This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

You know the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”?  That’s precisely what you should remember when you meet singer-songwriter, Brandon Mills.


The six-foot-tall dirty blonde haired blue-eyed Mills isn’t just another pretty face; behind those blue eyes, there is a bad ass who was once known as Sergeant Brandon Lanham, Marine Corps reconnaissance scout sniper.

He goes by Mills because, as he puts it, “Mills is my middle name, all my favorite singer songwriter’s names are 3 syllables, not sure why but I think there is a method to their madness.”

Mills joined the Marine Corps with his brother and they attended boot camp together and were later reunited in the Recon community.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills.

Mills served his first tour in Afghanistan with Golf Co. 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines out of Hawaii. After some continued motivation from his brother, he took the leap, passed the requirements and indoctrination process, and got to 1st Recon Battalion, with whom he would deploy to his second tour in Iraq.

Also read: This musician and veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

All along the way, Mills was writing lyrics and honing his craft as a musician.

“I just wanted to travel and play music for everyone,” Mills said about his desire to perform.

“My youngest memory of recorded music is a Beach Boys greatest hits tape that I spent my lawn mowing money on,” reflects Mills as he explains his earliest passion for music that has stuck with him since playing the saxophone in school.

The love of music and the desire to create it has been a lifelong aspiration for Mills even before he joined, so it would make sense that he leave the Marine Corps and become a musician. Right?

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Even after all his success and accolades in the Corps, Mills was not ready to aimlessly jump straight into the music scene when he left the Marines. He admits he was nervous — even scared — to chase the dream without a safety net, so he did what many Veterans do: he became a contractor.

Eventually, the bug bit harder and he found it impossible to not take the risk and pursue his true first love.

Now managing his own gigs, website, and social media, Mills has made his transition from Marine to musician rather successfully.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

He has played shows all over the country, supporting non-profits like Intersections International, Force Blue, and Society of Artistic Veterans. He has recorded several tracks and even shot a few music videos of himself performing.

Recently Mills finished a residency at Umami burger in Brooklyn and Manhattan, “That was just me hustling, literally going from business to business asking, do you guys do live music? If not, why? If you do, how do I get involved?”

That’s the work ethic and resolve all warriors take to their tasks.

(Brandon Mills | YouTube)It might go without saying that the persistence, determination, and even stubbornness are strong character traits in most, if not all, of our elite warriors.

You don’t make it into our military’s special units without being resilient, steadfast, and dedicated — Mills without a doubt carries those same values and characteristics into his music career.

I asked Mills if the transition was hard, going from stone cold warrior to writing and performing love songs. I wondered if there was any identity crisis there and how he dealt with it.

Also read: 8 songs that are essential to any successful military convoy

He explained that it was difficult dealing with other ideas of masculinity and letting that warrior machismo block his flow, but he has learned to temper those instincts and allow himself to feel the positive vibes and let his creativity through, not worrying about what others think and only focusing on great storytelling through song.

I don’t think Brandon would mind the comparison of his sound being somewhere between John Mayer in his vocal delivery and Jack Johnson in his light-hearted muted acoustic.  Mills’ vocals have that bluesy, gravely register that urges the listener to lean in and feel the lyrics, while his guitar style is playful and rhythmic like a campfire sing-a-long.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Mills isn’t commercially successful yet, or famous for that matter; however, he understands that it’s a long road in the music industry, requiring a ton of work — but he feels he has all that in him.

He wants to help veterans tell their stories through music and let them know that it’s okay to express themselves through art, using himself as an example. Brandon’s music is all about spreading positivity, uplifting spirits, and connecting people with passion.

“I hope that I can give some people what they need,” Mills said, when discussing his forthcoming album. “I’m so critical of myself, I know what I want — if it’s not good enough I will do it again.”

It’s relentless drive and focus like this that will push Mills into the spotlight, eventually.

The strength, tenacity, and perseverance saturated in his warrior spirit will undoubtedly meld with his passion and creativity to help Brandon Mills become a renowned singer-songwriter for years to come.

MIGHTY TRENDING

England makes case for a 3rd Russian agent in spy poisoning

A third Russian intelligence agent went to England to plan the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in early 2018, The Telegraph has reported, casting further doubt on the Kremlin’s claims that it had no knowledge of the attack.

The UK in early September 2018 accused two Russian men, who traveled under the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, of the attempted assassination.

British officials say they were members of the GRU, Russia’s intelligence service. President Vladimir Putin claimed the two men were civilians, and the two men even appeared on Russian TV to say they were visiting Salisbury as tourists.


UK counter terrorism police and the security services identified the third agent, and say the person visited Salisbury to prepare for the attack on Sergei Skripal before two of his colleagues arrived, The Telegraph reported on Sept. 27, 2018.

Authorities believe the third agent visited Salisbury ahead of the attack, and reported the layout of Skripal’s neighborhood and property to the two agents who later carried out the attack, the newspaper said.

Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed in March 2018 after being exposed to novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, which was smeared on his front door.

A British couple who lived nearby were also exposed to the same batch of nerve agent in July 2018, which led to the death of one woman.

The investigative-journalism site Bellingcat this week identified Boshirov as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated officer with the GRU, Russia’s intelligence service.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

Surveillance camera footage of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the two suspects in the Skripal attack, at Salisbury train station the day before Skripal’s collapse.

Bellingcat’s findings suggest that Putin was in fact aware of the suspect’s legal identity, which would seem to disprove the Russian president’s claim that he didn’t know who Boshirov and Petrov were, that they were civilians, and that the Kremlin had no knowledge of the Skripal attack.

The findings are also in line with the British government’s claim, citing security and intelligence agencies’ investigations, that Boshirov and Petrov were officers from Russia’s intelligence services.

Prime Minister Theresa May in early September 2018 also said that authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from senior members of the Russian government.

The Skripal poisoning caused a large diplomatic rift between the UK and Russia. London accused Moscow of being behind the attack, which the Kremlin repeatedly denied. More than 20 countries also joined the UK in expelling Russian diplomats as punishment.

The British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, on Sept. 27, 2018, suggested that Russia was not expecting such a large international response to the attempted assassination.

Hunt told Sky News:

“They can’t have been expecting Theresa May to put together a coalition that saw 153 Russian spies expelled from capitals in 28 countries across the world.
“So they paid a very high diplomatic price — but they need to understand that it will not be a comfortable place for Russia in the world if this is the way they behave.”

Business Insider has contacted the Russian Embassy in the UK for comment.

The London Metropolitan Police, who is leading the investigation into the attack, declined to comment on The Telegraph’s report.

The force told Business Insider in a statement on Sept. 27, 2018, that international arrest warrants for Petrov and Boshirov remain active. However, Russia does not extradite its own citizens.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Navy won’t reinstate Crozier, holds 1-Star’s promotion over poor decision-making

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story and the headline incorrectly stated that Rear Adm. Stuart Baker had been fired. His promotion has been held by the Navy.

The Navy won’t reinstate the captain who was fired after warning of a serious health crisis on his ship, and the captain’s superior has also had his promotion withheld as the result of a deeper probe into the matter, top Navy leaders said on Friday.


The Navy secretary and top admiral reversed course on a previous recommendation to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. Crozier will be reassigned. If he was still in command today, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said he would relieve him.

Read Next: Alaska Army Helicopter Airlifts Out 1940s-Era Bus Chris McCandless Died In

“It is because of what he didn’t do that I have chosen not to reinstate him,” Gilday said.

Crozier acted too slowly to keep his crew safe and made questionable decisions to release sailors from quarantine, potentially putting others at risk, the CNO added. Gilday also said the email Crozier sent warning about the situation on the ship “was unnecessary.”

Gilday, about two months ago, recommended that Crozier be reinstated as the Roosevelt’s commanding officer.

“Had I known then what I know today, I would have not made that recommendation,” Gilday said on Friday. “… Capt. Crozier’s primary responsibility was the safety and the wellbeing of the crew so that the ship could remain as operationally ready as possible. In reviewing both [Rear Adm. Stuart] Baker and Capt. Crozier’s actions, they did not do enough soon enough to fulfill their primary obligation.”

Baker, former commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, won’t be promoted pending further review, Gilday said. His promotion to rear admiral upper half was approved by the Senate on March 20.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

“They were slow egressing sailors off the ship, and they failed to move sailors to available safer environments quickly,” Gilday said. “… It is my belief that both Adm. Baker and Capt. Crozier fell well short of what we expect of those in command.”

The decisions are the result of a deeper review into the situation on the Roosevelt, which James McPherson directed in April over what he called “unanswered questions” while serving as acting Navy secretary.

Braithwaite said on Friday he stands by the latest investigation’s findings. Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman, also said Defense Secretary Mark Esper was briefed on the findings and supports the Navy’s decisions.

Baker was aboard the Roosevelt when Crozier emailed several people about a growing number of COVID-19 cases among the crew. Crozier, whose email asking for help was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, was ultimately fired by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly over his handling of the situation.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

cdn14.picryl.com

Modly told reporters when announcing his decision to relieve Crozier of command that the captain should’ve walked “down the hallway” to discuss his concerns with Baker before sending the email. Modly later resigned from his post as acting Navy secretary amid backlash over these events.

The Roosevelt pulled into Guam in late March as more than 100 crew members tested positive for COVID-19, the sometimes-fatal illness caused by the coronavirus. Crozier had warned in his email that sailors could die if they didn’t quickly evacuate the ship.

“If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” he said.

Ultimately, more than 1,200 members of the roughly 4,800-person crew tested positive for the virus, including Crozier. One sailor, 41-year-old Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., died of the illness.

Gilday said his initial recommendation to reinstate Crozier was based only on “a narrowly scoped investigation” that looked only at why he had sent the email warning.

“I was tasked to take a look at those facts against then-acting Secretary Modley’s justification for relieving him,” Gilday said, “and I did not feel that the … facts supported the justification.”

The CNO said the two-month-long deeper investigation, ordered by McPherson, made additional facts visible. That included the decision to lift quarantine in part of the ship, which allowed about 1,000 crew members to potentially expose other sailors to the virus, Gilday said. He also said Crozier and Baker failed to take advantage of 700 beds in a gym in Guam that were spaced 6 feet apart, choosing to put his sailors’ “comfort over safety.”

In his endorsement letter accompanying the results of the investigation, Gilday said he thought Crozier had the best interests of his crew and the readiness of the ship in mind. But, he added, Crozier did not “forcefully and expeditiously execute the best possible and available plan, or do enough, soon enough.”

Baker and Crozier were talking to the U.S. Seventh Fleet commander every day, Gilday told reporters on Friday, and if the two had issues they should have raised them.

“If [Crozier] fearlessly communicated with that email that he sent — that I’ve never disagreed with, his fearless sending of the email — then he certainly should have just [as] fearlessly communicated issues every day during those video teleconferences,” Gilday said.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that everyone up and down the Navy chain of command had a role to play in the inadequate response to the situation on the carrier. Smith announced that his committee has launched its own investigation into the Roosevelt’s COVID-19 outbreak.

“The Department’s civilian leadership portrayed Captain Crozier’s decision-making aboard the Roosevelt as the critical weakness in the Navy’s response, but the truth is that civilian leadership was also to blame,” Smith said. “… While the committee works on our own investigation, it is my hope that the Navy will learn from this series of mistakes.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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Articles

This is what China plans to do with its air force of the future

The Chinese Air Force will continue to transform from a territorial air defense unit into an extended arm capable of protecting national interests wherever they exist, according to its new commander.


Lieutenant General Ding Laihang said that as China becomes stronger and security challenges continue to emerge, the military is striving to ensure it can safeguard national interests anywhere in the world.

“In the past, our strategies and guidelines focused on territorial air defense. Now we have been shifting our attention to honing our ability in terms of long-range strategic projection and long-range strike,” he told China National Radio for an article published on Sept. 3.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
Lieutenant General Ding Laihang. Photo from South China Morning Post.

“A strategic force must go out,” he said. “We will continue to carry out long-distance training over oceans.”

Ding’s predecessor, General Ma Xiaotian, who stepped down in late August, had earlier said the Air Force “cannot simply guard on land and not fly out” in response to questions on Japan’s concerns about the People’s Liberation Army’s “increasing activities” over the Sea of Japan.

Ma said it is normal for the PLA Air Force to conduct training exercises over the sea, adding that “the Sea of Japan is not Japan’s sea”.

Not long after Ma’s comments, six Chinese H-6K bombers flew through the Miyako Strait between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako in the East China Sea and approached the Kii Peninsula. This was the first time the PLA Air Force had flown that route, Japanese media reported.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
People’s Liberation Army Air Force Xian HY-6 at Zhuhai Airshow. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Li Pang.

In the Sept. 3 article, Ding pledged that the Air Force will intensify its realistic aerial combat drills and continue to carry out exercises with foreign militaries.

Wang Yanan, editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said the Air Force will have two priorities as it moves toward becoming a capable strategic force.

“First, as a lot of new aircraft have been delivered, it must figure out how to make these new planes combat-ready as soon as possible and how to maintain them, as they are different from the old types,” he said.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
Y-20 at Airshow China 2016. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Alert5.

“For instance, the Air Force now has Y-20 heavy-lift transport jets, but it needs to design methods and gain experience when it comes to airdropping armored vehicles,” he said. “Owning advanced weapons doesn’t equate to being able to use them well.”

The second priority is that the Air Force must improve its capabilities in coordinating different types of aircraft and air defense missiles in an operation, and also nurture joint operation capabilities with other services, like the PLA Navy and Rocket Force, Wang added.

Citing the new-generation strategic bomber that is under development, Wang suggested the Air Force start studying the plane’s usage in future warfare and work closely with designers to make sure the engine and flight-control system are good and reliable.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US military can now perform robot-assisted surgery at sea

U.S. and partner nation service members participating in Pacific Partnership 2018 and Sri Lankan surgeons, assigned to Base Hospital Mutur, conducted the first ever robot-assisted surgery aboard Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy on May 4, 2018.

The joint team of multinational surgeons and medical professionals successfully completed a cholecystectomy, or gall bladder removal, using a Da Vinci XI Robot Surgical System on a Sri Lankan citizen. This surgery marked the first time the Da Vinci Robot has been used on a live patient aboard a maritime vessel from any country.


“This was a historic moment for both Sri Lanka and all the partner nations participating in PP18,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Gadbois, director of surgical services aboard Mercy who is a native of Mukilteo, Washington. “Not only was this the first time the Da Vinci XI Surgical System has been used on a patient while aboard a ship, but it also marked the first robotic-assisted surgery to be conducted in Sri Lanka. It was an exciting experience and I am thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of this ground-breaking moment for the surgical field.”

Prior to the actual surgery on May 4, 2018, Gadbois, along with Dr. Vyramuthu Varanitharan, a general surgeon at Base Hospital Mutur, and Navy Cmdr. Tamara Worlton, a surgeon from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center assigned to Mercy for PP18, ran through simulation exercises using the Da Vinci XI Surgical System on a mock patient and finalized surgical plans as a team.

“This surgery took a lot of planning before we actually performed it aboard the Mercy,” said Worlton. “Dr. Varanitharan was kind enough to prescreen possible candidates prior to the Mercy’s arrival to Sri Lanka.”

On April 28, 2018, the team selected a patient who needed a cholecystectomy and was willing to have a robotic-assisted surgery performed. According to Worlton, all the preparation and collaboration put into planning before the operation paid off and the entire surgery was completed in a smooth and routine manner.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
Navy Cmdr. Tamara Worlton, a surgeon assigned to Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy for Pacific Partnership 2018 and Dr. Vyramuthu Varanitharan, a Sri Lankan general surgeon at Base Hospital Mutur, Sri Lankan from Base Hospital Mutur, discuss robotic surgery techniques.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey L. Adams)

“I believe the surgery was a success because of the continuous collaboration between our partner nations’ medical staff prior to the surgery where we discussed different surgical techniques the different countries do and how it could be incorporated into the surgery.”

The surgery marked an additional first for Dr. Varanitharan, as this was also the first surgery he has conducted aboard a ship during his entire medical career.

“This was the first time I have ever operated aboard a ship before and it surprised me,” said Varanitharan. “It is very stable and doesn’t move around. It felt as if I was doing surgery in an operating room in a hospital. It was a fantastic experience to have been able to do surgery on a hospital ship and it is something my team and I will never forget.”

After the surgery was successfully completed, the patient was transferred to the Mercy’s post anesthesia care unit to recover and was later discharged from the ship in excellent condition for her routine post-operative follow up care by Varanitharan.

Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral disaster response preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. This year’s mission includes military and civilian personnel from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Peru, and Japan.

USNS Mercy made previous stops in the 2018 mission in Bengkulu, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and are currently in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. After departing Sri Lanka, USNS Mercy will make mission stops in Vietnam and Japan strengthening alliances, partnerships, and multilateral cooperation throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

Pacific Partnership 2018 consists of more than 800 U.S. and partner nation military and civilian personnel working side-by-side with host nation counterparts to be better prepared for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.

This article originally appeared on Health.mil. Follow @MilitaryHealth on Twitter.

Articles

Mattis tells NATO to pay its fair share

Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned NATO defense ministers in a speech that the “impatience Secretary Gates predicted is now a governmental reality” when it came to America’s share of the military burden of the alliance. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” he added.


According to a report by the European edition of Politico, Mattis was passing on a warning from President Donald Trump, who had been critical of the lack of defense spending by NATO allies.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis talks with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon during a North Atlantic Council meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

“Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance, and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened,” Mattis told the assembled ministers according to the Defense Media Activity. Mattis particularly mentioned the events of 2014, including Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine.

Mattis wasn’t only there to spank NATO for being defense-spending cheapskates, though. Referring to the alliance as “my second home,” he noted that NATO “remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community” in his opening remarks.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 during a gunnery range. The Soldiers are completing gunnery ranges before taking part in combined exercises with their NATO counterparts later this year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)

In remarks welcoming Secretary Mattis, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cited Secretary Mattis’s past service as Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, saying, “You made sure that NATO adapted to a new and more demanding security environment.  But NATO has to continue to adapt and that’s exactly what we’re going to address at our meeting today, how NATO continues to adapt to a new security environment.”

Stoltenberg also addressed concerns about NATO members paying their fair share, saying, “Our latest figures, which we published yesterday, show that defense spending among European allies and Canada increased by 3.8 percent in real terms in 2016.  That is roughly $10 billion U.S. dollars.  This is significant, but it is not enough. We have to continue to increase defense spending across Europe and Canada.”

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, front row, center right, and fellow defense ministers pose for a photo at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 15, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Politico noted that NATO has set a benchmark of 2 percent of GDP as the minimum size of a defense budget. An April 2016 report by CNN.com noted that only five NATO countries met that benchmark.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 13 edition)

Here’s the news:


Now: That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

MIGHTY TRENDING

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

While deployed, there’s always a bit of joy that buzzes around the squad when a care package arrives. Troops gather around their squad leader as they disperse the sweets, trinkets, and amenities given by the charitable folks back home. It’s not uncommon for battle-hardened warfighters to genuinely crack an enormous smile when they receive something that reminds them of home.

Recently, certain regulations consolidated the shipping rates for packages being sent to an Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) mailing address — which only put added financial strain on those kind-willed folks sending packages. The costs can also really add up for charities who send mass quantities of care packages. Ultiltaemy, this means fewer care packages being sent to the troops still fighting overseas today.

There is a glimmer of hope. U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross of New Jersey’s First District recently introduced the “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” or H.R. 400, that aims to greatly reduce the costs and spread more cheer among the troops.


This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

The secret to make a bunch of grown badasses smile like children? Girl Scout cookies…

(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

All shipping rates for packages that crossed different shipping zones drastically increased January, 2018. While a package going to Michigan from California saw an increase of .60, any package sent from Smalltown, USA, to troops stationed in the Middle East had to pay nearly double.

Logistically speaking, the care package left the hands of postal employees long before they were dispersed at mail call. Any package sent would arrive at a postal gateway before being given to military personnel to complete its journey to a remote destination. The added costs are mostly meaningless seeing as the package is delivered by US military personnel once it leaves the US.

Congressman Tom MacArthur of New Jersey’s Third District tried last year to reverse these increases with a similar bit of legislation — Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, or H.R.6231. He aimed to curtail the costs and make it much cheaper to send troops a care package. This legislation would have listed any package to (or from) an APO/FPO/DPO address as Zone 1/2, making the weight of the package a non-factor in shipping costs so long as the contents fit inside a flat-rate box. This bill, unfortunately, did not succeed and MacArthur was unsuccessful in his reelection campaign.

The cost to send care packages remains unreasonably high, and organizations like the Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey have had to reduce the number of packages sent purely because of the financial red tape.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

Because our troops are still out there, and they need your support.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Now the torch to raise the morale of troops has been passed to fellow New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross, a chair on the 115th Congressional Committee of Armed Services.

He’s proposed “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” which aims to cut the red tape and make the price of sending a care package comparable to the cost of sending a letter.

This bill will positively affect the lives of the countless troops still in harm’s way. Please contact your representative and let them know that you support “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019”, or H.R. 400.

Articles

An Army sergeant is about to get booted for trying to block info on bin Laden raid

The Army has rejected an appeal from a 13-year public affairs sergeant and is kicking him out in a case tied to the Osama bin Laden raid, President Obama’s speech about it, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information.


Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch told The Washington Times that he must leave the Army by Aug. 1. His crime was mentioning in an internal military email the name of the aviation unit that flew Navy SEALs inside Pakistan airspace to kill the al Qaeda leader.

The irony: He was trying to keep that fact out of a proposed article in an industry newsletter.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
Former President Barack Obama and members of the national security team receive updates on Operation Neptune’s Spear, a target and kill operation against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 (White House photo)

The Times featured Sgt. Branch’s plight in March, noting his excellent performance evaluations since the 2014 incident. His last chance resided with the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, which Sgt. Branch said rejected his plea.

The sergeant said he was “floored” by the decision.

“With honor and with integrity I fought this battle and even took it into the realm of public court/discussion in my Times story and it was for one reason only to let everyone know, like my commander said when giving me my notice May 10, 2016, that the Army is getting this one wrong,” he said July 19 in an email to the board.

“Moving forward, I would love to give this one last go round; however, I know now that without the military-level support I received for my third appeal I’m in a realm of hurt in that it will take forever to get another answer.”

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
Robert O’Neill, US Navy SEAL, claims to have shot Osama bin Laden in 2011. (Photo via Facebook)

His attorney, Jeffrey Addicott, who runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, said the married sergeant, with one child, did all he could to maintain his career.

He said Mr. Obama singled out the unit, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and that Mrs. Clinton did far worse in handling secrets and received no punishment.

Mr. Addicott told The Times on July 19: “The good news is that your story pushed the Army to move off its criminal investigation that he was facing when I took his case. We then also got the Army to consider his request to stay on active duty, and he was retained for many months while his appeal was considered. They have now denied his appeal to stay, but he will leave with an honorable discharge. Not a complete satisfaction for Branch but far better than it could have been. There is no inherent right for the Army to retain him. I know he is disappointed, but we accomplished all that could reasonably be expected. This is a win.”

Sgt. Branch’s problems began in February 2014 while he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, doing public relations work for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He was fact-checking a proposed article by the Boeing Co. for its internal news site that told of regiment personnel visiting a contractor facility. It mentioned that the regiment conducted the bin Laden raid.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
Photo courtesy of DoD.

Sgt. Branch sent an email to his boss recommending that the bin Laden reference be stricken because the Pentagon never officially acknowledged its role.

That was his crime: repeating the Boeing sentence in an official, internal email.

A higher-up saw the email thread and reported Sgt. Branch to Army intelligence. Instead of facing a court-marital, he opted for nonjudicial punishment and received an oral reprimand.

Mr. Addicott, who did not represent the sergeant at that time, said no court-martial jury would have convicted the sergeant because his motives were pure.

Part of Sgt. Branch’s defense was that Mr. Obama all but said that the aviation regiment conducted the raid by visiting the soldiers at Fort Campbell right after the successful operation.

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, addresses Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division during a visit to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011. Photo from Fort Campbell Courier.

The Army officially disclosed the regiment’s role in news stories.

“The leaders’ first stop after landing was to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment compound where the distinguished guests spoke privately with the 160th SOAR leadership and Soldiers,” said the Army’s official story on the visit, found on its web address, Army.mil.

On Army.mil, a May 9, 2011, Army News Service story on the Obama visit said, “It was the Night Stalkers who are credited with flying the mission in Pakistan that transported the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 on an operation that resulted in the capture and kill of terrorist Osama bin Laden.”

“I love the Army,” Sgt. Branch told The Times in March. “I like my job. The reason I’m so in love with the Army is I’m a career soldier. I’ve done three tours in Iraq. I’ve survived cancer twice. The Army is my career. It’s what I know. It is my life. My dad was a soldier. My brother’s a soldier. My grandfather was a soldier. I like telling the Army story because I’m a writer. That’s what I do.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.

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The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)
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The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)

 

1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon

The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?

Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T

hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

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Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)

 

2. Advanced Combat Rifle

Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.

The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.

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A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)

 

3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29

In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.

The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.

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Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)

 

4. XM8

Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.

The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.

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Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)

 

5. Individual Carbine

The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.

Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.

Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.

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A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)

 

6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle

The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.

In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”

The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.

Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.

Veterans

6 ways to go full civilian after getting out

Attaining the DD-214 is a dream come true for some service members. For the first time in years one has unrestricted freedom. No more can someone deny your vacation days or send you to the brig for smoking a plant. You’ve fought hard to earn your freedom. America is jam-packed with so much freedom that its hard to decide where to begin at 1st Civilian Division. Here’s a hip pocket class on how to go full civilian after getting out.

1. Find yourself

You gave the military the best years of your life and it shows. A recently separated troop will talk endlessly about the service, stories of other troops and will ramble on about their adventures. It’s natural. However, civilians will not be able to relate. The first year of separation you will get to know all kinds of people. In the military you’re surrounded by troops who are guided by a strong moral compass, in the civilian world, that is not the case. Finding a new group to grow with and trust will take time.

Take your time to discover things about yourself by doing things you’ve always wanted. Scratching a few items off your bucket list is a good way to get the ball rolling and you’ll have new things to talk about with civilians. Some troops dye their hair, wake and bake, go to college, get a pet, start a business, etc. There are no limits to what you can and can’t do. You have the freedom to succeed, but buyer beware, you also now have the freedom to fail. Enjoy the world you helped protect but watch your six, too. Joining a veteran organization such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America or Veterans of Foreign Wars can help ease the transition by speaking with other veterans.

civilian beard
Nice.

2. Grow a beard

We all did it. Some of us grow a lion’s mane and other grow patches. Let ‘er rip! There is a massive online community for beards and civilians love them too.

3. Now that you’re a civilian, give the gym a break

Exercise is key to living a healthy life but now you can civilian it. In the service, physical fitness is mandatory. The stakes aren’t as high anymore. You can work out a few days a week, go ham and body build, or trash the whole routine. You’re the battalion commander of your life. I do a very light exercise routine a few days a week. When I was in the infantry, we would work out twice a day, five days a week. I’m done.

4. Get an unauthorized tattoo

civilian tattoo
The tattooed forearm of a sailor assigned to the Naval Training Center, Recruit Training Command.

You can get sleeves or your legs done now. Another benefit to becoming a civilian is you do not have to photograph your tattoos and hand them over to Uncle Sam. Don’t do anything crazy like getting a face tattoo for obvious reasons.

5. Take part in civilian fads and challenges

Give life a chance and participate in the fun everyone is having. Yes, fads and challenges are corny but when you do them with friends and family they’re fun. They are a great way to create new memories and you’ll have the videos and photos to look at years down the line. Even if you’re not into those sort of things its also a good way to keep tabs on your children from doing something dangerous – like the Tide Pod fiasco.

6. Register with the VA healthcare system

One very important step to becoming a civilian is to register with the VA Healthcare. It is an invaluable resource and its free. Over the years the VA has been improving the quality of care it renders veterans. In an emergency you can always visit the Emergency Room and enroll after the fact but its best to not put this off. The VA offers services such as disability ratings, a primary care doctor, eye exams, ER and urgent care, pharmacies and so much more. Civilians with pre-existing conditions pay an arm an a leg for what you’re eligible for. Take what is yours, you earned it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain’s new carrier just set sail on its first ever mission

The Royal Navy’s largest-ever warship is taking another step towards deploying on operations, and is training at sea with military aircraft for the first time.


HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first in a new class of British military vessels, sailed out of Portsmouth Naval Base on Feb. 2, 2018, to learn how to work with helicopters on the open waters.

The huge ship, which weighs 65,000 tonnes, is undergoing tests and training in pursuit of its ultimate aim of launching F35-B Lightning jets from its 280-meter flight deck.

Here are the best images of the departure, and its voyage so far:

This is HMS Queen Elizabeth, making its first voyage as an official member of the Royal Navy. Tugboats steered her past the Round Tower which guards the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour. At 56m tall, the carrier dwarfed it.

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(Crown Copyright)

The carrier has sailed before, but only joined the Navy for keeps in December, when it was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II in a grand ceremony.

The highlight was an enormous cake shaped exactly like the ship.

Also read: The Royal Navy just commissioned its biggest ship ever

Here’s the carrier heading past Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower, with tugboats and a police escort.

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(Crown Copyright)

This is the view of the Queen Elizabeth and the other ships from behind.

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(Crown Copyright)

It’s an impressive piece of hardware — here’s a visual rundown of its stats from the manufacturers.

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(Aircraft Carrier Alliance)

The stern of the ship flew Britain’s Naval Ensign, a flag used by military ships at sea.

 

 

And the Royal Navy uploaded social media video of the carrier in transit.

 

 

Ahead of the departure, two twin-engine Chinook transporter helicopters landed on board, and will take part in the trials.

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(Crown Copyright)

Here’s how the Royal Navy described the purpose of the exercise:

“The aim of the trials is to work out the conditions that the aircraft can operate in while at sea on the carrier.”

“They will collect data about the landings, take-offs and manoeuvres in different wind and sea conditions, before processing the information and ultimately declaring that the ship can safely operate the aircraft.”

Related: Queen Elizabeth II’s time in WWII makes her the most hardcore head of state

Here’s another view of the choppers.

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(Crown Copyright)

Chinooks are a mainstay of British air power, and have been in service since 1980.

The 30 metre-long tandem helicopters can carry around 55 people, or 10 tonnes of freight, and fly at around 180mph.

They are not combat craft, but can be equipped with two miniguns and a machine gun.

A few days after, Merlin helicopters flew out to join in, dispatched from Culdrose Royal Naval Air Station in Cornwall.

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(Crown Copyright)

Merlins are a medium-sized transport helicopter. They can carry around 30 troops each and fly at speeds in excess of 190mph.

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(Crown Copyright)

As well as carrying people, they can also carry weapons, such as torpedos and depth charges.

They can also act as scouts, thanks to advanced sensor systems onboard. Each one can scan the seas and send information back to the Queen Elizabeth from hundreds of miles away.

More: How the Indian Navy suddenly became a major power

Eventually, 14 Merlins will be stationed on the Queen Elizabeth full-time.

The Queen Elizabeth is the first “twin-island” aircraft carrier in the world. Most carriers have one tower on deck to steer the ship and handle the aircraft, but the Queen Elizabeth split the tasks. They tweeted a view of the assembled helicopters for the read tower, used for flight.

 

Eventually, HMS Queen Elizabeth ship will carry F-35B Lightning fighter jets, which will launch from its ski jump-style ramp. Here’s an F-35B in action.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Jimenez)

In the future, the Queen Elizabeth could also be a platform for drones. Here’s a Northrop Grumman X-47B.

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(Photo: Northrop Grumman)

Captain Jerry Kyd, the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, told Business Insider in an interview last year that “it’s an absolute inevitability that [drones are] going to be embarked on this ship in the near future.”

The carrier was last seen off the coast of Cornwall, the southwestern tip of the UK. This photo was taken by a local newspaper photographer, showing the ship near the St Michael’s Mount landmark.

 

 

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s next stop is reportedly Gibratlar, a British territory bordering Spain.

Articles

Congress wants the Air Force to prove the F-35 can take over for the A-10

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Capt. Richard Olson, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot, gets off an A-10 Warthog after his flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2011. | US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook


House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry drafted a bill that would stop the Air Force from using funds in their 2017 budget to retire or reduce the use of the A-10 Warthog until the Pentagon’s weapons tester completes comparative tests between the A-10 and the F-35 Lightning II.

The tests would compare the two aircraft’s ability to conduct close air support, search and rescue missions, and forward air controller airborne missions DefenseNews reports.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee contend that the F-35 doesn’t possess the capabilities of the A-10, and that removing the Warthog from service would create a notable capability gap, which would be felt by the soldiers on the ground.

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An F-35A Lightning II team parks the aircraft for the first time at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth

In March of 2015, when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s claimed that F-16s and F-15s would take over the role of the A-10,  Senator John McCain unleashed the following scathing criticism:

“It’s really embarrassing to hear you say something like that when I talk to the people who are doing the flying, who are doing the combat who say that the A-10 is by far the best close-air support system we have.”

Indeed the A-10, a Cold War-era legacy plane has gained itself a cult following with forward deployed troops in heavy combat zones.

The distinctive buzzing noise made by the Warthog’s 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger has come to signal salvation to soldiers in need of close air support.

“Cutting back a one-of-a-kind capability with no clear replacement is an example of a budget-based strategy, not the strategy-based budget we need to meet our defense needs,” a letter from the legislators stated last year.

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