This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban - We Are The Mighty
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This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban

A key district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that was taken by insurgents last year is now back under Afghan army control, US Marines deployed to Helmand announced July 17.


Nawa district, just west of Helmand’s capital city and regional police headquarters, Lashkar Gah, was overrun by the Taliban in August 2016, according to multiple media reports. The loss dealt a blow to hard-pressed Afghan National Army forces and raised questions about whether they would be able to maintain control of any part of Helmand.

With Nawa in enemy hands, civilian aircraft were unable to land at Bost, the airfield outside of Lashkar Gah, and the security of the city, a civilian population center, was in greater jeopardy.

But during a two-day operation that included airstrikes from US F-16 Fighting Falcons and AH-64 Apache helicopters, Afghan troops successfully wrested control of the district from the occupiers, reclaiming the district center earlier July 17, according to the release.

“The goal of this operation was to clear the Nawa district from the enemies, from the Taliban,” Col. Zahirgul Moqbal, commanding officer of the Afghan Border Police, said in a statement. “[Overall, our goal was] to retake the district from the Taliban.”

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
USAF photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn

The Afghan army’s assault on Nawa, called Operation Maiwand Four, also involved surveillance from ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles owned by the ANA and other coalition unmanned systems, according to the release.

The F-16s and Apaches “set conditions, conducted air strikes, and covered the flanks of the maneuver elements to decrease the amount of friction felt by the ground forces and allowed freedom of maneuver,” the release stated.

The offensive involved multiple air strikes and bravery from the troops on the ground, who disabled more than 100 improvised explosive devices and maneuvered under fire to retake the Nawa district center, officials said.

In April, about 300 Marines from 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina deployed to Helmand province as an advisory element known as Task Force Southwest to assist local Afghan National Army units in their fight to hold the region.

Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, said in a statement that Operation Maiwand Four highlighted leadership and determination from Afghan troops.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

“So far during this operation we have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police,” Reid said. “The vast majority of the ABP officers are from Helmand, many from Nawa, and they are aggressively fighting to clear insurgents from Nawa district.”

But the greatest difficulties may still be ahead for the Afghan forces.

In a New York Times report published July 14, Afghan Army Corps Operations Chief Lt. Col. Abdul Latif raised concerns about whether Afghan National Security Forces would be able to keep control of Nawa if they retook it.

“It is easy for us to take Nawa, but difficult to hold,” Latif said in the story.

The biggest challenge, he noted, was the scarcity of manpower. He estimated district security would require 300 police, but said that kind of manpower was not available. The report also noted that most forces in Helmand are not local to the area, but come in from the north and east.

According to the news release, Afghan National Security Forces plan to maintain control by setting up security checkpoints throughout Nawa’s district center and on the road to Lashkar Gah.

“It was a very successful operation in Helmand,” Moqbal said of Maiwand Four in a statement. “Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand.”

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5 prominent veterans whose presidential bids tanked

Considering the fact that the president is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, it would make sense for presidential candidates to have some military experience. But veterans have often struggled in their bids for the White House.


While these five men all had plenty of experience in government — and at least a little experience in uniform — they all fell short in a bid for the leader of the free world:

1. Michael Dukakis

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Screengrab: YouTube/POLITICO

A former Army private, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis held a commanding lead early in the 1988 presidential race in which he faced then-Vice President and fellow veteran George H. W. Bush. But Dukakis spent the early weeks of the general election finishing up governor work and vacationing while Bush closed the 17 percent polls gap and took the lead.

As the race ramped up in the summer of ’88, Dukakis worked to take back the initiative. Under criticism that he would be soft on defense, he conducted a photo op in an M1 Abrams tank, but he looked so ridiculous in the tank that the journalists covering it burst out laughing in the stands. The resulting photos sank his campaign, and Bush won in a landslide.

2. George H.W. Bush

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
President George H.W. Bush tours American positions in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving, 1990. (Photo: US National Archives/David Valdez)

And how about President George H. W. Bush? He struggled four years later and lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton. Bush, a World War II Navy vet, announced his candidacy at a high point in his popularity, right after the completion of Operation Desert Storm.

But soon after his announcement, public perception shifted and people began to question whether America pulled out of Iraq too soon as well as whether Saddam Hussein should have been allowed to remain in power. Meanwhile, economic stagnation and new taxes soured Bush’s appeal on domestic issues. Clinton won the presidency and Bush left office.

3. Jimmy Carter

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Former President Jimmy Carter receives a model of the USS Jimmy Carter, a nuclear submarine named after him. (Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Keith A. Stevenson)

Don’t feel too bad for Bush. He only got his vice presidential spot in the first place by kicking another Navy veteran turned president, Jimmy Carter, out of the top job. Carter faced trouble early in the election due to dwindling popularity, the ongoing Iran Hostage Crisis, and economic troubles. Carter had to beat down a primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy before the general election.

In the general election, Bush and presidential candidate Ronald Reagan toured the country, ridiculing Carter over and over. Carter tried to counter by calling Reagan a right-wing radical, but the Republican ticket won a massive victory and even picked up enough Senate seats to regain control of the legislature for the first time in 28 years.

4. John McCain

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin campaign in the 2008 election. (Photo: Matthew Reichbach via Flickr)

John McCain grew up as Navy royalty, with both a father and a grandfather who were four-star admirals. He became a popular senator after his own Navy career that included more than 5 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

McCain actually lost two presidential bids. In the 2000 primary, he won New Hampshire but lost South Carolina and most Super Tuesday states before withdrawing from the race and endorsing George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas.

In 2008, he attempted to follow Bush to the presidency. He won the primary but the 2008 recession turned opinions against the Republicans and Sen. Barack Obama launched a big-data-based campaign that got him ahead of McCain in the polls. McCain earned a respectable 46 percent of the popular vote but lost most battleground states and suffered a 173-365 electoral defeat.

5. Adlai Stevenson

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Adlai Stevenson and David Dubinsky shake hands on stage at an AFL convention, September 1952. (Photo: Kheel Center via Flickr)

Gov. Adlai Stevenson was a former sailor and a former special assistant to the secretary of the Navy. He was defeated three times in bids for the presidency, falling each time to a more popular veteran.

In 1952 Stevenson ran against Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower only eight years after Eisenhower led the Allies to victory in a world war. He suffered a crushing defeat, then came back in 1956 to be beat even worse.

In 1960 he ran against John F. Kennedy for the Democratic nomination but refused to campaign until the night before the convention. He came in fourth.

Kennedy, also a former sailor, received the nomination and won the presidency. Kennedy eventually named Stevenson as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia claims its newest fighter will have hypersonic missiles

Russia’s Su-57 stealth fighter jet will be armed with hypersonic missiles, according to Tass, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“In accordance with Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027, Su-57 jet fighters will be equipped with hypersonic missiles,” a Russian defense industry source told Tass.

“The jet fighters will receive missiles with characteristics similar to that of the Kinzhal missiles, but with inter-body placement and smaller size,” the source added.


Moscow said the new Kh-47M2, or Kinzhal, air-launched hypersonic missile can hit speeds of up to Mach 10 and has a range of 1,200 miles. The Tass report also said “Kinzhal missiles are practically impossible to detect with modern air defense systems.”

Экипажи ВКС выполнили практический пуск ракеты комплекса «Кинжал»

www.youtube.com

While many western analysts remain skeptical of the Kinzhal’s capabilities, the missile appears to be an adaptation of the Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile that flies at hypersonic speeds.

In March 2018, Russia successfully test fired a Kinzhal from a MiG-31BM and is fitting it to a MiG-31K variant.

But the “missiles with characteristics similar to that of the Kinzhal” will have to be smaller than the actual Kinzhal to fit in the Su-57’s weapons bays, according to The Diplomat.

The Russian military will reportedly receive a small batch of 12 Su-57s in 2019, but Moscow has yet to equip the fighter with theIzdeliye-30 engine, which means it is not yet a true fifth-generation jet.

Featured image: United Aircraft Corporation

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

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Army mulls $3 billion multi-year Apache buy

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Photo: US Army Sgt. Stephen Proctor


The Defense Department and Boeing Co. are negotiating a $3.3 billion, multi-year contract for 275 AH-64E Apache helicopters, according to news reports.

Negotiations began after the Office of the Secretary of Defense last month approved the Army‘s proposed procurement plan, Col. Jeffrey Hager, the Army’s Apache program manager, told Inside Defense on Monday at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.

A signed agreement between Boeing and the Army is expected sometime in early 2017, barring legislative hiccups.

Both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act have accepted a multi-year proposal, but a single bill — with the president’s seal of approval — has not yet been approved.

Lawmakers are increasingly reviewing multi-year deals to ensure they produce savings on procurement and production programs.

The Apache proposal, for example, was approved by Shay Assad, the director of defense pricing in the Pentagon’s acquisition directorate, Inside Defense said. Thanks to a profile in Politico in April, Assad earned a reputation as a Robin Hood of sorts after identifying hundreds of millions of dollars in savings by more closely scrutinizing costs charged by contractors.

Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told the news outlet that Assad led contract negotiations for multi-year deals on the Apache helicopter, C-17 Globemaster transport plane and F/A-18 fighter jet “that returned in excess of $500M to the taxpayers.”

If given the green light, a multi-year Apache contract could save $1 billion over five years, according to a House Armed Services Committee fact sheet.

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The Pentagon has changed how it will lay off civilian workers

Performance will be the primary factor in the future if the Defense Department has to resort to a civilian reduction in force, DoD officials said today.


The department revamped the rules for the reduction-in-force process as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016.

That law requires the department to establish procedures to provide that, in any reduction in force of civilian positions in the competitive or excepted service, the determination of which employees shall be separated from employment shall be made primarily on basis of performance.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
(from left) Officers Jacob Hughett and Adam Cruea, both with the 88th Security Forces Squadron, stand ready to answer any emergency or call for help, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Sept. 12, 2016. Both officers work as GS level employees and are part of a civilian contingent within the 88th SFS. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Al Bright)

A reduction in force, or RIF, as it is known, is the term used when the government lays off employees. The RIF procedures determine whether an employee keeps his or her present position, whether the employee has a right to a different position or whether the employee must be let go.

In the past, tenure was the primary factor when making RIF calculations. Now, an employee’s performance rating of record will carry the greatest weight followed by tenure group, performance average score, veterans’ preference and DoD service computation date-RIF.

“The DoD civilian workforce is one of the department’s most important assets,” said Julie Blanks, acting assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. “However, there are times when the department must make difficult decisions that impact our civilians, and in doing so, it is imperative these decisions result in our continued ability to seamlessly execute our national security mission. When circumstances necessitate a RIF, the department must ensure we are retaining our highest performing employees.”

The changes will apply to almost all of DoD’s 750,000 civilian employees. This change in the RIF process only applies to DoD. The government-wide provisions that rank four retention factors by tenure of employment; veterans’ preference; length of service; and performance remain in place for other federal agencies.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
(U.S. Navy photo by Mark Burrell)

Under the new system, if an agency is forced to employ a RIF, employees will be placed on a retention register based on periods of assessed performance of 12 months or more or less than 12 months. The idea is to give an equitable comparison for employees whose performance has been assessed over a comparable period of time.

The first retention factor is rating of record. The rating of record is the average drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four-year period preceding the cutoff date for the RIF.

The second factor is tenure group. There are three tenure groups, with group III being temporary or term employees, these employees will be ranked at the bottom of the retention register below groups I and II.

Tenure group I and II employees are those serving on permanent appointments. Tenure group I includes employees who are not on probation and whose appointments are not career-conditional.

Tenure group II employees are those hired into permanent appointments in a career-conditional or probationary status. In general, tenure group II employees must have three years of creditable service and meet all other stated conditions of their probationary period in order to attain Tenure group I status. Tenure group I will be ranked above employees in tenure group II within each rating of record group.

The third factor is an employee’s average score. In general, an employee’s average score for one performance appraisal is derived by dividing the sum of the employee’s performance element ratings by the number of performance elements. For purposes of RIF, average score is the average of the average scores drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four year period preceding the “cutoff date” for the RIF.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Under new rules, the Pentagon will evaluate job performance first before letting civilian employees go as part of any downsizing. (DoD photo)

Veterans’ preference is the fourth factor. “Veterans are a key part of the civilian workforce, representing a highly skilled, extremely well-qualified cadre of employees,” Blanks said. “The department firmly believes that highly performing veterans in the civilian workforce will not be disadvantaged by the new RIF policy.”

The final factor is the DoD service computation date-RIF, with those serving the longest having the edge.

DoD officials stress that a RIF is always the last resort for the department. They will do everything they can to mitigate the size of reductions, including the use of voluntary early retirement authority or voluntary separation incentive payments. Agencies will also use hiring freezes, termination of temporary appointments, and any other pre-RIF placement options.

The new DoD RIF policy and procedures are consistent with the implementation of the DoD Performance Management and Appraisal Program. This program standardizes the civilian performance appraisal system throughout the department.

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5 differences between Army and Marine Corps infantry

The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps infantrymen pride themselves on being some of the biggest badasses on every block they roll into. They have more similarities than differences, but they’re unique forces. Here are 5 ways you can tell Marine and Army infantry apart:


Note: For this comparison we are predominantly pulling from the Army’s Infantry and Rifle Platoon and Squad field manual and the Marine Corps’ Introduction to Rifle Platoon Operations and Marine Rifle Squad. Not every unit in each branch works as described in doctrine. Every infantry unit will have its own idiosyncrasies and units commonly change small details to deal with battlefield realities.

1. Platoon Organization

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Artur Shvartsberg

Army and Marine Corps rifle platoons share many elements. They are both organized into larger companies, both contain subordinate squads organized into fire teams, and both employ the rifleman as their primary asset. The Army platoon has a radiotelephone operator and a medic. The Marine platoon has a radio transmitter operator and a corpsman who fulfill the same functions.

The Marine Corps rifle platoon contains three rifle squads. Each squad is led by a sergeant who has three fire teams working for him, each led by a corporal. The fire team leader typically carries the M203 grenade launcher slung under his M16. Operating under him are the automatic rifleman, assistant automatic rifleman, and rifleman.

The Army platoons contain smaller squads. An Army rifle squad leader is typically a sergeant or staff sergeant who leads two four-man fire teams. Each Army fire team consists of a team leader, an automatic rifleman, a grenadier, and a rifleman. Note that the Army squad is using a dedicated grenadier in place of an assistant automatic rifleman. Typically, one rifleman in each squad will be a squad designated marksman, a specially trained shooter who engages targets at long range. Also, the Army has an additional squad in each platoon, the infantry weapons squad. This squad has teams dedicated to the M240B machine gun and the Javelin missile system.

Both Marine Corps and Army infantry platoons operate under company and battalion commanders who may add capabilities such as rockets or mortars when needed.

2. Weapons

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Photo: US Navy Mass Communications Petty Officer 2nd Class Kim Smith

The Army typically gets new weapons before the Marine Corps. It moved to the M4 before the Marine Corps did, and soldiers are more likely than Marines to have the newest weapons add-ons like optical sights, lasers, and hand grips. Marines will get all the fancy add-ons. They just typically get them a few years later.

When the Army needs a rocket or missile launched, they can use SMAWs, AT-4s, or Javelins. For the Marine Corps, SMAW is the more common weapons system (they can call heavier weapons like the Javelin and TOW from the Weapons Company in the battalion).

The Army is quickly adopting the M320 as its primary grenade launcher while the Marine Corps is using the M203. The M320 can be fired as a stand-alone weapon. Either the M320 or M203 can be mounted under an M16 or M4.

3. Fires support

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Photo: US Marine Corps

Obviously, infantry units aren’t on their own on the battlefield. Marine and Army rifle units call for assistance from other assets when they get bogged down in a fight. Both the Marine Corps and the Army companies can get mortar, heavy machine gun, and missile/rocket support from their battalion when it isn’t available in the company. For stronger assets such as artillery and close air support, the services differ.

Marines in an Marine Expeditionary Unit, an air-ground task force of about 2,200 Marines, will typically have artillery, air, and naval assets within the MEU. Soldiers in a brigade combat team would typically have artillery support ready to go but would need to call outside the BCT for air or naval support. Air support would come from an Army combat aviation brigade or the Navy or Air Force. Receiving naval fire support is rare for the Army.

4. Different specialties

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Photo: US Navy Phan Shannon Garcia

While all Marines train for amphibious warfare, few soldiers do. Instead, most soldiers pick or are assigned a terrain or warfare specialty such as airborne, Ranger, mountain, or mechanized infantry. Ranger is by far the hardest of these specialties to earn, and many rangers will go on to serve in Ranger Regiment.

The Marine Corps categorizes its infantry by weapons systems and tactics rather than the specialties above. Marine infantry can enter the service as a rifleman (0311), machine gunner (0331), mortarman (0341), assaultman (0351), or antitank missileman (0352). Soldiers can only enter the Army as a standard infantryman (11-B) or an indirect fire infantryman (mortarman, 11-C).

5. Elite

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Army Rangers conduct a mission in Afghanistan. (Photo: US Army)

Marines who want to push themselves beyond the standard infantry units can compete to become scout snipers, reconnaissance, or Force Recon Marines. Scout snipers provide accurate long-range fire to back up other infantrymen on the ground. Reconnaissance Marines and Force Recon Marines seek out enemy forces and report their locations, numbers, and activities to commanders. Force Recon operates deeper in enemy territory than standard reconnaissance and also specializes in certain direct combat missions like seizing oil platforms or anti-piracy.

Soldiers who want to go on to a harder challenge have their own options. The easiest of the elite ranks to join is the airborne which requires you to complete a three-week course in parachuting. Much harder is Ranger regiment which requires its members either graduate Ranger School or get selected from Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. Finally, infantry soldiers can compete for Special Forces selection. If selected, they will leave infantry behind and choose a special forces job such as weapons sergeant or medical sergeant. Infantrymen can also become a sniper by being selected for and graduating sniper school.

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7 of the most lethal Navy weapons in history

The Navy has the mission of securing American interests on the ocean, otherwise known as “most of the planet.” Here are 7 weapons that have help them fight battles throughout the  years:


1. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile- one of the most dangerous weapons

At $569,000 apiece, Tomahawks are expensive cruise missiles that pack a huge punch. They fly at 550 mph and have a maximum range between 700 and 1350 nautical miles, depending on which version of the missile is used. They can carry either 166 bomblets, a 1,000-pound conventional warhead, or the W80 nuclear warhead with a 5-150 kt yield. The Block IV Tomahawk missiles can even be reprogrammed in flight to hit different targets.

2. MK 48 Heavyweight Torpedo

The MK 48 heavy torpedo has 650 pounds of high-explosives packed into its warhead. It can swim at 28 knots for more than 5 miles to reach its target, homing in on it with an advanced sonar system. The Mod 7 version has sonar and guidance for better engaging targets in both deep and littoral waters while getting past enemy countermeasures.

3. Trident II Ballistic Missile

Deployed aboard Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, each Trident II can carry 14 independently-targeted nuclear warheads. The warheads can be the W76 with a yield of 100 kt or the W88 which yields a 475-kt explosion. The submarines were built to carry 24 each. The number of nuclear warheads on a Trident II was limited to eight and the number of missiles on each submarine was limited to 20 by nuclear treaties.

4. Standard Missile- There’s really nothing standard about this weapon.

The Standard Missile has a boring name but awesome capabilities. It’s a family of missiles that are primarily for shooting down planes and helicopters but can also attack ships, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. One even took out a satellite.

Currently, different missiles are needed for different missions. The SM-2 can cripple an enemy ship while the SM-3 focuses on ballistic missiles. The youngest member of the family may change that. The SM-6 has successfully engaged cruise and ballistic missiles and may be tested against surface ships in the future.

5. MK 50 Advanced lightweight torpedo

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

While the MK 50 is much lighter than the MK 48 above, it still hits with an impressive 100-pound warhead and can swim at a blistering 40 knots. Designed to chase down and destroy double-hulled nuclear submarines, the MK 50 was created to get past torpedo countermeasures and kill the enemy, even in shallow water. It’s one hell of a weapon.

6. Laser Weapon System

Yes, this weapon is exactly what it sounds like. Already deployed aboard the USS Ponce, the Navy’s Laser Weapon System concentrates light into a fine point, heating a target until it burns or explodes. So far, the laser has only been used in tests but the crew of the USS Ponce is allowed to use the laser to defend the ship from actual threats. The laser can fire at different targets in rapid succession. Since shots cost less than a dollar each, double-tapping is probably fine.

7. Railgun

Like the laser above, the railgun is currently serving on only one Navy ship. The USNS Millinocket carries the prototype weapon, essentially a cannon that uses magnets instead of chemical propellants to fire a round over 110 nautical miles. Because the round is moving so fast, it can bust bunkers and other hard targets without the need for explosives. Also, the railgun is expected to be able to engage missiles, speedboats, and aircraft at a fraction of the cost of other weapons.

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How one milspouse nonprofit rallied the community for wounded Airmen

Military relief organizations typically focus on their own service members and families. But on June 4, 2021, many of those organizations went all-in for wounded Airmen, instead.

In 2019, the Air Force saw unprecedented suicide numbers within their active duty force. It prompted a branch-wide stand down to address the alarming losses and opened an even deeper discussion on suicide prevention. The Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program saw success with their intense efforts that year but it was short lived. Known for their Warrior Care events and adaptive sports, much had to be put on hold the following year due to a global pandemic. COVID-19 quickly created increased isolation and caused negative mental health symptoms to skyrocket.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban

The Inspire Up Foundation, founded by four military spouses each affiliated with a different branch of service, wanted to help. Their primary mission is to serve the military and first responder communities. Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse and CFO of the organization, said they had to do something. “We’re well-known for our Spark and Inspire boxes we give away so we thought this was a unique opportunity to create a warrior box just for them,” she explained.

Manfre said they brought the idea to their primary sponsor and partner, Caliber Home Loans. The goal was to create 500 boxes for Airmen identified as at-risk and the company immediately donated $7,500 to the cause.

“Caliber believes strongly in stepping forward to support our military and veterans. Being a veteran Air Force spouse myself, this project really hits home. I’m thankful we could step forward to kickstart this endeavor to uplift Airmen in need,” Brittany Boccher, National Director of Military Community Engagement for Caliber Home Loans stated in the press release.

Knowing they’d need more to fill those boxes, the networking began.

“I just finished reading Once a Warrior, written by Jake Wood. The book was an incredible journey through his Marine Corps service and his season of finding purpose outside his uniform,” Manfre explained. “I just couldn’t help but think this was the book these wounded Airmen needed to read. So, I emailed Jake and asked if he or his publishing company could help us with our project and they immediately said yes.”

Black Rifle Coffee company was approached next, known for their ongoing support of the military community. Manfre said the company immediately offered enough coffee for half of the boxes and gave the rest well below cost. The remaining funding was used to create a special warrior coffee mug and custom journal, a practice studies have linked to support healing.

The collaborating wasn’t done yet. Manfre said they had everything shipped to AFW2 headquarters in San Antonio, Texas — a city the Green Beret Foundation also calls home, too. “I called their executive director and asked if they’d be willing to host us to assemble and fill the boxes,” Manfre said. “He [Brent Cooper] said yes without hesitation. It didn’t matter that these weren’t soldiers or special forces, they were in.”

In the press release for the project, Cooper said they were proud to host. “Suicide is not exclusive to one branch of the military. Our service members and veterans continue to battle mental health every day and it’s critical for organizations to come together to accelerate the impact of reducing the suicide statistics,” he shared. “We are more than happy to be able to provide the workspace needed to the Inspire Up Foundation, one of GBF’s force multipliers, and work together to continue the fight against veteran suicide.”

On the day of the event, the building was filled with smiling volunteers from all walks of the military life. Samantha Gomolka, Army spouse and COO of the Inspire Up Foundation, said it was overwhelming. “The joy was palpable and it was so beautiful to see,” she explained. “Beyond immediately serving these wounded warriors, we want the world to know that taking care of our service members doesn’t stop when they take off the uniform. They deserve and need our support always.”

Maria Reed, Army Spouse and CEO of the Inspire Up Foundation, echoed that sentiment. “I get emotional talking about it but our warriors here at home need us just as much as those deployed do. Don’t forget them,” she implored through tears.

Also present for the event were local Air Force spouses like Verenice Castillo, CEO of the Military Spouse Advocacy Network, veteran special forces soldiers and the AFW2 Wellness and Resiliency team. It only took the group three hours to assemble and fill 500 boxes.

“We all just want this project to just be the beginning. Our military community was already hurting before this pandemic made it worse,” Manfre said. “It’s not even about a free box filled with nice things. It’s the gesture and the way we hope to show them they are loved and seen. As a therapist, I know the value of community and connection. For many, it makes a life or death difference.”

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

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


AIR FORCE:

An F-16 Fighting Falcon with the 18th Aggressor Squadron prepares to take off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, shortly after sunrise Jan. 24, 2016, in transit to Kadena Air Base, Japan, to participate in training exercises. More than 150 maintainers from the 354th Fighter Wing will keep the Aggressors in the air and prepare U.S. Airmen, Sailors and Marines for contingency operations along with coalition partners in the Pacific theater.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel

A mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicle, driven by a member of the 451st Expeditionary Support Squadron Security Forces Flight, patrols the flightline as the sun sets on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 20, 2016. Security forces members at the airfield are responsible for the security of more than 150 aircraft and $2.2 billion in resources.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys

Senior Airman Ian Kuhn, a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) instructor with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, demonstrates how to build a concealed shelter during a combat and water survival training course at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016. During this training, aircrew members gained refresher training on using their emergency radios, tactical movements through difficult terrain, how to build shelters, ways to build fires and methods for evading the enemy.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

Senior Airman Christopher Gonzales, of the 144th Security Forces Squadron, is welcomed home by Megan Woodby at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Calif., Jan. 21, 2016. Gonzales was deployed for more than seven months in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge

ARMY:

Green Berets, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, exit the water during a beach infiltration training exercise, part of Combat Diver Requalification, in Key West, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Army Photo

Snipers, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, make adjustments on the scope of an M110 semi-automatic sniper system during a field training exercise at Adazi Training Center in Latvia, Jan. 27, 2016.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin

Soldiers, attached to SOCEUR, U.S. European Command (EUCOM), participate in a night airborne operation near Malmsheim, Germany, Jan. 21, 2016.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist Martin Greeson

NAVY:

Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Valentin Sanchez, from Brownsville, Texas, and Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Zack Smith, from New Caney, Texas, prepare launchers for F/A-18E Super Hornets on USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) flight deck. Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard

Personnel Specialist Seaman Dennis Tran, from Riverside, Calif., and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Darryl Roberson, from Joliet, Ill., fish off the stern of the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) during a fish call. Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Stockdale, assigned to the Stennis strike group, is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David A. Cox

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Jan. 22, 2016. The exercise required students to traverse approximately 1,000 meters of high grass and fire on a target, all without being detected.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez

Marines with the Combined Arms Company, Black Sea Rotational Force Bulgarian and Romanian Forces conduct a joint exercise utilizing Bulgarian and U.S. main battle tanks, indirect fire, mechanized infantry, and close air support from U.S. Air Force assets during Platinum Lion 16-2 at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, Jan. 15, 2016. Exercise Platinum Lion increases readiness and demonstrates our collective ability to operate as a single force committed to protecting the sovereignty of NATO allies and other European partners.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Justin T. Updegraff

COAST GUARD:

At Air Station New Orleans, we are one of the few units who train for and help support the Rotary Wing Air Intercept (RWAI) mission primarily carried out by Air Station Atlantic City. This National Capital Region air defense mission provides safety and security to not only the federal government and entities within Washington DC but its citizens as well.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
USCG photo

Take a ride with U.S. Coast Guard Hawaii Pacific Air Station Barbers Point and Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu crews as they train doing hoists.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
USCG photo by Errik Gordon

MIGHTY TRENDING

This vet can tell you the names of 2,300 fallen heroes — by memory

The war in Afghanistan began in October of 2001 following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Since then, approximately 2,300 American service men and women have fallen in the line of duty while protecting their great country.


The memories of those who died have existed mostly in the hearts of their friends and family — until now.

Navy veteran and two-time USA memory champion Ron White decided to put his unique talents to good use and pay a special tribute to those who died while serving in Afghanistan.

Related: This Marine creates amazing sculptures to remember fallen heroes — free of charge

After returning home from Afghanistan in 2007, White began to form the idea of creating a unique tribute as his way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“The general public has no idea the scope of the sacrifice that so many families and heroes made,” White patriotically states.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
This soldier takes a moment to pay his respects. (Source: PBS/Screenshot)

On Feb. 28, 2013, White began handwriting every single troop’s name he had memorized (including rank, first and last name) in chronological order of their untimely deaths using a white marker — accumulating over 7,000 words.

“Every few hours, somebody will walk by that wall and remind me, this is just not 7,000 words,” White admits. “This is their son or daughter.”

The Texas native’s primary reason for him paying this special tribute is to honor the memories of fallen which he states has made him a better person by learning about all the various stories behind the names — the selfless acts of heroism.

Also Read: These 74 dead sailors from the Vietnam War are not honored on the Wall

Check out PBS News Hour’s video below to watch this two-time memory champ and Navy veteran to honor the fall heroes of Afghanistan one name at a time.

PBS News Hour, YouTube
Articles

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Retired US Navy Admiral William McRaven had an esteemed 37-year military career — which included leading the assassination of Osama bin Laden — but it was a night from Navy SEAL training’s Hell Week that taught him the power of a leader.


In 2014, McRaven gave the commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin, breaking down the 10 biggest lessons he learned in the six months of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) training in his early 20s, and how they were universally applicable.

Now the chancellor of the University of Texas system, McRaven has released “Make Your Bed,” a short book expanding upon these principles he spoke about a few years ago.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven makes remarks during his retirement ceremony. | DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp

In it, he recounts his night in the Tijuana mud flats, where he and his fellow SEAL candidates had virtually every inch of their bodies covered in mud, the experience made worse by a brutally cold night.

Hell Week comes during week three of the six month-long BUD/S training, and is meant to weed out early the candidates who are not ready to become SEALs. According to SOFREP, only about 25% of candidates make it through the week’s intense trials of physical and mental endurance.

One of the trials involves various exercises in expanses of cold, neck-high, clay-like mud.

As McRaven remembers, on this particular day, he and his fellow candidates had spent hours racing each other in boats, paddling through the mud. Now they were standing in it during a suddenly chilling night. To make it worse, it was only the halfway mark of Hell Week. Doubt was setting in among all the young men.

“Shaking uncontrollably, with hands and feet swollen from nonstop use and skin so tender that even the slightest movement brought discomfort, our hope for completing the training was fading fast,” McRaven writes.

From the edge of the flats, an instructor with a bullhorn tried to lure the candidates to comfort. The instructors, he said, had a fire going and had plenty of hot soup and coffee to share. Furthermore, if just five of the candidates quit, the rest of the guys would be given a break. Taking this offer meant ending your SEAL training.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
BUD/S trainees covered in mud during Hell Week. | Department of Defense photo

A student next to McRaven started walking through the mud toward the instructor. McRaven remembers the instructor smiling. “He knew that once one man quit, others would follow,” McRaven writes.

Then one of the candidates started singing. It was raspy and out of tune. Even though it sounded terrible, other students soon joined him, including the one who was on the verge of quitting.

The instructor began yelling at them, demanding that they stop. “With each threat from the instructor, the voices got louder, the class got stronger, and the will to continue on in the face of adversity became unbreakable,” McRaven writes. He remembers that behind the facade of anger, he could see the instructor smiling at the turn of events.

McRaven realized that all it took was one person to unite the entire group, when many of them were on the verge of abandoning their goal.

Interestingly, former Navy SEAL platoon commander Leif Babin writes in his book “Extreme Ownership,” that he learned a similar lesson when he was one of the Hell Week instructors. When the instructors switched the leaders of the best and worst performing boat race teams, they were amazed to see that the formerly worst team rose to the top under new leadership, while the formerly best team suddenly dropped in the rankings under its new poor leader. It was proof to Babin that, “There are no bad teams — only bad leaders.” One exceptional person can change the entire fate of a group.

The night in the mudflats stuck with McRaven during his maturation as an exceptional leader, one who would rise to the highest rank in the Navy, lead all of America’s special operations, and oversee the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

“If that one person could sing while neck deep in mud, then so could we,” McRaven writes. “If that one person could endure the freezing cold, then so could we. If that one person could hold on, then so could we.”

Articles

Army Soldier reflects on Black History Month: ‘Black history is American history’

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Cassian Nuñez delivered a speech to a small room of Soldiers at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, in honor of the U.S. civil rights leader. The attending group held ranks ranging from junior enlisted all the way colonel.

During his speech, Nuñez told the story of a lesser-known man named Walter Reuther. Reuther was white, and a powerful civil rights ally who, among many other feats, helped organize the March on Washington and stood by King as he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

He wanted the Soldiers listening to remember that progress for African American rights was and is still accomplished by working together.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban

Long before Nuñez found himself deployed to support a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and giving this speech, he was spending time at the beach or the mall in southern California, where he grew up. He was raised in Rancho Cucamonga, a foothill suburb of Los Angeles, and attended Los Osos High School. It was here that Nuñez became involved in several extracurriculars, including student government, Model United Nations and Future Business Leaders of America.

The FBLA helped spark his passion for financial literacy and later motivated him to become a budget program analyst with the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) based out of Atlanta, Georgia.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban

“A majority of my friends were in the FBLA,” said Nuñez. “We talked about the stock market all the time. From 13 years old to now, I was surrounded by people who non-stop talked about finance.”

Racial issues and economic hardship often compound each other and overlap. When Nuñez moved to Savannah, Georgia, to attend college, he observed this firsthand. Compared to his hometown, which he described as racially diverse and generally inclusive, Savannah’s racial atmosphere was totally different.

“In California, you have disparities based on income,” said Nuñez. “Rich people, regardless of their race, live in one area and poor people live in another area. But in Savannah, I saw poor white people live over here and poor Black people live over there. That was very different to see people who don’t have anything couldn’t even live together.”

At a young age, it was shocking for him to see this segregation, and at times, he was the target of racist behavior. But as he got older, Nuñez came to accept that people are shaped by their environments.

His younger sisters’ school textbooks in Georgia, for example, look completely different than the textbooks he used in California. He believes many racial and financial issues that persist in the U.S. can be tied to differences in K-12 education curriculum across the country.

“It’s just a totally different education campaign,” said Nuñez. “So instead of victimizing myself, I took it as an opportunity to educate people. In the K-12 system, we’re not taught what money is or how to use it properly. You have very smart people who can perform brain surgery but can’t balance their checkbook. Why is that?”

One way Nuñez helps educate others is by passing on his knowledge of financial responsibility to friends, family and his fellow Soldiers. His biggest inspiration is Robert Kiyasaki, an American businessman and author.

On a previous 2018 deployment to Kuwait, Nuñez would often swap investing and real estate advice with his boss and read Kiyosaki’s financial philosophies. That consistent exchange of ideas and strong mentorship, followed by his ability to use that information after deployment, has helped Nuñez build a profitable real estate business.

“I was able to do a lot more because of the decisions I made in those nine months,” said Nuñez. “That’s one of the things I’m most proud of. Not just the ability to take in information, but to act on it and enjoy the fruits of that labor.”

The mentorship Nuñez has received from his senior leaders is something he encourages all Soldiers to seek out during their military careers. As we celebrate Black History Month, coming together to talk about life experiences is one way the Army can continue working toward a diverse, inclusive environment that’s representative of the Soldiers who serve in it.

“While people can’t do a potluck or a play to celebrate because of COVID-19,” said Nuñez, “they can reflect on the fact that Black history is really American history.”

Articles

The Civil War’s Union Army is the reason beat cops wear blue

By the end of the Civil War, Los Angeles was still a relatively new U.S. city. It was ceded to the United States with the rest of California in 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War. In 1869, the population was up to 5,000, with more coming in all the time.


They had one City Marshal and a Sheriff to police them. Soon, the murder rate and public drunkenness demanded more police officers. Six men wore the badges and Winchester lever-action rifles of the new LAPD.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
LA in 1869. Somewhere a drunk cowboy is complaining about Mercury in retrograde while his buddy asks for gluten-free hummus.

Early LAPD Sheriffs had a short lifespan. The second-ever City Marshal was murdered in 1853. Sheriff James Barton was assassinated in 1857. The murder rate was as high as one every day, with many coming from LA’s 400 gambling halls and 110 saloons. Until these six men were deputized in 1869, mob rule and vigilantism were the usual method of justice.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
These days, flash mobs rule LA. (LA Film School photo)

This was when the American police department received its iconic dark blue uniforms. The Los Angeles Police Department’s first official uniforms were Army surplus — the dark blue of the Union Army of the American Civil War. And they looked exactly like Union soldiers too.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
All they need is a bayonet. Nothing inspires law and order like a bayonet.

Still, that didn’t ease much for the City Marshal, who was also the dog catcher and tax collector. Marshal William C. Warren didn’t even get along with his deputies, one of whom shot and killed him six years later.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
Go ahead. Try to take an Angeleno’s dog away from them. That’s probably what Marshal Warren did.

LA had 16 police chiefs between 1879 and the turn of the 20th century, averaging almost a new guy in the position every year. By 1893, the cowboy hat in the Union Army uniform was replaced with a stovepipe hat — the helmet in the style of British “Bobbies” — for the beat cops and flat tops for the sergeants and officers of the force.

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban
There should be more than six guys twenty years later, right?

Many cities like Los Angeles adopted the same practice of using Union Army surplus uniforms in the days following the Civil War. Similar photos of NYPD officers wearing the old uniforms and “Bobbie”-style helmets can be seen as early as 1893.

Leave it to Los Angeles to set the first vintage clothing trend.

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