This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project - We Are The Mighty
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This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

In 2016, an Iraqi-American artist sat down with Bahjat Abdulwahed — the so-called “Walter Cronkite of Baghdad” — with the idea of launching a radio project that would be part documentary, part radio play, and part variety show.


Abdulwahed was the voice of Iraqi radio from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, but came to Philadelphia as a refugee in 2009 after receiving death threats from insurgents.

“He represented authority and respectability in relationship to the news through many different political changes,” said Elizabeth Thomas, curator of “Radio Silence,” a public art piece that resulted from the meeting with Abdulwahed.

Thomas had invited artist Michael Rakowitz to Philadelphia to create a project for Mural Arts Philadelphia, which has been expanding its public art reach from murals into new and innovative spaces.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
Bahjat Abdulwahed, Michael Rakowitz, and Hayfaa Ibrahem Abdulqader. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

After nearly five years of research, Rakowitz distilled his project into a radio broadcast that would involve putting the vivacious and caramel-voiced Abdulwahed back on the air, and using Philadelphia-area Iraqi refugees, and local Iraq war veterans as his field reporters. It would feature Iraqi music, remembrances of the country and vintage weather reports from a happier time in Iraq.

“One of the many initial titles was “Desert Home Companion,” Rakowitz said, riffing on “A Prairie Home Companion,” the radio variety show created by Garrison Keillor.

Rakowitz recorded an initial and very informal session with Abdulwahed in his living room in January 2016. Two weeks later, Abdulwahed collapsed. He had to have an emergency tracheostomy and was on life support until he died seven months later.

At Abdulwahed’s funeral, his friends urged Rakowitz to continue with the project, to show how much of the country they left behind was slipping away and to help fight cultural amnesia.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
Michael Rakowitz. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

Rakowitz recalibrated the project, which became “Radio Silence,” a 10-part radio broadcast with each episode focusing on a synonym of silence, in homage to Abdulwahed.

“The voice of Baghdad had lost his voice,” Rakowitz said, calling him a “narrator of Iraq’s history.”

It will be hosted by Rakowitz and features fragments of that first recording session with Abdulwahed, as well as interviews with his wife and other Iraqi refugees living in Philadelphia.

Rakowitz and Thomas also worked with Warrior Writers, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that helps war veterans work through their experiences using writing and art.

The first episode, on speechlessness, will launch Aug. 6. It will be broadcast on community radio stations across the country through Prometheus Radio Project.

One participant is Jawad Al Amiri, an Iraqi refugee who came to the United States in the 1980s. He said silence in Iraq has been a way of life for many decades.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
Radio Silence Session with Michael Rakowitz, April 2017, Philadelphia, PA. Photo via Warrior Writers.

“Silence is a way of survival. Silence is a decree by the Baath regime, not to tell what you see in front of your eyes. Silence is synonymous with fear. If you tell, you will be put through agony,” he said at a preview July 25 of the live broadcast. He said he saw his own sister poisoned and die and wasn’t allowed to speak of it.

When he came to the US in 1981, his father told him: “We send you here for education and to speak for the millions of Iraqis in the land where freedom of speech is practiced.”

Lawrence Davidson is an Army veteran who served during the Iraq War and works with Warrior Writers also contributed to the project. He said the project is a place to exchange ideas and honestly share feelings with refugees and other veterans.

The project kicks off on July 29 with a live broadcast performance on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall — what Rakowitz calls the symbolic home of American democracy. It will feature storytelling, food from refugees and discussions from the veterans with Warrior Writers.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The US Navy is going to arm all of its destroyers with hypersonic missiles, a top Trump official says

The US Navy is going to eventually arm all of its destroyers with hypersonic missiles that are still being developed, White House national security advisor Robert O’Brien said Wednesday, according to Defense News.

“The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program will provide hypersonic missile capability to hold targets at risk from longer ranges,” O’Brien said at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


“This capability,” he continued, “will be deployed first on our newer Virginia-class submarines and the Zumwalt-class destroyers. Eventually, all three flights of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will field this capability.”

Hypersonic missiles — high-speed weapons able to evade traditional missile-defense systems — are a key area of competition between the three great powers. Earlier this month, Russia test-fired its Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile from the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov.

Given the ongoing hypersonic missile arms race, it is easy to see why the US Navy might want hypersonic missiles for its destroyers, something the Navy has previously discussed, but there are challenges.

The CPS missile is a combination of the developmental Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) and a two-stage booster, according to the Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget overview.

Newer Zumwalt-class destroyers have larger vertical launch system (VLS) cells that could accommodate a large diameter missile with a hypersonic warhead in a boost-glide vehicle configuration, but older Arleigh Burke-class destroyers have much smaller VLS cells that would need to be modified or replaced altogether.

“I think it’s a terrible idea to try to outfit these destroyers with hypersonic missiles,” Bryan Clark, a retired Navy officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute told Insider. Retrofitting dozens of Navy Arleigh Burkes to carry new hypersonic missiles would be expensive, he said.

What the Russian military appears to be doing is developing a new hypersonic missile to fit existing warships. The US military would be going about this in reverse, refitting existing ships to suit a new missile, a weapon that could be quickly replaced by a smaller, cheaper alternative down the road given the rapid pace of technological development.

“If the Navy makes this massive investment in retrofitting only to find in five years that these smaller weapons are now emerging, that money will be largely wasted,” Clark said, adding that the plan “doesn’t make sense.”

In addition to the steep costs of retrofitting dozens of destroyers and arming them with expensive missiles, of which the Navy may only be able to afford limited numbers, other challenges include taking warships offline and tying up shipyards for extended periods of time, potentially hindering other repair work.

Changes risk making the 500-ship plan ‘unaffordable’

Defense News reported that O’Brien also pushed the Trump administration’s vision for a 500-ship Navy, a vision that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper unveiled earlier this month to counter China’s growing naval force.

The plan, known as “Battle Force 2045,” calls for a mixture of manned and unmanned vessels and is based on recommendations from the Hudson Institute, which presented what Clark said was an affordable path to a 500-ship Navy.

A major difference between the Pentagon’s plan and the Hudson Institute study is that the Pentagon wants to build a larger submarine force, which could drive up sustainment costs, making the vision impossible to realize from a cost perspective. Each Virginia-class attack submarine with a larger missile launcher is estimated to cost .2 billion.

Retrofitting destroyers to carry hypersonic missiles would pull away funding as well. “This missile launcher thing, the additional submarines, all the additional ornaments that the Navy is looking at hanging on this fleet are going to make it unaffordable,” Clark said.

He argued that the Navy should focus on arming Virginia-class submarines with hypersonic missiles and let the destroyers be. “You don’t have to rebuild the ship to do it,” Clark explained. “That makes more sense. The Navy should be pursuing that for its boost-glide weapons.”

“That would be sufficient to provide maritime launch capability to complement what the Air Force and the Army are doing,” he said. Both the Army and the Air Force have been pursuing hypersonic weapons for existing launch platforms, such as the AGM-183 ARRW for the B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

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

Articles

Russia plans to build 100 of its most advanced Armata tanks

The Russian deputy defense minister said Aug. 24 at a military technical forum that Moscow plans to build 100 T-14 Armata battle tanks.


“The designed models are currently undergoing operational testing,” Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet. “We have a contract for 100 units that will be supplied before 2020.”

TASS also acknowledged that Moscow previously said it would make 2,300 T-14s by 2020, which The National Interest and other analysts dismissed as “ridiculous,” given the high cost of the tank.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

Since it was unveiled in 2015, the T-14 has received a lot of hype and has worried many westerners — some of which is deserved.

The T-14 is part of the Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is is based on a single chassis that that can be used for a variety of Armata armored vehicles — not just the T-14 tank.

This interchangeable platform, according to Globalsecurity.org, includes “standard engine-transmission installation, chassis controls, driver interface, unified set of onboard electronics, [and] life-support systems.”

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

The T-14 comes with a high velocity 125mm cannon that also fires laser-guided missiles up to 7.4 miles away, while the US’ M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams’ main gun only has a range of about 2.4 miles.

It’s equipped with a revolutionary unmanned turret and armored hull for the crew, The National Interest said, and it’s even one step away from becoming a completely unmanned tank, able to be operated by crews at a distance, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.

The T-14 also sports the new Afghanit active protection system, which has a radar and electronic system that disrupts incoming guided missiles, The National Interest said.

The APS can also jam laser guided systems and even has interceptors that can take out RPGs, missiles, and possibly kinetic rounds — although the latter has been questioned by many analysts, The National Interest said.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

While the T-14 has strong layers of defense and reactive armor, “no tank is invincible, it is only more survivable,” Michael Kofman, a CNA analyst, told Newsweek. “It’s somewhat unclear how effective these defensive systems are against top-down attack missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin, which is expensive but effective.”

“It’s important to remember that the Armata platform is still a prototype undergoing field trials and not a completed system …  There is still a debate in Russia on what its capabilities should be and the initial serial production run of 80-100 tanks is doubtfully going to be the final variant, so we should reserve judgment,” Kofman told Newsweek.

While the T-14 is impressive in many respects, Russia’s main tank for years to come, given the high cost of the T-14 and even the T-90A, will probably still be the T-72B3, Kofman told The National Interest.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the major lessons I learned from carrying the M27

Following the rulebook isn’t always a necessity. Well, that’s how the Marine Corps infantry feels about doctrine, anyway. Sure, there are hundreds of people who put their great minds together to come up with standard procedures for everything relating to warfare, but even still, us grunts take those “procedures” as suggestions. Why? Simple. We recognize that what may work for one unit doesn’t work for everyone.

This is the case with the fire team billet of “automatic rifleman.” The position is supposed to be held by the team leader’s second in command, usually a trusted advisor who can help run the team. But, over the years, Marines thought of a better person to hold the billet: boots. New guys. The FNGs. While some higher-ups might see this as hazing, the down-and-dirty, crayon-eating grunts disagree.

We argue that being an automatic rifleman teaches you these valuable lessons:


This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

Accuracy is key. Pay attention and you might even score higher on the next qualification range.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

Accuracy

Some battalions have what’s called a “Squad-Level Advanced Marksmanship Course,” which is a fancy, Marine Corps way of saying, “automatic rifleman course.” That’s essentially what it is. But the focus is, as the name suggests, on marksmanship. Why? Because to be a good automatic rifleman, you must first be a good rifleman.

Learning how to engage accurately with an automatic weapon also teaches you how to be a substantially more effective rifleman. After all, you’re firing a high volume of bullets and, the more accurate you are, the more devastating to the enemy you are.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

You’ll want to let the rounds fly, but each one is important. Always be mindful of that.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders)

Ammo conservation

It’s no secret that you get a lot of ammo as an automatic rifleman — around 18-22 magazines, to be exact, most of which you’ll be responsible for lugging around. But while learning about accuracy, you might also learn about conserving ammo.

The idea is this: You need to have enough ammo at the end of the fight to move on to the next fight. Especially if you’re the automatic rifleman, your fire team needs you.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

This lesson of control can even help you as a leader, telling your automatic rifleman what you want them to do.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

Control

Quickly, you’ll learn that an automatic rifleman shouldn’t just unleash a barrage of bullets. You’ll learn when it’s appropriate to fire on full auto and when it’s appropriate to fire in 5-6 round bursts into large groups of enemies. This is important because, as you move up in rank and experience, you’ll be able to teach the next automatic rifleman about control.

This same control will help you with ammo conservation. More importantly, all these lessons will follow you into other fire team positions. In fact, if you become a squad leader, knowing how to use your automatic riflemen will be easier if you’ve been one.

Articles

The US Army is testing a faster and more lethal variant of the Abrams tank

The Army is now engineering a far-superior M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond –designed to be more lethal, faster, lighter weight, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.


Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.

Also read: 6 kick ass fusions of old weapons with new technology

The SEP v4 variant, slated to begin testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Crews

While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Basset did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.

The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Bassett said.

“A combination of mid-wave and long-wave sensors allow for better target identification at long ranges and better resolution at shorter ranges,” Bassett explained.  Higher-definition sensors allow Army crews to, for instance, better distinguish an enemy fighter or militant carrying an AK 47.

Improved FLIR technologies also help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.

Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Bassett explained.

“You do not have to manually put meteorological variables into the fire control system. It will detect the density of the air, relative humidity and wind speed and integrate it directly into the platform,” Basset explained.

The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle. Also, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, will be replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules including a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, information from General Dynamics Land Systems states.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
US Army photo

Advanced Multi-Purpose Round

The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.

The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.

The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained.  The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.

The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.

The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.

AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations.

Bassett explained that a new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.

“Rather than having to carry different rounds, you can communicate with the round before firing it,” Bassett explained.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Dooley, from Leonardtown, Md., a tank gunner in 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, checks the battery box and connections on his M1A1 Abrams tank after gunnery qualifications | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar

Engineering Change Proposal 1

Some of the upgrades woven into the lethality enhancement for the M1A2 SEP v4 have their origins in a prior upgrades now underway for the platform.

Accordingly, the lethality upgrade is designed to follow on to a current mobility and power upgrade referred to as an earlier or initial ECP. Among other things, this upgrade adds a stronger auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system.  This first ECP, slated to begin production by 2017, is called the M1A2 SEP v3 variant.

This ECP 1 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.

The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.

The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dedrick Johnson

Active Protection Systems

The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity to identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.

Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.

The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program, an Army official told Scout Warrior.

General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.

Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs.

The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.

Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.

Along with Rafael’s Trophy system, the Army is also looking at Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, and UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, among others.

Overall, these lethality and mobility upgrades represent the best effort by the Army to maximize effectiveness and lethality of its current Abrams tank platform. The idea is to leverage the best possible modernization upgrades able to integrate into the existing vehicle. Early conceptual discussion and planning is already underway to build models for a new future tank platform to emerge by the 2030s – stay with Scout Warrior for an upcoming report on this effort.

Articles

Russia giving Assad Regime advanced strike aircraft

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
Russian SU-24M2. (Photo: Toshi Aoki)


The Syrian Air Force is getting ten new Su-24M2 “Fencer D” all-weather strike aircraft, courtesy of Vladimir Putin. The regime of Bashir al-Assad received two right away, with the other eight coming soon. As a result, the Syrians gain a very capable weapon for use against ISIS or moderate rebels supported by the United States.

The Su-24M2 is the latest version of a plane that first took flight in 1967 – and it has been in service since 1974. The Fencer, comparable to the General Dynamics F-111, was designed to deliver over 17,600 pounds of bombs on target any time of day – or night – and in good weather, bad weather, or any in between. Su-24s are fast (a top speed of just over 1,000 miles per hour) and can reach deep into enemy territory (a combat radius of about 400 miles). The plane has seen action in the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, over Lebanon, Desert Storm, civil wars in Tajikistan, Libya, and Afghanistan, the South Ossetia war, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The Su-24M2, which first flew in 2001, adds the capability to fire the AS-17 Krypton anti-radar missile, the AA-11 Archer, and the KAB-500Kr television-guided bombs. The plane also received a more advanced “glass cockpit” with new multi-function displays (MFD), GLONASS (Russia’s knockoff of the Global Positioning System), a new heads-up display (HUD), and a helmet-mounted sight, allowing it to use the Archer to its maximum effectiveness.

The Soviet Union built over 1,400 Su-24s from 1967 to 1993. That 26-year production run alone is quite impressive. So was its wide exportation to a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including such responsible regimes like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, Hafez al-Assad’s Syria, and the Sudan. Yes, all of them state sponsors of terrorism. A bunch of Iraq’s Su-24s made their way to Iran during Desert Storm. (Iraqi pilots preferring the Ayatollah Khameni’s hospitality to getting blown out of the sky by the allied coalition.)

The transfer comes as part of Russia’s military assistance to Assad’s regime. Syria had 22 Su-24s prior to this deal, 21 of which were bombers, one a reconnaissance plane. The Syrians had been upgrading some of their planes to the Su-24M2 standard. Now, they will be getting another ten very advanced deep-penetration bombers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine took leave to help after Hurricane Harvey

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeast Texas, Aug. 25, it flooded thousands of homes and displaced more than 30,000 people. In response to the devastation, thousands of people from across the country rushed to Texas to help, taking time away from their homes and work to help others out.


Among those who headed to Texas was Marine Corps Cpl. Eric Gore, a dark-haired, easygoing and friendly chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist at Headquarters Battalion, Marine Forces Reserve in New Orleans.

“I just wanted to help my fellow countrymen out,” Gore said. “Helping our neighbors in Texas was something I was able to do, so I went.”

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
US Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard arrive in Houston Aug. 27, 2017, to aid citizens in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. (US Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.)

Gore, his unit’s CBRN training noncommissioned officer, was sitting at home going through social media when he first saw the effects of Hurricane Harvey. At that moment he decided he had to take leave and join the relief efforts.

“I knew I had the capacity to do something, but instead I was just sitting at work going through my day-to-day tasks,” he said. “There’s no sense in standing-by when people need assistance, especially when you’re perfectly able to help them.”

Gore left New Orleans Sept. 1, taking an additional four days of leave after the Labor Day weekend to extend his time in Texas.

Read Also: How the US military used social media to help hurricane victims in Texas and Florida

Cajun Navy

He first drove with another Marine to Beaumont, Texas, where they linked up with members of the Cajun Navy, an informal group of private boat owners who helped in the relief efforts following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

With the Cajun Navy, Gore used his experience in the Marines to first help them set up an operations center in the back office of a dance studio. He then communicated with members of the Cajun Navy through phone calls and mobile apps to direct vehicles to distress calls and organize supply convoys to flooded neighborhoods.

“Emergency management is at the heart of my job,” Gore said. “CBRN is the 9/11 of the Marine Corps. Everyone just thinks we run the gas chambers, but we’re also trained to respond to hazmat incidents and things of that nature.”

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Niles Lee

Besides organizing and directing assets in the makeshift command center, Gore also participated in many of the supply convoys, personally delivering supplies to people affected by Hurricane Harvey whenever an extra hand was needed.

“I did as much as I could,” he said. “But, in reality, I was a small part of the relief efforts. Without the help of all the individuals involved donating their time and money to relief efforts, none of my work would have been possible.”

Gore said he planned to take leave again to help in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, which made landfall there Sept. 20 and left the majority of Puerto Ricans without power. He organized a private flight to the island with a cargo of 12 donated generators, as well as additional relief supplies. However, he had to cancel his plans due to Hurricane Nate, which made landfall in New Orleans.

He said he is still communicating with members of the Cajun Navy though social media, instant messaging and phone apps, hoping to head to Puerto Rico in the near future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

The Department of Veterans Affairs will not appeal a January 2019 court ruling that ordered it to provide health care and disability benefits for 90,000 veterans who served on Navy ships during the Vietnam War, likely paving the way for “Blue Water Navy” sailors and Marines to receive Agent Orange-related compensation and VA-paid health care benefits.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 26, 2019, that he will recommend the Justice Department not fight the decision, handing a victory to ill former service members who fought for years to have their diseases recognized as related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.


In 2018, the House unanimously passed a bill, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, to provide benefits to affected service members. But Wilkie objected, saying the science does not prove that they were exposed to Agent Orange. Veterans and their advocates had argued that the ships’ distilling systems used Agent Orange-tainted seawater, exposing sailors on board to concentrated levels of dioxin.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.

(US Army photo)

However, the bill failed in the Senate when two Republicans, Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming and Mike Lee of Utah, said they wanted to wait for a vote pending the outcome of a current study on Agent Orange exposure.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in January 2019 ruled that a Vietnam veteran, 73-year-old Alfred Procopio, and other Blue Water Navy veterans qualified for benefits currently given to service members stationed on the ground in Vietnam or who served on inland waterways and have diseases associated with Agent Orange.

Procopio, who served on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, suffers from prostate cancer and diabetes, illnesses presumed to be related to exposure to the toxic herbicide.

The VA has contended that any herbicide runoff from the millions of gallons sprayed in Vietnam was diluted by seawater and would not have affected offshore service members. It also objected to the cost of providing benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans for illnesses common to all aging patients, not just those exposed to Agent Orange.

The proposed Blue Water Navy Veterans act had estimated the cost of providing benefits to these veterans at id=”listicle-2632903078″.1 billion over 10 years. VA officials say the amount is roughly .5 billion.

Wilkie told members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on the VA’s fiscal 2019 budget that the department already has started serving 51,000 Blue Water Navy veterans.

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

Leaking Agent Orange Barrels at Johnston Atoll, 1973.

He cautioned, however, that while he is recommending the Justice Department drop the case, he “didn’t know what other agencies would do.”

Lawmakers praised Wilkie’s announcement, urging him to ensure that the DoJ drops the case. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said it would “bring fairness” to these veterans.

“I am grateful for you in making these considerations,” Blumenthal said, adding that he’d like to see the VA do more research on toxic exposures on the modern battlefield. “The potential poisons on the battlefield are one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Committee chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, also promised a hearing later in 2019 on burn pits and other environmental exposures some troops say left them with lifelong illnesses, including cancers — some fatal — and respiratory diseases.

Isakson added, however, that the VA needs to care first for Blue Water Navy veterans. “If it happens, we are going to be in the process of swallowing a big bite and chewing it,” he said.

The diseases considered presumptive to Agent Orange exposure, according to the VA, are AL amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemia, chloracne, Type 2 diabetes, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, early onset peripheral neuropathy, porphyria, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers and soft tissue sarcomas.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in a veteran who served 90 days or more in the military is automatically considered service connected, regardless of date of service.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What a battle between the Space Force and China would look like

Billions of bits of debris flying across space, lasers burning holes into the atmosphere, and space-faring robots steering satellites into fiery reentry… welcome to the Space Force vs. China.


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Luckily, for now, it seems like everyone is sticking to the “No weapons of mass destruction in Space” rule.

(U.S. Army)

Any future war between the U.S. and China will likely become a space battle, and any space battle will focus on the destruction of each other’s warfighting satellites — the ones that provide intelligence, communications, and GPS. The U.S. has over 800 in orbit and China has over 200.

The first salvos will be the least destructive. The U.S. Space Force and the People’s Liberation Army would use weapons like lasers and jammers to temporarily blind or disable. If things escalates from there, it’ll be time to turn to true anti-satellite weapons.

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The Raven allows for relatively easy and precise steering in space.

(NASA)

The U.S. could turn to systems like the Raven, a NASA program that allows for automated link ups between satellites, to get American kill satellites into position above Chinese satellites, link up with them, and then steer them downwards, turning them into a meteor that will explode and burn up in the atmosphere.

But by the time a space war breaks out, China may have has its own system for sending orbiting objects into the atmosphere, like the proposed “space broom,” a satellite bearing a laser for burning up space debris and sending it back into the atmosphere. If it aims at a pressurized tank on an American satellite, it could create a tiny hole that would vent gasses and degrade the satellite’s orbit, dooming it.

For a more visceral destruction, China’s AoLong 1 satellite can grab enemy satellites with its arm and hurl them towards the ocean.

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Like this, but then the robotic arm throws the satellite back towards earth, cups its hand to its ear, and acts like it can’t hear the crowd cheering for the first successful wrestling take down between robots in space. (Wrestling leagues, I look forward to pitching you a spec script.)

(NASA)

By this point, it would be expected that military forces would start to clash on the lands and sea — that is, if the war didn’t start there in the first place.

Once significant numbers of troops are in harm’s way, which would be immediately with both navies sailing carriers holding thousands of sailors in the Pacific, the forces would be willing to turn to even move destructive measures to gain an advantage.

This would mean the use of missiles designed for destroying ballistic missiles. Most weapons capable of engaging a ballistic missile in the middle of its flight are also capable of engaging a satellite in low earth orbit, where most military and civilian satellites operate. Some are even capable of engaging targets in higher, faster orbits.

In general, hitting an object in low earth orbit means firing a guided missile at an object approximately 250 miles above the earth that’s traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour. It’s a bit of a tricky shot, but China and the U.S. have shown they’re capable. The Space Force would likely inherit some of the land-based missiles and lasers capable of making this shot, but they would also ask for a huge assist from the Navy.

See, China and the U.S. both have land-based missiles that can make the shot, but any anti-satellite missile launch faces a fuel problem. Missiles can only hit satellites that fly within a certain range of the launch point since the missiles have to make it into space with enough fuel to maneuver and reach the target. So, a Space Force would likely be stacked to engage targets that fly over missile shields on the West Coast, but would be weak elsewhere.

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These things can reach space and kill things there. For realsies.

(Missile Defense Agency photo by Leah Garton)

But the Navy’s Standard Missile-3, a common armament on the Navy’s Aegis destroyers, has a demonstrated capability of killing satellites after a software change.

In a shooting war with China in space, expect the missiles to get their software upgraded immediately.

A tit-for-tat escalation into missiles exploding in space creates an immediate crisis for all astronauts up there. See, nearly all manned space missions have taken place in low earth orbit, an area that would become even more saturated with space debris in this situation. The International Space Station, for example, is in LEO.

Think thousands if not millions of bullets, all flying at speeds sufficient to punch right through the International Space Station or the planned Chinese large, modular space station. Expect both countries to immediately try to evacuate their troops. For the ISS crew, this means they need to make it the Soyuz capsules and immediately start the launch sequence, a process expected to take three minutes.

But the really bad thing about this type of war is that it can’t end. See, those bits of space debris go in all directions. The ones flying at escape velocity will fly away and travel, potentially forever, through the universe. The ones that explode towards the earth will likely burn up quickly.

But the ones flying at the right velocity, quite possibly thousands or millions of pieces of metal per missile vs. satellite engagement, will simply fly through low earth orbit at thousands of miles per hour, shredding everything they come in contact with and creating more debris.

Think of those really scary scenes in Gravity.

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Eventually, this is nearly guaranteed to take out the bulk of the satellites in orbit, from communications to weather to mapping.

In a stroke, we’d get rid of a significant portion of our internet architecture, our weather data, and other systems, like GPS, that we just expect to work, potentially setting us back decades.

So, even if the combatants decide to stop shooting at each other, it’s too late to save space for that generation. For decades, the job of the Space Force, NASA, and all of our allies will be cleaning up from the war, whether the whole thing lasted minutes or years.

So, let’s just make a movie about it, watch that, and try to avoid actually fighting each other in space.

Come on, Space Force. You guys can work out deterrence strategies, right?

/**/
Articles

‘Pin-ups for Vets’ creatively shows appreciation for veterans

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When we think about ways to give back to the veteran community and show our appreciation, we often turn to the standard monetary contributions and volunteer opportunities, but there are more creative ways to show our appreciation as well. One example of such an endeavor is the organization Pinups for Vets.

I recently had the founder of Pinups for Vets, Gina Elise, on the Military Veterans in Creative Careers podcast, and I was surprised and inspired by what she had to share. Gina started the organization in 2006 as a way to give back to the veteran community. After seeing images of veterans alone in hospital beds, and watching reports on the news of the severe injuries sustained by our troops fighting in Iraq, she became convinced that she had to do something to help raise funds to support our hospitalized veterans.

She had always been a fan of World War II nose art (on the nose of the plane), so decided to use this creative passion of hers to create calendars that could be donated to veterans and raise money for VA hospitals. Now it is a reality, and Gina not only produces the calendars, but brings a group together and goes to donate the calendars at VA hospitals, dressed as the pinups. The organization has donated over $50,000 worth of rehab equipment for VA hospitals nationwide, and has visited over 7,000 ill and injured veterans.

As you would imagine with a group that visits VA hospitals, the stories Gina had to share were touching. She mentioned a man who was in the hospital for a traumatic injury, and how they were talking with him and he responded. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for the fact that afterward they were told that this man had not spoken in over a month.

Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a return volunteer for these groups that go to VA hospitals, and shared with me the story of an elderly Navy veteran who cried because she was so happy to have this visit. The video of this touching moment is below:

Jennifer had the following to say about her volunteer experience with Pinups for Vets:

Volunteering with Pin-Ups for Vets means so much to me. On every visit, we see veterans that have not had visitors in days, weeks, or even months. Reconnecting with my brothers and sisters, regardless of era served or branch, is a unique and often beautiful experience. No veteran should ever feel lonely or go without visitors while hospitalized. I do it because not only do I value our veterans, but it makes me feel good as well. I love connecting with other vets and I think volunteer work is essential for anyone who would like to make the world a little brighter.

She also had the following experience to share, which reminds us of the need of young veterans as well:

A visit that sticks out in my mind was when we walked into a room and there were two very young veterans in their late 20s to early 30s. At the hospital, they were surrounded by elderly vets and did not really have anyone to talk to. We spent a lot of time in that room just talking and reminiscing about the service. They were so happy to have company that was around their same age, and it was a really great bonding experience. We signed their calendars and took photos to remember the day by. I still think about that visit often.

Jennifer told me she feels that, through such visits, along with the organizations active social media presence, “people are able to see that there are still veterans who not only appreciate but need the companionship.”

The website for the organization includes thank you letters from the hospitals these volunteers have been able to visit, and reading these was an inspiration in itself. One line from these letters that helped me understand the importance of the visits said their visits make “every day Veterans Day” for their residents.

We don’t want anyone to end up alone in a hospital, especially anyone who dedicated themselves to serving our country. We are fortunate that Pinups for Vets is making an effort, and can see this first hand in the commitment these men and women make to showing these veterans that they care. An example below shows Gina dancing with a veteran, a touching moment that may not change the world, but certainly shows that veteran and the others who see this that people appreciate our service and are making an effort to ensure we are not alone.
Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A CV-22 Osprey connects to an MC-130H Combat Talon II air-refueling receptacle during a training mission at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 7, 2016. The Osprey is a versatile, self-deployable aircraft that offers increased speed and range over other rotary-wing aircraft, enabling Air Force Special Operations Command aircrews to execute long-range special operations missions.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick

F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 334th Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., fly over New York City, Sept. 10, 2016. The F-15’s were flying over New York for the U.S. Open Championship woman’s tennis final.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, provides security during Decisive Action Rotation 16-09 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Sept. 6, 2016.

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U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jasmine Ballard

A U.S. Army Soldier assaults an objective while conducting a raid during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 6, 2016. Combined Resolve VII is a 7th Army Training Command, U.S. Army Europe-led exercise is designed to train the Army’s regionally allocated forces to the U.S. European Command. Combined Resolve VII includes more than 3,500 participants from 16 NATO and European partner nations.

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U.S. Army photo by Spc. Danielle Carver

NAVY:

Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) heave in a line during a replenishment-at-sea with the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Philippine Sea to support security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Holmes

The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) visit, board, search and seizure team and medical response team depart on a rigid hull inflatable boat to provide medical assistance to a sick crew member aboard the Liberian general cargo ship Fernando. San Antonio is deployed with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group to conduct maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jacob Mathews

MARINE CORPS:

Marines with Bravo Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division prepare for training exercises at Ft. Pickett, Virginia, August 29, 2016.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Rebecca L. Floto

Marines with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, ride in an MV-22 Osprey before participating in a vertical assault raid at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, August 23.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye E. Martinez

COAST GUARD:

Training doesn’t just mean learning about the job, it can also help prepare for the worst case scenarios. U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego Jayhawk helicopter crews practice entering life rafts during survival training to simulate water survial, foster teamwork and provide survival equipment familiarization.

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USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Simpson

Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa stand with intercepted bales of narcotics onboard the Tampa in the Pacific Ocean, Aug. 4, 2016. During this patrol, Tampa’s crew successfully interdicted approximately 2,059 kilograms of narcotics with an estimated wholesale value of $68 million.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

A Navy warship is getting a laser five times stronger than the one the service has tested in the past, and officials say it could lead the way for more vessels to head to sea with similar weapons.

The amphibious transport dock ship Portland is being outfitted with a 150-kilowatt laser system. That’s a big power leap from the 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, that the service field-tested on the amphibious transport dock ship Ponce about five years ago.

“Big things” are expected from the Portland’s new laser, Thomas Rivers, program manager for the amphibious warfare program office, said here at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.


“They’re just putting it on the ship now,” he said. “… And this may be the beginning of seeing a lot more lasers coming onto different ships.”

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The amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland.

The laser will give the Portland the firepower to take out drones and small boats, Rivers said. It’s also equipped with a camera that brings new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, he added.

When the LaWS was tested in 2012, a Navy video showed how it could target small aircraft or boats without using bullets.

A video of a demonstration of the 30-kilowatt system being tested on the guided-missile destroyer Dewey showed the laser closing in on an unmanned aircraft off the coast of San Diego. That drone quickly caught fire and slammed into the ocean.

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The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.

(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Sailors and Marines could find themselves needing to fight their way to shore in the Pacific and other theaters. Crews aboard amphibious ships that carry Marines could also need to fight as they sustain forces on the ground and as they head back out to sea, said Frank DiGiovanni, deputy director of expeditionary warfare.

That’s what has some Navy officials talking about arming amphibious ships with offensive capabilities, Rivers said. Typically, the focus has been on defensive capabilities and survivability.

But looking at ways to arm them in the future “is not off the table,” he added.

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

Articles

17 breathtaking photos of the Air Force at night

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An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing sits on the flightline March 25, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. | US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel


The US Air Force is the world’s premier aerial force.

The Air Force has 39 distinct types of aircraft, not counting individual variants within each of those airframes. This range of planes allows the Air Force to highly specialize for each mission and achieve incredible successes.

The following photos show some of the amazing missions that the Air Force carries out both on air and land at night.

A C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron conducts a night flight mission over Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2016.

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US Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe

Capt. Thomas Bernard, a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, performs a visual confirmation with night vision goggles during a training mission over the Kanto Plain, Japan, Oct. 14, 2015.

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US Air Force/Osakabe Yasuo

Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training April 25, 2016.

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US Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe

The F-35 Integrated Test Force is completing a series of night flights, testing the ability to fly the jet safely in instrument meteorological conditions where the pilot has no external visibility references.

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US Air Force

A special operations Airman aims his weapon to designate the location of a threat Oct. 9, 2014, during a training mission at Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England.

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US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

Staff Sgt. Joseph Pico, a security forces Airman with the 106th Rescue Wing, conducts night-firing training at the Suffolk County Police Range in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., May 7, 2015.

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New York Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Canadian special operations regiment members call in close-air support from their US Air Force allies during Emerald Warrior 2013 April 26, 2013, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

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US Air Force/Senior Airman Matt Bruch

Airmen with the 9th Airlift Squadron and 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron with Marines from the Marine Expeditionary Brigade prepare to load vehicles into a C-5M Super Galaxy Oct. 6, 2014, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

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US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock

A US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, sits on the flight line during pre-flight checks Nov. 23, 2010, while deployed at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

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US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin

Staff Sgt. Robert Clark directs anArmy M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System out of a C-17 Globemaster III, April 25 during Exercise Emerald Warrior, at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

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US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Beneath the light of a full moon, Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing prepare a C-130J Hercules for a flight March 27, 2013, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

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US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Russ Scalf

Senior Airman Larry Webster scans for potential threats using night vision goggles after completing a cargo airdrop Oct. 7, 2013, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Webster is a 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster.

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US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ben Bloker

A US Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft with the 107th Airlift Wing fires off flares during a night formation training mission.

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US Air Force

Maintainers from the 81st Fighter Squadron pull out firing pins and chalks to ready an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft for takeoff before a night combat search and rescue training mission July 20, 2012.

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US Air Force/Senior Airman Natasha Stannard

Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II for a simulated combat sortie in support of exercise Beverly Midnight 16-01 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, March 9, 2016.

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US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Rachelle Coleman

Maj. Kurt Wampole, assisted by Capt. Matt Ward taxis a C-130H Hercules back to its parking spot at Bagram Airfield, Parwan Province, Afghanistan, Oct. 7, 2013 after completing an air cargo drop mission in Ghazni Provence Afghanistan.

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US Air Force/Master Sgt. Ben Bloker

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