These combat camera vets return to train young troops - We Are The Mighty
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These combat camera vets return to train young troops

It’s no longer just the higher-ranking, saltier NCOs and senior NCOs training young troops. In the world of military photojournalism, veterans who have been separated or retired for a decade or more are returning to teach the newest generations to capture stories on the battlefields.


Some of the military’s most surprisingly underreported jobs may be in the visual journalism fields. Every branch of the armed forces of the United States features teams of correspondents, photographers, and even combat artists and graphic designers.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Veteran military journalist Paul Watts Jr. mentors a student editor, an active duty combat photojournalist.

They go through the same rigorous news writing and storytelling training as any student in any j-school in America. They learn the potential for every medium in visual journalism at the military’s disposal.

One problem with this is that they also have to focus on the fight. They have to learn small unit combat, urban warfare, close-quarters battle, self-aid and buddy care — the list goes on and on — and drill it into their muscle memory, not to mention learning the particulars of their branch of service.

When these young combat camera troops get into active service, they are thrown into an oft-underfunded world of retirement ceremonies, passport photos, and base change of command ceremonies.

Imagine a potentially world-class photographer working a Sears Photo Studio.

When one of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen, or Marines gets to where the action is, they need to be able to adequately show and tell the military’s story. It’s not just for history’s sake, it can literally mean life and death for their subjects.

“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” says Stacy Pearsall, an Air Force combat camera veteran, referring to the Army units she covered during the Iraq War. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”

Military photojournalists have since taken it upon themselves to train their youngest and greenest combat troops in the artistry of visual media. These veterans want to turn every one of the newbies into award-winning multimedia storytellers.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Andrew Breese, award-winning producer from Airman mentors a team on site for the Shoot Off competition portion.

It’s not just higher-ranking active duty. Juan Femath is a veteran Air Force aerial videographer. In 2011, he and some fellow Air Force and Army veterans decided to help the military do a better job of telling its own story.

“The photographers in the military have a great culture of older guys coming back to teach the younger troops,” Femath says. “There are so many photography workshops where skilled military photogs come to speak and mentor.”

One such workshop is the D.C. Shoot Off Workshop, run by Navy Veteran and White House news photographer Johnny Bivera.

Bivera uses his professional connections to bring attention to the military photojournalism world, attracting brands like Nikon and Adobe to his training weekends.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Military cameramen train incognito on The Mall in Washington, DC.

“The best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country volunteer for this event,” Bivera says. “These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development, helping to fill training gaps for our military and civil service photographers.

The weekend-long workshop starts with a seminar portion, covering the most important storytelling and production fundamentals used by civilian media today. These lectures are given by some of the media’s most important producers — many of them veterans themselves — from companies like HBO, USA Today, NFL Films, NBC, Canon, and the Washington Post.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Participants then break into teams and go out to apply the skills they just learned. Each team produces a two to five minute multimedia piece based on a topic drawn from a hat and are given an expert media producer as a mentor to guide them through the process. There is a hard deadline: work submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for awards.

Final products often reflect the experiences and inherent creativity of military photojournalists from every branch of service. They are thoroughly judged and critiqued by a panel of experts who make themselves available to everyone’s questions.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Producers from the Washington Post and NFL Films were among previous judges.

Though the Shoot Off charges an entry fee, the most telling aspect of the Shoot Off is that no one gets paid for their time — not the sponsors, the creators, mentors, or speakers. The fees cover only the overhead costs of running the workshop.

The D.C. Shoot Off Video Workshop, now in its seventh year, will be held May 4-7, 2017. For more information and to register visit dcvideoshootoff.org. It is open to all military, civil service, government, and veteran media producers.

The still photography Shoot Off has multiple dates and is held in Washington, D.C. in the Spring and San Diego in the fall. For more information visit visualmediaone.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Supreme Court will uphold transgender military ban

The US Supreme Court has lifted an injunction against the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, allowing him to enforce his policy barring certain transgender troops from joining or staying in the military.

President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court in November 2018 to lift injunctions issued by federal court judges, which placed a hold on the policy’s implementation while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.


The conservative majority granted the president’s request on Jan. 22, 2019, essentially allowing the ban to be implemented while lower courts decide on its constitutionality. Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy, Reuters reported.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Along with the request to lift injunctions, the Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to bypass normal judicial proceedings by deciding the legal merits of the policy. The justices refused, allowing a California-based federal appeals court to issue a ruling.

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

Articles

Enlisted airmen may begin flying drones this year, general says

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Northrop Grumman


Enlisted airmen could be piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the Air Force’s biggest drone aircraft, before the year is out, according to a senior Air Force official.

Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Lt. Gen. John Raymond told lawmakers on Tuesday that “starting in the end of FY ’16 or FY ’17 we’re going to begin the transition to enlisted RPA pilots for Global Hawk aircraft.”

That means the first enlisted airmen to pilot the high-altitude surveillance drone made by Northrop Grumman Corp. could be in place before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Raymond offered his remarks during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee, which is headed by Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the move toward enlisted Global Hawk pilots just three months ago. They will fly the remotely piloted aircraft under the supervision of rated officers, she said.

Under questioning Tuesday by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Raymond confirmed that only the RQ-4 would be piloted by enlisted personnel — at least for now.

“I grew up in Space Operations,” Raymond said. “Years ago we started out with engineer officers who flew the satellites, then went to operator officers — you didn’t have to have an engineering degree — and then we transitioned to enlisted operators.

“We’re taking a very deliberate approach to this,” he added. “We’re going to start with the Global Hawk. We’re very comfortable our enlisted airmen are going to be able to do that [mission].”

The Air Force then will look at the possibility of having enlisted airmen fly the MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, which carry out strike in addition to surveillance missions, Raymond said.

McCain, noting the Air Force has a shortage of rated officers, asked whether it would not have been better to start off using enlisted personnel.

“I wasn’t in this position or this job at the time, but it’s where we are,” Raymond said. “I think it was important that we have a capability. It was a technology demonstrator with significant growth and I think using the pilots we had to do that was a smart move at that time.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

“Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel,” said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over ,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you…he really nailed it.


These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, “It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring.”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

“I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master’s Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization.”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

“Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn’t pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mattis says US needs to up its game in the Arctic

The United States needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, which is an increasingly important region as global warming opens up new sea lanes and makes oil and mineral resources there more readily available, the U.S. defense secretary has said.

The Arctic, which lies partly within the territories of Russia, the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries, by some estimates holds more oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Moscow has been intensifying its energy development there.

Russia has also embarked upon its biggest military push in the Arctic since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, beefing up its military presence and capabilities.


Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is moving to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air, and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and build new ones as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.

“Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on a trip to Asia.

Part of that would be an increased Coast Guard presence, with more icebreakers and other specialized vessels needed in the Arctic, he said.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutteru00a0POLAR STAR (WAGB-10)

Mattis said the Pentagon already relied on Alaska as a base for operations in the Pacific, and the interceptor missiles the United States maintains there already constitute the cornerstone of the U.S. homeland defense.

But he said that the warming of the Arctic had spurred a new rush for resources in the region that the United States has been reluctant to join.

“So the reality is that we’re going to have to deal with the developing Arctic… It is also going to open not just to transport but also to energy exploration,” Mattis said.

The United States and Russia have both expressed interest in boosting Arctic drilling, but Russia has gone further in developing its Arctic resources. Currently, the United States prohibits oil drilling in wildlife refuges in its Alaskan Arctic wilderness areas and most offshore areas.

Beyond the competition between Russia and the United States, early 2018 China outlined ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes that have been opened up by global warming.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)

China also has been helping Greenland, whose territory covers a major portion of the Arctic, develop its vast, mostly untapped mineral resources.

China itself has no Arctic territory or coastline, so its increasing interest in the region has prompted concerns from Arctic states over its long-term strategic objectives, including whether that includes military deployment.

Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, standing alongside Mattis, said there was bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to view the Arctic in more strategic terms.

“I agree with the secretary, I think we’re behind, but I think we’re finally starting to catch up,” Sullivan said.

Studies show that much of the oil and gas resources in the Arctic is concentrated in Alaska, which the United States purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. It became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US warns that drones made in China pose spying risk

The US Department of Homeland Security is concerned that Chinese-made drones and the data they can collect could get into the hands of the Chinese government, according to a DHS alert obtained by CNN.

The alert, which CNN reported was sent out on May 20, 2019, said Chinese-made drones have the ability to share information and data to a server that isn’t exclusively controlled by the drone manufacturer.

It’s unlikely that live video feeds from Chinese-made drones could be shared with the Chinese government, and audio feeds aren’t usually available as many drones don’t come with microphones. With that said, some drone software saves snippets of video and images that could be saved on a drone company’s servers. Information such as flight and operations data, too, could reveal where, when, who, and why a drone is being used.


As part of a 2017 national-intelligence law, China expects its citizens and companies to support its national-intelligence activities. The alert reportedly suggests that Chinese drone companies could share — or be forced to share — data collected from their drones abroad, including to people in the US.

While the alert didn’t single out any specific manufacturers, the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI holds a significant majority of the drone market share in North America — up to 80%, according to an industry analysis from CNN.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

(DJI)

In 2017, the US Army issued a ban of DJI drones after alleging that the company shared critical infrastructure and law-enforcement data with the Chinese government.

DJI said in a statement to Business Insider that it has total control over how the data stored in its servers is handled and that its technology has been independently verified by the US government and US businesses. The company also said customers can enable options that would protect their data, as per the DHS’s reported recommendations. As for corporate or governmental use of DJI drones, the company said it offers models that don’t transfer data to DJI directly or over the internet at all.

DJI’s full statement is below:

At DJI, safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our technology has been independently verified by the U.S. government and leading U.S. businesses. DJI is leading the industry on this topic and our technology platform has enabled businesses and government agencies to establish best practices for managing their drone data. We give all customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted. For government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet, and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends. Every day, American businesses, first responders, and U.S. government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety, and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We are committed to continuously working with our customers and industry and government stakeholders to ensure our technology adheres to all of their requirements.

The DHS alert comes a week after an executive order from President Donald Trump effectively banned the sale of Huawei telecoms equipment in the US.

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

Articles

9 examples of the military’s dark humor

It’s not unusual for troops to have a nonchalant or comical attitude about the worst of humanity. Sometimes comedy is all they have to make it through hardships that are unimaginable to most, and those who have deployed to remote locations and hot zones know this all too well.


It’s a mechanism to keep their sanity in the midst of snipers, ambushes, and IEDs, according to an article in Esquire. Sometimes the worse a situation gets, the more they laugh. One thing is for sure, troops go to comical heights to cope with the hand they’re dealt.

Here are nine examples of dark humor in the military:

1. Santa Visit to the Korengal Valley 07

YouTube, TheFightingMarines

2. Marine uses megaphone to call out insurgents. (live leak videos may not appear on all devices)

LiveLeak video

3. “Shoot him.”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Photo: Pinterest

4. Wait for the flash.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Photo: Pinterest

5. Getting shot at by single shot Freddy.

YouTube, RestrepoTheMovie

6. Troops pretending to be insurgents. (live leak videos may not appear on all devices)

Liveleak video

7. Here’s how EOD technicians prank each other.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Photo: Pinterest

8. Robots driving an APC.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Photo: Pinterest

9. This bored Marine wants to play with insurgents.

YouTube, danr9595

Articles

The 9 worst scams targeting military veterans

Numerous scams often target military members due to their consistent paychecks and many troops being young and financially inexperienced. From predatory lending to online scams, it’s important for service members to learn how to protect themselves from being taken advantage of. Here are 9 scams every military service member needs to be aware of.


1. Social Media Scams (Card Popping)
These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Fake accounts are being created on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, where scammers often impersonate military personnel. They will then friend military troops and begin building a relationship through direct messaging. Eventually they will claim they can make you quick money by depositing money in to your account and in exchange you just send them a fee. They will ask for personal banking information such as your username, password, bank card number, and pin. Once the information is exchanged they deposit fraudulent checks and withdraw the cash, leaving you without money and possibly liable for the losses.

2. Rental Housing Scams

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Scammers will post fake rental properties on classified websites in areas around military bases and communities targeting troops. Service members moving in to the area will be offered fake military discounts and be asked for a security deposit by wiring money to the landlord.

3. Military Loans

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Military car and personal loans that require no credit check, have instant approval, upfront fees, or promise guarantees are highly likely to have hidden fees and terms that take advantage of service members, leaving them with crippling debt.

4. Veterans’ Benefits Buyout Scam

Military veterans hard pressed for cash may be lured into this buyout plan offering a cash payment in exchange for their future disability pension payments and benefits. However, these payouts are only about 30 to 40 percent of what their value is and structured in ways harmful to veterans’ finances.

5. Car Purchase Scams

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jennifer Brofer

Using websites that offer classified ads, scammers will create car ads targeting military members. They will pretend they are a service member who is being deployed or moving because they are being stationed somewhere else and need to get rid of their car quickly. They will ask for wire transfers or up front fees and will offer fake claims such as free shipping or discounts.

6. Employment Scams

Veterans and active duty members searching for jobs may come across employers who offer special consideration for their military service. Be wary of employers asking for personal information such as bank account numbers or that want to conduct a credit or background check. Some are scams that use your personal information to steal your identity and/or expose you to fraud.

7. Jury Duty Scam

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Photo: Marine Corps Sgt. Rebekka Heite

Military members will be targeted by callers who claim they work with the court system and tell the service member has a warrant out for their arrest due to not showing up for jury duty. Fearing they can get in trouble by their command, the caller says it can be taken care of by providing personal information such as a social security or credit card number.

8. Veterans Affairs Scam

Military veterans are being targeted by phone scammers who call claiming they work for Veterans Affairs and say they need to update their information with the VA. The VA never calls and asks for your private information by phone.

9. Military Life Insurance Scams

Hard sales tactics are used by agents who target military members. They will make false and inflated claims about life insurance policy benefits which are expensive and most likely unnecessary.

Learn how to protect yourself!

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

To help military members and their families the Better Business Bureau has created a BBB Military Line to educate service members on how to protect themselves. Be sure to follow their Facebook page to keep up to date on all current scams and ways to protect yourselves.

(Note: The BBB has put out a warning about scammers trying to take advantage of the military and veteran community during Memorial Day weekend. Read how you can protect yourself.)

SEE ALSO: Army Captain saves 3 lives while wearing ‘Captain America’ t-shirt

Articles

This awesome sea story explains why blue falcons get absolutely no love

Blue falcons—buddy f-ckers for the uninitiated—are a permanent fixture of military life. There are usually a couple in every unit who are out for themselves while messing it up for the rest. You know who they are; they never show up to watch on time, they call you out in front of superiors to make themselves look better, and they never cut you any slack during a PT test.


Related: The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US Military history

While blue falcons are bent on passing the blame and taking the credit, they forget that NCOs can spot them a mile away. Case in point is this awesome sea story we found on reddit by LaserSailor760. The lesson learned: no one likes a buddy f-cker, not even superiors.

(The reddit post has been lightly edited for grammar.)

MA assigned to Harbor Patrol here. I got ratted out once for fishing from the back of the patrol boat while doing harbor checks. Got hauled in to see the Senior Chief and wouldn’t sign or make any statements implicating anyone else on my crew (I was the coxswain and POIC) so Senior decided that I needed some extra duties as punishment.

A major local holiday was coming up, celebrating the day US forces liberated the locals during WW2. We had to send a boat up to a local harbor and standby all night in order to have an escape route for the Admiral in case Osama Bin Laden showed up or some sh-t. I was kinda upset about it because it was supposed to be my weekend, but I figured I was getting off light, so whatever.

When my crew and I pulled the boat into the marina, the whole place was basically a block party. We hung out with the locals, ate a ton of awesome BBQ and they all laughed that this was our ‘punishment’.

After securing the boat and turning over the watch to the next crew at 0000, I went back to base for some sleep, because part two of my punishment started at 0700.

Part two was getting into my dress whites and marching in the Liberation Day parade. It was about a 3 mile march, which ended at an even bigger party. Having been dismissed, I hung out at the party and again chatted with locals, ate awesome BBQ, and proceeded to get completely hammered, without paying a dime.

A few weeks later Senior asked if I learned my lesson. I said yes I did and wouldn’t slack off on duty.

Senior, said “No, I mean the lesson about standing up for your guys,” winked at me and walked away.

Best Senior Chief, ever.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. fighters scramble to escort Russian bombers near Alaska

Two U.S. Air Force jet fighters scrambled to escort a pair of Russia Tu-95 strategic bombers that were conducting a flight over the Arctic Ocean, the Bering Sea, and the Sea of Okhotsk on Sept. 6, 2018.

The Russian Defense Ministry on Sept. 7, 2018, confirmed the incident, saying the bombers were performing “scheduled flights over neutral waters” when they were escorted by the U.S. F-22 warplanes.


Earlier, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD), Michael Kucharek, told journalists that the Russian bombers were flying “in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, south of the Aleutian Islands.”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Two F-22s during flight testing.

(U. S. Air Force Photo)

“At no time did the Russian bombers enter Canadian or United States sovereign airspace,” he said.

Featured image: A Russian Tu-95 strategic bomber.

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

Articles

US Army gives heroic Marine a posthumous medal upgrade to Silver Star

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff in Afghanistan in 2011. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. Joshua Murray)


The family of a decorated special operations Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011 received his Silver Star after the U.S. Army took the unusual step of upgrading one of his prior medals.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion earned the Bronze Star with combat valor device in 2011 for working heroically to disarm a bomb in Afghanistan before an explosion left him fatally wounded.

But a prior deployment to Afghanistan with an Army unit in 2007, Sprovtsoff had already distinguished himself as a hero. While serving as a sergeant with Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-1, attached to the Army’s 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, Sprovtsoff had conducted himself with distinction during a 48-hour firefight.

According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, he fought with “disregard for his own safety and in spite of wounds sustained in combat,” coordinating his unit’s defense during the long fight.

The medal was approved and awarded as a Bronze Star, but upgraded to a Silver Star last year, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times Friday.

“[Sprovstoff’s] command at the time nominated him for a Bronze star with “V,” Morris explained. “As it went up the chain, his actions were so heroic, the Army upgraded him to a Silver Star; but at the end of the day, when someone hit the approve button, it was approved as a Bronze Star, rather than a Silver Star.”

Morris said the Army ultimately caught the error and coordinated with the Marine Corps to upgrade the award.

Calls from Military.com to the Army’s awards branch, which oversaw the medal upgrade, were not returned Friday.

The commander of MARSOC, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, presented Sprovstoff’s widow, Tasha, with the award in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to Marine Corps Times.

“[Sprovtsoff’s] courage, dedication and sacrifice inspire us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” Osterman said in a statement. “Also, the individual sacrifices [his] family have made is extremely important for MARSOC to recognize. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fellow Raiders and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them and their family.”

Sprovtsoff was killed Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan and buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 6 of the same year.

According to his Bronze Star citation from that deployment, Sprovtsoff had fearlessly and safely led a team of Marines through a region filled with improvised explosive devices following an enemy ambush. His work during the deployment had led to the elimination of 40 IEDs.

Sprovstoff and his wife Tasha are featured in Oliver North’s 2013 book “American Heroes on the Homefront.”

While Sprovtsoff’s award upgrade appears to be an outlier due to an administrative error, there could be more upgrades coming for American troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Pentagon announced in January that it would review all Silver Stars and service crosses awarded after Sept. 11, 2001 — some 1,100 awards — to determine whether a higher upgrade is warranted. The military services have until Sept. 30, 2017, to turn their recommendations in to the secretary of defense.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Army just struck ISIS in Syria from a new fire base

A U.S. Army artillery unit is pounding Islamic State fighters inside Syria from a remote desert camp just inside Iraq.

Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment artillery unit have been operating alongside Iraqi artillery units at a temporary fire support base in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border for the past several weeks, according to a recent Defense Department news release.


U.S. soldiers, Marines and sailors helped Iraqi forces build the camp by as part of Operation Inherent Resolve’s support of Operation Roundup, a major offensive by Syrian Democratic Forces aimed at clearing the middle Euphrates River Valley of entrenched, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters.

The U.S. military previously made use of rapidly built fire bases to insert artillery power earlier in the campaign against ISIS. In 2016, a detachment of Marines departed the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group to establish such a location, Fire Base Bell, in northern Iraq. The position, which was later renamed and manned by Army forces, helped U.S. troops intensify the assault on the ISIS stronghold of Mosul.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags in a convoy.
(Militant website)

It would come under enemy attack soon after its establishment, resulting in the death of Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, the first Marine to die in combat against ISIS.

Little has been made public in recent months about the U.S. military’s use of temporary fire bases to continue the ISIS fight. But NPR published a brief report July 2, 2018, about a “remote outpost” on the border of Iraq and Syria that seems to be the one described in the recent Defense Department release.

Some 150 Marines and soldiers are stationed there, NPR reported, in addition to Iraqi forces.

In the release, troops stationed at the fire base described the satisfaction of working side-by-side with Iraqi units.

“The most satisfying moment in the mission, so far, was when all three artillery units, two Iraqi and one U.S., executed simultaneous fires on a single target location,” said Maj. Kurt Cheeseman, Task Force Steel operations officer and ground force commander at the fire support base, in the release.

Language barriers forced U.S. and Iraqi artillery units to develop a common technical language to coordinate fire missions that involved both American and Iraqi artillery pieces.

“This mission required the use of multiple communications systems and the translation of fire commands, at the firing point, directing the Iraqi Army guns to prepare for the mission, load and report, and ultimately fire,” 1st Lt. Andrea Ortiz Chevres, Task Force Steel fire direction officer, said in the release.

The Iraqi howitzer unit used different procedures to calculate the firing data needed to determine the correct flight path to put rounds on target.

“In order to execute coalition fire missions, we had to develop a calculation process to translate their firing data into our mission data to validate fires prior to execution,” Cheeseman said in the release.

Sgt. 1st Class Isaac Hawthorne, Task Force Steel master gunner, added that Iraqi forces are “eager to work with the American M777 howitzer and fire direction crews and share artillery knowledge and procedures,” according to the release.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
M777u00a0Howitzer

It’s not clear from the release when the base was created or how long it has been active. With little infrastructure and no permanent buildings, troops face temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert.

“They are enduring harsh weather conditions and a lack of luxuries but, unlike previous deployments for many, each element is performing their core function in a combat environment,” Cheeseman said in the release. “The fire support base is a perfect example of joint and coalition execution that capitalizes on the strengths of each organization to deliver lethal fires, protect our force and sustain operations across an extended operational reach.”

Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force units provided planners, personnel and equipment to create the austere base, built on a bare patch of desert and raised by hand. Coalition partners from several different nations participated in the planning and coordination of the complex movement of supplies.

“Supplies were delivered from both air and ground by the Army, Air Force and Marines, and include delivery platforms such as medium tactical vehicles, UH-60 Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks, CV-22 Ospreys, C-130 Hercules and a C-17 Globemaster,” 1st Lt. Ashton Woodard, a troop executive officer in Task Force Longknife, said in the release. “We receive resupply air drops that include food, water, fuel, and general supplies.”

One of the most vital missions involved setting up a security perimeter to provide stand-off and protection for the U.S. and Iraqi artillery units.

“Following 10 days of around-the-clock labor in intense environmental conditions, the most satisfying moment was seeing the completion of the physical security perimeter,” said one Marine working security at the fire base, according to the release.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

American pilots are being targeted by lasers in the Pacific

Pilots of US military aircraft operating in the Pacific Ocean have reportedly been targeted by lasers more than 20 times in recent months, US officials told The Wall Street Journal.

All of the incidents occurred near the East China Sea, the officials said, where Chinese military and civilians often operate in part to buttress their nation’s extensive claims.

This report comes not long after the Pentagon accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US pilots in Djibouti. The pilots suffered minor eye injuries as a result, but China denied any involvement.


It’s unclear who is behind these activities in the Pacific and the officials said the lasers used were commercial-grade, such as laser pointers often used for briefings and even playing with cats, as opposed to the military-grade lasers used against the US pilots in East Africa.

The lasers were reportedly pointed at the US aircraft from fishing boats, some of which were Chinese-flagged vessels.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, practice air-to-sea maneuvers over the Pacific Ocean Jan. 25, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards)

The US officials said they do not currently believe the Chinese military is behind these incidents, but also couldn’t totally rule it out given the recent issues in Djibouti.

They added it’s possible Chinese fisherman or people from “other countries in the region” could simply be doing this to harass American pilots.

It’s also not clear what type of aircraft were targeted.

After the incidents in Djibouti, the Pentagon in May 2018 issued a formal complaint to China and called on its government to investigate.

In response, China’s Defense Ministry said, “We have already refuted the untrue criticisms via official channels. The Chinese side consistently strictly abides by international law and laws of the local country, and is committed to protecting regional security and stability.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying added that the government had performed “serious checks,” adding: “You can remind the relevant U.S. person to keep in mind the truthfulness of what they say, and to not swiftly speculate or make accusations.”

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