This female vet is one of history's most decorated combat photographers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

“When you’re young, you have this sense of invincibility, ” says Stacy Pearsall. “You can hear the gunshots, but they can’t touch you.” Pearsall is a former Air Force Combat Photojournalist who spent much of her storied ten-year Air Force career assigned to the 1st Combat Camera Squadron in Charleston South Carolina. Her awards include the Bronze Star, Air Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor. She is one of two women to win Military Photographer of the Year and the only woman to win it twice. She has an honorary doctoral degree from The Citadel and was declared a Champion of Change by the White House.


During her first Iraq deployment in 2003, then-23-year-old Pearsall documented everything from Blackhawk helicopter sorties to foot patrols with Army infantry units on the ground. This would be the cornerstone of an epic that would impact thousands of veterans from across the US and around the globe.

“Throughout my deployment I photographed a civil affairs mission to rebuild a bombed out school where Saddam’s wife once taught,” Pearsall reflects. “We targeted it during “shock and awe” because Ba’athists used it as a headquarters. When we were gearing up for the convoy, there was one open seat in the lead vehicle and one in the rear. My partner and I drew straws to see who would sit where. As we departed the school, an IED buried under piles of debris detonated near my vehicle, sending projectiles and dust everywhere. It was fortunate the bomb wasn’t bigger. Everyone walked away that day.”

She waited to seek medical attention until she returned to the Air Force’s Camp Sather. She’d seen far worse wounds and didn’t want to make a big deal about whiplash and some blood in her ears. She played down her injuries and continued to document missions nearly every day until the end of her deployment.

“Suffice to say I slammed a lot of vitamin M,” Pearsall recalls.

Like many blast traumas, it was the injuries she couldn’t see that followed her home from deployment. Once back home in Charleston, Pearsall was cooking dinner and suddenly fell over. Her world was off-kilter and she couldn’t stand upright. Doctors thought her injuries gave way to viruses so she underwent the treatment for that with little to no relief. Today, a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury (TBI) would’ve been more likely. For Pearsall, that diagnosis would not come for another five years.

“So I learned to deal with the vertigo and headaches,” Pearsall says. Despite the chronic headaches and neck pain, she continued her Air Force photojournalism career. Her work earned her Military Photographer of the Year (MPOY) in 2003, an annual award, open to all military personnel. During the judging, the panel referred to Stacy as ‘he‘. They did not do it years later, when she won for the second time.

While supporting Operation Enduring Freedom Horn of Africa, she teamed up with combat videographer Staff Sergeant Katie Robinson, an Air Force Reservist who would eventually become Pearsall’s battle buddy for life. The two worked to deploy together at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warhorse, near Baqubah, Iraq.

Despite a mud-floored CHU with a leaky roof and a critical satellite transmitter sitting in a pool of water, set out to prove they could hang with the soldiers at Warhorse.

“I was never faced with anything regarding my competency because I am a female,” Pearsall says. Initially, everyone was apprehensive because I was a photographer. I caught earfuls of inter-service rivalry for being Air Force but after our first firefight, word got around that I was worth having around. Instead of seeking them out, they started asking for our support.”

FOB Warhorse proved to be the right place for action. The Battle of Baqubah was the last major offensive of the Iraq War and would last seven months. Having freedom to do so, Pearsall and Robinson moved around the AOR documenting one key mission after another.

“I put those soldiers on a pedestal,” Pearsall reveals. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”

Pearsall and Robinson were supposed to accompany Delta Company into Baqubah on a raid to take down a house harboring enemy fighters. At the last minute, they were transferred to an Iraqi Army operation in nearby Buhriz. As they prepared for their new assignment, they listened to their friends’ progress as the reports trickled in.

“As the breach team moved in, the house blew,” Pearsall remembers. “The Bradleys came back to the FOB and began unloading the injured. The soldiers were a mess. We looked for our friends, but couldn’t see them. Then the last Bradley dropped ramp and unloaded those who were killed in action. Blue Platoon lost three really great guys that day. The rest of their team had to soldier on. Katie and I did too. We still had to go out and meet the Iraqi Army for our next operation.”

The two were split up between two Iraqi Army companies, with the idea they’d link back up in a few days. That was the plan, anyway.

“They shot my fucking thumb off!” Robinson said the minute she was struck by a nearby sniper. The sniper was aiming for an officer sitting next to Robinson. The bullet went through her left forearm, through her video camera and exploded the battery, which partially amputated her right thumb.

“I laughed when I heard that,” Pearsall remembers. “That’s what made us so close. Our collective humor, our unwavering bond, our utmost respect for each other.” When given the opportunity to redeploy home and rehab back in the United States, Robinson refused. Instead, she opted to return to FOB Warhorse.

“For me, the rest of the deployment was intense, just like that,” Pearsall says. “So many good soldiers taken so quickly, so young. Photographing the rare moments between gunfights was my favorite thing to do. It was my sense of home, of humanity.”

 

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Pearsall in action — camera in hand — during combat ops in Iraq. (Photo: USAF)

Toward the end of her deployment, Pearsall further injured her neck during an operation. Robinson finally convinced her to see a doctor. An x-ray led to a CAT scan and more tests. Doctors concluded she needed surgery. For Pearsall, that was not an option. She wanted to leave Iraq on her own terms.

“Katie was strong. I wanted to remain strong too,” Pearsall says. I already lived with the pain for so long, one flight home wasn’t going to kill me. It was the one thing I could control in a situation that seemed out of my control.”

“My neck wouldn’t heal enough for me to stay in the military,” Pearsall explains. “It was devastating. They offered alternatives, like admin or finance. But after you’ve tasted combat, you can’t go back. If I couldn’t fight, what was I supposed to do? My career in the military was over.”

“One day, while waiting for an appointment at my VA hospital, a World War II veteran leaned over and asked if I was taking my grandfather to his doctor’s appointment. He seemed surprised to learn I was a veteran. He told me how he helped liberate a concentration camp during WWII and I realized that I judged him unfairly – just as everyone was doing to me. So I set about healing myself through the experiences of other veterans.”

Now her mission continues. First on her mind is a portrait project, photographing veterans from every conflict and preserving their stories their image for generations to come.

“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” she says. “And I wanted to continue that service to my fellow veterans.”

Her work and personal recovery, isn’t limited to her portrait project. There were some whose stories could no longer be told firsthand. In 2012, she published Shooter: Combat From Behind the Camera, a book of her Iraq War imagery.

“I couldn’t look at my photos without having an emotional response,” she says. “I wanted to put what happened on a page and shelve it, so I wouldn’t have to live that part of my life every day anymore. Shooter was my therapy. It was my way of honoring those who didn’t have a voice anymore, to share their experience with the world.”

Her second book, A Photojournalist’s Field Guide was published in 2013. Along with contributions from her heavy–hitter photojournalist friends, Pearsall created a guide to educate younger photographers. The book isn’t limited to photography tips. It includes insight on how to survive in austere conditions, cope with stress and maneuver through tough situations.

“I’m not the first woman to go into combat for the United States,” Pearsall explains. “There are a whole slew of women who fought for this country. Unfortunately, they’re not spoken much of in the history books.”

Not anymore. Pearsall’s project will ensure history won’t forget any veteran who fought for the U.S., regardless of gender.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s first-ever F-35 carrier just deployed in the Pacific

The US Navy made history on March 5, 2018, by putting to sea, for the first time ever, an aircraft carrier with F-35B jets.


And by deploying them in the Pacific, it’s a message China and North Korea are sure to hear loud and clear.

The US Marine Corps’s Fighter Attack Squadron 121 deployed aboard the USS Wasp, a smaller-deck aircraft carrier that used to operate harrier jump jets and helicopters before getting special modifications to field the F-35.

Also read: Mattis wants the F-35 to be part of the US nuclear triad

“This is a historic deployment,” said Col. Tye R. Wallace, 31st MEU Commanding Officer in a US Navy press release. “The F-35B is the most capable aircraft ever to support a Marine rifleman on the ground.”

The deployment marks the culmination of years of planning. Since its inception, the F-35 has been designed with the idea of accommodating short takeoff, vertical landing variants. Initially, the design compromises forced by the massive tail fan and unique capabilities caused complications, compromises, and long and expensive delays.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Becky Calhoun)

But the US has still beaten China, Russia, and the entire world to the punch with a navalized stealth fighter that can fight for air superiority, pull off precision strikes, penetrate enemy airspaces, and coordinate with the two US Navy guided-missile destroyers to guide ship-fired missiles to targets ashore.

The squadron aboard the Wasp has also trained heavily on a new set of tactics meant to keep the US dominant in the Pacific region. Leveraging the short-takeoff, vertical landing ability of the F-35B, the pilots and maintainers drilled on setting up improvised refuel and reloading points, and how to quickly restock the jet for battle, much like mechanics performing pit stops during NASCAR races.

More: Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Additionally, the F-35B has the option of equipping a gun and opening it up as a close-air-support platform to support Marines making a beach landing.

The result is a stealth fighter/bomber/reconnaissance jet well-suited to the Asia-Pacific region, which US adversaries, like China and North Korea, will be sure to recognize.

US competition in the region and around the world put on notice

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration. (US Navy photo by Andy Wolfe)

“You’re about to put, for the first time ever, fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35B squadron commander, previously told Business Insider.

“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”

Related: Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

As Beijing pushes on with its massive land grab in the South China Sea by militarizing artificial islands, intruding in territorial waters of its neighbors, and performing increasingly aggressive fighter jet drills around the Pacific, the F-35B deployment gives the US an advantage in terms of air power at sea.

China has struggled to field its own stealth jets that many see as an answer to US air power in the region.

North Korea, not a powerful nation in terms of air power, will now feel the added pressure of stealth jets it cannot track sitting near its shores in Okinawa or on deployment around the region.

Here’s a video of the F-35B landing vertically on the Wasp at sea:

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines’ F-35 will get its first taste of combat in 2018

The F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II 5th generation aircraft, is expected to deploy to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in 2018, the Marine Corps Times reported.


According to Jeff Schogol, the F-35B, that can operate from amphibious assault ships, “is expected to deploy with two Marine expeditionary units to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in the spring and summer. […]  The first deployment will be with the 31st MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and the second will be with the 13th MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, said spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns.”

The first deployment to the U.S. Central Command AOR (area of responsibility) – that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan – has long been anticipated. In 2016, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told reporters that the service was planning to deploy the F-35B to the CENTCOM area of operations aboard the USS Essex (six more F-35Bs were to deploy to the Pacific aboard the USS Wasp).

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
An F-35B flies near its base at MCAS Beaufort in South Carolina. | Lockheed Martin

The 2018 deployment follows the relocation of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, from MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2017. Since then, the F-35B have started operating in the region, taking part in local drills as well as some routine “shows of force” near the Korean Peninsula: for instance, on Aug. 30, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joined two USAF B-1B Lancers from Guam onf a 10-hour mission that brought the “package” over waters near Kyushu, Japan, then across the Korean Peninsula.

Interestingly, during that mission, the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors used to make LO (Low Observable) aircraft clearly visible on radars and also dropped their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on Pilsung firing range. On a subsequent mission on Sept. 18, the aircraft took part in a “sequenced bilateral show of force” over the Korean peninsula carrying “live” AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in the internal weapons bays.

Now Read: Watch the F-35B execute a vertical landing in rough waters with ease

As already reported, the F-35s would be probably involved in the Phase 4 of an eventual pre-emptive air strike on Pyongyang, the phase during which tactical assets would be called to hunt road-mobile ballistic missiles and any other artillery target that North Korea could use to launch a retaliatory attack (even a nuclear one) against Seoul.

Moreover, during the opening stages of an air war, the F-35Bs would be able to act as real-time data coordinators able to correlate and disseminate information gathered from their on board sensors to other assets contributing to achieve the “Information Superiority” required to geo-locate the threats and target them effectively.

Considered that Marine aviation officials have said that up to half of the current F/A-18 Hornets are not ready for combat, the deployment to the CENTCOM AOR a key step in the long-term plan to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, and AV-8B Harrier fleets with a total of 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs by 2032.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS America followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016. During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant and some of the most experienced F-35B pilots said that “the platform is performing exceptionally.” The eventual participation in a real operation such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) over Syria and Iraq, albeit rather symbolic, will also be the first opportunity  to assess the capabilities of the platform in real combat. As for the Israeli F-35s, the airspace over the Middle East (or Central Asia) could be a test bed for validating the tactical procedures to be used by the new aircraft in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission with added Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) and Command Control (C2) capability.

If committed to support OIR, the F-35B will probably operate in a “first day of war” configuration carrying weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors playing both the “combat battlefield coordinators” role, collecting, managing and distributing intelligence data, and the “kinetic attack platform” role, dropping their ordnance on the targets and passing targeting data to older 4th Gen. aircraft via Link-16. More or less what done by the USMC F-35Bs during Red Flag 17-3 earlier in 2017; but next year it will be for the real thing.

Articles

Anonymous reports reveal military sexual misconduct truths

Months before the nude Marine photo-sharing scandal erupted, service members were complaining about a similar issue in an anonymous Defense Department survey on sexual assault and harassment.


In a report issued May 1, the Pentagon said that nearly 6,200 military members said that sexually explicit photos of them were taken or shared against their will by someone from work, and it made them “uncomfortable, angry, or upset.” And, across the services, female Marines made up the largest percentage of women who complained.

More than 22,000 service members said they were upset or angry when someone at work showed or sent them pornography. And, again, female Marines represented the highest percentage of complaints from women.

Also read: Navy and Marine Corps considering mandatory separation for troops who share nude photos

The responses reflect a growing concern across the military about inappropriate social media behavior. The scandal came to light last month when sexually explicit photos of female and male Marines were being shared on a secret Facebook page. The revelation triggered a wide-ranging criminal investigation that now encompasses all the services, and has prompted changes and restrictions in military social media policies.

The latest survey results, however, make it clear that the issue has long been simmering in the military.

Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office, said the results “tell us that this is a problem and we have to start having more conversations about social media behavior.”

The survey was released as part of the annual report on sexual assault and harassment in the military. It found that reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

Defense officials, however, said the anonymous survey done as part of the report showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey.

Because sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, the Pentagon has used anonymous surveys for several years to track the problem. The survey was sent to more than 735,000 service members between June and October 2016, and more than 150,000 responded.

The two social media questions were asked for the first time in last year’s survey, Galbreath said, because the issue was becoming more of a concern.

According to the data, 1.3 percent of military women said someone took or shared explicit photos of them against their will. When divided according to military service, 2.3 percent of female Marines made that complaint, compared to 1.5 percent of female soldiers, 1.6 percent of female sailors and .5 percent of female airmen.

Related: Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

On the pornography question, 4 percent of military women said someone showed or sent them sexual explicit material that made them upset or angry. Six percent of female Marines had that problem, compared to 5 percent of female sailors, 4.5 percent of female soldiers and 2.1 percent of female airmen. The percentages of men complaining were much smaller overall.

The Marine Corps is the smallest military service, so while the percentages were the largest, the actual numbers of people affected were likely smaller than the other services.

Separately, the data released by the Pentagon on May 1 showed there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.

For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.

On retaliation, it found that 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” but only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administrative actions, or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.

Retaliation has been a difficult issue to sort out, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.

The anonymous survey, meanwhile, showed a steady decline in the number of service members saying they experienced unwanted sexual contact, which can be anything from inappropriate touching to rape.

Of the 14,900 people who said they experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

A diplomatic security agent testified Sept. 2 that after militants stormed the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, he turned to US Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was hiding in a safe room, and said, “When I die, you need to pick up my gun and keep fighting.”


Agent Scott Wickland was the government’s first witness in a trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, a Libyan suspected of orchestrating the attack that killed the ambassador and three other Americans. Wickland took the stand and gave a harrowing account of how he tried without success to save the ambassador and Sean Patrick Smith, a State Department information management officer.

The smoke from weapons’ fire and explosions was so thick and black that it blinded the three. They dropped to the floor and crawled on their bellies, gasping for air. Wickland said he was trying to lead them to a bathroom where he could close the door and open a window.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

“I was breathing through the last centimeter of air on the ground,” Wickland said. “I’m yelling, ‘Come on. We can make it. We’re going to the bathroom.’ Within 8 meters, they disappeared.”

Wickland kept yelling for them. He was feeling around on the floor through the toxic smoke, which made the lighted room darker than night.

“To this day, I don’t even know where they went. I was right next to them, and then that’s it,” Wickland said. “I had my hand on Ambassador Stevens. I could hear Sean shuffling.”

Twelve jurors and three alternates assembled for the opening day of one of the most significant terrorism prosecutions in recent years. Abu Khattala is being tried in US District Court, a civilian court, at a time when the Trump administration has said terror suspects are better sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
The United States Air Force Band plays the national anthem during the dignified transfer of the remains J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans, Sept. 14, 2012, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. USAF photo by Senior Airman Perry Aston.

During Wickland’s testimony, Abu Khattala hung an arm over his chair and held his chin, covered in a long, grayish white beard. He listened through earphones to an Arabic translation of the proceedings.

The opening testimony was aimed at turning the jury against the defendant, but his name was never mentioned throughout Wickland’s nearly three hours on the stand. He is expected to retake the stand on Oct. 3.

An 18-count indictment against Abu Khattala arises from a burst of violence that began the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Stevens and Smith were killed in the first attack at the US mission. Nearly eight hours later, two more Americans, contract security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in a mortar attack on a CIA complex nearby

Abu Khattala, who appeared in court wearing a white shirt and dark pants, has pleaded not guilty to his charges, including murder of an internationally protected person, providing material support to terrorists, and destroying US property while causing death.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Ahmed Abu Khattala after capture. Image from US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Jeffrey Robinson called Abu Khattala a “Libyan patriot” who fought on America’s side in the war against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He said Abu Khattala didn’t mastermind the attack. The lawyer said the defendant simply went to the attack site because he heard there was a protest and wanted to see what was happening.

“He didn’t shoot anyone. He didn’t set any fires. He did not participate in the attacks,” Robinson said.

Robinson also said Abu Khattala was a deeply religious man who believes in conservative sharia law as outlined in the Quran. He reminded jurors that in America, people are not prosecuted because of their religious beliefs.

The prosecution gave a starkly different portrayal of the defendant. Assistant US Attorney John Crabb said that when Abu Khattala’s hatred of America boiled over, he orchestrated the attacks and then triumphantly strode around the attack site carrying an AK-47.

Crabb said that later, the defendant told someone at his apartment: “I attacked the American Embassy” and would have killed more Americans that night if others had not intervened.

He said Abu Khattala “hates America with a vengeance.”

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
The United States Air Force Band plays the national anthem during the dignified transfer of the remains J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans, Sept. 14, 2012, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. USAF photo by Senior Airman Perry Aston.

“He killed Ambassador Stevens — a man of peace.”

The trial is expected to last for weeks. Crabb said the prosecution would show the jury videos of the attack site and Abu Khattala’s phone records, which he said showed a spike in activity during the attacks. He said witnesses would include weapons and fire experts and a man named Ali, who was paid $7 million to befriend Abu Khattala and help US forces capture him in Libya.

After he was captured, he was taken to a US Navy ship that transported him to the United States. During the 12-day journey, he was first interrogated by intelligence personnel and then by FBI agents. Crabb said Abu Khattala told FBI agents that America was the “root of all the world’s problems.”

His defense lawyer said Abu Khattala cooperated aboard the ship and he “continued to deny, as he denies today, any participation in planning or masterminding the attack.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 can make China’s carrier killer missiles ‘irrelevant’

As China builds out its network of militarized islands in the South China Sea and expands a sphere of influence designed to keep the U.S. out, the U.S. Marine Corps is putting the finishing touches on a weapon to burst its bubble: the F-35B.


China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has turned out a massive number of so-called carrier-killer missiles, ballistic missiles that can target ships up to about 800 miles out at sea, even testing them against models of U.S. aircraft carriers.

With the U.S. Navy’s longest-range platform — aircraft carriers — maxing out at a range of about 550 miles, this means China could theoretically use the missiles to shut the U.S. out of a battle for the South China Sea.

But theories and lines drawn on paper won’t beat the U.S. military in a battle.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, conducts a vertical landing at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 15 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Jimenez)

In pursuing the strategy of anti-access/area denial, known as A2AD, China assumes that the U.S. must launch aircraft from bases or aircraft carriers. But the F-35B, the U.S. Marine Corps’ variant of the most expensive weapons system of all time, doesn’t work that way.

“You can fly the F-35B literally anywhere,” David Berke, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, told Business Insider. “If your traditional places of operation are unavailable” — perhaps because Chinese missile fire cratered them, a likely tactic in a war — “the F-35B can be there.”

By taking off in just a few hundred feet or so and landing from a vertical drop, the F-35B frees up the Marine Corps from worrying about large, obvious bases.

If China targets carriers, the U.S. won’t use carriers

Marines have been training for this operating concept in the Pacific as well. In mid-January 2018, they landed an F-35B on a sloped platform, showing that future pilots could land their plane almost anywhere.

Throughout last year, F-35B crews trained on tactics like “hot loading” and “hot refueling,” which aims to turn reloading the F-35 — usually an affair that takes time, space, and a massive air base to support — into the equivalent of a NASCAR pit stop.

For the F-35B, the ground crew runs up to the jet while it’s still running to pump more fuel and load more bombs. In just a few minutes, atop a dirt floor with minimal support infrastructure in an improvised location China’s missiles won’t know to hit, the F-35B can take off again.

Also Read: How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

“Find me 600 feet of flat surface anywhere in the world, and I can land there,” said Berke, who compared the F-35B to the A-10 “Warthog,” the U.S. Air Force flying gun famous for its ability to land on dirt roads and fight on despite getting roughed up.

So while China has focused on pushing back the U.S.’s aircraft-carrier-bound fleets of F-18s, the Marines have cooked up a new strategy involving smaller carriers, like the USS Wasp, and heavy-lifting, quick-flying helicopters for support. Using the V-22 Osprey’s and the CH-53’s extreme-lifting capability, Marines could set up makeshift bases inside China’s supposed A2AD bubble.

From there, the stealth F-35Bs could take out the threats keeping the carriers at bay, poking holes in that bubble.

“If you’re looking at warfare two-dimensionally, you’re looking at it wrong,” Berke, a former F-35 squadron commander, said of the A2AD concept. “You don’t beat me in a boxing match ’cause your arms are longer than mine.”

The U.S. is sending the F-35B to the Pacific ASAP

The U.S.’s faith in the F-35B’s ability to shake up the balance of power in the Pacific is evident in recent deployments. The first outside the U.S. was in Japan.

Now, amid rising tensions with North Korea, an F-35B-capable aircraft carrier will station itself in Japan.

“You’re about to put for the first time ever fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” Berke said.

“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this crazy Russian jet fly within 5 feet of a Navy plane

US Naval Forces Europe-Africa have released footage of a Russian Su-27 intercepting a US Navy EP-3 Aries signals reconnaissance aircraft over the Black Sea on Jan. 29 2018.


“A U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27,” the Navy statement read.

“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes.”

The intercept is the latest in a string of “unsafe” intercepts that the Russian military has conducted.

Also read: This is who would win a dogfight between an F-15 Eagle and Su-27 Flanker

In November 2017, a Russian Su-30 fighter flew as close as 50 feet before turning on its afterburners while intercepting a US Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft over the same area, and in December 2017, two US Air Force F-22s were intercepted by Russian Su-25 and Su-35 jets.

The US Aircraft had to fire flares as warnings to the Russian jets, one of which “had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision.” Russia has denied the incident in Syria took place.

Check out the footage from the Jan. 29 intercept here:

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 24th

It seems the Army is planning a system for evaluating the effectiveness of potential battalion commanders with a new five-day program at Fort Knox. That’s good news for the staff officers worth their weight in salt, and it’s fantastic that they’re finally doing away with the all-around ass-kissing that goes on around OER season. It’ll also bring the hammer down on commanders who fail height and weight, give them a “leadership test,” and bring them in front of a board of officers and non-commissioned officers.

I know my opinion on the matter probably means nothing, but if I may make a suggestion…randomly select NCOs in their unit to give honest feedback – you know, the soldiers most affected by their actions.

You could ask them things like: Are they the type to step on the toes of the sergeant major? Would the candidate for battalion commander literally throw their troops under an actual bus if it meant a bronze star? How many times has Private Snuffy become a heat cat during the speeches they said would be quick yet they kept talking about themselves? You know, the actual things that separate the toxic CO’s from the ones that stick with their troops forever.


But that’d make too much sense, and apparently, online tests can determine these things better than troops. Anyways, here are some memes.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Call for Fire)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Not CID)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

A military kid is learning about her dad’s life and experiences through the eyes of her mom.

Ever since Britt Harris first met her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, eyes have played an important part of her story.


This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

Chris and Britt Harris. Courtesy photo.

From the beginning, she couldn’t help but notice his baby blues, so different from her own hazel eyes. The North Carolina natives fell in love and married in October 2016. A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, Chris deployed to Afghanistan the next summer.

Then came the eyes of the nation on her when her 25-year-old husband was killed in a vehicle explosion on August 2, 2017, making her a Gold Star wife. Just one week earlier, Britt thrilled him with the news that they were expecting their first child.

Unit connection

Britt’s grief felt all-encompassing, but she still wanted to feel connected to her husband’s unit. She included them in her gender reveal, shipping confetti poppers with the appropriate color to Afghanistan. The men and women celebrated amidst a shower of pink in a now-viral video.

When her daughter, Christian Michelle, arrived on March 17, 2018 — the day Chris’ unit returned — Britt knew the story wasn’t over. So she arranged for a photoshoot featuring Christian, herself and Chris’ fellow soldiers.

With the same otherworldly blue eyes as her father, Christian quickly captivated millions. The moment wasn’t just for show, however; the men and women who served alongside Chris (he and Britt are only children) are viewed as family.

“We still see each other. We get lunch, or send texts, or social media,” says Britt, 28. “It makes me feel like I’m still part of the group even though I don’t have Chris anymore.”

Yet thanks to Christian’s uncanny resemblance to Chris — especially his eyes — Britt still does, in a way. Christian loves doing handstands now, the result of toddler gymnastics classes.

“She does them everywhere we go,” Britt laughs. “She dances all day, every day.”

Pageant platform

Living as a single mom in Moore County, North Carolina, was never Britt’s original plan. But she has plenty of new accomplishments to list since her world came crashing down in 2017, including hiking Kilimanjaro in Africa and starting a PhD program in psychology at Liberty University.

“My husband was really adventurous and he was always the person to push me to do something new,” Britt says. “When he passed away, I didn’t have anyone to push me anymore, so I started pushing myself to try new things.”

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

And in going after those firsts, Britt now holds the title of Mrs. North Carolina Universal 2020. Though this year’s national pageant fell victim to quarantine, she still plans to compete in 2021. Her platform will be bringing awareness to families of the fallen.

“A lot of people don’t even know what Gold Star means,” Britt said. “I’ve met veterans who don’t know what Gold Star is.”

The publicity that pageants offer could majorly change that, giving Britt a wider audience to educate on the definition and needs of Gold Star families, perhaps even affecting future related legislation.

“The pageant world isn’t really a place where widows go,” she said. “I’m hoping out of curiosity people will read up on Gold Star or ask when I give my interviews so I can speak more about it.”

Road trips

Besides getting ready to eventually compete in a national pageant, 2020 has held another rookie experience for Britt and Christian: being the recipients of a Gold Star canine training program.

Ridgeside K9 Carolinas recently boarded Atlas, the Harris’ one-year-old Blue Heeler, and professionally trained him to be a well-behaved family dog. The Harrises were the first selected for this free service for families of the fallen.

“Atlas is a very high-energy dog that was by no means a ‘bad dog,’ but I certainly needed help teaching him obedience,” Britt said. “He’s very patient and well-behaved now. He listens and the stress of chasing him and him avoiding and ignoring my calls and demands is long gone!”

Now, Atlas could happily join Britt and Christian on their road trips to places where Chris visited. Britt documents each trip in photos.

“I want to show the re-creations of her in the places Chris went, to walk where he walked, to feel close to him,” she says. “I want her to feel connected to him and the things he enjoyed.”

As a Gold Star wife, Britt understands that Chris is physically absent. But he — and those blue eyes he passed on to the daughter he never met — will always be a part of their lives.

Follow Britt at https://www.instagram.com/britt.m.harris/ to keep up with her and Christian’s future adventures.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


Articles

This is how 12 other countries celebrate their version of Veterans Day

Note that when writing “Veterans Day,” there is no apostrophe. It’s not a day that belongs to veterans, it’s a day for the country to recognize veterans – all of them.


The United States has a tradition of recognizing those who fight in its wars. Memorial Day began as a way for Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades (the day was originally called Decoration Day). Eventually, it would come to recognize all Americans troops killed in action.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Soldiers celebrating World War I Armistice.

Related: Here’s a sneak peek at the new World War I Memorial going up in DC

Veterans Day was born from the trenches of World War I. The horrors of that war spurred not just Americans but most combatants to recognize those who fought in that terrible conflict.

In America, the anniversary of the war’s end became known as Armistice Day. After the brutal fighting of World War II and Korea, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.

The United States certainly isn’t the only country to experience the devastation a war can take on its population (and especially on those who fight that war). A few others take a day to recognize the significance of those who serve.

1. Australia and New Zealand

The land down under celebrates it veterans on what is known as ANZAC Day, on April 25. The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action from Australia and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I, the Battle of Gallipoli, against the Ottoman Turks. The first ANZAC Day was in 1926 and was later expanded to include the World War II veterans.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

These days, ANZAC Day begins at dawn, with commemorations at war memorials and reflections on the meanings of war.

2. Belgium

Since 1928, Belgium recognized its fallen on Armistice Day with the “Last Post” ceremony. A bugler calls out the “Last Post,” noting the end of the day (a British song, similar in effect to the modern U.S. Army “retreat”). Poppies are spread out from the tops of the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

3. France

The French also recognize Armistice Day on Nov. 11. The country throws military parades and its people wear black or dark clothing.

4. Denmark

While Denmark was officially a neutral country in WWI, it doesn’t share the Nov. 11 remembrance with other Western European countries. Instead, Denmark honors living and dead troops from any conflict on its Flag Day, Sep. 5th.

5. Germany

Volkstrauertag is a day honoring the nation’s war dead on the Sunday closest to Nov. 16. The German president speaks to the assembled government and then the national anthem is played just before “Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden” (“I had a comrade”).

6. Israel

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Sirens sound throughout Israel marking the start of Yom Hazikaron.

Since 1963, Yom Hazikaron, or “Day of the Memory,” has been Israel’s day for celebrating its fallen troops and for those who died in terrorist attacks and politically-motivated violence. It’s traditionally held on the 5th of Ivar (on the Hebrew calendar) but will be held in the preceding days to avoid falling on Shabbat.

7. Italy

Italy also celebrates its veterans with the marking of the end of World War I. Since Italy spent the bulk of the war fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire and peace on the Italian Front was separate from the rest of the Western Front, the end of the war – and Italy’s veterans – are celebrated on Nov. 4.

8. The Netherlands

Veteranendag, recognizing everyone who served in the country’s military, happens on the last Saturday in June. The celebration has gained importance since the country began deploying to Afghanistan. Celebrations include a ceremony in front of the King of the Netherlands in the Hall of Knights, a parade in The Hague, and a meeting between veterans and civilians at the Malieveld, a National Mall-type area in The Hague.

9. Nigeria

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

As a member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria originally shared Nov. 11 as Remembrance Day but changed it to Jan. 15th to commemorate the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970.

10. Norway

Veterandagen is celebrated every May 8, coinciding with the World War II Victory in Europe Day. Norway’s observation of the day is recent, as they’ve only been celebratingit since 2011.

11. Sweden

The Swede celebrate their veterans and those who served as UN Peacekeepers every May 29 with a large ceremony in Stockholm, attended by the Swedish Royal Family.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
(photo by Holger Ellgaard)

12. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth

Those watching the news or sporting events on BBC or CBC may have noticed a red, flower-looking device on the lapels of the announcers. Those are poppies worn for Remembrance Sunday. For the month or so leading up to Nov. 11, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries wear poppies to remember those who died in war. Wear of the poppy actually started with an American school teacher, but became a symbol of WWI because of the poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

There are actually rules on how to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day. Britain and the Commonwealth observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every Nov. 11 to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Awesome memes from around the interwebs. Share your favorites on our Facebook page.


1. Look, when the Army started giving the Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle to more units, soldiers got excited about it (via Team Non-Rec).

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

2. Being a boot is hard (via Devil Dog Nation).

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Probably doesn’t even realize why his armor is so uncomfortable.

3. “Basic training is not nearly as much fun as I thought it would be.”

(via Air Force Nation)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

4. Navy, this isn’t the reason we make fun of you …

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
… but it’s definitely a reason we make fun of you.

5. Do airmen do field exercises? If so, why?

(via Marine Corps Memes)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
I mean, you park the planes at big ole bases anyway. Why go to the field?

6. You think your personnel manager is an a-shole?

(via Entertain Your Nerdy A–)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Stormtroopers got you beat every time.

7. They’re so sweet and so, so bitter.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Sure, you’re finally leaving, but that also means you’re putting your ruck back on.

8. Look, it’s fine to be a POG (via Army Nation).

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
If you’re not infantry, stop playing like you are.

SEE ALSO: 9 reasons it’s perfectly fine to be a POG

9. Why malingerers are always so happy:

(via Military Memes)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Wouldn’t it be great if the malingerers were all secretly Hulk-level strong? Instead of useless?

10. When your service has A-10s and F-22s, it’s hard to take your M-16 seriously (via Air Force Nation).

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
But you should still carry it with you.

11. Which would you rather have:

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
The next three years of your life? Or a free soda?

 12. Car bumper stickers tell a story (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

13. “Sgt. 1st Class Smozart will be leading the 155mm howitzer crew through the 1812 Overture.”

(via Military Nations)

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers

NOW: Troops pick which Army job is best

OR: This is the ultimate special operations weapon

MIGHTY GAMING

Why ‘Far Cry 5’ is the most veteran AF game ever

The Far Cry video game series has always gone above and beyond in placing the player in a beautiful, open world and pitting them against a cunning and well-written antagonist. The graphics in the most recent installment are as crisp as you’d expect from the series, the gameplay is phenomenal, and plenty of critics are already singing its praise, but what sets this game apart from every other shooter is the storyline.


This time around, instead of exploring some scenic island fighting against drug-running pirates or a prehistoric valley against neanderthals, Far Cry 5 pits the player against deranged cult in a fictional county of Montana.

You play as a Sheriff’s deputy tasked with arresting Joseph Seed, a cult leader who is a mix of David Koresh, Jim Jones, and a hipster douchebag. There’s a palpable eeriness as you walk through his church’s compound and Joseph is seemingly compliant at first. He lets you handcuff him before saying, “you’ll never arrest me.” As you make your way back to the helicopter, one of his followers hurls himself into the propellers, allowing Seed to escape back to his followers, kicking off the game.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
And, yes, the hipster cult leader even has a manbun.
(Ubisoft)

The player is then saved by the first of many veterans you’ll encounter in the game, Dutch. He’s a loner Vietnam veteran who has shut himself off in a bunker while the world goes to sh*t outside. Inside his bunker, you’ll find plenty of little references to real-life military units, like an homage to the 82nd Airborne patch (the “AA” has been replaced by the number “82” in the same style) and a patch that’s the shape of the 101st, but with the XVIII Corps’ dragon.

He offers to help you out and gives you something to wear something other than your uniform, which includes (and I’m not making this up) some 5.11 gear.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
No word on if the guy has his own unapologetic military apparel line yet u2014 maybe in the DLC.
(Ubisoft)

The next veteran who helps you out is Pastor Jerome Jeffries, a Gulf War veteran turned Catholic priest. He’s holed up in his church with the few citizens who haven’t been indoctrinated by the cult. While there, you set up a resistance to buy time until the National Guard can come reinforce. You must band together with the rag-tag group of remaining people to take down Seed and his followers.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Basically how every Chaplain assistant sees themselves after ETSing.
(Ubisoft)

Which brings you to the third main veteran in the storyline, Grace Armstrong, a U.S. Army sniper who deployed to Afghanistan. She’s one of the characters that fights alongside you throughout the game, providing fire support from a good distance.

Though his veteran status remains unknown, you’ll also come across a companion named Boomer. Boomer’s a dog who, if he gets hurt, can be healed with a nice belly rub. It’s the little things in this game that make it amazing.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
He’s a very good boy.
(Ubisoft)

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Capt. America could soon be flying a B-2 stealth bomber — and why some fans don’t like it

On Oct. 6, Marvel made a huge announcement on Twitter, and fans are not happy.


Marvel Entertainment is joining forces with Northrop Grumman, an American global aerospace and defense technology company, and the world’s fifth-largest defense contractor.

We don’t know much yet, but it looks like there will be a promotional comic featuring the Avengers and “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus,” or N.G.E.N.

 

The arms manufacturer generates over 20 billion dollars in revenue a year. Marvel Entertainment didn’t reveal anything more about the partnership, and to learn more the company encouraged fans to head to their New York Comic Con booth on Saturday afternoon.

The partnership comes as a surprise to many Marvel fans. Tony Stark/Iron Man, one of Marvel’s most popular characters, stops selling weapons (his family’s long-time business) because he realizes he’s not saving lives, he’s destroying them. For sensitivity reasons following the Las Vegas shootings, Marvel pulled its NYCC panel for “The Punisher,” and canceled screenings of the first two episodes.

This female vet is one of history’s most decorated combat photographers
Lance Cpl. Brandon M. Barnes, 21, a team leader from Fairbanks, Ala., assigned to I Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, holds out one of the comic books that Marines pass out to Iraqi children at in Hit, Iraq, April 10. Barnes’ uncle and mom sent him packages with comic books in them. Barnes decided to hand out the comics he doesn’t read to the kids in the city. Before Marines give them away, he scans the comics for any pictures that may be offensive to the Iraqi people. (Photo/Cpl. Erik Villagran)

Many lauded Marvel’s decision to cancel The Punisher screenings, but fans don’t seem pleased with the new Northrop Grumman partnership, and some took to Twitter to express their opinions on the matter:

 

 

 

 

 

The full details of the partnership are unknown, but more should be revealed on Saturday at NYCC.

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