“I was inspired as I learned about their food traditions and offered them comfort through food,” Lidia said in her PBS video Lidia Celebrates America.
One of her stops included a visit with some of We Are The Mighty’s veterans who shared some of their fondest food memories while serving in the military.
For Edith Casas (U.S. Navy), it was missing her mother’s meals during deployments. For Bryan Anderson (U.S. Army), it was the meals he prepared in the barracks. For Mike Dowling (U.S. Marine Corps), it was sharing his last meal with Rex, his military working dog.
The military community is rallying around LeahAnn Sweeney, United States Marine Corps veteran and Pin-Ups for Vets Ambassador, as she battles breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sweeney was a Motor Transport Operator in the Marines and served with the San Diego County Sheriff Department before volunteering at veterans’ bedsides with her fellow pin-ups; now, the single mother of three could use a little help of her own.
Her family has created a Meal Train, where people can make a monetary donation or sign up to bring a meal to LeahAnn and her family.
Sweeney served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, operating motor transport tactical wheeled vehicles and equipment that transported passengers and cargo in support of combat and garrison operations. As a 3531, she also performed crew/operator level maintenance on all tools and equipment for assigned vehicles. Throw in her career as a Deputy Sheriff and I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a certifiable badass on our hands.
Spotting an active member of the local Southern California community, Pin-Ups for Vets (an organization dedicated to helping hospitalized and deployed service members and their families) invited Sweeney to become part of its 2020 fundraising calendar.
“It brings a sense of gratitude and joy to be able to bring a smile to those who have proudly served our country. I am especially fond of visiting the few remaining World War II veterans and hearing their stories, as I have a personal family history of those who served and sacrificed during that wartime era,” Sweeney has said of the non-profit organization.
LeahAnn Sweeney in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising calendar.
“LeahAnn has led a life of service, from doing four years in the Marine Corps as a Motor Transport Operator, to getting out and working for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff, to doing ‘service after service’ as a volunteer with our non-profit organization,” remarked Gina Elise, the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets. “As long as I have known LeahAnn, I have had so much respect and admiration for her. When she says she is going to be there, she is there, always willing to lend a hand where it is needed. She has been incredible with the patients at the VA Hospital, providing her beautiful smile to brighten their day and an ear to listen to their stories. My heart goes out to her and her family. As they say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ so I know she will be able to fight this. She knows that her fellow Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be there as her support network.”
Her spirit of service and generosity have spurred a movement of those willing to show their support.
“As a single mother of three children, the need to feed her family doesn’t stop, but she’ll only be able to leave her home for mandatory tests and treatments during this quarantine. Providing basic groceries and meals are a vital part of her family’s care and her personal recovery,” said the Meal Train organizer, Lindsay Hassebrock.
Anyone who wants to mobilize and show support can share this article or links to the Meal Train, donate right here to help, or even sign up to cover a dinner for the Sweeney family.
And LeahAnn, if you’re reading this, just know that your military family has your back. Semper Fi.
Featured Image courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marie Monforte Photography
The twin-engine fighter, built by Chengdu Aerospace Corp. for the People’s Liberation Army’s air force, first flew in 2011 and made its public debut in November when the PLAAF showed off two of the aircraft at an airshow over coastal city Zhuhai.
Also in the fall, China downplayed reports that the J-20 was spotted at the Daocheng Yading Airport near Tibet or that it may be deployed near the Indian border.
With a reported top speed of 1,300 miles per hour and the ability to carry short- and long-range air-to-air missiles, the jet is often compared to the twin-engine F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for the U.S. Air Force.
But the J-20 is believed to be far less stealthy than the F-22.
“The forward-mounted canards, poorly shielded engines and underside vertical stabilizers all limit the amount that its radar cross section — which determines how visible the aircraft is to a radar — can be reduced,” Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, has written.
Even so, the apparent arrival of an operational J-20 highlights China’s growing role as a military power.
The country, the second-largest spender on defense after the U.S., is also developing with private funding the Shenyang FC-31, a twin-engine multi-role fighter that resembles Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A production variant of the FC-31 may fly in 2019.
U.S. lawmakers have in the past questioned Pentagon officials why the government hasn’t retaliated against China for copying the designs of its most advanced fighter jets.
“What they’ve been able to do in such a rapid period of time without any RD … I understand there might be some differences as far as in the software and the weaponry and this and that,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, asked during a hearing in 2015. “But they’re making leaps, which are uncommon, at the behest of us, and we know this, I understand, but we’re not taking any actions against them.”
Robert Work, deputy defense secretary, at the time acknowledged that the Chinese “have stolen information from our defense contractors and it has helped them develop systems,” but he added, “we have hardened our systems.”
In the run-up to the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, North Korea bombed South Korea Air Flight 858, killing 115 people. Afterward, when South Korea remained steadfast in its desire to host the games, North Korea suddenly offered high-level talks. North Korea toned down its rhetoric and tried to negotiate a co-hosting of the Olympics, but this effort fell apart. This historical lesson is corroborated by one of the Flight 585 bombers who was caught and turned. She is still alive today and recently warned not to trust North Korea’s current dictator Kim Jong-un’s outreach.
The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea is well underway and once again North Korea is attempting to use the games for their ends. North Korea is trying to steal international attention, break sanctions, and drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea.
Kim has already made himself take center-stage, using a dramatic opening to South Korea to force the international spotlight onto himself. Right now, cooperation is his chosen tool of persuasion, as he spoke of reunification, restarted the North Korean-South Korean hotline, and worked to convince South Korea that both Olympic teams should march under one neutral flag. Kim also launched a charm offensive to show he is serious about negotiations. This has included toned-down rhetoric, a smaller military parade, and sending flashy bands to perform at the Olympics. He also sent North Korean pop star and propagandist Hyon Song-wol to find a venue for an orchestra, causing a sensation which bedazzled South Korean journalists and citizens.
In the background of all this distraction, North Korea is preparing to make a show of force. Satellite imagery showed 13,000 troops and 150 vehicles drilling for the small Feb. 8 military parade that featured a new missile system. Kim knows he can have a larger parade to send a message anytime he wants. It remains to be seen if he will engage in any missile or nuclear tests during or right after the Olympics.
North Korea’s appearance of reconciliation also purposefully includes sanctions violations. One of these sending senior North Korean officials to visit South Korea despite being banned from traveling. South Korea will have to decide if it wants to make an exception to the ban, but without certain waivers from the United Nations Security Council, such visits would violate the law. Meanwhile, it is unclear how the US would respond. Already Kim’s less notorious sister, Kim Yo-jong, who is not barred from visiting, has had a successful time charming the South Korean and American media.
Kim will likely get away with several sanctions violations because he will extract them as the cost of North Korean cooperation. Even if they are minor, these violations will test the limits of what others will tolerate. They will make the point that North Korea always has been – and always will be – able to do as it pleases.
Finally, Kim would love to see the South Korean-American alliance rendered a dead letter. Although it is a very unlikely goal, Kim attempts to accomplish this by contrasting South Korea’s willingness to talk with the bellicosity of US President Trump. North Korea’s aim is to create the perception that the Koreas are working together against interference by America. When North Korea returns to aggression, Kim will claim that it is America’s fault. By cozying up to South Korea and then walking out, Kim hopes to drive a small wedge into the alliance.
South Korea should talk to Kim, and so should America, mainly to lower the odds of accidental war. However, talks require realizing that nuclear weapons will not be up for serious discussion and that North Korea will continue its pattern of behavior. Sudden shifts to threats place pressure on South Korea and shifts to friendliness invite confused opponents to the bargaining table on Kim’s terms. Wise policymakers anticipate this pattern, rather than being angered or duped by it. To take Kim Jong-un’s overtures at face-value is foolish, and South Korea should assume that the Supreme Leader is after something more than the gold at these Olympics.
A senior commander of America’s top special operations units is worried that small commercially-available unmanned aerial vehicles pose an increasing threat to his commandos on operations around the world.
During a conference on special operations hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association in Maryland, the deputy commander of Joint Special Operations Command — which oversees some of the United States’ most secretive operations using Delta Force, SEAL Team 6 and other clandestine units — said the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 5 deepened his concern.
“I’m sure many of you saw the Super Bowl halftime show where Lady Gaga was at the top of the stadium and … there was that interesting pattern in the sky that … was a formation of quadcopters, or drones, that were lit and were making that pattern in the sky,” said JSOC deputy chief Air Force Maj. Gen. Greg Lengyel during the Feb. 14 conference.
“A ‘swarm’ used for entertainment purposes. There’s many other purposes that that can be used for as well,” he added.
During Gaga’s show, 300 specially-built drones illuminated with colored LEDs created a pattern of an American flag and a Pepsi logo in the sky above Houston’s NRG Stadium. Dubbed “Shooting Stars,” the drones were built by Intel for light shows and are programmed to fly into specific patterns.
That problem as Lengyel sees it, is that such drone technology is readily available to America’s terrorist adversaries and puts his forces at risk.
“It is a vulnerability to a military that has not been attacked from the air by enemy forces since the Korean War,” Lengyel said. “And now we run the risk of being attacked from the air by enemy forces by a drone you can get off the discount shelf at TJ Max.”
According to Pentagon officials, U.S. and Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State militants in both Syria and Iraq have been targeted by terrorist drones. Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Feb. 7 that Iraqi forces fighting in Mosul have encountered small drones dropping grenades from the sky “at least once a day.”
Several months ago, Defense officials claimed ISIS flew an IED-rigged drone into an Iraqi basecamp that was was detonated when soldiers tried to recover it. Dubbed “Trojan Horse” drones, senior commanders have been looking for ways to counter low-tech UAVs on the battlefield.
“We expect to see more of this, and we’ve put out procedures for our forces to be on guard for this,” one commander said, adding that U.S. troops and others have downed many drones harassing coalition troops with small arms fire and electronic means, “with varying levels of success.”
No, the man eating alone in a diner in Nuuk wasn’t Fezzik — a friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless giant, unemployed in Greenland.
Nonetheless, U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Katlin Kilroy, dining in the same restaurant during a port visit to Greenland’s capital, took pity on the man and decided to cover the cost of his dinner. Her action set off a chain of events that resulted in an international exchange of goodwill — and a merit award.
“Paying it forward” is how Kilroy was raised in Apex, North Carolina, a town of roughly 45,000 southeast of Raleigh, she said in an interview with Coast Guard public affairs personnel, published in a news release.
“My parents used to carry around sandwiches and socks for those down on their luck. We didn’t give money, but we’d give time or buy a meal and spend time with people. Listen to them,” Kilroy said.
But instead of purchasing provisions for a person she thought was in need, Kilroy inadvertently fed the man serving as premier of Greenland, a position roughly equivalent to president or prime minister, setting off a chain of events that led to a VIP visit to the Coast Guard medium endurance cutter Campbell.
During her encounter with Premier Kim Kielsen, according to the Coast Guard release, they talked about his careers before he entered politics, as a mariner and a police officer. He then expressed interest in visiting Campbell and its crew — unexpected attention that could have landed Kilroy in hot water.
Campbell’s commander, Capt. Thomas Crane, embraced the opportunity and welcomed Kielsen aboard. Crane then accepted a personal tour of Nuuk from the nation’s top politician.
“Her chance encounter in Nuuk directly strengthened our nation’s position in an increasingly competitive Arctic domain through relationship building. Seaman Kilroy is a true shipmate,” Crane said in the release.
Kilroy has been in the Coast Guard for nearly two years, enlisting in 2018. As a non-rate described as having an affable disposition and knack for reaching people, she slipped naturally into a public affairs role, supplementing the work of the PAOs at Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, Virginia, for much of her fledgling career.
She got a chance to deploy as a public affairs representative with the medium endurance cutter Tahoma, as well as the Campbell, in August 2020 when no other rated petty officers were available, covering joint Arctic operations and exercises with the U.S. Navy, and Canadian, French and Danish maritime forces.
Her performance during the 85-day mission, documenting events and photographing Coasties at work, as well as the chance encounter at dinner, earned her the Coast Guard Achievement Medal.
“We could not have been happier with her performance,” Crane said. “She enabled top-level real-time visibility of these operations, reaching more than 6.6 million people.”
Kilroy is now on her way to being a Coast Guard public affairs specialist, according to the service.
And the man she bought dinner for? He is probably most well-known in the U.S. for scoffing at President Donald Trump’s pitch in 2018 to purchase Greenland — a proposal that came up during a conversation between the president and Danish ambassador Lars Gert Lose.
Denmark and Greenland both nixed the idea outright.
“Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic. I persistently hope that this is not something that is seriously meant,” Kielsen said.
After his encounter with Kilroy, Kielsen lost his reelection bid for the chairmanship of his party — a defeat that may lead to his ouster as premier. So, while Kielsen is not exactly unemployed in Greenland, his political future is uncertain.
To Kilroy, paying for a stranger’s meal anywhere, regardless of stature, is a natural extension of her Southern hospitality.
“People also see me in uniform … They pay it forward, and I do too. In this case, it happened to be the premier, and we had a nice conversation,” Kilroy said.
Marriage can feel like a roller coaster, full of unforeseen ups and downs. But a marriage that becomes divided by sobriety levels up the ride, adding sharp turns, twists and loops that will make any head spin.
From the moment my husband and I met in 2007 — at a bar on a Monday night — alcohol has played a significant role between us. We bonded and drank our way through every phase: courting, engagement and newlywed. We drank through good times and bad, for good reasons and not.
When we entered the new-parent phase, there was a shift. My husband, whose sole goal in life was to be a dad, started to slow down his drinking. I boldly amped it up, increasing with each of the three children we brought into the world.
When my heavy weekend drinking trickled into weekdays, my husband expressed concern. When I drank excessively while he was on missions, he gave me ultimatums to not drink.
When my few solo travels resulted in reckless drinking, we both agreed I should stop altogether. Twice I attempted to break up with alcohol for my kids and marriage — once for 100 days, the other for eight months.
Yet, I knew I’d drink again because that’s what my husband and I did. We drank. A lot. Together.
By the beginning of 2017, my drinking was at an all-time high, and I was at an all-time low. My soul felt beyond broken. I was living life on alcohol’s terms rather than my own.
I was in single-mom-mode with our kids and on day four of an uncontrollable bender. I heard a very distant voice. It was my own, deep inside, and it said, enough. In that moment I knew I was ready to get sober — not for my kids, not for my marriage, but for me.
Fast forward to today, more than three years later, and I’m still gratefully sober.
The years have gifted me heaps of self-growth, such as how to honor my feelings, to stay present and to live authentically. I’ve found my voice and my calling in a new career. I’ve also done a complete 180 on how I perceive alcohol and the alcohol industry.
When people ask about the hardest part of recovery my answer has been and remains my marriage.
At first, it was not only the elephant in the room, but an elephant between us. To remove the elephant, we’ve attempted a dry house, which resulted in resentment from both parties.
We’ve tried a normal routine of my husband drinking as he pleases, which has also resulted in resentment and rejection from both parties.
We’ve talked. We’ve fought. We’ve cried, and we’ve loved each other so hard through it all.
(Military Families Magazine)
So how then do you live in a soberly divided marriage?
For us, there is no black-and-white answer, but I can attest to what we’ve learned over the years.
Honest communication is a must.
If I’m triggered or having an off day, it’s best to own it and say it aloud. Otherwise, my husband may have no understanding as to my bitterness or emotional distance. Plus, he’s able to better support me in the future, and vice versa if he struggles on his side of the journey.
Establish and honor boundaries.
Being around my husband when he drinks usually doesn’t bother me because, oddly enough, I like his tipsy, talkative lighter side. But my boundary is set at two nights in a row of his drinking. Beyond that and he knows he’ll find me elsewhere, doing my own thing. He honors my choice and space, but more times than not, he’ll not risk losing my company for a drink.
Respect the differences.
He’s a science guy. I’m a believer in Jesus. In all our time, we’ve respected our differences in faith. Similar respect is now applied to our opposing relationships with alcohol. We agree to disagree, and we do so respectfully.
Time and patience do wonders.
Despite the infinite ups and downs outside that come with being soberly divided, it’s clear with every passing sober day, we grow stronger in our marriage. We also grow stronger as individuals. But we must practice patience when the sober journey feels tough.
Practice empathy daily.
Lastly, without empathy, we may have fallen apart years ago. With empathy, we see through each other’s eyes more clearly. We’re better equipped to practice the “Golden Rule.” We’re forever reminded that at the end of the day, we’re two imperfect people doing our best to love each other through the sober journey’s good, bad and in-betweens.
Three veterans of the war in Afghanistan are returning to the country later this month with the hopes of unifying Afghans around international competition.
While working as a civilian contractor in 2008, Jeremy Piasecki — who grew up playing water polo in Fallbrook, California — took on the nearly impossible task of establishing a men’s national water polo team in Afghanistan. It wasn’t easy, especially considering most Afghans don’t know how to swim and there are just 12 pools in the entire country.
Water polo is a physically aggressive game. Teams work to throw a ball into their opponent’s goal, while preventing their opponent from doing likewise. Piasecki first got the idea to teach locals about it while working near Kabul as a civilian about seven years ago.
While aboard a military base, he recalled seeing a swimming pool devoid of water and filled with trash. He convinced the Afghan base commander to clean it up, and began teaching Afghans how to swim and play the game.
“It was the first ever water polo team in Afghanistan,” Piasecki told The Times.
Today, the team is officially sanctioned by the Afghanistan Olympic Committee and is currently training under American coaches. They continue to train and “will take their first steps toward representing their country — one deserving of more positive athlete role models — in international competition,” according to its official website.
Afghanistan was banned from the Olympics in 1999 while under Taliban rule. It was reinstated in 2002, but has had only a few athletes make it onto the world stage since, where they have competed in sprinting and Taekwondo (Afghan Rohullah Nikpai won Bronze in 2008 and 2012).
In 2010, Piasecki met Dan Huvane and Lydia Davey while on joint duty in Stuttgart, Germany for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe, and bonded over a shared desire to help the Afghan people. Now all three are trying to bring together a new team — of Afghan women.
“I promised myself that someday we would launch a women’s team,” Piasecki said in a statement. “I’m glad to start delivering on that promise.”
Joined by American Water Polo Coach Robbie Bova, the three Marine veterans will fly to Kabul next week and hold tryouts for 125 Afghan women, select and begin training a core group of 30 promising athletes, and — if all goes to plan — establish a network of teams throughout Afghanistan while building a team that can compete internationally by 2020.
The group faces a variety of challenges. Kabul only has one pool that women can use, and the country is still very dangerous, especially for women wanting to engage in any kind of sport.
“During my deployments in Afghanistan, I have witnessed sport played out on the international stage serve as a tremendous rally point for the people of all factions and ethnicities – a desperately needed sign of hope and pride,” Dan Huvane, a U.S. Marine reserve lieutenant colonel and communications consultant who is participating in the project, said in a statement. “Alongside those stories, I have seen the women of Afghanistan defy systematic oppression and outright death threats in order to be bold pioneers.”
To fund travel for coaches, provide uniforms and equipment, and help with weekly training sessions, the team established an IndieGoGo campaign. You can check it out here.
Thousands of whiteboards owned by inventors and military contractors around the world contain designs for military technologies that could change the way that battles are fought if they’d ever see active service.
But as the U.S. military learns time and time again, these weapons don’t always work as well as hoped. Here are seven designs that would be awesome to fly, ride, or carry into battle if designers had just been able to work the kinks out:
But high costs and weight problems kept the weapon from reaching its potential.
When the XM29 was canceled, its airburst grenade technology was split off as its own weapon with 25mm rounds in the XM25. The new weapon even saw combat tests in Afghanistan, but a malfunction that resulted in injury in 2013 caused the grenade launcher to be pulled from theater.
Would’ve been nice to fire airburst rounds though.
The Comanche was supposed to be the attack/reconnaissance helicopter to rule them all. It was quiet, featured incorporated stealth technologies, and carried a 20mm machine gun and Hellfire and Stinger missiles.
And their high maneuverability would have allowed them to fly through cities and hover near buildings.
Unfortunately, the militarization of the 407 was not as smooth as anticipated. Delays and cost overruns got the program put on ice for a few months in 2007 and formally canceled in 2008.
5. Airborne Laser
The Airborne Laser was supposed to be the ultimate ballistic missile destroyer. It would fly over or near enemy territory watching for enemy ballistic missile launches. When one took off and entered the boost phase, the plane would fire three lasers. Two were for acquiring and tracking the target and the third would punch through the missile’s body and blow it up.
But the laser had a limited range and loitering capability, meaning that planes would have to spend a lot of their time flying within an enemies’ borders to actually have a shot at the missiles. Luckily, this program could get revived using a new kind of laser and flying on high-altitude, stealthy drones.
6. Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle
The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle provided better range, better speed, and better armor than the AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle it was meant to replace. It featured two 30mm cannons and was propelled through water with jets and it operated on land using its treads.
The EFV suffered some small setbacks during testing and development and then fell victim to budget cuts across the Department of Defense in 2011. The Marine Corps has wrestled with how to best move supplies and Marines from the ships to the shore since then.
The Surfaced-Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile would have been the Army’s premiere system for defending troops from cruise missiles, helicopters, many jets, and other low and mid-altitude aerial threats. It featured a proven Air Force missile, the AIM-120C-7, originally designed for air-to-air battles.
On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.
Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.
Entering Shok Valley
The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.
The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.
Combat breaks out
After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.
Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.
The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.
“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”
The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.
Three-story explosion and sniper warfare
As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.
“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”
The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.
Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.
Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.
Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.
Planning to leave
American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.
Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.
Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.
Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.
Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire
Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.
Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.
Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.
One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.
After the battle
Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.
In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.
Rose says Men of War was inspired by John Keegan’s 1976 classic “The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme,” which tells the story of British soldiers by examining three of the most critical battles in English military history. Rose has the advantage of being an engaging writer. This is properly distilled military history for readers who don’t have the patience to wade through original sources and long-winded academic treatises on American history.
A CIA K-9 unit left “explosive training material” on a school bus in Virginia after a routine training exercise last week, according to a statement posted on the agency’s website.
In a monumental error, the bus was used to transport children on Monday, March 28th, and Tuesday, March 29th, with the explosive material still sitting under the hood, according to the statement.
The CIA and the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office stressed that the children were not in any immediate danger.
“The training materials used in the exercises are incredibly stable and according to the CIA and Loudoun County explosive experts the students on the bus were not in any danger from the training material,” the Loudon County Sheriff’s office told The Washington Post.
The CIA placed the explosive material — a putty — under the hood of the school bus and in locations around a local school to test a dog’s ability to sniff it out. The dog successfully found the material, but some of it fell deeper into the engine compartment and became wedged beneath the hoses. The material was found when the bus was taken in for a routine inspection, after ferrying 26 children to school, reports The Washington Post.
The CIA said it will take “immediate steps to strengthen inventory and control procedures in its K-9 program,” and “conduct a thorough and independent review” of its procedures, according to the statement.
“We’re all very upset by what happened, but we’re going to review everything that did happen,” Wayde Byard, the Loudon County schools spokesman told The Washington Post. “Obviously we’re concerned. The CIA really expressed its deep concern and regret today, and it was sincere.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Tech. Sgt. Wayne Cowen, an 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, loads ammunition into a .50 caliber machine gun on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 4, 2017. As a special missions aviator, Cowen is a jack-of-all-trades; he conducts pre-flight inspections, maintains the aircraft systems while airborne and employs the aircraft weapons systems in the event of an attack.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Will Andreotta, F-35 Heritage Flight Team Pilot, performs during the New York Air Show at Stewart International Airport, N.Y., July 2, 2017. Andreotta and his team perform at approximately 16 air shows a year, showcasing the Air Force’s newest fifth-generation aircraft to millions of spectators.
U.S. Army veteran Jhoonar Barrera wins gold medal in cycling event for the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games at Chicago, Ill., July 6, 2017. The DOD Warrior Games are an annual event allowing wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans in Paralympic-style sports including archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and wheelchair basketball.
Members of 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment fire from their howitzers to represent each of the 50 states during the Fourth of July Spectacular, July 4, 2017. The event was open to the public, included games, rides, entertainment and food.
Sailors provide security as family and friends prepare to watch a 4th of July fireworks show over San Diego from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is pierside in its homeport of San Diego.
Lt. Miranda Krasselt and Lt. Chris Williams signal for the launch of an F/A-18F Super Hornet, from the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102, on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
U.S. Marine Sgt. Zane Ashby assigned to Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (BLT 3/6) uses a M40A6 sniper rifle to shoot at a simulated target during an integrated team exercise aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) July 1, 2017. The ship is deployed with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations.
A Marine with 3rd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment fires the M4-A4 rifle on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) during a deck shoot July 3, 2017. Marines with the 24th MEU conduct annual training while deployed with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group to stay mission ready and maintain Marine Corps standards. Bataan and its ARG are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
A rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco is on display at the inaugural Coast Guard Festival in Alameda, California July 4, 2017
Crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Katherine Walker watch the fireworks in New York City during the Macy’s Day Fireworks show on July 4, 2017. The Katherine Walker is a 175-foot Buoy Tender based in Bayonne, New Jersey.