Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.
An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.
This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.
This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”
Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.
He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.
“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”
Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.
Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.
“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”
Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.
“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”
As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.
“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.
On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.
“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”
By now, many of us have seen the new Wonder Woman movie. If you haven’t, you probably know the basics anyway: Amazon warrior-princess who braves the battlefields of 1918 to save humanity from the depredations of Ares, God of War. It’s a fun movie, even if I had to set aside my critical military historian’s eye for a couple of hours (not like that’s a rare occurrence where Hollywood is concerned). You may also know that the title character is portrayed by one Gal Gadot, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces, so it has that going for it, too.
One thing I particularly liked about the movie was the theme that Diana (Wonder Woman’s real name, in case you haven’t seen the movie or ever read a comic book), though an elite, hard-ass warrior, only fought because she believed it was necessary. The Western Front in Belgium was represented fairly realistically as the muddy, bloody, ruinous Hell that it was. Diana fought not because she liked fighting, but to end that Hell once and for all.
I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I won’t go any further, but, like those who fought in the “War to End All Wars,” Diana’s outlook undergoes a change as the movie progresses. Significantly, though she is reluctant, Diana never loses her conviction that violence is sometimes necessary to prevent greater evil from wreaking havoc on the world.
One of the more humorous elements of the movie is the innate sexism Diana encounters as she moves forward. She is constantly forced to prove herself on and off the battlefield. Of course, being an immortal Amazon princess, with its attendant abilities, helps. But super powers are not required to be a warrior, whether one is male or female.
There’s a lot of controversy these days about the role of women in the US armed forces, specifically, whether women should serve in combat units. Recent months have witnessed the first two female graduates from Ranger School, and the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have put females clearly in the line of fire for well over a decade.
Female warriors, however, are not a new phenomenon, nor are they only the stuff of legend or Hollywood fancy. They’ve been around for literally thousands of years. Without taking a position on the role of females in combat (other people here are far more qualified than I to speak on that subject), here’s a look at some women who fought, and fought well, from the American Revolution through the Global War on Terror. This list is by no means complete, or even close to being so. It’s merely intended to offer a glimpse of women in combat over the last 240-odd years.
The American Revolution
Records for female soldiers who fought in the Revolution are scarce. That many women, usually disguised as men, did fight is beyond question. Most of their names and deeds are lost to us thanks to their enforced anonymity, but a few records survive. The most common theme for the service of these women is that they followed their husbands to war, passing themselves as teenage boys, which were not uncommon in the ranks. Some women volunteered for the bounty paid to enlistees or just in the hope of steady meals. Some didn’t like sitting at home and wanted to fight for their country, like the first soldier on our list.
Deborah Samson enlisted on 20 May, 1782, at age 22, in Captain George Webb’s company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment of Foot, a light infantry unit. She gave her name as Robert Shurtliff. Rising to the rank of corporal, she fought with the Continental Army in several engagements, including the Battle of White Plains.
Samson was wounded several times. In a skirmish near Tarrytown, she took a saber cut to the head. When her unit was ambushed by Loyalists near East Chester, Samson was hit by two musket balls in the thigh. Probably afraid of discovery if she sought medical aid, Samson crawled into the woods and removed one ball herself. The other was left in the leg while she soldiered on.
Samson was finally revealed as a female while serving as a clerk for General John Patterson in Philadelphia. She became sick and was treated by Dr. Barnabas Binney. Dr. Binney outed her to General Patterson, who recommended to General George Washington that Samson be discharged due to being a female. Deborah Samson was honorably discharged in October, 1783. In 1792, along with other veterans, Samson received back pay due her for her service. In 1805, Samson was awarded a veteran’s pension by the Massachusetts legislature, which stated “that the Said Deborah exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier.” She received that pension until she died in 1827.
The legend of Molly Pitcher is hard to pin down. According to the story, she was carrying pitchers of water to the soldiers, one of whom was her husband, serving a cannon at the 1778 Battle of Monmouth. When her husband collapsed, Molly immediately took his place, swabbing the barrel and helping reload the gun.
It appears that “Molly Pitcher” is a composite figure built on the stories of Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley and Margaret Corbin. Mary Hays (as she was known at the time) was present at Monmouth and a witness claimed that a British cannonball bounced right between her legs while she was serving the American gun, ripping away part of her petticoat. She supposedly quipped that it was lucky the ball wasn’t aimed a little higher and went on with her work.
Hays remained with the Continental Army until the end of the war, though it seems that she served in a support role, as many women did. After her husband’s death, she married a former Continental soldier named John McCauley. She died in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1832, where a monument commemorates her valiant service.
Margaret Corbin’s story is similar to the better-known Mary Ludwig Hays. At the 1776 Battle of Fort Washington, Corbin was carrying water to her husband’s gun crew when he fell. She stepped into his place and helped keep the cannon operational by swabbing and helping to reload. During the battle, Margaret was hit by grapeshot in the arm and chest, disabling her for life.
Corbin was one of the first members of the Invalid Corps, created by Congress in 1777 to care for wounded and disabled soldiers. She was granted a pension in 1779, the first American woman to receive a disabled veteran’s pension.
Anna Maria Lane followed her husband to war in 1776, when he enlisted in the Connecticut Line under General Israel Putnam. Records of her service are sketchy, but it is known that she fought in the Battle of Germantown in October, 1777, where she was severely wounded. After the war, Anna and her husband John moved to Virginia, where they were both recognized for their service by the Virginia legislature and granted soldiers’ pensions.
The American Civil War
The story of female soldiers in the Civil War is akin to those who fought in the Revolution. Women disguised themselves as men and marched off to war for pretty much the same reasons as their forebears. Women served in both the Union and Confederate armies, and most seem to have gone undetected, but we do know the stories of a few.
Sarah Emma Edmonds was a Canadian by birth. To escape an abusive father and an arranged marriage, she disguised herself as a man and fled to the US, where she found work in Hartford, Connecticut as a travelling Bible salesman. When the war broke out in 1861, Edmonds was in Michigan and promptly volunteered for the 2nd Michigan Infantry Regiment on a three-year enlistment. She used the name Franklin Thompson, which had been her assumed name for the previous couple of years.
Sarah Emma Edmonds. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Edmonds was nearly captured at First Manassas when she stayed behind to care for the wounded when the Union Army retreated. In 1862, Edmonds served in the Peninsula Campaign, the Battle of Second Manassas, and the Battle of Fredericksburg as a courier, often braving long solo rides through contested territory. Her horse was shot from under her at Second Manassas, forcing her to ride a mule, which subsequently threw her, breaking her leg.
Edmonds’ memoirs claim that she performed espionage missions behind Confederate lines, disguised as a male Irish peddler, though there is no official record of those missions.
The 2nd Michigan was sent to Kentucky in the spring of 1863, where Edmonds came down with malaria. Afraid of discovery, she requested convalescent leave as opposed to seeing a military doctor. Her leave request was denied. Feeling she had no choice, Edmonds deserted and never returned. “Franklin Thompson” was charged with desertion, though no further action was taken. Following her recovery, Edmonds served as a female nurse until the end of the war.
Edmonds, now known as Sarah Edmonds Seelye, attended a reunion of the 2nd Michigan in 1876, where she was welcomed by her former comrades. They helped her have the charge of desertion expunged from her records and supported her pension application, which was approved in 1884. Seelye was the only female to receive a soldier’s pension from the Civil War. In 1897, a year before her death, she became the only female member of the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1901, she was reburied with full military honors in Houston’s Washington Cemetery.
Jennie Hodgers (a.k.a. Albert D.J. Cashier) is remarkable not only for her wartime service, but for the fact that she continued to live as a man for the rest of her life. Hodgers was born on aChristmas Day, 1843, in Ireland. Little is known about her life from then until she enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry under the name Albert D.J. Cashier.
Jennie-Hodgers AKA Albert-D.J. Cashier. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Hodgers fought in over forty engagements, including the Vicksburg Campaign, the Battle of Nashville, the Red River Campaign, and the Battles of Kennesaw Mountain and Jonesborough. An account exists of her escaping capture by overpowering a Confederate guard. She mustered out on 17 August, 1865.
Living as a man apparently agreed with Hodgers, and “Albert Cashier” worked several jobs, voted in elections, and drew a soldier’s pension. Hit by a car in 1910, “Cashier’s” true gender was discovered by the local hospital, which, remarkably, agreed not to give away her secret. She was sent to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois to recover. It was here, in 1913, that dementia finally caused her to be revealed as a woman. Sadly, she was sent to an insane asylum where she was forced to wear a dress.
On the plus side, when the story was published in the local newspapers, Hodgers’ former comrades protested her treatment and defended her service. Upon her death in 1915, Hodgers was buried in full uniform and her grave was marked with the name Albert D.J. Cashier and her service dates. A second marker with the name Jennie Hodgers was placed beside the original in the 1970s.
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman is another whose story is well-known, thanks to her family’s preservation of her letters. With her father in debt and no prospects of marriage, the nineteen-year old Wakeman left home in 1862 to seek work as a man. While working as a laborer, she met recruiters from the 153rd New York Infantry Regiment, who offered a $152.00 enlistment bounty. Wakeman accepted and enlisted on 30 August, 1862 under the name Lyons Wakeman.
The 153rd New York saw action during the Red River Campaign of 1864 and Wakeman stood on the firing line at the Battles of Pleasant Hill and Monett’s Bluff. The Red River Campaign featured marches of hundreds of miles through muggy heat and disease-ridden swamps, which Wakeman endured as well as her male counterparts.
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Before the campaign, Wakeman had written home, “I don’t know how long before I shall have to go into the field of battle. For my part, I don’t care. I don’t feel afraid to go.” Wakeman finally succumbed to disease in May, 1864 and died on 19 June. She is buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in New Orleans. The grave marker bears the name “Lyons Wakeman.” No record exists of her sex ever being discovered.
Mollie Bean is a bit more elusive than Sarah Edmonds and Jennie Hodgers, and, in her anonymity, is likely more representative of the majority of female Civil War soldiers. In fact, Mollie Bean may not have been her name at all.
Mollie was arrested on 20 February, 1865 while hitching a ride on a railroad car near Danville, Virginia. Riding a military rail car required permission from the provost marshal so, when she was discovered, the guard demanded her papers. Mollie replied, “I’ve got no papers and damn if I want any.” She was arrested and, shortly thereafter, discovered to be a female dressed as a soldier. Mollie claimed to have enlisted in the 47th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in 1863 and to have been twice-wounded in battle. She was sent back to Richmond and imprisoned in Castle Thunder. The story was picked up by newspapers in Richmond and Charlotte. Mollie was portrayed sensationally and her claims of service were discounted, with at least one paper describing her as “manifestly crazy.” The general opinion was that she could not have served for over two years without her true sex being discovered. Upon her imprisonment, Mollie vanishes from history. There are no records of her incarceration and examinations of the 47th North Carolina’s muster rolls reveal nothing. The census records of females with the surname “Bean” provide no real evidence. “Mollie Bean” may well have been a made-up name given to the authorities upon her arrest.
She does, however, make a fanciful reappearance in the alternate history novel The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove. If you haven’t read it, and you’re into that sort of thing, it’s very well-done. The premise is built around South African time-travelers who provide Robert E. Lee’s army with AK-47s in the winter of 1864. Don’t be deterred by the fantastical scenario; Turtledove is a serious historian. The book is outstanding and thought-provoking.
Two more female soldiers from the Civil War merit our attention, though we don’t, and likely never will, know their identities. The remains of a Confederate private were discovered on the Gettysburg battlefield on 17 July, 1863 by a burial detail from the Union II Corps. The private was female. She was likely killed while taking part in Pickett’s Charge on 3 July. Finally, a 1934 excavation of a mass grave on the Shiloh battlefield revealed the remains of a female with a minié ball lodged in her pelvis, likely her death wound. Plainly, females not only served in the Civil War, they were in the thick of battle and some were killed. Due to the nature of their service, we’ll never know how many.
World War I
By the time the First World War rolled around, medical exams for prospective soldiers were more thorough. It was far more difficult for would-be female soldiers to disguise themselves. As far as we know, only one, 20-year old Dorothy Lawrence, actually pulled it off. Lawrence was a British journalist who managed to join a tunneling outfit of the British Expeditionary Force for ten days. At that point, she gave herself up out of a desire to report on the horrible conditions under which her fellow soldiers worked. Lawrence was treated rather poorly by the British authorities, who accused her of being a camp-follower (AKA prostitute). Still, two female soldiers, one British and one Russian, stand out for their wartime service.
Flora Sandes was the daughter of an Irish priest. As a child, she read and re-read Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade and dreamed of being a soldier. As an adult, she traveled throughout Europe, North America, and Egypt, working as a typist to fund her adventures. She was an experienced rider and, according to her family, “a capital shot with the big service revolver.”
Upon the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia on 28 July, 1914, the 38-year old Sandes volunteered as a nurse for a Serbian ambulance unit. Serbia was overrun in late 1915 by the combined forces of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria. The Serbian Army forced marched across the mountains to Albania, where Sandes enlisted in the Serbian Iron Regiment.
Flora Sandes. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
A year later she was a sergeant major and had published an English language book about her exploits to raise money and support for the Serbs. At the end of 1916, Sandes was involved in the vicious hand-to-hand combat in the mountains of Macedonia, where she was wounded by a grenade. Forced to retire from combat duty, she spent the rest of the war running an army hospital and conducting public relations tours to promote Western awareness of the plight of the Serbs. After the war, Sandes remained with the Army, eventually retiring as a captain. In 1917, she was awarded the Order of the Star of Karađorđe, Serbia’s highest combat decoration.
Sandes rode out the Second World War in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Though aged 65, she was recalled to active duty. She was willing, but the Germans overran Yugoslavia before she could do anything. She was arrested by the Gestapo as an enemy alien and imprisoned with fourteen other women. One of Sandes’ fellow prisoners later said “She possessed a wonderful fund of Serbian swear words which she launched at the guards with such devastating effect that they behaved almost respectfully.” She was eventually released, but had to report to the Gestapo weekly until the war ended.
Sandes finally left Belgrade following the passing of her Serbian husband a few months after the war. She was nearly 70, but went to Rhodesia to stay with her nephew, who was a Rhodesian police officer. She was unpopular with the colonial authorities, however, who complained about her “fraternizing with the African peasant population, sitting around an open fire and drinking beer made from sorghum.” Flora Sandes returned to England, where she died in 1956.
Maria Bochkarevka was a Siberian peasant girl who survived an abusive father and two abusive husbands to join the Russian war effort in 1914. Women were not allowed to serve at that time, but Maria wrote a personal letter to Tsar Nicholas II asking for special permission. Her request was granted and Bochkarevka was sent to the front in 1915.
Her first combat saw Maria, despite being hit in the leg, pull dozens of wounded men from No-Man’s Land, for which she was decorated. She was soon promoted to corporal and began leading 30-man patrols into No-Man’s Land. On one of her patrols, she killed a German soldier with her bayonet. In the spring of 1916, Bochkarevka was wounded three times, including taking a piece of shrapnel near the base of her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. Determined to fight, she learned to walk again and returned to the front, where she was promoted to sergeant. She was captured not long afterward, but she escaped, killing ten Germans in the process with grenades. She was decorated again.
Maria Bochkareva. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Bochkarevka is most famous for raising and training the Women’s Battalion of Death in 1917. The battalion was an all-female combat unit designed to shame the male soldiers of the Russian Army into fighting harder. The Russians were reeling from the fall of the Tsar and repeated defeats at the hands of the Germans, and desperately needed a morale boost. Buchkarovka started with 2000 women, but her iron discipline soon whittled it down to around to around 250.
The battalion participated in the summer offensive of 1917, going over the top with the men. Led by Buchkarovka, now a captain, they penetrated three German trench lines before being repulsed. After the battle, the women’s morale was reportedly far better than their male comrades, and their casualties lower, though they had spearheaded the assault in their sector.
In October, the battalion defended the Tsar’s Summer Palace in Petrograd against the Bolshevik revolutionaries. They were ultimately overrun and Buchkarevka was captured. Through the machinations of some friends, she was released and allowed to leave the country. She traveled to the US and England, where she met with Woodrow Wilson and King George V, who promised to aid the White Russians against the Bolshevik Reds. Buchkarevka was captured in 1919 while fighting the Bolsheviks and convicted of being an “enemy of the people.” She was executed by firing squad on 16 May, 1920.
World War II
The Second World War provided more opportunities for women to serve, but female combat soldiers were few and far between. Many women served with the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services, but, due to concerns about length, I’m staying as close to the front lines as possible. With that in mind, one woman stands out above all others.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the deadliest of the scores of female snipers deployed by the Red Army in World War II. In just under a year of combat, Pavlichenko notched 309 confirmed kills, after which, she was pulled from the front and sent to the US and Great Britain to drum up support for a second front against Germany.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Pavlichenko was a university student in Kiev when the Germans invaded in June, 1942. She immediately enlisted in the Red Army. She had won medals in a civilian marksmanship program and applied for the infantry. Nonetheless, the recruiter tried to convince her to become a nurse. Pavlichenko’s insistence on becoming a rifleman caused the army to test her. She was taken to the front, handed a rifle, and told to shoot two Romanian soldiers. Two shots: two kills. Pavlichenko was trained as a sniper and attached to the 25th Rifle Division. She never claimed the first two kills as part of her official count, since she said it was a test, not real combat.
Pavlichenko served in Moldavia and in the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean Campaign. She was known for tying the occasional strip of cloth to surrounding trees and brush to distract the eyes of enemy spotters. She also planted mannequins to serve as bait. Her first 75 days of combat yielded 187 kills. By the time she arrived at Sevastopol, she was known as “Lady Death” and the Germans starting targeting her with counter-snipers. She once made the mistake of climbing a tree to get a better view and was grazed by a German sniper round. She allowed herself to fall twelve feet to the ground, lying still for hours, before crawling away after dark. She eventually won every sniper duel in which she was engaged, accounting for 36 German snipers.
Pavlichenko became so famous, thanks in no small part to Soviet propaganda, that the Germans started addressing her directly by loudspeaker. They tried to lure her to defect, offering her honors and chocolate (seriously). When that failed, they threatened to catch her and tear her body into 309 pieces, one for each kill.
In a later interview, Pavlichenko laughed, saying how delighted she was that the Germans knew her score. She was evacuated from the Sevastopol by submarine before the city fell in July, 1942. She was awarded the USSR’s highest honor, Hero of the Soviet Union, and sent on her PR trip, where she became fast friends with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She told one reporter that “Every German who remains alive will kill women, children, and old folks. Dead Germans are harmless. Therefore, if I kill a German, I am saving lives.” Upon her return, Pavlichenko was assigned to train snipers and boost morale on the home front. She even had her own postage stamp, issued in 1943. After the war, she returned to university, earning her degree in history. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Pavlichenko in Moscow in 1957. Pavlichenko died in 1974. A movie of her exploits was released in 2013. As far as I know, it’s only available in Russian, titled “Battle for Sevastopol,” and in Ukrainian, which is called “Indestructible.” There’s an English language trailer on YouTube.
Afghanistan and Iraq
The asymmetrical nature of the Global War on Terror has blurred the lines between the combat and non-combat roles of troops deployed to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Troops who are technically slated for the support role have been thrust squarely into the line of fire. As a result, the US ban on women in combat units has not spared females from being tested under fire. Here are a few of the many who passed with flying colors.
Rebecca Turpin. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Marine 2LT Rebecca Turpin was leading her logistics convoy through 80 miles of desert in the Helmand Province when they were ambushed in a small village between Camp Bastion and the FOB at Musa Qala. They had hit an IED earlier in the march and were slowed by the necessity to tow the damaged vehicle and by maneuvering through a hamlet with no real streets. While moving through the hamlet, Turpin saw men herding women and children into the houses. “I had this sinking feeling,” she said later. Then an RPG hit her refueling truck, cuing a hail of small arms fire and grenades. Marshaling her convoy to provide cover, Turpin called for air support, which came in the form of two Cobra attack helicopters. Once the enemy fire was suppressed, the Cobras moved off and Turpin turned her column around to an alternate route. When they were hit again during the turnaround, Turpin called the Cobras back and directed a fighting exit from the hamlet. Going by a different route, her convoy arrived safely at Musa Qala with no serious injuries. Despite her insistence that “What I did was my job,” Turpin was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” for her leadership under fire. Lt. Colonel Michael Jernigan, Turpin’s battalion commander, said “She could have made bad decisions, and perhaps Marines would have died. But she didn’t and they didn’t.” Turpin left the Corps as a captain in 2011.
On 20 March, 2005, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester was escorting a supply convoy on a run east of Baghdad as a vehicle commander in the 617 Military Police Company, a Kentucky National Guard unit. When the vehicle in front of hers was hit by an RPG, Hester led her vehicle through the kill zone into a flanking position. She and her team then took the enemy positions under fire with an M203. Hester and her squad leader then assaulted the dug-in insurgents, clearing two trench lines. Hester personally killed three insurgents with her M4. After the 45-minute fight, 27 insurgents were killed, six wounded, and one was captured. All US personnel survived. Hester and her squad leader, SSG Timothy Nein, were awarded the Silver Star. Hester became the first female Silver Star recipient since World War II and the first ever for actions in direct combat.
Leigh Ann Hester. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Being under fire was nothing new for Hester, who, predictably, claims she just did what she was trained to do. According to all accounts, Hester is a bit embarrassed by the fact that she has her own action figure and a wax likeness at the Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee. Hester left the Guard in 2009 and became a cop near Nashville, Tennessee, but missed being a soldier and reenlisted in the Tennessee National Guard in 2011. In 2014, she deployed to Afghanistan for 18 months as part of a Cultural Support Team. She is now an E-7 with the Tennessee National Guard.
First Lieutenant Ashley White-Stumpf was part of the first class of the Cultural Support Teams sent to Afghanistan to support special ops troops. Assigned to the 75th Rangers, White-Stumpf served two months in Afghanistan before being killed by an IED in an ambush on 22 October, 2011. She was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. I was unable to find much on her activities in Afghanistan, perhaps because of her association with special ops forces. But there is a book about White-Stumpf and the CSTs called Ashley’s War, which looks to be pretty good. Still, I felt that she merited inclusion here.
Ashley White-Stumpf. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Private First Class Monica Lin Brown was the second woman, after Hester, to earn the Silver Star since World War II. Brown was a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province in 2007. On 25 April, she was part of a convoy which was ambushed on its way to a meeting with tribal leaders. One HUMVEE hit an IED, sending it into a wadi and igniting its fuel load. Brown moved to the wreck and treated the soldiers wounded in the blast, shielding them with her body from small arms fire and the 15 mortar rounds which impacted near her. By this time, the ammo in the HUMVEE began to cook off, prompting Brown to shield the wounded once more while continuing treatment.
Monica Lin Brown. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.
Brown’s platoon sergeant arrived, amazed to see Brown still alive. Seeing the danger from the engulfed HUMVEE and continuing enemy fire, he loaded Brown and the wounded onto an Afghan Army truck and moved them to a safer location. An enemy mortar shell impacted on Brown’s former position just seconds later. All the while, Brown treated the wounded soldiers, continually shielding them from falling brass and enemy fire until the MEDEVACs arrived. Brown’s actions earned her the Silver Star. They also resulted in her being removed from her assignment because of the ban on females in combat.
As I said, I’m not taking a position on women in combat. Honestly, I’m not qualified to offer an informed opinion on the subject. It is clear, however, that women have served, and served well, in combat environments throughout history. So, taking advantage of the publicity from the Wonder Woman movie, here’s an opportunity to raise a glass to all the women who have answered the call and laid it on the line. Thanks for your service.
Creative endeavors can be quite helpful for wounded warriors, and Marine veteran Shane Kohfield is a prime example.
Kohfield, a former Marine infantry machine-gunner, deployed twice to Iraq and now suffers from post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury. But his wounds didn’t hold him back. One day, he thought: “I am going to become a painter.”
And paint, he did. Though he has only painted for about 8 months, Kohfield has already sold a few of his works, for anywhere from $500 to $2500. “I started doing this for something to do and then I felt the raw emotion,” he told KGW-Portland.
Kohfield uses an interesting method to create his abstract paintings, first spray painting across his canvas and then using a spatula to blend the colors. His technique developed out of necessity, since his trembling hand prevented him from using a normal paint brush, according to KGW-Portland.
WATM asked Kohfield some questions about his artwork and how it has helped him cope with his injuries. Here is what he said (lightly edited for clarity):
We Are The Mighty: How did you get into art? What inspired you to start painting?
Shane Kohfield: I had just gone through a horrible divorce and at the same time I had my second TBI (back in the states, while on duty). I got into woodworking because my dad had sent me some tools for Christmas one year. My start with painting honestly came from a completely impulsive move on my part because I was driving home from school one day and this thought literally went through my head, as I say again, literally as follows “I am going to become a painter.”
I went to the arts and crafts store and bought all the supplies that I thought I needed and I went home and painted my first painting and less than a week later I sold it for nearly $2,000. Less than three weeks after starting painting, my paintings were being sold in an art gallery. I have only been painting for 8 months but what I have done since then is much cooler than that.
I am actually actively helping people with my art as well as actively helping veterans. Painting has changed my life and even though I could sell my paintings easily for thousands, I never sell a painting at a price people can’t honestly afford. Even if it means I only sell it to them at the cost of painting it.
WATM: How has art helped you cope with your injuries?
SK: Art gives me a way to express myself in ways I haven’t been able to before. I have written poetry once or twice and people have told me my poems have brought them to tears. I certainly never expected to hear that about my paintings but I have now it’s truly an amazing feeling.
I know my story is an impossible one but I have gotten enough news coverage for you to believe it’s true, and I believe all people — especially veterans — have their own version of painting. They all have this hidden talent they never knew existed but they refuse to take the chance to try something new, to expect to suck at something but give it 100 percent like you are going to be God’s gift to whatever you are about to attempt.
There are people who always have that attitude at things in life but they refuse to see what they can’t do because they fool themselves. If you can be honest and see what you can’t do, it allows you to move onto something you can do. I tried many different types of art before I found one that I was truly good at.
WATM: Would you recommend art therapy to other wounded warriors?
SK: I would not recommend art to veterans. It’s a thing with therapists: They recommend this, and they recommend that, and all of us have gone to them and they really haven’t helped us much.
What I truly recommend is to ignore what others think, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, emotionally, mentally, physically or financially — including yourself — and do what makes you happy. Find something that makes you complete, and at the end of the day, something that leaves you thinking about what you just did and not what you did in the past or what you saw in the past.
It doesn’t matter if its theater or squatting 400lbs, if its something you can take pride in again, something that gives you purpose again, and it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else then isn’t it worth pursuing regardless of what other people would think?
You don’t need art to cope. You need pride in what you currently do. You need a purpose and you need a work ethic to make it happen.
As North Korea and South Korea pledged to end hostilities and work toward denuclearization, some people have suggested US President Donald Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged in a historic summit on April 27, 2018, to end the Korean War — which has technically been ongoing since 1950 because it ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty — and to work toward a “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Many people think the credit should go to Trump — so much so that he should win the next Nobel Peace Prize.
Trump has discussed with the leaders of key nations in East Asia, including South Korea and China, his goal to denuclearize North Korea. The US has also drafted multiple rounds of UN and Treasury sanctions to punish North Korea for its nuclear program.
Hours before Kim and Moon’s announcement on April 27, 2018, Daniel McCarthy, editor-at-large of The American Conservative, wrote in The Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald, Trump “will have defused the most dangerous crisis the world faces at present.”
“To make peace demands a new approach, and President Trump has found one,” McCarthy wrote.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also told Fox News before the Koreas’ announcement: “Donald Trump convinced North Korea and China he was serious about bringing about change. We’re not there yet, but if this happens, President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, also tweeted that Trump, Kim, Moon, and China’s Xi Jinping deserved to jointly win the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I’ve been critical of Trump foreign policy missteps in past year,” Bremmer said in a separate tweet. “But today’s historic North/South Korea breakthrough does not happen without priority & pressure from US President. Trump deserves full credit.”
In Seoul, pro-unification activists were photographed by Getty Images holding placards saying: “Trump, you’ll be winner of 2018 Nobel Prize!”
British betting site Coral also set the odds to Trump and Kim jointly winning the 2018 Nobel Prize at 2/1 — the highest on the list.
In late April 2018, he also gave the two Koreas his “blessing to discuss the end of the war.”
Trump and Kim have gone from exchanging heated barbs — from “rocket man” to “mentally deranged US dotard” — to agreeing to meet in person for the first time, which is expected to take place in May 2018.
Two B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, marked their first-ever flight with Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums last week over the Black Sea. At the same time, the long-range bombers also trained in launching the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, known as LRASM, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa officials said Monday.
“The rise of near-peer competitors and increased tensions between NATO and our adversaries has brought anti-ship capability back to the forefront of the anti-surface warfare mission for bomber crews,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Albrecht of USAFE’s 603rd Air Operations Center.
“LRASM plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. naval access to operate in both open-ocean and littoral environments due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets from long range,” Albrecht, also the Bomber Task Force mission planner, said in a release. “With the increase of maritime threats and their improvement of anti-access/area denial environmental weapons, this stealthy anti-ship cruise missile provides reduced risk to strike assets by penetrating and defeating sophisticated enemy air-defense systems.”
Officials recently told Military.com that practicing deploying LRASM is part of a broader Air Force Global Strike vision: As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the service is not only making its supersonic, heavy bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes — especially in the Pacific — signaling a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.
During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview earlier this month.
The flight over the Black Sea with Ukrainian counterparts incorporated Turkish KC-135s, in addition to aircraft from Poland, Romania, Greece and North Macedonia for a “long-range, long-duration strategic #BomberTaskForce mission throughout Europe and the Black Sea region,” USAFE tweeted.
The latest integration exercises over Eastern Europe have not gone unnoticed.
Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the main operational directorate for the Russian General Staff, said U.S. bomber flights alongside NATO partners have “increased sharply” over the last several weeks.
“Strategic bombers flew in April #B1B along Kamchatka, and in May, five such flights were recorded,” the MoD said on Twitter. Rudskoy also noted the first-ever B-1 flight over Ukraine, which prompted a Russian Air Force Su-27 and Su-30SM to scramble and intercept the bombers.
When the American military calls, America’s pastime answers. Here are 14 men who played on the diamond before serving on the battlefield. All of them went above and beyond in either the game or combat, and some distinguished themselves in both.
1. Yogi Berra volunteered to man a rocket boat leading the assault on Normandy.
Yogi Berra made his minor league debut with the Norfolk Tars in 1943, playing 11 games and earning an impressive .396 slugging average. But Berra’s draft card came in that year and he headed into the Navy.
After the war, Yogi Berra went on to play in the major leagues and became one of the most-feared batters in baseball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
2. Joe Pinder left the minor leagues and earned the Medal of Honor on Omaha Beach.
Joe Pinder spent most of his baseball time in Class D in the minors, but he rose as high as Class B for a short period. He joined the Army in January 1942 and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, where he fought in Africa and Sicily. On D-Day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder was wounded multiple times and lost needed radio equipment during the struggle to reach the beach. He kept going back and forth in the surf, retrieving items despite sustaining more injuries.
“Almost immediately on hitting the waist-deep water, he was hit by shrapnel,” 2nd Lt. Lee Ward W. Stockwell said, according to Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice. “He was hit several times and the worst wound was to the left side of his face, which was cut off and hanging by a piece of flesh.”
After refusing medical treatment multiple times and finally getting his radio equipment all back together, Pinder was killed by a burst of machine gun fire to the chest. His bravery and perseverance earned him the Medal of Honor.
3. Jack Lummus excelled at baseball, football, and being a Marine Corps hero.
Jack Lummus was a college football and baseball star when he signed a contract with the Army Air Corps in 1941. He then signed a contract with a minor league team and played 26 games with them while awaiting training as a pilot. Unfortunately, Lummus clipped his plane’s wing while taxiing and was discharged.
Lummus then played professional football, playing in nine of the New York Giants’ 11 games in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lummus finished the season and volunteered for the Marine Corps. He served as an enlisted military policeman for a few months before enrolling in officer training.
At the battle of Iwo Jima, he was a first lieutenant leading a rifle platoon against three concealed Japanese strongholds. Wounded twice by grenades, Lummus still singlehandedly took out all three positions and earned the Medal of Honor. He stepped on a land mine later that day and sustained mortal wounds.
4. Bob Feller left a six-figure contract to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor.
Hall of Famer Bob Feller won 76 games in three seasons before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The day after the attack, Feller walked away from a $100,000 contract and enlisted in the Navy. He was originally assigned to play baseball for troop entertainment, but enrolled in gunnery school to join the fight in the Pacific. Feller spent 26 months on the USS Alabama, seeing combat at Kwajalein, the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands.
5. Ted Williams left the majors twice to fight America’s wars.
6. Warren Spahn fought in the Battle of the Bulge after his major league debut.
Warren E. Spahn pitched his first major league game in 1942, but joined the Army later that same year. He would fight as an engineer in the Battle of the Bulge, the Bridge at Remagen, and other important battles in the European theater.
Spahn is commonly credited with having earned a Bronze Star at the Bridge of Remagen due to a false, unauthorized biography. The book claimed to be his biography but was mostly fabricated. Spahn sued the writer and publisher for defamation and for violating his privacy, and he won the case in the Supreme Court. Spahn did earn a Purple Heart in the war.
7. Bernard Dolan and a teammate play, fight, and earn posthumous service crosses together.
In France on Oct. 16, 1918, Cpl. Dolan was wounded and took cover. He saw another soldier hit and rushed from his cover to assist, exposing himself to enemy fire and earning him a Distinguished Service Cross. He was hit again during the rescue attempt, leading to his death.
He became a fighter pilot and served in the Pacific in 1944 aboard the USS Enterprise, seeing combat in the Pacific multiple times, most of which was in the Philippines. He earned the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star as a Navy lieutenant junior grade. He was shot down over the Philippines on November 14, 1944, but his body was never recovered.
9. Pitcher Stanford Wolfson was executed by the Germans after his tenth bombing mission.
Stanford Wolfson played for multiple teams in the minor leagues as a pitcher and outfielder from 1940 to 1942. On Oct. 15, 1942, he joined the Army Air Force as a bomber pilot, earning a commission as a second lieutenant. From December 1943 to November 1944, he flew nine bombing missions over Nazi Germany. On November 5, 1944, he flew a tenth and final mission and was ordered to bail out by the pilot after the plane took heavy damage from anti-aircraft fire.
In early 1945, he was training B-29 pilots. While piloting one of the B-29’s, Southworth attempted an emergency landing after an engine began smoking. he overshot the runway and crashed into the water near LaGuardia Field, New York.
An infielder and outfielder who distinguished himself in the minor leagues, Keith Bissonnette left baseball to join the Army Air Force. He earned his commission and became a fighter pilot in the 80th Fighter Group, flying missions in P-40 Warhawks and P-47 Thunderbolts between India and China from 1944 to 1945.
Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bebas was assigned as a dive-bomber pilot aboard the USS Hornet. Bebas first saw combat on June 6, 1942 in the Battle of Midway. He pushed through extreme anti-aircraft fire to achieve a near-miss that damaged a Japanese ship, earning him a Distinguished Flying Cross. He died during a training mission in 1942.
In an interview with We Are The Mighty, the man behind the camouflage pattern, Guy Cramer of HyperStealth Biotechnologies, says there were very specific reasons why the Afghan army chose the uniforms it did, and that it wasn’t a decision imposed by the Pentagon.
1. The camouflage is actually perfect for the environment
Pentagon watchdogs argue the Afghan army uniform is built in a pattern that won’t help conceal soldiers in about 98 percent of Afghanistan’s environment. The country is mostly desert, rock or arid (think the New Mexico or Arizona mountains) and the green-heavy pattern the Afghan army adopted isn’t suited to most of the battlefields soldiers would fight in.
Cramer told us, however, that at the time the army adopted its pattern, most of the fighting was going on in the agricultural areas of Afghanistan’s south, among ribbons of lush growth flanking irrigation canals and croplands.
The pattern adopted by the Afghan army is similar to one that was developed for a competition in the U.S. Army to find an alternative to the gray-green Universal Camouflage Pattern the service began fielding in 2003. Cramer engineered so-called the US4CES family of patterns that in some tests performed far better than the MultiCam pattern the Army eventually settled on.
One of the things Cramer builds into his patterns is technology to help conceal soldiers at night, not just in daylight. Pentagon watchdogs claim there were several U.S. patterns available for the Afghans to choose from, including the UCP one and the old-style “Battle Dress Uniform” analog pattern.
But Cramer says the UCP and others “glows” at night when seen through night vision — a technology that’s becoming increasingly available to insurgents and terrorists.
The Afghan pattern is designed to help conceal soldiers during night operations, which are increasingly part of the Afghan army’s tactics.
3. It sets the army apart
Sure, Pentagon watchdogs point fingers — and possibly rightly so — at then Afghan defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak for his focus on fashion instead of utility in picking the AFPAT over other patterns like BDUs and desert digital. But Cramer says one of the things Wardak was looking to do was to set his forces apart from the rest of the hodgepodge of Afghanistan’s security forces.
“He wanted it to be distinct,” Cramer said. “The ANA is highly respected in Afghanistan and he wanted his troops to look different.”
Sounds kinda like the Marine Corps, doesn’t it?
Also, and potentially more importantly, Cramer argues that making a distinct, licensed pattern for the ANA is safer for the troops because it’s harder for insurgents to disguise themselves as friendlies and infiltrate bases.
“Anyone can get their hands on BDUs,” he added.
In fact, there have been several incidents in Afghanistan where insurgents have slipped inside friendly lines wearing Army UCP-pattern uniforms, and the Afghan army wanted to avoid that at all costs, Cramer said.
The fur is flying over the alleged “waste” of $28 million in an Afghan uniform that’s suitable for just 2 percent of Afghanistan’s terrain (if you just include “forest” as your measure), and there’s certainly a lot of waste, fraud and abuse to go around when it comes to bankrolling America’s Afghan allies.
But as with any Washington kerfuffle over Pentagon spending, there’s at least a little more to it than meets the eye.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The Marine Corps is proving the potential of its newly established rapid capabilities office with an early purchase: a tactical decision-making kit, invented by Marine grunts, that blends a range of cutting-edge technologies to allow infantry squads to compete against each other in a realistic simulated training environment.
The service inked a $6.4 million contract March 31 for enough kits to outfit 24 infantry battalions with the technology. The contract came just 51 days after Marine leaders identified the technology, invented in a Camp Lejeune barracks room, as a valuable capability for the service, said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
In an interview with Military.com on Tuesday at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference, Walsh said leathernecks from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, decided to turn space inside one of the battalion’s barracks facilities into a makeshift warfighting lab, combining a handful of technologies already in use by the Corps into a sophisticated mission rehearsal system.
The North Carolina-based 2/6 created what it called a tactical decision room, linking computers equipped with deployable virtual training environment simulation software already in use by the service.
The Marines used quadcopters to create a 3D map of a real training area, which was then uploaded to the simulation. They could then run and re-run the same realistic mission in the simulated environment. They added in the Corps’ Instrumented-Tactical Engagement Simulation System equipment, technology that allows tracking of battlefield movements and simulated fires using lasers, allowing for realistic training and complex after-action feedback for the warfighter.
“So now what we’re seeing these guys do is, they’re gaming in their barracks, squad-on-squad — gaming back-and-forth on decision-making,” Walsh said. “… They all get to take it 3D, plug it into what they look at virtually, figure out how they’ll attack it, then go conduct the mission.”
In an article published in the Marine Corps Gazette, four platoon leaders from 2/6, all second lieutenants, described how they saw the system they helped create fitting into infantry training.
“As infantrymen, we do not spend as much time in the field as we would like,” they wrote. “The decision room is a way to maximize our training and tactical prowess garrison … we can optimize the natural technical aptitudes of millennials while not requiring units to purchase additional materials.”
The Office of Naval Research assisted with pulling the software components together and making them communicate as a complete system, Walsh said. Ultimately, top Marine leadership, including Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters, designated the system as a candidate for investment through the Corps’ rapid capabilities office, which activated late last year.
Col. James Jenkins, director of Science and Technology for the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, said the value of the system is in the ability of squads and small units to run and re-run the same scenario with detailed after-action feedback.
“Here’s the debrief, here’s who shot who when, and here’s why, and go back and just get better every time,” he said. “It’s all about that sets and reps.”
Jenkins said the first system will be delivered early next month, with planned delivery of four tactical decision-making kits per month until all 24 battalions are equipped. Jenkins said the kits will be delivered strategically when a unit has time to learn the technology and incorporate it into training, not during pre-deployment workups or other kinetic seasons.
This summer, between June and July, the Corps plans to publicly promote the tactical decision kit within the service, describing the innovation process at 2/6 and how relatively junior-ranking grunts came up with something of value to the greater institution.
“It was truly bottom-up, how could we make this better,” Jenkins said.
Walsh said the purchase illustrates the need for the rapid capabilities office and funding for fast prototyping and development. Ideally, he said, he would like to have around $50 million available to invest in new ideas and technologies.
“Is it the 100 percent solution? Probably not. We’re going to have to keep adjusting,” he said of the 2/6 invention. “But it’s now getting every squad in the Marine Corps wargaming, experimenting and doing tactics and learning from them.”
Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said Friday.
However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.
Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.
Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.
DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.
“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”
Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.
Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.
Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”
“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”
But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.
“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”
A war hero in Afghanistan became a local hero in New York City earlier this week when he rescued a baby from a smoking car – and he did it even though he has no legs.
Matias Ferreira, a Marine who lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, was just two days away from getting married to his sweetheart when he heard a frantic mother crying for help on a busy road in Queens.
The mother was trapped in her driver’s seat after her car plowed into a median pole and needed to get her child out of the smoking car.
Thinking of his own 11-month-old daughter, the 26-year-old Ferreira jumped out of his pick-up truck and sprinted over – on two prosthetic legs – to the car.
“With the Marines, you are taught to be prepared and act,” Ferreira, who was leaving his wedding rehearsal at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Parish when he heard the screams, told the New York Daily News.
He added: “Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference.”
While his brother and future father-in-law helped free the frantic mother, Ferreira squeezed himself into the backseat of the car and rescued the baby from her car seat.
“We didn’t know if the car was on fire or anything else,” the Uruguayan-born Marine said. “We knew we had to get them to safety.”
The three men stayed on the scene until firefighters and paramedics arrived on scene.
“I didn’t hear the baby crying, so I got kind of concerned,” Ferreira added. “Then I saw her open her eyes, and it kind of reassured me she was doing better.”
Ferreira lost both legs from the knees down and broke his pelvis in January 2011 when he stepped on an IED while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite his injuries, he still competes in sports and rides a motorcycle.
“The prostheses were the last thing on my mind,” Ferreira said of the rescue. “It doesn’t have to be a Marine. It doesn’t have to be a firefighter. It just has to be someone with a good heart.”
A senior Air Force commander revealed that airmen flying drones over ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq are directing close air support strikes supporting allied troops on the ground using unmanned aircraft.
Flying primarily out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, the pilots use pairs of MQ-9 Reaper drones where one designates the targets and the other drops ordnance on it, said Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command — a mission he calls “urban CAS.”
“What we’re finding is some of what we can do multi-ship with the MQ-9 is really paying dividends just because of the attributes of those airplanes with the sensor suite combined with the weapons load and the ability to buddy and do things together,” Carlisle said during a Feb. 24 breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington D.C. “We’re finding that as we’re able to practice this more sometimes we can bring them together and pair them off.”
Usually, Air Force Joint Tactical Air Controllers, Combat Controllers or Tactical Control Party airmen paint targets and walk aircraft into a strike, including Reapers. But in terror battlefields like ISIS-held Syrian cities or hotbeds in Iraq, the risk to American boots on the ground is too great to deploy terminal controllers, officials say.
Carlisle added that American unmanned planes are closely linked with ground forces fighting ISIS militants in the battle for Mosul, “doing great work with that persistent attack and reconnaissance.”
“And their interaction with the land component is increasing in the Mosul fight,” he added, hinting that even attack helicopters are now able to link into feeds from Reaper drones.
And there’s more Carlisle wants to do with his MQ-9 fleet.
With recent bonuses of up to $175,000 paid to Air Force unmanned aerial vehicle pilots, the service now has the breathing room to do more with its Reaper fleet than just surveillance or precision strikes with one drone, Carlisle said.
“Some of that [growth] is bearing fruit in that we’re getting a little bit of an opportunity to do some training and get to some other missions,” Carlisle said. “So we’re learning a lot about the MQ-9 and what it can do for us.”
Veteran U.S. Marine Corps combat cameraman Scotty Bob loves to jump out of perfectly safe aircraft. He got his first taste of what would become his career at age 19 when his attachment to Marine Force Recon sent him to U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“That’s kind of where I bit the bug,” Bob told Coffee or Die. He now lives in Southern California as a professional base jumper working with Squirrel Wingsuits. He also works with Kavu, maker of the well-known Rope Bag.
Back in the Marines, Bob didn’t get to jump very often. He deployed to Iraq twice, in 2007 and 2009, and spent most of his time with line infantry units. “Once we get deployed, we’re kind of property of the MEF (Marine Expeditionary Force),” he said. “I think I was the only combat cameraman with jump wings.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the role of a combat cameraman, Scotty said that “if you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ it’s the exact same job. The guy who wrote the manuscript of that movie for Stanley Kubrick, he was my MOS (military occupational specialty).”
After his five-year stint in the Marines, Bob left in 2010 and soon realized that college was “not really my thing.” So he began his skydiving and base-jumping career in Virginia.
(Photo courtesy of Scotty Bob/Facebook.)
As with many career paths, Bob said, one starts in the skydiving industry with “entry-level jobs, and you tend to work your way up the ranks. And for me it started as a parachute packer.” He worked long hours and did not get to jump very often, but his foot was in the door.
After spending a while working in Virginia, where he grew up, Bob decided to head west. He said that once “you spend a couple years skydiving on the East Coast, you realize you need to move West. In California, we can jump year round.”
By 2013, he had earned tandem instructor certification, and Bob was well on his way to living his dream.
He has jumped everywhere from Virginia to Alaska, where he jumped out of de Havilland Beavers. He described the Alaskan experience as “just flying down mountains.” He even jumped Pioneer Peak, one of the most iconic mountains of the western Chugach range, not far from Anchorage.
(Photo courtesy of Scotty Bob/Facebook.)
In his day-to-day life, Bob tests new wingsuits for Squirrel Wingsuits and coaches people in wingsuiting.
“I do that basically seven days a week,” he said, adding that “the base-jumping community especially has a massive veteran community, it’s pretty scary. When we have events, at least in the States, you can throw a rock and hit three Marines.”
As for the future, Bob says that he is happy where he is. “I’ve reached the holy grail of jobs,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.”