Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf wants to raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs, by jumping out of a plane at 36,500 feet. His jump aims to break the wing suit overland distance world record of 17.83 miles.
You can help Andy raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.
We regularly read about wars both past and present. Yet there are few of us who truly know what it’s like to be there. The accounts below are told by the brave men and women who fought on the front lines, as well as those intrepid reporters who documented war in person. From World War II to the battlefields of Vietnam, these seven works provide insight into the triumphs and terrors of armed conflict.
7. We Were Soldiers Once… and Young
We Were Soldiers Once… and Young examines Ia Drang, one of the most significant and brutal battles of the Vietnam War. Written by Lt. Col. Harold Moore, with the help of journalist Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground at la Drang—the book tells the harrowing tale of the American soldiers who never gave up, despite the devastation that surrounded them.
6. This Kind of War
The book that Defense Secretary James Mattis recently recommended in response to rising tensions in North Korea, This Kind of War analyzes the Korean War—as told by a man who was there. Often referred to as “the forgotten war,” Fehrenbach, who served as a U.S. Army officer during the war, provides a powerful reflection on its destruction and how unpreparedness led to the loss of so many lives.
5. Valor in Vietnam
Looking at the Vietnam War through the lens of those who were there, Valor in Vietnam offers 19 different stories of triumph and tragedy. Presented in chronological order, the accounts are emotional, intense, and personal.
4. Goodbye Vietnam
William Broyles’ memoir covers his life from the time he was a college student—hoping not to be drafted—to his service in Vietnam and his return to the country years later, in an attempt to come to terms with the bloody war. Though he was enrolled at Oxford when the Vietnam War began, Broyles realized he could not let his class or education stand in the way of his civic duty. He subsequently enrolled in the marines. And while he survived, he wasn’t able to move on until he confronted his past and returned to the former battlefields of Vietnam.
3. Eyewitness to World War II
This military bundle includes three books from Richard Tregaskis, a World War II reporter who bridged the gap between the soldiers on the front lines and those waiting at home. Including Guadalcanal Diary, Invasion Diary, and, John F. Kennedy and PT-109, Tregaskis, who travelled with the Allies during WWII, recounts the bravery and sacrifice he witnessed.
2. Special Ops
Orr Kelly, a journalist who served as a war correspondent in Vietnam, tells the stories of the military’s elite forces. The bundle includes Brave Men, Dark Waters; Never Fight Fair!; Hornet; and, From a Dark Sky. From the Navy SEALs to the US Air Force Special Operations, Kelly details the courage and resilience of these unique fighters. In Never Fight Fair!, the Navy SEALs tell us, in their own words, about the history of their special force and what it takes to be one of the elite.
1. In Pharaoh’s Army
A National Book Award finalist, In Pharaoh’s Army chronicles Tobias Wolff’s experiences as an army officer in the Vietnam War. Present during the Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns that took place during the war, Wolff tells his story and how it has affected him both in and out of Vietnam.
A welding student from Workshops for Warriors. Courtesy photo.
Workshops for Warriors started with a handful of wounded service members in a 400-sqaure foot garage. Twelve years later it’s poised to become the world’s largest training facility for advanced manufacturing.
Despite the meteoric growth, founder and CEO Hernán Luis y Prado said he’d never had an interest in manufacturing. The 15-year Navy veteran had planned a 40-year career. This changed in 2008 when he started visiting National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There, he saw wounded warriors dealing with terrible conditions. He described service members living in tunnels while waiting for hospital rooms in facilities that weren’t designed for a sudden influx of survivors.
“These Marines that were used to jumping out of helicopters were just languishing in bed for days after days just waiting for physical therapy that came once a week,” Prado said. “And the docs that would come by every week and say ‘hey next week you’re going home.’ And that would go on for 30, 40, 50 weeks. That was just soul crushing.”
The final straw came during a trip to the local mall where Prado ran into a friend he’d served with in Iraq. Since they’d last seen each other, Prado’s friend had stepped on a landmine and lost both legs.
“Here I was — tough guy, combat vet, and my legs literally melted underneath me,” Prado said. “I grabbed my wife as I sank to the deck and I said ‘we’re going to sell everything. We’ve got to do something.’ My wife, to her eternal credit, said, ‘yes we are.’ I loved the Navy and I would’ve stayed there forever. But I had to do something. I was so tired of seeing my friends dying of suicide and just being lost. These are guys that I had served with and they were hyper-capable, hyper-competent. All the sudden they would just be hollowed–out versions of themselves that were drifting aimlessly into the shadows.”
Prado speaks with students.
Prado started what would eventually become Workshops for Warriors by inviting service members receiving treatment in Bethesda to his home to hang out. He said they loved to tinker in his garage. This got him thinking about next steps. Most of the service members being treated in Bethesda were only there for four to six months. This ruled out apprenticeships which can take up to 10,000 hours to complete, he said, and college degrees which can take years. Professional credentials, on the other hand, are stackable and portable, he added.
Next, Prado developed partnerships with multiple U.S. manufacturers to get the equipment, supplies and instructors. As a lieutenant in the Navy he didn’t make enough to cover the costs.
“Fortunately, we got some incredible companies that donated time, tools, software and connected us with other people,” Prado said. “Little-by-little we started moving forward.”
Prado’s next move was to take his last Navy assignment in San Diego, California. He said he did this because more people leave the service there – 17,000 a year – than anywhere else in the country.
The current Workshops for Warriors facility takes up three city blocks in San Diego and includes housing and dining facilities for students. A 8 million expansion is slated for next year.
Since 2008, 760 veterans and transitioning service members have graduated from Workshops For Warriors. Prado said 95% of the program’s graduates receive job placements with an average salary of ,000 a year.
Courses are open to honorably discharged veterans and transitioning service members who are within six months of separation. Students take four-month courses in advanced manufacturing, welding fabrication or machine repair. The ,000 tuition can be covered by the G.I. Bill. For those who don’t have access to the G.I Bill, scholarships are available, Prado said.
Each course is coupled with opportunities to gain nationally recognized credentials in welding, machining, computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing and more. Programs are accredited through the Bureau of Private and Post-Secondary Education, American Welding Society and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills.
Prado said most students have between four and eight written job offers prior to graduation. The only shortcoming he sees in his program is its capacity for students. Workshops for Warriors currently has the ability to teach 162 students per year. But the organization receives seven to ten times that many applications, according to Prado.
To deal with this, there are plans in the works for a train the trainer program and eventual expansion into other locations throughout the country.
Prado said Workshops for Warriors is almost as beneficial to manufacturers as it is to veterans and transitioning service members.
“You have no idea how desperate employers are for properly–trained machinery repair technicians,” he said.
Prado said there are 2.4 million advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States currently unfilled due to a lack of skilled labor. That number is projected to rise to 4.8 million over the next ten years.
“If you couple that with the fact that the median age of manufacturing workers today is 57 years old, in 10 years, who is going to build our ships, our aircraft, our bridges, our buildings,” Prado asked. “We cannot allow our manufacturing capability and our economic resiliency to be outsourced to China.”
Service members or honorably discharged veterans can apply for entry at https://wfw.org/.
Melissa Stockwell has another busy day at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where she’ll swim, run, bike, and go through strength training for hours on end.
Then, like most moms, it’s a rush to fit in as much family time with her husband and 2- and 4-year-old children as the clock allows: pick up the kids, take them to swim lessons, grab dinner, read them a story, and get them tucked into bed.
In between, she might send an inspirational photo or tweet to her 7,000-plus social media followers.
It’s not just the mom-athlete thing that makes Stockwell special.
She does it all with one leg.
Stockwell was an Army officer in Iraq when she lost her left leg in a roadside bomb. She competed in swimming in the 2008 Paralympic Games, won the bronze medal in triathlon for the 2016 Games, and is currently training with hopes of making the U.S. team for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
And people think she’s pretty rad.
Melissa Stockwell shows her Purple Heart certificate while still recovering in the hospital. She said there were others in the hospital worse off than her, so she didn’t feel sorry for herself.
“To the mailman who yelled out ‘you’re an American badass’ as I was on #6/10 of my hill repeats, thank you. You sure lit that fire for the last 4,” she tweeted out Aug. 16, 2019.
“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days. I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.” — Melissa Stockwell, discussing her recovery after losing her leg in Iraq
Stockwell is just as likely to post a video of herself training in the gym, a poolside photo with her prosthetic leg, or a poignant goodbye letter to her service dog, Jake, she lost last year. Plus, there are plenty of posts about her children and mom life.
“I just saw a mom grocery shopping with 2 sets of twins, and another boy who all looked to be under 6 years old. If I ever get overwhelmed with momming for two, I’ll remember her. Her and my sister with 5 kids. Ah, perspective… ” she tweeted recently.
Or this inspirational burst first thing in the day: “This morning I took a moment to look around and just appreciate being alive. Take some time to do that today, it’s a day changer.”
Army Veteran Melissa Stockwell typically posts photos of herself and her love of the American flag on her Twitter feed. “This is me,” she said. “This is the beauty of America.”
“I’m proud of our country, that’s all,” she said. “This is me. This is the beauty of America. We all get to think and choose what we want, whether or not we agree on what everyone says or how they express it. I’m going to choose to express myself this way, but that’s the beauty of our country.”
Whatever she posts, she said, it’s not for ego.
“I do the things in my life because I enjoy them,” Stockwell said. “I like to be busy. I like having dreams. I don’t do anything to impress anybody. I guess I do it so I can inspire someone else — if not for those who came before me, but those who came after who can think, ‘I can do this, also.’
“Look, I have hard days, too,” she added. “Not everyone is perfect. I post pictures of my kids and dreams because that makes it more real. If someone is having a hard day and sees my posts, maybe they’re a mom, maybe they’re having trouble with their kids, I want to inspire them that there’s always tomorrow.”
That’s pretty much been her attitude since April 13, 2004, when she lost her leg.
“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days,” she said. “I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.”
Melissa Stockwell fits a lot into her day between family life and training. She posts regularly about her life for more than 7,000 followers on Twitter.
Getting into adaptive sports
Despite countless surgeries and infections, she took her first steps on her prosthetic leg 52 days after getting injured. Stockwell started adaptive sports and hasn’t looked back. She focused on the Paralympics after meeting fellow athlete and veteran John Register in 2005. She made the 2008 team, but didn’t medal.
“I learned that in life, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination,” she wrote on her web site. “And as I carried that American flag into that sold out Bird’s Nest Stadium at the closing ceremony, I had never been so proud. A proud American. And a proud Paralympian.”
Her friend, Keri Serota, said the Melissa Stockwell people see online, is the same in person.
“You know, I think what she does is amazing,” Serota said. “It’s hard not to be motivated, moved and inspired by Melissa. I always considered myself a proud American, but I learned more about what that means from Melissa. She makes you pause and realize what it means to be an American and why we have that freedom.
“But she’s also my best friend and I get to spend a lot of time with her and she has no ego. It’s this relatability. She has been in the room with all the living presidents, but she doesn’t take that for granted or have an ego about it. It’s very much Melissa. She can be with President Bush one day and buying ice cream for her kids the next day. She shares all of it — the highlights, lowlights, successes and losses. People, whether they know her or not, have that relationship with her because she is so impressive and exciting, but humble and grateful.”
She first met Bush after he invited her and other wounded Veterans to his ranch, and got to dance with him, a moment caught in an iconic photo shared around the world. She also gave the Pledge of Allegiance at his library opening.
“He’s amazing,” she said of the former president. “He is accountable for the actions taken while he was in office, and he has always gone above and beyond to show he has not forgotten the lives he impacted. I think that’s wonderful. That’s a pretty great man.”
Besides training, she also started the nonprofit Dare2Tri along with Serota and another friend, and signed endorsement deals with Toyota and Under Armour.
Back on the home front, beyond the training center and social media spotlight, Stockwell focuses on raising her son, Dallas, born in 2014; and daughter, Millie, born in 2017.
Melissa Stockwell posted a tweet of thanks to Barbie after her daughter got a doll with a prosthetic leg for her birthday.
“Sometimes I forget she is an amputee,” said her husband, Brian Tolsma. “She doesn’t let it define her, and she is so driven and motivated. She does a lot of things people with two legs can’t do.
“But it always goes back to the kids for me,” he said. “I know the regiment she does during the day, beating up her body daily to get faster, to reach that goal. Then she comes home and it’s just an abundance of energy and patience with the kids. She’s always going, and always has time for the kids, always coming up with new activities. That’s the most impressive thing about her.”
Millie recently celebrated her 2nd birthday. She received a Barbie Doll with a prosthetic leg from Serota, which also made its way to Stockwell’s Twitter page.
“It just shows kids we are just like anybody else,” she said. “Why can’t we have parties and dolls? Kids can play with them and see we are normal, no different,” Stockwell said.
And that’s why she doesn’t mind posting photos online or showing off her red, white and blue, American-themed prosthetic in public.
“If I can educate, I will,” she added. “I am proud to have worn the uniform. I’m proud of how I lost my leg. Plus, it’s really cool to look at. Technology has come so far, even in the past 10, 15 years. Veterans are coming back home and they’re young, they’re active.
“They’re going to continue to help advance the field of prosthetics because they aren’t going to take no for an answer.”
There is a very robust veteran community within the entertainment industry. Veterans in Media and Entertainment is a nonprofit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in the film and television industry. The Writers Guild Foundation has a year-long writing program for veterans. And hey, We Are The Mighty is a company founded on a mission to capture, empower, and celebrate the voice of today’s military community.
The military community makes up a small percentage of Americans, but plays a global — and exceptionally challenging — role. It makes sense that many veterans have stories to tell. Not all of those stories are about their military experiences, but many are. Hollywood loves a good hero story, but there’s more to the military than those few moments of bravery.
The military is a mind f*** unique lifestyle, one that does involve war and sacrifice, but also really weird laws and random adventures — and in a Post-9/11 world, we are now seeing an influx of veterans ready to dissect that world.
Enter Xanthe Pajarillo.
“Veteran narratives are begging for more diversity. When our representation in the media is limited to war heroes or trauma victims, it creates a skewed portrait of who service members are,” said Pajarillo, the creator of Airmen, a web series that explores the dynamics of queerness, romantic/workplace relationships, and being a person of color in the Air Force during peacetime operations. It emphasizes the unshakable bonds and relationships that veterans make during their time in service.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chloe Mondesir, who will play Airman 1st Class Mercedes Magat.
It’s important to recognize that there is much more to military service than what is traditionally portrayed in film and television (which tends to be the rare stories of heroism in battle and/or the traumatic effects of war).
American society has placed heroes on a pedestal, which is a very high standard to meet for our troops — and one that often involves a life-threatening circumstance. Not every troop will see combat (this is a good thing… but we don’t always feel that way when other members of our team are shouldering the burdens of war), and even those who do engage in battle but live when others die experience survivor’s guilt and symptoms of trauma.
It’s time to tell the reality of military service: the warrior’s tale, yes, but more importantly, the stories of the humans living their lives while wearing the uniform.
“Ultimately, I created Airmen to help bridge the gap between civilians and veterans. The characters are active duty, but their experiences are universal. We are complex individuals with successes, failures, and insecurities just like everyone else. I hope when someone watches the show – civilian or veteran – they’ll feel less alone in the world,” says Pajarillo.
Which is exactly what Airmen is setting out to do — and now the series is ready for the next stage of production, beginning with a campaign at SeedSpark, a platform designed to change the entertainment industry to reflect the world we actually live in.
Russia test-fired its advanced RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile Feb. 6, 2019, the Russian defense ministry said, amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow.
The road-mobile, solid-fuel ICBM, which was “armed with multiple warheads,” was launched from the Plesetsk state testing spaceport, according to Russian state-run media outlet TASS. “The launch aimed to confirm the advanced missile system’s capabilities and flight characteristics,” the ministry said.
The Yars missile went into service in 2010. It can be either mobile or silo-based, and it is upgraded version of the Topol-M missiles. With a range of nearly 7,000 miles, the Yars was designed to beat enemy missile defenses.
The Yars has the ability to alter its trajectory during flight, and this maneuverability makes it more difficult to intercept. It can also deploy active and passive decoys — countermeasures that make it more formidable.
And then there are the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, which allow the multiple warheads on board to travel a different path than the ICBM was traveling initially.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
“This coupled with the fact that the Yars only takes 7 minutes to launch poses serious threats to the missile defense system used by the US to protect its homeland and its allies,” according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. “The RS-24 is a vital part of Moscow’s effort to increase the survivability its nuclear forces and to counter missile defense systems being deployed by the United States.”
The latest test comes just a few weeks after the release of the Trump administration’s Missile Defense Review, a document highly criticized by Moscow, and just days after the collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — the last line of defense preventing a major nuclear arms race — from which the US withdrew over alleged Russian violations of the Cold War-era nuclear-arms agreement.
As he ripped up the INF Treaty, President Donald Trump warned the US will “move forward with developing our own military response” to Russian moves. Russian President Vladimir Putin then stressed that Russia “will respond quid pro quo.”
The Russian defense ministry has called for the development of a new land-based cruise missile, a variant of the sea-launched Kalibr missiles, and hypersonic missiles. There are also reports that Russia is again testing its much-hyped Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, although Moscow apparently has yet to achieve success with this new system.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Generations are evolving faster these days and are palpably different in culture and norms than the World War II-era soldier, the oldest living veteran group. Culture progresses rapidly, adapting to trends and reflective of the times. The military, however, remains steadfast in many of her ways out of necessity and tradition. Her ways hold a standard, to which all who raise the hand are meant to uphold, to adapt to and strive for. Today, when individuality and acceptance reign supreme, it is more important than ever for young service members to look far beyond the benefits package, and into the legacy they are inheriting through their service.
When all the noise, distractions and selfish human tendencies are removed from view, the life of a service member hasn’t strayed too much historically. It looks a lot like mere humans foregoing themselves for the greater good. If today’s soldier can merely tap into the deep river of pride which they’ve inherited, the hardships begin to feel a little less hard.
Disconnection serves a purpose
It takes a minute to remember that connectivity to the world is not a foundational human right. It may be deeply ingrained in our habits, and feel hopelessly cruel to remove, but is not essential to life. Adapting to a life of disconnection is a requirement, not a suggestion in raising successful soldiers.
Today’s battlefront is both visible and invisible, as cyber warfare has become a real and formidable threat. At the most obvious level, a connected soldier on mission poses a risk for operational security. Another layer in comes the mental preparedness it takes to obtain the highest level of situational awareness, which cannot come from a constant buzz of social media feed disrupting your focus. Complacency on the battlefield is deadly. A momentary loss of focus may be the difference between life and death, and it might not be yours.
It may cause you to miss today’s viral video, or even to fall a few steps behind in the life you’re used to living. But remember, you signed up to answer a different call, one which forces you to leave the world at home behind to fight for its protection.
It’s a dark and violent world
Humanity is making strides towards kindness. Towards accepting that some are more sensitive than others, and that sensitivity should not be met with ridicule. While everyday-America seems to have more and more designated safe places to avoid unpleasantries popping up, she’s sending her youth into the same old horrors of the dark world.
When it comes to preparing mentally to not just operate but to survive what may come, the success or failure of a soldier lies in the ability to remove oneself from humanity. To walk adjacent to reality, viewing the enemy as a target, the one your training prepared you to face. Getting comfortable with uncomfortable is the first step. Reading firsthand accounts, interviews or books written by veterans who lived it may prove to be a valuable memory to recall when seeing war with your own eyes.
It’s really not personal
There’s a reason why giving up individuality is essential, but that doesn’t make it any easier to do when it goes against today’s culture. You’ll have to forget everything you’re used to- from saying “no” or “why” to standing out. Full-spectrum warfare relies on the success of interdependent and individual units carrying out mission orders with minimal disruption.
While there remains a time and place to innovate or prove your intelligence, carrying out orders, should for the most part, be without question. A service member must be able to walk the fine line between following lawful orders of their leaders and being able to decipher if those orders become immoral or unethical. Stopping in the middle of the street to question your Squad Leader about why you are clearing a building is not appropriate, but one must be able to judge the situation and circumstance prior to asking.
It’s important for any new service member to truly adapt to their new life. To do the job that few could, means living a life like few could either.
As the B-1, call sign Hawk 91, approaches the airport, air traffic control asks how many people and how much fuel is onboard. The response is four airmen and enough fuel for roughly four hours of flight time.
The B-1 is then assigned a runway.
“Approach, Hawk Nine-One, airfield in sight, cancel IFR [instrument flight rules], we are going to be making a long, straight-in approach,” one of the crew says. IFR is a set of Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring civil aircraft to use instrument approach procedures for civil airports. Approach procedures are different for military pilots and aircraft.
The tower tells the crew to maintain visual flight rules (VFR) instead. Once the B-1 lands, the crew tells the control tower it will be “emergency ground egressing.”
In July 2018, then-Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Robin Rand awarded Distinguished Flying Cross medals to the crew, including Maj. Christopher Duhon, Air Force Strategic-Operations Division chief of future operations at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and an instructor pilot with the 28th Bomb Squadron; Capt. Matthew Sutton, 28th BS weapons system officer instructor; 1st Lt. Joseph Welch, student pilot with the 28th; and 1st Lt. Thomas Ahearn, a weapons system officer assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.
“Thank you for showing us how to be extraordinary. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. I have never been prouder to wear this uniform than I am today because of you four,” Rand said during a July 13, 2018 ceremony honoring the airmen.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, left, takes a group photo with the B-1B Lancer aircrew during a Distinguished Flying Cross medals presentation, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, July 13, 2018. Rand formally recognized the heroism and exceptional professionalism of the B-1B aircrew members involved in the May 1, 2018, in-flight emergency and resulting emergency landing in Midland, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)
Officials said in a release that it was the first-ever successful landing of a B-1B experiencing this type of ejection seat mishap.
Weeks preceding the ceremony, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the Dyess B-1 had to make an emergency landing over an ejection seat malfunction.
The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a June 18, 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.
When the crew tried to eject, “the cover comes off, and nothing else happens,” she said, referring to the weapons systems officer’s ejection hatch. “The seat doesn’t fire. Within two seconds of knowing that that had happened, the aircraft commander says, ‘Cease ejection, we’ll try to land.’ “
The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. May 1, 2018. Local media reported at the time the non-nuclear B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land.
Images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show a burnt-out engine from the incident. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
While the B-1s returned to normal flying operations, both Foreign Policy and The Drive reported that the ejection seat issue may be more widespread than previously disclosed.
“While specific numbers will not be released, not all B-1Bs were affected by these egress system component deficiencies,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Military.com in a statement on July 19, 2018, following the news reports.
“The Air Force has 62 B-1Bs in the fleet. All B-1Bs are cleared for normal flight operations. We always apply risk management measures for flights based on the aircraft, the flight profiles, and crew experience,” Stefanek said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Defense Department launched its artificial intelligence strategy Feb. 12, 2019, in concert with Feb. 11, 2019’s White House executive order that created the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
“The [executive order] is paramount for our country to remain a leader in AI, and it will not only increase the prosperity of our nation, but also enhance our national security,” Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, said in a media roundtable.
The CIO and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, first director of DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, discussed the strategy’s launch with reporters.
The National Defense Strategy recognizes that the U.S. global landscape has evolved rapidly, with Russia and China making significant investments to modernize their forces, Deasy said. “That includes substantial funding for AI capabilities,” he added. “The DOD AI strategy directly supports every aspect of the NDS.”
Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, hold a roundtable meeting on DOD’s artificial intelligence strategy at the Pentagon, Feb. 12, 2019.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
As stated in the AI strategy, he said, the United States — together with its allied partners — must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position to prevail on future battlefields and safeguard a free and open international order.
Speed and agility are key
Increasing speed and agility is a central focus on the AI strategy, the CIO said, adding that those factors will be delivered to all DOD AI capabilities across every DOD mission.
“The success of our AI initiatives will rely upon robust relationships with internal and external partners. Interagency, industry, our allies and the academic community will all play a vital role in executing our AI strategy,” Deasy said.
“I cannot stress enough the importance that the academic community will have for the JAIC,” he noted. “Young, bright minds continue to bring fresh ideas to the table, looking at the problem set through different lenses. Our future success not only as a department, but as a country, depends on tapping into these young minds and capturing their imagination and interest in pursuing the job within the department.”
Reforming DOD business
The last part of the NDS focuses on reform, the CIO said, and the JAIC will spark many new opportunities to reform the department’s business processes. “Smart automation is just one such area that promises to improve both effectiveness and efficiency,” he added.
Pentagon outlines its artificial intelligence strategy
AI will use an enterprise cloud foundation, which will also increase efficiencies across DOD, Deasy said. He noted that DOD will emphasize responsibility and use of AI through its guidance and vision principles for using AI in a safe, lawful and ethical way.
JAIC: focal point of AI
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of operationalizing AI across the department, and to do so with the appropriate sense of urgency and alacrity,” JAIC director Shanahan told reporters.
The DOD AI strategy applies to the entire department, he said, adding the JAIC is a focal point of the strategy. The JAIC was established in response to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, and stood up in June 2018 “to provide a common vision, mission and focus to drive department-wide AI capability delivery.”
The JAIC has several critical mission themes, Shanahan said.
First is the effort to accelerate delivery and adoption of AI capabilities across DOD, he noted. “This underscores the importance of transitioning from research and development to operational-fielded capabilities,” he said. “The JAIC will operate across the full AI application lifecycle, with emphasis on near-term execution and AI adoption.”
Second is to establish a common foundation for scaling AI’s impact, Shanahan said. “One of the JAIC’s most-important contributions over the long term will be establishing a common foundation enabled by enterprise cloud with particular focus on shared data repositories for useable tools, frameworks and standards and cloud … services,” he explained.
Third, to synchronize DOD AI activities, related AI and machine-learning projects are ongoing across the department, and it’s important to ensure alignment with the National Defense Strategy, the director said.
Last is the effort to attract and cultivate a world-class AI team, Shanahan said.
Two pilot programs that are national mission initiatives – a broad, joint cross-cutting AI challenge – comprise preventive maintenance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the director said, adding that “initial capabilities [will be] delivered over the next six months.”
And while in its early stages, the JAIC is beginning to work with the U.S. Cyber Command on a space-related national mission initiative, he said.
“Everything we do in the JAIC will center on enhancing relationships with industry, academia, and with our allies and international partners,” Shanahan said. “Within DOD, we will work closely with the services, Joint Staff, combatant commands, agencies and components.”
The JAIC’s mission, the director said, “nests nicely under the executive order that the president signed yesterday afternoon. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but there’s no time to waste.”
Few know mission command better than retired Gen. Carter F. Ham. In the time between his enlistment as an infantryman in 1973 and his retirement as a geographic combatant commander in 2013, Ham experienced the Army from a variety of perspectives, including as the commander of U.S. Army Europe and as the director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As the current president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army, Ham continues to make a difference on behalf of the men and women who serve. Here are his insights on mission command as the Army looks to the future.
Q: After having a career that spanned four decades, what does mission command mean to you?
A: When I think of mission command, it is getting the right process by which leaders make decisions to employ their forces from the strategic to tactical levels. It is freedom to act within intent and established parameters, and it’s achieving the right blend of initiative and control.
I’ve thought about this a lot as the Army sometimes has a tendency to rebrand old ideas with new names. The term “mission command” started gaining momentum over “command and control” in the late 2000s, particularly when Gen. Martin Dempsey was at Training and Doctrine Command. A lot of talk within the profession suggested this really wasn’t anything new but, rather, what the Army had always done in terms of mission-type orders and building trust.
General Carter F. Ham.
My sense was that it wasn’t quite the same. The cohort of senior Army officers at the time, myself included, grew up mostly in the Cold War era with very clearly defined boundaries, rear areas, adjacent units, and the like. When that era changed and the Army found itself in highly irregular warfare, leaders recognized command and control wasn’t adequate for the new environment.
The command piece was okay, but the control piece was overly regulated given the circumstances in which the Army was anticipated to operate. It was time for a change, and I think mission command was exactly the right focus. With varying degrees at varying levels, and certainly as circumstances change, we must enable leaders to operate with empowered, disciplined initiative and higher degrees of flexibility.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as commander of U.S. Africa Command?
A: Most Americans think of Africa as a single place; it’s not. It is huge; at the very least, Africa is 54 countries with vast geographic differences, linguistic challenges, and economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. It’s an exceedingly complex area of operations.
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me he intended to recommend the president nominate me for [commanding general of] the Africa Command, I had two feelings simultaneously. First was pure exhilaration: “Holy smokes, you’re going to be a combatant commander! You get your picture hung on the entryway of the Pentagon!”
But instantaneously, the second feeling hit: “You don’t know anything about Africa.” At the time, it was not a part of the world any of us in the military thought much about.
Carter F. Ham as lieutenant colonel commanding U.S. forces in Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia, speaking to Admiral William Owens in 1995.
I was going from a very Europe-centric career — frankly a very comfortable setting for me because I had relationships with many of the senior leaders — to exceeding discomfort in Africa. It was intellectually stimulating, but I just didn’t have that foundational understanding of the area of operations as I did in Europe.
For me, this was mission command in practice at the upper operational and strategic levels. Despite the dispersed nature of U.S. forces, the requirement to work with host-nation forces, and the diversity of missions — ranging from very precise targeted activities and hostage rescue to maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and veterinary teams helping with herds of animals — there was still an expectation from the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other service chiefs. They were empowering me to make decisions in this vast and complex area of responsibility.
You can’t do that with a highly structured, highly controlling style of leadership. I had to catch myself sometimes, and my senior enlisted leaders would often remind me, “General, they don’t need you to tell them how many times to turn the screwdriver; they need your intent.”
If you can describe your intent, subordinate leaders will accomplish the mission.
Q: How does mission command need to evolve to maximize readiness for the future operational environment?
A: There is recognition that the Army has to refocus after 15-plus years of irregular warfare and counter-insurgency operations. Gen. [Mark] Milley has it right; we have to get back to preparing for combat operations across all domains against a very capable, state-based adversary. It’s a much more complex environment in which to operate.
The first half of my career was highly structured and very clearly focused on a state-based adversary, the Soviet Union. It was a very dangerous, but also very predictable, period. We knew their doctrine and organizational structure; they knew ours. We knew their equipment and capabilities; they knew ours. Our war plans were incredibly detailed: we knew exactly where we were going to fight and exactly where almost every soldier was going to go in the defense of Western Europe. Control was dominant.
That is not the environment in which the Army will operate in the future. We have to develop leaders who can thrive in the ambiguity that is certain to exist in future combat. Leaders must know how to exercise mission command and make proper decisions without linkages to their higher and adjacent units, or when communications are degraded. That, I think, is the great challenge the Army faces today.
Carter F. Ham speaking to reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon in October 2005.
Q: Can you discuss the importance of mission command for sustainment formations?
A: I’m not a logistician, but I learned the importance of sustainers early. When I was a division operations officer, I had some great mentoring from my division commander. The simple message was, “The brigades, they’re going to win the fight; you don’t need to spend time mapping things out for them. Your job is to set the conditions for those brigades to operate, and the biggest piece of that is sustainment.”
In the Cold War, sustainment was a complex operation; it’s tenfold more complex today. There are no longer safe rear areas, secure supply routes, or the ability to move “iron mountains” of supplies to the point of need at a moment’s notice.
In my era, sustainment was mostly a math problem: how do you move stuff from point A to point B? Today’s sustainment challenge is much more of an art than it is a science. How will sustainers make sure that dispersed, often separated, units have what they need to fight and win on the future battlefield?
The science is certainly still there; you still have to make sure fuel, water, chow, and ammunition are at the right place at the right time. But now, more than ever, sustainers have to be inside the heads of maneuver commanders, understanding what they want to achieve. That’s where it becomes more of an art, and I think that’s where mission command enters into the realm for sustainment leaders.
Q: How important is training?
A: I’m old enough to have been in the Army before there were combat training centers, and it’s night and day. I was an opposing force guy at the National Training Center in the mid- to late-1980s, and you could see the Army get better. Repetition matters. Complexity matters. The difficulty created in the training base matters.
We want Army leaders to be more challenged in their training than they will be in combat. That’s tough to achieve these days, particularly given multi-domain operations. How do you create that cyber, electronic warfare, or geographic complexity leaders will have to deal with? The more we invest in the rigors of our training, the better off we will be. That certainly applies to the sustainment force.
There are tremendous opportunities in the Synthetic Training Environment that allow for repetition and increased difficulty without great expense. At some point you still have to put Army units in the dirt to train, but it’s the most expensive way to do so. There’s so much you can do prior to that point so that units enter that phase at a much higher level. For all of our forces, the Synthetic Training Environment will yield a stronger Army that is able to train at levels we can’t imagine today.
General Carter F. Ham being sworn into office as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe by Cairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen on Aug. 28, 2008.
Q: Where does integration with our allies and coalition partners fit into mission command?
A: In our guiding documents, including the National Military Strategy and Army vision, we’ve established a recognition that the Army will always operate with allies and partners. The scale will vary from time to time, but we’re always going to do so in some form. As fast as the Army is changing, we have to be careful we don’t leave our allies and partners out of our modernization efforts.
We also have to become increasingly comfortable with the idea of U.S. maneuver forces being sustained by forces of another country and vice versa. This became almost normal for us when our force presence in Iraq and Afghanistan was very high. Now that force levels are significantly lower, junior leaders have less opportunity to interact with our allies and partners. We have to find a way to replicate those kinds of activities in the training base.
Again, I think it is more art than science. Part of the art is making sure each of the partners has responsibility for support, for sustaining, and for direction in a coalition-type operation. That doesn’t happen by accident. Through the exercise of mission command, we want to create leaders who are comfortable in multinational environments.
Q: How are we doing as an Army when it comes to soldier resilience?
A: When I came home from Iraq, I think like many soldiers, I felt incomplete. I felt I had left soldiers behind; I came home and those I had served with were still there. I came to the Pentagon, the five-sided puzzle palace, and my work just didn’t feel very fulfilling. I had this tremendous longing to go back.
As a one-star general at the time, I don’t pretend I was on patrol facing hard combat every day like a squad leader or platoon sergeant. That’s an extraordinary kind of stress I frankly didn’t see on a daily basis. I think for leaders the effect is a little different; it’s a different kind of stress. Particularly for commanders, when you lose soldiers in combat — soldiers who are wounded or killed executing orders you issued — that stays with you.
When I came home, it was my wife who said, “Hey listen, you’ve changed.” That was important. It was recognition that a normal person can’t be exposed to combat and be unchanged. A lot of soldiers go through combat and deal with it very effectively. They’re resilient, they deal with it openly and confront it, and they continue to move forward. But there’s a spectrum, and on the other end are soldiers who have post-traumatic stress or, in more severe cases, traumatic brain injury. I was one of those who needed a little bit of help; mine came from an Army chaplain.
I’ll confess I was outed publicly. It wasn’t me coming forward; it was someone else talking about it. But as a general officer, my sense was [that] many other soldiers were having the same challenges readjusting to a nondeployed environment. If coming forward publicly would encourage one other soldier to get help and to say, “I’m having a tough time,” to his or her spouse, a chaplain, a social worker, a commander, a first sergeant, to somebody — then my speaking out was worthwhile.
I think the Army is once again leading the nation in matters like this. The senior leadership — the Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army — are coming forward and saying, “Hey, it is strength to step forward and say I need a little bit of help.”
Carter F. Ham listens to a soldier’s comments during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Reserve.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Mark Bell)
That’s what the Army needs. We need soldiers who can take a blow, whether physical or psychological, recover, and be stronger in continuing their mission.
There’s still a lot of work to be done; we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the stigma is gone. We have to keep it as a frontline Army effort and continue to say, “This can make you stronger; and when you’re stronger, our Army is stronger.” But I’m really proud of our efforts thus far.
Q: You’re one of only a few to rise from private to four-star general. What advice do you have for soldiers today?
A: First, recognize I didn’t go from private to four-star overnight; there were just a few intervening steps along the way. When I was enlisted, I rose to the exalted position of being our battalion command sergeant major’s driver. He was, to me, the model of the noncommissioned officer: mission-focused, hard on soldiers, and always fair. He made me a better soldier. And after all these years, it comes back to one question, “Why do you serve?”
We get so busy sometimes that we forget this. We talk a lot about what we do; we talk less about what we’re for. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young leaders, both enlisted and officers, I ask them to think about the oath they took. It is the bond that ties us together, the shared commitment each one of us made to serve the nation.
In my mind, it’s what makes the Army such a unique organization. I have lots of experience as a joint officer, and I truly value the other services. We have the best Marine Corps, the best Navy, and the best Air Force. But of all the services, I think the Army is uniquely of the people. We’re the biggest and most diverse. I think it’s worthwhile to sit back and say, “What is this Army for, and why is it that more than one million women and men have raised their right hand and said I’m willing to do this?”
Every now and then, take time to think about it. Don’t get consumed by it, but take pause and remember why you chose to serve this nation. I found when I did, it caused me to reflect as a professional soldier and “re-green” myself. For any Army leader — enlisted, officer, or civilian — it’s a worthy endeavor to remember why.
Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University.
This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.
Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.
His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.
Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.
On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.
“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”
All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.
“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.
“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”
Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.
When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.
“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”
Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.
Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”
When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.
“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”
For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.
“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”
Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.
“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”
Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.
Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.
“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”
Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.
“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.
“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”
On September 11, 2020, 19 years to the day of the horrible attacks on America, President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne for his actions in Iraq during the rescue operation that freed 70 hostages from imminent execution at the hands of the Islamic State.
Payne will be the first living member of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, also known as Delta Force or Combat Applications Group to receive the Medal of Honor and the first since two Delta Force Operators received them posthumously in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
That’s right, we can see how the rescue mission unfolded that night as Payne, his fellow Delta commandos and the Kurds went in and saved the lives of the hostages.
On October 22, 2015 Payne, then a Sergeant First Class, took off with his team and partner units and made their way toward Hawija, located outside of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. They had intelligence passed on to them that numerous hostages were being kept there in two houses. The Kurds were convinced that the hostages were captured Peshmerga fighters and were eager to get them freed. The teams had practiced for over a week to get their mission down but had to move fast. Freshly dug graves had been spotted outside of the enemy compound and it was feared the hostages would meet a grisly end soon.
Flying in on CH-47s, the rescue mission experienced a brown out upon landing and came under immediate fire from enemy forces. As they made their way toward the compound, the Kurdish troops froze under fire. One of Payne’s teammates looked at them and yelled, “Follow me”. The team moved toward the compound and made their way over the walls.
There were two buildings and the rescue mission involved two groups assaulting each building at the same time. As Payne’s team got to their target, a radio call came over saying that one of the men in the other group was hit. The medic with Payne took off through fire toward the downed man.
The rest of the team entered their objective where they met light resistance. They saw an iron door with a lock on it and cut the lock. Upon opening the door, they saw the excited faces of the hostages. As they rounded up the hostages, another call came over the radio. The second objective wasn’t as easy as the first and the rescue team had met fierce resistance.
Without missing a beat, Payne looked toward his men and said, “Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”
If there was ever a mission that Payne and his team was ready for, it was this. It was the reason their unit was created in the first place. The Army won’t admit it, but Payne and the rest of his team belong to a unit informally known as Delta Force.
Known as the best of the best of the United States military, Delta got its start in the late 1970s thanks to LtCol Charlie Beckwith. Beckwith had long pushed for the United States military to have a commando unit that was on par with the British SAS. The spate of terrorist kidnappings that took place in the 70s by Islamic extremists and Far Left European terrorist groups. Beckwith organized and formed the unit and placed an emphasis on counter terrorism. The team relentlessly practiced drills involving hostage rescue. As the years passed, Delta Force became the leaders in clandestine operations and asymmetrical warfare. The standards to get in are high and only the best of the best make it.
Sergeant Major Payne was about to show why he belongs in that group.
Payne led his men toward the second building and made their way to the roof, while taking small arms fire the entire time. Once on top of the building, they took fire from west of the building and from inside it. The enemy was right below them. Payne and his men returned fire and dropped grenades through holes in the roof. They took fire and hear several explosions as ISIS fighters started detonating suicide vests. Realizing they needed another way in, they maneuvered down the steps and set up shop right outside the building. At this point, the structure was on fire with enemy combatants still inside. Even more pressing was that the remaining hostages were locked inside as well.
Payne and his team first tried to breach the windows but couldn’t. They then looked through a door and saw the same type of iron door as the first building. They found the hostages. Payne grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and made his way into the building, only to take on enemy fire. Ignoring the bullets and smoke from the burning building he struggled to get the bolts cut. When the smoke and fire got too thick he had to leave after cutting the first one. A Kurdish soldier ran in to cut the second one but couldn’t because of the gunfire and smoke. Payne then grabbed the cutters and ran back in again.
He managed to get the bolt cut this time. The door swung open and the remaining hostages were in sight. The rest of the team rushed in to engage the enemy, but as they neutralized them another calamity was occurring. The building was starting to collapse. They had to get the hostages out while they were still engaged in a firefight. Payne led the way. Waving them on, he guided them out the room and to safety. When one of the hostages froze, Payne pushed him along and got everyone moving.
By this point the building had gotten so bad, that there was a call to evacuate the structure. The team and the hostages made their way out, with Delta and the Kurds laying down fire as the hostages ran. But Payne didn’t go just yet. He had to make sure they had done their job.
He ran back into the building once more and saw a hostage that had been lying on the floor. He grabbed him off the floor and dragged him to safety. Once out, he went back in one last time.
He had to make sure no one was left behind.
Only after visually making sure that his men, the Kurds and the hostages were all out, did Payne leave. The teams and hostages boarded the helos and took off toward safety. They had done it. They had freed the hostages, but there was a cost.
Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was the operator that was hit early in the mission. The teams learned only then that he had died. His last words to his men as he led them into the fray was, “On me!”
70 hostages owe their life to Payne and the rest of the rescue team. How close were they to death? They told their rescuers that they were told they would be executed the next day after morning prayers….