There's a current Army helicopter you may have never seen - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

While Black Hawks, Apaches, and Chinooks usually get top billing when the Army comes out to play at air shows and sporting events (plus the occasional MH-6 Little Bird when special operation aviators come to play), the service does have another helicopter quietly working behind the scenes to plug crucial gaps: the UH-72 Lakota.


There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

(New Jersey National Guard Mark Olsen)

There are a few reasons why you may not know much about the Lakota. First, there aren’t very many of them. While the Army has over 2,000 Black Hawks, there are less than 500 UH-72 Lakotas. And a new purchase of less than a dozen UH-72 airframes can trigger news coverage. Meanwhile, even the expensive and relatively niche Apache fleet boasts over 650 birds.

But another reason the Lakota doesn’t usually get on the front page is that it doesn’t deploy. It wasn’t purchased to deploy, and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress that it couldn’t go overseas as currently configured. It simply doesn’t have the necessary systems to protect itself from enemy fire and keep its pilots alive after crashes.

But the missions the Lakota can do are still important. It’s a workhorse that can fly in rough weather and provide assistance during disaster response. That’s a big part of why it’s primarily flown by National Guard units. It may not be expected to fight and win in the deserts of the Middle East, but it can hoist a family out of hell or high water during a wildfire or flood.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

(Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office Scott Sturkol)

And it can do so at a discount. It costs 30 to 50 percent less to fly per flight hour than a Black Hawk according to Sikorsky estimates, partially thanks to the lack of all those protective systems that a Black Hawk has.

It first flew in 2006, making it the youngest helicopter in the Army’s fleet. It has two engines that supply over 1,400 shaft horsepower to the main rotor over 36-feet in diameter. The main and tail rotors are intentionally set higher than normal above the ground so that, when the helicopter is on the ground, it’s still relatively safe to load patients, passengers, or cargo into the side or rear doors.

This is especially valuable when the UH-72 is used as an air ambulance, which it often is. Litter crews can load a patient in quickly and safely from multiple angles, and the helicopter can carry two litters and a medic per flight. In its utility role, it can carry eight troops instead of the two passengers.

It can reach a maximum altitude of 18,000 feet, pretty close to the Black Hawk’s 19,000 feet ceiling. Though, again, that’s largely thanks to all the gizmos the Lakota doesn’t need for its peacetime missions. The newest Black Hawk has way more power at over 3,600 shaft horsepower, more than 2.5X the Lakota’s.

All of this makes the Lakota great for homeland security and disaster response, and the Army has even made it the primary helicopter in its training fleet.

But don’t expect it to become the shiny crown jewel in the Army’s fleet. Modifying the Lakota to take on the Black Hawk’s mission or anything similar would drastically drive up costs and, without upgraded engines, adds little in terms of capability. And the Army is already shopping for more exotic designs like the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider with its compound rotor and push propeller.

MIGHTY GAMING

Lando Calrissian will get his own ‘Star Wars’ movie and it’s about time

Ahead of the premiere of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” many critics have praised Donald Glover’s portrayal of Lando Calrissian in the film, despite the film’s lukewarm overall reception. But more importantly, Glover’s role seems to have won over the people behind the movie.

On May 16, 2018, Lucasfilm studio chief Kathleen Kennedy told the French publication Premiere that she would “love” to give Lando Calrissian his own spin-off movie.


With over a week until the release of “Solo,” the film is projecting to be the worst-reviewed “Star Wars” film since “Attack of the Clones.”

“Solo” currently has a 72% critic rating on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, but many reviewers, including Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio, have heaped praise on Glover’s performance.

Guerrasio wrote in his review that Glover “completely knocks it out of the park as Lando Calrissian.”

In a review for The Atlantic, Christopher Orr wrote, “If you are not already a fan of Glover (and, let’s be clear, you should be), this ought to make you one.”

Critical praise for Glover’s role, along with Glover’s star rising from his Emmy-winning FX show, “Atlanta,” and his recent viral hit single as Childish Gambino, all rightfully have Lucasfilm encouraged to pursue a film with Glover in what would be his first blockbuster lead role.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

UPDATE: After the publication of the original article by Premiere, Lucasfilm clarified to the publication that while the company would “love” to devote a spin-off film to Lando in the future, such a film had not been confirmed yet and would not be “next” (as implied by the original Premiere article).

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The real-life ‘Chappy’ Sinclair from Iron Eagle was an Air Force legend

Airmen and 80s movie buffs are likely to be familiar with the 1986 cult classic Iron Eagle. Sometimes called the “Top Gun of the Air Force,” Iron Eagle did not have the big budget, box office success or star power that its Naval-based counterpart did (although the soundtrack did have its fair share of great songs). However, the film did feature Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. (of An Officer and a Gentleman fame) as Colonel Charles “Chappy” Sinclair, the wise Vietnam Veteran fighter pilot who gave Top Gun‘s Jester a run for his money. Chappy serves as a mentor to the main character, teenager Doug Masters played by Jason Gedrick, and guides him throughout the film.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Iron Eagle movie poster. (Credit to TriStar Pictures)

As a mentor, Chappy shares his knowledge and experience, gained in the unforgiving skies above Vietnam, with teenage Masters. An accomplished fighter pilot, Chappy helps Masters to acquire intelligence, create a rescue plan and steal two F-16 fighter jets to attack the fictional Middle Eastern country of Bilya where Masters’ father is being held. While these fictional feats are impressive, they pale in comparison to the accomplishments of the real-life Chappy.

Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr. was born on February 20, 1920 in Pensacola, FL. He graduated Tuskegee University in 1942 and received his pilot wings and commission as a 2nd LT at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Alabama on July 28, 1943. He remained at Tuskegee to train pilots for the all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron. Having completed training in the P-40 Warhawk fighter, Chappy trained on the B-25 Mitchell bomber and was stationed in Kentucky and Ohio until the end of the war.

Chappy first saw action during the Korean War. In 1949, he went to the Philippines as a flight leader in the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Wing at Clark Field. In July of the next year, he left for Korea where he also flew with the 44th and 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons in P-51 Mustang and F-80 Shooting Star fighters. During the war, Chappy flew a total of 101 combat missions.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Chappy poses with his P-51 Mustang in Korea. (Photo from the United States Air Force)

After the war, Chappy continued his Air Force career, holding commands and serving at a number of bases. In 1954, while stationed at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, Chappy was given the “Young Man of the Year” award by the Massachusetts Junior Chamber of Commerce for his outstanding community relations efforts. In June 1957, he graduated from the Air Command and Staff College.

After serving on staffs, and later as assistant director and director of operations for a number of wings, Chappy went to Thailand in 1966 to support combat missions in Vietnam. He became the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing vice commander under triple (then double) ace Col. Robin Olds. Flying from Ubon Air Base in Thailand, the two men created a strong and effective tactical command, earning them the nickname “Blackman and Robin.” In total, Chappy flew 78 combat missions into North Vietnam during the war.

Following his service in Vietnam, Chappy became the commander of the 7272nd Fighter Training Wing at Wheelus Air Base in the Libyan Arab Republic. Following the coup by radical Libyan military officers, including Muammar Gaddafi, the U.S. announced plans to close Wheelus Air Base. Wanting to see how far he could push the Americans, Gaddafi sent a column of armored half-tracks through the base housing area at full speed. Unamused by the stunt, Chappy closed the base gates and confronted Gaddafi. During their confrontation, Gaddafi kept his hand on the pistol in his hip holster. “I told him to move his hand away,” Chappy recalled having had his own .45 strapped to his hip. The future Libyan dictator complied. “If he had pulled that gun, his hand would have never cleared the holster.”

Chappy’s Air Force career saw him serve as principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice commander of the Military Airlift Command, commander in chief of NORAD/ADCOM, and special assistant to the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force. Chappy retired in 1978 as a four-star general, the first African-American to achieve the rank.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
General Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr. Command Photo. (Photo from the United States Air Force)

The next time you watch Iron Eagle, remember General Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr., the trailblazing African-American pilot who served in three wars, stared down Gaddafi, and dared to see just how far he could go.

Articles

The F-22 production line debate continues

When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.


He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”

Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying on January 27 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.

The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.

More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.

Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”

Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”

He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.

$20 Billion Restart

According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
F-22 image via John Dibbs of Lockheed Martin.

“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.

And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.

Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.

“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.

But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?

F-16s Instead of F-22s?

The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia)

The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.

“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”

One reason might be because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman nominated by President Donald Trump, to become the next Air Force Secretary, the analyst said. Until she’s confirmed, “the Air Force is worried about making any major decisions,” he said.

Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.

Upgrades Coming

Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.

As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.

By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.

“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’

“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
A formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires, set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.

Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.

“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.

The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.

The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.

As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.

A Magical Airframe?

Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.

Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.

Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”

Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”

Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.

In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”

Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”

The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.

Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Reality Winner sentenced to five years for Russia-hack leak

A U.S. intelligence worker who pleaded guilty to sending a secret report on Russian election cyberattacks to a news website was sentenced on Aug. 23, 2018 to five years in prison by a federal court in Georgia.

Reality Winner, 26, a U.S. Air Force veteran with a top-secret clearance who was working for an intelligence contractor, admitted to leaking secrets to The Intercept, which published details of the National Security Agency document in June 2017.


The revelation dealt with Russian hacking targeting a company that supplies election technology.

The U.S. Justice Department said Winner printed out and mailed the report in May 2017 to the website, which specializes in investigative reporting on national security topics.

She was arrested in June 2017 and reached a plea agreement two months ago, admitting one count of unlawful retention and transmission of national defense information.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

Reality Winner

(standwithreality.org photo)

A federal judge in Augusta, Georgia, accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Winner to five years and three months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

The sentence is the longest ever given to someone for illegally disclosing government information, Winner’s attorneys said, and it comes amid efforts by the White House to crack down on leaks to the press.

John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said Winner’s leaks “put our nation’s security at risk” and he hoped that her jail sentence “will deter others from similar unlawful action in the future.”

Betsy Reed, editor in chief of The Intercept, said that Winner should be honored and that her sentencing and other prosecutions of whistle-blowers are attacks on freedom of speech and of the press.

“Instead of being recognized as a conscience-driven whistle-blower whose disclosure helped protect U.S. elections, Winner was prosecuted with vicious resolve by the Justice Department,” Reed said.

Featured image: Reality Winner is seen in a photo released by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in the U.S. state of Georgia.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why I’m strong: How one military daughter feels about deployment

The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.

I wanted him to stay.


There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

(Military Spouse)

Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.

I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.

But it wasn’t okay.

Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.

Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.

Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.

It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.

If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.

You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.

Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.

Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.

Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.

Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

(Military Spouse)

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy vet goes from fighting in Iraq to fighting fires

Navy veteran Tyler Welch used to patrol the streets of Iraq as a corpsman. Now, he’s fighting a new battle against fires.

Welch is part of the Veterans Fire Corps crewmember program, run through the Southeast Conservation Corps. SECC is an AmeriCorps-affiliated non profit that engages recent-era veterans, partnering with the U.S. Forest Service Southeast Region. SECC started the Veterans Fire Corps program in 2018. The 10-month intensive training program engages recent-era military veterans up to age 35 in fuels reduction, fuels management, and wildland firefighting.

For veterans like Welch, the program is a perfect fit for his transition.


“Wildland firefighting had been an idea in the back of my head for a few years as a job to looking into when I got out of the military,” Welch said. “The program that SECC is running piqued my interest because it is a veteran program and is a lengthy training program allowing me to see several parts of the wildland world.”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Welch served tours in Hadditha, Iraq, with Marines as the senior corpsman; and in Basra, Iraq, and Kuwait as a search and rescue medical technician. Stateside, he served at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and at Naval Hospital Whidbey Island, Washington. Seeking a new challenge, he sought something that could use his military service.

“The biggest skills I’ve carried over from the military that have helped with the program are team work and leadership,” he said. “Additionally, just being able to grind and get the work done on the hard day. It’s not always easy or fun, but at the end of the day you look back and see what you accomplished.”

For those looking for a challenge, Welch had three pieces of advice. The first is to keep fit, as days are long. The second is carryover advice from military service: get a good pair of boots. The third is to go camp and get used to being in the woods, living out of a tent and campground.

VFC crews

VFC crewmembers can earn certifications related to fuels management. This includes courses on firefighting, wildland fires, chainsaws, incident management, first aid and CPR. Southeast National Forests use VFC, which facilitates opportunities for crew members to work across a variety of districts and landscapes while simultaneously assisting forests with a myriad of fuels related needs.

“This program is designed to engage veterans in a truly hands-on experience,” said SECC Director Brenna Kelly. “Through rigorous and repeated trainings as well as field-based project work, veterans will earn necessary certifications and practical experience needed to compete for career positions related to fire and natural resource management.”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Home base for VFC crews is the Conasauga Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia. The crew roves throughout the Southeastern United States for the duration of the program.

Some projects require members to work five days at a time with two days off. Other projects require camping and living on project locations for 8-14 days, with a set amount of days off. Members cannot use drugs or alcohol during work related travel at any time.

In addition to a stipend, members receive paid trainings and certifications and an education award upon program completion. Members also receive food and accommodations during overnight travel and transportation to and from work sites.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the MLK Memorial, the Mall’s newest monument

Adjacent to the FDR Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial sits on a four-acre site along the National Mall’s Tidal Basin. It shares a direct site line between the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials. 

The MLK memorial is one of the few at the Mall to have an official address. Its address is 1964 Independence Avenue, SW, in honor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. He became an iconic figure because of his use of nonviolent resistance and powerfully moving speeches. King led the March on Washington in 1963, where he gave his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech on the Lincoln Memorial’s steps. The bas-relief statue is intended to give the impression that King overlooks the Tidal Basin toward the horizon. Cherry trees that are at the site bloom every year during the anniversary of King’s death. 

The memorial opened in 2011 after more than twenty years of planning, fundraising, and construction, making it the newest at the National Mall. It’s the fourth in Washington, DC, to honor a non-president and the first to honor a man of color. The site is designed to be a lasting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy. This isn’t the first memorial to a person of color in Washington DC, but it is the first memorial of a person of color o or near the National Mall. Dr. King’s memorial is the fourth non-president to be memorialized in such a way. 

The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King. His likeness is carved into the Stone of Hope and emerges from two large boulders, the “Mountains of Despair.” Text from the “I Have a Dream” speech is cut into the rock of the Stone. “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” A 450-foot long inscription wall includes excerpts from King’s sermons and speeches. On the crescent-shaped wall, fourteen of King’s quotes are inscribed, the earliest from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama and the last from his final sermon in 1968, delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington DC, just four days before his assassination. 

(National Parks Service)

A ceremony dedicating the memorial was initially scheduled for Sunday, August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, but it was postponed until October 16, the 16th anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March. 

The memorial is the result of the early efforts of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. King was a member of that fraternity while he attended Boston University to complete his doctorate. King was heavily involved with the fraternity after he graduated. He delivered the keynote speech at the fraternity’s 50th-anniversary banquet in 1956. In 1968 after King’s assassination, Alpha Phi Alpha proposed erecting a memorial for Dr. King in Washington, DC. 

In 1996, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to allow Alpha Phi Alpha to create a memorial on the Department of Interior Lands in the District of Columbia. Congress gave the fraternity until 2003 to raise $100 million and break ground. Two years later, the Washington DC Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc was established to manage the memorial’s fundraising efforts and design. 

In 1999, the US Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission approved the memorial’s site location. 

ROMA Design Group was selected out of 900 candidates from 52 countries to create the memorial. On December 4, 2000, a marble and bronze plaque was laid by Alpha Phi Alpha members to dedicate the site. Shortly after, a full-time fundraising team began the promotional campaign for the memorial. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 13, 3006, in West Potomac Park.

By August 2008, leaders at the foundation estimated it would take an additional 20 months to construct the memorial with a final cost of $120 million. By December of that year, the foundation had raised about $108 million, including contributions from celebrities, large corporations, and other nonprofits, as well as the NBA, NFL, and filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. US Congress provided $10 million in matching funds as well.

Construction began in December 2009 and was completed two years later. As with all other memorials at the National Mall, the MLK memorial is free and open to the public. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The tiny mountainous country of Switzerland has been in a state of “perpetual neutrality” since the major European powers of the time declared it as such during the Congress of Vienna after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.

Why did they do this?

The French conquered Switzerland in 1798, establishing the Helvetic Republic in attempt to make Switzerland something of a strategically positioned French satellite state. Not long after, Austrian and Russian forces invaded the country in their war against France. The Swiss, rather than fighting alongside their French overlords, largely refused. This ultimately led to the Act of Mediation, giving the Swiss back much of their former independence. Twelve years later, they got the rest thanks to the aforementioned Congress of Vienna in which their neutrality in the wars of their neighbors was officially recognised.


Beyond the Swiss themselves having long tried to stay out of the conflicts of Europe (since the early 16th century after a devastating loss at the Battle of Marignano), part of the reason Switzerland was granted neutrality in perpetuity in 1815 is because the European powers of the time deemed that the country was ideally located to function as a “a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria.” Thus, granting their neutrality in wars, so long as they continued to stay out of them, would “contribute to stability in the region.”

Since that time, with a few minor exceptions, Switzerland has steadfastly refused to compromise its neutrality for any reason, though on the war-front they did suffer an exceptionally brief civil war in the mid-19th century resulting in only a handful of casualties. While minor in its scale, this civil war drastically changed the political landscape of the Swiss government, including the establishment of a constitution partially borrowing from the then less than a century old United States constitution.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

Swiss officer barracks in the Umbrail Pass during World War I.

In any event, as for those aforementioned “minor exceptions”, Switzerland has occasionally taken part in some global peacekeeping missions and prior to 1860 Swiss troops did sometimes take part in various skirmishes, despite their neutrality.

In more modern times, Switzerland needed to defend its borders from both Allied and Axis (see: How Did the Axis and Allies Get Their Names) air incursions during WW2. For instance, they shot down nearly a dozen German planes in the spring of 1940 alone, as well as shot down some American bombers and forced down countless others on both sides. This included grounding and detaining the crews of over a hundred Allied bombers that tried to fly over the country. When Hitler tried to counter Swiss measures at keeping the Luftwaffe from their skies by sending a sabotage team to destroy Swiss airfields, the Swiss successfully captured the saboteurs before they could carry out any bombings.

You might think it a bit silly for the Swiss to risk war with both sides by shooting or forcing down foreign aircraft from their skies, but on several occasions Allied bombers accidentally attacked Swiss cities, mistaking them for German ones. For instance, on April 1, 1944, American bombers, thinking they were bombing Ludwigshafen am Rhein, bombed Schaffhausen, killing 40 Swiss citizens and destroying over fifty buildings. This was not an isolated incident.

So how exactly did Switzerland, surrounded on all sides by Axis (or Central in WW1) and Allied powers during the wars to end all wars, manage to keep enemy troops at bay without much in the way of any fighting?

Officially Switzerland maintains a policy of “Aggressive Neutrality” meaning that although it actively avoids taking part in conflicts, as evidenced by their air-force activities during WW2, it will defend its own interests with vigour. How vigorous? To ensure other countries respect its neutral stance, Switzerland has long put itself into a terrifyingly over prepared position to fight, and made sure every country around them was, and is, well aware of this fact.

As for specifics, to begin with, a common misconception about Switzerland is that because it doesn’t actively take part in global military conflicts, that it doesn’t have a strong or well prepared military. In reality the Swiss military is a highly trained and competent fighting force, and due to the country’s policy of compulsory conscription of males (today women may volunteer for any position in the military, but are not required to serve) is surprisingly large for a country of only around eight million people.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

Swiss border patrol in the Alps during World War II.

In fact, approximately two-thirds of all males are ultimately deemed mentally and physically fit enough to serve in the Swiss military, meaning a huge percentage of their population is ultimately military trained. (Those who are not, and aren’t exempt because of a disability, are required to pay additional taxes until they are 30 to make up for not serving.)

As for what fighting force is actively maintained, the Swiss military today is only around 140,000 men strong and just this year it has been voted to reduce that to 100,000. This is a major downsize from just two decades ago when it was estimated the Swiss military had some 750,000 soldiers. For reference, this latter total is about half the size of the United States military today, despite Switzerland having only about eight million people vs. the United States’ three hundred million.

In addition to this, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and many Swiss people are highly competent in handling said firearms due to both compulsory military service and a strong culture of recreational shooting (half a million Swiss children are said to be part of a gun club of some kind).

This said, in recent years the rate of gun ownership has declined somewhat after a series of gun related incidents, such as one where a man shot his estranged wife with his old military issued rifle. Prior to the shooting, military conscripts would take their rifle home with them after their service ended and were expected to keep it ready for use in defending the country should the need arise.

After these incidents, the military curbed this and implemented a new policy stating that any conscript wishing to keep their gun after service must buy it and apply for a permit. As part of this new policy, the Swiss military also no longer provides ammunition with the guns, instead keeping it in secure locations that citizens must get to in the event of an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, generally speaking, Switzerland is prepared for near any global catastrophe from nuclear fallout to a surprise invasion from an enemy force thanks to a defensive plan it has been implementing since 1880, but which was doubled-down upon during WW2 and later during the Cold War.

Dubbed the Swiss National Redoubt, in a nutshell Switzerland has taken advantage of it unique natural geography, which includes mountains that surround it on nearly all sides, to build countless bunkers, fortifications and warehouses across the country that can be accessed at a moment’s notice. The full scale of the fortifications is a closely guarded secret, but some of them are kept in plain view as part of a comprehensive campaign of deterrence.

Initially the National Redoubt consisted of tunnels bored into the many mountains of Switzerland in key strategic positions for retreating troops and citizens to take shelter in, but over the years these have evolved to encompass a host of ingenious defensive and offensive structures. Along with tunnels and bunkers (which are fully stocked and contain everything from bakeries and hospitals to dormitories), the mountains of Switzerland also hide countless tanks, aircraft, and hidden artillery guns (some of which are pointed directly at Switzerland’s own roads to destroy them in the event of invasion).

Oddly for a landlocked country, Switzerland does maintain an active navy of sorts, though they don’t store any boats in its mountains as far as we could find. The naval branch of the Swiss forces’ primary role is in patrolling the country’s lakes on the border and providing aid in search and rescue operations.

As for more specifically how they kept themselves out of the world wars, during WW1, the Swiss military, under freshly appointed General Ulrich Wille, mobilised well over 200,000 Swiss soldiers and deployed them across its major entry points to deter any outside forces from considering waging war on the country. After it became apparent that Switzerland’s neutrality would be recognised by all powers in the first Great War, the vast majority of the Swiss troops were sent home. (In fact, in the final year of the war, the Swiss military had shrunk its numbers to just 12,000.) Nothing further was required to keep the Swiss out of WW1.

WW2 was a different beast altogether with Switzerland not banking on Hitler respecting their long-held neutral stance in European conflicts. Thus, newly appointed Swiss General Henri Guisan was given the unenviable task of trying to figure out a way to defend the small country from their neighbors, Hitler and his allies, despite that said powers drastically outmatched the Swiss army in a variety of ways.

Towards this end, leading up to the war, the Swiss withdrew from the League of Nations to help ensure their neutrality, began to re-build their military (bringing the number up to 430,000 combat troops within three days of the start of the war), and strongly encouraged its citizens to keep at minimum two months’ worth of supplies on hand at any given time. On top of that, they also began secret negotiations with France to join forces against Germany, should Germany attack Switzerland (a risky move that was discovered by the Germans after France fell to them).

But even with all that, knowing the Swiss couldn’t win if Hitler really wanted to invade, Guisan and co. made the decision to drastically ramp up their WW1 era strategy of making invading Switzerland as unsavory an option as possible. Guisan noted that by utilizing Switzerland’s harsh terrain, a comparatively small amount of Swiss soldiers in a secure defensive position could fight off a massive fighting force if the need ever arose. So the plan was essentially to perpetually defend and retreat to some fortified position over and over again, ultimately conceding the less defensible populated areas of the country once the government and citizens had managed a retreat into secret fortified positions in the Alps. They’d then use the Alps as a base from which to both launch guerrilla attacks to make life miserable for any successful invasion force and to use highly defensible positions there to keep crucial supply lines from the invaders.

More controversially, Switzerland continued to trade with Nazi Germany during the war in order to further de-incentivise Hitler from invading. (There is some speculation that some of the Allies’ “accidental” attacks on Switzerland were really not accidents at all, given that some of the buildings that were blown up were factories supplying the Axis powers.)

The multi-pronged plan worked and, while Hitler did have a detailed plan in place to invade Switzerland eventually, the cost of doing so was always too high given the Axis power’s troubles both on the Eastern and Western fronts. Thus, Switzerland was largely ignored by both Allies and the Axis throughout WW2, despite its amazingly well placed location right next to Germany, Italy, France, and Austria.

Switzerland stepped up their level of defence during the Cold War, again mostly out of a desire to deter any potential invaders. This time, however, the focus was on “aggressively” defending Switzerland’s borders instead of defending them only long enough to cover a retreat into the well fortified mountains.

Towards this end, Switzerland’s roads, bridges and train lines were rigged with explosives that could be detonated at any time. In many cases, the engineers who designed the bridges were required to come up with the most efficient way, using explosives, to ensure the complete destruction of those same bridges. Once the destruction plan was developed, hidden explosives were installed at the appropriate locations in the bridges. On top of that, the military also lined hundreds of mountains flanking major roads with explosives to create artificial rockslides. All total, over three thousand points of demolition are publicly known to have been implemented throughout the small country.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

Large-scale construction of hangers were conducted by the Swiss military in the 1950s.

With ground attacks covered, the Swiss looked to the skies. Unfortunately for them, attack by air is much harder to defend against for a country so small that enemy air forces could penetrate anywhere within its borders before an adequate defence could be mustered to defend its cities. To protect against this, the Swiss government constructed thousands of bomb shelters in homes, towns and cities to such a degree that it’s estimated that anywhere between 80 to 120 percent of the country’s population could hide in them for extended periods. Many of these shelters also included small hospitals and the necessary equipment to set up independent command centers. In fact, homes built after WW2 were often made with over 40 cm (16 in.) thick concrete ceilings to help them survive aerial bombings. If your home didn’t accommodate such a shelter, you had to pay a tax to support places that did.

It’s also rumoured that much of Switzerland’s gold supply as well as vast supplies of food stores have been similarly squirreled away somewhere in the Alps, which comprise just over half of the country’s total land area.

As a further example of how ridiculously well prepared the Swiss are for any and all threats, there are things like hidden hydroelectric dams built inside of unmarked mountains so that in the event of mass bombings, they’ll still have electricity from these secret facilities. And, remember, these are the things the Swiss government has let us know about. It is thought that there are probably more fortifications and hidden goodies scattered about the country’s landscape.

Since the end of the Cold War (see How Did the Cold War Start and End), similar to how the Swiss government has been slowly disarming its population and reducing its standing army, decommissioning some of these fortifications has begun in order to reduce government spending. The Swiss government is somewhat coy about the extent of this disarming, but it has been reported that many of the more extreme defenses, such as the explosives that used to be hidden inside the country’s bridges and along its road and railways, have been removed. As for the bunkers, unfortunately, simply abandoning many of these facilities is not an option, and it’s fairly expensive to decommission them.

As such, as the head of security policy for the federal Department of Defense, Christian Catrina, said “…in most cases we’d be glad if someone would take them off our hands for no price”.

In some cases, this has resulted in companies using the ridiculously well protected and secure mountain facilities as data repositories and server farms. In one such converted bunker, the servers inside are even completely protected from outside electromagnetic impulses that result from nuclear explosions.

In another, detailed instructions on how to build devices for reading all known data storage formats, even older formats like floppy disks, are kept, so that if that knowledge is otherwise lost, future generations can still decode our data storage devices to access the data within correctly. Essentially, the researchers involved in this particular project have attempted to create a “Rosetta Stone” of data formats and are using a ridiculously secure Swiss bunker as the storage point for that knowledge.

As a result of military downsizing, the fate of the rest of the fortifications is unclear and there are calls to decommission all of them, despite the estimated billion dollar price tag to do so. There is even a growing minority of the Swiss population who would like to see the entire military disbanded, including ceasing mandatory conscription.

But for now, at least, any country that wishes to ignore Switzerland’s long-held neutrality in military conflicts will find the tiny country an exceptionally difficult one to conquer and occupy. And presumably if war ever again threatens Swiss’ borders, regardless of how small they make their military today, they’ll likely keep themselves in a position to rapidly ramp back up their defences as they did for WW1 and WW2.

Bonus Facts:

  • Shortly before WW2, Switzerland passed the Swiss Banking Act, which allowed bank accounts to be created anonymously, in no small part to allow German Jews to squirrel their liquid assets away into accounts that the Third Reich would have difficulty finding out about or getting access to.
  • The term “Swiss Army Knife” was coined by United States soldiers after WWII. The soldiers had trouble pronouncing the original name of “Schweizer Offiziersmesser” (Swiss Officer’s Knife) and thus began calling the multi-tool a “Swiss Army Knife”. The company that makes Swiss Army Knives is Victorinox, named after the founder, Karl Elsener’s, deceased mother, Victoria. The “nox” part comes from the fact that stainless steel is also known as “inox”, which is short for the French term “inoxydable”.
  • Karl Elsener himself was originally the owner of a surgical equipment company. He later took over production of the original Modell 1890 knives, which were previously made in Germany. He moved the production to Switzerland and greatly improved the design of the original multi-tool. His big breakthrough came when he figured out a way to put blades on both sides of the handle using the same spring to hold both sides in place. This allowed him to put twice as many features into the multi-tool as was previously possible.
  • There has been a “fact” floating around that Switzerland has the highest number of guns per citizen and the lowest rate of people killed by firearms per year, but this isn’t correct. Switzerland is actually 4th in number of guns per 100 people (at 45.7 guns per 100), though does maintain a relatively low number of deaths per year due to firearms at just 3.84 per 100,000, which is good enough for 19th place overall. However, it should also be noted that 3.15 of those deaths per 100,000 are suicide. Their homicide rate (.52 per 100,000) is good enough for 31st place, with the rest of deaths from firearms (.17 per 100,000) being either accidental or undetermined.
  • While the United States has by far the most guns per capita at 94.3 guns per 100 residents, it is only 12th in firearm related deaths per capita at 10.3 per 100,000 people. 6.3 of those 10.3 firearm related deaths are suicides. This equates to the U.S. being in 14th place on the number of firearm related homicides per 100,000 and overall 103rd as far as total murders per 100,000 at 4.8. For reference, that’s four times the murders per 100,000 than the United Kingdom, which sits in 169th place in murders per 100,000.
  • Number 1 by far in firearm related deaths per 100,000 is Honduras with 64.8 deaths per 100,000 from firearms. Surprisingly, Honduras only has 6.2 guns for every 100 people in the country. Honduras also has the highest rate of murders per 100,000 overall at 91.6.
  • On average, more people commit crimes in Switzerland who aren’t Swiss citizens than who are every year, which has very recently led to harsher deportation laws. In fact, of the top 25 nationalities to commit crimes in Switzerland, 21 of them commit more crimes than the Swiss while on Swiss soil, with the average of all those immigrants being 390% more crimes than are committed by Swiss citizens. Immigrants specifically from Austria, France, and Germany to Switzerland, however, commit an average of only 70% of the crimes the Swiss do on Swiss soil.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force wing completes first Combat Archer at Eglin AFB

F-22 Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron and F-35 Lightning IIs from the 58th Fighter Squadron successfully flew more than 140 sorties and fired 13 missiles to culminate the first post-Hurricane Michael Combat Archer air-to-air exercise at Eglin Air Force Base Dec. 14, 2018.

“This is the final step of our combat readiness — we assess our operations and maintenance personnel as well as the aircraft itself,” said Lt. Col. Marcus McGinn, 27th Fighter Squadron commander. “We need to make sure we have the ability to load missiles, the aircraft are configured correctly, the aircraft perform as they should when you press the pickle button, the missile performs as advertised and the pilots know what to expect. All of these aspects must be tested and proven prior to actually needing the process to work in combat.”


The 27th FS brought 200 personnel from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, to participate in the exercise, which was flown out of Eglin AFB due to the rebuilding efforts at Tyndall AFB.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

Senior Airman Angel Lemon, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, marshals an F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, during exercise Combat Archer Dec. 4, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

“The amount of coordination that goes into a single missile shoot cannot be quantified. The ability for the 83rd Fighter Weapon Squadron to accomplish this coordination across two different locations, with the infrastructure limitations that Tyndall (AFB) currently has, was unbelievable,” said McGinn.

This was the second Combat Archer the 27th Fighter Squadron has participated in this year. Of the 30 F-22 pilots, six were first-time shooters.

“While this was the first time I fired a live missile, I wasn’t nervous,” said 1st Lt. Jake Wong, 27th Fighter Squadron F-22 pilot. “There is the seriousness that I have a live missile on my jet today, which is not something we do every day. The training is really good and the flight profile is controlled so we know what to expect to ensure we fire the missile safely.”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron awaits permission to taxi as an F-22 Raptor assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron takes off in the background, Dec. 4, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

While the aircraft took off from Eglin AFB, the sub-scale drones assigned to the 82 ATRS, took off from Tyndall AFB.

“No other Air Force in the world comes close to the same scale of weapons testing as the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters’ ability which is why it was important to resume the Combat Archer mission so soon after the hurricane.”

The 83rd FWS conducted telemetry data collection and missile analysis, 81st Range Control Squadron conducted command and control and the 53rd Test Support Squadron provided electronic attack pods out of Tyndall AFB.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The House just passed a veteran mental healthcare act

Veterans denied basic mental health care service benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs because of an “other than honorable” discharge may soon be able to receive the care they need.


The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, spearheaded by Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican and Marine Corps combat veteran.

“Today, this House sent a critical message to our men and women in uniform,” Coffman said in a release. “That message is that you are not alone. We are here to help those suffering from the ‘invisible’ wounds of war.

“The passage of [this bill] is an important bipartisan effort to ensure that our combat veterans receive the mental health care services they need. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line,” he said.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Photo courtesy of VA.

The legislation, H.R. 918, would require the VA to provide initial mental health assessments and services deemed necessary, including for those at risk of suicide and or of harming others, regardless of whether the individual has an “other than honorable” discharge.

Currently, individuals who have such discharges, known as “bad paper,” are not eligible for veteran benefits beyond some emergency mental health services. Veterans who received a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge would still be ineligible to access the services.

“It’s important that we give all of our combat veterans, irrespective of the discharges they receive, access to mental health care through the Veterans [Affairs Department],” Coffman told Military.com during an interview in February, when he reintroduced the bill.

He is the only House member to serve in both the first Iraq War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

At the time, Coffman said of the “bad-paper” separations, “I question the nature of the discharges in the first place, and I’m exploring that.”

Read Also: This is what John McCain thinks of the VA’s Veterans CARE Act proposal

May 2017 Government Accountability Office report found 62 percent of the 91,764 service members separated for minor forms of misconduct between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2015 had been diagnosed within two years prior to separation with post- traumatic stress disordertraumatic brain injury or other conditions that could be associated with their misconduct, according to the release.

The bill applies to those with other-than-honorable discharges who served in a combat zone or area of hostilities; piloted unmanned aircraft; or experienced a military sexual trauma.

The VA secretary can sign off on outside care if specific care at a VA facility is clinically inadvisable; or if the VA is unable to provide necessary mental health care due to geographic location barriers.

H.R. 918 also requires the VA to establish a formal “character of service” determination process, triggering reviews of the “character of discharge” for potential eligibility of VA benefits.

High Ground Veterans Advocacy, a grassroots organization training veterans to become leaders and activists in their local communities, has advocated for the move.

“There are some veterans out there who’ve been waiting for this day for decades — but there’s still a fight ahead of us,” said High Ground founder and chairman Kristofer Goldsmith.

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

“Until the Senate passes this bill, and the president signs it — some of our nation’s most vulnerable veterans, who served between Vietnam and today’s Forever Wars, are being denied the holistic care that they deserve from the VA,” he said in an email.

Goldsmith continued, “Today, the House recognized that the United States has failed to care for hundreds of thousands of veterans in the way that they deserve — veterans who were administratively discharged and stripped of a lifetime of essential benefits without the right to due process.

“But the problem isn’t yet fixed. Until Congress holds hearings dedicated to looking at the problem of bad-paper discharges, we won’t have all available solutions on the table,” he said.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Jul. 29

After another week of keeping the barracks secure from enemy attack, Pokemon, and —most importantly—the staff duty NCO, you deserve some funny military memes. Here are 13 of the best that we could find:


1. Wait, you can get out of PT just because you’re already dead?

(via The Salty Soldier)

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
My drill sergeant lied to me.

2. Look, some objects on the runway are hard to see. It was an honest mistake (via Sh-t my LPO says).

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Do you think it damaged the engine?

SEE ALSO: The top 6 reasons civilians back out of military service

3. In the dog’s defense, typing those six words takes him more time than it takes most humans to type six paragraphs (via Sh-t my LPO says).

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

4. Just 3 more years of hibernation and he’ll emerge as a salty civilian (via Marine Corps Memes).

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Or a super salty staff NCO.

5. “I just can’t even. Can’t. Even.”

(via The Salty Soldier)

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

6. Stop your jokes. That’s a vessel of the United States Coast Guard (via Coast Guard Memes).

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Respect its authority!

7. That buffalo is only wearing the branch to get you to stop throwing Pokeballs at it (via Air Force Nation).

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

8. “I also spent plenty of time studying for my advancement exams.”

(via Military Memes)

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
BTW, why did Pinocchio’s nose grow? That’s a really specific punishment for lying.

9. Be careful. They sometimes hide them under objects on the side of the road (via Military Memes).

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Also in potholes. And dead bodies. And ….

10. As soon as a soldier pulls off this move, they’ve won the smoke session, so stop (via Devil Dog Nation).

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

11. He just wanted to get rid of his Pidgey rank and become a “full-Charizard colonel” instead (via Air Force Memes Humor)

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
BTW, yes. There will probably one Pokemon meme per list for the foreseeable future. I am trying to keep it to just one, though.

12. Uh, you’re not done until I can see my face in those things (via Sh-t my LPO says).

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
That joke was funny for probably 10 minutes. That boot was stained for the rest of its existence.

13. “It was my turn to go through the intersection!”

(via Military Memes)

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

Articles

11 of the craziest lines ever spoken in battle

In the heat of battle, some people freeze up, some charge forward, and some drop awesome lines like they’re trying to win a rap battle.


These quotes are from the third category.

1. “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach! The dead and those who are going to die! Now, let’s get the hell out of here!”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Photo: public domain)

This was shouted by Army Col. George Taylor as he urged his men forward at Normandy on D-Day. According to survivors, Taylor yelled a few different versions of this quote during the landings at Omaha Beach and all of them had the desired effect, spurring American soldiers forward against the Nazi guns firing on the beach.

2. “All right. They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us … They can’t get away this time.”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller gave us tons of great quotes. This particular one he spit out while Chinese forces surrounded his men at the Chosin Reservoir. The Marines were expected to fight what essentially amounted to a doomed delaying action as the Chinese wiped them out. Instead, the Marines broke out and slaughtered their way through multiple enemy divisions.

3. “Nuts!”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Army Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe led the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge. The Americans were outnumbered, surrounded, and running short on supplies when a German delegation requested their surrender. McAuliffe was awoken with the news and sleepily responded “Nuts!” before heading to meet his staff who had to draft the formal response to the German commander.

The staff decided that the general’s initial response was better than anything they could write. While under siege and near constant attack, the paratroopers typed the following centered on a sheet of paper:

December 22, 1944

To the German Commander,

N U T S !

The American Commander

4. “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
Admiral David Farragut during the Civil War. (Photo: Public Domain)

In April 1862, Vice Adm. David Farragut was leading a fleet to capture Mobil Bay, Alabama, and cut off the major port. While sailing into the city, a Union ship hit Confederate mines in the water that were then known as torpedoes. Farragut yelled his now immortal line, sailed through the mines, and was victorious.

5. “Another running gun battle today … Wahoo runnin’, destroyer gunnin'”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

The USS Wahoo was an enormously successful U.S. submarine in World War II that sank five Japanese ships totaling 32,000 tons — including an entire four-ship convoy — during its third cruise. Near the end of the patrol, the Wahoo tried to sink a second convoy but was surprised by a previously unspotted Japanese destroyer outfitted for anti-submarine operations.

The Wahoo was forced to run, evading a barrage from the destroyer’s cannons and a depth charge attack. The commander signaled Pearl Harbor with the above message and escaped. The quote was slightly changed and ran as a headline in the Hawaiian Advertiser after the patrol.

6. “I may sink, but I’m damned if I’ll strike.”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
John Paul Jones was vilified as a pirate in Britain, but was a hero in America. (Photo: Public Domain)

Navy legend John Paul Jones helped create the sea service during the American Revolution and, in an epic battle with the HMS Serapis, gave at least a couple of epic quotes including this one when he was asked to surrender.

A more famous quote from the battle was “I have not yet begun to fight!” but the Navy isn’t sure that Jones actually said it since the words were first attributed to him 46 years after the battle.

7. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Navy chaplain was trying to keep the men of the USS New Orleans going. He saw a group of men tiring as they carried anti-aircraft ammunition to the guns and patted one of them on the back while speaking this phrase to motivate them. It was later incorporated into songs during the war.

8. “They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.”

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(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Augustine)

While Gen. George S. Patton gets most of the headlines for liberating the 101st during the Battle of the Bulge, another tank legend was leading the charge through German lines, Col. Creighton S. Abrams, who allegedly uttered the awesome words above.

Stephen E. Ambrose’s famous book “Band of Brothers” attributes a similar quote, “They’ve got us surrounded — the poor bastards,” to an unknown Army medic. As the story goes, the medic was telling an injured corporal why none of the wounded had been evacuated.

9. “Goddamn it, you’ll never get the Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!”

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(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

A few different books attribute this quote to Marine Capt. Henry P. Jim Crowe. Crowe commanded a regimental weapons company during the land battle on Guadalcanal. A Japanese machine gun had pinned down a Marine advance and Crowe yelled these words to the men huddling in a shell hole. As a group, they charged the guns behind Crowe and took out the enemy position.

10. “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

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(Painting: The Battle of Bunker’s Hill by E. Percy Morgan)

Americans most often associate this line with the Battle of Bunker Hill, but there’s evidence it was said by different officers at a few points in history. At Bunker Hill in 1775, the order was given by at least one of the leaders of Patriot forces building new fortifications on Bunker and Breed’s Hills near Cambridge, Massachusetts. The intent was to preserve the limited powder and shot.

The gambit worked, allowing the Patriots to inflict major damage with their initial volleys, but it wasn’t enough for the outnumbered and outgunned Americans to hold the hills.

11. “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?”

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The above line is commonly attributed to Marine Corps legend Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, though there’s some question on whether he said it and — if he did — if those were his exact words. Daly once told a Marine historian that he yelled “For Christ’s sake, men — Come on! Do you want to live forever!”

The Marine who recounts hearing “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?” was in another part of the battlefield, so it’s possible that two Marines yelled similar lines in different parts of Belleau Wood or that someone misremembered a line yelled in one of World War I’s most dramatic battles.

Either way, the quote is pretty awesome.

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