Gunfire sounds in the background. In an adjacent alleyway, Islamic State snipers keep watch for movement. On the roof above our heads the Iraqi Security Forces are pouring fire into buildings occupied by the terrorists.
Five members of the Iraqi Federal Police sit on chairs and boxes in a street, sheltered from the battle. One of their colleagues is busy trying to pry open a box of .50 caliber ammo, as another man feeds a belt of bullets into the squad’s machine gun. It’s the sixth month of the battle to re-take Mosul and coming up on the third anniversary of Iraq’s war against ISIS.
In the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi Army has deployed a variety of its best units, including the 9th Armored Division, the black-clad Special Operations Forces, and the Federal Police.
The name may conjure up traffic stops and men rescuing kittens from trees, but in the Iraqi context “federal police” is a mechanized infantry unit: thousands of men in dark blue camouflage with Humvees and machine guns. Accompanying them is another elite unit called the ERD, or Emergency Response Division.
Together they have done the heavy lifting since January, when the operation to liberate West Mosul began. Street-by-street they have fought to dislodge what remains of the “caliphate.” There are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters left, according to the Iraqis and their American-led coalition allies. But these are the hard core — many of them foreign fighters, such as the Chechen snipers who have been dealing death on this front for months.
ISIS has burrowed into the Old City of Mosul, into buildings that date back hundreds of years. Here they are making one of their last stands around the Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.
They’ll fight to the death in the basement of the mosque, an Iraqi officer thinks.
Lieutenant Col. John Hawbaker, commander of a combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, served in Iraq during the surge of 2005-2006, when America was fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He says the contrast today is extraordinary.
Ten years ago the Iraqi Army was more limited than today.
“The Federal Police are extremely professional and disciplined and capable, and that’s one of the biggest differences from 10 years ago,” he declares. The U.S.-led coalition that is helping to defeat ISIS stresses that the Iraqis are fully in charge of the operation and they are the ones leading it.
Jared Kushner and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford were in Baghdad on April 3 to illustrate the high priority the U.S. puts on Iraq’s efforts to crush ISIS.
That’s obvious on the ground. Although the coalition provides artillery and air support, there is no visible presence of coalition forces at the front. It is Iraqis carrying the fight.
The older Iraqi officers have been fighting ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other cities for the last two years. They say the battle for Mosul is difficult, because ISIS cannot retreat there and has to fight to the last man. But they’ve seen more serious battles in 2015 when ISIS was stronger.
Their men have been forged in this war. As we crawled through holes smashed in the walls of houses to make our way to the roof of one position, soldiers were in each room. One team was looking out for snipers, another preparing RPGs, and others catching a bit of rest on cots. On the roof, soldiers are unlimbering an SPG-9, a kind of long-barreled cannon on a tripod that fires RPGs through a small hole cut in the wall.
“The ISF have victory in hand — it is inevitable; they know it and ISIS knows it. Everyone can see and knows they will win,” says Hawbaker.
ISIS was like a shot in the arm for Baghdad; it provided the existential threat that has led to the creation of an increasingly professional, stronger army that is more self-assured than it was before 2014. The next years will reveal if Iraq can build on that success.
There’s a lot of debate over which President has the most impressive military background, and history provides no clear winner. That doesn’t matter though, because today, YOU decide. We’ve rounded up some of the best and brightest Commanders-in-Chief in American history, and want your feedback on their stories of war, heroism, and military ingenuity. Read through the list, pick your favorite, and cast your vote! The favorite might surprise you.
1. Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt didn’t do anything halfway, especially when it came to military strategy. When war broke out in Cuba in 1898, he ditched his post as assistant secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley to form his own volunteer Calvary regiment, the Rough Riders. It was basically a club of badass cowboys, college athletes and lumberjacks who were used to tearing it up on horseback — only now they did it for America, which was even cooler. Once Teddy rounded everyone up, they headed to Cuba, where they would forever leave their mark in the Spanish-American War at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
With only 500 Spanish villagers left standing to protect the town, the nearly 8,000 American troops at the battle thought it was just about over. They soon discovered, however, that higher ground gave their enemies a distinct advantage, and Teddy ordered his Rough Riders up the slope — despite the fact that the men were now on foot and hundreds had already fallen.
Teddy’s men successfully charged and captured both Kettle and San Juan Hill, leading to the Spanish defeat and ultimate surrender just a few weeks later. His military valor and infectious tenacity both at the front lines and behind the podium would later ignite a huge political following, and make him one of the greatest leaders of the United Sates.
2. John F. Kennedy
When most people think of JFK, his military service in World War II tends to take a back seat to the more colorful aspects of his personality and presidency. And while anecdotes about his charisma, good looks and alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe make for great cocktail party banter, one of the most interesting segments of Kennedy’s life happened long before Camelot.
In 1941, the 24-year-old Kennedy volunteered to serve in the Navy. He would soon become a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, and command the Patrol Torpedo Craft (PT) USS PT 109, attacking the Japanese shipping boats dubbed “The Tokyo Express.” The Tokyo Express supplied Japanese forces that were based throughout the island network of the Pacific, and it was the duty of the small PT boats to cut them off before they could reach their destination, as well as aid the U.S. Army and Marine Corps for onshore attacks.
The work was hard, but nothing extraordinary — until disaster struck on August 2, 1943. Kennedy had the PT 109 running silent, hoping to go unnoticed by the Japanese, when the watercraft was blindsided by the Amagiri, a Japanese destroyer running perpendicular to the boat at 40 knots. The large warship ripped Kennedy’s boat in half, gutting the watercraft and sending the entire crew into the ocean. One of the surviving men, engineer Patrick Mahone, was badly injured by fuel that had exploded below decks, and Kennedy towed him through the water to a small island that was four miles away, gripping his life vest to keep his head above water. When the eleven survivors finally collapsed on the sand, they had been in the ocean for nearly fifteen hours.
If that’s not impressive enough, JFK got his men off the island by carving a message into a coconut and giving it to two natives, who then delivered it to the PT base at Rendova, ensuring the rescue of Kennedy and his crew.
The men were rescued on August 8th, four days after their boat was destroyed. JFK would later encase the coconut shell in wood and plastic and use it as a paperweight for his documents in the Oval Office. How is this not a movie yet?
3. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson is one of the more, if not the most, notorious presidents the United States has ever had. His bombastic personality and deeply controversial decision to move Native American tribes to reservations has left many people skeptical — if not deeply disapproving — of his contributions as Commander- in-Chief.
Before he stepped foot in the White House, however, Jackson was making waves in a different way. When he was only 13 years-old, Jackson’s mother was killed during the British invasion of South Carolina in 1788, and Jackson and his brother were taken prisoner by nearby troops. When ordered to shine an officer’s boots, Jackson refused, causing the officer to slash the side of his face with his sword. His brother would later fall ill and die while they were still in confinement, leaving Jackson alone. The event would leave physical and psychological scars that lasted into Jackson’s adult life, and likely forged the defiant, fearless personality that would bring him military success.
Jackson served as a major general in the War of 1812, leading U.S. forces against the Creek Indians, who were British allies at the time. After a five-month assault against the natives, Jackson secured the U.S. an overwhelming victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The best-known example of Jackson’s military valor, however, was not even technically part of the War of 1812 under which it was fought. The Battle of New Orleans occurred after the close of the war, but before the Treaty of Ghent — an agreement signed by British and American representatives that effectively ended the war — had reached Washington.
Jackson and a rag-tag band of slaves, frontiersman, militia fighters and pirates took down a full-frontal assault from British forces, despite inferior numbers, training and supplies. News of the impossible victory took the nation by storm, and people were so enamored with Jackson’s military prowess that they didn’t really care when word got out that the entire battle was essentially pointless.
The battle wasn’t entirely devoid of merit, however. The victory helped bar British forces from invading the American frontier, and would later lead to Jackson’s invasion of the Florida territory, which was under Spanish rule at the time. Jackson managed to conquer both St. Mark’s and Pensacola, ensuring the American Acquisition of Florida later in 1821.
Other interesting points of Jackson’s military history: He was the first and only President to be a former prisoner of war, and is estimated by many historians to have competed in nearly 100 duels. Old Hickory was no pushover. In one duel against Charles Dickinson, a local horse breeder who had insulted Jackson’s wife in the National Review, Dickinson shot Jackson square in the chest, at which point Jackson shot back, shooting his opponent dead. He carried the bullet in his chest for the rest of his life.
4. George Washington
George Washington is a figure that completely encompasses American identity, and is treated by many as a kind of national demi-god. Politicians, historians and school teachers around the nation continue to sing the praises of the father of the United States, but it’s easy to forget what this guy actually did among all the patriotic white noise.
One of the first aspects of his life that tends to fall by the wayside is his military achievements. Young Washington’s first taste of war came in 1752, when he joined the British military at twenty years old to fight for control of the upper Ohio Valley during the French and Indian War. Before he became a soldier he had trained as a land surveyor, and his superiors were quick to have him lead expeditions in and around Virginia, the state he grew up in.
During one expedition under British Gen. Braddock, the French and their Native American allies ambushed Washington and the rest of the troops. Braddock was killed almost immediately, and Washington promptly took over, leading the surviving soldiers in a carefully executed retreat. The governor of Virginia would later raise Washington’s rank to colonel to reward him for his military valor, and he was tasked with protecting much of the western frontier.
During his service under the British militia, Washington’s view of the colonies’ mother nation soured. He felt that the British military commanders had little understanding of colonial life and were rude and dismissive towards colonial leaders. This seed would later grow into Washington’s full-on rebellion against British rule, when he formed the Continental Army in June of 1775 and was elected commander-in-chief.
Washington immediately set about forming a navy, creating policies on how to interact with Loyalists, and leading campaigns to gain allies both on the home-front and abroad. The most impressive military moment of Washington’s time as general, however, was arguably the crossing of the Delaware.Washington and his men had hunkered down in Brooklyn Heights, anticipating a British attack on New York City. Gen. Sir William Howe, the British commander of the navy, had other plans. Howe drove Washington’s army out of Long Island and captured the majority of the colonial army, claiming New York City.
Despite this defeat and the colossal British military force — a whopping 34,000 redcoats to a measly 2,400 American soldiers — Washington didn’t give up.
Instead, in the early, freezing hours of December 26, 1776, Washington and his surviving men crossed over the Delaware River, initiating a surprise attack on Hessian soldiers gathered in Trenton, New Jersey. They would ultimately capture 900 men, later prompting British forces to abandon New Jersey. This embarrassing display of British defeat was a huge source of hope and pride for the American colonists. Washington had many military victories big and small during the Revolutionary War, but his military prowess in New York invigorated an entire people, giving the patriot cause the fuel that it needed to continue to fight — and win — the war for America.
5. Ulysses S. Grant
Though many historians and war buffs contest that Robert E. Lee was one of the greatest American generals of history — and certainly the greater of the two military leaders of the American Civil War — President Ulysses S. Grant made incredible gains for the United States.
Before he became a Civil War hero, Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 and fought in the Mexican War under Gen. Zachary Taylor, where he would gain valuable military experience and be praised for his combat skills and bravery on the battlefield. During this time however, Grant began to fall into a depression. Without the anchor of his wife, Julia, and their young family, he felt alone and aimless. He would eventually turn to alcohol as a means of easing his distress, before retiring to civilian life in 1854 in an attempt to regain control of his life.
When Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers at the start of the Civil War, however, Grant rushed back to the battlefield. He began as the colonel of a regiment in Illinois before being promoted to Brigadier General. Then, after his success in the Western Theater in 1863, he was granted command of all Union armies in 1864. From there, Grant’s star would rise to immeasurable heights.
Grant was also referred to as “Unconditional Surrender Grant,” a nod to his demands at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, two crucial Confederate posts that he captured. Some felt that his military strategy and trademark terms of surrender were too brutal, but Lincoln stood behind him, reportedly stating, “I cannot spare this man, he fights.”
It was under Grant’s leadership that Gen. William T. Sherman wreaked havoc on Georgia, burning his way through the South during his March to the Sea, also known as the Savannah campaign. Grant himself would fight against Lee and the Confederate forces at Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor and Petersburg, instigating brutal slaughter on both sides of the battle but ultimately weakening the rebel army. Lee Finally broke under Grant’s relentless attacks at the battle of Richmond, where he would flee and then later surrender at Appomattox, securing Grant’s victory and his place in the American Military’s Hall of Fame.
The new red, white, and blue paint job would be a change from the light blue color scheme designed by President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, in the 1960s and which has appeared on every presidential aircraft since.
On October 19, 1962, Boeing delivered a highly modified version of the civilian 707-320B airliner with the serial number 62-26000. It would be tasked with Special Air Missions and get the call sign “SAM Two-six-thousand.”
It was the first jet aircraft built specifically for the US president, and when he was on board the call sign changed to “Air Force One,” which was adopted in 1953 for use by planes carrying the president.
The SAM 26000 would carry eight presidents in its 36-year career — Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton — as well as countless heads of state, diplomats, and dignitaries.
Below, you can take a tour of the SAM 26000, which is now on display at the National Museum of the Air Force and which one Air Force historian said could justifiably be called “the most important historical airplane in the world.”
In addition to the blue and white colors they picked, the words “United States of America” were painted along the fuselage, and a US flag was painted on the tail. Kennedy reportedly chose the font because it resembled the lettering on an early version of the Constitution.
In June 1963, the plane flew Kennedy to Berlin, where he delivered his “Ich bin ein Berliner,” or “I am a Berliner,” speech.
During the flight into Berlin, “The Russians put MiGs (fighter planes) up on both our wings so we would stay in the corridor over East Germany to West Berlin. They didn’t want us to spy,” said Col. John Swindal, who became commander of Air Force One at the start of Kennedy’s presidency.
That afternoon, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson helped staffers pull the the casket into the rear of the plane, where seats had been removed to make space. Johnson was sworn in as president on the plane prior to takeoff.
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. John Hames, who worked as a steward on Air Force One between 1960 and 1975, was one of the crew members who helped remove seats to make room for the casket.
“We served a lot of beverages (Scotch) on the way back,” Hames said in 1998. “It was a long ride back to Washington. Nobody wanted to eat. Mrs. Kennedy was in shock. She still had on the blood-stained clothes.”
“You can stand on that spot where President Kennedy’s casket came in — you think about the horror of what was going on and the shock of what happened,” Underwood said. “You can look forward toward the nose of the aircraft and know that’s where the transfer of power took place, and you can see where Mrs. Kennedy sat near the body of her slain husband.”
The SAM 26000 played a prominent role in the presidencies after Kennedy as well.
In 1998, retired Air Force Master Sgt. John Hames, a steward on Air Force One between 1960 and 1975, said the SAM 26000 “was so much faster that we had less time to prepare meals, but we got the job done.”
Kennedy was a “great person for soup. It was a comfort food for him,” Hames told The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1998. “President Johnson was kind of different. He told me that any beef prepared aboard Air Force One had to be well done. He didn’t care for rare beef the way the group from New England did.”
Nixon “ate fairly light … cottage cheese,” Hames said. “President Ford ate almost anything, but he was in such a short time.”
In 1964, Johnson invited reporter Frank Cormier and two colleagues into the plane’s bedroom for an improvised press conference. Johnson, who had just given a speech under the hot sun, “removed his shirt and trousers,” while answering their questions and then “shucked off his underwear” and kept talking while “standing buck naked and waving his towel for emphasis.”
As Nixon exited the plane in China, a “burly” aide “blocked the aisle” to keep staffers from following Nixon, Kissinger said later. Nixon didn’t want anyone messing up his photo with the Chinese premier.
Three months after ferrying him to China, the SAM 26000 took Nixon on an unprecedented visit to the Soviet Union.
Unsuccessful presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey was reportedly given a ride on the plane by President Richard Nixon, according to retired Chief Master Sgt. Stan Goodwin. During the trip between Washington and Minnesota, Humphrey made 150 phone calls to tell people he’d finally made it aboard Air Force One.
During a week of meetings with Soviet leaders, Nixon reached a number of agreements. One set the framework for a joint space flight in 1975. Another was the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), which contained a number of measures to limit the manufacture of strategic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
In October 1981, it took former presidents Carter, Nixon, and Ford on an uneasy trip to Egypt for the funeral of President Mohammed Anwar Sadat, who had been assassinated a few days before. Then-President Ronald Reagan did not attend because of security concerns.
Secretary of State Alexander Haig, as Reagan’s official representative, took the stateroom, leaving other officials with regular seats. The former presidents were “somewhat ill at ease,” Carter said later.
“It was one and only time that I’d seen three presidents and two secretaries of state standing in line to go to the men’s room,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Stan Goodwin, who manned the radio on the flight. Things were also tense among staffers on the trip. They reportedly bickered over who got bigger cuts of steak at dinner.
But it was Nixon, whose resignation in 1974 led to Ford taking office, who “surprisingly eased the tension” with “courtesy, eloquence, and charm,” Carter wrote later. Carter and Nixon’s interaction on the plane led to them developing a friendship.
The Boeing 707 that was acting as Air Force One got stuck in the mud at Willard Airport in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The SAM 26000, waiting nearby as an alternate, was called in to pick up the president.
The SAM 26000 was officially retired in March 1998, after logging more than 13,000 flying hours and covering more than 5 million miles. While it made more 200 trips in 1997 alone, the lack of parts for the plane as well as its high exhaust and noise levels led to its retirement.
Then-Vice President Al Gore took the plane’s final flight, traveling from Washington to Columbia, South Carolina. “If history itself had wings, it probably would be this very aircraft,” Gore said after the trip.
In May 1998, the plane arrived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. In a nationally televised event, the Air Force retired the plane and turned it over to the National Museum of the Air Force.
Each year thousands of men and women enter the military with different expectations. Some end up making their military service a career, while others call it a day after completing their first contract.
Whatever you decide, here’s a few tips on making those first enlisted years as manageable as possible.
1. Learn To Negotiate
It’s well known that the E-4 and below run the show. Since you probably fall into this demographic, you get told what to do more than you get to tell others.
Find out a few job perks your MOS or rate has that others may value and consider trading goods or services for it.
For instance: There’s a company-wide hike approaching, and you don’t feel like taking part. Get to know the staff at your local medical clinic and strike up a deal to get you out in exchange for something you have or can do for them later.
2. Out Of Sight — Out Of Mind
Staying under the radar can take the time to plan and practice to master. Knowing every nook and cranny in your general area can be useful when the boss enters with a job in mind and you need a place to hide.
3. Request Special Liberty
Here’s a sneaky little strategy that many might overlook.
Service members in good standing can get approved for free days off that won’t count against their accumulated leave days. Commands don’t advertise this option as much to their personnel when they submit single-day leave requests, but you can still ask for one.
The key to getting this option approved is to find a low-Karmic risk reason why you “need” a particular day off.
Note: You don’t want the false reason you use to ever come true. Choose wisely.
4. Volunteer for day time events
Morale, Wellness, and Recreation, or “MWR” is a non-profit organization that sponsors various entertainment events that are intended to boost the morale of all active duty members. The MWR members are primarily made up of volunteers themselves and are constantly looking for help.
The majority of MWR events are held during the afternoon. So you may have to cut out of work early to attend — and who wants to do that, right?
5. Put on a serious face
Most people tend to avoid conversation with another person who appears to be in deep thought or a bad mood. So use this look to your advantage when you just don’t feel like listening to people.
Consider using a prop like a clipboard to strengthen the effect.
6. Have a lookout
Skating isn’t always a solo effort — it can sometimes take a whole team to pull off correctly.
Your seniors were at some point a part of the E-4 Mafia where they learned the art of skating. Depending on your location, you may not have the proper viewing to spot when your first sergeant or chief comes barreling around the corner discovering you and your comrades playing grab ass.
Consider putting a lookout in a designed spot to warn everyone of the inbound coffee mug holding boss breaches the area. Also take turns on the lookout position. No one wants to only hear the fun.
7. Roll Call
Another one that calls for some backup.
The military’s made up of a lot of moving parts. People come and go handling various tasks throughout the day.
As long as you’re accounted for during roll call, you’ve pretty much got the upper hand on skating through whatever job lies ahead.
When a roll call starts, someone holding a clipboard, probably sporting a serious face like we talked about earlier will sound off a list of names from a sheet of paper. Once they hear the word “here!” shouted back to them they assume that’s the person they just called out for even if they haven’t lifted their eyes from the paper.
This works if the person calling out the names can’t put faces to those names or is in on the “skating.”
Have your buddies’ back if they are off skating somewhere, just make sure when you do it, they repay the favor.
8. Get your driver’s license
Driving a military vehicle on base requires the operator to have a special license. Getting the qualification can take some practice and concentration, but once you familiarize yourself with the multi-ton vehicle, you become an asset to the higher ups now that you can drive them around.
The US Navy and regional allies have reportedly noticed an increase in Chinese radio queries to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea — some said to be less than friendly, and others actually threatening.
“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the disputed Spratly Islands warned in early 2018 when a Philippine military aircraft flew close to a Chinese outpost, The Associated Press reported July 31, 2018, citing a new Philippine government report.
“Philippine military aircraft, I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the report said the Chinese forces threatened soon after, according to the AP.
In the latter half of 2017, Philippine military aircraft patrolling near contested territories received at least 46 Chinese radio warnings, the government report says, according to the AP. While these warnings have traditionally been delivered by Chinese coast guard units, they’re now thought to be broadcast by personnel stationed at military outposts in the South China Sea, the news agency reported.
US Navy destroyers.
(US Navy photo)
“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US 7th Fleet, told the AP.
“These communications do not affect our operations,” he added, noting that when communications with foreign militaries are unprofessional, “those issues are addressed by appropriate diplomatic and military channels.”
The Philippine military tends to carry on with its activities. “They do that because of their claim to that area, and we have a standard response and proceed with what we’re doing,” Philippine air force chief Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Rio Kintanar Jr. told the AP.
Though an international arbitration tribunal sought to discredit China’s claims to the South China Sea two years ago, China has continued to strengthen its position in the flashpoint region.
In recent months, China has deployed various defense systems — such as jamming technology, surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and even heavy bombers — to the South China Sea, leading US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in June 2018 to accuse China of “intimidation and coercion” in the waterway.
An EA-18G Growler takes off from a flight deck .
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ethan J. Soto)
Beijing, however, argues that it has a right to defend its sovereign territory, especially considering the increased frequency of US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations in the area; it has conducted more than half a dozen since the start of the Trump administration.
Despite Chinese warnings and objections, the US military has repeatedly made clear that it will maintain an active military presence in the South China Sea.
“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing, and we’re going to continue to do that,” Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told the AP in February 2018.
The US military has also expressed confidence in its ability to deal with China’s military outposts in the region should the situation escalate.
“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters in Ma 2018, adding: “It’s just a fact.”
In early 2018 the US disinvited China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy from participating in 2018’s iteration of the multilateral Rim of the Pacific maritime exercises, citing what it characterized as alarming Chinese activities in the South China Sea. The Philippines has at least twice raised the issue of radio warnings with Beijing, the AP reported July 31, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Bob DeFord really wanted to fly one of the iconic Spitfire airplanes that saved England from Nazi invasion during the Battle of Britain, but the things can sell for millions of dollars at auction, even in rough condition.
So instead he worked with a small group of friends for eight years and created a full-scale Spitfire Mk. IX, the plane that gave British pilots a better chance against the feared Focke-Wulf 190.
DeFord’s creation isn’t a perfect replica. The wings and some other parts are wood where the true Mk. IXs are metal, and the engine is an Allison V-1710 instead of the Merlin 60.
But for what amounts to a flying model, DeFord’s piece is amazingly accurate. The distinct Spitfire wings are properly shaped and a rear-view mirror, improvised from a soup ladle and a car mirror, sits over the cockpit in a nearly picture-perfect imitation of the real thing.
The rear-view mirror cost DeFord an estimated $12 — not bad when original mirrors from World War II sell for $300.
There are even stand-ins for the four 20mm cannons that gave the Spitfire its deadly punch.
DeFord tells his story in the video below. Cut to 3:09 to see the bird in flight:
When I was speaking at a university a few years ago, a student who DJ’d at the local college radio station and had read my book asked me to come on as a guest. He had me put together a list of music I listened to in Iraq, and then interviewed me between songs. It was a really cool experience for me to revisit my deployment through music.
This isn’t limited to my time in Iraq, but is evocative of both my deployment and homecoming. Here it is:
1. Live, “Mental Jewelry”
I started listening to Live in high school and have fond memories of seeing them play. For some reason, the lyrics came into my mind often in Iraq, always making me feel a little melancholy.
2. Bad Religion, “The Process of Belief”
This album came out while I was at DLI, and I listened to it throughout the summer of 2002 while I was at AIT in Texas. Once we got to Iraq, this song in particular made me ache.
3. “Story of My Life,” Social Distortion, Social Distortion
This is one of my favorite albums. Went to see them play in Dallas the summer of 2002 – and spent the whole time feeling a little alienated from civilians. As for this particular song, I left my hometown when I was 15, and every time I’ve gone back have felt that weird sensation of my old neighborhood not being the same. That got even stronger after I joined the Army. I like how this song captures a particular feeling of frustration.
4. “So What,” Ministry, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
I was angry as a teenager, and spent a lot of time angry while I was in the Army, too. This is a great song to be really pissed off to. (Random aside: I saw the movie this song has samples from on Mystery Science Theater 3000 once, which was awesome. It’s totally absurd, you should check it out: The Violent Years.)
5. “Holiday in Cambodia,” Dead Kennedys
So there isn’t a lot of DK on Spotify that I could find. The song I wanted to put was “Life Sentence” (the lyrics “you don’t do what you want to but you do the same thing every day” could describe half my time in the Army!), but this is a good one, too. Fits in with the theme of anger.
6. “Jaded,” Operation Ivy,” Operation Ivy
As angry as I got, I never gave up those hopeful kernels, and still clung to that conviction that I could make the world a better place. “Sound System” is another good one off that album, about how music can bring you back up when you feel shitty.
7. “Cactus,” Pixies, Surfer Rosa
I have no idea why this particular Pixies song is the one that I got totally fixated on in Iraq. The mention of the desert? Who knows.
8. “Then She Did,” Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De Lo Habitual
When I was younger and, um, enjoyed experimenting with mind-altering substances, the song “Three Days” was what I loved the most – it took me on this whole mental odyssey. But in Iraq I fell in love with this one, a more reserved and introspective one.
9. “In the Arms of Sleep,” The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
I would listen to this one over and over and over in Iraq, longing to … be there, have those feelings.
10. “I Know, Huh?,” The Vandals, Hitler Bad, Vandals Good
This reminds me of the giddy, heady, happy days of being just home from Iraq, before the bad parts of reintegration kicked in. I have memories of driving around with Zoe singing along with this, being goofy and ridiculous.
11. “8 Mile,” Eminem, 8 Mile
When things started to get really shitty, I would listen to this song (oh, so cheesy! I know!) and tell myself I could push on for just a little longer and couldn’t give up.
“The Fighting Season,” is a six-part documentary from actor and veteran supporter Ricky Schroder and DirecTV. But it’s not just another war documentary.
The series culls out many of the hard-to-explain details of deployment in Afghanistan — the frustrations and setbacks and small victories. And in so doing, it gets it right.
“The Fighting Season” drops the viewer into the war without injecting any pretense or agendas. The film captures the nuance of asymmetric war, how soldiers suss out the difference between friendly locals and insurgents. It shows how the bad guys build an ambush against a backdrop of relative calm.
The infantry platoon talks about how happy they are that the Afghan National Police didn’t accidentally shoot them when the American platoon approaches the Afghan base in the dark. An American security team is in open disagreement with their colonel about how to complete their mission. The American’s sense of progress takes a major step backward as an Afghan National Police sentry allows a vehicle with an armed passenger right through their checkpoint in Kabul.
And the documentary feels like Afghanistan. It’s gritty and unpolished. The soldiers smoke, dip, and cuss. They forget to wear eye protection.
It feels like being back on the FOB and at the outpost.
“The Fighting Season” will debut on Audience Network Tuesday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
In lieu of a traditional advertising campaign, DirecTV is pursuing a social media campaign using the hashtag #TheFightingSeason. For every post with the hashtag, they’ll donate $1 to Operation Gratitude.
When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.
Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.
On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.
The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.
It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.
A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.
The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.
After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”
The dire situation didn’t deter him.
Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.
He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.
As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.
He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.
But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.
With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.
When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.
After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.
In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.
‘What Did You Do?’
“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”
Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.
He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.
While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.
Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.
The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.
In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.
Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.
But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.
With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?
As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.
“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.
“That’s how we got to Dover.”
In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.
Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.
When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.
“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”
“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.
As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.
From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.
“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.
“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.
Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.
“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”
“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.
After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.
Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.
Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.
“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”
“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”
After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.
Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.
Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.
Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.
“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.
“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.
For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.
“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.
“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”
As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.
Not only does the band provide direct jobs for veterans, but they also raise money for different veteran initiatives — like PTSD awareness — through their merchandise site, which also acts as a resource guide for accessing help through various links.
Zoltán Báthory, guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, is a founding board member of the veterans nonprofit Home Deployment Project, which provides safe places to live for displaced veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD. He is also a member on the Board of Advisors at the anti-Poaching organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife. Although Zoltán himself is a civilian, his support for the military is without question.
“I have a lot of veterans around me and it’s not an accident.”
Videographer Nick Siemens is a Marine Corps Combat veteran touring with Five Finger Death Punch. He describes the energy and movement of working with the band as being very similar to that of his time as an active duty Marine.
“I absolutely fell in love with this job and it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging that I had lost when I left the Marine Corps and I haven’t looked back.”
Check out the video above for an inside look at what it’s like for the veterans on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.
Top Gun is an iconic movie, no doubt about it. The action flick, which came out in 1986, was a blockbuster hit and has stayed popular in the three decades since.
The sequel comes out this summer and its trailers have already made us crave the need…. the need for speed.
The movie’s lexicon has permeated into our everyday language over the years. We tell others to “Cover me, Goose,” “Be my wingman anytime,” or “take me to bed or lose me forever.”
If you have ever been stationed in or have visited San Diego, you might have sung “Great Balls of Fire” at Kansas City Barbeque, sang “Highway to the Danger Zone” as you watched jets fly around Miramar, or hummed, “Take my Breath Away” as you hung out on a beach in Oceanside. The San Diego Padres have even tried several times to make “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” their version of the Red Sox’s “Sweet Caroline.”
One of the most iconic parts of the movie has to be the call signs.
Everyone loves call signs. They can be badass, cool, funny, and always give some glimmer of personality to a person in a military that tends to dissuade individuality.
(When my unit first got to Iraq, our command floated the idea of letting us pick a call sign. For an afternoon, I went back and forth between “Indian Outlaw” and “Buckeye” (my parents were from India and I left Ohio State to enlist the Marines). Unfortunately, the movie “300” had recently come out, and after having every junior enlisted Marine fight over why they deserved to be called “Spartan” or “Leonidas,” the idea was scrapped, and we were assigned call signs based off our rank and last name.
Hence, instead of “Indian Outlaw,” I became “Echo4Juliet”…puke.)
On the flip side, Top Gun had some amazing call signs.
So let’s rank them from worst to first. We went off how awesome they sound, if they fit the character, and if they resonate with the audience. Here we go!
Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis, was based on a real-life civilian mathematician and maritime air superiority expert Christine “Legs” Fox. Her character did showcase the amount of data and analytical studies that went into studying and perfecting the art of aerial warfare. But the call sign Charlie was pretty lazy (the character’s first name was Charlotte) and really didn’t add anything to her personality.
Chipper is barely in the movie and is more of a seat filler. The lack of character doesn’t really give us much to wonder about his name. Doesn’t look very chipper to me.
When you think of the name Merlin, you think of wizardry and magic. You would think that someone with that call sign would either be doing some type of aviation wizardry. Instead, Merlin, played by Academy Award winner Tim Robbins pretty much looks like he’s about to crap is pants most of the time. Merlin is more apt for Andy Dufrense because of his escape from Shawshank and less Robbins character in Top Gun.
“Slider…. You stink…” Does it have to do with how he gets with the ladies? Or sliding in behind the enemy? Did he slide off a runway when in training and end up in the backseat as a result? Or was he a college baseball player that just had one pitch? I don’t know why this name doesn’t sit well, but it just doesn’t.
Maybe Cougar liked to go after older women. But, he probably was named after a ferocious animal. Its not a bad call sign, but not that original. His character, losing his edge, didn’t help.
Wolfman should have been called Cowboy. He wore a cowboy hat in class, after all. But he does have a personality that shines through all throughout the movie and comes across like an old school radio DJ ala Wolfman Jack. So that pushes him up on the list.
“Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!” Lines like that make it obvious why Stinger is well, Stinger. His butt chewings would make him a great First Sergeant, and when he speaks, he means business. “And if you screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong!”
Hollywood looks good and acts the part. He’s got the shade and swagger and doesn’t seem to lose his cool. The name fits so much that after he is shot down and ends up ejecting and needed to be rescued out of the water, he still looks Hollywood-like.
It might have to do with the fact he is African American. It might have to do with the fact when he flies in, the sun goes down, and darkness arrives. Or both.
Regardless it is an awesome name. The helmet is even more bad ass.
Goose normally would suck, but it fits its characters personality so well. A guy with a callsign, Cobra wouldn’t be serenading women in bars, yelling “Great Balls of Fire” after getting in trouble, or taking Polaroids of MiGs…. WHILE INVERTED. Anthony Edwards, the actor who played Goose, later gave insight on why writers came up with the name.
“You can run kid, but you can’t hide” Jester is probably the perfect name of an instructor. He is wily, knows all the tricks, and is keen to remind you of why you are the student while he is the teacher. He also will break the rules and then throw them back in your face when you break them. (He did go below the hard deck first…..)
Jester was played by veteran actor Michael Ironside, whose own last name should be a call sign.
“That’s right…. Ice…Man… I am dangerous.”
Iceman chomps his teeth at him.
Everyone in the military fashions themselves to be the Iceman type. Cool. Calm. Collected…and Cocky. You keep your cool under pressure and stick to your training and planning. Nothing gets under his skin, and he thrives at the hint of competition.
Iceman looks Maverick right in the face and tells him why he is dangerous but doesn’t go running to higher command. He takes it as a challenge and goes out and wins. The only time he starts to crack is when he’s taking on five MiGs by himself (and can you really blame him on that?)
Based on Vietnam veteran, Top Gun instructor, and technical advisor Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew (holy Harry Potter name), Viper is a bad ass based on a real-life bad ass.
Vipers might look slow and sluggish but will deliver a quick strike. In the same manner, Viper doesn’t go around yelling like Stinger or Jester. He is quiet and calm and gives off the demeanor of tranquility… until he is in the air.
There he makes short work of his pupils.
Did you really think this name wasn’t going to be number one? Maverick has become synonymous with breaking the rules and flaunting the fact you’re doing it. It has been co-opted by politicians, someone you served with, and is now the #73 most popular boy’s name in America.
The name fits the character perfectly.
Jester : His fitness report says it all. Flies by the seat of his pants. Completely unpredictable. Viper : He got you, didn’t he? Jester : [pauses] Yeah.
Maverick knows what it takes to get the job done and has the talent to do it. He also does what drives a lot of the military brass (and Iceman) crazy. He thinks outside the box.
Once he is able to reconcile being a good wingman while still utilizing his talents, it is game over for the enemy MiGs. All we can do is enjoy the ride with the “oh crap” look that Merlin has.
Let us know if you had a great call sign in the military! Comment your call sign and why you got it!
Safe House Project co-founders and military spouses, Brittany Dunn and Kristi Wells hosted SHP’s Freedom Requires Action event in January 2020 in Washington, D.C. in order to promote corporate and community awareness of the sex trafficking epidemic.
Founded and led by military families, The Safe House Project (SHP) is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering victims of human trafficking by providing them a place to call home.
The group is focused on the development of safe houses for survivors of sex trafficking. Its 2030 mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking in America by strengthening networks.
“In 2018, there were less than 100 beds in special care homes [in the U.S.],” Brittany Dunn, a Navy spouse and co-founder of SHP, said.
Without a place to go, many victims are turned over to the foster care system, juvenile detentions or mental institutions, with some even electing to return to their captors.
According to the US Department of Justice, finding adequate and appropriate emergency, transitional, and long-term housing is often the biggest service-related challenge that [human trafficking] task forces face.
Dunn, along with SHP co-founders and fellow Navy spouses Kristi Wells and Vicki Tinnel, began researching ways they could fill the gap. Rather than start a small non-profit organization focused on helping their local community, they thought big.
SHP accelerates safe house development through providing education, resources, funding and government contacts to local nonprofits who seek to establish safe houses within their local communities. These individual safe houses provide specialized counseling and resources to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse. By adopting a business-like organizational structure, SHP partners do not have to work in isolation to solve a problem. They are part of a larger network and better able to solve big-picture problems.
“What most people see as a disadvantage, moving around constantly, we’ve been able to use that to our advantage,” Dunn said. “A majority of our volunteers across the U.S. are military families. That creates networks that most people do not have as a natural resource.”
Many survivors find art therapy to be an important part of processingtheir past. Art allows them to express their pain, while also helping them find their wings.
Why is this so hard?
Like other national problems, sex trafficking issues are often complicated by the division of power between local, state and federal government. If a victim is rescued in a state that does not have an active safe house, SHP will attempt to have them transferred to a neighboring state that can provide the resources they need.
While this is the ideal model, according to Dunn, some CPS [Child Protective Services] don’t want to see their dollars flow out of state.
“That is where education and awareness come in,” she said.
Victim reintegration from a stable treatment environment back into the “real world” must be strategic. Without proper planning, victims could easily run into former “johns” and reenter the cycle of abuse. The reason safe houses are so essential is because victims have specialized needs and many shelters do not have the resources or government mandate to help them.
“There is a need domestically for improved victim services, trauma-informed support, better data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking,” Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said at a Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event held earlier this year. Hudson, a cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act, hopes this legislation will “provide stakeholders — from law enforcement to prosecutors to service providers to government officials — with the guidance and information they need to better serve victims of trafficking.”
Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C. was a guest speaker at the Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event in January 2020 event held in the U.S. Capitol building. Hudson is also cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act
The majority of trafficked children are not victims of a snatch and grab.
“We live under a perception that our kids are safer because they are in a first world country, but they aren’t. It is the harsh reality,” Dunn said. “It just looks different. Instead of having a red-light district in Thailand, you have kids being recruited on Fortnite or being approached peer-to-peer in schools.”
Every time a child is exposed to sexually-explicit content in conversations, on television or online, underage sex becomes normalized. For some, abusive acts do not feel like the crimes and victims do not feel like they are being victimized.
“Child sex trafficking is a difficult subject to talk about but raising awareness and talking about it is the first step in solving it,” Ria Story, Tedx speaker, author and survivor leader, said.
Safe House Project and Coffee Beanery are teaming up to raise awareness in coffee shops across America. Advocates also marked their hands in red to support the #EndItMovement.
See something. Say something. Do something.
According to Dunn, “any epidemic has two sides to eradication. Prevention and treatment.” She encourages everyone to look for the problems that may lie under the surface.
In addition to providing safe houses, SHP has trained over 6,000 military personnel to recognize and report instances of sex trafficking and hope to more than double this number by the end of 2020. And for those who cannot attend an official training, SHP offers online tools (https://www.safehouseproject.org/sex-trafficking-statistics).