This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

Over the weekend, you may have heard that the Argentinean submarine ARA San Juan, and its crew of 44 sailors, has gone missing. This is not unusual. In 1968, the Skipjack-class nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN 589) went missing – and was declared “overdue and presumed lost.”


Let’s be honest about submariners. They are doing a very dangerous job – even in peacetime. They are taking a ship and deliberately going underwater – where immense forces are acting on the vessel. When submarines sink – either by accident or due to an act of war, the usual outcome is that all hands are lost.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
Argentinian submarine ARA San Juan. (Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes, though, the crews beat the odds, like for about half the crew of USS Squalus (SS 192). They survived the sinking of their vessel, and were later rescued. In fact, one device first developed and proven in the rescue of the Squalus survivors, the McCann Rescue Chamber, is still in service today.

According to a release from Southern Command, this chamber can reach a submarine as far as 850 feet below the surface of the ocean. Six sailors can be brought to the surface at a time. While this is a good start, keep in mind, some submarines can have as many as 155 personnel on board.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
A visitor at Deep Submergence Unit (DSU), located on Naval Air Station North Island, takes a peek at the interior of a Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) that is used to rescue the crew from a submerged disabled submarine. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephanie Tigner)

That said, there are parts of the ocean that are a lot deeper than 850 feet where a submarine could still maintain enough integrity to keep crews alive. For those rescues, the Navy can turn to the Pressurized Rescue Module. This can reach submarines as far down as 2,000 feet, and it can retrieve 16 personnel at a time. These are known as the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System. Both systems have been deployed to render aid to any survivors on the San Juan, assuming the sub can be located in time.

Now, you may be wondering, “Where are the DSRVs?” Well, that’s the bad news. The United States had two Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles, named Avalon and Mystic. Those vessels could go as far down as 5,000 feet and could pull up 24 personnel at a time.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
Sailors assist in steadying the deep submergence rescue vehicle Mystic (DSRV 1) as it is lowered on to the fast-attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700) at Askaz Naval Base in Turkey. (U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Jason E. Miller)

The United States sent a NASA P-3 and a Navy P-8 to help look for the San Juan. Hopefully, the sailors can be found and rescued.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan leaders say voter turnout rejected the Taliban

Senior Afghan officials have praised voters who cast ballots in parliamentary elections that were plagued by violence and organizational problems, saying the turnout shows that Afghans are rejecting the ideology of Taliban militants.

“The Taliban wanted to build a stream of blood, but the Taliban was defeated and the Taliban’s thoughts and ideas were rejected,” Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told a cabinet meeting on Oct. 22, 2018.


This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

(US Department of State)

Around 4 million out of 8.8 million registered voters in a country of more than 30 million cast their ballots over the two-day voting at more than 4,500 polling centers across the country, according to election authorities, despite deadly militant attacks in which dozens of people were killed and delays caused by technical and organizational problems.

The Taliban had issued several warnings in the days leading up to the poll demanding the more than 2,500 candidates for the lower house of parliament withdraw from the race and for voters to stay home.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

(US Department of State)

Preliminary results of the parliamentary elections, which were seen as a key test of the government’s ability to provide security across the country, were expected to be released on Nov. 10, 2018, at the earliest. Final results will likely be out sometime in December 2018, an election commission spokesman has said.

Originally scheduled for 2015, the vote was delayed for three years amid disputes over electoral reforms and because of the instability following NATO’s handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces at the end of 2014.

“The Afghan people want a system based on the people’s vote, and in fact, we have witnessed a historical moment,” said Abdullah, who also admitted there were shortcomings during the vote.

Voting was extended to a second day on Oct. 21, 2018, after hundreds of polling stations were closed on the first day of voting due to technical and security issues.

But only 253 of the 401 polling centers that were scheduled to be open on Oct. 21, 2018 were operational, with the remainder closed for security reasons, election authorities said.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

An Afghan man prepares to vote in a villiage near Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 18, 2010

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gloria Wilson)

At some of the centers that opened for voting, there were insufficient ballot papers and voter rolls were “either incomplete or nonexistent,” Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Ali Reza Rohani said, adding, “most of the problems we had yesterday still exist today.”

The ECC said it had received more than 5,000 complaints of irregularities from voters and candidates, and the Interior Ministry said 44 people had been charged with “illegal interference in the election and fraud.”

However, President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised address to the nation after polls closed on Oct. 21, 2018, that the election turnout showed that voters “have the power and will to defeat their enemies.”

Ghani also challenged the Taliban to “show if your way or the way of democracy is preferred by the people.”

In a tweet on Oct. 21, 2018, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commended “the millions of Afghan men women who have exercised their democratic right to vote the Afghan security forces who have provided security for the elections despite great challenges.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement released on Oct. 20, 2018, that it was “encouraged by the high numbers” of Afghans who braved security threats and waited long hours to cast their votes.

UNAMA said the elections, which it described as “the first completely run by Afghan authorities since 2001,” were an “important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s lack of sailing skills could cost it the next war

The US Navy has some of the world’s most advanced ships with electronics and automated systems that handle much of the manual tasks involved in the millenias-old craft of sailing — but that same technological strength may be its downfall in a fight against Russia or China.

“The next war will be analog, and the surface Navy is unprepared for it,” Jonathan Panter, a former US Navy Surface Warfare Officer begins an article in the US Naval Institute’s April edition of “Proceedings,” its monthly publication.


“Reliance on digital technologies is particularly acute in the realms of communications, propulsion systems, and navigation and has produced a fleet that may not survive the first missile hit or hack,” Panter writes.

Panter’s comments follow a 2017 incident that saw two US Navy destroyers suffer massive collisions with container ships. These ships are among the world’s best at tracking and defending against incoming missiles flying at hundreds of miles an hour, yet they failed to steer well enough to avoid getting hit by a relatively slow container ship the size of a small neighborhood.

“Navigation and seamanship, these are the fundamental capabilities which every surface warfare officer should have, but I suspect if called to war, we’ll be required to do a lot more than safely navigate the Singapore strait,” US Navy Capt. Kevin Eyer, former skipper of the cruisers Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and Thomas Gates said in December 2017. Eyer was speaking in reference to the USS John McCain’s crash with a container ship in the Singapore strait, as Breaking Defense noted at the time.


This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields)

“If our surface forces are unable to successfully execute these fundamental blocking and tackling tasks, how can it be possibly be expected that they are also able to do the much more complex warfighting tasks?” Eyer asked.

The Navy responded to the two major crashes by replacing the commander of its Pacific fleet, but concerns about its reliance on mutable, fallible electronic and automated systems remains an issue. Additionally, the Navy has begun teaching navigation based on the stars to its sailors in an effort to mitigate over-relaince on technology.

From Panter:

Navigation, that quiet background endeavor without which missiles cannot be launched or guns fired, is similarly teetering one casualty away from disaster. For a loss of GPS, you switch to another; for a loss of a VMS console, you switch to another. But what happens in a total loss-of-power casualty? Wait until the 30-minute batteries on the GPS and VMS wind down, then switch to a laptop version—also battery-powered. The assumption, of course, is that help will be on the way.

China has deployed jamming equipment to the South China Sea. Russia has already begun jamming US Air Force platforms over Syria. All expert accounts say that electronic warfare, possibly even space-based attacks on GPS infrastructure in the sky will factory heavily into future warfare, making Panter’s assessment all the more ominous.

Russia operates a more analog fleet than the US in both at sea and in the air, and China’s sea power is concentrated near its own shores where ground assets can back it up.

Through electronic warfare and a misstep in US Navy strategy, the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy could lose its next war as its strengths turn to weaknesses in the face of technological over-reliance.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 isn’t the first time the Pentagon has tried to make one airplane for 3 branches

In 1961, the United States military was ordered to try to make a single airframe serve the needs of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. That project was called the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) project. It later became the General Dynamics F-111, known affectionately as the Aardvark.


As just about any military aviation buff can tell you, the results were not what the then-Secretary of Defense had been hoping for. The F-111 made an excellent all-weather attack plane, capable of delivering 31,500 pounds of ordnance onto a target. If anything, had there been another round of modernization in the early-to-mid 1990s, allowing the Vark to use GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions or Joint Stand-Off Weapons or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, it might still be carrying out that mission today.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
An air-to-air left front view of an F-111 aircraft during a refueling mission over the North Sea (Public Domain)

The efforts to fill the needs of the other services didn’t go so well. The close-air support versions for the Marines and Army never happened. The Navy’s F-111B, intended as a fleet air-defense plane, just didn’t work, prompting Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly to tell a Senator, “There isn’t enough power in all Christendom to make that airplane what we want!” The results of Connolly’s career-ending honesty included the Navy developing the F-14 Tomcat, which proved to be very effective as an interceptor and air superiority fighter.

But the Air Force, Navy, and Marines all ended up using a common airframe from the 1960s to the 1980s. It just wasn’t the airframe many would have picked to be a joint strike fighter before there was ever a thought of having a Joint Strike Fighter.

The iconic McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom started out as an all-weather interceptor for the Navy. Equipped with four AIM-7 Sparrows and four AIM-9 Sidewinders, this Mach 2 plane had a combat radius of almost 370 miles, and was also capable of carrying almost 19,000 pounds of bombs. The Marines also bought the plane as well.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
A U.S. Air Force F-4 flies with the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron over White Sands Missile Range
(Public Domain)

The Air Force, looking for a new fighter-bomber, tried out the F-4. Very quickly, the Air Force realized that the Phantom was working out very well, and soon they, too were buying hundreds of F-4s. The Air Force was even able to add an internal M61 cannon to the plane – something the Navy never really got around to.

The Phantom saw service in the Vietnam War – and it was the plane flown by America’s aces in that conflict: Randy Cunningham, Willie Driscoll, Steve Richie, Charles DeBellevue, and Jeffrey Feinstein. The Phantom shot down 147 enemy planes in the Vietnam War. It also saw service with numerous American allies: including Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, Iran, Egypt, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and Greece. It still remains in service, now as a fighter-bomber.

The F-35 seems to have taken a few pages out of the F-111’s playbook; notably, the three versions have similar missions – even though one is intended for use from normal air bases, the other is V/STOL, and the third is carrier-capable. But the F-35 program is now pushing 15 years since Lockheed won the Joint Strike Fighter competition) — twice as long as the F-111’s.

The F-35 also shares something in common with the F-4: The Air Force version is the only one with an internal cannon. The Navy and Marine Corps versions (as well as the one used by the RAF) don’t. And whether the F-35 can become a classic like the Phantom is something that only time will tell.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just put on a show, and the photos are dazzling

Malmstrom Air Force Base opened its gates to the public in mid-July 2019, welcoming approximately 13,000 members of Great Falls and surrounding communities to the 2019 “Mission Over Malmstrom” Open House held on July 13 and 14, 2019.

The two-day event featured aerial acts, exhibits and guided tours which offered experiences highlighting the mission of Malmstrom AFB and the capabilities of the US armed forces.


This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

A US Army parachutist with the Golden Knights parachute team approaches his landing at the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

A B-2 Spirit performs a flyover during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

A child tours an armored vehicle during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

A family participates in a cockpit experience during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

US Air Force Maj. Paul Lopez, F-22 Demo Team commander, performers aerial maneuvers during the Mission Over Malmstrom open-house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

US Air Force Maj. Paul Lopez, F-22 Demo Team commander, performers aerial maneuvers at the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

The Shetterly Squadron aerial group performs stunts during the Mission Over Malmstrom open-house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

A UH-1N helicopter performs flight maneuvers during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

MiG Fury Fighters perform a flyover during the Mission Over Malmstrom open house event at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, July 13, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Tristan Truesde)

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

Articles

This may be one concrete way the VA can make a dent in vet suicides

On June 27, the Department of Veterans Affairs released finalized plans to provide emergency mental health coverage to former service members with other-than-honorable administrative discharges.


“Suicide prevention is my top clinical priority,” Secretary David Shulkin, who is also a physician, said in a VA news release. “We want these former service members to know there is someplace they can turn if they are facing a mental health emergency — whether it means urgent care at a VA emergency department, a Vet Center, or through the Veterans Crisis Line.”

This is the first time a VA secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on this group of former service members who are in mental health distress, the release stated.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
US Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. VA Photo by Robert Turtil.

Effective July 5, all Veterans Health Administration medical centers will be prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who present at the facility with an emergent mental health need.

Under this initiative, former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential, or outpatient care, the release stated.

During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine whether the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
DoD Photo by Megan Garcia

Since Shulkin announced his intent in March to expand coverage to service members with OTH administrative discharges, the VA has worked with key internal and external stakeholders, including members of Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and community partners on the issue, the release stated.

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

Articles

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, crawl through a simulated battlefield J on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. An incident there on March 18 that involved the death of a recruit is being investigated by NCIS. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink


The March 18 suicide of Muslim-American recruit Raheel Siddiqui days after he began boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, highlighted allegations of hazing and resulted in the firings of several senior officers and leaders at the depot.

But abuse and maltreatment of recruits did not begin or end with Siddiqui, Military.com has learned.

In all, three different investigations into training inside one Parris Island battalion reveal a culture of hazing and violence that did not end until one recruit’s family sent an anonymous letter to President Barack Obama in April.

The investigations also reveal that drill instructors within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion had a history of singling out recruits based on their ethnicity and religion, and that another Muslim recruit had been subjected to severe hazing in 2015 when a drill instructor repeatedly shoved him into a clothes dryer and turned it on, and forced him to shout “Allah Akbar” loud enough to wake other recruits.

That same drill instructor would become a supervisory drill instructor in Siddiqui’s unit, the investigation found, and his treatment of the recruit, including forcing him to complete “incentive training” and physically assaulting and slapping him immediately prior to his death, provided impetus for the suicide, investigators found.

Punitive action

In all, 20 drill instructors and senior leaders from Parris Island’s Recruit Training Regiment face punitive action or separation from the Marine Corps for participating in or enabling mistreatment of recruits. Several drill instructors at the heart of the abuse allegations are likely to face court-martial for their actions.

The contents of the three investigations have not been released publicly as the findings have yet to be endorsed by Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. But Marine officials discussed the contents of the investigations and the recommendations of the investigating officers in response to a public records request.

Marine officials said Thursday that the incidents of hazing and abuse were confined to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and not indicative of the culture within the Corps’ boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego.

“When America’s men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them. We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement. “Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically trained Marines.”

A lengthy investigation into the death of 20-year-old Siddiqui found the recruit had died by suicide, jumping from the third floor of the Company K recruit training barracks, slamming his chest against a railing at the bottom of the stairs.

Siddiqui had threatened to kill himself five days before, prior to the first full day of recruit training. He described a plan to jump out a squad bay window, investigators found, but later recanted and was allowed to remain in training.

Singled out

In the short time Siddiqui was at the unit, investigators found he was repeatedly referred to as a “terrorist,” presumably in reference to his Muslim background. One drill instructor also asked the recruit if he needed his turban, officials said.

Findings show recruits were routinely singled out on account of their backgrounds and ethnicity. Drill instructors referred to one recruit born in Russia as “the Russian” and “cosmonaut” and asked him if he was a communist spy, investigators found.

In Siddiqui’s unit, recruits were subjected to unauthorized incentive training, in which they would lift footlockers, day packs and other heavy items and clean the squad bay in uncomfortable positions using small scrub brushes for hours. Drill instructors would also push and shove recruits and use Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training as an opportunity to pit recruits against each other, sometimes in physically unfair matchups.

Drill instructors told investigators that a more experienced drill instructor taught subordinates they needed to “hate” recruits to be successful at training them.

On March 13, Siddiqui, who previously had received a clean mental health evaluation, expressed a desire to kill himself. He was interviewed at the scene and turned over the the depot’s mental health unit, where he recanted and expressed a wish to return to training.

He was given a clean bill of health, described as “highly motivated to continue training,” and returned to his unit with no follow-up requested, investigators found.

Drill instructors would tell investigators that recruits frequently express suicidal ideations as an excuse to get out of training, and thus no serious incident report was made about Siddiqui’s threat. While drill instructors were told to ease Siddiqui back into training, they were not made aware of his suicidal ideations.

The morning of Siddiqui’s death, the recruit presented drill instructors with a note asking to go to medical with a severely swollen throat. He claimed he had lost his voice and coughed up blood overnight and was in significant pain. In response, he was told to do “get-backs” — to sprint back-and-forth the nearly 150 feet between the entrance to the bathroom, the back of the squad bay and the front of the squad bay.

“I don’t care what’s wrong with you; you’re going to say something back to me,” a drill instructor yelled as Siddiqui began to cry.

Shortly after, the recruit dropped to the floor clutching his throat, though it’s not clear if he became unconscious or was feigning to deflect the drill instructor’s abuse.

In an effort to wake him, the drill instructor slapped Siddiqui on the face hard enough to echo through the squad bay. The recruit became alert, ran out of the squad bay, and vaulted over the stairwell railing, sustaining severe injuries in the fall.

Drill instructors called 911. Siddiqui would be taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Charleston, where he would receive blood transfusions and emergency surgery in an unsuccessful effort to save his life. He died just after 10 a.m.

The lawyer for the Siddiqui family, Nabih Ayad, did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the investigations’ findings.

Leaders relieved

In the wake of Siddiqui’s death, multiple leaders have been relieved for failing to prevent the culture of recruit abuse. On March 31, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon was fired in connection with the investigation of prior allegations of recruit mistreatment, including the hazing and assault of another, unnamed, Muslim recruit.

Notably, the Marine Corps’ investigations stopped short of finding that drill instructors’ hazing of Siddiqui and other recruits was motivated by racial bias. They did find evidence that some drill instructors made a practice of exploiting recruits’ ethnicities as a way to harass them.

On June 6, Parris Island officials announced that Recruit Training Regiment’s commander, Col. Paul Cucinotta, and its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Dabreau, had been relieved in connection with the Siddiqui investigation.

Fifteen drill instructors have been sidelined since April amid allegations of recruit hazing and maltreatment, and two captains may also face punishment for failing to properly supervise drill instructors.

Marine officials said it may be one to three months before disciplinary decisions are made, including possible charges filed, regarding these 20 Marines.

Officials with Marine Corps Training and Education Command have also set in motion a host of new policies designed to prevent future mistreatment of recruits, said Maj. Christian Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman.

These include increased officer presence and supervision of recruit training; mandatory suspension of personnel being investigated for recruit hazing or mistreatment; better visibility of investigations above the regiment level, changes to the drill instructor assignment process to prevent chain-of-command loyalty from affecting leadership; creation of a zero-tolerance policy for hazing among drill instructors; and a review of mental health processes and procedures for suicide prevention.

“We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui,” Neller said. “And we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

The CFT has nothing to do with combat, Kuwait isn’t a real deployment, not every Marine is a rifleman, stop piggybacking off the XO—every service member has thought these things in some form at one point or another. You may have even said it aloud to a buddy. Putting a military spin on Dude With a Sign, Veteran With A Sign takes these thoughts that we have all had and actually says them.


VWAS is an Instagram page that started in March 2020 as a writing project by a f̶o̶r̶m̶e̶r̶ Marine named Zach. He served two tours in Afghanistan as an infantryman and held every position in a Marine infantry squad up to squad leader. “GWOT was hot and COIN was cool,” Zach said as he recalled the intensity of combat operations over a decade ago. After separating from the Marine Corps, Zach continued to support his brothers and sisters in arms working for Centerstone, a nonprofit national network that offers essential behavioral healthcare to veterans. Like most veterans, Zach started following military memes as a way to connect with the community. However, he found that most of the memes were the same; heavy handed, punching down, and generally negative in nature. He decided to try something different.

As quarantines went into place across the country and people went internal both literally and on the internet, Zach saw an opportunity to test out his idea and seized it. His first sign read, “Take motrin Drink water Change your socks.” This military cure-all was followed by other popular sayings like “Hurry up and wait” and “Standby to standby.” VWAS’s posts are meant to help veterans with a type of humor that serves as a common language across the services. “Everything’s with a wink and a smile,” Zach said. However, the community was slow to catch on. The number of followers was low and Zach found that people just weren’t getting the joke. “It was annoying,” he recalled. By May, he wondered if he shouldn’t just shut the whole thing down. However, seemingly overnight, the community got the joke.

Early on, Zach began consulting with his Marine Corps buddy Jay. The two served together in Afghanistan with Zach becoming Jay’s squad leader on their last deployment. “We stayed in touch after the Marines,” Jay said, “but we went from good friends to best friends with VWAS.” While working toward a business degree, Jay helped to direct the social media strategy of the page and grow its followership by tagging friends, sharing posts, and trying to line up just the right hashtag. When Zach considered shutting it down, the page was hovering around 600-800 followers. The next day, it had jumped to 1,200. In a week, it more than doubled to 2,500. After a week and a half, VWAS had over 10,000 followers. “We found a common unified voice for the page,” Jay said.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

Zach (left) and Jay (right) hold signs written by the other (veteranwithasign)

As the page grew, so did its message. Zach and Jay realized the social responsibility that had been placed on them and crafted their posts accordingly. While they still made humorous signs like “Mortarmen Are Infantry That Can Do Math”, they also used their platform to bring attention to serious topics with signs like “Text Your Buddies…It Could Save A Life” and “Where Is Vanessa Guillén??” The two also carefully crafted the identity of the page with the character of the Warfighter. Wearing OD green skivvies, black sunglasses, and a hat, the Warfighter persona aims to focus attention on the message of the sign while also representing all types of veterans. “Anyone who puts on the uniform is fighting the war,” Jay said. From S1 and supply to mechanics and logisticians, “everybody is the warfighter in their own way.” Zach says that the concept was inspired by the 2006 film V for Vendetta, in which a masked man fights against a fascist tyrannical government. V’s face, hidden by a Guy Fawkes mask, is never seen in the film and the mask becomes a symbol of freedom and rebellion against the oppressive regime. Jay reinforced this idea when he talked about donning the skivvies, hat, and shades to hold up a sign. “In that moment, I’m the Warfighter.”

Expanding the VWAS community, Zach and Jay started taking suggestions from followers who had a message that they wanted to share. Working with Zach and Jay to craft and home the message, the follower would then don the Warfighter outfit, assume the identity, and hold up their sign for the world to read. One such collaboration was with a veteran and former law enforcement officer who goes by the Instagram name donutoperator—the sign read, “Military Experience Doesn’t Equal Law Enforcement Experience.” Another major expansion for VWAS came when Tim Kennedy shared a post in which Zach held up a sign reading, “No One Hates Successful Veterans Like Veterans” while his friend held one reading, “He Sucks”.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines

“Wives aren’t the only ones wanting to be called by rank” (veteranwithasign)

“There’s a current cultural problem with the veteran community. It feels as if we eat our own,” Kennedy said in his sharing of the post. “We need to be supporting each other. We need to back each other.” While Zach and Jay hope to continue to grow the page as a forum of free speech, there’s no room on VWAS for negativity. The page receives dozens of DMs and comments on a daily basis, and while Zach and Jay like to respond to all of them, they simply ignore the constant suggestions to do signs bashing on veteran-owned apparel or coffee companies.

“That’s just being a bully,” Jay said, “and no one likes a bully.”

On the other hand, many DMs to the page come from concerned friends looking for resources to provide to battle buddies who they think might be suicide risks. Zach and Jay take the time to identify the most appropriate and effective resources and pass the information on with best wishes. “That’s what this is all about,” Zach said, “helping veterans laugh more and hurt themselves less.” While veteran suicides have gone up since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, VWAS wants to do more than just acknowledge the problem or point fingers at the VA. “That doesn’t solve anything,” Zach said. “Instead, I look at it like, ‘They’re doing what they can do and we’re doing what we can do.'”

Doing 22 push-ups for 30 days on Facebook can be a good way to bring awareness to the problem of veteran suicide, but there is a simpler course of action that addresses the problem directly. Call your buddies. Take the time to talk, catch up, and ask how they’re doing. Let them know that you care about them and are always there for them. The feeling of loneliness and hopelessness that tragically brings so many veterans to take their own lives can be combated with a phone call from a friend.

Be that friend.

Here are some resources designed to prevent veteran suicide:

Veterans Crisis Line—1-800-273-8255 and press 1

Veterans Crisis Line for deaf or hard of hearing—1-800-799-4889

Veterans Crisis Text—838255

Veterans Crisis Online Chat— https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat

Articles

DARPA tested an awesome plan to find dirty bombs

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency held a massive scavenger hunt in the nation’s capitol to collect data on how to find dirty nuclear bombs planted by terrorists.


This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
Photo: YouTube/DARPA

Participants in the scavenger hunt, mostly ROTC cadets and midshipmen from the nearby Naval Academy, were playing a game to find a geneticist who was “mysteriously abducted.” But they carried cell-phone sized sensors that sniffed out radioactive material as they moved around the city for hours, allowing DARPA to test the ability of the sensors to search for a covert nuke.

The sensors, part of DARPA’s SIGMA program, are low-cost gamma and neutron radiation sniffers that are networked with smartphones so they can relay information to a central point.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
Photo: YouTube/DARPA

Before this scavenger hunt, DARPA had only tested up to 100 sensors at a time. But the network of sensors is supposed to provide coverage of entire cities or regions, allowing law enforcement to search for and find stolen or smuggled nuclear material before it can be used in a weapon.

In a real attack, police would need to scan vast areas using hundreds or more sensors. So, the Nov. 10 test featured 1,000 sensors feeding their information into the program’s software.

The scavenger hunt scenario was developed to keep the cadets and midshipmen engaged as they carried the devices around Washington, D.C., for hours. Even larger tests are planned for 2017 and DARPA partners hope to push the final version of SIGMA to local, state, and federal police in 2018.

Dirty bombs are conventional explosives with nuclear material mixed in or layered on top of the main charge. The nuclear material does not significantly add to the total blast force of the weapon, but it is spread over a large area to frighten residents and to force a costly and time-consuming cleanup process.

Dirty bombs are easier to make than standard nuclear devices, and the government has worked to prevent a dirty bomb terrorist attack for years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukraine is one step closer to NATO membership

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reiterated that Kyiv is seeking a Membership Action Plan (MAP), a formal step toward joining NATO.


Poroshenko, in a post on Facebook on March 10, 2018, said a MAP was Ukraine’s “next ambition” on the path toward eventual membership in the 29-country Western alliance.

“This is what my letter to Jens Stoltenberg in February 2018 was about, where, with reference to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, I officially [set out] Ukraine’s aspirations to become a member of the Alliance,” Poroshenko wrote.

A Membership Action Plan is a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a country in line with NATO standards and to eventual membership. The process can take several years.

Also read: In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

Poroshenko’s comments came after NATO updated its website to include Ukraine alongside three other countries — Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, and Macedonia — that have declared their aspirations to NATO membership

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. (Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC)

“Countries that have declared an interest in joining the Alliance are initially invited to engage in an intensified dialogue with NATO about their membership aspirations and related reforms,” the NATO website said.

The next step toward possible membership is a MAP. But a NATO official told RFE/RL that the alliance has not changed its position on Ukraine.

“NATO’s policy remains the same,” the official said. “There has been a change in Ukraine’s policy, which the website reflects.”

Related: How Ukraine punked North Korea’s nuclear missile scientists

Under former President Viktor Yanukovych, Kyiv said it was not interested in joining NATO. But Kyiv has sought NATO membership since the 2014 antigovernment Maidan protests that toppled Moscow-friendly Yanukovych and ushered in a pro-Western government.

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on June 8, 2017, passed a law making NATO integration a foreign policy priority.

In July 2017, Poroshenko announced that he would seek the opening of negotiations on a MAP with NATO.

Ukraine is currently embroiled in a war with Russia-backed separatists in part of its eastern regions that has killed more than 10,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands since April 2014.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

The last words of a heroic Iraqi interpreter who sacrificed himself to save American soldiers from a suicide bomber were: “Take care of my son. Take care of my wife.” US Special Forces troops are now fighting to honor that dying request.

When a suicide bomber detonated his vest during a vehicle inspection near the Syrian border in September 2007, Barakat Ali Bashar put himself between the bomber and then-Staff Sgt. Jay McBride. Bashar, a new father of only a week, was critically wounded in the attack, and he died at a military hospital in Mosul.


Bashar “had dozens of ball bearings in his body causing injuries that nobody could have survived,” McBride, a former medic, told Stars and Stripes, adding, “I owe him my life.”

Bashar, described as “kind of young and a little more western than your typical Iraqi,” served as an interpreter for US Special Forces fighting Al Qaeda in northern Iraq. After his death, his family received some financial compensation from the US government, but they remained in Iraq, a country later overrun by the Islamic State.

The family, already a target because of their Yazidi heritage, was also in danger because of Bashar’s work with the US military. They fled their home near Mount Sinjar, leaving behind their personal possessions and all evidence Bashar had served with the US Army, and headed to a refugee camp in Kurdistan, where they still live today. Bashar’s family emailed Stars and Stripes and revealed that they live in constant fear.

One of the problems encountered during the visa application process was the lack of proof that Bashar had served with the US military. The family has since obtained written proof that Bashar “was declared dead in a U.S. Army hospital and he was an interpreter who served with [U.S. forces].” They are awaiting a follow-up interview with the State Department.

McBride and other US veterans have been writing letters and petitions in support of the family’s special visa application since 2015. “Is this how you treat a family of someone who worked five years with the U.S. Army; someone who was loyal to the U.S. and Iraq; someone who gave his life serving with U.S. Army soldiers and trying to protect them?” McBride told Stars and Stripes, adding that he would happily put the family up at his house if that was an option.

Bashar “never faltered in his commitment to help American forces, even after his family was threatened and their names were placed on a list that was circulated around the region describing him as a traitor for supporting American forces,” Sgt. 1st Class Michael Swett, another Special Forces soldier, wrote in support of the family. “He believed in the American dream even more than we did. Unfortunately, [Bashar] never realized his opportunity to see the country that he sacrificed so much for.”

“We, the people of the United States of America, put this family at risk and I feel it is our duty as a civilized nation to [ensure] their safety,” Army Master Sgt. Todd West wrote in a separate letter.

Featured image: U.S. Army Pfc. Jacob Paxson and Pfc. Antonio Espiricueta, both from Company B (“Death Dealers”), 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, attached to Task Force 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, provide security from a street corner during a foot patrol in Tameem, Ramadi, Iraq.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Indonesian special forces drank snake blood to impress James Mattis

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis saw a rare display on a trip to Indonesia where he sought to improve ties with the country’s historically vicious special forces.


As part of that trip, Mattis watched a demonstration by soldiers, during which they broke bricks over their heads, walked on hot coals, performed martial arts, rolled in broken glass, killed live snakes, and drank their blood.

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Members of the Indonesian Special Forces hold a demonstration in honor of Defense Secretary James N. Mattis before Mattis met with Indonesia’s Chief of Defense Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto in Jakarta, Indonesia on Jan. 24, 2018. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

As the troops prepared the snakes, which were king cobras, one reportedly got loose and postured, as if preparing to bite Mattis, though it was wrangled back into the fold, the Japan Times reports.

Eating snakes is actually a common military ritual, with some U.S. troops training in the practice to prepare them for jungle warfare.

But Mattis was in Indonesia to repair ties with the country’s military, which came under sanction when the country’s former dictator used the special forces as a criminal organization to brutally enforce his policies.

Currently, Indonesia’s special forces are banned from training with U.S. forces, but Mattis may look to soften that policy after the trip.

Also Read: The Pentagon will partner with a powerful Indonesian special forces unit

Many fear that Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, could become home to extremist groups like ISIS as the group looks to expand beyond Iraq and Syria.

Additionally, Indonesia has proved a key figure in pushing back on China’s expansion into the South China Sea. The U.S. may look to fold them into a coalition of countries that resist the unilateral militarization of the important shipping lane.

Mattis said on his trip he thought the human rights violators of Indonesia’s past had moved on from the special forces, and stressed the need for the countries to work together.

“No single nation resolves security challenges alone in this world,” Mattis said, according to the Washington Post.

Articles

The KGB’s Alpha Group left terrorists in fear of the Soviet Union

The massacre of Israeli athletes by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics was a wake-up call. Like many countries in the 1970s, the Soviet Union had to come up with a way to counter the rise of domestic and international terrorism. The western countries that comprised the NATO alliance had their special units, so the Soviet Union relied on its state security service to make its own.

KGB Chief Yuri Andropov created Alpha Group, a special operations and commando unit inside his already elite organization. Their skills included counterterrorism, hostage situations, interdicting foreign intelligence services, VIP protection, and more. Unlike most federal police agencies’ special tactical units, the KGB’s Alpha Group often found itself deployed overseas. 

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
Not the look of a man who has patience with terrorists (Wikimedia Commons)

The Alpha Group would leave terrorists in fear, not the other way around. 

When deployed to Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion of the country, the KGB’s special operators decapitated the Afghan government, capturing the Ministry of Defence, the presidential palace, and assassinating President Hafizullah Amin, along with every other Afghan in the Tajbeg Palace and any witnesses. 

Members of the Alpha Group would spend the next ten years in Afghanistan, waging a war of fear and intimidation against the Afghan Mujahideen. 

The KGB’s finest operation against international terrorism came in Beirut, Lebanon in the early 1980s. At the time, Lebanon was in the early stages of a long civil war, and Beirut was a city torn apart. 

Although western countries sent peacekeeping forces into Lebanon and into Beirut in particular, many western countries began to feel the effects of terrorism on their people. The Americans not only suffered the bombing of its Marine barracks, but also experienced a number of significant kidnappings. Members of many Lebanese factions would go out and abduct high-profile individuals throughout the city.

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
U.S. Embassy in Beirut after the 1983 bombing (Wikimedia Commons)

Many of these victims were kept for years. The longest was held captive for nearly five years. Diplomats, aid workers, and journalists were all victims of abductions from groups like Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Liberation Organization and others. France, the United States, West Germany, Ireland, and Switzerland were all victims. 

The Soviet Union lost one diplomat of the four that were abducted. In October 1985, four officials from the USSR were kidnapped in Beirut and the KGB’s Alpha Group was dispatched to find and rescue them. By the time the KGB arrived in Lebanon, Arkady Katkov, a consular attaché, had been killed. His body was found in a Beirut street. 

The KGB’s long-standing policy was not to negotiate with terrorists. Its operatives went to work identifying each member of the Islamic Liberation Organization who had a part in the abductions. Once they found a member of ILO who helped kidnap Soviet citizens, the KGB would abduct one of the offenders’ family members. 

This is how the Navy rescues crews of sunken submarines
Alpha Group: Not to be trifled with (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s rumored that one of those family members had their testicles forcibly removed by the KGB and mailed to the members of the ILO. The threat was clear: you can get to us, but we can also get to you. Not only were the remaining three diplomats dropped off near the Soviet embassy within the next thirty days, international terrorists left the Russians alone for the next 20 years. 

Alpha Group would go on to have significant roles in attempted coups during the fall of the Soviet Union, but could not prevent the Evil Empire’s fall. The KGB would fall with the USSR, but Alpha Group would live on with the new Russian FSB state security service. 


Feature image: Vladimir Putin shakes hands with members of Alpha Group in Chechnya in 2011 (Wikimedia Commons)

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