractors without proper Russian military uniforms or affiliation, to wage war in those two countries.

Multiple reports state that Russia’s reason for using military contractors in Syria, where it is fighting against insurgents who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad, is to conceal the true cost of the war to Russian servicemen.

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Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. (Image Kremlin)

But the conditions for the contractors are reportedly bleak. Hundreds of Russian mercenaries were reportedly routed in a battle with US airpower, against which they were defenseless. Alleged leaked audio from Russian paramilitary commanders captures them lamenting the unwise battle, and expressing humiliation at their sound defeat.

Also read: Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

Russian officials admit to only a few Russian nationals dying in battles, and several dozen wounded, but all other reporting of the battle portrays severe losses for the pro-government side, which many say was mostly Russian.

A Russian paramilitary official recently told France24 that he had 150 men in freezers in Syria as “minced meat,” and that their mortal remains won’t even be returned to their family until after Russia’s presidential election in March 2018. The official, however, said that now Russian men were volunteering not for money, but for revenge.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the Week of Jan. 1

It’s finally 2018. One year closer to that sweet blended retirement.


Just kidding, it’s not sweet. Never trade a guaranteed pension for some goofy plan that depends on the market.

If you’ve already opted in, console yourself with these memes. Remember, if you don’t laugh, the terrorists win.

13. If Game of Thrones was set in the modern day (via USAWTFM)

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…and Westeros also built by the lowest bidder.

12. Time to call a 20-year E7 (via Pop Smoke)

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He doesn’t care what Country Captain Chicken tastes like.

11. Reason number 3,469 why I didn’t join the Navy (via Decelerate Your Life)

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If you’re cold, they’re cold.

10. How staff NCOs are raised (via Salty Soldier)

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
Maybe ITT Tech was a bad idea.

9.  The flattest flat tops in North Korea are reserved for one man (via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
She’s a keeper.

8. L-T: “Don’t push this button” (via Air Force Memes Humor)

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
Respect my rank!

7. Google it (via Coast Guard Memes)

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
Bet you did Nazi that coming.

6. Accept who you are

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
We would also accept dip and an empty bottle to spit in.

5. There just aren’t that many in MXS

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
But when you find one…

4.”I’m never gonna use this, I’m joining the Army” (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
Grab a calculator.

3. Reason number 245,091 to leave the Middle East (via Pop Smoke)

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
Everything else is also terrible.

2. You can tell he’s not still in because he appreciates a chuggable red (via Pop Smoke)

The guilt of a Gold Star friend

1. There’s some disagreement about where the Army’s pit of misery is

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
Fort Polk disagrees.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Koreans shot one of their own soldiers as he tried to defect

North Korean soldiers shot at and wounded a fellow soldier who was crossing a jointly controlled area at the heavily guarded border to defect to South Korea on Oct.13, the South’s military said.


North Korean soldiers have occasionally defected to South Korea across the border. But it’s rare for a North Korean soldier to defect via the Joint Security Area, where border guards of the rival Koreas stand facing each other just meters (feet) away, and be shot by fellow North Korean soldiers.

The soldier bolted from a guard post at the northern side of Panmunjom village in the Joint Security Area to the southern side of the village, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. He was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital, the South’s Defense Ministry said. It wasn’t immediately known how serious the soldier’s injuries were or why he decided to defect.

South Korean troops found the injured soldier south of the border after hearing sounds of gunfire, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity, citing department rules. South Korean troops didn’t fire at the North, he said.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend
A North Korean soldier stands guard at a missile test site.

The defection came at a time of heightened tension over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and could escalate animosities between the rival countries. North Korea has typically accused South Korea of enticing its citizens to defect, something the South denies.

About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most travel through China.

Panmunjom, once an obscure farming village inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, is where an armistice was signed to pause the Korean War. Jointly controlled by the American-led U.N. Command and North Korea, the DMZ is guarded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops, razor-wire fences and tank traps. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.

American presidents often visit Panmunjom and other DMZ areas during their trips to South Korea to reaffirm their security commitment to the South. President Donald Trumpplanned to visit the DMZ to underscore his stance against North Korea’s nuclear program when he came to South Korea last week as part of an Asian tour, but his plans were thwarted by heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing at the border area.

Read More: North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

At Panmunjom, North Korean soldiers wearing lapel pins with the images of late North Korean leaders often use binoculars to monitor visitors from the South. They stand only several meters (yards) away from tall South Korean soldiers wearing aviator sunglasses and standing motionless like statues. This makes the area a popular stop for visitors from both sides.

Areas around Panmunjom were the site of bloodshed and defection attempts by North Koreans in the past, but there have been no such incidents in recent years.

The most famous incident was in 1976, when two American army officers were killed by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers. The attack prompted Washington to fly nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ in an attempt to intimidate North Korea.

In 1984, North Korean and U.N. Command soldiers traded gunfire after a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of the truce village. The incident left three North Korean soldiers and one South Korean soldier dead. In 1998, a North Korean solider fled to South Korea via Panmunjom.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The B-1 bomber’s anti-ship missile can slay multiple targets

The U.S. military is prepping for anti-surface warfare to make a comeback, and it’s moved one step closer with another successful test of the latest air-launched, Long Range Anti-Ship Missile.

Lockheed Martin Corp., the missile’s manufacturer, recently launched the AGM-158C LRASM from a B-1B Lancer at Point Mugu Sea Range, California, the company said.

The aircrew “simultaneously launched two LRASMs against multiple maritime targets, meeting the primary test objectives, including target impact,” Lockheed said in a release.


The guilt of a Gold Star friend

Once launched from the aircraft, the missile — based on the, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, or JASSM-ER — will be able to autonomously sensor-locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.

The estimated $1.5 billion Navy program is also being tested on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Also Read: The Marines are looking for a few good ship-killing missiles

“This continued success with LRASM provides confidence in its upcoming early operational capability milestone, putting a proven, unmatched munition into the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force inventories,” said David Helsel, LRASM program director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

“The successful flight demonstrates LRASM’s continued ability to strengthen sea control for our forces,” he said in the release.

The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1B in August.

The guilt of a Gold Star friend

“The B-1 is the only Air Force platform scheduled to receive this, and we are the threshold platform for [it],” Maj. Jeremy Stover, B-1 program element monitor and instructor weapons systems officer, told Military.com in July.

The weapon will enhance not just the B-1, but the U.S. military’s targeting capabilities while protecting at-risk assets in a high-threat environment, Stover said. The B-1 may be capable of carrying more than 20 LRASMs at a time.

The Air Force is scheduled to integrate LRASM onboard the B-1B in 2018 and the Navy on its F/A-18E/F in 2019, the release said.

Articles

Lawmakers want some aircraft carriers moved to Florida

Florida’s congressional delegation has restarted its campaign to move a Norfolk-based aircraft carrier to Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville.


In a March 20 letter to Jim Mattis and acting Secretary Sean Stackley, the legislators argued — as they have in the past — that homeporting all the East Coast carrier fleet in Hampton Roads is dangerous.

“The risk to our current and future carrier fleet far exceeds the one-time costs of making Mayport CVN capable,” wrote the state’s 29-member delegation.

Members of Virginia’s congressional delegation who serve on House or Senate armed services committees said in statements Wednesday the huge cost of building shore facilities needed to keep at carrier at Mayport are prohibitive.

“I think it is inconceivable to consider spending almost a billion dollars on replicating a capability that already exists in Norfolk,” said Rep. Rob Wittman, who heads the House panel’s seapower subcommittee that oversees Naval operations. “As I consider options as to how to build a 355-ship , I can think of any number of other critical investments that are more important to the war fighter than building redundant infrastructure in Mayport.”

Senator Tim Kaine, a member of Senate Armed Services, agreed.

“Moving a carrier to Florida would cost a lot, stripping money away from other key defense priorities, without advancing our most pressing security goal. That is why past efforts to do this have always failed,” said the Virginia Democrat.

Left oken by both Florida and Virginia lawmakers is that hosting carriers represents a huge economic boost to a homeport. With the ship comes thousands of sailors, construction projects and lucrative support operations.

Mayport had once hosted conventionally-powered carriers, including the now-retired John F. Kennedy and Forrestal. However, all of today’s carriers are nuclear-powered, requiring more sophisticated base operations.

The Florida legislators argued the “over leverages risk to our carrier fleet” with one Atlantic homeport — particularly because it’s located near Newport News Shipbuilding, the sole builder of carriers.

“Not only are our operational CVN (carriers) in jeopardy, but our future capital ships under construction are practically co-located, risking tens of billions of dollars of assets as well as our ability to project power abroad now and in the future,” Florida legislators wrote in the letter, which was posted on Sen. Marco Rubio’s website.

Wittman contends the risk is overblown.

“In times of emergency, there are a multitude of ports available on the East Coast to support an aircraft carrier,” he wrote. “Furthermore, deep carrier maintenance would still be at Newport News.”

Hampton Roads is currently home to six carriers. Assigned to Naval Station Norfolk are the Harry S. Truman, George H.W. Bush, Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Washington.

The Abraham Lincoln has been at Newport News for a three-year, mid-life refueling and overhaul that is to be completed by early summer. The George Washington is slated to enter the private yard in August to begin its three-year overhaul.

The newest carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, is nearing completion at Newport News and expected to delivered to the in the spring.

President Donald Trump has said he wants to enlarge the carrier fleet 12 but has not offered specifics of how it would be funded or possible future homeports.

The , which has been required by law to have 11 carriers, has been operating with 10 for several years — with congressional approval. It will be back to 11 when the Ford is delivered.

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