Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

The US military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.

NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the US Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.


Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman US Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
A M1 Abrams tank from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, 2018, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.

“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.

The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12, 2018, and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in realistic and complex training environment before they return to the US.

After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.

The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Germans stand next to US soldiers as they watch the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, on German roads from the Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. Polanco)

Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.

A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a US flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with US Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with US flags, according to an Army release.

“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.

The US deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure US allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.

At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included US troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as a armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Vehicles assigned to 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conduct a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 22, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)

Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.

NATO itself is also looking at ways to increase its readiness and streamline its operations in Europe. NATO movements on the continent have been hindered by differing conflicting regulations and customs rules, differing road standards, and outdated infrastructure across member states.

In January 2018, a convoy of US Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.

In March 2018, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.

The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

September 11, 2001 means different things for different Americans. For some, the events of that date will forever be seared in their memories. For others, they were too young to know what was going on, yet they sensed something big had happened. For a younger generation, 9/11 is history. They read about it in textbooks that are absent the feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress that plagued so many Americans on that morning and the days following.

But, it’s an important date. It’s a date that represents sacrifice. Many people died, putting the lives of others before theirs. It’s a date that represents unity. Americans came together to offer up support to the families of the fallen. It also represents mistakes. Following the events of 9/11, Muslims and Middle-Eastern Americans had to weather the racial blowback that came from 19 men flying planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.


What’s important is that we remember. And that our kids know what happened that day, so the sacrifices, the story of Americans coming together, as well as the mistakes we made are not forgotten. And a great way to share memories is through stories. In her debut middle-school novel, Caroline Brooks DuBois gives us The Places We Sleep. It’s a story about a young girl navigating a new school (because her dad is in the Army) during the events of September 11, 2001. I recently interviewed Caroline to learn more about her book.

WATM: This novel touches on so many different themes: 9/11, racism, being a military kid, being a middle schooler, and being a young girl in middle school. Could you talk a little bit about the story you tell in The Places We Sleep?

Caroline: With Abbey, I attempted to create a middle school character who is as multifaceted as the pre-teens and teens I know and teach (and adore). Middle schoolers currently are living through very complex times, yet they are still concerned about their complexion, their hair, what to wear, who said what to whom, getting embarrassed in front of their peers, and so much more. In the story, Abbey navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events, so I hope readers will see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. In the years that followed 9/11, my brothers and my brother-in-law were all called into active duty and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. These events were the seed for Abbey’s story. I knew I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and families in unexpected ways. But I also wanted to tell a story about a girl with whom readers could relate. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, and friendship.

WATM: Who should pick this book up? Is this a book a parent could read with their middle schooler to talk about 9/11?

Caroline: Middle grade students I’ve taught have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11 and are curious and want to know more. There are several great books for young readers on 9/11 that I’ve incorporated into my teaching over the years, as I’ve found reading stories offers an opening to difficult subjects. I hope The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy.

Although the story is written for middle-school age kids, adults have told me the story resonates with them as well. It allows readers to visit, or revisit, 9/11 in the safe space of a story. The current national trauma of the Coronavirus pandemic may have a similar traumatic impact on youth and adults. Reading with a child about a dark time in our history is one way to open up conversation on important topics such as resiliency, strength, attitude, and hope. My hope is that the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. If they see Abbey journey through difficult times and come out stronger, they too may be inspired and optimistic in the face of their generation’s own difficult times.

WATM: You chose to tell the story in Verse. Could you talk about that decision and why you think it will appeal to readers?

Caroline: As a teacher and parent, I’ve noticed the appeal of shorter and/or alternative forms of story-telling (e.g., books in verse, flash fiction, graphic novels, epistolaries, etc.), undoubtedly influenced by technology and reading online. Even though I have a love for long form and traditional novels, I’ve noticed how books in verse can create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate or hook adolescent readers.

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium for Abbey’s story.

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Where you may not have time to read an entire chapter with someone, there’s always time for a poem or two.

WATM: On top of all the other crazy events in the book, Abbey also deals with the struggle of puberty. A lot of middle school books gloss over this. But, it’s a main part of Abbey’s story. Could you discuss why you chose to address it in your novel?

Caroline: When I was a pre-teen, one of the few sources for making sense of puberty was Judy Blume novels, which we passed covertly between friends (Think: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t). Changing bodies were cringe-worthy and carried heavy feelings of shame. Not enough has changed since then. I should know: I taught 7th grade for three years recently, and I saw it when girls cornered me at my desk to signal with their eyes they needed an emergency bathroom break, or when boys shut down in class conversations, avoiding branding themselves as not part of the pack. Novels that talk about puberty openly and other difficult issues are lifesavers for youth. Now more than ever, young readers need to be able to see themselves in books. Sometimes it takes a character in a book to show a reader they are not alone. Forewarning, my second reason is a little cerebral and a slight spoiler regarding Abbey’s character arc. Through her journey, Abbey makes a connection between coming of age (a.k.a, getting her period) and possessing the power to create life. She contemplates how the terrorists on 9/11 chose to destroy life. Coming of age brings with it many choices about how to act, and sometimes acting with integrity and authenticity means not following your peers—and that’s a true test of character.

WATM: Outside of classical literature, this is the first time I’ve ever read a novel in verse. Since you got your MFA in poetry, what are some of the must-reads in this genre?

Caroline: In this space, I’ll mainly mention notable middle-grade novelists who write in verse, but there are also numerous young adult novelists who write in verse as well. Disclaimer: These are a few of my own personal favorites and there are many others not included: Kwame Alexander (sports-themed Crossover and Booked), Sharon Creech (Love that Dog and Hate that Cat), Thanhha Lai (Inside Out Back Again), and Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming). Additionally, Ellen Hopkins is a must-read author of books in verse for young adults; she tackles challenging topics such as drug addiction and mental illness in her unapologetic, in-your-face verse. One of my all-time favorite novels in verse is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, which tells the story of 14-year-old Billie Jo, who struggles to help her family survive the Dust Bowl.

The Places We Sleep is available on Amazon.

Articles

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

In Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad during the 1980s, a family of six brothers and one sister — all very close in age — played in the streets and parks of their hometown, enjoying the simple things in life they had at the time. Through the decades, the times and the city had changed, and the streets and parks were not as simple.


Alsaeedy, the son of an Iraqi army reserve officer, said Iraq was a joyous place to grow up. “We played basketball, walked to school — all the children in the neighborhood were close,” he added. “There were negatives in politics, but we believed in our father, and everything was fine.”

Alsaeedy’s dream was to travel. “Everybody’s goal [in high school] was to travel the world, places like [the United Kingdom], U.S., and Europe,” Alsaeedy said. He kept that dream with him before pursuing a degree in biochemical engineering at the University of Baghdad.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Capt. Robert Duchaine, B Company Commander, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, visits with children Oct. 31 at a Kindergarten school in the Khadamiyah area of western Baghdad. He took this opportunity when his unit conducted a joint mission with Iraqi Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division to hand out toys and school supplies. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Bob Miller).

“I was in my second year of college when everything happened — the troops arrived,” he said. “It was a year later when it seemed things began to settle down. We all were trying to educate ourselves on the matter, because we believed — and still do — that the U.S. forces and allies were there to transform the country and help. We felt there was not going to be any more tyranny system or sects of families taking over the country, doing whatever they felt they wanted … so we believed in the change and welcomed it.”

Trouble Finding Work

After graduating from college, Alsaeedy needed to find work, preferably in the engineering field. But it was extremely hard to come by, he said, due to the nature of the country and the fact that most employers hired only within their sects.

“I did not know exactly what to do or what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work for and with the service members,” he said. “It was not just about money or security. It was about being a part of something important to me.”

Unable to break into the U.S. contractor market, Alsaeedy’s education and skill set eventually gravitated employers to him within the private sector. In 2005, he found stability in the information technology field as a networking specialist for satellite communications.

“Then one day a man came into the shop and it changed my life forever,” he said. “He inquired about an internet network to be installed on a military base in Baghdad. I took the job. After the work was complete, they were very satisfied and needed more, so they hired me full-time. My English was very fluent, and I became a translator for them, too.”

While the years passed, Alsaeedy’s experiences and relationships grew through the ranks, and by 2007, he was a popular name among higher-ranking officials with the U.S. Air Force and the Marines in Qaim, Iraq.

Integrated Into Brotherhood

“I saw in the soldiers what very few of us [natives] see,” Alsaeedy said. “They were trustful, pleasant and respectful; they integrated me into their brotherhood.”

Insurgency propaganda said the Americans were in Iraq to destroy everything, Alsaeedy said.” But they were not,” he added. “They were building. They built infrastructure for the population and barracks for the Iraqi army. They supplied resources increasing our livelihood [and] creating jobs for husbands and fathers.”

At the end of 2007, Alsaeedy received some big news. Then-President George W. Bush allowed vetted contractors who had worked for the U.S. government for at least five years to be granted special immigrant visas for them and their families. The visa allowed them to live and work in the United States. At the end of 2009, Alsaeedy said, things started to change as U.S. troops began to withdraw.

“The protection was decreasing and so was the structure,” he said. “I knew if I stayed, my family and I were going to die soon.” In 2010, Alsaeedy met his five-year requirement to qualify for the special visa for him and his family to move to the United States.

Settling in Virginia

He settled in Norfolk, Virginia, where a new country and culture surrounded him. What he once knew as a world of war was now a life of peace and the pursuit of happiness, he said. He was immediately hired, and he worked for an oil and gas company from 2011 to 2012.

Alsaeedy said he felt grateful to the United States for the opportunities he’d received.

However, Alsaeedy said he “wanted to give them more.”

He enlisted into the U.S. Army in August 2013 as a combat engineer. Shortly thereafter, he attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Alsaeedy demonstrated his potential and quick-learning abilities, as well as outstanding physical fitness. He was afforded the opportunity to attend airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, upon graduation.

“I found out that I was going to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I knew it was an honor and a prestigious unit. I remember seeing the ‘Double-A’ patch in Iraq. And to realize that I am now one of those paratroopers along with my family — I was beyond excited and humbled. However, it truly did not hit me until I came to Fort Bragg and walked through the division’s museum. That’s when I realized I was a part of something special.”

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Paratroopers assigned to Charlie Company, 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division operate a satellite transmission terminal during a joint training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 22, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt/Released)

In 2014, Alsaeedy arrived full of energy to Alpha Company, 307th BEB. He was a new Panther Engineer, and he integrated just fine among his leaders and peers.

“We did a lot of training,” he said. “We went to every kind of weapons range you could think of. I learned demolitions, steel cutting, [went on] too many ruck marches, and was just very happy.”

Returning to Iraq

But Alsaeedy’s heart was holding a deep secret: there was something missing.

“My real dream was to return to Iraq,” he said. “I wanted to be an asset to the unit. I had the language, the background and culture. I knew if I ever went back, I would put myself out there to be as valuable as I could for the 307th.”

In early 2015, the 3rd BCT deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, it was the newest campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There, paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division provided advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.

In a twist of fate, Alsaeedy’s unit operated in the neighborhood where he was raised. His dream finally came true.

“It wasn’t easy at first,” Alsaeedy said while looking up with teary eyes. “But it was my leadership. They understood my situation. They supported me. It made my job and task much easier.”

Alsaeedy’s background and capabilities soon became an asset for his battalion commander all the way up to division command sergeant major and higher-ranking officials in tactical operations centers around the area of operations.

With his hard work and commitment to his leadership and the unit’s mission, Alsaeedy received the first battlefield promotion for a noncommissioned officer during the OIR campaign. He was pinned with the rank of sergeant during the fall of 2015 upon the unit’s redeployment to Fort Bragg.

Great Things

His accomplishments and accolades did not stop there. “When I became an NCO, great things began to happen for me and my family,” Alsaeedy said. He attended the Warrior Leader’s Course soon after becoming a sergeant, learning technical skills and correspondence in the craft of an NCO.

Alsaeedy’s motivation and physical fitness separated him from his peers. He wanted to go to Sapper School and master his craft as an engineer. “I may have had a more advanced role during deployment, but I am still an engineer in the 307th,” he said.

Early 2016 came around, and he began training with the division’s Best Sapper Team as it prepared to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sapper competition.

To keep himself busy and find new challenges, Alsaeedy attended the two-week Fort Bragg Pre-Ranger Course, which evaluates and prepares future candidates for the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning.

He never went to Sapper School, though. Immediately upon graduating the Pre-Ranger Course, he was put on a bus to Ranger School. Alsaeedy went straight through the 62-day course, a course that normally has a high attrition rate.

“I have been busy, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I felt the more I accomplish as an NCO and a paratrooper, the more I am giving back to the Army.

“I am just so grateful. I cannot put into words how I feel, landing the opportunity during the mid-2000s to becoming a citizen, a soldier deployed to my hometown and a Ranger,” he continued. “My wife and child love the installation, the people, and my daughter is receiving a great education from the schools on Fort Bragg. The Army adopted me, and I am forever in debt to the most professional and perfect organization: the 82nd Airborne [Division].”

Articles

Uplifting story of the day: Marine turns the tables on his injury

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years


On August 9, 2014, Staff Sergeant Brandon Dodson lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device blast in Shah Pusta, Afghanistan. He was on his fifth deployment.

About 19 months later, in mid-March 2016, Brandon completed a Team Semper Fi surf camp. It was his fifth time surfing since his injury.

“What’s really interesting about surfing,” says Brandon, who was born and raised in California and surfed all his life, “is it’s the only thing in my life that’s easier since I’ve been injured. Sitting versus having to stand up, I actually surf better now than I did before.”

“The part that’s really difficult is getting from the car to down by the water and paddling out through the breakers,” Brandon continued. “I’m either in big prosthetic legs, or short house legs or a wheelchair — none of which work well in sand. Once I’m in the water, though, I’m totally independent.”

Brandon’s journey to the waters off San Clemente, California by way of Afghanistan has been a truly remarkable one.

Born at Naval Air Station Lemoore in central California (his father was a Marine), Brandon enlisted in July 2003 and was deployed to Iraq a year later. He served as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit on a ship off the coasts of southeast Asia in 2006, and deployed to Iraq a second time in 2007.

After returning home and serving as a drill instructor in San Diego, Brandon was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and again in 2014. He uses the word “surreal” to describe that most recent deployment.

“We were living in nice built-up barracks with anywhere from 3-man rooms to 12-man rooms,” he explained. “We had Wi-Fi, we had a gym, we had a nice chow hall, we had laundry, we had salsa nights, movie nights — we had all the amenities. We’d go from that to doing patrols outside the wire for five days and killing bad guys.”

When Brandon stepped on the pressure plate connected to five pounds of homemade explosives, he was on day one of a three-day operation—the last patrol of his deployment. He was MEDEVAC’d to Camp Bastion, where he remained in a coma for two days.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

“I was told I needed 19 liters of blood transfused into me,” he recalls. “I bled out roughly four times the amount of blood in a human body. Then they flew me to Landstuhl; that’s where I woke up. I was there for 3 days, in and out of surgery. I landed in Bethesda August 14, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Brandon’s wife, Jasmine, first learned about the Semper Fi Fund during his initial recovery in Bethesda and Brandon got to know the Fund’s representatives as his recovery progressed.

“When you’re inpatient at Walter Reed, you’re approached by about 1,000 nonprofits that want to see you,” he explains. “The Semper Fi Fund stood out because they had actual people that came around that were damn near employees at the hospital, they’re there all the time. They were so nice, they had so much good advice, and they were able to talk to my wife and family and were able to comfort them in so many ways.”

The support provided to Brandon and Jasmine and their family included helping Brandon’s mother and two brothers with their wages so they could step away from their jobs and be with him during his initial recovery period.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
“They helped us to go on a family vacation for my one-year Alive Day,” Brandon added, “and they provided me with the ability to participate in multiple different events — not just surf camp, I did a water skiing camp, another surf camp in Virginia Beach, and I handcycled the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 with Team Semper Fi.”

“A lot of guys that are injured like me, traumatically injured, some don’t take advantage of opportunities like this,” Brandon says. “They’ll sit and not go on trips and they don’t want to go out in public and not try anything new, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. My wife and I, we’ve taken every trip and opportunity—stuff I’ve done before, like surfing, and stuff I haven’t done.”

“The Semper Fi Fund, they’re the best nonprofit for wounded warriors out there, and they help in any capacity. Not just handing out money, even though that’s part of it, but if you need a special adaptive piece of equipment or car modifications, plus they run all these adaptive sports programs—surfing, skiing, all kinds of athletic sports. Anything you can think of, they offer a camp for it. As a Marine, I would say that the Semper Fi Fund is the number-one nonprofit, they’re amazing.”

Looking back over his experiences of the last dozen years or so, Brandon says that he doesn’t get worked up over small things anymore (“like dumb stuff I see on Facebook”)—and has reached an interesting family-oriented perspective on his injury.

“There’s nobody really handicapped in my life, nobody’s in a wheelchair,” he says. “My wife and I, we both had really healthy families growing up, so I was never really exposed to handicapped people at a personal level. It’s not like I was judging them in any way, I don’t think, I was just unaware.”

“Now, what really makes me happy is that my son was only 18 months old when I was injured, so the way he’s growing up, this stuff is not gonna faze him at all. That’ll make him a better person, which makes me happy.”

We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.

Articles

America’s most patriotic pin-ups are back for 2017

Once again this year a host of beautiful women dressed in 1940s “pin-up” outfits adorn a retro-style calendar to help raise money for America’s wounded warriors. The effort was born of the inspiration these images delivered to the “Greatest Generation” fighting in the battlefields and in the air during World War II in hopes they’d do the same for the post-9/11 military.


Founder Gina Elise began Pin-Ups for Vets 11 years ago at the height of the Iraq War. She saw the horrifying wounds U.S. troops sustained while fighting the Global War On Terrorism and she felt compelled to do something for hospitalized veterans.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Gina Elise on the cover of Pin-Ups for Vets’ 2017 Calendar (photo by Mike Davello)

And she has.

Elise and her pin-ups raised more than $50,000 for medical and rehabilitation equipment at VA hospitals all over the country since she started her nonprofit.

This year, she’s back with a new calendar full of veterans in their full pin-up glory. Her retinue includes veterans from every branch of the military as well as male vets in similar classic styles.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Army veteran Carmen with WATM’s own Marine Corps veteran Weston Scott (photo by Mike Davello)

“We shot with a DC-3, at a fire museum, at a train museum. We like to have really unique backgrounds,” Elise says. “The calendar is going to be hanging for a month. It’s going to be hanging in hospital rooms and in barracks with our deployed troops, so I want it to be very colorful and happy; something that can bring some joy when someone looks at it.”

The calendar brings more than just a visual pick-me-up as the money raised from sales also helps fund visits by the pin-up models to hospitalized veterans. And the pin-ups who do the hospital visits are often veterans themselves.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Army veteran Kaleah Jones (photo by Mike Davello)

“We have 24 veterans featured in our 2017 edition,” says Elise. “Their total combined service is 162 years.”

Elise and other Pin-Ups for Vets have visited about 10,000 veterans at VA and military hospitals so far, with more on the schedule.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Deployed troops sporting Pin-Ups for Vets t-shirts.

A Marine Corps veteran who deployed twice to Iraq, pin-up Vana Bell appreciates Elise’s vision and is enthusiastic about the organization’s cause.

“I’m comfortable in sweats, I rarely wear makeup, I wear glasses, and my hair is usually in a ponytail,” Bell says. “To see those professional shots leaves me kind of awestruck. Who’s that girl they managed to uncover?”

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
The veterans of Pin-Ups for Vets. Vana Bell is pictured Top Row, Left (photo by Mike Davello)

The annual calendar even features some veteran celebrities as well. Mark Valley and Maximilian Uriarte of “Terminal Lance” fame appeared in previous editions. And this year YouTube star, beauty expert, and Army veteran Dulce Candy is Miss August 2017.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Dulce Candy in the 2017 Calendar (photo by Mike Davello)

“She’s really this incredible Army veteran that’s doing some pretty big time things, so we’re very lucky to have her,” Elise says. “She was a generator mechanic when she was in the Army. She deployed, came back, and became a superstar beauty blogger.”

Veterans interested in being part of Pin-Ups for Vets should start with the organization’s website. Any veterans interested in being part of the 2018 calendar should follow Pin-Ups for Vets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and keep an eye out for the casting call.

MIGHTY TRENDING

See these Afghan Black Hawks fly their first mission

The Afghan Air Force has been making major changes in its inventory lately. Once a user of primarily Russian aircraft, the Afghans are switching to American systems — and they’re buying a lot of them.

At present, the Afghan National Air Force is operating four Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters, 40 Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters, 12 A-29 Super Tucanos, 10 UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters, 24 MD530 attack helicopters, and four UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters. This is already a varied force, with more on the way.


Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

An Afghan Air Force member inspects a UH-60 Black Hawk as air crews prepare for their first Afghan-led operational mission on this aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)

The Afghan Air Force has 154 MD530s on order along with 155 UH-60As. This gives them a lot of rotary-wing capability for taking on the Taliban and is a level of force the country hasn’t seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. What few planes and helicopters remained flyable after Soviet support evaporated with the end of the Cold War were taken out by the United States of America. Rebuilding that lost capability has been a long process.

The UH-60A, the baseline version of the highly versatile H-60 airframe, has a crew of three and can haul 11 troops or up to 8,000 pounds of cargo. It entered service in 1979 and has been used internationally ever since. By comparison, the Mi-8/Mi-17 entered service in 1967, has a crew of three, and can hold 26 passengers or up to 8,800 pounds of cargo.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

A graduate from UH-60 Mission Qualification Training proudly holds his certificate of training at a graduation ceremony the day before the Afghan Air Force launched its first operational mission with the UH-60A Blckhawk.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)

One step on that long road to restoring a national force was recently taken when three Afghan Air Force UH-60s took part in a mission to support provincial elections in Afghanistan. The mission took place the day after Mission Qualification Training for the Afghan personnel.

The United States has been fighting the Taliban for almost 17 years, but this mission is a clear sign that the Afghan government is starting to bring more power to the fight.

Watch the Afghan Black Hawks leave for their first mission in the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s transition-based COOL program is, well, actually kinda cool

The Navy Credentials Program Office (CPO) completed its latest brief on the Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) program at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, April 18, 2019.

Navy COOL provides active duty and reserve sailors, whether forward-deployed, underway or ashore, with a way to map their Navy education, training, experience, and competencies to civilian credentials and occupations.

“The Navy COOL program reflects the Navy’s ongoing commitment to sailors and civilians in providing world class training, experience, and opportunities that will serve them well on active duty, Federal service, and post-service civilian careers,” said Keith Boring, Navy Credentialing, director.


The Navy Region Hawaii Career Information Center hosted the CPO team for this four-day visit. The team visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii K-Bay, Wahiawa NCTAMS, Joint Base Pearl Harbor and for the first time, Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

Thom Seith, program analyst, Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program, front-right, speaks with Hawaii-based sailors about Navy credentialing opportunities during a Navy Credentials Program Office visit.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Adkins)

“This was a great opportunity to get the word out about the value of certification and licensure from the subject matter experts,” said Senior Chief Navy Counselor Robert Pagtakhan, Navy Region Hawaii career counselor. “The information presented enhanced Career Development Boards, advancement, and individual personal and professional goals. Discussions also emphasized the importance of the Learning and Development Roadmaps and United Services Military Apprenticeship Program.”

In addition to discussions on the importance of credentialing and licensing during and after a sailor’s Navy career, the CPO team also walked attendees through the Navy COOL website, the voucher submission process and credentialing eligibility requirements.

Upcoming Navy COOL briefing opportunities include:

  • May 13-17: Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • May 13-17: Kings Bay, Georgia/Mayport, Florida
  • May 30-June 1: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • July 16-20: New London, Connecticut
  • August 1-5: Kitsap/Whidbey/Everett, Washington
  • August 13-17: Annapolis, Maryland
  • August 20-24: Washington D.C.
  • September 15-20: San Diego, California

Any command interested in hosting a COOL briefing, can complete an online feedback form at: http://coolcontactus.com/ContactUs?service=N.

For more information on Navy COOL, visit http://www.cool.navy.mil/usn or contact a Navy COOL representative at navycool@navy.mil or (850) 452-6683.

For more information about Naval Education and Training Command visit the command’s website at https://www.public.navy.mil/netc or www.navy.mil/local/cnet/ and follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/netcpao.

Get more information about the Navy from US Navy facebook or twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52s flew over disputed areas in a challenge to the Chinese military

The US has reportedly made a bold move in countering Beijing’s growing dominance in the South China Sea by flying B-52 nuclear-capable bombers over disputed islands — and it shows how the US and China may rapidly be approaching a showdown.

The flight of the B-52s, reported by CNN but denied by the Pentagon, follows China landing nuclear-capable bombers of its own on the islands and years of Beijing ignoring international law to bully its neighbors and seize control of the waterway that sees trillions in annual shipping and holds untold billions in natural resources.


It also follows Defense Secretary Jim Mattis calling out China at a conference in Singapore, according to CNN.

“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island,” Mattis said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping swore at the White House with former President Barack Obama in 2015 that he would not militarize the islands, and continues to claim the islands have not been militarized despite the obvious presence of military equipment.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
Chinese President Xi Jinping

China now calls claims that the islands are militarized “ridiculous,” but Mattis wasn’t having that.

“The placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” said Mattis.

The B-52s reportedly flew within 20 miles of the Spratly Islands, which China claims for itself and has built military facilities on. But Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan also claim the islands, and China has repeatedly made a show of refusing to let international courts settle the matter.

The US has a lot of experience taking down small islands

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
A WWII-era US battleship fires its deck guns.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Earlier in June 2018, a top US general asserted the US military’s power to act against threats to international order, saying “the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”

In another rhetorical shift, the US military renamed its Pacific command “Indo-Pacific command” to emphasize India and advance a vision of the Pacific not dominated by China.

But China shows no sign of stopping its march to domination of the valuable waterway, recently using its navy to block out the Philippine navy from feeding its own troops on one of its holdings in the South China Sea.

China’s dominance meets US resolve

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to participate in an exercise scenario.u00a0The aircraft, aircrew and maintainers are deployed from Barksdale AFB, La., as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mahmoud Rasouliyan)

In meetings with Vietnam and the Philippines, China has been understood to threaten force against the smaller countries if they undertake activity in their own, legally claimed waters.

When the US challenges Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, or any country’s excessive maritime claims (the US challenged 22 nations in 2016), it usually does so with a US Navy destroyer.

If the US flew nuclear bombers across the island, that would mark a clear escalation and perhaps the beginning of US military actions matching its rhetoric.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israeli fighters dominating Russian-made defenses in Syria

Russia deployed some of its best air defenses to Syria to keep US missiles and jets at bay as the US military’s immense air and naval power fought ISIS in close proximity — but the supposedly airtight defenses are routinely defeated by Israel.

In February 2017, a Syrian-manned Russian-made S-200 missile defense system shot down an Israel F-16 returning from a massive raid targeting Iranian forces in Syria.


In response, Israel launched another raid that it claimed took out half of Syria’s air defenses, of which older Russian systems comprised the majority.

In April 2018, Syria got rocked by a missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitions depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and is believed to have killed dozens of Iranians.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

Reported image of a strike on Iranian soldiers in Syria.

(Danny Makki/Twitter)

In May 2018, Israel released video of one of its bombs destroying a Russian air defense system, Russian media offered excuses as to why it failed to stop the incoming missile.

Israel rarely confirms individual airstrikes, and either confirmed or didn’t deny these attacks.

In September 2018, another Israeli raid on Iranian weapons stockpiles in Syria saw a Russian Il-20 surveillance and control plane downed by Russian-made air defenses fired off in error by Syrian air defense units, killing 15.

Russia accused Israel of purposefully flying under the Il-20 to confuse the Syrian air defenses into shooting down a friendly plane and quickly shipped the more advanced S-300 missile defenses to Syrian hands.

Russia thinks highly of its S-300 and other missile defenses, and has publicly mocked the US over its stealth jets, implying it could shoot them down. At the time, Russia said it would shut down satellite navigation in the region and that it expected its new defenses would preclude further Israeli attacks. So far, they were wrong.

Somehow Israel has continued to hit targets in Syria at will with F-16s, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter-bombers.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

On Jan. 14, 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that his country’s air force had carried out hundreds of raids in Syria, with a recent one hitting Iranian weapons near Damascus International Airport.

Russia initially deployed air defenses to Syria to keep powerful countries like the US from attacking Syrian President Bashar Assad, and later to protect its own air force fighters stationed there.

The US has long opposed Assad, as he violently shut down peaceful protesters in 2011 and has stood accused of torture, war crimes, and using chemical weapons against civilians during the country’s maddening 7-year-long civil war.

But the US has attacked Syria twice with cruise missiles, and Syria has never proven a single missile intercept.

According to experts, there’s two likely reasons why Syria’s Russian-made air defenses can’t get the job done: 1. Israel is good at beating Syrian air defenses. 2. Syria is bad at beating Israeli jets.

Israel is good at this

“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider.

Bronk said that Israel, a close US ally that takes part in major training events in the US, has become adept at knocking over Syrian air defenses.

Israel sees Iranian arms shipments through Syria as an existential threat. Although Israel has relationships to maintain with the US and Russia — both key players in the Syrian quagmire — Netanyahu has said resolutely that Israel will stop at nothing to beat back Iran.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

Israel’s air force.

In more than 100 raids admitted by Netanyahu, Israel has only lost a single aircraft. Bronk attributes this to “many, many tricks developed over decades” for the suppression of enemy air defenses developed by Israel.

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35, F-22, and F-18 pilot, told Business Insider that Israel finds “innovative, creative, and aggressive ways to maximize the capability of every weapons systems they’ve ever used.”

Syria is bad at this

Syria has demonstrably failed on many occasions to stop air attacks on its territory. While Russia’s air defenses do give US military planners serious pause, Syria’s have yet to prove themselves.

With US Tomahawk cruise missile strikes in consecutive Aprils in 2017 and 2018, Syria claimed both times to have blocked a significant portion of the attack, but never provided any evidence of an intercept.

Additionally, photos from the second US Tomahawk strike on Syria show Syrian air defenses firing interceptor missiles on ballistic trajectories.

This strongly indicates that the Syrians simply fired blindly into the night sky, unable to detect a thing as US missiles rocked targets across the countryside.

Finally, Syria shooting down a friendly Russian plane evidences a lack of coordination or situational awareness, whether due to old hardware, Israeli electronic warfare, or simply poor execution.

Israel’s most recent attacks in Syria took place smack in the middle of Damascus, Russian and Syrian air defenses make for some of the world’s most challenging airspace.

That Israel can still fight in Syria among top Russian air defenses shows either that their force has its tactics down pat, that Syria can’t field decent air defense regimes, or that Russia has turned a blind eye to Israel pounding on Iranian advances in the region.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Celebrate Air Force veteran Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday with these 20 unbeatable facts

Today is the mighty Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday! In honor of this landmark (uh, how is this not a national holiday?) day, we wanted to go back to the good old days of the internet. Before arguing over the color of a dress or if Jordan or Lebron is better (don’t start), we bonded over Chuck Norris facts. Those statements that if attributed to another person would be unbelievable but totally plausible when it referred to the great Norris.


So, we wanted to share our top Chuck Norris facts! Make sure to share any of your favorites too.

media.defense.gov

Before we do, we also want to shout out Chuck for his amazing life. He was born Carlos Norris in Oklahoma and his family eventually settled in California. After high school, he joined the Air Force and ended up being stationed in South Korea where he picked up both martial arts and the nickname Chuck.

Coming home, he opened his first martial arts studio and started participating in tournaments. After winning multiple karate world championships, he opened more studios and became a trainer for the stars. He taught Steve McQueen, Priscilla Presley, the Osmonds and Bob Barker (that’s how he beat up Happy Gilmore so easily).

Norris then parlayed his connections into an acting career. He fought Bruce Lee in the Roman Colosseum, killed terrorists with rockets from his motorcycle (looking more badass than actual Delta Force badasses) and wore a cowboy hat better than anyone else on TV.

He also gave us the Total Gym and Chuck Norris jeans.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

And with that, our favorite Chuck Norris facts!

1. Chuck Norris threw a grenade and killed 50 people, then it exploded.
2. Chuck Norris’ leg was once bit by a cobra. After five days of excruciating pain, the cobra died.
3. Chuck Norris doesn’t try to survive a zombie apocalypse. The zombies do.
4. Chuck Norris can kill your imaginary friends.
5. Chuck can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.


6. Chuck Norris once went to Mars. That’s why there are no signs of life.
7. Chuck Norris knows Victoria’s secret.
8. Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch. He decides what time it is.
9. Chuck Norris created giraffes when he uppercutted a horse.
10. Chuck Norris doesn’t cheat death. He wins fair and square.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

11. Chuck Norris puts the “laughter” in “manslaughter.”
12. Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.
13. Chuck Norris has a diary. It’s called the Guinness Book of World Records.
14. Chuck Norris found the last digit of pi.
15. Chuck Norris can hit you so hard your blood will bleed.

16. Chuck Norris doesn’t worry about high gas prices. His vehicles run on fear.
17. Chuck Norris can delete the Recycling Bin.
18. Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.
19. Chuck Norris can squeeze orange juice out of a lemon.
20. Jack was nimble, Jack was quick, but Jack still couldn’t dodge Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kick.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want artificial intelligence to help counter mines

After nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marine Corps is looking to reorient toward its specialty, amphibious operations, while preparing for the next fight against what is likely to a more capable foe.

Peer and near-peer adversaries are deploying increasingly sophisticated weaponry that the Corps believes will make amphibious landings a much more challenging proposition in the future.


The Corps is looking for high-tech weapons to counter those looming threats, but it’s also looking for a sophisticated system to counter a persistent, low-tech, but decidedly dangerous weapon — mines hidden close to shore.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

(U.S. Marine Corps Facebook Page)

According to a recent post on the US government’s Federal Business Opportunities website, first spotted by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps Rapid Capability Office is looking to autonomous and artificial-intelligence technology to “increase Marines’ ability to detect, analyze, and neutralize Explosive Ordnance (EO) in shallow water and the surf zone” — two areas where amphibious ships and landing craft would spend much of their time.

“Initial market research has determined multiple technically mature solutions exist that can assist Marines ability to achieve this capability,” the notice says.

Potential systems envisioned by the Corps’ request for information include autonomous or remotely operated vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles outfitted with sensors and other gear to detect and evaluate explosive devices.

“Some solutions may provide the ability to neutralize detected ordnance, which is desired but not required,” the RFI states.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

Marines conduct the first amphibious landing in an Assault Breacher Vehicle with a Modified Full Width Mine Plow prototype during Exercise Steel Knight on the West Coast, Dec. 8, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo)

The Corps wants contractors to submit up to three prototypes from a single family or multiple families of systems.

Requirements outlined in the RFI for contractor-submitted systems include being able to detect and identify explosive devices in waters ranging the surf zone, where depths are less than 10 feet, to very shallow waters, which range from 10 feet to 40 feet in depth.

The proposed system must also be able to navigate and avoid obstacles in the littoral zone, which includes shorelines out to coastal waters of 200 feet in depth or more.

The system submitted to the Corps must also be able to use geolocation information to “mark” explosive devices to within a meter in environments where communications and GPS are contested or denied.

The Corps is also looking for systems that are man-portable and can be launched and recovered by one- or two-man teams in a small boat, like the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

A US Marine Corps medium tactical vehicle replacement drives on shore during exercise Baltic Operations 2018 at Ustka, Poland, June 7, 2018.

(Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)

While mines have grown more sophisticated in recent decades, even rudimentary ones are still a potent threat.

An Iranian sea mine that almost sunk the US Navy frigate Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 was a World War I-era device. Since the end of World War II sea mines have destroyed or damaged more US Navy ships than any other weapon.

Mines have become a cornerstone of anti-access/aerial-denial strategies adopted by countries like Iran and China, which have plans to deploy them in important maritime areas like the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea.

The Navy has dedicated mine-countermeasures systems, including specially designed and equipped Avenger-class ships that are deployed around the world and rapidly deployable MH-53H Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany Avenger-class ships.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

A US sailor lowers a mine-neutralization vehicle from the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Chief into the water to track mines and simulate delivering an explosive package, Nov. 27, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jordan Crouch)

Those systems are aging, however, and the Navy has been working on a slew of remotely operated and unmanned mine-countermeasures systems that would be deployed aboard the service’s littoral combat ships, with the goal of “taking the man out of the minefield.”

While there has been recent progress with LCS-based anti-mine systems, the LCS program and those mine countermeasures have encountered delays, malfunctions, and cost overruns that have hindered the program and its implementation.

The Corps has also made progress with countering mines that Marines would encounter on shore.

In December 2017, Marines conducted the first amphibious landing with a modified full-width mine plow prototype, which was attached to an assault breaching vehicle and sent ashore on during an exercise on the West Coast.

The regular full-width plow was too big to fit aboard the Navy’s landing craft utility boats. The modified version is easier to transport and safer to use, a Marine Corps Systems Command official said earlier this year, and it gave commanders more flexibility with their ABVs.

Once ashore, the plow supplements the ABV’s other mine-countermeasure systems, helping clear a path for Marines to advance off the beach.

“This plow prototype makes the ABV transportable and gives the commander options to accomplish his tasks on the battlefield,” Alvin Barrons, an assault breaching vehicle engineer, said in a release at the time. “The capability makes the force more lethal because it helps keep other combat vehicles intact and saves the lives of Marines.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea had formal talks for the first time in 2 years

North Korean delegates scheduled to meet their counterparts from South Korea in the first dialogue between the countries in over two years will cross the contentious military demarcation line (MDL) separating the border, South Korean news outlet KBS reported Jan. 8.


South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that the North Korean officials will walk across the MDL at 9:30 a.m. local time to the Peace House at Panmunjom, or “truce village,” according to KBS. The walk from the MDL to the Peace House is roughly 250 meters, South Korean news outlet YTN reported.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years
This shows the Conference Row in the Joint Security Area of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, looking into South Korea from North Korea. It shows guards on both sides and a group of tourists in the South. (Image Wikipedia)

The Peace House, located in the South Korean portion of Panmunjom, was previously used to hold talks with North Korea, including the prospect of reunifying families separated during the Korean War in the 1950’s.

The itinerary for the historic trip has been fully planned out, according to Reuters, and the discussion will focus around the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, including the possibility of having North Korean athletes attend the event.

The MDL has seen escalated tensions in recent weeks, particularly due to several North Korean defections.

Also Read: Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

On Dec. 20, a “low ranking” soldier reportedly defected to South Korea, causing South Korean troops to fire warning shots towards North Korean border guards who approached the MDL in what appeared to be a search for their comrade.

In November, another defector crossed the border in a dramatic escape under a hail of gunfire. Video footage of the incident showed North Korean soldiers firing their weapons at the defector, and crossing the MDL in violation of the UN Armistice Agreement.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airman receives medal for saving family from fiery crash

In January 2018, on the side of U.S. 287, Maj. Justin Warner placed his well-being on the line to save two strangers whose vehicle had just flipped and caught on fire.

Warner was heading toward Dallas when he witnessed an SUV go off the road and flip, coming to a stop on its side.

“I was the first one to see it,” Warner said. “I stopped and started running toward their car, calling 911 as I made my way to them, but then the vehicle’s engine bay caught on fire so my mindset shifted.”

Forgetting about the emergency call and his own safety, Warner immediately took action.


“I saw that there were two people in the vehicle that would need some help getting out since the car was on its side,” he said. “I climbed up on top of the vehicle and basically pulled them through the driver’s side window.”

Warner mentioned that he was worried the fire would spread and cause the vehicle to explode.

“I had the same mindset from the second I saw the fire,” he said. “I knew I had to get them away from the fire.”

Warner carried the driver’s daughter, who had sustained an ankle injury during the crash, while the father was able to walk to safety. Soon after, the vehicle exploded in flames.

Why US tanks are rolling across Germany for the first time in 15 years

Maj. Justin Warner, 97th Flying Training Squadron IFF instructor, stands next to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stephen Wolfe and his daughter after being awarded the Airman’s Medal Nov. 27, 2018, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

By this point, other motorists had stopped and called emergency services.

“When the emergency vehicles got there, they pretty much took them away quickly and I didn’t get to talk to them afterward,” Warner said. “All I knew was their first names and I tried looking them up later on to see if they were ok, but I couldn’t find them.”

What Warner didn’t know was that the driver of the vehicle was retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stephen Wolfe.

Wolfe reached out to Sheppard Air Force Base to let them know of Warner’s heroic actions.

Warner was awarded the Air Force’s highest noncombat award, the Airman’s Medal Nov. 27, 2018, in front of his family, friends and coworkers.

Maj. Gen. Craig La Fave, 22nd Air Force commander, presented the medal to Warner. He spoke about Warner’s many achievements.

“He is a distinguished graduate from several programs, so it wasn’t really a surprise in my mind when I saw it was him who saved those lives,” La Fave said. “He didn’t see it happen and say, ‘Hey, there is an Airman’s Medal in it for me if I do this.’ He did it because that’s the type of person he is.”

Warner is a 97th Flying Training Squadron introduction to fighter fundamentals instructor and has more than 400 combat flying hours in the F-15 Eagle.

Wolfe and his family were also in attendance for the medal presentation.

“God put him in place on that particular day,” Wolfe said. “He saved my life and my daughter’s life.”

The Airman’s Medal was established on July 6, 1960, and is awarded to those who distinguish themselves by a heroic act, usually at the voluntary risk of their life but not involving combat.

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

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