ISIS-linked militants in the Southern Philippines have conducted a series of violent clashes with government forces, killing at least 7 soldiers but suffering the loss of over a dozen fighters.
The militants come from at least three separate groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS. One of the smaller groups launched an attack on a small army outpost on Mindinao, an island in the southern Philippines. The Philippine Army repelled the attack and then countered, killing 12 militants but losing six of their own soldiers.
Despite Philippine forces finding ISIS flags, bandanas, and other items on the battlefield, other experts assert that the Philippine groups’ allegiance to ISIS is just a ploy for the Islamic State’s money and weapons.
“It really has nothing to do with ideology,” Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College, told reporters. “This is all about resources.”
The groups involved in the worst of the fighting have existed for years longer than ISIS, and their violence has been going on for years.
It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.
Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.
The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.
As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.
At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.
“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.
With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.
Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.
By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.
Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”
Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.
The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.
“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”
For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.
Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.
His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.
Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.
Feature image: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.
Vietnam-era Marine and Hue City veteran John Ligato once remarked that the most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is the 19-year-old pissed off Marine. In the case of John J. Kelly, he couldn’t be more right.
Kelly joined the Marines in May 1917, just one month after the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany. The Chicago native was soon in France with 78th Company, 6th Regiment, 2d Division. That’s where he would earn the Army and Navy versions of the Medal of Honor — at the same time.
In October 1918, Kelly was in Blanc Mont Ridge in France, which the Germans occupied since 1915. The French were joined by two divisions of the U.S. Army and Major General John Lejeune’s 2d Division of Marines — including Pvt. John Kelly.
At the start of the near-monthlong battle, Kelly ran through no-man’s land, 100 yards ahead of an allied artillery barrage — straight toward a machine gun nest.
He chucked a grenade into the nest, killing one of the Germans. Then he took out the other using his sidearm.
The American advance at St. Etienne turned the tide of the Battle of Blanc Mont against the Germans. By Oct. 28, the area they occupied since the very start of the World War was now firmly in Allied hands.
Kelly was awarded both the Army and Navy Medals of Honor by General John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, in 1919. With the war over, Kelly left the military and returned to civilian life.
He returned to his native Illinois, where he died in 1957.
Much of the current conversation about warfare in the veteran community revolves around our involvement in the Middle East which appears to be drawing to a close at the end of its second complete decade. Many veterans have been busy producing works that address the legacy of the Global War on Terrorism and how it has shaped our most recent generation of veterans. But Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis have turned their sights to the future to speculate on what might come next.
What they have produced is 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, a fast-paced thriller set in the year 2034, told from multiple perspectives as the world finds itself on the brink of a war the likes of which have not been seen since the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth century. The novel attempts to merge present-day fact with an all too plausible future on a global scale. The effect is unsettling. It is wargames with literary flair and it wastes no time jumping into the action.
At the beginning of the novel, two seemingly minor occurrences kick off a chain reaction of events that quickly escalate to global proportions with dire consequences. Lines are drawn. Sides are taken. The United States finds itself enmeshed in its first conflict with a near-peer adversary in decades. As the conflict continues to grow, the numbers of casualties rapidly lose meaning demonstrating the sheer scale of the war. A few hundred sailors lost at sea in one chapter becomes thirty-seven ships sunk during battle in the next chapter which then becomes ten million civilians vaporized through the use of a nuclear warhead. The reader is engulfed by the catastrophic numbers and left feeling haunted.
What is immediately appealing about this novel is that it resists over-intellectualizing the politics at play. It is accessible and unpretentious in its approach. They accomplish this through the use of a vibrant cast of characters. Each one is fully realized with impressive brevity. The reader recognizes their motivations because they are the desires any person can relate to. Sarah Hunt, a Commodore with the United States Navy, laments the premature end of her military career due to a medical board’s unfavorable decision. A disgraced Brigadier General with the Quds Force of Iran meditates on the true meaning of a soldier’s death as he considers the scars left on his body and his soul from a career spent serving a government that does not appear to appreciate his sacrifice. Their plights are relatable. They are human. It is easy for the reader to feel they understand the characters and their individual struggles more so than the global conflict that consumes them. At the same time, Ackerman and Admiral Stavridis handle the narrative with such weight of authority that it feels as if the events have already occurred in history. It is clear they are writing from an informed perspective with extensive experience to back up their vision.
They portray the United States as a nation that has not learned from its mistakes. A nation that is too comfortable in its own opulence. The military is stymied by bureaucracy and betrays an over-dependence on technology to the point that these tools become obsolete through the use of cyber-attacks by the Chinese government before the halfway point of the novel. The Americans are burdened by their history and stifled by their own legacies. Readers are inundated with the names and trophies of past victories from bygone eras the country still clings to despite new threats bearing down on the nation. Many of the service members hold legitimate credentials but lack actual combat experience. The leadership is more concerned with what the public thinks rather than how to best retaliate. “Jesus! What will the country say?” exclaims the president after a large military defeat at sea which reveals her greatest fear: what others think of her. The novel makes a convincing argument that despite all the advancements of technology in the modern era it is still the men and women who control those devices that will decide the fate of our future.
What makes this thriller so powerful is that it is written from the inside of the characters’ lives. They come from diverse backgrounds and many represent powers greater than themselves that have malicious intentions in the global theater. Yet we are drawn to them because we understand their motivations as individuals. We are invited into their interior lives and through that landscape we are offered a glimpse at their humanity. And it is through their humanity that they become fully realized on the page. Regardless of their allegiances, readers find themselves wanting each character to fulfill their desires. Admiral Stavridis and Ackerman succeed by rendering a fully engrossing picture of a reality that is subtle yet poignant and might be just beyond the horizon.
World War II veteran Recil Troxtel turns 93 years old on April 17, 2019. He stares longingly out the window for much of the day, excited for the mail to arrive. When it finally does, he hops up in the hopes that there might be a personal letter or two, just for him.
With his birthday coming up, all he really wants is more mail. His fellow veterans and members of the military community are sure to step up and drop their friend Recil a line – right?
“He sits here in his chair looking out the window every day,” his daughter, Liz Anderson told KSWO, an Oklahoma ABC affiliate. “When the mail is here, he’s like the mail is here, we better go get the mail.”
Unfortunately, there’s not often anything in there for Recil. Now, the soon-to-be 93-year-old Oklahoma man is undergoing cancer treatment. His days of watching for the mail may be short, so maybe we shouldn’t wait for April 17th to roll around. Maybe we should send out greetings, letters, and good wishes to Recil right away. Send them to:
Recil Troxtel 2684 North Highway 81 Marlow, Oklahoma 73055
“I don’t get mail anymore,” Recil said. That’s about to change, buddy.
“It’s exciting when he gets it because he will sit there and hold it,” his daughter said. “Sometimes he won’t open it for an hour or two. Other times, he has a knife in his pocket, and he rips that knife out and rips that letter open to see what it is.“
His family tells KSWO that he didn’t always enjoy the mail, but he’s at an age now where receiving something doesn’t mean he’s getting a bill. It’s more likely a personal message.
DARPA is progressing toward its plan to demonstrate airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems, targeted for late 2019. Now in its third and final phase, the goal for the Gremlins program is to develop a full-scale technology demonstration featuring the air recovery of multiple low-cost, reusable UASs, or “gremlins.”
Safety, reliability, and affordability are the key objectives for the system, which would launch groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft while out of range from adversary defenses. Once gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.
A recent flight test at Yuma Proving Ground provided an opportunity to conduct safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system.
“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
In addition to preliminary flight tests, the team has focused on risk reduction via extensive modeling and simulation. The team looked at how fifth generation aircraft systems like the F-35 and F-22 respond to threats, and how they could incorporate gremlins in higher risk areas. The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages by reducing payload and airframe costs, and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.
The C-130 is the demonstration platform for the Gremlins program, but Wierzbanowski says the Services could easily modify the system for another transport aircraft or other major weapons system. Modularity has made Gremlins attractive to potential transition partners.
“We are exploring opportunities with several transition partners and are not committed to a single organization. Interest is strong with both the roll-on/roll-off capability of the Gremlins system — as it does not require any permanent aircraft modification — and a wing-mounted system to provide greater flexibility to a wider range of aircraft,” said Wierzbanowski.
Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds, and easily integrate technologies to address different types of stakeholders and missions.
DARPA recently awarded a contract to a Dynetics, Inc.-led team to perform the Phase 3 demonstration. The DARPA program team currently is exploring the possibility of demonstrating different sensor packages with potential integration partners prior to program completion in 2019.
In the first confirmed entry by Chinese government vessels into the area, two Chinese coast guard ships briefly entered Japanese waters July 17 off Aomori Prefecture, the Japan Coast Guard said.
A patrol vessel operated by the Japan Coast Guard confirmed the entry of the two ships into waters off Cape Henashi in the Sea of Japan from 8:05 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. The two vessels exited at around 9:40 a.m. after being issued a warning by the coast guard.
About two hours later, the two Chinese ships were spotted off Cape Tappi, also in the Sea of Japan, and exited around 3:20 p.m., the coast guard said.
The move follows the entry on July 15 of two Chinese coast guard ships into Japanese waters around two islands off Kyushu, also for the first time in that area.
Also July 17, four Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, the coast guard said.
According to the Japan Coast Guard’s 11th regional headquarters in Naha, the prefectural capital, the four ships — the Haijing 2106, the Haijing 2113, the Haijing 2306 and the Haijing 2308 — were present in Japanese waters at a point north-northwest of Uotsuri, one of the islets, for some 15 minutes from around 10:40 a.m.
The Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea are claimed by China, where they are known as Diaoyu, and Taiwan.
An Iraqi grandmother who leads a militia of 70 men fighting the Islamic State in the Salahuddin province to avenge the killings of her family members doesn’t mess around.
Wahida Mohamed Al-Jumaily, better known as Um Hanadi, started fighting al-Qaida in 2004 and later made ISIS the target of her war against jihadis. ISIS is responsible for the deaths of Um Hanadi’s first two husbands, father and three brothers, which she says justifies any means to kill them.
“I fought them, I beheaded them, I cooked their heads, I burned their bodies,” she told CNN.
Um Hanadi, 39, now says she’s at the top of ISIS’s most wanted list. Bombs have been detonated outside her house several times and she has received death threats from the group, including personal ones from leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“Six times they tried to assassinate me,” she told CNN. “I have shrapnel in my head and legs, and my ribs were broken. But all that didn’t stop me from fighting.”
The force is backed by Iraqi ground forces in the area, which provides the militia with weapons.
“She lost her brothers and husbands as martyrs,” Gen. Jamaa Anad, commander of Iraqi ground forces in the Salahuddin province, told CNN. “So out of revenge she formed her own force.”
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Ahhhh! Fall is officially here — even for you stationed in the South, still sweating away the Autumn months. Even if in theory, it’s a time for longer sleeves and cooler weather, and a season where we’re hopeful for regularly scheduled football games. So breathe it in, that crisp fall air, and take a look at some of our favorite fall-centric memes that the military has to offer.
On July 14, 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille prison in Paris.
The hungry and heavily-taxed people of France were furious with King Louis XVI. Tensions came to a head when 300 revolutionaries and mutinous troops attacked the Bastille, a royal fortress and political prison that symbolized the tyranny of the French king.
The military governor of the Bastille, Bernard-René Jordan de Launay, tried to defend the fortress, but was forced to surrender when a group of military deserters seized cannons and aimed them at the Bastille’s heart. He was then murdered by the angry mob before he could be arrested.
The fall of the Bastille marked the beginning of the decade-long French Revolution, which would kill tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife, Marie Antoinette.
The Bastille was torn down and, in 1792, the monarchy was abolished. Today, Bastille Day is celebrated as a national holiday for the people of France.
Permanent Change of Station has gotten more expensive, and the Department of Defense doesn’t know why. That’s the general findings of a report released by the Government Accountability Office last year.
Military.com reported earlier this week that the Defense Department would begin a review of the system that oversees military moves as a result of the report.
Accounting for inflation, the cost of a PCS was up by 28 percent between 2001 and 2014, capping at around $4 billion that year, or 3.7 percent of the overall military personnel budget.
The study found that “the services have not reported complete and consistent PCS data, thereby limiting the extent to which DoD can identify and evaluate” the current PCS system. It went on to explain that the Pentagon had not maintained required data nor required the services to independently maintain data that would help the DoD in determining how to reduce the cost of PCS.
PCS moves ranged on average from $2,289 to $13,336, with the Air Force spending the most on average per move and the Marine Corps spending the least.
In a review between services, the Marine Corps was most likely to accurately and consistently report PCS data outside of the direct cost of moving, i.e. the cost of temporary storage, lodging expenses, and tour extension incentive payments. The Air Force and the Army were least likely to report the data.
Because of the lack of proper reporting by the services and the DoD, the report found, it is impossible to determine exactly how to address the rising costs of PCS.
In addition to a lack of complete data on the cost of PCS, the report found that the DoD was not able to explain why personnel were not meeting “time-on-station requirements” because it had not required any of the services to maintain that data themselves.
Of the services who could provide any data on time-on-station requirements, the Air Force was most likely to have some data, and the Marine Corps was least likely to have any data.
The Government Accountability Office described four recommendations to improve the issue of rising PCS costs:
Improve the completeness and consistency of PCS data
Complete periodic evaluations of whether the PCS program is efficiently supporting DoD’s requirements for assigning military personnel… [and] identify changes in PCS per-move costs
Improve the completeness and consistency of data on exceptions
Improve the completeness and consistency of data on waivers
The Pentagon agreed most of the recommendations in the report, writing in its response, “We recognize the importance of improving the availability of information needed for effective management of the PCS program.”
Whether they are kept for a few weeks or a lifetime, animals in shelters and foster homes around the nation rely on dedicated and caring individuals that can help them find a forever home.
To ensure these animals receive the support they need, Air Force Capt. Daniel Hale, the officer in charge of plans and scheduling for the 563rd Operations Support Squadron here, and his veterinarian wife, Dr. Kristen Hale, decided to take on the responsibilities that comes with fostering rescue animals.
The Hales began their animal rescue efforts with their dog Squish.
“When I worked emergency, Squish came in at four weeks old after sustaining injuries from being trapped under a couch,” Dr. Hale said. “We decided to take him in as a foster and he’s been with us ever since.”
After adopting Squish into their family, the Hales continued to foster companion animals. In the past three years, the couple has fostered more than 20 sheltered pets.
Unfortunately, not all fostered pets in the care of the Hales are immediately adopted by families due to the medical condition of the animals.
“A lot of the pets we take in [have] specific medical needs,” Dr. Hale said. “Without a foster family to give them the individual attention they need, many of the animals would have never found homes because they would have been put down.”
Benny, a dog being fostered by the Hale family, rests on a couch in Vail, Ariz., May 6, 2017. Benny was fostered by the Hale family for three months before he was fully healed and adopted.
Thanks to the help of local rescue shelters, foster families don’t have to worry about paying for the medical expenses of the animals while the rescue pet is in the family’s care.
Because of the nature of some of these medical conditions, the time it takes to nurse the animals to full health can vary.
“We’ve had animals anywhere from three days to six weeks,” Capt. Hale said. “After we’ve made sure they are ready to be adopted, we get them as much exposure as we can through local rescue shelters to increase their chances of finding a family.”
Because of the efforts of families like the Hales, shelter adoption rates have steadily climbed over the years, leading to fewer overcrowded facilities.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, adoption rates have risen roughly 18 percent from 2011 to 2017, and shelter animal euthanasia rates have decreased approximately 42 percent.
“If you can’t keep an animal around for long or are not ready to make the commitment to permanently care for a pet, you can still make a difference by providing them with a foster home,” Dr. Hale said.
To find out more information on fostering and adopting companion animals, visit your local animal shelters.
The Greatest Generation is being lost to the unalterable process of aging. Today’s youngest World War II veteran is more than 90 years old, and fewer than 400,000 of the 16 million American’s who served still survive.
Drafted in 1943, Clifford Stump of the famed 82nd Airborne Division will celebrate his 95th birthday one week after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a day he experienced firsthand, and will soon relive, as he returns to the shores of France for the first time since he fought there in 1944.
“We were 18, 19, 20-year-olds, we were tough, we knew everything,” says Stump as he recalled that infamous day. “But on D-day, we sobered up really quick to life.”
Stump was a U.S. Army Airborne artilleryman operating a ‘British 6 pounder’ as 156,000 allied troops landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, as part of the largest amphibious military assault in history. Stump fought in campaigns in France, Belgium, Germany and was part of the final push to Berlin in 1945.
Stump is a long-time VA North Texas Health Care System patient with an active fan base. When he visits Dallas VA Medical Center, Stump makes his rounds visiting with employees and his fellow veterans, schedules appointments, and regales many with stories of our Nation’s history from the first-person perspective.
“It’s humbling to get to know our veterans, to care for them, and most importantly, to learn from them,” says Lara Easterwood, Physician Assistant with VA North Texas’ Community Living Center.
On his most recent visit to the Dallas campus, Stump shared the news that he’ll soon travel to Normandy, France, to participate in 75th anniversary D-Day events in early June 2019. Stump will also re-visit other locations during the week-long trip–locations he last saw as a 20-year-old soldier, operating in support of his fellow soldiers of the 82nd Airborne and the 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces who landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.
“You think about all the buddies you made over there and you always have to keep them in mind,” said Stump. “I wanted to stay with them and you had to be ready to save them.”
Stump’s trip to Normandy, France and other battlefield locales he last visited 75 years ago is part of the 82nd Airborne Division Association and USAA’s support to honor 20th-century Veterans’ sacrifice before they pass.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.