Vietnam Veteran’s 49-year-old memories of his canine partner - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Vietnam Veteran’s 49-year-old memories of his canine partner

Mick never forgot his best friend from Vietnam – a dog named Hobo.

Kim “Mick” Michalowski still talks about his K-9 partner from 49 years ago, but only had one photo to remember his buddy. That is, until last week, when he reconnected on Facebook with an Air Force friend who sent him photos of Hobo he had kept all these years.


“When I got these photos, it was one of the best days for me,” Michalowski said. “I’m not going to say it was the best day of my life because I have three children, a beautiful wife and grandchildren. But it just uplifted my spirits so much.

Kim “Mick” Michalowski and Hobo in Vietnam.

“You can ask my wife. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t talk about Hobo in the 46 years we’ve been married. Probably not a day goes by I don’t tell someone about Hobo.”

Pictured above are Kim Michalowski and his wife Yolanda at the dog memorial he helped build in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

Michalowski joined the Air Force in 1970.

“We had no way of knowing what would happen or what we would get into. I still remember that last moment, getting on the plane. I was looking back at my dad, thinking I would never see him again. It’s one of the few times I saw my dad cry.”

Jumped at the chance to be a K-9 handler

Michalowski was a security policeman originally stationed at Phu Cat Air Base. He moved to Cam Rhan Bay Air Base, where he jumped at the chance to become a K-9 handler.

Hobo, on the other hand, wasn’t thrilled with his new partner.

“It took three and a half days for him to let me come into his kennel. He would jump at the gate, growling and snarling and stuff and would not let me in. I was finally able to get him muzzled and get him out. It took two more days to be able to get him to work with me.

“I still have scars on both my arms where he bit me, one on my left arm and another on my right wrist. One was from playing around and the other was me learning to be more careful.”

They became inseparable after that, patrolling the perimeter of Cam Rhan Bay Air Base.

“We literally spent 11 to 12 hours a day together patrolling. When we got off, it was another four hours taking care of him, checking for ticks, feeding him and making sure he had plenty of water. My shift would end at 0600, but I wouldn’t get back to my bunk until 10 o’clock.

Ted Kozikowski and his K-9 partner, Congo, in Vietnam.

Read his mail to Hobo

“I used to read my letters to my dog. Just having that ability to have someone to reach down and grab around the neck put me at ease. During the day I’d go back to the kennel to play with him.”

Michalowski had some close calls with incoming rounds, but Hobo always made him feel better.

“I always felt safer with Hobo. He was going to do his job and detect something before I would.”

Then it was time to go stateside.

“Up until my dad died, that was the worst day of my life. That dog was special to me. I took him out to the yard to work him around the obstacle course. I just hugged him real tight around the neck. I told him I loved him and was going to miss him.”

Michalowski separated from the Air Force as a sergeant in 1974, then joined the Army Reserve in 1977, retiring as a command sergeant major.

But he never forgot Hobo.

About five years ago, he helped raise money for a K-9 memorial in Menomonee Falls. There, he talked about his partner from so many decades ago. And then he was scrolling through a K-9 Facebook page and saw a familiar face.

That was Ted Kozikowski. “It blew me away,” Kozikowski said. “I remembered him right away. Veterans, we always want to go back to that stability in our life, whether we liked the military or not. It was an anchor of self-discipline and a camaraderie I’ve never experienced in the civilian world.”

Family sent dog biscuits from the states

In Vietnam, they were known as the “Skis” – easier that way when there are two Polish troops in the unit. “I was Ski and Michalowski was Ski 2,” Kozikowski says.

Like his buddy, Ski 2, he had an abiding love for his K-9 partner, Congo.

“That dog was a member of my family. My parents and my brother and sisters loved him too,” Kozikowski said. “My care packages from home went from cookies to dog biscuits. There was not a thing that dog didn’t know about me and my personal life. He knew me better than my family.”

The two have talked back and forth on Facebook, and Ted was happy to share photos of Hobo with his buddy.

“I’m glad to do that. Those dogs meant everything to us,” he said.

Michalowski shares the sentiment. “What do they call that term for dogs in heaven? The rainbow bridge? Hobo, he’ll be waiting for me.”

Michalowski receives his health care at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

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


Articles

China built a military base right next to an American one in Africa

The head of America’s Africa Command, Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, has expressed concern over China’s growing military presence in Djibouti.


He said that China’s claim that it was building logistical facilities in Djibouti was not correct because Beijing was actually creating a full-fledged military base that would sit alongside U.S. and French bases in the strategic Indian Ocean country.

It would be the first time that NATO allies — France and the U.S. — would have to contend with a military base under the command of a competing nation in the same location.

“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Waldhauser said. “So there’s a lot of learning going on, a lot of growing going on.”

“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to us because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes [it],” he told Breaking Defense.

An MV-22 Osprey prepares to lower its ramp to debark Marines during a noncombatant evacuation training operation in Djibouti, Africa, Jan. 5, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

In January 2016, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told journalists in Beijing that the facilities were to back up China’s escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and would not lead to a military base.

He explained: “Vessels have been sent by China to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast for escort missions in recent years. In fulfilling escort missions, we encountered real difficulties in replenishing soldiers and resupplying fuel and food, and found it really necessary to have nearby and efficient logistical support. China and Djibouti consulted with each other and reached consensus on building logistical facilities in Djibouti, which will enable the Chinese troops to better fulfill escort missions and make new contributions to regional peace and stability.”

“The nature of relevant facilities is clear, which is to provide logistical support to Chinese fleets performing escort duties in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast,” the Spokesman said,

But Gen. Waldhauser told journalists in Washington at the end of March, “You would have to characterize it as a military base. It’s s first for them. They’ve never had an overseas base.”

Speaking to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee early in March, Gen. Waldhauser said, “Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same. Whether with trade, natural resource exploitation, or weapons sales, we continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency and good governance.”

“These competitors weaken our African partners’ ability to govern and will ultimately hinder Africa’s long-term stability and economic growth, and they will also undermine and diminish U.S. influence — a message we must continue to share with our partners,” Gen. Waldhauser added.

President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti has been steering a new course as he strengthens relations with China at the apparent expense of long-time allies, France and the U.S..

The U.S. now has Special Forces members in Djibouti under its Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to counter the increased activities of al-Shabaab in East Africa.

Soldiers assigned to the East Africa Response Force train for contingency operations on May 30, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook)

The French and American military dominance in Djibouti was whittled down in February 2014 when China’s Defense Minister, General Chang Wanquan, signed a security and defense strategic partnership agreement with Djibouti’s Minister of Defense, Hassan Darar Houffaneh.

Under the agreement the country offered military facilities such as the use of Djibouti’s port by the Chinese navy.

Mr. Houffaneh said that in exchange Djibouti had asked for military co-operation to be expanded in order that the operational capacities of the country’s armed forces could be built “in order to safeguard security in the country and help consolidate peace and security in the sub-region”.

But an analyst in Nairobi, speaking to the Ghana News Agency in 2014, wondered how this arrangement would work, given that the U.S. and France more or less had entrenched security roles in Djibouti.

“The American and the French governments have interests in Djibouti that are completely different from China’s,” he said. “This could lead to contestations between France and the U.S., on the one hand, and China, on the other, which could compromise the security of East Africa. Djibouti is a crucial member of the East African Standby Force, which will dovetail with the African Union’s African Standby Force, and as such President Guelleh should ensure that his country remains steadfast to the ASF’s mission of maintaining peace and security in the region.”

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. had skirted round the issue of a Chinese military base in Djibouti, but now under Donald Trump and his hard-line stance on Beijing’s global influence, the issue of the Djibouti base has taken center stage.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A World War II widow discovered her husband is a hero in France

Peggy Harris was married for six weeks when her husband went missing in action over France during World War II. No one ever tried to tell her about her husband’s fate. A fighter pilot, Billie Harris’ last mission came in July 1944. That’s when the confusion started, a confusion that is much more circuitous than the regular fog of war.


Billie Harris was listed as Missing in Action when he failed to come home from a mission over northern France that day in 1944. Then, the Army Air Forces informed his wife that he was alive and coming home. They then rescinded that as well. To her horror, he was killed and buried in a cemetery in France. And then they told her he was in a different cemetery. Then she was informed by the War Department that they weren’t even sure if the remains they had were Billie’s.

His devoted wife waited and waited, for years and decades, waiting for news about her husband. Until she finally decided to write her Congressman about the issue. Over and over for decades she waited and wrote to members of Congress – all the way through 2005.

In 2005, she got an answer from the Representative from the Texas panhandle, Mac Thornberry. His office informed Peggy that Billie was still listed as MIA, according to the National Archives and Records Administration. Billie’s cousin took it upon himself to look for Billie’s remains personally, to give Peggy some peace. His first stop was requesting the service and medical records for his missing cousin. The records that came back actually revealed his final resting place: Normandy.

First Lieutenant Billie D. Harris died July 17, 1944, the day he went missing. His headstone is one of the hundreds of bright white crosses that adorn the grounds of Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. So what happened? A CBS report found that Thornberry’s office never searched for the record. When CBS did the search, they found Harris listed as KIA.

Thornberry would later send Peggy an apology for bungling the search.

Ever since discovering her husband’s final resting place, she sent his grave a bouquet of flowers ten times a year. Cemetery officials say Peggy Harris is the last widow of World War II’s killed in action who still visits the grave of her departed husband. But that’s not the only news the family discovered in their investigation.

His plane was shot down over Les Ventes, a small French town and he was a legend among the locals of the town – Billie D. Harris managed to avoid crashing into the village and instead went down in the nearby woods. The villagers buried him in their local cemetery, so grateful for his sacrifice. Ever since, the residents of the small town have walked down the main street of Les Ventes every year – a street called Place Billie D. Harris – to remember his sacrifice.

Ever since Peggy discovered her husband’s final hours and gravesite, she’s visited the cemetery and Les Ventes every year to celebrate her husband’s life and talk to the people who remember Billie D. Harris as a fallen hero.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Interview: U.S. lung-disease expert on coronavirus symptoms, treatment, prevention

Ognjen Gajic, a lung expert and critical care specialist at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota, was interviewed by Ajla Obradovic, a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, about the coronavirus and the disease’s symptoms and treatment.


RFE/RL: How fast does a person’s health worsen after becoming infected? It seems that patients diagnosed with the coronavirus die rather quickly but recover more slowly compared to other diseases? Or is that an incorrect impression?

Ognjen Gajic: Critical illness [in people with the coronavirus] occurs on average after seven days of mild symptoms. From the moment one starts experiencing shortness of breath, [a patient’s condition can worsen] rapidly, sometimes within a few hours, and then intensive monitoring in a hospital intensive care unit is critical.

RFE/RL: How are COVID-19 patients treated? Is there a standard procedure?

Gajic: Most patients have mild symptoms and there is no specific treatment thus far other than controlling the symptoms — paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) for fever, weakness, and the like. Untested forms of treatment can be dangerous due to side effects and should not be used until research shows they are efficient.

I deal with the treatment of the critically ill, so I can say more about [those patients]. In many of them, the [COVID-19] disease progresses to severe bilateral pneumonia characterized by shortness of breath and hypoxia (that means oxygen deprivation in body tissue).

These patients should be immediately taken to the hospital for oxygen treatment and their condition should be constantly monitored so it is possible to respond in time [to these problems] with intense respiratory support, including respirators. Sophisticated intensive care with control and support of all organs is successful in about 50 percent of the most severely ill cases, although some patients may be on a respirator for several weeks before recovering or dying.

So far there is no proven specific treatment [for COVID-19] and untested experimental drugs should not be prescribed without the proper research [being conducted]. We are working with colleagues around the world on a day-to-day basis on research projects for new treatments and prevention.

RFE/RL: Is there any data so far on the underlying diseases that are, in some way, more pernicious in combination with the coronavirus?

Gajic: Rather than specific diseases, more important is [someone’s] physiological condition as far as their lungs and [general fitness]; elderly patients who are not fit and those with severe forms of chronic lung or heart disease have little reserve and little chance of successfully enduring intensive respiratory treatment.

RFE/RL: How much more infectious is the coronavirus than other communicable diseases and what is the best way for people to protect themselves? In the Czech Republic, for example, they require everyone to wear masks in public, while the World Health Organization has not cited this as essential for people who are not infected. Can you give some specific tips on protection?

Gajic: Masks should be left to health-care professionals. A thorough hand washing with soap and water is by far the most important tip and, at this point, isolation from all but essential contacts — especially groups — must be respected. Also, before coming to a health-care facility, first make contact by phone, since it is safer to stay home for home treatment if one is showing mild symptoms.

Mayo Clinic

RFE/RL: I understand you worked with your colleagues from Wuhan. What is it that other countries can learn from them and apply in their response to the pandemic?

Gajic: Several colleagues from Wuhan hospitals have been at the Mayo Clinic in recent years and we have been doing joint research. At the beginning of the epidemic in Wuhan, we sent support in terms of treatment guidelines and [medical] staff protection. Now they are helping us. After some initial setbacks, our colleagues in Wuhan, with rigorous isolation measures, adequate equipment, and training, were able to prevent their health-care professionals from becoming sick despite working with critically ill patients.

RFE/RL: The latest information shows that the United States now has the largest number of infected people. Did the U.S. response to the epidemic come too late?

Gajic: I’m not an epidemiologist so I can’t comment on that. When it comes to the critically ill, U.S. hospitals provide fantastic care in these difficult conditions.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban attacks kill 26 in Afghanistan

Taliban militants have stormed security posts in western Afghanistan, killing 21 police officers and pro-government militia members, officials said on Jan. 7, 2019.

The attacks occurred late on Jan. 6, 2019, at checkpoints in two different parts of Badghis Province, which borders the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, provincial officials said.

Abdul Aziz Bek, head of the Badghis provincial council, said 14 police officers and seven members of pro-government militias were killed, while nine were wounded.


Jamshid Shahabi, a spokesman for the Badghis provincial governor, said at least 15 Taliban militants were killed and 10 wounded in the fighting.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said in a statement that militants killed 34 members of the security forces and pro-government militias and seized many weapons and ammunition.

Afghan Border Police at Islam Qala in western Herat Province.

Meanwhile, a roadside bombing has killed five civilians and wounded seven in the country’s eastern Paktika Province, an Afghan official said on Jan. 7, 2019.

Nawroz Ishaq, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the attack occurred in the Jani Khail district.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but provincial official Mohammad Rasoul Adel blamed the Taliban, saying the group had left the bomb in a village square.

Taliban representatives and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet this month to discuss the withdrawal of foreign forces and a possible cease-fire.

Officials from the warring sides have met at least three times in recent months to try to agree on a way to end the 17-year war.

The Taliban says it is fighting to oust the Western-backed government and restore strict Islamic law.

The United States and its allies say they want to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international Islamist militants plotting attacks in the West.

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

Articles

This is why ‘General Butt Naked’ was the most feared warlord in Liberia

To oust a dictator as terrible as Liberia’s Charles Taylor, some warlords committed even more heinous crimes. Taylor is now serving a 50-year sentence in the UK after being convicted of 11 war crimes in the Hague in 2013.


Joshua Milton Blahyi went by a different name when he controlled the streets of Liberia’s capital of Monrovia during its 14-year civil war. Going into urban combat wearing nothing but sneakers and a crazed look, he earned the title “General Butt Naked.”

Warlords in the streets of Liberia from 1989-2003 were given names based in popular culture. It spawned such nicknames as “General Bin Laden” and “General Rambo.”

While “General Butt Naked” may sound laughable as a nom de guerre, the warlord’s methods were anything but funny. Of the 250,000-some Liberians killed in the conflict, Blahyi estimates he is responsible for at least 20,000.

The crimes he freely admits to don’t stop there. He recruited children to act as his street enforcers, teaching them that killings and mutilations were all part of a game. And so they would also fight naked in the streets of Monrovia. Blahyi himself was a teenager when the conflict broke out.

Anecdotal evidence of the atrocities committed by “General Butt Naked” is numerous and graphic.

When Taylor was finally ousted in 2003, the man once known as “General Butt Naked” began a new life as a pastor. These days, when he isn’t preaching, he visits the families of his victims and begs for forgiveness — complete forgiveness. He doesn’t want lip service; he wants the biblical forgiveness that comes from the victim’s heart.

Those victims don’t want any part of it. Only 19 of the 76 families he has visited heard him out. The remainder goes about as well as one might expect.

Blahyi built a mansion where he houses former child soldiers. It’s a place where he says he teaches them skills like farming and bricklaying. According to German newspaper Der Spiegel, he also feeds them.

At least one former soldier will attest to the work of Blahyi’s NGO, “Journeys Against Violence.” Luke Barren told Reuters that he earned his job as a mason because of Blahyi’s effort. Other say Blahyi’s whole enterprise is a farce combined with a cash grab.

The former warlord walks free where Taylor is imprisoned because of jurisdictional rules in The Hague. The court can only prosecute war crimes committed after its founding in 2002. There was never a special tribunal for prosecuting war crimes in Liberia, as there was from Rwanda, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy cruiser seizes huge Iranian arms cache in Arabian Sea

Boarding parties from the Navy’s guided-missile cruiser Normandy stopped a dhow in the Arabian Sea earlier this week and confiscated a cache of Iranian-made surface-to-air missiles and other advanced weaponry bound for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, U.S. Central Command said Thursday.


A video released by CENTCOM showed a small boat from the Ticonderoga-class Normandy approaching the dhow on Feb. 9 as crew members of the traditional Mideastern vessel gathered at the bow with arms raised in surrender.

In addition to three surface-to-air missiles, the arms cache included 150 “Dehlavieh” anti-tank guided missiles, Iranian thermal imaging weapon scopes, Iranian components for aerial drones and unmanned small boats, “as well as other munitions and advanced weapons parts,” CENTCOM officials said in a statement.

The arms cache was similar to one seized in the Arabian Sea by the guided-missile destroyer Forrest Sherman in November, CENTCOM said.

The weapons seized by the Sherman “were determined to be of Iranian origin and assessed to be destined for the Houthis in Yemen” in violation of a United Nations Security Council Resolution barring weapons transfers to the Houthis, CENTCOM said.

The CENTCOM statement did not address the fate of the dhow’s crew, but past practice for seizures of Iranian arms has been for the crews to be released after questioning.

The action by the Normandy in seizing the arms cache was the first publicly announced haul haul for the U.S. Navy since a Jan. 4 drone strike at Baghdad’s International Airport that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.

Iran responded to Soleimani’s killing with ballistic missile strikes on Al Asad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province on Jan. 8. The Pentagon said earlier this week that a total of 104 U.S. troops at Al Asad have since been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury from the concussive effects of the missile strikes.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) boards a stateless dhow in the Arabian Sea and interdicts an illicit shipment of advanced weapons intended for the Houthis in Yemen, Feb. 9, 2020.

(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lehman)

The seizure by the Normandy suggested that Iran has not been deterred in what the U.S. calls its “malign activities” to spread influence in the region.

Iran has long backed the Houthis, who last week claimed more missile strikes against Saudi Arabia, in Yemen’s civil war, which has resulted in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

The Houthi uprising in 2015 seized control of much of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Since then, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has been fighting to restore Hadi to power. Periodic international efforts at brokering a ceasefire and peace deal have been unsuccessful.

The U.S. has supported Saudi Arabia with refueling flights and training for Saudi pilots in avoiding civilian targets.

In Nov. 2018, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the effort to bring peace to Yemen was a reason to maintain close military ties with Saudi Arabia, despite the murder of Washington Post contributor and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi.

In an informal session with Pentagon reporters at the time, Mattis said he was working closely with United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to arrange for peace talks, but that effort also failed.

According to the UN office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the conflict in Yemen has killed at least 100,000, displaced 4.3 million people and left an estimated 80% of a population of 24 million in dire need of basic necessities.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.


The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.

Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.

Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.

Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.

Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.

He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.

Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.

An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.

STUNNED AT THE SCOPE

In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.

“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.

“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”

Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”

Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.

2,300 CHILD PREDATORS

Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.

“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”

In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.

In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.

At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”

“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.

“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”

RESCUING CHILDREN

Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.

“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”

Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.

Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.

“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”

While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Image shows pair of black holes stuck in a collision between galaxies

It takes more than a billion years for a pair of galaxies to merge.

But in the constellation of Ophiuchus, about 400 million light-years from Earth, two galaxies are almost ready to become one.

The galaxies are in the process of violently crashing into one another. Astronomers estimate it will take them another 10 to 20 million years to fuse completely; at that point, they’ll form a new galaxy called NGC 6240.


Both galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their center, and those are expected to merge as well.

This whole process is difficult to capture on camera, however. Black holes’ gravity is so strong that nothing can escape — not even light — so astronomers attempting to see them have to rely on light from the matter that gets sucked in (before it disappears). The first-ever photograph of a supermassive black hole was published in April 2019.

But an international team of astronomers recently captured a sharp photo that shows how two supermassive black holes are caught in the galactic collision that’s forming the NGC 6240 galaxy.

The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a powerful telescope funded in part by the US National Science Foundation, to assemble the image. They presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday.

The black holes themselves aren’t visible in the photo, but you can see the glowing gas that surrounds them (the blue stuff in the images below).

NGC 6240 as seen with ALMA (top right) and the Hubble Space Telescope (bottom right).

(ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), E. Treister; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA/ESA Hubble)

That gas is located within the black holes’ “sphere of influence” — the innermost region of a galaxy where the black hole is the dominant force of gravity. The two black holes are feeding on the gas, which causes them to grow bigger as the galaxies merge. Previous images weren’t able to capture this gas in such detail.

‘A chaotic stream of gas’

Ezequiel Treister, an associate astronomy professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, told the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) that the gas doesn’t form a rotating disk, as some scientists anticipated.

“We don’t find any evidence for that,” he said. “Instead, we see a chaotic stream of gas with filaments and bubbles between the black holes. Some of this gas is ejected outwards with speeds up to 500 kilometers per second. We don’t know yet what causes these outflows.”

Gas that isn’t ejected from the sphere of influence will likely get sucked into the black hole.

Revolve Around a Black Hole Accretion Disk in Amazing Visualization

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The black holes are less massive than researchers expected

The image also challenges astronomers’ ideas about the masses of these particular black holes. By observing the photo, the team found that a lot of the gas was stuck in the spheres of influence instead of the black holes themselves. That means the black holes are much less massive than anticipated.

Until recently, astronomers believed that the supermassive black holes in the NGC 6240 galaxy had a mass equivalent to about 1 billion suns. The new photo suggests, however, that the black holes are about as massive as a few hundred million suns.

The finding suggests black holes involved in other galaxy collisions could also be smaller than expected.

“This galaxy is so complex that we could never know what is going on inside it without these detailed radio images,” Loreto Barcos-Muñoz, a researcher at the NRAO, said in a statement. “We now have a better idea of the 3D structure of the galaxy, which gives us the opportunity to understand how galaxies evolve during the latest stages of an ongoing merger.”

Our own Milky Way galaxy is expected to merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Today’s U.S. Navy can trace its origins to the Continental Navy of the Revolutionary War. It boasts the largest, most capable fleet in history, proudly serving its mission of “…winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.” America’s sailors are the finest in the world, and their rousing song — born in victory — suits them well.


Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Navy


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Even if you can’t sing along, you’ve probably heard the familiar tune, but here are five things you might not know about “Anchors Aweigh:”

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1. It was written at the U.S. Naval Academy

Bandmaster Lt. Charles A. Zimmerman served as director of the U.S. Naval Academy Band from 1887 until his death in 1916, and he wrote a march for each graduating class. But it was “Anchors Aweigh” would be the one ultimately adopted by the U.S. Navy as its official song.

The Navy Midshipmen take the field in the 2012 Army-Navy game.

U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge)

2. It helped shut out the Army

By 1906, Navy had not beaten Army on the football field since 1900. Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles approached Zimmerman with a request for a new march — one that would lift spirits and “live forever.” According to legend, Miles and Zimmerman got to work at the Academy’s chapel organ. Later that month, the band and brigade performed the song and the Navy swept the Army in a 10-0 victory.

Sailors secure a line to the capstan while hoisting the anchor chain.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Finley)

3. It’s chock full of naval jargon, starting with the title

An anchor is “aweigh” when it is hoisted from the bottom, freeing the vessel. This event is duly noted in the ship’s log.

Nimitz Carrier Strike Group conducts an underway.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael D. Cole)

4. It evolved over time

It wasn’t until 1997 that the lyrics were finally revised (by the 8th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, John Hagan) to be a little less college football and a little more domination of the high seas.

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5. It boasts ancient lore — like 2300 BC ancient

The revised lyrics include some naval lore, such as a reference to Davy Jones, whose locker on the ocean floor is home to drowned sailors and shipwrecks, and the “seven seas,” an ancient phrase for all the world’s oceans.

Here are the proud lyrics (both original and revised):

Original Lyrics

[Verse 1]

Stand Navy down the field, sails set to the sky.

We’ll never change our course, so Army you steer shy-y-y-y.

Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors Aweigh.

Sail Navy down the field and sink the Army, sink the Army Grey.

[Verse 2]

Get underway, Navy, Decks cleared for the fray,

We’ll hoist true Navy Blue So Army down your Grey-y-y-y.

Full speed ahead, Navy; Army heave to,

Furl Black and Grey and Gold and hoist the Navy, hoist the Navy Blue

[Verse 3]

Blue of the Seven Seas; Gold of God’s great sun

Let these our colors be Till all of time be done-n-n-ne,

By Severn shore we learn Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true With honor over, honor over all.

Revised Lyrics

(It is verse 2 that is most widely sung)

[Verse 1]

Stand Navy out to sea,

Fight our battle cry;

We’ll never change our course,

So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.

Roll out the TNT,

Anchors Aweigh.

Sail on to victory

And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

[Verse 2]

Anchors Aweigh, my boys,

Anchors Aweigh.

Farewell to foreign shores,

We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.

Through our last night ashore,

Drink to the foam,

Until we meet once more.

Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

[Verse 3]

Blue of the mighty deep:

Gold of God’s great sun.

Let these our colors be

Till all of time be done, done, done, done.

On seven seas we learn

Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true,

With honor, over honor, over all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Ukraine’s Navy: A tale of betrayal, loyalty, and revival

When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Ukraine’s navy lost nearly all of its ships and most of its sailors quit or defected. Now, with help from its allies, Ukraine is slowly getting its sea legs back. This is the story of those who remained loyal to Ukraine and were forced to choose between family and country when they left Crimea. But, as they rebuild their lives and their nation’s fleet, rough waters lie ahead with Russia flexing its maritime muscle on the Black Sea.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that Moscow believes a hotly anticipated U.S. list of rich Russians seen as close to President Vladimir Putin is an attempt to meddle in the country’s March 18 2017 election.


Peskov made the remarks on Jan. 29, 2018, ahead of the expected release by the U.S. Treasury Department of what is known as the “Kremlin Report.”

“We really do believe that this is a direct and obvious attempt to time some steps to coincide with the election in order to exert influence on it,” Peskov told journalists.

The report was mandated by Congress in a law aimed to increase pressure on Russia after the U.S. intelligence community said that Putin ordered a concerted hacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

The Kremlin in Russia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

President Donald Trump, who called for warmer ties with Russia during the campaign, reluctantly signed the bill into law in August 2017.

It gave the Treasury Department, the State Department, and intelligence agencies 180 days to identify people by “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.”

Also read: Trump’s strategy to prepare the US for power war with Russia and China

Russian business leaders and others named on the list — part of which may be kept classified — will not immediately be hit with sanctions but could face them in the future.

The expected release of the report has caused concern in the Russian elite, according to U.S. officials and U.S. advisers to Russian business leaders.

Peskov shrugged it off, however, saying that “we are convinced that it will have no influence” on the Russian election.

With the Kremlin controlling the levers of political power nationwide after years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize political opponents, the election is virtually certain to hand Putin a new six-year term.

Related: Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Political commentators say Putin, 65, is eager for a high turnout to strengthen his mandate in what could be his last stint in the Kremlin, as he would be constitutionally barred from seeking a third straight term in 2024.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller and three congressional panels are separately investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and any potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Trump denies there was any collusion, and Putin has denied that Russia interfered in the U.S. election process, despite what U.S. officials say is substantial evidence.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 countries Rambo needs to visit in the new movie

John Rambo changes lives. Not just in movies, but in the real world. From the flawed antihero of First Blood to the immortal god of death and destruction in 2008’s Rambo, Sylvester Stallone’s action-hero prototype isn’t just the forerunner of modern, big-budget action stars, he’s a real-life game-changer. A cinematic visit from John Rambo has historically been an omen of big changes to follow in the real world.

Stallone just announced the production of a new Rambo movie — and it couldn’t come at a better time. He’s definitely going to take on Mexican drug cartels in the film, which is a good move, but there are many other places that need the help. Call it the “Rambo Effect.”


Related: 10 worst armies in the world 2018

For the uninitiated, Vietnam veteran John Rambo goes off to find some personal peace after the war, meeting up with old Army friends and traveling the world, looking for meaning. What he ends up finding is a personal war everywhere he goes. He fights the bad guys in the movies and wins – but in the real world, something always happens in the country he visits, often within a year of a film’s release, changing them for the better.

Anyone who’s a big fan of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo series knows the sequels are a far cry from the story and intent of the first film. In First Blood, he was a flawed Vietnam veteran who became a rallying cry for a generation of vets who were all but ignored by society. Seriously, this is a really great, thoughtful movie with a good message.

The Vietnam War took a toll on America in a way the country still hasn’t fully recovered from. It was the first time Americans learned to distrust the President of the United States and this fostered a general mistrust of the government ever since. First Blood takes America to task about things Vietnam veterans still talk about today: Agent Orange, public indifference toward veterans, public perception of “crazy” Vietnam veterans, veteran unemployment, post-traumatic stress, and more.

The 80s were a crazy time for everyone.

What people really noticed while watching First Blood is how awesome that Green Beret stuff really was, so by the time First Blood Part II came about, Rambo was a full-on action hero — the mold for the Bruce Willises, Arnold Schwarzeneggers, and the Steven Seagals yet to come. The real message was lost amid big-budget explosions and fight sequences.

Crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees from a small craft, April 1975

(U.S. National Archives)

The second installment of the Rambo series was released almost ten years to the day after the fall of Saigon. In the real-world, reunified Vietnam under Communist rule, chaos ensued. Thousands were herded into reeducation camps, a crippled economy suffered from triple-digit inflation, the state went to war with Cambodia and then China. Thousands of refugees took to fleeing by boat to anywhere else.

Still, some things just don’t age well.

The year after First Blood Part II had Rambo return to Vietnam, the Vietnamese government began implementing massive reforms to move away from the strict Communist structure that dominated it for the previous decade. In the intervening years, the economy began to recover as the government moved to a more socialist form.

In 1988’s Rambo III, John Rambo sets off to rescue Colonel Trautman after he’s taken captive in Soviet-dominated Afghanistan. Of course, Rambo goes right into Afghanistan, destroys every Soviet in his wake and rescues his old friend in a blaze of fiery glory. That same year, the Soviet Union began its final withdrawal from Afghanistan, a war that was a major contributing factor to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Coming to theaters of war near you.

In 2008’s Rambo, the former Green Beret joins a group of missionaries headed to Myanmar. 2008 Myanmar was a brutal totalitarian dictatorship scarred by rampant human rights abuses — both on screen and in the real world. In the film, a warlord is brutalizing the Burmese people and the missionaries become victims. A team of mercenaries goes back into Myanmar with Rambo. Rambo kills everyone who isn’t a good guy.

Two months after the film’s release, the actual Myanmar government suddenly held a real constitutional referendum intended to guide the country down the path away from the military junta and into democratic reforms. By 2010, Myanmar held contested, multiparty elections. The military government was fully dissolved in 2011 and, by 2015, there were serious elections held in the country.

I’m not saying John Rambo had anything to do with any of this, all I’m saying is that John Rambo could be the harbinger of positive change in the world. Which is good, because there are a few place that really need a change.

1. Syria

Even though this is hardly the world’s longest ongoing conflict, it has to be one of the most intense and well-attended. Anyone who’s anyone is sending troops to Syria, and soon Germany may even join the party. All joking aside, this is a conflict that has, so far, killed more than a half-million people in seven years by moderate estimates, but no one really knows for sure.

A war this intense should end sooner rather than later. Even though Richard Crenna (the actor who portrayed Col. Trautman) died in 2003, maybe Rambo can be sent to Syria to rescue Trautman’s son? I’ll leave that for Stallone to decide, but he’s got to get Rambo there somehow.

Just one North Korean parade and it’s all over.

2. North Korea

While the intensity of this conflict peaked more than 70 years ago, the ongoing human rights abuses and detainment of North Koreans in prison camps is exactly the kind of thing John Rambo would hate to see.

And if there’s anyone who could reach Kim Jong Un on his own, it’s John Rambo.

Pictured: Rambo sneaking back into Burma.

3. Back to Myanmar

Even though his first visit to Burma (Myanmar) foretold the coming of democratic reforms, an argument could be made that they didn’t exactly reach what anyone would call true quality before the law. In fact, a number of civil conflicts are ongoing in Burma, including the Rohingya slaughter and insurgency read so much about in the news lately, but there are others — at least 18 different insurgent groups operate in Burma to this day.

4. Yemen

If ever a war needed to end, it’s the ongoing Saudi-led coalition’s war against Houthi-dominated Yemen. If ever any single country needed a John Rambo to finish things off, it’s this devastating embarrassment. For three years, Saudi Arabia and its 24 coalition partners have been hammering away at little Yemen and the Houthis who took it over, killing tens of thousands of people — many civilians — and are no closer to winning right now than they were three years ago.

Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.

5. The Philippines

The Moro people of the Philippines have pretty much been resisting invaders since the beginning of time. For at least 400 years, the Moro have resisted Spanish, American, Japanese, American, and Philippine dominance over their traditional area of the country.

If there’s a world leader that would make an excellent Hollywood villain, it’s Rodrigo Duterte, current president of the Philippines. He’s not crazy, he thinks he’s doing the world a favor, and his methods are shocking. After a few centuries, this conflict should be ready to end and who better to bring that about than Rambo and a giant hunting knife?

6. Somalia

Somalia has been in the throes of civil war since the 1980s and it has never even begun anything close to a recovery. After the fall of the Barre dictatorship, no one has held a controlling area of the country, including the United States, the United Nations, and even Ethiopia, who invaded Somalia not too long ago, crushing just one more in a long line of Islamic Insurgents who want to control the Somali people.

More than half a million people from all over the world have died in this conflict and it has displaced more than 1.1 million Somalis. It is time for this conflict to end — that’s your cue, Rambo.