This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia - We Are The Mighty
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This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

More than $1 million in weapons parts and sensitive military equipment was stolen out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and sold in a vast black market, some of it to foreign buyers through eBay, according to testimony at a federal trial this week.


The equipment — some of it re-sold to buyers in Russia, China, Mexico, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine — included machine gun and rifle parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights, generators, medical equipment, and more.

John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, is being tried in Nashville on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to steal and sell government property, and violating the Arms Export Control Act. Six soldiers and his civilian business partner made plea deals in exchange for their testimony.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
Photo from DoD

Roberts, 27, testified Aug. 30 that he did not know the soldiers were bringing him stolen equipment, and said the military items he bought and sold were commonly found in surplus stores, on eBay, and in gun stores.

“I didn’t try to hide anything,” Roberts said Aug. 30. “That’s why I filed taxes on everything I sold on eBay. I thought it was OK.”

Roberts said the soldiers told him the equipment was legally purchased from other soldiers or that the Army was discarding the equipment. He also said he didn’t know that he needed to have a license to export certain items overseas.

But a former business partner, Cory Wilson, testified that he and Roberts would find soldiers selling military items through classified ads or on Facebook, and then ask them for more expensive and harder-to-find items. It was “fast easy money,” Wilson said. Wilson pleaded guilty to buying and selling stolen military equipment, wire fraud, and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby

The soldiers they targeted were often young and broke or needed money for drugs, Wilson said, so “there were a lot of items and good money to be made.”

Wilson and Roberts shared a warehouse in Clarksville where they stored the equipment, but Roberts said they were not sharing funds. Roberts said the two just had a shared interest in selling things on eBay.

Wilson said Roberts set up multiple accounts to sell the equipment on eBay. They removed packaging that identified it as government property and used fake descriptions on shipping labels to avoid suspicion, he said. Under questioning from Roberts’ defense attorney, David Cooper, Wilson acknowledged that he initially lied to investigators about knowing the equipment wasn’t allowed to be shipped overseas.

In 2014, the US Customs and Border Protection agency notified Roberts that it had seized a military flight helmet he tried to ship overseas. The Customs letter noted that he was required to have a license to export that item. Roberts said he didn’t remember reading that paragraph. Roberts also testified that he changed descriptions and values on shipping labels to minimize the risk of customs theft in other countries and to lower import taxes for the overseas buyers.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Zeski.

Michael Barlow, a former Fort Campbell platoon sergeant who pleaded guilty to theft of government property and conspiracy, testified that they started small, but eventually escalated to truckloads of military equipment. He said Roberts even gave him a “Christmas list” of items he wanted the soldiers to steal in Afghanistan and bring back to the United States.

“They wanted more and more, mostly weapons parts,” Barlow testified.

Barlow said his company came home with five large cargo containers filled with equipment as the US military drew down troops and closed bases in Afghanistan. Barlow said he and other soldiers sometimes got $1,000 to $2,000 per truckload.

One non-commissioned officer was even charging civilian buyers $500 to come onto Fort Campbell to select items for purchase, Barlow said.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
M16 assault rifles. DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy

Roberts said he was invited to come on the Fort Campbell military post to look at cargo containers belonging to Barlow’s unit. Roberts said he was told the containers needed to be cleaned out of “pretty used stuff,” and that he took some items. He said the transaction occurred in broad daylight in front of other soldiers.

The conspiracy allegedly continued from 2013 into 2016. Text messages between the soldiers and the civilians pointed to regular meet-ups to swap cash for ballistic plates, helmets, scopes, and gun sights, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sarah Perry, an agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

One sergeant, identified in court as “E5 Rick,” texted Roberts about going “hunting” while on duty, which meant he was breaking into cars to steal equipment, Perry testified on Aug. 29.

The Army identified about five surplus stores around Fort Campbell that were selling military equipment through backdoor deals, she said.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Villanueva II.

Roberts’ defense attorney David Cooper asked Perry if she could prove that the equipment offered on eBay, or that Roberts had pictures of on his phone, was stolen from Fort Campbell. Perry said that in many cases she could not, because many of the stolen items did not have serial numbers, but were similar to items reported stolen.

Another former Fort Campbell soldier, Jonathan Wolford, testified on Aug. 30 that he and another soldier, Dustin Nelson, took about 70 boxes of weapons parts and other gear, some of it labeled with the name of their company, to Wilson and Roberts, who paid them $1,200. Wolford plead guilty to conspiracy to steal government property.

They were both in charge of their company’s arms supply room at the time, Wolford said, and started selling equipment that wasn’t listed in the company’s property books, including machine gun barrels, M4 rifle parts, pistol grips, buttstocks, and other items typically used to repair weapons.

Asked in court why he didn’t ask for more money, Wolford said, “I was making a little bit of money. I didn’t pay anything for it.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army wants big upgrades for ‘enemy’ units worldwide

While the United States fought conflicts and insurgencies in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa over the last seventeen years, potential adversaries were studying U.S. operations and developing sophisticated weapons, munitions, and disruptive technologies. U.S. forces must anticipate that adversaries will employ these increasingly advanced systems, some approaching or even surpassing U.S. capabilities, while also proliferating them to their allies and proxies around the globe.

Both Russia and China, our two most sophisticated strategic competitors, are developing new approaches to conflict by modernizing their concepts, doctrine, and weapon systems to challenge U.S. forces and our allies across all operational domains (land, sea, space, cyberspace, and space). Russia’s New Generation Warfare and China’s Local Wars under Informationized Conditions are two examples of these new approaches.


In the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, non-state actors and radical militant groups are gaining military capabilities previously associated only with nation-states. Irregular forces are growing more capable as they adopt new weapons and tactics. Hezbollah has used advanced anti-tank guided missiles, man-portable air defense systems, and a sophisticated mission command system in its conflicts with Israel and participation in the Syrian civil war. Joining Hezbollah in the employment of unmanned aerial vehicles are Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and ISIS has also used chemical weapons. In addition, Iran adopted a very sophisticated warfare doctrine aimed at the U.S., and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen aims rockets and missiles at Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Army exists to fight our nation’s wars and it rigorously prepares to reach the highest possible level of sustained readiness to defeat such a wide array of threats and capabilities. To attain this end state, training at U.S. Army Combat Training Centers, or CTCs, must be realistic, relevant, and pit training units against a dynamic and uncompromising Opposing Force, or OPFOR.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

Soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuver through the streets of a compound at the National Training Center, Calif., during an OPFOR training exercise.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge)

The CTC program employs several professional OPFOR units, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert, the 1-509th Airborne Infantry Battalion within the swamps of Louisiana at the Joint Readiness Training Center, 1-4th Infantry Battalion at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and the World Class OPFOR within the Mission Command Training Program at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Army’s Cyber Command also provides specialized support to these OPFOR units with cyber aggressors.

The OPFOR is representative of adversary forces and threat systems that reflect a composite of current and projected combat capabilities. The OPFOR must be capable of challenging training units’ mission essential tasks and key tasks within the Army Universal Task List. To maintain OPFOR’s relevance as a competitive sparring partner, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command devotes major analytic efforts to studying foreign armies and determining the optimum configuration for OPFOR units that both represent a plausible threat and challenge training tasks. This also requires the Army to consistently modernize the OPFOR with replicated peer or near-peer threat weapons and capabilities.

The OPFOR must be capable of challenging U.S. Army training units with contemporary armored vehicles that are equipped with stabilized weapon systems and advanced night optics, as well as realistic kill-or-be-killed signatures and effects via the Multiple Integrated Laser Effects Systems. The OPFOR must also have air attack platforms, advanced integrated air defense systems, unmanned aerial systems, modern-day anti-tank munitions, long-range and guided artillery fires, and improvised explosive devices.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment; 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, race their M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle toward the opposition force (OPFOR) during a battle simulation exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin.

(Photo by Maj. W. Chris Clyne, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Additionally, the OPFOR must be capable of subjecting training units to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear effects and technologically enhanced deception capabilities. The OPFOR must also be capable of degrading or denying training unit dependency on Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities with threat electronic warfare, cyberspace, and space effects.

Modernizing the U.S. Army’s OPFOR program is an unremitting endeavor, because threats continuously change and technology relentlessly revolutionizes the art of war. Replicating the most realistic threat capabilities and tactics is critical for training units and commanders to practice their tactics, techniques, and procedures, and learn from the consequences of their decisions under tactical conditions.

This topic, as well as the challenges the OPFOR enterprise faces in developing much-needed capabilities to effectively replicate threats in a dynamic Operational Environment that postulates a changing character of future warfare, will be highlighted during a Warriors Corner at the annual Association of the United States Army meeting in Washington D.C. on Oct. 10, 2018, from 2:55-3:35 p.m.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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New evidence casts doubt on death of Amelia Earhart

A lost photo may shed new light on the mysterious death of famous aviator Amelia Earhart.


The photo, which will be featured in a new History channel special called “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” was discovered in the National Archives more than 80 years after her death. In it, a woman who appears to be Earhart sits on a dock in the Marshall Islands near to a man who resembles her navigator Fred Noonan.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
Photo from US National Archives

After becoming the first female pilot to fly a plane across the Atlantic Ocean, Earhart set off to circumnavigate the globe in July 1937. Her plane vanished without a trace during the flight and, by 1939, both Earhart and Noonan were declared dead.

But the new photo, which shows figures that appear like Earhart and Noonan, could challenge the common theory that the plane crashed somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
Photo from US National Archives

Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director for the FBI, told NBC News that he’s confident the photo is legitimate and pictures Earhart sitting on the dock.

“When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” said Henry. Her plane appears to be on a barge in the background being towed by a large ship.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
Photo from US National Archives

According to NBC News, the team that uncovered the photo believes that the photo demonstrates that Earhart and Noonan were blown off course.  The latest photo could suggest that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, experts told NBC News.

 

While current Japanese authorities told the news outlet that they had no record of Earhart ever being in their custody, American investigators insisted that the photo strongly suggests that Earhart survived the crash and was taken into captivity.

“We believe that the Koshu took her to Saipan [the Mariana Islands], and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese,” said Gary Tarpinian, the executive producer behind the History project.

Articles

Sebastian Junger’s ‘Hell on Earth’ chronicles the rise of ISIS in Syria

War correspondent Sebastian Junger, most famous for his documentaries “Restrepo” and “Korengal” that followed paratroopers in the Korengal Valley, has teamed up with Nick Quested to create a new documentary with National Geographic detailing the hell that is life in ISIS-controlled territory.


“Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS” is cut together from over 1,000 hours of footage, most of it filmed inside the so-called caliphate.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
ISIS members conduct a checkpoint in their territory. The footage comes from an upcoming National Geographic documentary. (Image: YouTube/Deadline Hollywood)

This 13-minute teaser tells the story of families trying to escape, at first with smugglers and then on their own when their smuggler is caught by ISIS.

(Be warned that some of the images in the documentary are disturbing)

Previous reporting has shown how ISIS maintains control in its territory, how it makes its money, and how it recruits and deploys fighters.

None of it is good.

Torture and public executions are used to keep populations cowed, and money is raised through debilitating taxes, sex slavery, robbery, and other pursuits. And its fighters are recruited through international networks and then deployed at half pay or less, often as undertrained frontline fighters that amount to little more than human shields.

The full documentary is scheduled to air June 11.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis orders a halt on cluster bomb ban

Well, it looks like cluster bombs won’t be riding off into the sunset any time soon. The Pentagon has officially decided to hold off on enforcing a planned ban on the weapon system, which previously set to take effect on January 1, 2019.


This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Center. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by the Washington Post, the decision was made by “senior Pentagon leadership” and ensures that the systems will continue to be purchased. This same ban would have also restricted rockets used by the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, as well as versions of the BGM-109 Tomahawk, AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), and the MGM-164 ATACMS II.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
A ZSU-23 is hit by BLU-97 sub-munitions like those used on the BGM-109D Tomahawk. (DOD photo)

A Nov. 30 memo, signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, stated that “adversaries and potential adversaries have developed advanced capabilities and operational approaches specifically designed to limit our ability to project power.” As a result, the DOD decided to reverse the ban to avoid “military and civilian casualties” caused due to “forfeiting the best available capabilities.” It should be noted that, under certain circumstances, cluster bombs can do things that “smart bombs” can’t.

The decision drew criticism from Senator Patrick Leahy, who said, “on the eve of that deadline, the Pentagon has decided to go back on its commitment, just as it did after pledging to develop alternatives to antipersonnel landmines more than two decades ago.” Leahy and Senator Dianne Feinstein had sponsored legislation to codify policy from the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions into law.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
The Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) is a highly mobile automatic system that fires surface-to-surface rockets from the M270 and M270A1 weapons platform. Twelve MLRS rockets can be fired in less than one minute by the three-man crew, as well as two Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles. Both the MLRS rockets and ATACMS have cluster munition variants. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

We won’t get into politics here, but it should be noted that neither Senator Leahy’s nor Senator Feinstein’s official congressional biographies show military service. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, by contrast, has 42 years of military service and is the first general or flag officer to serve as Secretary of Defense since George C. Marshall.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This new series examines what it’s like to serve during peacetime

There is a very robust veteran community within the entertainment industry. Veterans in Media and Entertainment is a nonprofit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in the film and television industry. The Writers Guild Foundation has a year-long writing program for veterans. And hey, We Are The Mighty is a company founded on a mission to capture, empower, and celebrate the voice of today’s military community.

The military community makes up a small percentage of Americans, but plays a global — and exceptionally challenging — role. It makes sense that many veterans have stories to tell. Not all of those stories are about their military experiences, but many are. Hollywood loves a good hero story, but there’s more to the military than those few moments of bravery.

The military is a mind f*** unique lifestyle, one that does involve war and sacrifice, but also really weird laws and random adventures — and in a Post-9/11 world, we are now seeing an influx of veterans ready to dissect that world.

Enter Xanthe Pajarillo.


This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

Xanthe Pajarillo.

“Veteran narratives are begging for more diversity. When our representation in the media is limited to war heroes or trauma victims, it creates a skewed portrait of who service members are,” said Pajarillo, the creator of Airmen, a web series that explores the dynamics of queerness, romantic/workplace relationships, and being a person of color in the Air Force during peacetime operations. It emphasizes the unshakable bonds and relationships that veterans make during their time in service.

Airmen was awarded an “Honorable Mention” from the Tim Disney Prize for Excellence in the Storytelling Arts in 2017. The prize celebrates the courage and commitment to make the world a better place — and the originality to do it through the unique powers of gifted storytelling.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chloe Mondesir, who will play Airman 1st Class Mercedes Magat.

It’s important to recognize that there is much more to military service than what is traditionally portrayed in film and television (which tends to be the rare stories of heroism in battle and/or the traumatic effects of war).

American society has placed heroes on a pedestal, which is a very high standard to meet for our troops — and one that often involves a life-threatening circumstance. Not every troop will see combat (this is a good thing… but we don’t always feel that way when other members of our team are shouldering the burdens of war), and even those who do engage in battle but live when others die experience survivor’s guilt and symptoms of trauma.

It’s time to tell the reality of military service: the warrior’s tale, yes, but more importantly, the stories of the humans living their lives while wearing the uniform.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

“Ultimately, I created Airmen to help bridge the gap between civilians and veterans. The characters are active duty, but their experiences are universal. We are complex individuals with successes, failures, and insecurities just like everyone else. I hope when someone watches the show – civilian or veteran – they’ll feel less alone in the world,” says Pajarillo.

Which is exactly what Airmen is setting out to do — and now the series is ready for the next stage of production, beginning with a campaign at SeedSpark, a platform designed to change the entertainment industry to reflect the world we actually live in.

The campaign will launch on July 16 and run for 30 days to reach a ,750 goal. Contributions will be used towards production and post-production of nine episodes, each running 5-7 minutes long. Upon completion, the episodes will be released weekly and made available to view on a streaming platform, such as Vimeo or YouTube.

The series stars U.S. Marine Corps veteran (and We Are The Mighty favorite) Chloe Mondesir and U.S. Navy veterans Blu Lindsey and Brandon Elonzae, with many other vets in the cast and crew.

The most authentic way to get military stories is from the people who lived them. Check out the series page and consider contributing to their campaign — it’s a perfect way to thank an artist for their service.

Articles

This Mayor took time off to go to war in Afghanistan

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.


Most of us can’t take a seven-month leave of absence from work, but most of us don’t have as good of an excuse as Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

Mayor Buttigieg, better known as “Mayor Pete,” took office January 1, 2012, at the age of 29 — making him the youngest mayor in America to serve a city with more than 100,000 residents. He assumed command while still fulfilling his monthly commitments as a member of the Navy Reserve, but after about two years in office, he was called to serve abroad.

After a few months of preparation with his mayoral team, Buttigieg left South Bend in the hands of his Deputy Mayor Mark Neal and departed to perform intelligence counter-terrorism work in Afghanistan for seven months.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

Buttigieg grew up in South Bend. His parents were transplants that arrived a few years before his birth to pursue work at the University of Notre Dame. Although his family found opportunity in the Indiana city, Buttigieg would come to learn while growing up that his hometown was a city in crisis: the all-too-familiar tale of a Midwestern town in an economic tailspin due to loss of industry. In South Bend’s case, it was the shuttering of the Studebaker car company, which until 1963, when its factories closed, was the largest employer in town.

After high school, Buttigieg left South Bend to pursue higher education, first at Harvard and later, at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. After spending some time in the private sector doing consulting work, he joined the Navy as a reservist in 2008, putting into practice his childhood admiration of his great uncle, a family hero who died while serving in 1941.

The Great Recession hit South Bend hard, and Mayor Pete recalls following his hometown’s news from a distance.

“I was reading headlines from home,” says Buttigieg, “I was thinking, ‘Jeez, we gotta do more, we gotta change things a little bit back home.’ And then beginning to stop asking that question ‘why don’t they…’ and start asking that question ‘why don’t we?’ or ‘why don’t I?'”

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

Buttigieg returned to South Bend in 2008 and made his first foray into politics: a run for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010 (an effort he lost decisively to incumbent Richard Mourdock). While contemplating his next step, it became apparent that South Bend would soon have an open-seat mayor’s race for the first time in 24 years. Encouraged by his supporters in town, Buttigieg ran and was elected mayor on November 8, 2011, with 74 percent of the vote.

Buttigieg’s administration works hard to reinvent South Bend, while still acknowledging and celebrating its past, including work to redesign the old Studebaker campus into a turbo machinery facility in partnership with Notre Dame. By taking advantage of its excellent Internet capability (thanks to fiber optic cables that run through the town via old railroad routes), the city is attracting tech start-ups. Additionally, a 311 line has been set up for city residents.

But what might be called Buttigieg’s signature program is his plan to demolish, renovate or convert 1,000 vacant homes in 1,000 days. Since 1960, South Bend has lost about 30,000 residents, and empty homes pepper the entire town — attracting crime and lowering property values. This ambitious program, dubbed the Vacant Abandoned Properties Initiative, was launched in February 2013. As of January 10, 2015, 747 properties have been addressed, putting South Bend is ahead of schedule.

Buttigieg recently announced that he is running for a second term, perhaps surprising those who assumed he was only interested in using the mayor’s office to further his career. He is also personally renovating a home in the neighborhood where he grew up, while continuing to give one weekend a month to the reserves. He sees the recent initiatives in South Bend as a way to establish the next era for the community and is excited about the way South Bend is once again investing in itself.

“I would like to believe that if the work matters to you,” says Buttigieg, “and the importance of it is what fills your sails, that people can see that.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=47v=OqvYL3ZoVBk

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This article originally appeared at NationSwell Copyright 2015. Follow NationSwell on Twitter.

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Mattis says ISIS militants are caught in a military vise

Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.


Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.

In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”

Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”

Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.

The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro.

“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”

Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.

“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”

It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.

In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.

With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.

“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the first husband-wife team to fly the B-2 bomber in combat

Rows of chairs were filled with family members, close friends and fellow military members. As the ceremony began, all eyes were on the couple standing up front.

Thirteen years earlier, the scene was nearly identical. Back then, John was wearing his Air Force uniform, though Jennifer was wearing a wedding gown. Now, they were wearing flightsuits with oak-leaf rank on the shoulders.

And, the same friend spoke at both events. Jared Kennish first made his remarks as the best man, and now as a colonel and the 131st Bomb Wing Operation’s Group commander at Whiteman Air Force Base.

“It’s an honor to speak as John and Jennifer Avery retire from the Air Force, just as it was to speak at their wedding,” Kennish said. “This couple has made history.”


Lt. Col. John Avery and Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery were the first husband-wife pilot team to fly the B-2 Spirit.

Their two, 20-year-long careers culminated with the couple’s joint retirement ceremony on Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

Jennifer retires with more than 1,600 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri Air National Guard. John retires with more than 2,500 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri ANG.

The Air Force retirement is a traditional ceremony that signifies the completion of an Airman’s long, honorable career of service to his or her country.

“This is a thank-you for a job well-done,” Kennish said, “and an opportunity to highlight the history made by this couple – both individually and together.”

Of the hundreds of B-2 pilots to come after John and Jennifer, just two other married couples are among them. It’s just one of their many distinctions. Being first is a theme for the Averys.

Growing up in Miami, Jennifer said she was “shy and maybe even a little insecure – uncertain of myself.” After high school, she headed to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. She carried with her a childhood memory of visiting an Air Force base in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’ll never forget my Uncle Bill taking me into a flight simulator. That stuck with me, even to this day. I thought flying was incredible.”

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

John and Jennifer Avery, both B-2 Spirit pilots, smile for a photo on their wedding day Feb. 5, 2005. Their shared military careers culminated at their joint retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

Jennifer graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and, as a member of ROTC, received a commission in the Air Force as a second lieutenant.

“I knew exactly what I wanted to do next,” she said.

Jennifer earned her pilot wings in June of 1997, which eventually took her to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1 Lancer – and begin making history.

She was the first female B-1 pilot to go to combat, flying four sorties over Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force in 1999. Not long after, Jennifer applied to fly the B-2 Spirit, based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

“I was drawn to the challenge of flying this unique aircraft that has a mission so vital to deterrence and global safety,” she said of the .2 billion stealth bomber that is capable of both nuclear and conventional missions. “To be one of the few pilots to fly this aircraft that is the backbone of nuclear security was an amazing prospect.”

She was accepted into the program and began training shortly thereafter. Her first flight in the B-2 was on Feb. 12, 2002, making her the first woman to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. Now, 16 years later, seven other women have become B-2 pilots and others are now in training.

In March 2003, she would do again what no other woman before her had accomplished.

Jennifer flew a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, becoming the first woman to fly the B-2 in combat. Today, she is still the only woman to have flown the B-2 combat.

“Jen is a trailblazer,” Kennish said. “Her career has been nothing short of spectacular. And the same can certainly be said for John, who chased Jen from South Dakota all the way to Missouri.”

Move to Missouri

John grew up in Great Falls, Montana, where he watched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from a nearby base fly overhead.

“I really wanted to fly,” John said. “And I joined the Air Force because I wanted to fly cool planes. I knew being a military pilot, I would be serving my country and have a pretty incredible day-to-day job at the same time.”

He completed an economics degree at Carleton College, Minnesota, and later was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in 1999. He earned his pilot wings in 2000, and soon was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1.

Jennifer was already there and remembers wondering, “Who’s the new pilot?”
The first time John saw her, he remembers wondering why she was late to the parachute safety class they were both taking. And, that he wanted to meet her.

John and Jennifer began dating, though it was less than six months later that she left South Dakota for her next assignment to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. It wasn’t long after that John also applied and was accepted to fly the B-2 something he said he would not have pursued if it weren’t for Jennifer.

“I wanted to fly the B-2 because that was the plane my future wife was going to fly,” John said. “That, and it’s without a doubt the world’s most elite aircraft. As a pilot, there’s nothing more rewarding. Knowing your job is to protect our country, while deterring enemies really is an amazing job to have.”

Whiteman Air Force Base

Now both at Whiteman AFB, John and Jennifer resumed dating. Jennifer accepted John’s marriage proposal during a vacation in Germany, where John had nervously carried around a diamond engagement ring in his pocket until “just the right moment.”

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

Lt. Cols. Jennifer and John Avery sit together during their retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander Riedel)


On Feb. 5, 2005, the couple married in Colorado. Deployments and training kept them apart during their first four months of marriage, though they did end up with overlapping short-term assignments in Guam and were able to live together on the island. They were thankful to be together then, but always careful to not request preferential treatment because of their marriage – or when they had children, first their son Austin, now 12, and then their daughter Elizabeth, now 9.

Balancing demanding mission and training schedules continued to compete with family life.

Jennifer remembers John’s deployment when Austin was just a baby and the guilt she felt when he was the last child to be picked up at daycare, as well as the exhaustion from single-parenthood and a demanding job. Day-to-day was tough, plus Jennifer faced moving for her next assignment while John was required to finish his assignment at Whiteman.

So in 2007, rather than face separating her family, Jennifer decided to leave her active-duty career.

“That was the hardest day,” Jennifer remembers. “That drive to work was emotional. But, I felt in good conscience it was the right decision. At the same time, a lot of people believed in me. I’d had so much support along the way, including from John. In the end, I knew it was only myself I needed to worry about letting down and I hadn’t disappointed myself. I felt like I had accomplished so much and I’m proud I did those things. More than anything, I just want my kids to be proud of their mom.”

After holding civilian positions at Whiteman AFB, Jennifer joined the Missouri ANG at Whiteman and resumed flying as a B-2 pilot. Again, her path was unprecedented as the first and only female B-2 pilot in the ANG.

By 2008, John also transitioned to the Missouri ANG at Whiteman AFB, and was selected as part of the first group of Guardsmen to fly the B-2. He became the first ANG member to attend B-2 Weapon Instructor School and then the first to become an instructor at Whiteman AFB.

Additionally, John was also the first Guardsman to fly the B-2 in combat during a sortie above Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011.

For the Missouri ANG, the Averys exemplified what it means to be Guardsmen, said Col. Ken Eaves, commander of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB. “I’m proud of anybody who serves, but these two, they’ve done it with such distinction. They have continued the Guard’s legacy of excellence and dedication.”

For the active-duty Air Force, seeing its pilots continue to fly the B-2 with the Missouri ANG is certainly a win, said Justin Grieve, 509th Bomb Wing Operations Group commander. “At Whiteman, we train elite aviators to fly the world’s most strategic airplane. Whether they do that through active duty or the Guard, we’re all B-2 pilots defending the homeland.”

It’s that partnership between an active-duty wing and a Guard wing, called total-force integration, that the Averys helped execute, Eaves said, adding, “Jennifer and John have been trailblazers in the truest sense of the definition. Literally making history on active duty and in the Guard, that wasn’t something they set out to do. It’s just who they are.”

Working together

The B-2 brought John and Jennifer back together, and also made them the team they are now, the couple said.

Air Force regulations don’t allow spouses to fly in the same aircraft with each other, but John and Jennifer did fly one sortie together in the T-38 Talon training jet before they were married.

There was an equal division of labor and no struggle for control in the aircraft, Jennifer remembers, much like at home. Through the years, the couple learned to divide parental and domestic duties, as well as to make sacrifices for the benefit of the other.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

From left, U.S. Air Force Col. Jared Kennish stands next to Lt. Cols. John and Jennifer Avery during their joint retirement from the Missouri Air National Guard, Sept 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander Riedel)

“We were able to support each other and fully appreciate the other’s successes and failures because we knew exactly what the other person was going through,” John said.

“We’re a team,” Jennifer said simply.

The Averys have no doubt this unity will continue now that they’ve left the Air Force. The family of four moved to Boise, Idaho, which fit their criteria of living in a medium-sized city in the West, near the mountains and full of outdoor recreation.

The kids started their new schools. John flies the B-767 for FedEx and Jennifer works as a Department of Defense consultant for flying-related acquisitions. Both have private pilot’s licenses.

“We’re excited for this next phase of our lives,” John said.

Retired, together

At their official retirement September ceremony at Whiteman AFB, standing in front of their families and closest friends, John and Jennifer were presented medals for outstanding military service and certificates of appreciations from the president of the United States before the reading of the orders declaring they were “relieved from duty and retired.”

Reflecting back on the rigors of pilot training, the long hours and irregular schedules, life’s daily demands, the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood, the stresses of leadership positions, worry from combat deployments, John and Jennifer remember the good.

“Yes, it was hard,” John remembers. “There was a lot of give and take on both sides. We look back though, and have the best memories.”

“We did it. All the way through,” Jennifer said. “Together.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

3 systems America scrapped after its mid-range nuke agreement with the USSR

The 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union eliminated an entire class of ground-launched missiles.


The treaty states: “…each Party shall eliminate its intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, not have such systems thereafter, and carry out the other obligations set forth in this Treaty.”

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
The 3M-14 land attack missile, which may be the basis of the INF Treaty-busting SSC-8. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by the New York Times, Russia has operationally deployed one battalion equipped with the SSC-8 cruise missile. A 2015 Washington Free Beacon report noted that American intelligence officials assessed the missile’s range as falling within the scope of weapons prohibited by the INF Treaty (any ground-launched system with a range between 300 and 3,400 miles).

The blog ArmsControlWonk has estimated the SSC-8’s range to be between 2,000 and 2,500 kilometers (1,242 and 1,553 miles) based on the assumption it is a version of the SS-N-30A “Sizzler” cruise missile.

While it looks like the Russians could be holding onto some banned systems, the U.S. scrapped three systems falling under the INF Treaty.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
A BGM-109G Gryphon is launched. (DOD photo)

1. The BGM-109G Gryphon cruise missile

Forget the name, this was really a ground-launched Tomahawk that was deployed by the Air Force. According to the website of the USAF Police Alumni Association, six wings of this missile were deployed to NATO in the 1980s. Designation-Systems.net noted that the BGM-109G had a range of 1,553 miles and carried a 200-kiloton W84 warhead.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
Pershing missile ARTY/ORD round 32 roars skyward, T-time 815 hours at Hueco Range, Ft. Bliss, Texas. (US Army photo)

2. The MGM-31A Pershing I and MGM-31B Pershing Ia ballistic missiles

The Pershing I packed one of the biggest punches of any American nuclear delivery system and could hit targets 740 miles away. With a W50 warhead and a yield of 400 kilotons (about 20 times that of the bomb used on Nagasaki), the Pershing Ia actually was too much bang for a tactical role, according to Designation-Systems.net.

The West Germans operated 72 Pershing 1a missiles, according to a 1987 New York Times report.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
The US Army launches a Pershing II battlefield support missile on a long-range flight down the Eastern Test Range at 10:06 a.m. EST on Feb. 9, 1983. This was the fourth test flight in the Pershing II engineering and development program and the third flight from Cape Canaveral. (DOD photo)

3. The MGM-31C Pershing II

According to GlobalSecurity.org, this missile had longer range (1,100 miles), and had a W85 warhead that had a yield of up to 50 kilotons. While only one-eighth as powerful as the warhead on the Pershing I and Pershing Ia, the Pershing II was quite accurate – and could ruin anyone’s day.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
A Soviet inspector stands beside the mangled remnants of two Pershing II missile stages. Several missiles are being destroyed in the presence of Soviet inspectors in accordance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. (DOD photo)

According to the State Department’s web site, all three of these systems were destroyed (with the exception of museum pieces) by the end of May, 1991.

Articles

The Pentagon wants a half-billion more dollars for the F-35

Defense officials at the Pentagon say they need up to $500 million more to finish the development phase for the F-35, the troubled fifth-generation fighter that’s already gone 50% over its original budget.


The F-35 program office requested the money last month to the Defense Acquisition Board, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news Wednesday. The call for additional funds is pretty familiar at this point, since the program — known as the Joint Strike Fighter since it will be used by the Navy, Marines, and Air Force — has been plagued by lengthy delays and enormous cost overruns.

Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

Its overall lifetime budget has ballooned to more than $1.5 trillion, making it the most expensive weapons system ever built by the US.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia
Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has in the past called those cost overruns a “disgrace.”

“It has been both a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule, and performance,” he said in April.

Rising costs haven’t been the only problem of note for the F-35. The jet has had plenty of incidents while being built, such as electrical problems, major issues with its software, and problems related to its advanced helmet system.

Just four months ago, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester wrote in a memo the F-35 program was “not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver.”

Still, the Air Force and Marines have both declared the fighter “combat ready” and have begun integrating it into their squadrons. The military has only taken delivery of about 180 of the aircraft from Lockheed Martin so far, though it plans to buy more than 2,400.

The fighter, which features stealth and advanced electronic attack and communications systems, is a project with roots going back to the late 1990s. Lockheed won the contract for the fighter in 2001.

“Strong national security is an expensive endeavor but the existing concerns with the F-35 make calls for even more money harder to green light,” said Joe Kaspar, chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“And the Pentagon never seems to be able to help its case on the F-35. Technical superiority is not cheap, but whether or not costs can be driven down is something Congress must look at it before throwing more money in the Pentagon’s direction.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this soldier is finding his dream job through the US Army

Sit across the table from Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili for just a few seconds and you’ll see a basic outline emerge fairly quickly. His manners and easy smile, the way he leans forward when he talks, and — not least of all, of course — his affection for Starbucks Doubleshot energy drinks make him the typical — almost archetypal — 30-year-old soldier; busy, eager, and always ready for the next task, the next challenge. But dig a little deeper and you will see, quite clearly, the details that color the world inside that simple sketch. To map the entire terrain, however, you’ll need to travel some 15,000 miles.

“I always wanted to be a soldier,” says Dzamashvili, sitting in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade on a warm September morning. “When I was a kid that was always something I thought would be cool, being a soldier for the American Army.”


Those words, and indeed his affinity for the Army and America as a whole, are repeated so often and with such calm conviction that he could almost double as a motivational speaker; one specializing, perhaps, in writing simple daily mantras for busy professionals to read on their daily commutes. Instead, Dzamashvili is a board-certified medical doctor who enlisted in the Army just last year, in early 2018. It’s a commitment, he says, that doubles as a gift to the country that gave him opportunities he never would have had in his native Georgia — a tiny, still-emerging country located at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili speaks with a coworker at his desk located in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade.

(Photo by Mr. Ramin A. Khalili)

“Honestly,” says Dzamashvili, “the reason I wanted to become an American soldier is because America has given my family everything.”

The first 5,000 miles

“When I was born in Georgia,” says Dzamashvili, reaching back to the late 1980s, “it was still part of the U.S.S.R. This was just before the U.S.S.R. split up, and so there was instability and there was upheaval … there was an ongoing fight for power.”

It was that atmosphere of decline that Dzamashvili’s father, Konstantin, sought to flee when he reached out to a friend living in Chicago for help in the early 1990s. Political and cultural strife in the country of — at the time — barely more than four million people had led to the breakdown of living conditions and, in some cases, the basic application of law. And so Konstantin, a neurologist by trade, was hoping America could provide safety for his wife, son, and young twin daughters.

“My father was waiting in breadlines for hours just to feed the family,” says Dzamashvili. “So when he came here, it was for a better life.”

But that opportunity came with a catch. In order to pay for his family’s move to America, Konstantin had to travel to the U.S. alone first in order to save up enough money. He wound up bunking with that same buddy in Chicago for a year —eventually re-starting his medical career at 40-years old — before bringing the rest of the family to Illinois.

Says Dzamashvili of his father, “He was out there for a year, alone, while we were still in Georgia, until he had passed all his boards and started his residency program, which would then fund us coming over here.”

And so at age five, Sergo was finally in the place he wanted to be all along … for a little while, at least.

Return to Georgia

For Sergo, it all started with his grandfather — his father’s father. He was the catalyst, the inception point. He passed away when Konstantin was in his late teens and so Sergo never got a chance to meet him, but he did have pictures — volumes of mementos from Georgia.

“I would always hear stories about his bravery,” says Sergo, “about what kind of man he was. From early on, I was always intrigued — the way he was standing there in his [military] uniform with all these medals.”

Those pictures, coupled with Sergo’s newfound affinity for the United States, stuck with him during his formative years and carried through to his entrance into medical school — which he ultimately chose to attend at David Tvildiani Medical University back in Georgia.

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili (foreground, right) conducts Army Warrior Tasks (AWT) drills during the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)

The decision to both leave home (to leave again, in a manner of speaking) and reconnect with family roots was daunting to say the least, as Georgia had been rife with the same political instability from Dzamashvili’s youth up until pro-democratic forces rose to power in the mid-2000s. The tiny, burgeoning country was still — much like Sergo at the time — moving through its adolescent years.

There was contrasting comfort, however, in the medical training itself. Turns out Dzamashvili’s chosen university not only came highly recommended from family friends practicing medicine in Chicago, it was designed specifically to cater to regional students who wanted to ultimately enter U.S.-based medical professions. To that end, all university textbooks were written in English and, further, the overall cost of schooling was substantially less than a U.S.-based medical education — all perks unavailable to his father just a decade-or-so earlier. Ironically, Georgia would eventually, in 2014, become home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia, a subordinate command of the USAMRDC’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

“Going back to Georgia really brought me that perspective,” says Dzamashvili. “There was a long time where my family wouldn’t go back, even though we had a chance to go back in the 90s.”

Just twelve years after touching down in America’s Heartland — and just a few years after becoming an American citizen — Sergo was back on a plane at age 17 for a new and different journey.

Homecoming, part II

When you ask him how Georgians speak — ask about the language they use, the way they talk, the casual slang terms they use, even — Dzamashvili is quick to make it clear that Georgia is a singular and unique entity; a hard-fought identity that he clearly still respects.

“Georgians have their own language,” he says quickly, almost as a sly-but-gentle rebuke to those who think the country may still be hindered by its turbulent past in any way. “They have their own alphabet, everything — and so I had to re-learn how to read and write, essentially, when I went back for school.”

Dzamashvili’s university stay would last for six years until his graduation in 2013; at which point he’d not only navigated the rigors of initial medical training, but had reached a poignant understanding of the country of his birth (“people there are very hospitable,” he says), gained a greater understanding of the government’s democratic efforts (“I see hope,” he says), and, with regards to cultural differences, had also determined that Georgia had substantial culinary shortcomings as compared to the U.S. (“I did miss burritos over there,” he says).

This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili assigned to HHC, 21st Signal Brigade, conducts M9 weapons qualification as part of the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)

Touching back down in Illinois, Dzamashvili eventually passed his medical board examinations, shadowed professional doctors, and even performed clinical research at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. But when it came time for residency training, instead of waiting a year to attend either Loyola University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago, he opted for a different path: the U.S. Army.

“Screw waiting,” says Dzamashvili of his mindset at the time. “I’m going to join the Army. I was always told the fastest way to get into the Army was to just go and enlist anyways, so that didn’t bother me to go enlist for a couple of years as long as I got into the medical field.”

Desire, meet destiny

Now, after thirty years and medical training efforts on two different continents, Sergo Dzamashvili is both a medical doctor and a member of the U.S. Army; his first assignment is here at Fort Detrick. His unique qualifications have bred an understandable eagerness to move forward — a chomping at the bit, of sorts — as, indeed, he’s already started the process of entering the Army’s medical occupation; taking the steps required to become a physician. But if you think the man who’s waited nearly three decades to realize his dream is put off by a little time in the waiting room, then you don’t know Sergo.

“My ultimate goal is to practice medicine in the Army,” says Dzamashvili. “That’s what I want, to give back. I’d like to serve for at least eight years, to give back that entire time in service.”

Just how long it will take to reach that goal is yet to be seen, though it should come as no surprise that Dzamashvili has already attempted to plot the arc of his military medical career even before his training has been completed. Even now, serving as a Human Resources Specialist in the S-1 Office until his next assignment, he finds in each day’s shift what so many others would gladly welcome into their own lives: a sense of purpose, the feeling of belonging, and the satisfaction of a job that truly has meaning.

In the end — if these kinds of stories can have an end — the service career of Sergo Dzamashvili is, in reality, just beginning. It would be an exaggeration, perhaps, to say that Dzamashvili has already lived multiple lives; though it wouldn’t be such a stretch to say that’s the truth, either. In any capacity, his life’s work as currently constructed already stands as an impressive feat; a soldier coupling the desire to serve America with the talent required to make a lasting impact.

Not too bad for a typical 30-year-old.

Says Dzamashvili, “If there’s nothing else I do in my life, I can always say I was a soldier. That’s the way I look at it. If there’s nothing else that I accomplish, I will always know that I served my country.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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