This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

An attack in Niger that left four American Green Berets and five Nigerien soldiers dead earlier this month has sparked a nationwide debate over how the Trump administration has handled the incident.


During a condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of one of the men who was killed, President Donald Trump reportedly told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, a friend of Johnson’s family who listened to the call on speakerphone, called Trump’s remarks “insensitive.”

Also read: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

In response, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel,” and said he was appalled that the congresswoman shared what she heard on that call. Trump fired off several tweets calling Wilson “wacky” and disagreeing with the widow’s impression of the call.

As the feuding continued, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford held a press conference at the Pentagon on Monday addressing reports that the Trump administration was withholding information about what really happened in Niger.

Here’s what we know about how the attack unfolded, according to Dunford’s timeline:

October 3: A reconnaissance mission

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. Flintlock is a Special Operations Forces exercise geared toward building interoperability between African and western partner nations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros)

Dunford said 12 members of the US Special Operations Task Force joined 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission from Niamey, Niger’s capital city, to an area near the remote village of Tongo Tongo.

October 4: The day of the attack

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
Tongo Tongo in Niger. (image Google Maps)

US soldiers and the Nigerien troops met with local leaders to try to gather intelligence information, Dunford said. Some of the soldiers stayed behind to guard their vehicles, a US defense official told CNN.

As the meeting came to a close, the soldiers became suspicious when the village leadership started stalling and delaying their departure.

When US troops started walking back to their vehicles mid-morning, they were attacked by approximately 50 militants. Dunford said the enemy was likely from an ISIS-affiliated group of local tribal fighters.

The militants fired on the US-Nigerien patrol team with small arms, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. This apparently caught the Americans and Nigeriens by surprise.

One hour later: US troops request reinforcements

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
A French Mirage fighter aircraft drops flares as it performs a high-speed pass during the French live fire demonstration near Arta Plage, Djibouti, Jan. 14, 2017. The Mirage and other fighter aircraft use flares as a countermeasure against incoming heat-seeking missiles. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by: Staff Sgt. Christian Jadot)

An hour into the firefight, the American soldiers asked for support to thwart the attack.

Dunford said a drone arrived overhead “within minutes,” although it was only sent to gather intelligence. French Mirage fighter jets capable of striking enemy targets arrived at the scene “within an hour.”

Later that afternoon, French attack helicopters arrived along with a Nigerien quick reaction force as well.

Sgt. La David Johnson was somehow separated from the rest of his unit. US military officials were not able to explain how or when exactly that happened.

“This [attack] was sophisticated,” an intelligence official told ABC News. “Our guys not only got hit hard, but got hit in-depth.”

Responding to questions about why the US troops didn’t request reinforcements sooner, Dunford said he wouldn’t judge why it took them an hour to ask for backup.

“I’ve been in these situations myself where you’re confronted with enemy contact, [and] your initial assessment is you can deal with that contact with the resources that you have,” he said. “At some point in the firefight, they concluded they then needed support, and so they called for additional support.”

That night: US soldiers evacuated

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
Members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and French military board a French SA-330 Puma helicopter during air-to-water qualification training near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa to defeat violent extremist organizations.

French military Super Puma helicopters evacuated US soldiers who were wounded during the firefight to Niamey.

Three soldiers killed in action were also evacuated: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. One soldier, Sgt. Johnson, was still missing.

October 6: Johnson’s body is finally discovered

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
Sergeant La David Johnson and three other soldiers were killed in action in Niger on Oct. 4, 2017.

Dunford said US officials continue to investigate how Johnson separated from the team and why it took 36 hours to recover his body.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, meanwhile, has insisted that Johnson was not “left behind.”

“The US military does not leave our troops behind, and I would just ask you not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once,” he said.

An intelligence official told ABC News that Johnson’s locator beacon was giving unclear reports, and he seemed to be moving.

“Johnson’s equipment might have been taken,” the official said. “From what we now know, it didn’t seem like he was kidnapped and killed. He was somehow physically removed from where the combat took place.”

That same day, the Pentagon identified the three other soldiers who were killed.

October 7: Johnson’s body is returned to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.

October 16: Trump first addresses the incident publicly

During a press conference at the White House, CNN asked Trump why it took so long for him to come out with a statement about what happened in Niger.

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump responded. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”

Obama administration officials pushed back hard on that claim, calling it false.

That exchange was the first time Trump addressed the Niger ambush publicly.

Tuesday, October 17 to Monday, October 23: The condolence call controversy

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

Trump, Kelly, and Wilson exchanged barbs last week, disagreeing over what the president said during his condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s widow.

The Gold Star widow broke her silence on Monday, saying that Trump had trouble remembering her husband’s name and told her that “he knew what he signed up for.” Johnson said she cried after she got off the phone.

After the interview aired, Trump tweeted, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”

“If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name? That’s what made me upset and cry even more,” she told “Good Morning America.”

October 23: Dunford outlines key details in the attack

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with reporters about recent military operations in Niger Oct. 23, 2017, at the Pentagon. DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

In a 45-minute briefing on Monday, Dunford acknowledged that many looming questions about the attack are still unanswered.

Questions he’s hoping the military’s investigation can uncover include:

  1. “Did the mission of US forces change during the operation?”
  2. “Did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training?”
  3. “Was there a pre-mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate?”
  4. “How did US forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sgt. Johnson?”
  5. “And why did they take time to find and recover Sgt. Johnson?”

“These are all fair questions that the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.

(Featured image: Nigerian army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 9, 2017. Department of Defense photo.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Suicide car bombing kills 11 or more in Western Iraq

A suicide car bomber has targeted a security checkpoint in western Iraq, killing at least 11 people and wounding 16, officials say.

The attacker drove an explosives-rigged vehicle into a checkpoint in the town of Qaim in Anbar Province, Mayor Ahmed al-Mehlawy said on Aug. 29, 2018.

The checkpoint was manned jointly by the army and government-backed Shi’ite militias, he added.


MIGHTY CULTURE

How to be more resilient in a crisis

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, exhausted parents are trying to juggle work, joblessness, rambunctious children, the emotional needs of spouses, the safety of aging parents, and fear of infection from a virus that can ravage the lungs, leaving its victims sick for weeks at a time. While the war metaphor is often tossed about carelessly — a virus is not a living lifeform, let alone an “enemy” — to parallel the mental impact of this time to soldiers at war is useful.

The sense of fear and stress many are experiencing now is familiar for many families of military service members, as well as those who help them through crises. Faced with separation, dangerous deployments, and untimely deaths, parents and children can cope by practicing a resilient mindset. “We serve families who experience a loss, and put on resilience retreats for children, siblings, spouses, and others who have lost a service member. We are helping them learn to stay health in the face of grief and loss, ” says Mia Bartoletti, the clinical psychologist for the Navy SEAL Foundation and an expert on helping families navigate crises. Bartoletti acknowledges that the same process can help families navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.


As Bartoletti frames it, resilience is a practice of acknowledging “normal reactions to extraordinary circumstances.” This means working to strengthen the attributes that make one “resilient” including hardiness, personal competence, tolerance of negative affect, acceptance of change, personal control, and spirituality, according to a review in PTSD Research Quarterly, a publication by the National Center for PTSD. These traits are “like a muscle,” says Mary Alvord, psychologist and the founder of Resilience Across Borders, a nonprofit program that teaches resilience to children, adolescents, and young adults in schools. “You just keep working it out and you can build it.”

Whether you’re a healthcare worker on the frontlines or a stay-at-home parent, having a strong reaction to the pandemic is to be expected. Bartoletti divides these reactions into three categories: Intrusive reactions, avoidance and withdrawal reactions, and physical arousal reactions. Intrusive reactions involve memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks that take you back to the psychologically traumatizing situation after the fact. Avoidance and withdrawal can happen during and after a distressing event, causing you to repress emotions and even avoid people and places. Physical arousal reactions involve changes in the body itself, including trouble sleeping, irritable outbursts, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

All of these reactions are normal, as long as they remain acute. Are you dreaming about Genghis Khan stealing your wallet, or breaking into a co-workers house to steal their toilet paper? Those vivid, COVID dreams are an acute intrusive reaction. Are you finding the need to shut yourself in a room and cry? That’s acute withdrawal. Do you find the news about COVID-19 in your area rockets up your heartbeat and blood pressure? That’s an acute physiological reaction. “I think that anyone can be experiencing these things, depending on your own reaction to this pandemic situation, these are common reactions,” says Bartoletti. “We expect to see more of these in this time frame.”

What is not normal is when the acute reaction morphs into a long-term psychological problems.

If these symptoms persist, acute stress in the moment can morph into post-traumatic stress after the fact. That can mean intense physiological feelings of stress, avoidance and withdrawal behavior, or intrusive flashbacks that impede normal social and emotional functioning for days, weeks, or months even after the pandemic subsides.

How does one prevent this all from going down? As with so many things, it starts with communicating those reactions, grappling with them and forming them into verbal thoughts. “If you don’t acknowledge your emotional state, that’s a risk and puts you in jeopardy for adverse lasting consequences,” says Bartolleti. “If you engage in narrative sharing open and effective communication with kids and other selective resilience skills — these are mechanisms of resilience. We can strategically set these mechanisms in motion to enhance individual and family resilient adjustment during this time.”

In many ways, parents and children can practice resilience in similar ways—through dialogue, social connection, and focusing on self-care and controlling what they can and letting go of what they can’t. Of course, parents also act as aids and models for their children, helping their kids let go of negative thoughts, providing warmth and support, and helping them connect with friends while getting outside enough. Under non-pandemic circumstances, Alvord and her colleagues have found that the presence of a caring adult in a child’s life can really help that child overcome stressful or traumatic circumstances. In a pandemic, which affects everyone, parents need to remember to take care of themselves, too.

To foster resilience in kids, the first step is talking it out. “Dialogue is really healthy for kids and teens for actual brain development,” Bartoletti says. “Having conversations about workplace safety and hazards is a healthy thing.” It’s good to gauge what your children are thinking and experiencing, as well as explaining to them your role in this situation. You can set the record straight on anything they have misunderstood. You can offer calm and reassurance while explaining the actionable steps you are taking to cope with the situation. You can model a problem-solving mindset to help your children as they figure out how to manage their emotions.

For both children and parents, social connection will be crucial for staying emotionally healthy through this time, says Alvord. While we may be physically distant, we should still be socially connected. For parents of children old enough to have friends and social groups, this will mean helping those children connect with their friends via phone or video chat. If your children are older, it may mean encouraging and allowing time and space for your teen to spend time with their friends online. For parents, make time to stay connected to your normal group of friends and family. And if you don’t have a parent support group already, it’s a good idea to seek one out so you can share tips and tricks and commiserate about parenting in lockdown. And of course, take the time to connect as a family and make the most of being stuck together.

Self-care really is essential to overall well-being. Alvord recommends trying to get plenty of sleep and taking a break to be by yourself, even if that means getting in your car to get away from everyone in the house. Physical activity and getting outside helps too, says Alvord. Bartoletti cautions that you can overdo it on the exercise, however, and that becomes its own form of avoidance. Being resilient, “really means getting in tune with your own internal landscape,” she says.

Finally, Alvord says resilience means letting go of the things you can’t control and focusing on the things that you can. Taking initiative in one’s life is one of the primary characteristics of resilience, Alvord wrote in a 2005 study published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. “Depression is hopelessness and helplessness and so resilience is the opposite,” she says. “No, you’re not helpless, you do have control over many aspects of your life.” For example, Alvord’s neighbors recently went out and bought a cheap pool for their backyard. If pools can’t open this summer, they have their own to keep their five children occupied. Recognizing you have agency in this situation — that’s resilience. “It’s action-oriented, as opposed to sitting back and letting things happen,” she says.

“Our mindset in this timeframe matters in terms of brain health and how we react in this experience,” says Bartoletti. Our bodies are primed with hormones to react to stressful situations. “We need to practice a mindset of challenging that at times,” she says.

Research shows it is possible to come out of a traumatic experience even stronger than before. And Bartoletti’s research in military families shows that these coping skills, taken together, can help families “become more cohesive and supportive and more resilient in the face of adversity.” Some days are still going to be challenging, and there will certainly be moments of grief and stress. But if parents and kids alike start to stretch and work that resilience muscle, they can get through this together.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Iraqi government forces launched an operation against Kurdistan’s Peshmerga military forces over the weekend to capture Kirkuk, a disputed, oil-rich city in the country’s north.


The Kurds defeated Islamic State fighters to take control of Kirkuk in 2014, but Iraq’s central government had refused to recognize their sovereignty over the city since it falls outside of Kurdistan’s internationally recognized autonomous region.

As the details continue to develop, here’s a breakdown of the basics.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
An Iraqi pilot walks to a Iraqi AC-208 Caravan for a training mission at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq. For the first time since the re-formation of the Iraqi air force, an Iraqi pilot fired a missile from an a AC-208 Nov. 04, 2009, at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

What’s happening?

Conflicting stories emerged Oct. 16 as clashes broke out in areas outside the city, causing an unknown number of casualties. Iraqi forces claimed they had seized military bases and oil fields around Kirkuk, and had forced the Kurds to withdraw from the city. The Kurdistan Regional Government has rejected those claims.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the US military said it believed any clashes between the Kurds and Baghdad “was a misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions.”

Army Major General Robert White, the commander of US-led coalition forces in Iraq, called for both parties to reconcile their differences through peace, and “remain focused on the defeat of our common enemy,” ISIS.

President Donald Trump weighed in on Monday afternoon, as well, saying the US would not back one side over the other. “We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” Trump said in a press conference.

Three days before clashes erupted, rumors surfaced of an impending Iraqi government assault on the Kurds. In response, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took to Twitter to debunk the accusation.

“Our armed forces cannot and will not attack our citizens, whether Arab or Kurd,” he said. “The fake news being spread has a deplorable agenda behind.”

Amid reports of a looming attack, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani ordered Peshmerga forces on Sunday to not “initiate any war, but if any advancing militia starts shooting, then Peshmerga have been given a green light to use every power to stand against them.”

By Monday afternoon, Reuters reported that thousands of Kurds had fled the city of Kirkuk, which has a population of over 1 million people. About 6% of the world’s oil comes from Kirkuk province, according to CNN.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi. Photo from Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Why now?

Kurdish nationalism has long been a source of tension between Iraq’s central government and the Kurds, both of which are strong US allies.

This tension was exacerbated after close to 93% of Kurds, which control a large swath of territory in northern Iraq, voted to declare Kurdistan an independent state on September 25. Baghdad has condemned the referendum and urged Kurdish leaders to reject it. Neighboring countries Iran and Turkey also opposed the vote.

The White House also warned against holding a vote on independence and called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to pursue dialogue with Baghdad.

“Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing,” the White House said in a statement before vote.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Why does it matter?

The independence referendum and latest round of clashes between Kurdish and Iraqi forces puts the Trump administration in a particularly strangling bind. Over the years, the US has trained and supplied weapons and equipment to both sides of the conflict with the intention of defeating ISIS. Now those very same weapons are being used by US allies against other US allies.

Iran’s interference in the conflict also remains a top concern for American officials. The Iraqi-backed Popular Mobilization Forces — Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary units that have been fighting against the Kurds — presents another challenge for US mediation efforts in the region. Iran not only supports these Popular Mobilization Forces, but provides direct training and weaponry to its fighters.

The New York Times reported in July that Iran’s presence in Iraq was a consequence of former President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw US troops from the country in 2011. This move has divided Republicans and Democrats in the US, and was a key campaign issue in the 2016 elections.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the newly-formed Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division are jointly training Kurdish and Iraqi forces, to become the first self-sufficient local military force.

What could happen next?

No one is really sure. The situation is still unfolding, with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders shifting blame on their opponents for the escalation in violence.

Even though the US has downplayed the clashes as simply a “misunderstanding,” it’s difficult to ascertain the true level of tension on the ground.

Conflicting claims from Iraqi government and Kurdish officials further complicate the situation. No matter what happens, these developments will surely add to Trump’s challenges in the Middle East.

Articles

Gurkha soldiers are rebuilding vets homes after massive earthquake

When a massive earthquake struck two years ago in Nepal, a sudden coalition formed to help. Service organizations, allied militaries, and others rushed from near and far to dig out survivors and provide help. And some native Gurkha soldiers are still there, lending their expertise to the rebuilding of hundreds of homes.


A total of 8,891 people are thought to have died and another 22,300 injured in the earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, 2015.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
A Nepalese soldier carries a young earthquake victim from a U.S Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom helicopter assigned to Joint Task Force 505 to a medical triage area at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal, after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the country, May 12, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Ricardo Morales)

One of the military forces that rushed in were Gurkha soldiers from the British Army in Operation Leyland. The Gurkhas are recruited from the same region of Nepal that was worst hit, and the troops were deployed to help their own families and forebears.

But the Gurkhas didn’t leave once the emergency passed. They’re still taking turns rotating into the area to help rebuild the homes of Gurkha veterans. Operation Marmat was a deliberate deployment of about 100 Gurkhas at a time to build homes with materials purchased by the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
A Gurkha soldier helps rebuild the home of a former Gurkha rifleman during Operation Marmat, an ongoing effort to rebuild the homes of Gurkha veterans. (Photo: Facebook/British Army)

In addition to their labor in the mountains of Nepal, the Gurkhas have raised money — approximately $65,000 — across the world with an emphasis on the United Kingdom where they are based.

An update from the British Army Facebook page says that 800 homes have been rebuilt by the trust and 61 of them were built with labor from the active duty Gurkha soldiers in the past two years.

Another 300 homes are still slated for reconstruction. People who want to help can visit the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
A Nepalese soldier from the Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment of the British Army stands guard in Sanger, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan David Chandler)

Gurkha soldiers have served the British Army with distinction for over 200 years, including deployments to both world wars, Iraq, and Afghanistan where they served alongside American troops.

To learn more, check out this short video from the British Army (you must be logged into Facebook to see the video):


Intel

Video: Iraq war vet relives his most intense gunfight

Colby Buzzell was almost killed when his entire battalion was ambushed by insurgents in Iraq.


“I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head, hitting all around my hatch and making a ping, ping, ping sound,” Buzzell said, recalling how the enemy armed with rifles and RPGs attacked from rooftops, alleys, windows from every imaginable direction.

Even worse, a few minutes after the battalion fired their way out of the kill zone, they were ordered to go back to where they got ambushed.

“I literally felt sick to my stomach,” Buzzell said. “I felt like throwing up. My gut, my body, my mind, my soul, my balls were all telling me loud and clear not to go back. I was scared to death, but we had to go back. And, we did.”

Watch how (a scared) Buzzell musters the courage to do things most Americans couldn’t imagine doing in this riveting short video:

www.youtube.com

Humor

6 memes that immortalize the now-grounded ‘sky dick’ aircrew

Whenever a branch of the armed forces makes it into the news, a sense of dread washes over the troops. Most times, it’s not good news. Maybe a brother or sister in arms fell, or the leadership is accused of misconduct, or, perhaps worst, those we serve with did something devastating.


Not this time. This time, the Navy made international news by drawing a giant penis in the sky over Okanogan, Washington.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
Giant penis? Nah, dude, it’s an Arby’s hat

On one hand, yes, it is understandable that the U.S. Navy would need to react after civilians got the wrong impression of the men and women who protect them.

“The actions of this aircrew are wholly unacceptable and antithetical to Navy core values” said a statement issued on Nov. 17 by NAS Whidbey Island. “We have grounded the aircrew and are conducting a thorough investigation and we will hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”

On the other hand, these patriots took part in a time-honored military tradition of marking the area under the protection of troops. It is a symbol that can be found on tables, port-a-johns, and many walls. It’s as if Batman himself was there to tell the good people of Okanogan that, “It’s okay. The Navy is here. You’re safe.”

If you think about it, the aircrew was just doing their heroic duty.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuc0I4ju2lY

‘Murica! (YouTube, Lunar Temptation)

But yeah. It’s a huge penis. A giant penis made out of the contrail of a E/A-18 Growler.

The aircrew may never fly again (we hope that’s not true, given pilot shortages), but their deeds will never be forgotten. The aircrew and pilots have not been identified, but if they did, the world owes them a beer. These memes are for you, you glorious bastards.

6. Bob Ross would have approved. He was in the military after all.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
(Image via Decelerate your Life)

5. It’s a show of force. It’s America saying we’re going to f*ck them up.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
(Image via Pop smoke)

4. You’ve never been forgotten, sweet prince.

 

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
(Image via Twitter)

3. No one can ever outdo this dick joke. This aircrew won.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
(Image via Pop smoke)

2. Basically, deployments are really about doing operator sh*t and drawing penises everywhere.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
(Image via Facebook)

1. It’s because he was inverted?

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
(Image via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airborne soldiers host podcast on Army’s Cold War history

Soldiers assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps board a C-130 Hercules from the Rhode Island Air National Guard before an Airborne operation at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 23, 2017. (U.S. Army Photo by Hubert D. Delany III/22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)ShareTweetEmailWhatsApp

The XVIII Airborne Corps, stationed out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has released the first episode of its new podcast, “The Doomsday Clock.” “The Doomsday Clock” features stories from the U.S. Army’s Cold War history from the close of World War II in 1945 through the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The podcast will include American and British historians as special guests each week. Some of the guests include:

  • Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and author of the 2020 book “Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization”;
  • Sir Max Hastings, British journalist, historian, and award-winning author;
  • American filmmaker Ken Burns;
  • Historian H.W. Brands;
  • Historian A.J. Bacevich;
  • Podcast legend Dan Carlin;
  • Actor Matthew Broderick, star of the 1983 film “War Games,” which influenced President Reagan’s national security policy.
  • Michael Dobbs, historian and author of the 2009 book “One Minute to Minute: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War.”

Col. Joe Buccino is the host of “The Doomsday Clock” podcast. He is also the XVIII Airborne Corps historian.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

“Think of this as part of an ongoing conversation with really cool, interesting historians about a fascinating period in our history,” Col. Buccino said in a press release.

“This is a glimpse into the bizarre and the fantastic. This is very serious material; some of it’s dark and apocalyptic, but some of the anecdotes are so strange it’s almost humorous.”

The U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps is also known as “America’s Contingency Corps.” They are responsible for rapid deployments on short notice to any area of operations or joint area of operations to support large-scale combat operations. They are based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and are currently commanded by Lt. Gen. Michael E. Kurilla.

In discussing why the XVIII Airborne Corps decided to start the podcast, host Col. Buccino said, “People crave stories … These are some of the best stories told by some of the best storytellers of our time.”

“The Doomsday Clock” podcast can be found on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Podbean. 

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

You can follow the XVIII Airborne Corps on Twitter at @18airbornecorps and on Facebook at @XVIII.Airborne.Corps

Articles

US F-22 pilots describe their conflict with Syrian jets while protecting US forces

In an interview with USA Today, the pilots of the F-22s who chased away Syrian jets bombing close to Kurdish forces with embedded US advisers revealed that the Syrian pilots had no idea they were being shadowed.


“I followed him around for all three of his loops,” one of the American pilots, a 38-year-old Air Force major, told USA Today. “He didn’t appear to have any idea I was there.”

Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, told USA Today that once the F-22 made radio contact, “The behaviour stopped. We made our point.”

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The situation in Syria is tense, as the US has limited forces on the ground, but has employed air assets to defend them. So the US effectively has told Syria that it can’t fly planes within a section of their own country.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said that in the event that Syrian planes get too close to US and US-backed forces that they “would advise them to steer clear in areas where we are operating,” adding that “we always have the right to defend our forces.”

Fortunately, in this case, the warning was sufficient.

“The big concern is really a miscalculation,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of US air operations in the Middle East told USA Today. “It can happen on either side.”

“We made it very clear to our folks from the highest levels: We’re not at war with the Russians or Syrians,” Corcoran told USA Today. “We’re not here to shoot down Russian or Syrian airplanes.”

But sending servicemen and women into combat with unclear, or delicate instructions is not an ideal case. Every second a pilot spends weighing the decision to fire or not could potentially cost that pilot’s life.

Luckily, no life or death decisions had to be made.

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II

“I’m thinking how do I de-escalate this scenario to the best of my ability and also keep us in a safe position while doing so,” the other pilot involved told USA Today.

It seems also that the pilot’s leadership was behind them every step of the way. Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, the air commander in Qatar, made it clear he was ready to pull the trigger.

“I wouldn’t have hesitated,” said Silveria.

“All I needed at that point to shoot them down was a report from the ground that they were being attacked,” Silveria told USA Today. “We were in a perfect position to execute that with some pretty advanced weaponry.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

25 strongest militaries in Europe, according to BI

NATO member and partner forces are in Norway for a sprawling military exercise called Trident Juncture — the largest since the Cold War, officials have said.

Russia is not happy with NATO’s robust presence next to its territory and has decided to put on its own show of force.

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, 2018, Russian ships will carry out rocket drills in the Norwegian Sea, west of activities related to Trident Juncture, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.

The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in Europe, home to some of the world’s most capable armed forces, based on the 2018 military strength ranking compiled by Global Firepower.


The ranking aims to level the playing between smaller countries with technical advantages and larger, less-sophisticated countries.

Additional factors — geography, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and industrial capacity — are taken into account, as are things like diversity of weapons and assets, national development, and manpower.

NATO members, 27 of which are European, also get a boost, as the alliance is designed to share resources and military support. The US military has a massive presence in Europe — including its largest base outside the US— but isn’t included here as the US isn’t part of Europe.

Below, you can see the 25 most powerful militaries in Europe.

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Belgium air force helicopter Alouette III takes off from BNS Godetia for a tactical flight over the fjords in support of an amphibious exercise during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise.

(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)

25. Belgium (Overall ranking: 68)

Power Index rating: 1.0885

Total population: 11,491,346

Total military personnel: 38,800

Total aircraft strength: 164

Fighter aircraft: 45

Combat tanks: 0

Total naval assets: 17

Defense budget: .085 billion

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A Portuguese sniper team identifies targets during the range-estimation event of the Europe Best Sniper Team Competition at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, July 29, 2018.

(US Army photo by Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

24. Portugal (Overall ranking: 63)

Power Index rating: 1.0035

Total population: 10,839,514

Total military personnel: 268,500

Total aircraft strength: 93

Fighter aircraft: 24

Combat tanks: 133

Total naval assets: 41

Defense budget: .8 billion

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Slovak soldiers report to their commander during the opening ceremony of Slovak Shield 2018 at Lest Military Training Center, Sept. 23, 2018.

(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Caitlin Sweet)

23. Slovakia (Overall ranking: 62)

Power Index rating: 0.9998

Total population: 5,445,829

Total military personnel: 14,675

Total aircraft strength: 49

Fighter aircraft: 18

Combat tanks: 22

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: id=”listicle-2617982766″.025 billion

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Austrian soldiers load gear onto their packhorses before hiking to a high-angle range during the International Special Training Centre High-Angle/Urban Course at the Hochfilzen Training Area, Austria, Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

22. Austria (Overall ranking: 61)

Power Index rating: 0.9953

Total population: 8,754,413

Total military personnel: 170,000

Total aircraft strength: 124

Fighter aircraft: 15

Combat tanks: 56

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .22 billion

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A Bulgarian army tank crew maneuvers a T-72 tank during an exercise with US soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the Novo Selo Training Area, Sept. 15, 2018.

(US Army National Guard photo Sgt. Jamar Marcel Pugh)

21. Bulgaria (Overall ranking: 60)

Power Index rating: 0.9839

Total population: 7,101,510

Total military personnel: 52,650

Total aircraft strength: 73

Fighter aircraft: 20

Combat tanks: 531

Total naval assets: 29

Defense budget: 0 million

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Standing NATO Maritime Group One trains with Finnish fast-attack missile boat FNS Hanko during a passing exercise in the Baltic Sea, Aug. 28, 2017.

(NATO photo by Christian Valverde)

20. Finland (Overall ranking: 59)

Power Index rating: 0.9687

Total population: 5,518,371

Total military personnel: 262,050

Total aircraft strength: 153

Fighter aircraft: 55

Combat tanks: 160

Total naval assets: 270

Defense budget: .66 billion

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Cpl. Cedric Jackson, a US soldier from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of Army’s 1st Infantry Division, assists a Hungarian soldier in applying tape to secure a fluid-administration tube to a simulated casualty during a combat life-saver course led by US troops in Tata, Hungary, Dec. 2017.

(US Army photo by 2nd Lt. Gabor Horvath)

19. Hungary (Overall ranking: 57)

Power Index rating: 0.9153

Total population: 9,850,845

Total military personnel: 77,250

Total aircraft strength: 35

Fighter aircraft: 12

Combat tanks: 32

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: id=”listicle-2617982766″.04 billion

18. Denmark (Overall ranking: 54)

Power Index rating: 0.9084

Total population: 5,605,948

Total military personnel: 75,150

Total aircraft strength: 113

Fighter aircraft: 33

Combat tanks: 57

Total naval assets: 90

Defense budget: .44 billion

17. Belarus (Overall ranking: 41)

Power Index rating: 0.7315

Total population: 9,549,747

Total military personnel: 401,250

Total aircraft strength: 202

Fighter aircraft: 43

Combat tanks: 515

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: 5 million

16. Romania (Overall ranking: 40)

Power Index rating: 0.7205

Total population: 21,529,967

Total military personnel: 177,750

Total aircraft strength: 135

Fighter aircraft: 34

Combat tanks: 827

Total naval assets: 48

Defense budget: .19 billion

15. Netherlands (Overall ranking: 38)

Power Index rating: 0.7113

Total population: 17,084,719

Total military personnel: 53,205

Total aircraft strength: 165

Fighter aircraft: 61

Combat tanks: 0

Total naval assets: 56

Defense budget: .84 billion

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A Norwegian soldier takes aim during Trident Juncture 18 near Røros, Norway, Oct. 2018.

(NATO photo)

14. Norway (Overall ranking: 36)

Power Index rating: 0.6784

Total population: 5,320,045

Total military personnel: 72,500

Total aircraft strength: 128

Fighter aircraft: 49

Combat tanks: 52

Total naval assets: 62

Defense budget: billion

13. Switzerland (Overall ranking: 34)

Power Index rating: 0.6634

Total population: 8,236,303

Total military personnel: 171,000

Total aircraft strength: 167

Fighter aircraft: 54

Combat tanks: 134

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .83 billion

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Swedish air force Pvt. Salem Mimic, left, and Pvt. Andreas Frojd, right, both with Counter Special Forces Platoon, provide security for US Air Force airmen and aircraft on the flight line at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 26, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

12. Sweden (Overall ranking: 31)

Power Index rating: 0.6071

Total population: 9,960,487

Total military personnel: 43,875

Total aircraft strength: 206

Fighter aircraft: 72

Combat tanks: 120

Total naval assets: 63

Defense budget: .2 billion

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erved by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 28, 2018.

(Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

11. Czech Republic (Overall ranking: 30)

Power Index rating: 0.5969

Total population: 10,674,723

Total military personnel: 29,050

Total aircraft strength: 103

Fighter aircraft: 12

Combat tanks: 123

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .6 billion

10. Ukraine (Overall ranking: 29)

Power Index rating: 0.5383

Total population: 44,033,874

Total military personnel: 1,182,000

Total aircraft strength: 240

Fighter aircraft: 39

Combat tanks: 2,214

Total naval assets: 25

Defense budget: .88 billion

9. Greece (Overall ranking: 28)

Power Index rating: 0.5255

Total population: 10,768,477

Total military personnel: 413,750

Total aircraft strength: 567

Fighter aircraft: 189

Combat tanks: 1,345

Total naval assets: 115

Defense budget: .54 billion

8. Poland (Overall ranking: 22)

Power Index rating: 0.4276

Total population: 38,476,269

Total military personnel: 184,650

Total aircraft strength: 466

Fighter aircraft: 99

Combat tanks: 1,065

Total naval assets: 83

Defense budget: .36 billion

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A sniper and spotter from the Spanish Lepanto Battalion line up their target near Folldal during Exercise Trident Juncture, using the .50 caliber Barrett and the .338 caliber Accuracy sniper rifles, firing at targets over 1,000 meters away.

(Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps)

7. Spain (Overall ranking: 19)

Power Index rating: 0.4079

Total population: 48,958,159

Total military personnel: 174,700

Total aircraft strength: 524

Fighter aircraft: 122

Combat tanks: 327

Total naval assets: 46 (one aircraft carrier)

Defense budget: .6 billion

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An Italian F-35A fighter jet with special tail markings.

(Italian Air Force photo)

6. Italy (Overall ranking: 11)

Power Index rating: 0.2565

Total population: 62,137,802

Total military personnel: 267,500

Total aircraft strength: 828

Fighter aircraft: 90

Combat tanks: 200

Total naval assets: 143 (two aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: .7 billion

5. Germany (Overall ranking: 10)

Power Index rating: 0.2461

Total population: 80,594,017

Total military personnel: 208,641

Total aircraft strength: 714

Fighter aircraft: 94

Combat tanks: 432

Total naval assets: 81

Defense budget: .2 billion

4. Turkey (Overall ranking: 9)

Power Index rating: 0.2216

Total population: 80,845,215

Total military personnel: 710,565

Total aircraft strength: 1,056

Fighter aircraft: 207

Combat tanks: 2,446

Total naval assets: 194

Defense budget: .2 billion

3. United Kingdom (Overall ranking: 6)

Power Index rating: 0.1917

Total population: 64,769,452

Total military personnel: 279,230

Total aircraft strength: 832

Fighter aircraft: 103

Combat tanks: 227

Total naval assets: 76 (two aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: billion

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French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, Oct. 25, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)

2. France (Overall ranking: 5)

Power Index rating: 0.1869

Total population: 67,106,161

Total military personnel: 388,635

Total aircraft strength: 1,262

Fighter aircraft: 299

Combat tanks: 406

Total naval assets: 118 (four aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: billion

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Russian troops participating in the Zapad 2017 exercises in Belarus and Russia.

(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)

1. Russia (Overall ranking: 2)

Power Index rating: 0.0841

Total population: 142,257,519

Total military personnel: 3,586,128

Total aircraft strength: 3,914

Fighter aircraft: 818

Combat tanks: 20,300

Total naval assets: 352 (one aircraft carrier)

Defense budget: billion

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This non-profit offers scuba diving programs to veterans

LifeWaters offers scuba diving and scuba certifications as part of recreational water therapy. The non-profit organization improves the lives of disabled veterans with a dedicated staff of volunteers, including Spinal Cord Injury therapists, doctors, nurses, veterans, and civilians.

Bill Chase is a Air Force Vietnam-era veteran who served from 1973-1978. While stationed in Hawaii, he learned to dive and then later became a certified diver. In 2016, after a successful engineering career, Chase was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. While at a VA therapy appointment, the therapist mentioned scuba diving, and then referred Chase to LifeWaters.


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Forced retirement opens new door

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Chase was forced to retire after the diagnosis and soon sought assistance from Paralyzed Veterans of America for help in filing claims for VA benefits and support at the St. Louis VA. Approximately 700 to 900 veterans with ALS are served annually by PVA to obtain their VA healthcare benefits.

“I am always excited to be involved helping a veteran’s bucket list wish come true!” said PVA Vice President and LifeWaters Advanced Scuba Diver, Hack Albertson. “It was an absolute honor to meet and dive with Bill Chase and his family.”

Albertson credits the LifeWaters adaptive scuba training that allowed him to dive in over 200 locations around the world. “I love being a member of LifeWaters and [being] an Advanced Scuba Diver. I was even blessed to dive Pearl Harbor on December 7th while conducting an oil study for the U.S. National Park Service. I can never thank LifeWaters enough for the opportunities and experiences diving has given me.”

“Blown away by kindness” at LifeWaters

LifeWaters offers different services depending on needs, desires and skill level. They have amputee scuba diving, disabled veteran scuba diving and other scuba diving programs.

“ALS progression is different for everyone. In my case, I have no leg motion, my arms and lungs are affected. I’ve recently lost some ground with my lungs, so when I dive I now use a full-face mask because it’s easier to breathe,” said Chase.

Chase was surprised that he was eligible for adaptive diving. He recently completed the HERO dive with his family at the Epcot Center Aquarium at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Chase has even gotten closer to his family while they trained for their scuba adventure.

“If I were in a different physical state, I wouldn’t hesitate to become part of this group. The dive itself was awesome, in spite of my physical limitations. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience,” he said.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This famous pilot flew 50 combat missions as a civilian

Charles Lindbergh, America’s most famous pilot at the time, went on a tour of Pacific aviation bases during World War II and secretly flew approximately 50 combat missions where he actively engaged Japanese planes and was almost shot down despite the fact that he was civilian with no active military affiliation.


Lindbergh had become a pilot in a roundabout way. He took flying lessons in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1922 but didn’t progress to solo flight. Instead, he joined a barnstorming show that summer and worked as an aerial daredevil, walking on plane wings and parachuting off.

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Cadet Charles Lindbergh graduates from the Army Aviation Cadet Program.He later rose to the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The next April, he bought a surplus Curtiss JN-4 biplane still in the box, put it together, and tried to fly it. He nearly crashed it soon after takeoff and damaged the wing while landing a moment later. An experienced pilot saw his struggle and offered him a few quick lessons. That afternoon, Lindbergh made a safe solo flight.

He progressed quickly and became an Army Air Reserve pilot and a U.S. Mail Service pilot.

Then, in 1927, Lindbergh took the flight that made him famous. He took off from New York City in a specially modified monoplane and flew for 33.5 hours to Le Bourget Field near Paris in the first solo transatlantic flight.

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Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis in the first solo flight across the Atlantic. (Photo: San Diego Air and Space Museum)

From that day, Lindbergh was known as the “Lone Eagle.” He was awarded the Medal of Honor and the first Distinguished Flying Cross and went on a 48-state tour of America (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states).

Lindbergh was, unsurprisingly, well-liked in the Army Reserve and promoted, reaching the rank of colonel by the 1930s. But he became friendly with the leaders of Nazi Germany, accepting a Service Cross of the German Eagle from Hermann Goering and championing an “America First” policy that would have seen the U.S. sign a neutrality pact with Adolph Hitler.

In the public fallout that followed, President Franklin D. Roosevelt attacked Lindbergh in the press and Lindbergh resigned his commission in the Army Reserve in 1941. He came to regret the decision that December when he was barred from re-entering the service for World War II.

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The Pearl Harbor attacks propelled America into World War II. Charles Lindbergh was not allowed to return to military service because of enduring questions about his loyalty to the U.S.  (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Unable to fly as a military pilot, Lindbergh got himself a job working for Chance Vought Aircraft, touring Pacific bases and suggesting ways that military pilots could get the most out of their machines, especially when it came to conserving fuel for long flights.

It was during this tour of the Pacific that Lindbergh began suggesting to the services that he be allowed to participate in combat.

The Marines took him up on the offer first and Lindbergh went on a combat patrol, escorting bombers to Rabaul, Papa New Guinea, in a Corsair fighter. Lindbergh did everything the Marine normally in his spot would have done, including strafing Japanese ground targets.

He flew another 13 missions with the Marines before heading to an Army air unit that flew P-38 Lightings.

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The P-38 Lightning was the premiere twin-engine American fighter in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

The parent company of Chance Vought was looking to produce a twin-engined fighter and the P-38 was the premiere twin-engine of the day. Lindbergh pitched that flying with the squadron would allow him to suggest fuel-saving measures and he would be able to evaluate the P-38 design.

He joined the 475th Fighter Group on June 27 and flew five missions before the brass got wind of his presence.

Army Gen. George C. Kenney initially protested Lindbergh’s presence and was considering expelling him until Lindbergh suggested that he could get the P-38’s combat radius from 570 miles to approximately 700 miles while maintaining a 1-hour time on target.

Kenney relented with the stipulation that Lindbergh not fire his guns. Lindbergh promptly ignored the rule but did work on how to best milk every possible mile out of the P-38’s tank without risking the engine.

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Famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh with Maj. Thomas B. McGuire. (Photo: U.S. Air Force archives)

On July 28, 1944, Lindbergh scored his only aerial victory, downing a Japanese fighter in head-to-head flight during a bomber escort mission. The next week, Lindbergh found himself in the crosshairs as a Japanese Zero nearly shot him before one of the American aces in his group killed the Japanese plane with a machine gun burst.

Kenney heard of both Lindbergh’s kill and his near miss and ordered him grounded. Lindbergh left the 475th, but its pilots had already learned his lessons and were able to extend their combat radius to 700 miles, allowing them to protect more American bombers.

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The Corsair was predominantly used as an aerial fighter in World War II and was armed with machine guns. But work by Charles Lindbergh and others allowed it to carry a wider array of munitions, including rockets and bombs, as the war continued. It would later see service in Korea. (Photo: U.S. Air and Space Museum.)

On his way home, Lindbergh detoured to visit Marine Corsair units and helped them devise the best way of carrying bombs on the Corsair. He began with a single 1,000-pound bomb but worked his way up to a 2,000-pounder under the fuselage and a 1,000-pound bomb under each wing.

On at least some of these trials, Lindbergh dropped the bombs on Japanese forces bypassed by the American island-hopping strategy. So Charles Lindbergh, a civilian, flew dozens of flights as a bomber, a fighter escort, and in a ground attack role in just a few months, April to September 1944.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told a group of veteran advocates that he was cutting funding to a program that addresses veteran homelessness, according to a Dec. 6 report from Politico.


The conversation reportedly happened over the phone, with “advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD” reacting to the news from Shulkin in outright anger.

The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allocates $460 million a year to housing homeless veterans. It seems to have been working, too, as veteran homelessness is down 46 percent from 2010.

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First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo from Tomah VA Medical Center)

Nevertheless, Shulkin determined that nearly $1 billion should be moved from “specific purpose” funds to “general purpose” funds. This means moving all of the funding used specifically to ameliorate veterans homelessness.

According to a Sept. 2 memo, the VA believes that money designated to specific programs, like addressing veteran homelessness, transplant programs, amputation care, and women’s health, would be better used in a general fund, leaving veterans hospitals to decide for themselves how to use the money. The memo states that the move is designed to support “the Secretary’s five priorities” and could be used for administrative things, like hiring more VA employees.

The memo does not state how each individual hospital must use its newfound funds. Rather, it simply notes that network directors will have control over how much (if any) to give to specific programs.

Also Read: This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The Senate Committee on Appropriations responded to Shulkin’s plans to move the funds with a bipartisan, strongly worded letter signed by every member. In it, the committee reminded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his department had previously been extended the privilege of flexibility to move money without review because of its willingness to be transparent. That transparency, the letter argued, would all but disappear should Shulkin divert the specific purpose funds.

The letter closed with what seemed like a warning in the form of a suggestion: Stop, think, and before you do anything, submit to us a detailed “funding allocation plan” in the future.

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

It didn’t take long for Shulkin to shift gears and reverse his earlier statements. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” Shulkin wrote in a statement released Dec. 6.

However, Shulkin added, “we will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.” It is not immediately clear whether the Choice program is where Shulkin suggested the funds would go in his Dec. 1 phone call.

Upon further review of the VA’s budget brief, the department does, in fact, plan to cut funding from “certain Veterans’ benefit programs” to offset the cost of money borrowed from the nearly bankrupt Veterans Choice Program, a program designed to offer veterans medical care closer to where they reside.

The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.

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