A US Navy hospital ship arrived in Los Angeles, California on Friday morning, days after President Donald Trump approved its deployment to bolster coronavirus response efforts.
During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.
“The men and women of the USNS Mercy and the United States Navy are honored to be here in Los Angeles supporting FEMA, the state of California, and the city in their ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts,” Navy Rear Adm. John E. Gumbleton said at a press conference on Friday.
FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor on Sunday said that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Friday, Washington state has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York, New Jersey, and California.
California ranks third as of Friday, with over 4,000 cases and 82 deaths. Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Trump in a letter last week to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within a single day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.
Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”
The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.
The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.
Troops today love to liken themselves to the warfighters of old — Spartans, crusaders, knights, pirates, or whatever else. It helps our troops buy into the classic warrior mentality and it makes us feel more badass. When it comes to U.S. Marines, there’s really one comparison that stands out above the rest as apt: the Vikings of the middle-ages.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you, young Marine, which historical badass you should try to emulate — you do you. But if you’re looking for some inspiration from history’s toughest customers; if you’re looking for some sea-faring, slightly-degenerate tough guys that howl for a fight, you’d do well to start your search with the Vikings.
Here’s where Vikings and modern Marines overlap:
1. Both were masters at disembarking amphibious landing ships to fight on land
First and foremost, there are no two groups in history more feared for their ability to storm beaches and absolutely destroy everything within range than Vikings and U.S. Marines. The Vikings are famous for their sieges on Northumbria while the Marines are known for successes during the South Pacific campaign of WWII. For both groups, their presence alone is often enough to force a surrender.
But their skills on the coastline don’t discredit their ability to fight inland. Vikings, accustomed to the frigid north, fared extremely well when fighting in the Holy Lands — not too far from there was where the Marines fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah.
Hell, one of the stories of Thor is about him basically trying to drink an entire ocean made of booze.
2. Both are known for intense post-combat partying
Another key trait of the Viking lifestyle that isn’t too far off from what happens in the average lower-enlisted barracks of any Marine Corps installation: consuming volumes of alcohol that would incapacitate mere mortals is just the pregame for Vikings and lance corporals.
I’m highly confident that a Jomsviking leaderwould have been completely cool with wall-to-wall counselling to solve any issues.
3. Both share a deep brotherhood with their fellow fighters
Most troops, regardless of era, become friends with the guys to their left and right, but Marines and Vikings are known for taking that brotherhood to a new level.
The Viking mercenaries, known as the Jomsvikings, followed a strict code that revolved around brotherhood among their ranks and their motto is roughly translated as, “one shield, one brotherhood.” This way of live was written into their 11 codes of conduct. It doesn’t matter who you were before you became a Jomsviking, but so as long as you’re a brother, you will not fight with each other and you will avenge another should they fall in combat. And if there was infighting, the dispute was mediated by the leadership (or chain of command).
All of these things are essentially within the UCMJ.
Or the story of Harald “Bluetooth”… because he ate a blueberry that one time.. Yep, Vikings were creative like that.
4. Both had a penchant for giving each other nicknames
Giving someone a terrible nickname after they made a silly mistake is one of the more bizarre tidbits of Viking lore — but it is exactly what Marines still do to one another today. The platoon idiot is “boot,” the big guy in the unit is “Pvt Pyle,” and you know damn well that certain guy they call “Mad Dog” did something to earn that name.
History speaks of the famed viking warrior named Kolbeinn Butter Penis (named after his sexual exploits) and Eystein Foul-Fart (named for the noxious small that came from his ass). Hell, even Erik the Red got his name because he was a ginger — or because he was a violent sociopath at the age of ten… nobody can say for certain there.
On the topic of Valhalla, Marines hold Tun Tavern with about the same level of respect.
5. Both believe that the older the fighter, the more terrifying the man
Beware of an old man in a profession where men usually die young.
The only thing more terrifying than a 47-year-old Master Gunnery Sergeant who’s fueled entirely by alcohol, tobacco, and hatred was a 47-year-old, bearded-out berserker who’s lived in the woods for the better part of twenty years.
Unlike their contemporaries, Vikings had a special place in their groups for the older warrior men and treated their cumulative knowledge as sacred. Younger Vikings would pick their brains, trying to learn their tactics. And, at the end of the day, the old viking were said to fight even more ferociously in battle, knowing that their time was short. After all, dying sick in bed won’t get the Valkyries’ attention — only through glorious combat could they earn entry into the hall of Valhalla.
Ah, vikings. You unruly, blood-thirsty a**holes. Some things never change.
6. Both enjoyed fighting more than anything else
The most glaringly obvious similarity between these two groups of warriors is how sacredly they hold the concept of fighting. Much like a Marine being told their deployment got pushed back a few months, Vikings would complain if they weren’t given their time on the battlefield.
Vikings’ culture wasn’t based entirely on fighting, but man, were they good at it. That’s probably why nobody ever talks about the Vikings’ expansive trading network. There’s also a reason why people never really talk about a Water Dog’s “water purification skills.”
H/T: to Ruddy Cano, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and fellow We Are The Mighty contributor, for helping with this article.
A Navy warship is getting a laser five times stronger than the one the service has tested in the past, and officials say it could lead the way for more vessels to head to sea with similar weapons.
The amphibious transport dock ship Portland is being outfitted with a 150-kilowatt laser system. That’s a big power leap from the 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, that the service field-tested on the amphibious transport dock ship Ponce about five years ago.
“Big things” are expected from the Portland’s new laser, Thomas Rivers, program manager for the amphibious warfare program office, said here at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.
“They’re just putting it on the ship now,” he said. “… And this may be the beginning of seeing a lot more lasers coming onto different ships.”
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland.
The laser will give the Portland the firepower to take out drones and small boats, Rivers said. It’s also equipped with a camera that brings new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, he added.
When the LaWS was tested in 2012, a Navy video showed how it could target small aircraft or boats without using bullets.
A video of a demonstration of the 30-kilowatt system being tested on the guided-missile destroyer Dewey showed the laser closing in on an unmanned aircraft off the coast of San Diego. That drone quickly caught fire and slammed into the ocean.
The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
Sailors and Marines could find themselves needing to fight their way to shore in the Pacific and other theaters. Crews aboard amphibious ships that carry Marines could also need to fight as they sustain forces on the ground and as they head back out to sea, said Frank DiGiovanni, deputy director of expeditionary warfare.
That’s what has some Navy officials talking about arming amphibious ships with offensive capabilities, Rivers said. Typically, the focus has been on defensive capabilities and survivability.
But looking at ways to arm them in the future “is not off the table,” he added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has consecrated the main cathedral dedicated to the armed forces, built to mark Victory Day in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
Religious leaders, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, his deputies, guests, and hundreds of uniformed soldiers attended the ceremony on June 14 at the newly constructed Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, located some 60 kilometers outside of Moscow.
The church was originally due to be opened on May 9 as part of a grand celebration to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. But the opening was postponed due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The massive cathedral, one of the largest in the world, sparked controversy earlier this year when leaked photos showed a partially completed mosaic featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Shoigu, General Valery Gerasimov, and several other Russian officials.
The plan to display the mosaic was later canceled following criticism and after the Kremlin leader reportedly expressed opposition to the idea.
“This is an unprecedented event for the soldiers and for all of the the citizens in the whole country,” Gerasimov, the current chief of the General Staff of the armed forces, said ahead of the event.
The construction of the church cost 6 billion rubles (about million), according to media reports.
The church was supposed to be paid for entirely through donations, but according to Russian reports almost 3 billion rubles (about million) came from the Kremlin budget.
Have you ever wondered why there’s so much hype surrounding CrossFit? Well, it seems veterans are benefiting from the intense workouts in more ways than one.
Take Air Force Veteran Rachel Escolas for example. She tried out CrossFit for the first time while on deployment in Kandahar in October of 2012. After deployment, she had a burning passion for the sport and eventually became certified as a trainer in 2014 while founding her own CrossFit gym, CBUS Lifting Co.
CrossFit benefits the veteran community in several ways.
Air Force veteran Rachel Escolas powers through the workout of the day at her gym, CBUS Lifting Co.
It’s no secret that as soon as military personnel are shipped off to boot camp or basic training, fitness becomes heavily incorporated into their lifestyle. Physical activity becomes second nature, and is essential to keeping in the best shape for performing day-to-day duties.
With its dynamic arrangements of barbell work, Olympic lifts, strength training, and more, CrossFit can kick anyone’s a** into shape. CrossFit requires discipline and dedication, qualities that already run deep among every branch of the military. The trainers are like drill sergeants that don’t cuss. They don’t let anyone slack and they keep an eye on proper form, correcting when necessary.
There’s nothing like sharing the pain of a workout with others.
Do you remember waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 am to run in formation, in the cold, heat, sleet, or snow? Who would have thought that veterans would grow to miss that nonsense? Behind any grueling physical fitness routine is camaraderie that stems from accomplishing goals collectively, as a team.
When veterans get out of the military, there’s often a gravitation toward working out in a team environment, like the one CrossFit provides. There’s a sense of community that’s built into a CrossFit gym that’s unlike any other. Regular gyms are fine places for lifting and letting off steam, but fostering more than surface-level acquaintances there is a rarity.
Navy veteran and CrossFit trainer Isabel Beutick states, “Crossfit, for me, has kept me in tight circles. I loved the camaraderie I had in the Navy, and that’s the same feeling I get when doing CrossFit. That tight-knit community.”
Certified CrossFit Trainer and Navy veteran Isabel Beutick, demonstrates how to achieve proper form in an overhead squat.
Although there have been major medical advancements throughout the years, an increasing number of veterans come back with combat-related injuries, both physical and mental. It has become evident that, for many, pills are not the solution. Alternative means of healing are helping mend bodies and minds.
CrossFit is not just an outlet for mental stress, there are many attentive trainers out there invested in providing workable modifications to compensate for physical injuries. With the right trainer, there’s nothing stopping a veteran from completing a CrossFit workout, no matter the ailment.
Above, Army Veteran Juan Puentes says, “CrossFit is hard sh*t. It reminds me of all the challenging sh*t I did in the military.”
Although CrossFit promotes a team mentality, there’s also an element of competition. To put it lightly, veterans are extremely competitive. Daily workouts are timed and everyone knows who comes in first and last. Now, we’re not saying we should focus on this entirely, but it kindles the fire in veterans to keep pushing.
Throughout your CrossFit experience, trainers keep track of daily goals on a whiteboard or online. This data helps the competitive veteran see their progress and the progress of others and gets them ready to compete in national tournaments.
The ‘Murph,’ dedicated to Navy Seal Michael P. Murphy, is only one of many WOD’s created to honor fallen warriors.
Hero WODs (workouts of the day) honor fallen service members and provide a way to bridge the civilian-military divide. Most veterans find it complicated to connect with civilian friends, family, and co-workers because they’ve experienced things that are, frankly, hard to explain.
What’s unique about CrossFit’s Hero WODs is that everyone is aware that the workout honors a fallen service member. People truly give it their all on these particular workout days. These workouts create a bond between civilians and veterans that’s truly fascinating to witness.
A New York military aviation researcher got more than she bargained for on a dream trip to a battle-scarred South Pacific island — the chance to help solve the mystery of an American soldier listed as missing in action from World War II.
Donna Esposito, who works at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in upstate Glenville, visited Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands this spring and was approached by a local man who knew of WWII dog tags and bones found along a nearby jungle trail. The man asked if Esposito could help find relatives of the man named on the tags: Pfc. Dale W. Ross.
After she returned home, Esposito found that Ross had nieces and nephews still living in Ashland, Oregon. A niece and a nephew accompanied Esposito on her late July return to Guadalcanal, where they were given his dog tags and a bag containing the skeletal remains.
Although it’s not certain yet the remains are the missing soldier’s, the nephew who made the Guadalcanal trip is confident they will be a match.
“It’s Uncle Dale. I have no doubt,” said Dale W. Ross, who was named after his relative.
The elder Ross, a North Dakota native whose family moved to southern Oregon, was the third of four brothers who fought in WWII. Assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, he was listed as MIA in January 1943, during the final weeks of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was last seen in an area that saw heavy fighting around a Japanese-held hilltop.
When the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal three weeks later, it was the first major land victory in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.
Ross’ relatives handed the remains — about four dozen bones, including rib bones — to a team from the Pentagon agency that identifies American MIAs found on foreign battlefields. On August 7, the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal, an American honor guard carried a flag-draped coffin containing the bones onto a US Coast Guard aircraft.
The Pentagon said the remains were taken to Hawaii for DNA testing.
“Until a complete and thorough analysis of the remains is done by our lab, we are unable to comment on the specific case associated to the turnover,” said Maj. Jessie Romero of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The other three Ross brothers made it back home, including the oldest, Charles, who served aboard a Navy PT boat in the Solomons and visited Guadalcanal in the vain attempt to learn about his brother Dale’s fate.
Ross’ niece and nephew made their trip last month with Esposito and Justin Taylan, founder of Pacific Wrecks, a New York-based nonprofit involved in the search for American MIAs from WWII. They met the family whose 8-year-old son found the dog tags and remains. They also were taken to the spot on a slope in the jungle where the discovery was made.
“I never met this man, but I was a little emotional,” Ross, 71, said of the experience.
For Esposito, 45, finding evidence that could solve a lingering mystery in an American family’s military history is the most meaningful thing she’s ever done in her life.
“I can’t believe this has all happened,” she said. “It has been an amazing journey.”
The mother of the late Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has said in her first interview with Western media that her infamous son was “brainwashed” into a life of extremism.
Alia Ghanem said in the interview published by The Guardian newspaper on Aug 3 that “the people at university changed him. He became a different man,” referring to the time when bin Laden was in his early 20s and an economics student in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
She appeared to blame Abdullah Azzam, a Muslim Brotherhood member who became bin Laden’s spiritual adviser at the university.
Ghanem, speaking from the family home in Jeddah, said prior to that time, the future terror leader had been a shy and academically capable student.
“He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s,” Ghanem said.
“You can call it a cult. They got money for their cause,” she said. “I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much.”
The United States invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 because the Taliban-led government had protected Al-Qaeda and bin Laden, who organized the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The Taliban was driven from power, and bin Laden, hiding in the northern Pakistani city of Abbotabad, was killed in a U.S. raid in 2011.
A report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HUD Exchange estimates that there are slightly more than 39,000 homeless veterans (both in shelters and without shelter). While still a significant number, that number has seen huge decreases in the last few years thanks in part to partnerships with programs like Built for Zero.
Built for Zero is an intense national program that helps communities develop and implement drastic plans to address the issue of veteran and chronic homelessness, and “the conditions that create it.” The motivation is two-fold: homelessness costs local economies more money by sustaining shelters and emergency medical care, and that veterans who’ve defended this country shouldn’t be homeless in it.
“Homelessness is a manmade disaster, and it can be solved,” Community Solutions president Rosanne Haggerty wrote in the nonprofit’s 2015 Annual Report.
Built for Zero partners with communities and teaches them how to come up with ways to pool and manage their resources, tapping into previously non-traditional homelessness-fighting resources, like businesses, churches, and even real estate companies in order to address some of the conditions that impact homeless veterans.
Employment, transportation and healthcare are just some of the issues that the project addresses when fighting homelessness.
“Community Solutions works upstream and downstream of the problem by helping communities end homelessness where it happens and improve the conditions of inequality that make it more likely to happen in the future,” Haggerty wrote in the report.
Rather than make homelessness just a crime-fighting task, Built for Zero makes it a community task.
In 2015 alone, Community Solutions raised over $9 million through donations and grants. That money assisted in housing over 20,000 homeless veterans in 75 communities- and it saved tax payers an estimated $150 million doing it.
A US Navy F-14D Tomcat aircraft flies a combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom | U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt. Lee O. Tucker
While the requirement for a carrier-based long-range strike capability is a frequent subject of discussion around Washington, the U.S. Navy’s need for improved air superiority capabilities is often neglected.
The service has not had a dedicated air-to-air combat aircraft since it retired the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in 2006. But even the Tomcat was adapted into a strike aircraft during its last years in service after the Soviet threat evaporated.
Now, as new threats to the carrier emerge and adversaries start to field new fighters that can challenge the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, attention is starting to shift back to this oft-neglected Navy mission — especially in the Western Pacific.
“Another type of new aircraft required is an air superiority fighter,” states a recent Hudson Institute report titledSharpening the Spear: The Carrier, the Joint Force, and High-End Conflict, which is written by The National Interest contributors Seth Cropsey, Bryan McGrath and Timothy A. Walton. “Given the projection of the Joint Force’s increased demand for carrier-based fighter support, this capability is critical.”
The report notes that both the Super Hornet and the F-35C are severely challenged by new enemy fifth-generation fighter aircraft such as the Russian-built Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and Chengdu J-20.
Indeed, certain current adversary aircraft such as the Russian Su-30SM, Su-35S and the Chinese J-11D and J-15 pose a serious threat to the Super Hornet fleet. It’s a view that shared by many industry officials, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and even U.S. Marine Corps aviators.
“Both F/A-18E/Fs and F-35Cs will face significant deficiencies against supercruising, long-range, high-altitude, stealthy, large missile capacity adversary aircraft, such as the T-50, J-20, and follow-on aircraft,” the authors note.
“These aircraft will be capable of effectively engaging current and projected U.S. carrier aircraft and penetrating defenses to engage high value units, such as AEW aircraft, ASW aircraft, and tankers. Already, the F/A-18E/F faces a severe speed disadvantage against Chinese J-11 aircraft, which can fire longer range missiles at a higher kinematic advantage outside of the range of U.S. AIM-120 missiles.”
Nor does the F-35C—which suffers from severely reduced acceleration compared to even the less than stellar performance of other JSF variants — help matters. “Similarly, the F-35C is optimized as an attack fighter, resulting in a medium-altitude flight profile, and its current ability to only carry two AIM- 120 missiles internally [until Block 3] limits its capability under complex electromagnetic conditions,” the authors wrote.
“As an interim measure, the Navy and Air Force should significantly accelerate the F-35C’s Block 5 upgrade to enable the aircraft to carry six AIM-120 missiles internally.”
The F-35C was never designed to be an air superiority fighter. Indeed, naval planners in the mid-1990s wanted the JSF to be a strike-oriented aircraft with only a 6.5G airframe load limit with very limited air-to-air capability, according to one retired U.S. Navy official. Indeed, some naval planners at the time had discussed retiring the F-14 in favor of keeping the Grumman A-6 Intruder in service.
During this period, many officials believed air combat to be a relic of the past in the post-Cold War era. They anticipated most future conflicts to be air-to-ground oriented in those years immediately following the Soviet collapse. Together with a lack of funding, that’s probably why the Navy never proceeded with its Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter or A/F-Xfollow-on program.
The Navy’s F/A-XX program could be used to fill the service’s air superiority gap — which has essentially been left open since the F-14’s retirement and the demise of the NATF and A/F-X programs. But the problem is that the Navy is pursuing the F/A-XX as a multirole Super Hornet replacement rather than an air superiority-oriented machine.
“The danger in its development is that it suboptimizes the fighter role in the quest for a hybrid fighter/attack jet,” the Hudson Institute report notes. “This would leave the Joint Force without a carrier-based sixth generation air superiority fighter.”
As the Navy’s current director of air warfare, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, has stated in the past, the authors also note that such “an aircraft could feature large passive and active sensor arrays, relatively high cruising speed (albeit not necessarily acceleration), could hold a large internal weapons bay capable of launching numerous missiles, and could have space to adopt future technologies, such as HPM [high-powered microwaves] and lasers.”
“This air superiority asset would contribute to Outer Air Battle integrated air and missile defense requirements and would be capable of countering enemy weapons, aircraft, and sensor and targeting nodes at a distance.”
Outer Air Battle, of course, refers to a Navy concept from the 1980s to fend off a concerted attack by hordes of Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bombers, Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarines and surface action groups lead by warships like the Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruisers — as now deputy defense secretary Bob Work [he was the CEO of the Center for a New American Security at the time] described to me in 2013.
These Soviet assets would have launched their arsenals of anti-ship cruise missiles from multiple points of the compass.
As Work described it, the Navy was relatively confident it could sink the Oscarsand surface ships before they could launch their missiles. They were far less confident about their ability to take out the Tu-22Ms before they could get into launch position.
The Tomcats, under Outer Air Battle, would try to “kill the archers” — the Backfires — before they could shoot and attempt to eliminate any cruise missiles that they launched. But, Work notes, no one knows how well it would have worked during a shooting war with the Soviet Union — and it’s a good thing we never got to find out. But with China’s emerging anti-access/area denial strategy, the threat is back.
While the F/A-XX and the Air Force’s F-X are in their infancy, it has become clear that they will be different aircraft designs that will probably share common technologies. The Navy does seem to be focusing on a more defensive F-14 like concept while the Air Force is looking for a more offensively oriented air superiority platform that could replace the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
“As you’ll see over the coming years, the differences between the primary mission and the likely threats will drive significant differences between the F/A-XX and F-X programs as well as legacy systems like the F-22 and F-35,” one senior defense official told me.
On Sept. 11, 2019, the Global War on Terrorism turned 18. The GWOT is by far the longest military conflict in U.S. history, eclipsing the previous contender (the Vietnam War) by at least eight years. In 2014, a group of like-minded individuals — veterans, spouses of veterans, and civilians — felt it was time to pay formal tribute to those who have served, and continue to serve, in the GWOT. These patriots formed the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, which officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization on May 15, 2015.
The foundation’s mission is to become the Congressionally designated entity authorized to build a permanent GWOT memorial in Washington. According to the GWOT Memorial Foundation website, the memorial will “… honor the members of the Armed Forces who served in support of our nation’s longest war, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice … as well as their families and friends.”
Signing of HR873.
(Photo courtesy of GWOT Memorial Foundation.)
Unfortunately, the effort encountered an obstacle right out of the chute. The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 imposed a 10-year waiting period after the end of a conflict before it could be memorialized in our nation’s capital. Therefore, one of the first tasks was to lobby Congress for an exemption. In early 2017, two GWOT veterans, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., led the effort to do just that. They introduced HR 873, the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act, which proposed the GWOT memorial as a commemorative work on federally owned land in the District of Columbia and exempted the project from the 10-year moratorium. Furthermore, the act authorized the GWOT Memorial Foundation as the organization with exclusive rights to commission the work.
In just six months’ time, despite a polarized political climate dominated by gridlock, the legislation swept through Congress with unanimous support — a testament to the project’s worthy goal. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump in August of the same year. GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez said he and his leadership were certainly pleased with HR 873’s speedy trip through Congress, but they weren’t surprised.
“[The fast turnaround] just speaks to the broad support that exists,” he said. “This really is a nonpartisan issue. We introduced the legislation shortly after President Trump’s inauguration — we weren’t really worried about it because there are no politics behind what we’re trying to do.”
(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)
Rodriguez, who took the reins in 2018, shortly after the bill was passed, refers to himself as the man who has the “undeserved honor” of leading the project. However, he is immensely qualified to do so. The 21-year U.S. Army veteran is a former Green Beret with multiple post-9/11 deployments under his belt. Rod retired in 2013 as a result of injuries sustained in combat.
In addition to being the longest war in U.S. history, the GWOT also represents the first multi-generational conflict — which means we are now seeing soldiers who are the children of veterans who deployed early in the conflict. Rodriguez’ wife is also a 21-year Army veteran, and their son is an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division and recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. The three have 16 deployments between them.
“My son patrolled the same areas of Afghanistan in the Helmand province that my wife and I did,” Rod said. “I was there in 2005, she was there in 2006, and our son was there in 2017.”
Looking ahead to the completion of the memorial project, the foundation has narrowed down the location to three pre-established sites in the “reserve” — an area of the National Mall that stretches north/south from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial and east/west from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol building. The construction of anything within the reserve requires Congressional approval.
GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez with President George W. Bush, who is the honorary chairman of the project.
(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)
The reserve is a logical choice for the GWOT Memorial because it’s home to many of the existing war memorials in Washington. However, the foundation still did a great deal of research before settling on that location.
“This memorial does not belong to any one individual,” Rodriguez explained. “It’s to all those who served. So, in 2018, along with our architectural firm, we began conducting discussion groups across the country … to determine what the American people wanted. We talked to hundreds of people, [including] Blue Star families — families of those who are actively serving — and Gold Star families, obviously families who lost a loved one to the Global War on Terrorism. We spoke with veterans from all our country’s wars since World War II. We spent three days on Fort Bragg, sponsored by FORSCOM, talking to peer groups. We spoke to faith leaders to get their thoughts. And we also spoke to the greater part of our population — those who never wore the uniform.”
(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)
Rod and his team took great care to educate the groups, explaining the GWOT Memorial project and showing the location and topography of the National Mall and its surrounding area. These groups were asked to complete surveys, not only to gather input on site selection but also ideas about the physical design of the memorial itself — hard structures, water features, shrubbery and other vegetation, etc. After synthesizing the qualitative and quantitative data collected in the surveys, the foundation confirmed that America overwhelmingly supported a plan to select a site within the reserve.
Rodriguez said that respondents were aware that Congressional approval would be required to build within the reserve. “I told them not to worry about the extra work,” he said. “It was the foundation’s responsibility to carry out the wishes of the American people.”
To obtain the required approval, the GWOT Memorial Foundation partnered with For Country Caucus, a bipartisan alliance of 19 veterans dedicated to finding areas of compromise to move the country forward. With a mantra of “policy over politics,” the caucus was an ideal group to champion the cause. On Nov. 12, 2019, the day after Veterans Day, House Representatives Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., introduced the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act, seeking permission to commission the GWOT Memorial on one of three sites near the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials.
Proposed GWOT Memorial locations in the National Mall in Washington.
(Graphic by Tim Cooper/Coffee or Die.)
Fundraising is ongoing, with a present goal of million. This is a modest number considering that the World War II Memorial cost more than 0 million and the final tab for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was approximately 0 million. The actual design process for the GWOT Memorial has not yet begun, but Rodriguez and the foundation established the million goal as a starting point. Once the site is selected, he acknowledged that the price tag could potentially increase. Assuming Congress passes a GWOT Memorial Location Act bill quickly, the foundation hopes to dedicate the memorial by 2024.
Some critics might point out that the U.S. has never built a national memorial for an active war — so why start now?
“The Global War on Terrorism is old enough to vote, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon,” said Gallagher. “Honoring the service, as well as the sacrifices of all those who have served in the Global War on Terrorism, is overdue.”
“Just like this war has no precedence, this memorial has no precedence either,” Rodriguez added. “We really want to avoid what happened to the Greatest Generation. [Many of those veterans] never saw the World War II Memorial. They passed before it was completed. Furthermore, parents of fallen GWOT service members are in their 60s, 70s, and even older. If we don’t do this now, when is the right time? We share a sacred duty to honor all those who have selflessly served in our nation’s longest war. This is a charge [the foundation] does not take lightly — a charge we will remain loyal to and a charge we intend to keep.”
Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2
Since April 2014, U.S. Army Europe has rotated units from the U.S. to the European continent in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The ongoing operation aims to enhance NATO’s eastern flank against Russian aggression and deter future conflicts like the War in Donbass. The rotations and joint and multinational training build readiness and strengthen bonds with NATO allies. For one helicopter crew, the training turned into a real-life emergency response.
On December 15, 2020, the five-soldier crew of a CH-47F Chinook was returning from a training mission. The crew, assigned to B Company, 6th General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is posted in Illesheim, Germany in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. However, on their way home, the crew witnessed an emergency on the ground.
“We were flying over a ridgeline in a rural area,” said pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dave Acton. “Once we cleared it, my crew chief in the back came on the comms system and said he saw a puff of white smoke on the road below.” A civilian car got into a serious accident on the road below the Chinook.
“After I called that in, I looked further down the road and saw a car roll over two or three times, “said crew chief Spc. Bruce Cook. Now aware of the emergency situation on the ground, the crew requested permission to assist.
“It was like we all simultaneously thought the same thing…that the right thing to do was to assist however we could,” said co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Riedel. “I like to think its natural human instinct to want to stop and help in any way that you can.” The air mission commander gave them the green light and the Chinook descended to the site of the car crash.
Once the helicopter was on the ground, brigade flight surgeon Maj. Benjamin Stork assessed the situation, jumped out, and ran to the crash. “I checked my medical pack attached to my vest to make sure I had everything I might need to stabilize possible injuries,” said Stork. “Once I got to the man in the crash, I checked his vitals and made sure he was cognizant; thankfully, he spoke English pretty well because my German is pretty broken.”
Stork stabilized the man’s neck and back before an ambulance arrived on the scene. After briefing the paramedics on the situation, Stork helped them transfer the man to the ambulance and ran back to the helicopter. “All in all, from noticing the car flip to getting the wheels up off the ground, about 30 minutes passed,” said Stork. “Every piece of the operation felt organic, smooth and controlled because of how well these guys talk to each other.”
The quick, efficient, and professional response by the Chinook crew demonstrates the effectiveness of the countless hours of training that they go through. “We are in Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve, and for the most part that means that we train together with our ally and partner military forces,” said Col. Travis Habhab, commander of the 101st CAB. “I think that an important part of building that partnership and trust also lies in connecting with and supporting the local community where we can. The level we train at is what allows us to let these types of responses happen organically, and I’m incredibly proud of our Wings of Destiny Soldiers for making the call to help someone in a situation that could have been much worse.”
The Air Force Reserve went live with an app that is expected to save time and stress for aircraft maintainers late 2018 with an estimated 100 users to be enrolled by February 2019.
Headquarters Air Force, AFRC, and Monkton teamed up to create an iOS modern mobile app that enables maintainers to directly access the maintenance database from the flight line at the point of aircraft repair. This eliminates the need to secure their tools, go to back to their office and log into a network computer to document the maintenance actions performed.
The BRICE app, or Battle Record Information Core Environment, was designed with all the necessary Department of Defense security and authentication required to allow the maintainers to input, store and transmit data in real time to the maintenance database.
“Maintainers didn’t have a convenient way to input their maintenance actions into the system of record.” said Maj. Jonathan Jordan, Headquarters Air Force Reserve A6 logistics IT policy and strategy branch chief. “They have to travel to a desktop computer, go through the sign-in procedure for both the computer and the maintenance data system, then they can enter the data for the maintenance performed on the flightline.”
During user acceptance testing at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, 81 percent of testers estimated the app saved an hour or more of time per day.
Air Force Reserve Command A4 Directorate, Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, hosts a user acceptance testing session for the Battle Record Information Core Environment mobile app at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., with the 924th Fighter Group maintainers in March 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
“Live data availability is paramount for field units to take swift maintenance actions and schedule work orders as changes are occurring across the flight line,” said Christopher Butigieg, Headquarters Air Force project delivery manager. “Additionally, returning time back to maintainers is an added benefit as task documentation is completed throughout the day rather than at the end of shift.”
Because the data entry can occur in real time by using the new app, there is a greater probability of accuracy and less steps involved compared to the current steps of writing notes on a piece of paper and transcribing them into the database later from an office.
Some of the challenges overcome with development of the app were overwhelming security documentation requirements and connectivity challenges on the flightline. Through a partnership with Monkton, Amazon, and Verizon, the team was able to create a secure path to take the modern technology and interface with a legacy database system securely from almost anywhere according to Jordan.
“Over the past couple of years there has been a paradigm shift from desktop computing to mobile. This application provides a friendly and easy-to-use interface that is familiar to an everyday mobile users,” said Butigieg.
He said the app performs the same desktop computer actions on a handheld device and typically more efficiently by utilizing on-device hardware and software.
The biggest benefit is improved quality of life according to Master Sgt. Daniel Brierton, AFRC A4 Directorate, Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, eTool Functional Manager, A4 Directorate, Logistics, Engineering, and Force Protection.
As someone who has worked in aircraft maintenance for 10 years Brierton knows how the workload has changed especially when the maintainer shortage was at its peak.
“When we signed up for aircraft maintenance, the image in our head was not sitting at a desk,” said Brierton. “Maintainers are here to fix jets. This effort aides maintainers by reducing time spent on documentation, transit, and legacy IT systems.”
According to Jordan, if each maintainer saved an hour of time by using the app, as many reported in the acceptance testing, this would result in over five million hours of recouped time on maintenance tasks Air Force-wide.
The 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is wrapping up a deployment that saw heavy involvement in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Upon arrival, their efforts were focused on Raqqa for approximately three months. During that time, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs participated in an urban, close air support role. Pilots focused on protecting friendly forces as they maneuvered in the city between very large buildings in which the enemy hid and used as fighting positions.
“It was a difficult location to work in and we faced some situations that we have not dealt with before we arrived here,” said Maj. Matthew Cichowski, 74th EFS assistant director of operations. “Our weapons and tactics planners have done an excellent job preparing us for the variety of tactics and locations that we use and operate in.”
Adapting the squadron to the new location and varied tactical situations fell to the squadron’s weapons tactics planners.
“When we showed up, we got thrown into this fight essentially on day one,” said Lt. Col. Craig Morash, 74th EFS commander. “The fight itself was within the urban complex of Raqqa and the pilots had to get creative to figure out ways to strike targets at the bottom of these five story buildings. There was a lot of learning as this wasn’t something we traditionally trained to when we arrived. We reached out to different communities to see what we could learn from them.”
“Everyone jumped on board trying to figure out solutions to the problems we faced even though we had long days and a mountain of work to accomplish,” Morash continued. “Our intel shop processed an unbelievable amount of expenditure reports to make sure (U. S. Air Forces Central Command) had an accurate picture of what we were doing. Our life support troops were generating equipment and doing it perfectly every single time.”
The squadron’s intelligence Airmen also provide vital key information to pilots before their missions, enabling those pilots to adapt to threats and challenges on the fly.
“We’re trained on what the capabilities of the aircraft are, which allows us to give threat perspectives to pilots with what’s going on in the area of operations and how that affects the aircraft and pilots,” said Senior Airman Jake Owens, 74th EFS intelligence analyst. “We brief pilots on possible threats they may face while flying missions and we’re also tied into the intelligence reporting, where we report targets struck to higher headquarters. There’s a lot of battle tracking and predictive analysis.”
According to the squadron’s weapons and tactics chief, one of the most difficult aspects of close air support isn’t physically dropping the bomb, it’s making sure the rest of the process has been done correctly. The pilots assigned to the 74th EFS are trained to work through that process correctly, making sure friendly positions are confirmed, any attack restrictions make sense and are adhered to, and they are flying above or are laterally deconflicted with any artillery that may be firing, and avoiding any exposure to threats like anti-aircraft fire or other aircraft.
“Positive identification is extremely important and is something that takes a large team and a long amount of time to get right,” said Capt. Eric Calvey, 74th EFS chief of weapons and tactics. “Long before we show up there are individuals who use Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to get an idea of what targets to strike and make sure that what we drop on is, in fact, a hostile target. We’re the last link in the chain and there’s a large amount of work done ahead of time to prepare these targets for strike before we employ munitions on them. It’s amazing seeing the utmost care that is taken before we employ on these targets.”
Although the squadron’s deployment is coming to a close, Morash said they are still keen on supporting the ground forces, no matter where they are.
“Every single person in this squadron was and still is mission focused. They are looking at the bigger picture, seeing what solutions to problems could be and mitigating risk to ground forces every single day,” Morash said. “The way this team came together, operations and maintenance, to look after each other and to get things done made me proud to be an Airman.”