This group helps vets heal on the hunt - We Are The Mighty
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This group helps vets heal on the hunt

FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — It can be a challenge to reintegrate from the military into civilian life, especially if you’ve lost a limb and your former toe is now your thumb, Mike Trost said.


And he would know.

Trost, 53, of Maryville, Tennessee, served in the U.S. Army for 32 years until he suffered serious injuries in 2012.

“I was shot with a machine gun in southeastern Afghanistan,” he said of being hit in both legs, buttocks and his right hand.

Trost lost a leg and fingers, but via modern medical technology, he gained a toe for a thumb.

While he talks casually about his hand and refers to his new thumb as “Toemos,” Trost knows all too well recovery can be a physically and emotionally painful, long journey.

“It’s good to be around like company,” Trost said of spending time with veterans who sustained traumatic experiences during their time in the military. “There’s a bond. It’s different than you have with regular friends.”

Trost on Friday was in Fort Ashby for a turkey hunt that’s part of Operation Heroes Support — a local veteran-operated, nonprofit that provides outdoor experiences for disabled veterans, firefighters, police officers and first responders.

“The whole thing with the hunts is just to make you feel, even for one day, that there’s … nothing wrong with you,” he said. “And the people here are fantastic. They give a lot of time and energy.”

Trost and several other veterans from Wednesday through Sunday were at the residence of Bruce Myers and his wife Judy, located in rural West Virginia.

In addition to hunting, the group fished in a lake owned by Dave and Joyce Cooper — neighbors of the Myers couple. Skeet shooting was also on the agenda.

The Myers’s hosted a similar event last year and hope to continue the tradition.

“The veterans, they deserve it … they sacrificed,” Bruce Myers said of the former military members who were injured during their service to country.

Steven Curry, 33, of Nokesville, Virginia, was new to this year’s Fort Ashby hunt and killed his first two turkeys — a 19-pounder on Thursday and a bird that weighed over 20 pounds on Friday.

“It’s pretty exciting,” he said of his hunting success. “We were only in the woods about 20 minutes when I shot the first turkey.”

Curry was in a U.S. Army infantry unit from 2003 to 2008. During his service, he was hit by an improvised explosive device while in Iraq.

As a result, his left leg was amputated below his knee, he had a mild brain injury and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brandon Rethmel, 30, of Pittsburgh, brought his wife and three young children to the event.

Rethmel was in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012. During that time, he was injured by a rocket in Afghanistan.

“I lost my leg below the knee,” he said. His right tricep was also destroyed and he suffered other shrapnel wounds.

“When I got out (of the military) I didn’t connect with people,” he said. “I isolated myself … It was really hard.”

Rethmel said Operation Heroes Support and events including the hunt, as well as support from his family, helped him reclaim his purpose.

“It’s saved my life,” he said. “It’s just really a great program and I hope more (veterans) get involved.”

Greg Hulver, 49, of Kirby, West Virginia, specialized in communications for the U.S. Navy from about 1985 to 1997. Today, he suffers from back injuries and other ailments including PTSD. The hunting events offer him a way to give and receive help, he said

“My military bond is what I have with these guys and that means the most to me,” he said. “There’s just something between us you can’t replace and you can’t get it anywhere else.”

Brady Jackson, 32, of Bristol, Virginia, returned to the event this year to help other veterans.

“I’d never gotten a chance to turkey hunt,” he said of his first experience at the Fort Ashby event last year. “I just had an absolutely amazing time.”

He started volunteering to help get donations for Operation Heroes Support in the fall.

“It’s honestly changed my life,” Jackson said of working with other veterans. “It’s given me a sense of purpose since I got out of the military.”

Jackson was in the U.S. Army for nine years. He was deployed to Iraq where he sustained minor blast trauma, burns and cuts from an explosion. While he knows he was lucky to survive that incident without serious injuries, he needed to spend time with others who understood his experiences.

That’s where Operation Heroes Support came in, he said.

“It’s more about campfire therapy than it is about hunting,” he said. “It’s about building relationships.”

Charles Harris, 26, a native of Placerville, California who now lives in Romney, West Virginia, lost his legs after being injured in 2012 while in a U.S. Army infantry unit.

Today, Harris is the president of the local Operation Heroes Support organization.

“It’s given me the ability to give back,” he said of his work with the group. “It’s like we’re back in the military (because) you can count on these guys … It’s like family.”

Harris said the group hopes to grow, include more public servants such as firefighters and police as well as military veterans. To make that happen, donations of cash, meals, airline tickets and other items and services are needed.

Mighty Moments

From little girl in Ghana to Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Government; Reserve Citizen Airman embodies the American Dream

Her tepid attempt to subdue a smile betrayed a subtle amour-propre, grounded in mollifying unpretentiousness, as she sketched a picture of her childhood home in a sub-region of West Africa on a yellow Post-It note. Called a “compound house,” she shared the square-shaped structure with her great grand-parents, cousins, and several other members of her extended family. Rooms lined the walls facing inward toward an open living-area where the resident children would spend their days playing.

Senior Master Sgt. Eva Appiah (ah-pee-ah), 357th Airlift Squadron first sergeant, was raised by a working-class single mother in the small village of Agona Swedru in the Republic of Ghana, a country along the Gulf of Guinea in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean. Her mother and grandmother consistently stressed the importance of education, she reminisces, because they wanted her to have a better life than they had. Every school day, her grandmother would pay for a cab service to drive her and her cousin to attend.

Appiah’s mother sent her to study at Swedru International School (SWIS), a boarding school 45 minutes from their home, as it was more economical than funding a daily commute. As a result, she learned to become self-reliant at an early age. Appiah chuckled as she remarked, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, that her life at the boarding school prepared for life in the military.

“As typical of children in Africa, I became independent quickly,” she said as she twisted gently from side to side in her swivel-chair, her head titled slightly upward and her eyes scanning the recesses of her memory for dusty images of a time long ago. “In boarding school, our parents weren’t there to get us up for school or get us ready. We were structured to wake up, clean the campus, get ready for school, walk one-quarter mile to the school, and go in and study. Sometimes we had extra duties such as making sure all the tables and chairs were aligned properly.”

Though she had a few friends at SWIS, there wasn’t much time for socialization. Some people chose to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities. Appiah, a self-proclaimed “nerdy-type,” tried out for track and field, but didn’t much care for it, instead opting to join choir. She cites her exposure to classmates from different cultures and dialects as preparing her for her eventual move to the United States.

Appiah longed to move out of Africa. With relatives in London, Amsterdam, and other European cities, she assumed she would end up there. However, in 1996 her mother announced she was getting married and the two of them were moving to America to join her step-father. In early October, at the age of 14, she and her mother arrived and settled in at Smiths Station, Alabama. One week later, on October 17, she enrolled at Smiths Station High School.

Her new classmates did not receive her openly. Even though she could read, write, and understand English (at SWIS, one could be expelled for failing to attain proficiency in the subject), she spoke with an accent. It didn’t help that she was more intellectually advanced than her peers. As a freshman she was taking classes with students in higher grade levels. Fellow students would say “not so nice” things to her and about her. She would go home and cry to her mother every night how she didn’t fit in.

As is characteristic of her unstoppable drive and hyper-optimistic view of life, Appiah turned an adverse situation into a growth opportunity. She began mimicking pronunciations of those around her, honing her observation skills and attention to detail, attributes befitting military service. For instance, back in Ghana, they would pronounce the English word “girl” as “gell.” She would over hear someone say something like, “hey, girl” or “come here girl,” and she would make a mental note and practice the pronunciations when at home. She slowly lost her accent and began to articulate in the local vernacular.

After graduating high school, Appiah’s mother urged her to join the United States Navy. Appiah declined. “I wasn’t going into anyone’s Navy,” she stated matter-of-factly as she shook her head with the corners of her mouth drawn down in the “uh-uh, no way” configuration. “I don’t know how swim.” That was that, and it was off to attend college at Auburn University Montgomery in Montgomery, Alabama.

During her freshman year, she moved off campus with her roommate. Appiah, un-familiar with the provisions of student financial aid, believed that she could use the funds for rent. She could not, a lesson she admittedly learned the hard way.

“All of a sudden I realized, hey, I have to pay half these bills. I need a job.”

Appiah obtained two part-time jobs, which she worked at for a few months, but then decided she wanted to join the military. On May 30, 2002, without her mother’s consent, she enlisted in the United States Air Force Reserve. After basic training and technical school, she was assigned to the 908th Airlift Wing, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, where she served several years in several different positions within the Logistics Readiness Squadron.

In 2016, armed with a master’s degree in health administration, Appiah applied for an officer commission in the Air Force Reserve, hoping to serve in the medical field. Her application was turned down. Though she was disappointed, she didn’t let it set her back. She had been told by numerous Airmen and senior noncommissioned officers that she would make an excellent first sergeant, so that’s what she became.

As a first sergeant, Appiah helped implement and lead quarterly enlisted calls. These were meetings held during the Reserve’s monthly Unit Training Assembly where important information, such as deadlines for Enlisted Developmental Education Board, Enlisted Education Plan, or Stripes for Exceptional Airmen packages, were discussed. While reading the EDEB invitation to apply and course descriptions, she noticed the opportunity to serve as Air Force Reserve Command Enlisted Legislative Fellow.

The fellowship provides hands-on experience through education and development activities consisting of an intensive orientation of Congress. The 54 month commitment includes six months of academic courses, one year on Capitol Hill as staffer to a member of congress or committee and a 36-month post-fellowship active-duty service commitment in the National Capital Region. The position intrigued her; however, she also noticed they were only looking for one primary and one alternate for the position and didn’t further consider applying.

Ironically, during the next enlisted call, facilitator Senior Master Sgt. Justin Nettles, a 908th Airlift Wing Operations Group loadmaster, mentioned the legislative fellow position. Appiah raised her hand and informed him that they were only accepting one person as the primary. Nettles then posed a question to the audience which would change the trajectory of her career: “What if you are that one person?”

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head and the country-wide shutdown began. The U.S. military was not exempt, as meetings, conferences, classes, and other mass gatherings were promptly cancelled or indefinitely postponed. Appiah received a notice that the EDEB had been cancelled, except to convene to decide the legislative fellow.

Appiah remembered Nettles’ question, how she encourages Airmen to aim high, and thought, “What if I am the one person?”

“I’ve always had interest in policies, and how they are developed, debated, and enacted for the betterment of servicemembers,”she said. “I also strongly encourage every Airman to look for opportunities and not be afraid to take a leap. I needed to take my own guidance.”

With the help of her then group commander, retired Col. Don Richey, the 357th Airlift Squadron’s director of operations, Lt. Col. Diane Patton, and wing command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Tracy Cornett, Appiah submitted her application. Soon after, she was notified she was a finalist. A few days after a virtual interview with three panel members, she was notified that she had been selected as the primary. Her leap of faith worked. Indeed, she was the one.

“I’m a bit nervous,” she confessed. “I’ve spent most of my life here in Alabama, but if I’m to accomplish bigger and better things I need to step out of my comfort zone. That is how we grow. We take that first step. I believe in having faith over fear.”

This is not at all surprising considering the meaning of her name. “Eva” is from the Hebrew “Eve” meaning life, living one, or full of life. The surname “Appiah” dates to the Ashanti Empire (1701 to 1957) and means king, prince or fearless warrior. Quite literally, “Eva Appiah” means “Fearless Warrior of Life.”

With an inextinguishable spirit and an ostensible tranquility, Appiah knows if she falls she will pick herself back up and keep moving forward.

“I’m ready for the challenge,” she declared. “I’m ready.”

Read more like this on DVIDS.

Articles

Here are 16 uniform regs you could well be violating right now

Although the military is rich with history and traditions, most of us are too busy to pay attention to the fine print of the uniform reqs. So take a few minutes to scan this list and make sure you’re not setting yourself up for an on-the-spot correction from the first sergeant or some random colonel on base somewhere:


1. While walking only a seabag or purse can be worn across the shoulder.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

Guitars and surfboards have to be hand-carried.

2. Only the CMC, CNO, or CoS can authorize ceremonial uniforms other than those listed in uniform regs.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(Photo: Warner Bros. Records)

So check with your local four-star service chief if you want to go nuts for your service’s birthday or something.

3. Synthetic hair is authorized only if it presents a natural appearance.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

We’re gonna need a ruling here, JAG . . .

4. Contact lenses must be a natural color.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(Photo: Universal Pictures)

See bullet no. 3.

5. Unless a medically documented condition exists, white sox are authorized only with white uniforms.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

No “working uniform Buddy Holly” allowed.

6. Only one bracelet and one wristwatch may be worn while in uniform. Ankle bracelets/chains are not authorized.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

No “working uniform Flavor Flav” allowed.

7. Polishing of medals is prohibited.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

Is that what they’re calling it now?

8. Women’s underpants/brassieres shall be white or skin color when wearing white uniforms, otherwise color is optional. White undershorts/ boxers are required for men when wearing white uniforms.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brien Aho)

Oh . . . color is optional. We assumed it was something else.

9. Uniforms may be tailored to provide a well-fitting, professional military bearing. They shall not be altered to the extent of detracting from a military appearance, nor shall they be tailored to the point of presenting a tight form fit.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

Apparently the Blue Angels didn’t get the word.

10. Hair will not contain an excessive amount of grooming aids, touch the eyebrows when groomed, or protrude below the front band of properly worn headgear.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(Photo: NPR.org)

All regulations are subject to change, of course . . .

11. Men are authorized to have one (cut, clipped or shaved) natural, narrow, fore and aft part in their hair. Hair cut or parted at an unnatural angle is faddish and is not authorized.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

Cause we don’t do “faddish,” only “traddish.”

12. Bulk of hair for both males and females shall not exceed 2 inches. Bulk is defined as the distance that the mass of the hair protrudes from the scalp.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

There’s mass and then there’s mass.

13. Fingernails for men shall not extend beyond the end of the finger; and fingernails for women shall not exceed 1/4 inch beyond the end of the finger.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

Easy with the rahnowr!, troops.

14. Non-prescription sunglasses are not authorized for wear indoors unless there is a medical reason for doing so.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(Screenshot: Paramount Pictures)

Breaking this one is called “pulling an Iceman.”

15. Retired personnel wearing the uniform must comply with current grooming standards set forth in Uniform Regulations.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

Read and heed, greybeards.

16. Any procedure or components, regarding uniforms or grooming, not discussed in Uniform Regulations are prohibited. (If Uniform Regulations does not specifically say it’s allowed — it’s not authorized.)

What they’re trying to say is the uniform regs conference was only three days long because of budget cuts, and they didn’t have time for every agenda item.

Articles

15 quotes from Gen. Mad Dog’ Mattis, slayer of bodies

Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is known for his aggressive tactics and his even more aggressive quotes.


While he embraced counter-insurgency tactics with the rest of the military, his quotes put a decidedly lethal spin on “low-intensity combat.” Check out these 15 great Mattis quotes — but be warned… they’ll make you want to charge into hordes of America’s enemies with nothing but a Ka-Bar:

1. “The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some a-sholes in the world that just need to be shot.” (America and Iraq: Policy-making, Intervention and Regional Politics)

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

2. “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f-ck with me, I’ll kill you all.” (Slate)

3. “I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”

4. “Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit … Demonstrate to the world there is no better friend, no worse enemy than a U.S. Marine.” (Letter from Mattis to his troops just before the Iraq invasion)

5. “I don’t get intelligence off a satellite. Iraqis tell me who the enemy is.” (Press conference in Iraq via National Review)

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense Erin A. Kirk)

6. “Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”

7. “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

8. “Be the hunter, not the hunted: never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down.” (Letter from Mattis to his troops just before the Iraq invasion)

9. “The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric A. Clement)

10. “You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.” (Letter from Mattis to his troops just before the Iraq invasion)

11. “There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.” (Told to troops at Al Asad, Iraq)

12. “No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communications Specialist Shawn P. Eklund)

13. “There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”

14. “You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”

15. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.” (Said during a panel discussion in San Diego, via CNN)

Articles

5 ways your work review is different from any military review

Your work review is not a military review. Civilian performance reviews are unencumbered by military protocol and structured submission requirements; it is largely up to your supervisor. But both reviews are equally competitive.


Performance review standards for military members vary depending on the branch of service and MOS of the service member.  A cook in the Navy serving aboard a ship will have an entirely different set of evaluation standards than a Marine of the same grade serving in an infantry battalion. Civilian evaluations will vary from company to company as well, but whether or not evaluation standards and submission protocol are adhered to is really up to the leadership within each company.

In both instances, competition for advancement is fierce.

1. Physical Standards

Military evaluations will include height and weight standards and recorded performance on a physical fitness test. This is a serious “NO NO” in the civilian world and could be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit should this information ever be asked for or included in an evaluation. Any physical requirements for civilian jobs will most likely be included in the job posting and may or may not be tested for at the time of hire.

Physical standards for civilian jobs will only apply if they are required to perform the job in question. Obesity or any other physical limitations cannot legally have any bearing on a job as long as it can be completed within company guidelines. (If you want to stay physically fit regardless, read: 5 Ways to Fit in Fitness at Work).

2. Junior Enlisted Personnel vs. Officers and Senior Enlisted Personnel

In the military, junior enlisted personnel up to the grade of E-5 are evaluated on an entirely different system than officers and staff NCOs. The system varies depending on branch of service, but typically junior enlisted evaluations are geared toward basic skills, military standards and MOS proficiency.

Most civilian companies evaluate all employees on the same basic evaluation regardless of time or position with the company. Consideration for an employee’s time with the company can be given by the manager conducting the evaluation but it may not be required. Performance expectations on the part of newly hired employees can be just as high as those of veteran employees depending on the standards of the company.

3. Career-Ending Evaluations

In the military, being convicted of an offense (such as driving under the influence of alcohol) could be a career-ending infraction that would appear negatively on your evaluation. Junior enlisted personnel may be given a second chance depending on the advice of their reporting senior and their track record with the unit. An officer or senior enlisted member convicted of the same infraction would most likely not see their next pay grade.

In the military, offenses like these are punishable under the UCMJ, or Uniform Code of Military Justice, and depending on the severity of the offense, members could land themselves in prison or be dishonorably discharged pending court-martial. Under civilian law, individuals who commit such offenses can also be prosecuted. However, it may not affect their position with the company they work for as long as they can still perform the job they were hired to do. As a civilian manager, I have had employees who were convicted of DUI, and as long as they were still able to make it to work on time and keep performing their job within company guidelines, the issue never came up on an evaluation.

4. Reporting Senior and Reviewing Officer

Military evaluations are always reviewed by more than one person to ensure an impartial review process and to validate the review. A reviewing officer may agree or disagree with an evaluation depending on his or her own direct observations of the member in question. This helps level the playing field for military members in terms of discrimination or favoritism on the part of the reporting senior.

Civilian managers are not required to follow such protocol. A company may, however, have guidelines in place for its evaluation process to help ensure impartiality. In most circumstances, evaluations submitted by managers are only reviewed in instances where an employee indicates that they were unfairly evaluated or if an employee was compensated beyond what the company felt was fair.

5. The Scale

Military members are typically graded on a numeric scale which falls on the commanding officer to determine if the numbers are accurate. Military supervisors want to reward their employees who do a good job by giving them good evaluations. Consistent overinflation of marks can quickly lead to a system where it is impossible to determine someone’s true performance because everyone has been rated “outstanding.”

This is a problem that military leaders face on how to assign marks that don’t limit someone’s potential, but still remain true to the evaluation process. However, civilian leaders are not hampered by such dilemmas. Cream rises, and if you are seen to be indispensable by the company you work for, your salary and position will reflect it. It is also possible that some employees who definitely deserve a promotion can be pigeon-holed into a position and not promoted because of lazy managers who are unwilling to give them up. (Read: Promotions in the Civilian Workplace).

Essentially, military evaluations rely heavily on the evaluation process, and civilian evaluations rely more on the evaluator. Although narratives are used in military evaluations, strict guidelines apply to these as well. Systems and procedures that protect military members can also hold them back. By contrast, civilian employees can move forward under the guidance of a good supervisor or suffer under the reign of a bad one.

More from GI Jobs

This article originally appeared at GI Jobs Copyright 2014. Follow GI Jobs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A dog adopted by coalition troops fighting ISIS is finally home

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern loves dogs. She loves her dog, she loves other peoples’ dogs, she loves dogs she sees in memes and on TV shows. When she found a dirty little white stray sniffing around the camp she was stationed at during a one-year deployment in Iraq, only one thing was going to happen.

“I fell in love with her immediately.”


McKithern, a combat photographer from Tampa, Florida with the 982nd Combat Camera Co. (Airborne), was stationed at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center, a multinational military organization responsible for the training of Peshmerga and Northern Iraq Security in and around Erbil, from April 2017 to January 2018.

The little dog and her mom had been wandering around the base for weeks, McKithern found out. Stray dogs are common in Iraq, and the culture is not kind to them. Erby and her mom were kicked and hit with rocks daily, and starving. Her brother and sister had disappeared before McKithern arrived.

Despite her rough experiences with humans to that point, Erby ran right up to McKithern the first time she held out her hand to the shaky little pup covered in scratches and dirt.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

“She loved everyone,” said McKithern. “She is the sweetest little soul. She came up to me immediately, probably hungry, but gentle. I think she was looking for love more than anything else.”

McKithern, together with soldiers from the Italian and German armies her unit was partnered with, took to caring for the little dog. They named her Erby Kasima, after nearby Erbil, the largest city in northern Iraq, and “Kasima” being the Arabic name for “beauty and elegance.”

The coalition soldiers would go on convoys into the surrounding countryside to train Iraqi army units six days a week, with McKithern documenting the missions. Every time they returned to the base, Erby was waiting.

“She ran up to our convoy every day,” McKithern recalled. “She was so tiny she would fall and trip all over herself to get to us.”

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

It didn’t take long for Erby and her mom to realize that, not only were they safe around McKithern and her Italian and German friends, but these humans would feed them too. As the weeks went by, their wounds began to heal and they started putting on healthy weight.

Eventually, the growing pup took to sleeping on the step outside McKithern’s quarters.

As the end of her deployment approached, she started to wonder how she could ever leave Erby behind when she went back to the states and lamented about it on her Facebook page.

“One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like ‘I wish I could take her home,'” McKithern said. “I went to sleep, woke up and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the non-profit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately. We sent them $1,000 and they set up a crowd fund to get the rest. We needed an additional $3,500.”

The immediate outpouring of generosity was astounding, said McKithern.

“We raised the rest of the money very quickly, and most of it was from complete strangers!”

McKithern had many preparations to make before she left Iraq so Erby could eventually follow her. Vaccinations, documentation, travel arrangements — all had to be done somehow, in a war zone, while she was still fulfilling her duties as a Soldier. It seemed like an overwhelming task in an already overwhelming situation. Even though she now had the funding, McKithern began to lose hope that she’d have the time and energy to pull this off.

That’s when the brotherhood of the Coalition stepped in to help. Several Kurdish and German officers McKithern had befriended on missions stepped in and offered to tie up anything she couldn’t get done and get Erby onto the plane. With their help, everything got squared away. McKithern returned home, and Erby was set to follow her several weeks later.

This group helps vets heal on the hunt
(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McKithern)

McKithern had only been home in Florida for about a month when, in a cruel twist of timing, she received orders for a 67-day mission to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, leaving March 11, the very same day Erby was scheduled to arrive at JFK Airport.

“I couldn’t believe it!” said McKithern. “But I’m a Soldier first, and my commander received an email looking for volunteers. The need at Fort McCoy was desperate at the time. It is a gunnery exercise, which was an opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge as a soldier. It killed me that it was going to keep me away from Erby for another two months, but it’s an important mission. It will all be worth it in the end.”

McKithern’s husband, Sgt. Wes McKithern (also a combat cameraman for the 982nd), met Erby at the airport and drove her home to Tampa, where she has been assimilating into an American life of luxury and waiting patiently to be reunited with her rescuer.

In a few short weeks, McKithern will fly home from Fort McCoy to be with her sweet Erby at last. It will be the end of a 16-month journey that’s taken her across the world to find a little dog in a war zone and — with the help of generous strangers, a nonprofit dog rescue, and soldiers from three different armies — bring her all the way back to become part of a family.

“I can’t believe it,” says McKithern. “It feels like a miracle is happening.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Loud noise that woke up London residents in the night explained

Shortly before 5 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2019, residents of north London were awoken by an extremely loud “bang.” Many took to the internet to raise concern, with some Londoners believing that the noise was an explosion, or something to that effect.


People even reported their cars and homes shaking.

The city is already on high alert after a stabbing on the London Bridge left two victims dead and three injured on Nov. 29, 2019.

However, the Royal Air Force and the local police confirmed that the noise wasn’t an explosion after all — it was a sonic boom resulting from RAF Typhoon jets breaking the sound barrier.

“Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby were scrambled this morning, as part of the UK’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) procedures, after an aircraft lost communications in UK airspace,” an RAF spokesperson said in a statement to CNN, “The aircraft was intercepted and its communications were subsequently re-established.”

You can hear the sound in videos captured by surveillance cameras across the city.

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

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MIGHTY HISTORY

Warsaw remembers the historic ghetto uprising 75 years later

Commemorations are being held to mark the 75th anniversary the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, when thousands of young Jewish fighters took up arms against occupying Nazi German forces during World War II.

The uprising broke out April 19, 1943, when about 750 Jewish fighters armed with pistols and other light arms attacked a German force more than three times their size.


Many left last testaments saying that they knew they would not survive but that they wanted to die at a time and place of their own choosing and not in the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp, where more than 300,000 Warsaw Jews had already been sent.

Only a few dozen fighters survived when the Germans crushed the uprising. Most have since died or are no longer healthy enough to attend the observances.

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With more than 400,000 imprisoned Jews at its highest point, Nazi Germany’s Warsaw Ghetto was the largest in Poland during World War II. The final act of Jewish resistance started 75 years ago, on April 19, 1943, a month before the ghetto was burned down in May of that year.

Polish President Andrzej Duda is scheduled to visit a Jewish cemetery and then take part in the official ceremony at the Ghetto Heroes Monument.

The commemoration comes at a time of heightened tensions between Poland and Israel over Warsaw’s new Holocaust law, which came into effect in March 2018, and led to harsh criticism from Israel, Jewish organizations, and others.

The legislation penalizes statements attributing Nazi German crimes to the Polish state with fines or a jail term. Polish government officials say the law is meant to protect the country from false accusations of complicity.

Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in World War II and ceased to exist as a state. An estimated 6 million Poles, about half of them Jews, were killed.

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

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Marines close in on new service rifle

The Marine Corps is eyeing a purchase of 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles and their accessories as it moves closer to making the IAR the new service rifle for grunts.


The service published a detailed request for information earlier this week asking companies to signal their interest in producing a future IAR. The current IAR is the M27, based on the Heckler Koch HK416.

Military.com broke the news in November that the Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, was testing out broader use of the M27 throughout the battalion as Marine leadership considered using it to replace the current infantry service rifle, the M4 carbine.

Related: Marines elevate marksmanship standards

The service has been considering fielding the IAR more broadly within the infantry since it introduced the M27 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in 2010, Col. Michael Manning, program manager for Infantry Weapons Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, told Military.com.

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Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel

Still under consideration is how the weapon might be fielded. At roughly $3,000 apiece, the M27 is a pricier investment than the M4, which costs less than $1,000. Manning said officials are working to determine which jobs within the unit truly needed the enhanced firepower.

“Not every 03XX would get an M27,” he said, using the generic Marine Corps military occupational specialty code for infantry. “There are select billets that would not get it because we don’t believe, based on our requirements, that they need it. But that is something we’ll continue to work with the [infantry] advocate and Marine Corps leadership on what the final mix will be like in an infantry unit. Everything is on the table.”

The 11,000 figure, he said, represents an estimate of how many rifles the Corps needs to purchase to equip the infantry.

Even though the M27 is the current IAR, the request for information is competitive, due to contracting rules and practices. If the Marine Corps gets interest from other manufacturers who can meet existing IAR criteria and produce a rifle that works compatibly with the existing platform, Manning said Systems Command would complete testing and a downselect process to determine a winner.

Among the criteria: The system should accept all Defense Department 5.56mm ammunition, weigh less than 12.5 pounds, and be capable of a rate of fire of 36 rounds per minute.

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A Marine fires his M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle while conducting squad attack exercise in Bahrain on Dec. 1, 2016. The Marine Corps is eyeing a purchase of 11,000 new infantry automatic rifles and their accessories as it moves closer to making the IAR the new service rifle for grunts. | US Marine Corps photo by Manuel Benavides

Unlike the standard M4, the M27 has a fully automatic firing option. It also features a slightly longer effective range and a free-floating barrel design that contributes to accuracy.

“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division said of the IAR in November. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”

Manning said the timeline for contracting for and fielding the new infantry service rifles is difficult to estimate because of the variables involved and the possibility of competition.

“We’ll do some sort of testing and a downselect, and then as we finalize, we will actually put a request for proposal out on the street, letting industry know that we are actually going to buy these, we have the money and the finalized requirements for them to come back with an offer to to the Marine Corps,” he said.

Responses to the Corps’ request for information are due March 17.

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This is what makes a ‘Fister’ so deadly

Nestled inside infantry units moving against the enemy is often a single artilleryman who is arguably one of the most lethal fighters on the battlefield — the forward observer.


These soldiers, usually assigned to a Forward Support Team (the FiST), are known as “FiSTers” and are the eyes and ears for naval artillery and artillery gun lines across the world.

The fisters carry inside their helmets knowledge of every gun capable of reaching their areas of operation, including how fast the weapon can fire, what kinds of rounds it has at its disposal, and what effects those rounds have on targets.

They use this knowledge to support the infantry and other maneuver units. When the friendly element finds and engages the enemy, the fister gets to work figuring out how to best bring artillery to bear.

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That’s the smile of an artilleryman about to jump into combat with world-class infantry and then blow up everything stupid enough to get within range. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman Kevin Sommer Giron)

Often, this involves getting the machine gunners and riflemen to corral the enemy into a tight box that can easily be hit with airburst artillery, causing shrapnel to rain down on the enemy dismounts.

If enemy armored vehicles are rolling towards the line, the forward observers can call down specific rounds for penetrating a tank’s top turret armor or for creating a smoke screen to block friendly vehicles from view.

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This thing shoots what the fisters tell it to. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Gregory Gieske)

Many observers go through training to learn how to best use weapons deployed from helicopters, jets, and other aerial platforms. This allows them to start targeting enemies with hellfire missiles and the 30mm cannons of A-10s and AH-64s.

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The Apache can engage targets on its own, but it listens to calls from fisters on the ground, too. (Photo: Ministry of Defence)

Marine observers and Army observers trained in joint fires can call for help from naval ships. While the Navy has decommissioned its massive battleships, there are still plenty of cruisers and destroyers packing missiles and 5-inch guns that are pretty useful for troops ashore.

It’s the forward observers that get those missiles and shells on target.

Forward observers direct the fires of all the big guns that can’t see their targets. And that’s what makes them so lethal.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine Corps could soon have its first female infantry officer

It took a while, but the United States Marine Corps could have its first female infantry platoon commander soon. The milestone will be possible if a lieutenant currently taking part in the Infantry Officer Course graduates on Monday.


According to a report by the Washington Post, the candidate just finished a three-week combat exercise, the last of the graded exercises in the grueling course. Prior to this female candidate, at least 30 others have entered, but failed to graduate for one reason or another.

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Pfc. Christina Fuentes Montenegro is one of the first women to graduate infantry training with Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul S. Mancuso/Released)

After graduation, she will command an infantry platoon, usually with three squads of Marines. The integration of women into ground combat roles with the Marine Corps drew controversy due to actions by then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus who was an outspoken proponent of the change. Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study showing that all-male units out-performed gender-integrated units in nearly 70 percent of the tasks.

Mabus’s comments drew fire from Marine Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, a Navy Cross recipient from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lehew’s Navy Cross citation noted that he led the team that rescued survivors of the 507th Maintenance Company, the unit in which Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch served with at the time, and also ran back and forth to retrieve Marine casualties from a destroyed amphibious assault vehicle.

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Sgt. Major Justin LeHew aboard a P781- RAM/RS Amphibious Assault Vehicle at Camp Shoup, Kuwait on March 17, 2003.

The Infantry Officer Course is seen as one of the toughest schools in the U.S. military, and roughly one out of four officers who enter the course do not compete it. Earlier this year, three female enlisted Marines were assigned to an infantry battalion. At least 10 women have graduated from the Army’s Infantry Officer Course.

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This US Air Force pilot ejected while flying supersonic (and survived)

Air Force pilot Capt. Brian Udell is one of the only pilots in history to survive after ejecting from a fighter at supersonic speeds. The force of the air moving at more than 768 mph on his body was so strong that it nearly killed him.


Related: 11 amazing facts about aircraft ejection seats

“It felt like somebody had just hit me with a train,” said Udell. “When I went out into the wind stream, it ripped my helmet right off my head, broke all the blood vessels in my head and face, my head was swollen the size of a basketball and my lips were the size of cucumbers. My left elbow was dislocated and pointed backward, the only thing holding my leg on was an artery, the vein, the nerve and the skin and my left leg snapped at the bottom half.”

His body was essentially being torn apart by the wind.

The following day Udell learned that his Weapon Systems Officer in the back seat was killed when he ejected. This video shows Udell describing his harrowing experience.

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This is what it would be like to be a Space Shuttle Door Gunner

The idea of a “Space Shuttle Door Gunner” has always been a joke around the military. It’s so outlandishly silly that no one would dare think it’s real.


With last year’s proposed Space Corps, the expansion of civilian space programs, and a growing need for a military presence in space to protect American assets, President Trump gave his nod to the idea of a “Space Force.” This joke may soon be reality. But there are still many roadblocks in the way – like physics, for instance.

For obvious reasons, the door would have to be closed during takeoff and landing, otherwise, friction alone would tear the shuttle apart. Tragic examples of what foam shedding and a faulty O-ring can cause means that any fighting a door gunner would see would have to occur beyond a distance from Earth to allow for EVA (extravehicular activity).

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Now that the door gunner is properly outside of Earth’s atmosphere, they could begin their watch. A properly tethered door gunner could hold their post for a while. The current record for longest EVA, also known as a “spacewalk,” is held by Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin at 7 hours and 29 minutes. They walked outside of the International Space Station to install power and data cables — but a door gunner could hold that post for longer.

Finally, the nitty-gritty of space combat. A door gunner could easily bring modern weapons into space and, surprisingly, only have a few problems firing it. This is because modern ammunition has its own oxidizer, so no atmospheric oxygen is required. There wouldn’t be any sound (since audible sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum) and the recoil wouldn’t matter in low-Earth orbit because the shuttle would be moving at around 4 miles a second.

 

Tests on Earth have proven bullets fire in a vacuum. (via GIPHY)

 

The downsides would be that, without friction to slow down the bullet, it would travel until it hit something — the enemy, Earth, or some distant object forever away. Also, without gravity and oxygen to dissipate the gunpowder smoke, a large cloud would expand from the barrel.

So, yes, being a Space Shuttle Door Gunner is physically possible and may be needed one day.

 

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