The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Red Flag has become an icon of training exercises for pilots. No, it didn’t get the Hollywood-blockbuster treatment of Top Gun, but the main Operation Red Flag, located at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, has, arguably, become the premiere exercise in recent years.


The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft conducts a mission over Afghanistan May 28, 2008, after receiving fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft. The KC-135R is assigned to the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing deployed from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The original idea behind Red Flag was simple: During the Vietnam War, the Air Force realized that many of the pilots they lost were downed in their first ten missions over enemy territory. So, they realized if they could simulate a war and give a pilot their first ten “missions” in peacetime, the loss rate would go down. As the low loss rates of Desert Storm, Allied Force, and the War on Terror have shown, the idea’s worked pretty well over the years.

Other countries have also taken up the idea. Israel runs a version of Red Flag, called Blue Flag, in which American units have taken part — and have had nothing but rave reviews to share afterward. The Dutch have their own version of this exercise as well.

According to Scramble Magazine, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is going to host Frisian Flag 2018. The magazine also noted that Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcons will fly alongside planes from five NATO allies: France, Germany, Spain, Poland, and the United States of America.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
French Air Force Mirage 2000D multi-role fighters will take part in the Dutch version of Red Flag. (RAF photo)

France is sending a mix of Mirage 2000D and Rafale multi-role fighters, Germany will send some Eurofighter Typhoons, Poland is sending MiG-29 Fulcrums and F-16C Fighting Falcons, Spain is sending F/A-18 Hornets, while the United States is sending F-15C/D Eagles from the Oregon Air National Guard. The exercise will take place in the middle of April, with privately owned, German A-4N Skyhawks (formerly of the Israeli Defense Forces) flying as the aggressors.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
Poland will be sending MiG-29s to Frisian Flag 2018. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Julian Herzog)

It sounds like this Flag could be very interesting — but we’re going to recommend the pilots stay away from a certain locally-legal product.

Articles

This is how Coast Guard snipers fight drug runners

Snipers serve in all branches of the military — including the Coast Guard. That may surprise some, and even more astonishing is that the Coast Guard snipers shoot to kill — engines, that is.


The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville trains off the coast. This is a demonstration of warning shots fired at a non-compliant boat. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)

These personnel, known as “airborne precision marksmen,” serve with the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, or HITRON. According to GlobalSecurity.org, HITRON has ten MH-65C Dolphin helicopters, which replaced eight MH-68A Stingray helos.

The target these “airborne precision marksmen” must hit with fire from M107 .50-caliber rifles measures about sixteen inches by sixteen inches. That infamous thermal exhaust port was larger, but the MH-65Cs are not moving as fast as an Incom T-65 X-wing.

They also take their shots much closer.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
A precision marksman-aerial with the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team, home based at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, prepares to engage a target in a required training exercise on his Barrett .50 sniper rifle. (DOD photo)

According to the video below, HITRON has stopped over 161 tons of cocaine from entering the country, worth over $9 billion. So, take a look and see how these marksmen stop the narcos.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened to Argentina’s lost submarine

The loss of the submarine ARA San Juan this past November is the most significant loss of a submarine since an explosion sank the Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine Kursk in 2000. All 44 sailors aboard the German-designed Type 209 diesel-electric submarine were lost when it went on eternal patrol.


The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

ARA San Juan pierside.

(Photo by Martin Otero)

It took over four months, but the story of what happened to the San Juan was finally revealed in August of 2018. According to a report by TeleSurTV.com, the submarine suffered a fire in her forward battery compartment on Nov. 15, 2017, after seawater went down the submarine’s “snorkel.”

The crew of the sub fought the fire for two hours as the submarine descended. The vessel then reportedly imploded, instantly killing all 44 sailors on board. Claims that the submarine was in poor material condition were denied by the Argentinean Navy. A massive rescue effort, which included a Lockheed P-3 Orion and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon from the United States Navy, went on for weeks before the search was called off.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

USS Cochino (SS 345) departing on her last mission. One civilian engineer was killed when she was lost, as well as six sailors from USS Tusk (SS 426).

(U.S. Navy)

In the years after World War II, the United States lost two Balao-class diesel-electric submarines. In 1949, USS Cochino (SS 345) suffered a pair of battery explosions that sank the ship despite a 14-hour effort to save the vessel. One civilian engineer on the Cochino and six sailors from USS Tusk were lost.

In 1958, USS Stickleback (SS 415) was taking part in a training exercise when she lost power, broached the surface, and was rammed by the John C. Butler-class destroyer escort USS Silverstein (DE 534). Efforts by the crews of both vessels, plus the submarine USS Sabalo (SS 302), the destroyer escort USS Sturtevant (DE 239), and the submarine rescue ship USS Greenlet (ASR 10) to save the Stickleback failed. The sub sank, but all aboard were rescued.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army fast tracks new howitzer that can out-reach Russia

The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.

The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.

Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.


“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.

“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Marines fire an M777A2 155 mm howitzer.

(United States Marine Corps photo)

As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.

The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.

The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.

ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-off range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago – its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets – such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet – all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round.

In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.

In early 2018 statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers, and satellite navigation systems, the report says.

Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.

While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control, and target technology.

“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.

Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.

Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.

In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”

Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.

Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenets informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.

Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.

After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.

In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.

Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.

“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”

Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Georgia is ready to commit to be a NATO ally

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has told RFE/RL that his country can “commit to joining [NATO] today,” saying that his country has “fulfilled basically every requirement” needed to become a member of the alliance.

Speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12, 2018, where the leaders had a first-ever meeting at the level of heads of government with Georgia, Margvelashvili said his country was “ready” to join and added, “We are standing here [ready] to become NATO members so the question [if we can join the alliance] is to [be answered by] the NATO member countries.”


The leaders of the 29-member alliance adopted a declaration at the end of the summit stating, “we reiterate the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest [NATO] summit that Georgia will become a member of the alliance.”

The declaration added, “we recognize the significant progress on reforms which Georgia has made and must continue to make, which are helping Georgia, an aspirant country, progress in its preparations towards membership.”

However, there was no mention of when Georgia can join NATO or when the alliance will offer Tbilisi a Membership Action Plan (MAP).

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

2018 NATO summit in Brussels.

A MAP is a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a country in line with NATO standards and to eventual membership. The process can take several years.

Like at previous summits, some European countries were hesitant to open the door to Georgia now, prompting Margvelashvili to note, “we have to reach that consensus because this is not only a security organization but it is a democratic organization and you need the support of each country.

“So we have to convince them that NATO, Europe and the United States will be safer and better when Georgia becomes a NATO member.”

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

Articles

This is how the Special Forces turn North Carolina into Afghanistan

Welcome to Pineland, the fictional country made up of more than 20 North and South Carolina counties — including Alamance — that US Army Special Forces students will infiltrate to overthrow its oppressive government.


Students at the US Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, based out of Fort Bragg, and role-players will conduct training missions during the exercise, dubbed “Robin Sage,” such as controlled assaults, but also live, eat, and sleep in civilian areas, according to a Fort Bragg news release.

The Army notified local law enforcement agencies, said Randy Jones, spokesman for the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office. This is something the Army has done several times a year for many years,” Jones said.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
Army photo by Sgt. Derek Kuhn, 40th Public Affairs Detachment

“We just know they’re in the area and how they’re flagged,” he said.

Students will wear civilian clothes only if instructors determine the situation warrants it and then will wear distinctive armbands, according to Fort Bragg, and training areas and vehicles used during exercises will be clearly labeled.

Service members from other units at Fort Bragg will support the exercise by acting as opposing forces and guerrilla freedom fighters — Pineland’s resistance movement. Civilian volunteers throughout the state also act as role-players.

Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares, according to the release. Controls are in place to ensure there is no risk to people or property.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
A US solider treats a role-player while another watches for the use of proper procedures, during the Robin Sage exercise. Photo from public domain.

The Army has been conducting Robin Sage since 1974, but it has not always gone smoothly.

In August 2002 a Moore County deputy, who didn’t know Robin Sage troops were in his area, shot and killed one army trainee and wounded another. The soldiers, who were dressed in civilian clothes, were shot after they tried to disarm the deputy, who they thought also was part of the exercise.

US Army officials have since modified the exercises to make the public and law enforcement aware of what is happening, and to make sure troops know how to deal with civilians and civilian authorities.

Residents with concerns should contact local law enforcement officials, who can contact officials in charge of the exercise.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what soldiers should expect from the new Army Greens

The Army has been tossing around the idea of adding another uniform to their wardrobe for a while now. During last year’s Army-Navy game, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey wore an updated version of the classic, WWII-era “Pinks and Greens,” which had many people predicting the iconic uniform would be making a comeback. Well, now it’s official.

The Army announced the upcoming addition of new Army Greens on November 11th and with it comes a whole slew of information that soldiers need to know.


The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Say what you will about the garrison cap, but it does bring back a bit of style back to the uniform.

(U.S. Army)

First and foremost, they’re not called “Pinks and Greens” like the old WWII-era uniforms. These are called, simply, “Army Greens.” It seems like someone finally got around to realizing that the beige-colored shirt and pants aren’t actually pink.

While the Dress Blues will still act as a soldier’s dress uniform and the OCPs will still be used in the field or deployment, the Greens will be worn during duty hours while the soldier is stationed in garrison stateside or outside the continental US, like in Germany or South Korea.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Get ready for uniform inspections on a near daily basis everyone…

(U.S. Army)

The biggest concern that a lot of soldiers have about the new uniform change is the price — which is entirely understandable. The Army has said that the change in uniform is “cost-neutral” and won’t be coming out of tax payers’ pockets.

That being said, enlisted soldiers will need to buy them using their annual clothing allowance. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dailey told the Army Times in September that they are doing everything in their power to keep the costs low. Even still, it’s going to cost a bit for the average Joe.

Since it’s a duty uniform, the average soldier will need at least three sets to make it through the week before doing laundry. It will also require that soldiers spend more time preparing their uniforms for the next day, setting their ribbon racks right, shining their shoes, and keeping everything ironed. This could also off-set “hip pocket training” from being more sporadic as leaders would be less willing to mess up perfectly good uniforms.

Take that as you will.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

I speak for all Army veterans when I say “F*ck yes!” to that jacket.

(National Archives)

Costs and effort aside, there are a lot of positives coming with this change.

First off, the slight variations in the uniform seem poised to revive a strong sense of pride in the Army. It hasn’t been officially mentioned yet, but it seems as though airborne and Rangers will still wear their berets instead of the garrison cap. Units authorized to wear jump boots will wear those in lieu of the brown leather oxfords. The Greens also allow for more choices for female soldiers, as they can choose between pants or a skirt and pumps or flats.

Also, the new Greens will supposedly feature an “Ike-style” bomber jacket that goes over the Greens — and that’s badass.

New soldiers will receive Greens in basic training by summer 2020 and it’ll be entirely mandatory, service-wide, by 2028.

As with most uniform changes, it’ll probably look better on the soldiers that take the initiative and start buying them as soon as they hit the PX in summer 2020.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Help reunite these WWII enemies who became best friends after the war

A crowdfunding campaign has launched to reunite two World War II veterans who fought against each other during the war and became as close as brothers after the war. The mission is to bring the two World War II veterans together again for a mini-documentary in Normandy, France.

They fought each other in Tunisia, Africa; however, they reunited decades after, and became friends, even as close as brothers. Sadly, there is not much time left, it may be even the last opportunity to do so. Graham lives in the United Kingdom and Charley in Germany, with their health decreasing and them getting older each day, it may be the last opportunity to have them meet again. But with your help, they may be able to reunite one more time and have their last encounter and story told in a mini-documentary.


This is their story


In late March 1943, Allied and Axis forces prepared for one of the fiercest battles of the World War II African campaign near Mareth, Tunisia. It was here, where after four months on the run, Rommel’s Africa Corps took one of its last stands. Enclosed on one side by rocky, hilly terrain and the Mediterranean on the other, capturing Mareth proved a difficult proposition for the British Eighth Army.

In order to outflank the Axis forces, the British 8th Armored Brigade, along with New Zealand infantry swung southwest and then north through an inland mountain pass to attack the Axis troops from behind.

They ran into the German 21. Panzer Division. Karl Friedrich “Charley” Koenig, only newly arrived in Tunisia as a 19-year-old officer candidate, waited for his first combat as a loader in a Panzer IV of Panzer-Regiment 5.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
‘Charley’ Koenig

Across the hardscrabble Matmata hills, Sherman tanks of the Sherwood Ranger Yeomanry Tank Regiment readied themselves for the attack. In one sat machine gunner and co-driver Graham Stevenson. Graham had fought at the battle at El Alamein and bailed out of a tank as a 17-year-old. Taking part in the hard fighting all along the way from Alamein through Tunisia, he had just barely reached the tender age of 18.

On March 23rd, Panzer Regiment 5 and the Sherwood Rangers tanks stalked one another and engaged in individual tank battles. Shells whistled loudly by Charley’s tank, his experienced commander advising calm. Their Panzer IV would not be knocked out on this day, but it would not be for long.

The next day, a radio signal warned the Germans of an incoming RAF Hurricane IID tank buster attack. Scrambling out of their Panzer IV, Charley’s crew moved side-to-side as Hurricanes swept in from all directions at nearly zero altitude firing their powerful 40-millimeter cannon.

An accurate Hurricane pilot hit the rear of the tank, shortly before a lone British artillery shell, fired out of the blue, made a direct hit on their front deck. A half-track arrived in the night to tow them to the be repaired. Charley was now out of the way, while Graham and his crew took part in the Tebaga Gap battle on March 26th, the Shermans and the Maori infantry inflicting a severe mauling on the 21. Panzer-Division.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
Graham Stevenson

Graham survived Africa and returned to England with the Sherwood Rangers to train in Sherman DD swimming tanks for the invasion of Normandy. Due to a slight disagreement with a commanding officer that landed him in the guardhouse, he came in on Gold Beach, Normandy a bit later than his Sherwood Ranger comrades.

In his first day of hedgerow fighting, untested and frightened infantrymen escorting his tank fled under fire, leaving Graham and his tank commander to conduct their own reconnaissance. Just steps outside of his tank, Graham was hit and nearly killed by German machine gun fire. As an artery bled out, his life hung on a thread. Luckily, a nearby aid station saved his life. But his war ended there.

Charley’s career ended in May, 1943, when he was taken prisoner by the Americans and transported to camps in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Belgium, and England before returning home in 1947. Even decades later, he could never forget the war in Africa, and his honorable opponents.

In 1991, he sought out the Sherwood Rangers and found Ken Ewing, head of the southern branch of the Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association. It wasn’t long before they became like brothers. After Charley attended ceremonies for the regiment in Normandy and Holland, he was invited in as a member of the Association, where he was accepted wholeheartedly by the remaining British World War II veterans, including Graham, who was in the same tank crew with Ken.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
Graham and Charley in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
Graham and Charley in Bayeux

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
On Gold Beach, the German bunker which stood in the way of the Sherwood Rangers’ entry into Normandy still stands sentinel. On that spot this June 6th , the Sherwood Rangers dedicated a plaque to the tankers who fought and died to take this beach.

Now, Graham and Charley are the only members of Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association left alive who fought in Africa 75 years ago. Their friendship, which has transcended the brutality of war to reveal that mutual respect, healing, and reconciliation can exist between former enemies, sends a powerful message to future generations.

Heather Steele, Founder and CEO of non-profit organization World War II History Project, has launched a $25,000 crowdfunding campaign to make this reunion and filming of a mini-documentary happen. You can help make this possible — I’ve spoken with Heather and she’s incredible passionate to make this happen. There are various perks available for your kind donations from getting personalized postcards from the Veterans to flying in a WWII bomber or riding a tank!

Click here to Donate to the Crowdfunding Campaign!

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how you thank someone for their service

In 2006, Gina Elise decided to support the United States’ war effort by finding a creative way to help hospitalized veterans. She created a calendar inspired by World War II nose art — and in the thirteen years since, she has devoted herself to the military community. From donating tens of thousands of dollars in medical equipment, to visiting thousands of vets at their bedside in hospitals all over the country and overseas, to supporting Gold Star Wives and military families, she has been a beacon of light for service members and their loved ones.

And this week, Mike Rowe and his team decided to return the favor in a major way.

If you’ve never heard of Pin-Ups for Vets, this moving episode of Returning the Favor is a perfect introduction to Gina, her ambassadors, and some of the inspiring veterans she has impacted along the way.

Here’s your feel-good moment of the week:



Pin-Ups for Vets

www.facebook.com

I dare you not to cry:

Gina was informed that a production crew wanted to film a documentary about her organization. She had no idea that this was actually for the Facebook show Returning the Favor, hosted by Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs, Somebody’s Gotta Do It). The show highlights “bloody do-gooders” and presents them with a gift that will support the great work they do.

For Gina, it wasn’t too far off from her normal routine: pamper some vets and military spouses with thank you makeovers, visit service members at a local hospital, and swap stories at the American Legion. You’d never know from her bright smile and picture-perfect look how much work she put in behind the scenes to coordinate all the activities.

That’s the thing about Gina — she’s one of the most generous and hard-working people out there, especially when it comes to supporting the troops.

I should know — I’m one of the vets whose lives she has changed.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Dani Romero, Gold Star Wife.

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Adrianne Phillips, U.S. Air Force Veteran

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Lindsey Stacy, spouse caretaker

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Jessica Hennessy-Phillips, Army veteran

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Mary Massello, wife of career Navy sailor

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

“One of the things we do is morale-boosting makeovers for military wives and veterans,” begins Gina, who has seen firsthand the effect a pin-up makeover in particular can have. There’s something about it that feels a little extra special, from the classic look dating back to a heroic time in our nation’s military history, to the bright colors, to the inherent playfulness that comes with a flower in the hair.

Female veterans have said it helped them reclaim some of the femininity they put aside in the military. Spouses and caretakers often set aside their own needs but being pampered for a day helps them restore their energy and health.

Even Mike Rowe got on board with a…transformation…of his own!

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Mike Rowe and Navy wife Mary Massello have some fun on set!

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

If you can’t tell from this photograph, Rowe is as playful and kind as he is the professional host America has come to love. His altruistic show is a great match for him — every minute of Gina’s week, he was full of energy, genuinely interested in the stories the service members had to share, and perfectly tight-lipped about the surprise he had in store.

More: Pin-Ups for Vets brings out the bombshell in a military caregiver

“What do you need?” he asked Gina.

“I’ve always wished that we had a big sponsor that would sponsor the rest of the tour so we could meet our goal of visiting all fifty states and veterans across the country,” she confided.

Neither Rowe nor his crew even blinked. Talk about well-practiced poker faces.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Smiles abound when Gina is in town!

(Image by Shane Karns. Hair and Makeup by Ana Vergara. Dress by Voodoo Vixen.)

Navy Vet Jennifer Watson tends the bar at the American Legion post in Pomona where she shared what it was like being among the first women to serve on an aircraft carrier.

“It was very hard. It was very discriminatory. You cannot help but want to be active in the fight for everybody to get what makes us equal,” she shared. “I think everybody should do a little bit of service for their country so that you understand what it is to sacrifice.”

Also read: Pin-Ups for Vets proves women can be strong AND feminine

Rowe also sat down with Josephine Keller, one of Gina’s ambassadors and a 26-year Air Force air medic. Keller was there on 25 June 1996 when Khobar Towers was bombed in Saudi Arabia. It was her first deployment and one she’ll never forget. Rowe asked her how many lives she saved. With the kind of humility that leads me to suspect the number is both very high and also tempered by the number of lives lost, Keller responded, “I was part of a team, so we have touched thousands.”

Finally, it was time for Gina to feel appreciated.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

American Legion Post 43 Adjutant and Army Veteran Dianna Wilson was the “Insider” for Gina’s big surprise.

“Gina thinks we’re continuing the photoshoot at a second location, but that’s because we lied to her!” Rowe winked. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, the veteran community was gathered for a celebration. Gina is graceful and the epitome of class, even when she has absolutely no idea what’s really happening.

Which makes it that much more meaningful when Rowe finally revealed the true intention of the week. When he handed Gina the check for ,000, her reaction was completely genuine and had every person in the lot in tears — and I guarantee a few more were shed at home.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

“Thank you so much for helping us to continue what we do. This is a team effort. Thank you guys for supporting this vision that I have to give back. You give me the strength to keep going. From the bottom of my heart, I love you so much and I couldn’t do it without you, so thank you,” shared Gina, as eloquent as ever — in spite of the shock.

“Print more calendars than you think. I’m not kidding. You’re gonna sell a bunch,” suggested Rowe, who accurately predicted that people from all over the country would be eager to buy one.

At a calendar, there’s really no reason not to.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukrainian president says compensation offered by Iran for shooting down airliner not enough

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said in televised remarks that Iran offered $80,000 per victim after it shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet on January 8, but that Ukraine did not accept the offer because “it was too little.”


Zelenskiy added in comments made on Ukrainian 1+1 television that “of course, human life is not measured by money, but we will push for more” compensation for families of the victims.

Air-defense forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 shortly after takeoff in Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran has said the downing was an accident, and in mid-January said it would send the black-box flight recorders to Kyiv for analysis.

However, Zelenskiy said that Ukraine had yet to receive the recorders, and that Tehran had instead suggested that Ukrainian specialists fly to Iran on February 3 to examine the black boxes.

“I’m afraid that the Iranians might attract our specialists and then say, ‘Let’s decipher [the recorders] on the spot,’ and then say, ‘Why do you need the black boxes now?'” Zelenskiy said.

“No, we want to take these boxes [to Ukraine],” he added.

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

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Why I’m thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.


The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
Heyyyyy Valkyrie…
(Thor: Ragnarok by Marvel Studios)

The reasons why are threefold:

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1. This movie is for *me*

I am the target demographic for this film, and I have been ever since my 8-year-old self cuddled up with nerdy/amazing hero novels, like The Rowan or The Song of the Lioness. I have been devouring epics featuring female heroes for as long as I can remember.

So have all the other women out there thirsting for heroes that look like them. Seeing representation on film and television empowers the people who are watching. This is why it’s so important and exciting to have women and people of color finally stepping into hero roles.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Full Metal Obsession.

(Warner Bros.)

2. I know the military world

I joined the military after 9/11 (probably as a result of the aforementioned hero literature). I wanted to literally fight evil. I was an Air Force captain, much like ol’ Captain Marvel herself. As a result, I’m very critical of how military women are portrayed in TV and film.

Edge of Tomorrow got it right. My list of who got it so, so wrong is too bitter to share here, but if your character wore a push-up bra, then you’re on it.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=916&h=1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1&size=980x&c=1121216279 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D916%26h%3D1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1121216279%22%7D” expand=1]

Yeah, she played Envy. Amazing, right?

3. I know the casting world

I’m an actor and filmmaker. I understand that Hollywood has to take some artistic liberties. I understand that a big name means selling-power for a film. I also understand the work it takes to bring a character to life.

I’d literally stab someone for love the chance to play a role like Captain Marvel — whoever they cast better make me so delighted to watch that I forget my debilitating FOMO about not playing the part myself.

Well guess what, Marvel? YOU NAILED IT.

Brie Larson has been on my radar since the effing fantastic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

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She’s been on the world’s radar since her Oscar-winning performance in Room. Larson is the kind of actor who effortlessly morphs into a world. She is extremely natural on-camera.

Also, she’s just cool.

In the comics, Carol Danvers is an Air Force officer whose DNA fuses with a Kree, giving her superhuman powers. I don’t know how the MCU will bring her story to life, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that screenwriter Anna Boden will take a cue from comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who pitched “…Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.”

Obviously, the filmmakers are keeping pretty tight-lipped about the upcoming 2019 film, but Larson has been sharing little peeks at her training along the way, including work with the actual U.S. Air Force.

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This is a good sign — whenever there is a military film, my first question is who are the service members involved? (FWIW: I always prefer for the answer to be veterans who have transitioned out of the military and into professional careers in the entertainment industry)

Larson has also shared a glimpse at her physical training for the role.

Pull-ups take me back to jump school. Good times….

I believe that she could be powerful. I believe that she could be a leader.

Larson is lovely, but her looks don’t define her. She doesn’t need to be glamorous (though she surely can be when she wants to). This is the same mindset that women in the military have. There’s a comfort level with sacrificing some femininity for the mission. That’s what Hollywood gets wrong so often when they hyper-sexualize their military roles.

But not this time. Marvel crushed it with Larson, and I cannot wait to see this film.

I’m also going to lose my mind if we catch a glimpse of her in Avengers: Infinity War.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why your future bunkers might be made of wood

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but they’re also great building materials. And the Department of Defense is eyeing a return to stick-based construction in some places where it currently uses concrete and similar materials. Fire and blast tests have already gone well, and the Army is working with universities to test its performance against ballistic weapons.


It’s all thanks to a new material that all the cool architects are talking about: cross-laminated timber. The footnotes version on this stuff is that it’s timber assembled in layers, and each layer is placed at 90 degrees from the previous one.

So, think of a Jenga tower, but with lots of glue so the blocks don’t slide apart. Believe it or not, this actually creates a super-strong structure, so strong that architects are certain they can make skyscrapers with the stuff, though buildings of about five stories are the norm right now and the tallest completed so far is 14 stories.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Believe it or not, this is a passing fire test. Cross-laminated timber passed the test for fire resistance, but organizers were a little disappointed that it never self-extinguished. It was hoped that as the wood charred, which greatly reduces its flammability, the flame would run out of fuel.

(YouTube/Sisekaitseakadeemia)

But the Pentagon isn’t eyeing the material for tall office structures, or at least not exclusively for that. They allowed the Forest Products Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to test CLT structures against blasts. Yeah, they want to know how the buildings will do against bombs.

The FPL has already tested the material when set on fire, when exposed to extreme moisture, and when shaken as it would in an earthquake. The wood did great in the earlier tests, but the military didn’t want to adopt new materials that would get destroyed the first time a big, bad wolf tried to blow it up.

The blast tests were done in 2016 and 2017 at Tyndall Air Force Base. This was before the hurricane wiped out many of the base’s structures (which were not CLT).

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

That blast looks stronger than the Big Bad Wolf, but somehow, the stick-buildings are still standing.

(Air Force Civil Engineering Center AFCEC, Tyndall Air Force Base)

The wood performed well during the tests, flexing and twisting in some cases but—in most of the tests—surviving the blasts. The panels did rupture during the final test, a test designed to overwhelm the timbers and push them well beyond their design limits. But even then, the buildings were safe to enter and walk through.

Now, Georgia Tech in Atlanta is working on a ballistics test with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The tests are slated to include additional blast testing as well. So, yeah, the Army wants to figure out whether it makes tactical and strategic sense to have wood buildings and structures, even in some places where it might currently use concrete.

All-in-all, CLT is a promising material for the military, and it’s achieved a lot of acceptance in the civilian world. It’s much better for the environment than concrete, which releases CO2 both in production and construction, and steel, which is energy intensive to mine, smelt, forge, and ship.

Timber, in contrast, actually removes carbon from the atmosphere as it’s created and grown, and it’s very lightweight, so it doesn’t cost as much fuel to move the material.

Currently, though, the material is quite expensive to purchase as there are only a few manufacturers making it. Prices are expected to come down over the next couple of decades. An ambitious plan for a 7-story building is slated for completion in 2041, partially because building right now would require that the builders buy up all available CLT, making the project cost as much as double what normal construction would.

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This airman is one of only 9 to receive Air Force Cross since 9/11

Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.


It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.

And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”

On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.

Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.

The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.

Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.

Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.

“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”

According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.

The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise

Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.

“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”

Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.

“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”

Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.

All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.

On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.

“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”

Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.

In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.

According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.

The Netherlands is launching its own massive aerial combat exercise
Calling in close air support is a pretty baller move. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.

There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.

Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.

Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.

Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.

Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”

“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”