Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018 - We Are The Mighty
Mighty 25

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Throughout the year, the team at We Are The Mighty has the privilege of learning about and meeting people doing extraordinary things in the military-veteran community. This is the inspiration behind our annual Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018 — a list of individuals who are making a difference for military service members, veterans, and their families.

This year, we expanded our list to include not just veterans, prior service members, and reservists, but also civilians who are doing exemplary work in this community.


The Mighty 25 Committee utilized a set of specific criteria to select 25 members of the military-veteran community currently making a significant impact. The committee was comprised of the diverse WATM team of veteran editors, writers, and creators who engage with this community daily. The task force conducted extensive research to identify over 100 initial potential candidates. The top 25 were chosen according to impact and the representation of a diverse variety of social causes, fields of work, and communities affected.

This individuals on this year’s Mighty 25 have dedicated their lives to missions that vary greatly: from developing transitioning service members and their spouses into successful entrepreneurs, to helping veterans heal through stand-up comedy training. Yet these exceptional individuals all share one goal: to improve the lives of those who have sacrificed for their country.

We are excited to share these influencers’ stories, highlight their accomplishments to the world, and cheer them on as they continue to make a difference in the lives of many. The 2018 Mighty 25 list is presented here in alphabetical order.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Dr. Jill Biden

Combining a lifetime passion for teaching with her high-profile role as former second lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden is able to reach millions as a premier advocate for military service members and their families.

Not long after their husbands took office, Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up to form “Joining Forces,” a non-profit that partners with the private and public sectors to provide military families with tools to succeed throughout their lives. Their initiative, “Operation Educate the Educator,” was designed to help teachers understand what military families go through, and was introduced at 100 teaching colleges across America.

Biden believes that in addition to military members, families also serve – including children. Her book Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops is the story of a little girl coping with her father’s deployment, and is based on the Biden family’s own experiences when their son and father, the late Beau Biden, was deployed to Iraq.

The Biden Foundation, launched Feb. 2017, by Dr. Jill Biden and former Vice President Joe Biden, is a nonprofit organization that looks to “identify policies that advance the middle class, decrease economic inequality, and increase opportunity for all people,” according to its website. One of the organization’s primary focuses is supporting military families.

In April 2017, Biden was appointed to the JP Morgan Chase Military and Veterans’ Affairs External Advisory Council. The council advises the firm on a comprehensive strategy to design programs and products aimed at serving the unique needs of members of the military, veterans and their families.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Scott Cooper

U.S. Naval Academy graduate and retired Lieutenant Colonel Scott Cooper spent an impressive career in the Marine Corps as an EA-6B Prowler aircrew, serving five tours in Iraq, two in Afghanistan, one in Europe, and one in the Western Pacific. Cooper now serves as the Director of National Security Outreach at Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization that advocates for human rights, especially in encouraging America to be a leader and champion of human rights at home and abroad. In his role, Cooper works to build broad coalitions among military agencies, the national security community, veteran service organizations, and think tanks.

In 2015, Cooper’s passion for advocating for Afghan and Iraqi wartime allies and Syrian refugees led him to found Veterans for American Ideals, a nonpartisan, grassroots, community-based group of veterans aiming to leverage military veteran voices to bridge divides and regain a shared sense of national community. He believes that within this increasingly divisive political climate, veterans can be an important civilizing, unifying force. Their work amplifies veterans’ experiences, leadership abilities, and credibility to combat the erosion of our democratic norms and to challenge the rise of xenophobic, fear-based rhetoric and policies that run counter to our ideals.

In the face of the refugee ban promulgated by the current White House administration, Cooper has dedicated himself to championing the rights of refugees on Capitol Hill, working to educate government officials on the current refugee vetting process, even leading a delegation of refugees to meet with the offices of numerous senators, including John McCain, Jeanne Shaheen, Marco Rubio, Tammy Duckworth, Chuck Grassley, Joe Manchin, and Ed Markey.

Cooper also lends a prominent voice to this public issue as a published author, with his pieces on human rights issues and American values appearing in numerous publications, including the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Quarterly, War on the Rocks, Task and Purpose, The American Interest, and Policy Review.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Elizabeth Dole

The crown in Elizabeth Dole’s long and varied public career may not lie in her capacity as Federal Trade Commissioner under President Richard Nixon, Secretary of Transportation under President Reagan, or Secretary of Labor under George H.W. Bush — and possibly not even as United States Senator from her home state of North Carolina.

Rather, it is her foundation that may hold more significance for the ordinary Americans it serves every single day. Through the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Dole has chosen to use her high-profile platform to advocate for those 5.5 million spouses, friends, and family members who care for America’s ill, injured, and wounded veterans.

While visiting her husband at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dole first became aware of the needs and challenges facing military caregivers. A veteran of World War II, Bob Dole is the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, and has long suffered from the effects of his injuries. As she visited other veterans suffering catastrophic wounds, Dole was drawn to the families, constantly at the side of their loved ones, receiving little or no support.

Under Dole’s leadership, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has brought national attention to military caregiver issues through its Hidden Heroes Campaign, launched grassroot support initiatives in more than 110 cities across the nation via Hidden Heroes Cities, encouraged innovation and the creation of direct service programming supporting caregivers through Hidden Heroes Fund, empowered and equipped military caregivers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico with tools to advocate on behalf of their caregiver peers though the Dole Caregiver Fellows program, and advocated for national caregiver support with Congressional and VA leaders. The Foundation also launched HiddenHeroes.org, a first-of-its-kind online tool where military caregivers can connect to a peer support community and directory of 200+ carefully vetted resources.

Dole’s impact doesn’t stop there. In October 2017, she was appointed chair of the Veteran Administration’s new family and caregiver advisory committee, which was formed in response to problems with support programs, and is charged with advocating for improvements to VA care and benefits services.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Marjorie K. Eastman

Her 2017 National Independent Publisher Award-winning book The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11 not only reframes how many thought about those who served in the conflicts following 9/11, it is the first book to define the timeless legacy of anyone who steps up to serve, declaring the most significant call to action for our time. What started as a memoir project that this former enlisted, direct commission Army Reserve officer took on to cope with her infant son’s battle with cancer, it became an informational and inspiring collection of reflections on those with whom she served, and the aftershocks of service, character, and leadership.

She sought to write a book that would help shape the man she hoped her son will become — yet she succeeded in shaping the narrative of post 9/11 veterans as being far more, and better than, the prevailing themes of hero or broken. And the U.S. Army took notice and placed her book on the recommended reading list for the Military Intelligence Center of Excellence library and museum. A 2018 updated version of her book is now available (audio book set to release in late May), with an additional appendix that empowers readers to find a mission — inciting confidence that every one of us can live with purpose, live for each other, and lead.

Named by PBS’s Veterans Coming Home Initiative as a veteran thought leader, Eastman, who was awarded the Bronze Star as a combat commander, as well as the Combat Action Badge, continues to pioneer new ground by positively reinforcing the value of veterans and service as an unmatched currency. She is a frequent public speaker and her articles on topical issues such as the #MeToo movement, veteran entrepreneurs as a force multiplier in our economy, how veterans can bridge the partisan divide, and the potential impact of U.S. State Department cuts have appeared in publications such as The Washington Post, Task Purpose, and USA Today. Make sure to check out her 2018 Deck of 52 Most Wanted post 9/11 Frontline Leaders, a weekly column that is a spin-off and salute to the original deck (2003 Iraqi Playing Cards), highlighting veterans and military families who have launched exceptional businesses and charities.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Carol Eggert

On Aug. 21, 2009, while enroute from Camp Victory to the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad, Iraq, then-Army Col. Carol Eggert’s vehicle was struck by an EFP — an explosively formed projectile. She calls it her Gratitude Day. She and all ten service members riding with her that day were wounded. Eggert was in Iraq on a 15-month combat tour as Chief of the Women’s Initiatives Division and Senior Liaison to the U.S. Embassy, Baghdad. In this role, she conducted an analysis of women’s initiatives and engineered a strategic plan to empower Iraqi women economically and politically.

Now as a retired brigadier general in the private sector, Eggert continues to lead through empowerment. She currently serves as the Senior Vice President, Military and Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal, executing Comcast NBCUniversal’s commitment to deliver meaningful career opportunities to veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses. Eggert recently announced that the company exceeded its goal of hiring 10,000 members of the military community between 2015 and 2017.

Eggert’s selection for this role comes as no surprise. Eggert herself served across several components, including the Regular Army, the Army Reserve, and the National Guard. She also earned several degrees — two master’s and a doctorate in organizational leadership. In addition to the Purple Heart, Eggert is also the recipient of the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and Meritorious Service Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters.

In 2016, Eggert was named to Hillvets 100 most influential veterans in America list, and was also named one of the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2016 Veterans of Influence.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Nick Etten

U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former Navy Seal Nick Etten believes that veterans’ quality of life could be improved — and lives could be saved — through access to cannabis for medical treatment. Through his organization, the Veterans Cannabis Project, Etten champions cannabis as a life-saving treatment option. With the prevalence of chronic pain among military veterans leading to a deadly opioid addiction problem within the community, Etten views Cannabidiol (CBD) products as a viable way to help veterans get off opioids.

Access to medical marijuana for veterans, however, is limited. The laws regulating marijuana are currently murky, since it is illegal under federal law, but legal under the law in some states. And because of the current classification of cannabis as a schedule one drug, research on its potential benefits for veterans is limited, and the Department of Veteran affairs does not allow its providers to prescribe or even recommend it to patients.

The Veterans Cannabis Project has been active on Capitol Hill, working to educate lawmakers, and requesting they take action to help clarify the health benefits of cannabis. Etten’s work to educate, advocate, support research, and partner with like-minded organizations is paving the path for future access to alternative treatment options for veterans.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Justine Evirs

When Justine Evirs joined the Navy, her plan was to make a career out of it. Her early medical discharge, however, forced her back to square one. She ended up in college to study business then spent numerous years in higher education and veteran services. Evirs is now a mother of three, military spouse, and prominent leader and disrupter in the entrepreneurial and veteran military spouse communities, whose ideas are fast-tracking opportunities for veterans entering the civilian workforce or starting their own businesses.

In her previous role as the Executive Director of the nonprofit Bunker Labs Bay Area Evirs helps provide resources and networking opportunities to military veterans and their spouses who are starting and growing their own businesses. Now in her new role as the National Director of Policy at Bunker Labs she is focused on policy solutions for veteran entrepreneurs across the nation.

The Paradigm Switch, a nonprofit founded by Evirs in 2017, originally provided veterans and military spouses access to prestigious certifications and vocational skills-based programs. Fast forward to today, The Paradigm Switch has recently relaunched and is putting military spouses first. Evirs is building a global digital community for military spouses by military spouses, offering a full spectrum of resources that enable spouses to unleash their unlimited potential both personally and professionally. They discover and provide access to resources and communities that empower military spouses to take control of their careers.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Delphine Metcalf-Foster

Delphine Metcalf-Foster made history in 2017, when she became the first woman ever elected as the National Commander of the Disabled Americans Veterans (DAV) organization.

Metcalf-Foster, whose father was a Buffalo Soldier, joined the military later in life, when her daughter was in high school. Her daughter was convinced people would laugh at her mom because of her age, but Metcalf-Foster went for it, and ended up retiring from the Army Reserve 21 years later. During her service, she deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield, where she was injured.

Metcalf-Foster’s passion for serving fellow veterans has fueled her work with DAV. With over 1 million members, this nonprofit organization helps injured veterans access benefits and advocates on their behalf. In her role as the DAV National Commander, Metcalf-Foster aims to spotlight the need to close the health care gap that exists for women veterans, as well as the need to expand government support for caregivers of pre 9/11 veterans.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Matt Gallagher

It all started with this former Army captain’s raw, brutally honest and irreverent blog titled Kaboom: a Soldier’s War Journal, which chronicled his 15-month Iraq deployment leading a scout platoon with the 25th Infantry Division. The controversial and popular blog was eventually shut down by Gallagher’s chain-of-command, but was later published as a critically-acclaimed memoir after he left the Army.

Armed with an MFA in fiction from Columbia, Gallagher went on to write for numerous major publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Wired. Tackling such dicey issues as whether or not the Iraq War was worth it, the social estrangement of returning veterans, and refugee and immigration rights of Muslims coming to America, Gallagher challenges intellectual and moral complacency. As a veteran directly affected by these issues, Gallagher’s skepticism of the establishment, honest self-reflection, and calls for accountability bring an enormously refreshing and credible perspective to the conversation.

In 2015, Vanity Fair called Matt Gallagher one of the most important voices of a new generation of American war literature. His debut novel Youngblood (2016) portrays a young soldier in his search for meaning during the end of the Iraq War.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Eric Garcetti

As a former intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve, the mayor of Los Angeles has made improving the lives of veterans a priority throughout his tenure. His establishment of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs aimed to ensure veterans in Los Angeles can access the services they’ve earned. One of Garcetti’s most impressive contributions to the veteran community during his time as mayor has been through the office’s massive hiring campaign called the 10,000 Strong Initiative.

Garcetti’s groundbreaking initiative formed a coalition between the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs and companies and community organizations in Los Angeles over the last three years to reach the goal of hiring 10,000 local veterans. The program utilized the services of local nonprofits and government agencies to match qualified veteran candidates with open positions. The initiative also offered job training to veterans to assist them in transitioning into the civilian workforce, as well as training to companies on how to use tax incentives when hiring veterans.

Through the use of these resources and training programs, Garcetti’s 10,000 Strong Initiative ended up beating its own goal, placing 10,500 veterans with more than 200 companies in the Los Angeles region. In Garcetti’s own words from his Aug 29, 2017 Fleet Week speech, “The men and women who served our country in uniform should come home to opportunity, not obstacles. Veterans are some of the hardest-working, most qualified, and prepared people in Los Angeles — and they should have every chance to succeed in the workplace, and make a living for themselves and their families.”

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Jason Hall

Jason Hall started his career in Hollywood as an actor. Some might recognize him from his recurring role as the lead singer of a band in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. According to Hall, however, the role that truly made a difference in his life was for a University of Southern California student film in which he portrayed a Marine coming to grips with the loss of a troop. This role would serve as his entry into the fascinating and strange world of American military veterans.

Hall’s Oscar nomination for his adaptation of the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s American Sniper novel for the 2014 film version served as his breakout moment as a major creative force. His success in the powerful telling of that story led him to his next project, Thank You for Your Service, a 2017 film he wrote and directed based on Washington Post reporter David Finkel’s nonfiction book by the same name, which follows the real-life plight of four soldiers returning home from the Iraq War.

Finkel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, had followed these soldiers in the war for 10 months, then continued following them for another 13 months after they came home. What resulted was a gripping account of the challenges faced by veterans following war.

Hall’s film expanded the book’s audience to moviegoers across America, giving a prominent spotlight to the issues faced by returning veterans. It’s his dedication to the careful and accurate depiction of these true-life accounts that demonstrates his commitment to serving veterans through filmmaking. He looks to bring that same accuracy to the story of another well-known veteran: George Washington. He has spent the last year researching and writing the story of Washington’s road to becoming a leader through the French Indian war.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Zach Iscol

Zach Iscol is a combat decorated Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq and fought in the second Battle of Fallujah, where he led a combined unit of 30 American and 250 Iraqi National Guard troops, and later helped build US Marine Corps, Special Operations Command.

Since leaving the military in 2008, Iscol has dedicated his life to serving fellow veterans as the founder and CEO of Grid North, through which he has built several large brands that support the military community, including Hirepurpose, Headstrong Project, Task Purpose, and recently acquired Military Spouse Festivals.

Through Hirepurpose, Iscol has helped over 50,000 veterans with employment through personalized career guidance, resources, and job matching. Iscol’s Headstrong Project, an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical Center, has provided cost-free world-class mental healthcare to over 600 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in 14 cities and growing around the Country. Task Purpose is a leading news, culture and lifestyle website with content aimed at military and veteran audiences, and reaching over 50 million people a month.

In 2007, Iscol’s testimony, while on active duty, before the United States Senate, helped establish the Special Immigrant Visa to safeguard and protect our Iraqi and Afghanistan translators.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Dwayne Johnson comes from a proud military family, and his goal is to give back to the military community. An actor, producer, philanthropist, and former WWE professional wrestler, Johnson uses his super-celebrity status to advocate for the importance of American freedom and to honor its protectors.

At the end of 2016, Johnson was the executive producer and host of the inaugural “Rock the Troops” event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for 50,000 military personnel in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. For this event, which aired on Spike TV, Johnson assembled an epic cast of fellow celebrities — Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Keegan Michael-Key, Rob Riggle, Nick Jona, Flo Rider, and more all made special appearances to honor the troops.

Johnson continues his support for military members and their families through his partnership with Under Armour’s Freedom initiative, which supports the military and first responder communities by enhancing their physical and mental wellness.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Mike Kelly

After serving 25 years in the U.S. Air Force as both a public affairs NCO and officer, Mike Kelly continues serving the military community as a passionate advocate for veterans and military spouses. In his role as an executive at USAA, he leads strategic collaborations with key military, government, nonprofit, and for-profit advocacy groups.

Mike is building collaborative relationships that focus on a national dialogue surrounding important veteran and spouse issues such as financial readiness, navigating successful transitions into the civilian workforce, entrepreneurship, and supportive and impactful military spouse communities.

In 2016, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation selected Mike as the recipient of the annual Hiring Our Heroes Colonel Michael Endres Leadership Award for Individual Excellence in Veteran Employment. He currently serves on the HOH Veteran and Military Spouse Employment Councils, which focus on actions addressing the unique employment challenges veterans and military spouses face.

Mike is dedicated to connecting, equipping, and inspiring opportunities that benefit the military community at large.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Sam Meek

Sam Meek served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense (NBCD) Specialist, completing two tours in Iraq. After leaving the military, Meek would eventually end up using his passion for technology to help connect members of the military community. His unique mobile app, Sandboxx, helps give new recruits in basic training — as well as deployed service members without access to their social media apps — a way to stay connected to the outside world.

Sandboxx customers, most of whom are already active users of social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat, are easily able to transition to Sandboxx to communicate with out-of-reach military members. They use the app to upload photos, which get converted into a piece of physical mail, which is sent anywhere in the world it needs to go, even remote locations. Most letters are sent overnight and are delivered the next business day.

Meek launched Sandboxx Travel in 2017, which enables service members to book hotels and flights, often with military discounts, through the Sandboxx app and site. The app also helps provide a way for active and inactive members of the military to connect with any unit they have ever served. As the grandson and great grandson of military service members, Meek was intent on maintaining his connection to the Marines. He now helps people around the world do exactly that.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Travis Mills

On April 10, 2012, while serving on his third tour with the 82nd Airborne, Staff Sergeant Travis Mills was critically injured by an IED. He lost both arms and both legs in the blast, and is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive those injuries.

Mills spent much of his time during recovery at Walter Reed encouraging and hanging out with fellow injured veterans and their families, earning the nickname the “Mayor.” So it’s not much of a surprise that he ended up deciding that he wanted to do something big — not only for veterans, but their families as well. In 2013, embodying the warrior ethos of “Never give up, never quit,” Travis and his wife started the Travis Mills Foundation.

The Foundation supports veterans and their families through programs that help these heroic men and women overcome physical obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation. Mills’ latest effort to support these veterans and their families is through his Foundation’s national retreat center, located in his home state of Maine.

Since June of 2017, the retreat has served injured veterans and their families, who receive an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid, barrier-free vacation where they participate in adaptive activities, bond with other veteran families, and enjoy the 17-acre grounds of the estate.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Bob Parsons

You might know Bob Parsons as the larger-than-life billionaire entrepreneur who founded GoDaddy, but his legacy extends far beyond the massively successful internet domain registrar and web hosting company. Parsons served in the United States Marine Corps and, at 18 years old, deployed to Vietnam as a rifleman with Delta Company, earning a Purple Heart, a Combat Action Ribbon, and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross.

Parsons is passionate about creating a positive homecoming experience for veterans returning from war. This was also the inspiration behind those who started the Semper Fi Fund, a charity that provides immediate and long-term resources to post-9/11 military members who have been combat wounded, catastrophically injured, or are critically ill.

Semper Fi Fund also provides services aimed at helping vets throughout their lives, including family and caregiver support, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury care and education, adaptive housing and transportation, education and career transition assistance, mentoring and apprenticeships, and unit reunions.

As one of the highest-rated charities in the country the Semper Fi Fund’s impact is impressive. According to their website, Semper Fi Fund’s 2017 monetary assistance to service members totaled million dollars. Bob Parsons and his wife Renee are also the founders of the nonprofit organization The Bob Renee Parsons Foundation. For the sixth year in a row, the Foundation recently completed its Double Down for Veterans match campaign with the Semper Fi Fund by matching contributions dollar-for-dollar, exceeding their 2017 goal of million. The Foundation has donated more than million in total to the Semper Fi Fund since its creation. This husband-and-wife philanthropic powerhouse have given an astounding 0 million dollars to charity since 2012.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Elizabeth Halperin-Perez

Coming from three generations of military service, Elizabeth Halperin-Perez spent nine years as an Aviation Logistic Specialist in the U.S. Navy. During a deployments to the Middle East, her friend died in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole while it was refueling in Yemen’s Aden Harbor. This event, along with the deep respect for Mother Earth instilled in her from her Mono Indian Native American heritage, sparked her passion for energy policies that advance national security.

Committed to reducing conflict and future wars by furthering sustainable energy practices, Halperin-Perez went on to become the founder and president of the green-build general contracting and consulting firm GCG. Using her experience and network, she also works to help other veterans find clean energy job opportunities, and is passionate about helping them onto an entrepreneurial path. In 2017, Halperin-Perez was chosen by Governor Brown to serve on the California Veterans Board, and most recently was appointed Deputy Secretary of Minority Veterans with the California Department of Veterans Affairs, serving underrepresented veterans in a much larger capacity across California. She was also recognized at the White House in 2013 as a “Champion of Change for Advancing Clean Energy Technologies Climate Security”.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Sam Pressler

Sam Pressler began his involvement with the veteran community during his time as a student at the College of William Mary, where he majored in government and first learned about the mental health challenges faced by veterans returning from war. Pressler himself had turned to comedy to cope after a suicide in his family, and in response to the challenges affecting veterans and service members he started Comedy Bootcamp, a stand-up comedy class for veterans and their families as a way to help build community and improve well-being through comedy.

This bootcamp eventually grew into the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP), a non-profit founded and led by Pressler that helps veterans, service members, and military family members reintegrate into their communities through the arts. The organization promotes expression, skill-development, and camaraderie through classes, workshops, and performances across a variety of artistic disciplines. ASAP’s focus on consistent programs and community partnerships ensures that members of our community have continuous opportunities for artistic and personal growth.

ASAP has served more than 600 students, and put on over 800 performances for 50,000+ audience members, including a 2016 comedy show at The White House and a performance for President Jimmy Carter. Through these programs and performances, Pressler has helped to create connections and understanding between veterans and members of their local communities. Pressler was honored on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2017, as one of HillVets 100 most influential people in the veterans space in 2016, and as a recipient of the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship.

His work with ASAP has been featured by numerous media outlets, including the Washington Post, ABC News, NBC, CNN, NPR, PBS, Military Times, Task Purpose, and Stars Stripes.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Jennifer Pritzker

Jennifer Pritzker (born James Pritzker) enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions while on active duty, then at various units in the Army National Guard until retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2001. She was later promoted to the honorary rank of Colonel.

Pritzker has been a massive force multiplier through her philanthropic work as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Tawani Enterprises, Inc., President of the Tawani Foundation, and Founder and Chair of the Pritzker Military Museum Library. In these roles, Pritzker makes significant long-term differences for programs and organizations that advocate the role of military in society.

Among her notable contributions is a id=”listicle-2565932886″.3 million donation to the University of California, Santa Barbara to fund studies on how the U.S. military could openly integrate transgender members into its ranks. In 2017, the Pritzker Military Foundation donated id=”listicle-2565932886″ million to fund key initiatives for Elizabeth Dole’s Hidden Heroes campaign, which supports the caregivers of injured and ill veterans and service members. In 2018, the Foundation gave id=”listicle-2565932886″ million to the Army Historical Foundation to help with the construction of the National Museum of the United States Army in Virginia. In 2013, Pritzker came out as transgender and started living as a woman. She is the only known transgender billionaire in the world.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

(Photo by Terrilyn Bayne)

Diana & Daniel Rau

Daniel Rau was inspired to serve his country when he saw the Twin Towers fall on 9/11. He joined the Marine Corps and served as a Marine Security Guard protecting embassies around the world. After his service, based on his and his friends’ experiences, he saw an opportunity to radically change the process of how Veterans enter the civilian workforce.

Diana Rau, who was honored as one of Forbes’ 2018 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, is a Georgetown graduate passionate about solving major social problems. When she met Daniel, the idea for Veterati sparked: build a technology platform to help America’s 1.5 million service members currently transitioning into the civilian workforce as well as 5.5 million underemployed military spouses navigate and break into civilian careers. (A romantic relationship that later led to their marriage also sparked — Veterati’s story is both a startup story a love story!)

Because 80% of job opportunities are never listed, but rather, are advertised and filled through personal networks, the Raus built a digital platform that empower service members and spouses to connect with multiple mentors and build social networks vital to their career search. At Veterati.com, Veterans spouses are matched with successful business people in their area of interest using smart algorithms. Mentors volunteer their time through free, one-hour phone calls facilitated by the platform. Since its 2015 launch, Veterati, which has been called the “Uber-of-mentoring,” has provided thousands of free mentoring conversations for 10k+ members and is partnered with the nation’s leading Veteran Service Organizations and Military Employers to deliver free, on-demand mentoring to our entire military community.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Denise Rohan

In 2017, Denise Rohan became the first female national commander of the 2 million-member American Legion in its 99-year history. Rohan, who served in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps for two years at the end of the Vietnam War, joined the Legion 33 years ago, working her way up from post-level membership to National Commander.

The American Legion is the nation’s largest veteran service organization and was founded on four pillars: veterans affairs and rehabilitation, national security, Americanism, and children and youth. As their new national commander, Rohan is expanding on those four pillars through her “Family First” platform, which broadens the American Legion’s focus on service members and veterans to include family members as well. As the spouse of a veteran herself, Rohan believes that families serve too; and ensuring those family members are being taken care of at home allows for their loved ones in the fight to focus more on their mission, ultimately strengthening national security.

Rohan’s current special fundraising project is the Legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance program, which awards cash grants to children of veterans in need to help the cost of shelter, food, utilities, and health expenses.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Major Dan Rooney

Major Dan Rooney is a U.S. Air Force Reserve F-16 fighter pilot with the Oklahoma National Guard. It was during his second tour of duty in Iraq that he felt a calling to do something in response to the devastating sacrifices he saw others make fighting for their country. This calling was solidified on a commercial flight Rooney took after returning to the U.S. The plane had just landed and the pilot announced that the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin were on board. Maj Rooney watched as the flag-draped casket slowly made its way to the awaiting family, which included the fallen hero’s son. Rooney was overwhelmed thinking about the hardship those family members would face due to their loss.

This moment irrecoverably altered Rooney’s trajectory, and he made the decision at that moment to dedicate the rest of his life to helping the family members of those who gave their lives, or were disabled in service to their nation. He recently formed a partnership with Budweiser’s Patriot Beer and in 2007 created the Folds of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps the more than one million dependents adversely impacted by war through educational scholarships.

Rooney, who is also a PGA golf pro, realized that he could use his platform to help achieve the goals he had for his foundation. The first Folds of Honor golf tournament raised ,000. Since, then Folds of Honor has raised over 0 million and given away over 13,000 educational scholarships. Rooney continues to his work to uphold the mission of his foundation: “Honor their sacrifice. Educate their legacy.”

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Gary Sinise

Actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise has been a strong advocate of American service members for nearly 40 years, starting with his Veterans Night program, which offers free dinners and performances to veterans at the Steppenwolf Theatre, which he co-founded in Chicago. Later, his portrayal of Lt Dan in the film Forrest Gump would create a lasting connection with the disabled military community. Following 9/11 he took part in many USO tours, which led him to form The Lt. Dan Band, which entertains troops at home and abroad and raises awareness at benefit concerts across the country.

Sinise established the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011, through which he continues to serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, and first responders as well as their families and those in need. Whether they’re sending WWII veterans to New Orleans to tour the National WWII Museum through its Soaring Valor program or building specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded veterans through its R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) program, Sinise continually demonstrates just how much one person’s commitment can do for an entire community. His Foundation recently added the annual Snowball Express event to its roster of programs. The annual event brings together the children and spouses of fallen military heroes each December for a fun-filled four-day event at Disney World.

Sinise’s forthcoming book Grateful American, which features the author’s life story and passionate advocacy for military service members, is slated for release in 2019.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart, comedian and former host of The Daily Show, is nothing less than passionate about his support for the troops. He continually uses his public platform to stress that the country does not do enough to support service members and veterans. His persistent message to America and its institutions is that supporting the troops shouldn’t be an empty saying, but rather a call to action. Stewart backs up his words with his own remarkable commitment, proving himself a truly dedicated advocate for this community.

During his long tenure as the host of the massively popular satirical news show, Stewart established an internship program for veterans trying to break into the television industry, which continues on to this day. He has also toured with USO three times, entertaining service members all over the world, bringing them laughs and a touch of home. Stewart regularly participates in benefits and campaigns aimed at raising money and awareness for issues impacting veterans.

In 2016, Stewart attended the Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition in which injured and ill service members and veterans participate. He later pitched the idea of broadcasting the games on television to ESPN — and in 2017, they did exactly that, with Stewart serving as the emcee.

Articles

This is the story behind a Delta Force operator’s heroism in ISIS battle

The first American service member to die while fighting ISIS “fearlessly exposed himself” to heavy small arms fire during a raid on a militant prison complex in October 2015, according to the citation for his Silver Star award.


The award for Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a team leader with the Army’s elite Delta Force, was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Business Insider.

The Army released few details of the circumstances of Wheeler’s death in 2015, and the Pentagon’s website listing valor awards was quietly updated to reflect a Silver Star award, which he received posthumously the following month.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler’s award. Image courtesy of DoD.

Wheeler, 39, was part of a raid at a prison in Hawijah, Iraq on Oct. 22, 2015 that was carried out by US-backed Kurdish forces. The mission saved roughly 70 prisoners the US feared would be executed the next day, according to The Washington Post.

Though the citation gives a broad overview of Wheeler’s heroism, it does not delve into specifics. Still, it said, “Wheeler fearlessly exposed himself to heavy small arms fire from barricaded enemy positions. His selfless actions were critical in achieving the initiative during the most dangerous portion of the raid.”

It also said that Wheeler’s actions saved the lives of the partner force, better known as the Kurdish Peshmerga. He was killed at some point during the raid by small arms fire. Three Kurdish soldiers were wounded.

“This is someone who saw the team that he was advising and assisting coming under attack,” then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters the day after his death. “And he rushed to … to help them and made it possible for them to be effective. And in doing that, lost his own life. That’s why I’m proud of him.”

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler’s citation. Image courtesy of DoD.

Wheeler was the first US service member killed in action against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, challenging the narrative put forth by the Obama administration that American troops would not be put on the ground in Iraq or Syria.

The 20-year Army veteran had deployed a whopping 14 times over his career, first as a Ranger, then later as a Special Forces soldier assigned to US Special Operations Command. In addition to receiving the Silver Star and Purple Heart after his death, Wheeler was the recipient of 11 Bronze Star medals — four for valor in combat — the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal (also for valor), and many others.

So far, there have been 10 US deaths attributed to hostile fire in the campaign against ISIS, known as Operation Inherent Resolve. Another 48 troops have been wounded in action.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Big Army wants to buy gear like the special operators do

The Army will start buying weapons the way Special Operations does, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told reporters here, bringing different specialists together in one streamlined team. The often-insular Army is also studying the other services, Milley said, particularly the rapid development of the nuclear Navy under legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover. A three-star officer, Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, is currently developing detailed options, and Milley hopes to stand up “this new command” by summer 2018.


The primary objective: Infuse real-world combat experience into every step of the process. “Warfighters have to be intimately involved from the front end, (in) Milestone A (research) and B (development),” Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told a different group of reporters. That’s in contrast to the current “bifurcated” system, in which combat veterans, requirement writers for what new equipment must do, the program managers who actually build things, and the logisticians who keep them running are segregated in different bureaucracies.

The new system will draw on the experience of Special Operations Command and other small, streamlined organizations – such as the Army’s own Rapid Capabilities Office and Rapid Equipping Force. They will try to scale that up to the Big Army, McCarthy said. For each top priority program, a former combat brigade commander will lead a “cross functional team” of concept and requirements developers, program managers, testers, logisticians, and so on.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
U.S. and Iraqi artillerymen train on American 105 mm howitzers during partnered live-fire training, Feb. 21, at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. The Americans are paratroopers with 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), and the Iraqis are soldiers with the 7th Iraqi Division.

McCarthy emphasized that the Army isn’t asking for new force structure, just reorganizing what it has, and legally mandated reporting requirements will remain in place. Program managers will participate on the new teams, for example, but they’ll still answer to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Will the Army need new legal authorities or relief from existing statue? “I don’t know,” McCarthy said frankly, but he’s already been talking with legislators and their staff.

One change defense contractors will appreciate: McCarthy is working with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Ellen Lord, to change an unpopular policy on companies’ Independent Research And Development expenses. The intent, he told a formal press conference here, is to give companies incentives to spend their own money in IRAD, which benefits the troops, instead of sitting on cash and buying back their stock, which doesn’t.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
A Soldier aims an XM-25 weapon system at Aberdeen Test Center, Md. Photo from PEO Soldier.

New Model Army

All told, it’s an all-out assault on the slowest and most sclerotic of military bureaucracies (which is really saying something), the Army’s acquisition system. Milley said it would be “the largest reengineering of the institutional Army in four decades.”

Milley repeatedly emphasized that 40-year figure. Why? He’s referring to the 1973 reform by his famed predecessor, Gen. Creighton Abrams, that established a separate Training Doctrine Command to oversee all training, write all doctrinal manuals, and develop requirements. Once TRADOC writes requirements, however, they’re handed to Army Materiel Command and the ASAALT, who actually research, develop, buy, field, and sustain the equipment in question.

Getting requirements right is difficult for any military organization, but only the Army has to struggle with such a stark bureaucratic divide. One plausible rumor we’ve heard is that a new “Modernization Command” will be built by combining TRADOC’s Army Capabilities Integration Center and AMC’s Research Development Command, probably along with elements of Army Test Evaluation Command.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
Gen. Creighton Abrams. Portrait by Herbert Elmer Abrams.

The proposed reform is outlined very vaguely in a memo co-signed by Gen. Milley and Sec. McCarthy, first reported by our colleague Patrick Tucker. “Our processes are staff-centric and often stove-piped, which inhibits integration within our across programs. Our requirements process is slow and overly bureaucratic,” the memo says. To fix this, “our Army will establish unity of command and unity of effort that consolidates the modernization process under one roof.”

At a press conference here, Milley and McCarthy declined to divulge many details of the plan. The reorganization scheme is being developed by a task force under Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, who reports back in 120 days. But Milley shared more of his thinking to reporters who caught him on his way out, to the visible frustration of the aides trying to keep him on schedule:

“If you want to see the genesis of the model that we’re thinking about, go take a look at how SOCOM does their thing, because that’s where we got a lot of the ideas,” Milley said. “We looked at the way the Air Force does it, the Navy does it, (including) the navy in the nuclear environment, y’know under Rickover, (and) we went out to industry… we looked at all of that and tried to take best practices.”

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
Gen. Mark Milley. Photo by Tim Oberle, Eighth Army Public Affairs.

“We’ve got to streamline, we’ve got to rationalize,” Milley said. “Right now, the Army’s structure — the institution, the processes, the organization (is) not coherent to deliver effective capabilities for the future.”

“With a few exceptions like the Army Rapid Capbilities Office and the Rapid Equipping Force, we’re basically a left-right-left, step-by-step process going from an idea, establishing a requirement, writing up a big requirements document, and then vetting it through multiple steps,” Milley said. “It takes 10, 20 years to go from idea to delivery of a capability. You just can’t operate like that in today’s world. You just can’t do it. it’s got to be faster, it’s got to be streamlined, it’s got to be more coherent, and we’ve got to kind of bring it all together.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 of the stupidest wars ever fought in world history

There are a lot of good reasons humans have gone to war in the past few centuries, believe it or not. Halting or preventing genocides, declaring independence to give oppressed people a homeland, and of course, defending ones homeland from an invader would all be good reasons to take up arms against another country.

These wars were none of those things, and are presented in no particular order.


Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

It is, admittedly, a nice bucket.

The War of the Oaken Bucket

While the War of the Oaken Bucket sounds more like a college gameday rivalry, it was really a 1325 war between two Italian states, Bologna and Modena, that killed 2,000 people. It was really a proxy war between supporters of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy and before I get too far into the details here, what you really need to know is that it was started because some Modenese soldiers took the bucket from Bologna’s town well.

Even dumber is lopsided victory the Modenese won in defending that bucket. At the Battle of Zappolino, some 32,000 Bolognese marched on 7,000 Modenese – and were chased from the battlefield.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Surprisingly unrelated to the ongoing debate over Canadian bacon being real bacon.

The Pig War

This is a war that could have devolved into a much larger conflict, which makes it even stupider than it sounds. On San Juan Island, between the mainland United States and Canada’s Vancouver Island, was shared by both American settlers and British employees of the Hudson Bay Company. While the island was “shared” in practice, both countries had a claim to the northwestern island and it created a lot of tensions in the region. Those tensions boiled over in June 1859 when an American farmer shot a British boar for tearing up his potato crop. Arguments ensued and the farmer was almost arrested by the British.

The U.S. Army got wind of the situation and sent Capt. George Pickett (later of Pickett’s Charge fame) with a company of soldiers, who promptly declared the island American property. Of course the British responded by sending in its trump card, the Royal Navy. For weeks, it appeared the standoff would spark a greater war between the two powers, but cooler heads prevailed and the sides took joint custody of the island.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Adwarable.

War of the Stray Dog

Another war that is exactly what it sounds like, except this one really did cause a number of deaths, as well as a 1925 fight that saw 20,000 Greeks meet 10,000 Bulgarians on the battlefield. The catalyst was a dog that had gotten away from a Greek soldier. The soldier chased after the dog, even though it ran across the Greek border with Bulgaria. Bulgarian border guards, seeing a Greek soldier running through their territory, of course shot him.

The Greeks then began an invasion of Bulgaria, occupying border towns and preparing to shell and take the city off Petrich before the League of Nations intervened, negotiating a cease fire.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 6 strangest super weapons of the Cold War

The Cold War was one of the most trying times for both Americans and Russians, who constantly lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation. If they only knew about the other weapons the superpowers were coming up with, no one would ever have slept at night. The struggle against Communism was a field day for weapons manufacturers and government war planners. It seemed the military was open to almost anything that could kill or stymie the Russian menace.

Even if that meant getting a little creative.


Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

The Blue Peacock

Land mines are a dangerous, tricky business for a couple of reasons. The first is that they’re hidden, of course, and no one knows where they are until it’s too late. With the Blue Peacock, “too late” came with a lot of baggage – eight to ten kilotons worth. In the Cold War, everyone wanted their special atomic weapon, it seemed. For the British, that came in the form of denying the Soviets an area to occupy in the event of World War III. Blue Peacock was a large atomic weapon that would have been buried in areas around Northern Germany and set to trigger if someone opened the casing or if it filled with water.

The idea was for the bomb to be left unattended, so on top of its itchy trigger finger, it could be set off with an eight-day timer or just detonated by wire. What’s truly silly about this weapon is that British engineers didn’t know how to address the extreme cold of the North German Plain, so their plan was to either wrap the bombs in blankets or keep live chickens with them to keep them warm.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Chrysler TV-8 Tank

Is this the goofiest tank you’ve ever seen? Me too, but it’s an American-engineered nuclear tank, imported from Detroit. This behemoth was nuclear in that it was powered by a nuclear reactor that was designed to use closed-circuit television for the crew to see. The crew would reside in the tank’s massive pod area, along with the engines and ammunition storage but the pod design would also allow the TV-8 to float, along with two water jet pumps, giving it an amphibious landing capability.

Along with the tank’s main turret, the TV-8 carried two manual .30-caliber machine guns along with a remote-controlled .50-cal mounted on top of the pod. At 25 tons, this incredible hulk was still half the mass of the M1 Abrams.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Project Orion

Still riding high from the possibilities of nuclear power, American engineers thought going to Mars and beyond would be possible with the use of an atomic engine. But this isn’t an engine that is propelled by some sort of atomic chain reaction or any kind of vacuum energy, no. This engine was powered by atomic bombs. Nuclear bombs were supposed to give the spaceship lift and, once in space, the energy needed for an interplanetary excursion.

The only problem was it left nuclear fallout and radioactive waste spread throughout the atmosphere.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

“Rods from God”

Finally, someone decided that nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered weapons were being a little overdone (probably, anyway) and came up with the idea to design a weapon that could hit with the force of a nuke, but without actually nuking a city.

“Project Thor” was born.

Read: These Air Force ‘rods from god’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Project Pluto

If there was ever a contest for the biggest “f*ck you” weapon of the Cold War, the United States’ Project Pluto is the top contender. The weapon was an unmanned ramjet loaded with nuclear weapons that, once launched, would fly around for as long as it could at supersonic speeds. This jet engine was special, though, because it was heated by a nuclear reactor, so that turned out to be a very, very long time. Once the nuclear drone bomber delivered its payload to targets, it would just fly around, dropping its nuclear waste on everyone it flew over.

Potentially forever.

The Pentagon scrapped the idea because there was no known defense and they didn’t want the Soviets to develop a similar weapon and use it on the United States.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Soviet Ekranoplan – “The Flying Boat”

Unlike a couple of the other crazy superweapons of the Cold War that made this list, the Ekranoplane was actually built by the Soviet Union. Faster than any ship and bigger than any plane, the Flying Boat could carry anything from troops to cargo to nuclear weapons, all at a crazy speed. And just 13 feet off the ground. Its engines were some of the most advanced of the time, each producing thrust equal to the F-35’s engines.

It could carry some two million pounds, flying low over water to evade detection, moving small, portable D-Day invasions across the globe. Luckily only one was ever built, and the Soviets lost the Cold War anyway.

Articles

This is what ‘Black Friday’ is like for new Marine recruits

Every year, millions of Americans rush out of their homes to the local retailers the day after Thanksgiving — aka Black Friday — for incredible, once-in-a-year deals.


Marine recruits also have a Black Friday — but it’s nowhere near as fun as getting a bunch of cool stuff.

Black Friday is the term Marines use when they finally come face-to-face with their hard-charging drill instructors who will train them up for the next 90 days.

Related: The Corps just added this new phase to help recruits practice being Marines

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
It’s Black Friday! Welcome to the bottom of the food chain, boot. (Source: USMC YouTube Screenshot)

Typically, once recruits meet their DIs, they will receive a barrage of easy-to-follow instructions under extreme stress, which causes them to have “brain farts” and screw up.

“I wanted to go home,” a former Marine joked, recalling that first meeting.

Once a recruit gets through the receiving phase of boot camp to Black Friday, it’s easier to make it all the way through the intense training and earn the title of Marine (versus getting sent back home on request).

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
The classic aftermath of Black Friday at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island.

For many drill instructors, the experience is just as intense, but their training incentive is to produce the best possible Marines before sending them off to their units.

“Here goes another 90-days,” former Marine DI Mark Hamett recalls. “Let’s do this!”

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
Here we go.

Typically, after the physically demanding introduction, the drill instructors will use their outside voices inside to introduce themselves and inform the recruits, as a whole, what exactly will be expected from them.

Also Read: The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

Check out the Marines’ video below to watch the intense first meeting between recruits and their drill instructors. Then relish in the fact that you’re not in their shoes.

(Marines, YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

A weapons range goes hot on a cold winter morning four years ago in Fort Lewis, Washington. The silent cold air is replaced by the snapping of gun fire as the morning dew is knocked loose off the blades of grass. Soldiers’ breath is visible as they curse in despair, for they are at another range yet again, wet and freezing.

The smell of spent ammunition and wintergreen chewing tobacco is present as raindrops fall and turn into steam on the weapons’ hot barrels.

Like a dense Pacific Northwest fog, the memories dissipate, and Spc. Flavio Mendoza is dragged back to reality and the clacking of fingers on a computer keyboard.


Like many soldiers, Mendoza has surmounted many challenges in his life, from growing up in a tough, urban environment to coping with the heartbreak of losing something he loved.

But through all this, he pushed forward.

The urban jungle

Raised on the northeast side of Los Angeles, Mendoza said he knew he was always destined for more than what surrounded him in his gritty, inner-city upbringing.

But with the odds stacked against him, he had to make a choice from an early age his path in life.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Spc. Flavio Mendoza, assigned to the 22nd Human Resources Company, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, poses for a photo on Fort Carson, Colorado, Dec. 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Asa Bingham)

Mendoza’s parents, Flavio Sr. and Veronica Mendoza — both born in Jalisco, Mexico — always tried to give the best life possible for their family of five. They both worked during the day leaving Mendoza and his two sisters with their grandmother.

Twelve family members — both immediate and extended — packed into a two bedroom house made for claustrophobic conditions. To escape from the cramped living situation, Mendoza would play outside.

“I had a lot of friends around my age growing up,” said Mendoza. “Even though the neighborhood wasn’t one for us to be playing in, we still made the best of it.”

Graffiti lined the walls of the street like uncontrollable ivy growing wild. The gunshots from rival gangs trying to kill each other, followed by the police sirens and helicopters circling with their bright lights all just became natural.

He didn’t have to go far from his childhood home to find trouble, he said. Right next door was far enough.

“I remember cops always being at that house for something,” Mendoza said. “It seems like everyone from the gang hung out there. There was always cars filled with nothing but bald heads, and gangsters with guns rolling up, asking where I was from or if I banged.”

The gang life was calling for Mendoza, who was given many opportunities to join. He ignored the beckoning calls unlike some of his friends.

“A couple of kids I grew up playing with and thought were my homies broke into our house one day,” he said. “They stole anything and everything.”

Mendoza’s parents saw what was happening to the neighborhood. They saw what path their kids could go down if they weren’t careful. So in an effort to get away from the trouble they saved up their money and moved to Monterey Park, Los Angeles.

“I didn’t hear any sirens anymore, no more gunshots, and no more constant fear from always having to turn around and watch my back at night,” said Mendoza.

His upbringing gave him a burning desire to do more, to be better then what he saw around him. The noise. The chaos. The crime. It was all motivation to get away.

The great escape

“After graduating high school, I immediately wanted to join the Army,” said then 18-year old Mendoza. “I walked into the recruiter one day and told them that I wanted to join and go fight.”

Mendoza’s parents and family were hesitant about the Army; they wanted him to go to college.

“I tried for a semester or two, but I realized school just wasn’t for me,” he said. His goal was to get away and to serve his country.

Knowing only what he saw from movies and TV shows, Mendoza said he had his heart set on joining up as an infantry soldier, but his recruiter, a combat engineer, persuaded him otherwise.

“He asked me if I wanted to blow things up,” Mendoza said. “After showing me a couple of videos and stories of what a sapper was and did, I was hooked.”

Next thing he knew, Mendoza was hauling his own weight in duffel bags with a drill sergeant in his face yelling at him to get off the bus at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

It was 2014, and his Army journey had just begun.

He spent days that felt like weeks pushing the earth away, counting “One, drill sergeant. Two, drill sergeant,” the never-ending pushups followed by the sprints, road marches, early mornings, yelling and apprehension that any moment a drill sergeant could burst in and make him question his decision to join.

“I would do it all over again,” said Mendoza. “It’s not that (One-Station Unit Training) was tough; it was more mental, like can you deal with the day to day suck and not quit.”

After completing OSUT, not knowing what to expect, Mendoza landed at his first duty station, Fort Lewis and was assigned to the 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade.

“Life as an engineer had its ups and downs, but for the most part, it was fun,” said Mendoza. When soldiers aren’t training they’re cleaning. From picking up cigarette butts to sweeping and mopping, this was not what Mendoza thought he would be doing. But when it came time to train and learn engineer tactics and skills, Mendoza thrived.

“I made the best of friends doing the coolest stuff,” he said. From how to calculate demolition charges to identifying improvised explosive devices, Mendoza loved to learn the skills of an engineer.

Mendoza quickly gained the respect of his peers and leadership with his good attitude and even better work ethic.

“Working as an engineer is hard work, but being around good people makes it fun,” said Travis Ramirez, a former engineer who worked with Mendoza. “I could always count on Mendoza to have a good attitude. He was always making everyone laugh, even when the work we were doing was tough.”

His infectious personality brought many of his fellow engineers to his room after work and on weekends to just hang out and have fun. It was in these time that unbreakable bonds were formed and a lasting brotherhood was forged.

His work ethic and positive attitude were evident to his leaders, who gave him the responsibility of operating the Buffalo, a version of the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle specifically used in route clearance operations as a mine interrogation asset.

Weighing in at more than 45,000 pounds and measuring a staggering 27 feet long, considerable skill and precision is required to maneuver the armored behemoth.

Mendoza was a perfect fit.

“I feel like I was given a higher level of responsibility driving the Buffalo,” said Mendoza. “The Buff is huge and an essential part to the route clearance mission. I had the best times in Buff 1-1.”

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

A US Army 759th Explosive Ordnance Disposal team Buffalo MRV.

(DoD photo by Ken Drylie)

The switch

On any given day, Mendoza could be found with his platoon conducting 12-mile road marches with upwards of 35-pounds on his back in full combat gear to repetitive field training exercises in the cold. The pace of training seemed endless, and within three years his body started feeling the effects.

“It was just chronic leg pain,” said Mendoza. “I went to go get it checked out and was going through physical therapy, but nothing was working.”

Mendoza was diagnosed with bone spurs in his shins.

He had gained so much from being an engineer — the memories of training exercises, the connections with fellow soldiers he now considers family. He never thought of himself doing anything else, no other job could match the bravado of being an engineer.

After going to physical therapy for close to a year, he received the news he had been dreading. His primary care provider permanently limited his physical abilities. He could no longer run. He couldn’t foot march. He wasn’t even supposed to jump anymore. He was forced to switch jobs and leave the engineer world.

“I felt like I was going to lose a part of me when I was told I had to switch,” said Mendoza, now assigned to the 22nd Human Resources Company, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.

The Army had served as his escape from a life he was sure would have landed him in jail or dead. He was not about to quit, he said.

Mendoza reclassified from combat engineer to human resources specialist.

A completely different world in his eyes

Instead of looking out the driver’s window of a Buffalo, he now stared into a computer screen. He went from patrolling for improvised explosive devices to scanning personnel records. From hearing loud explosions to now hearing the quiet clicks of a computer mouse.

Mendoza didn’t waver. He pushed forward, taking with him the same work ethic and positive attitude that drove him out of the streets of Los Angeles to become the soldier he is today.

“I still carry the engineer crest in my (patrol cap). It lets me know where I came from and that gives me pride,” said Mendoza. “Even though I’m away and in a new career field, I will always be an engineer.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

popular

These are the punishments for convicted War Criminals

The Hague and international community have little remorse for convicted war criminals. Generally, there are only two sentences: death and prison. This has been the case since 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was established. The Treaty distinguishes war crimes (acts committed under the guise of military necessity) from crimes against humanity (acts committed against the civilian population) and manages the overlap between the two.


Let’s take a look at how the international community punishes war criminals for their transgressions against humanity:

House Arrest

The most lenient of the punishments is never issued by The Hague, but is enforced by the country of the criminal to prevent the issue from going higher. The guilty are confined to their home instead of a traditional prison. If they are allowed outside communication or travel, it’s strictly monitored.

Notable Criminal: Pol Pot (1997 until death in 1998)

Although he was accused or directly responsible for the deaths of between 1 and 3 million people in Cambodia (which only had a population of 8 million people), Saloth Sar, later known as Pol Pot, was only ever tried for the execution of his right-hand man, Son Sen. Around 10 months into his sentence, he died of a lethal combination of Valium and chloroquine. It’s unknown if it was intentional suicide, accidental, or even murder.

 

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Lengthy prison sentences

For most war criminals, lengthy prison sentences are the norm. Unless you’re found to be only an accessory to war crimes, sentences are typically twenty years and more. With such long imprisonments, life after release is still hell.

Notable Criminal: Charles Taylor (sentenced to 50 years in 2012)

Taylor was the deposed President of Liberia and one of the most prominent warlords in Africa. He rose to power during the First Liberian Civil War and was heavily involved in the Sierra Leone Civil War along with the Second Liberian Civil War. The presiding judge at The Hague, Richard Lussick, said at his sentencing, “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
To contextualize his actions, he (standing) was the inspiration for Andre Baptiste Sr. in the 2005 film Lord of War (Image via UN)

Life in prison

For the top echelon of war criminals — those too vile even for the sweet release of death — a life sentence is the punishment of choice.

Notable Criminal: Philippe Pétain (1945 until death in 1951)

Pétain was once a beloved General, the Lion of Verdun, hero of France — that was until the fall of France in 1940. He was immediately appointed Prime Minister of France and turned the Third French Republic into Vichy France, the puppet state of Nazi Germany. He willingly sided with Hitler’s agenda (including antisemitism, censorship, and the “felony of opinion”) while squashing the French Resistance.

After the fall of the Axis Powers, Pétain was was tried for treason and aiding the Nazi Regime. He was convicted of all charges and sentenced to death. Charles De Gaulle, the new President of France, commuted his sentence to life in prison because of his age and military service during WWI. He was stripped of all military ranks and honors except for the distinction of Marshal of France.

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You can also blame him for all of the coward jokes against the actually bad-ass French military. (Image via Wikicommons)

Execution

Surprisingly enough, the highest possible punishment for war crimes is also the most issued. A large percentage of those tried at the Nuremberg Trials received the death penalty — more specifically, death by hanging. The added benefit effect of death by hangings as opposed to use of firing squad is that it took an agonizing 12 to 28 minutes for war criminals to die.

Notable Criminals: Saddam Hussein (Dec. 30, 2006)

Numerous genocides, ethnic cleansings, invasions of foreign states, countless human rights abuses, and the responsibility for the deaths of up to 182,000 civilians, Saddam Hussein was, at one point, the world’s foremost war criminal. Captured by U.S.-led forces near Tikrit, Iraq in 2003, he was later handed to the Iraqi people for a lengthy trial process before he was eventually executed.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018
Capture of Saddam Hussein (Image via Wikicommons)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The war that forced Paris to eat its zoo

For four months from Sept. 19, 1870 to Jan. 28, 1871, the Prussian Army laid siege to the city of Paris, as part of the Franco-Prussian War. Prior to having all supply lines cut off, the French Ministry of Agriculture furiously worked to gather as much food and fuel as it could, and at the beginning, “livestock blanket[ed] the Bois de Boulogne park on the edge of Paris.”

Apparently insufficient, within less than a month, the Parisians began butchering the horses, with the meat used as you would expect and even the blood collected “for the purposes of making puddings.” By the end of the siege, approximately 65,000 horses were killed and eaten.


Within another month, by Nov. 12, 1870, butchered dogs and cats began to appear for sale at the market alongside trays full of dead rats and pigeons. The former pets sold for between 20 and 40 cents per pound, while a nice, fat rat could go for 50.

As Christmas approached, most of Paris’ restaurants and cafés were forced to close, although a few of its top eateries continued serving, albeit with a markedly different menu. And as traditional meats were becoming increasingly scarce, the formerly impossible became the actual – when M. Deboos of the Boucherie Anglaise (English Butcher) purchased a pair of zoo elephants, named Castor and Pollux, for 27,000 francs.

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The enormous animals were killed with explosive, steel tipped bullets fired at close range, chopped up and sold, with the trunks being the most desirable and selling for 40-45 francs per pound, and other parts between 10 and 14.

Prized by the fine dining establishments, for its Christmas feat, the Voisin served elephant soup, and for New Year’s Day, Peter’s Restaurant offered filet d’éléphant, sauce Madère.

The elephants weren’t the only zoo animals featured on these menus, as the Voison also served kangaroo and antelope, while Peter’s also served peacock. In addition, rats, mules, donkeys, dogs and cats were also transformed by their chefs into roasts, chops, cutlets and ragouts.

Ultimately most of the animals in the zoo were eaten, with the voracious Parisians sparing only the monkeys, lions, tigers and hippos. It is thought that the monkeys were left because of their close resemblance to humans, but it isn’t clear why the lions, tigers, and hippos escaped the menu.

In any event, the siege was ended by a 23-night bombardment campaign in January, in which the Prussians lobbed 12,000 shells into the city, killing and wounding around 400 people. The Franco-Prussian War officially ended with the Treaty of Frankfurt on May 10, 1871.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This WWII Army veteran just celebrated his 102nd birthday

The McCurtain County VA Clinic and members of the local community gathered in Idabel, Oklahoma to celebrate World War II veteran Sydney Hunnicutt’s 102nd birthday.

“We truly care about the veterans in our community and we just want to make a difference,” said Lisa Morphew, registered nurse and clinic manager. “We love our veterans and want to show them that we’re here to help, whatever their needs are.”

VA clinic staff presented birthday cards and Jonathan Plasencia, associate director for the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, presented a gift bag to Hunnicutt on behalf of VA Voluntary Service.


Twelve of Hunnicutt’s family members were able to attend the party including several who were visiting from California. Dorothy Cash, Hunnicutt’s daughter, said she was grateful to the clinic and community who helped make the day special for her father.

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Jonathan Plasencia shakes Sydney Hunnicutt’s hand.

“It means the world to us,” said Cash.

During World War II, Hunnicutt was drafted into the U.S. Army and deployed to the Philippines with the 63rd Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division. During the Battle of Luzon, Hunnicutt fought the Japanese and was shot in his left hand. He lost two fingers and was later awarded a Purple Heart.

“It’s an honor to be here today to celebrate a member of the Greatest Generation,” said Plasencia, who drove from the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee to celebrate Hunnicutt’s milestone. “Veterans have many options for their health care and when they place their trust in VA, that is a privilege we do not take lightly.”

“It couldn’t have been better,” said Hunnicutt, who turns 102 on July 13, 2019.

Meet the Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018

Clinic staff join Sydney Hunnicutt for his 102nd birthday celebration.

Hunnicutt has been a patient at the clinic since it opened in 2017, and Dr. Jose Gomez has served as his primary care physician.

“He is so happy,” said Cash. “Dr. Gomez has been the best.”

Dr. Gomez said it’s been a privilege to provide care for Hunnicutt.

“I want to thank him for his courage and for putting his life on the line for us to be able to have the freedoms that we have,” he said. “It’s an honor just to shake his hand.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how long South Korea thinks it will take to conquer the North

The U.S. and South Korea are developing new wartime operations plans to achieve rapid victory over the North should conflict occur, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff revealed Monday.


“We are drawing up a new operational plan while re-estimating overall conditions, including our capabilities in accordance with North Korea’s new advanced threats,” Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo said, amid reports that previous war plans were pilfered by Pyongyang’s hackers, according to NK News.

The South Korean military is still unsure exactly what North Korea got its hands on, but among the stolen military documents are believed to be joint war plans and Seoul defense strategies. These plans were created several years ago, and North Korea’s capabilities have dramatically improved since then, as the regime now has an intercontinental ballistic missile and a staged thermonuclear bomb designed to level cities.

The new strategic plans are intended to secure victory for the allies in the shortest possible time while minimizing casualties. The plan involves “incapacitating core targets early on” while going on the offensive and striking deep into North Korean territory, according to a Yonhap News Agency report.

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The Yalu River is a natural and political border between North Korea and China.

“We will reinforce the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets to detect signs of the enemy’s provocations,” the general said. “We will also expand all-weather mid and long-range high-power precision strike capabilities to neutralize the enemy’s asymmetric warfare capabilities in the early stages.”

“This concept secures the initiative by going on the offense early and establishes conditions for unification by rapidly expanding the battlefield deep into the enemy’s territory,” he explained.

The goal is to secure victory within one month, should conflict break out on the peninsula.

The South also intends to boost its three-stage defense strategy, which consists of the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) system, the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike program, and Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system, in concert with the U.S.

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KCNA photo

North Korea naturally has its own wartime plans.

Although the exact details are unknown outside of the rogue regime, there is some evidence that the North would attempt to delay American intervention for at least three days to take all control of all of Korea. Some suspect that North Korea might use its intermediate and long-range missiles to keep the U.S. at bay, hindering America’s ability to reinforce the troops fighting in South Korea.

Whether or not the Kim regime is ultimately interested in war is debatable, but the prevailing theory is that Kim Jong Un is developing a nuclear deterrent for regime survival, a goal which cannot be achieved through war, as the conventional and nuclear forces of the allies would almost certainly overwhelm any capabilities possessed by the regime.

MIGHTY MONEY

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

The Air Force announced Jan. 23, 2019, the details of the fiscal year 2019 Aviation Bonus program.

The fiscal 2019 AvB program is designed to augment continuing aircrew retention efforts across the Air Force, by offering experienced aviators bonuses for signing tier-based contracts, ranging from three to 12 years of continued service.

Congress raised the annual maximum aviation bonus from $25,000 to $35,000 in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and required the Air Force to present aviation bonuses based on a business case analysis. The Air Force evaluates its rated inventory every year to ensure the AvB program is tailored to meet the service’s needs.


For the fiscal 2019 RegAF program, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered to active duty aviators whose initial undergraduate flying training service commitment expires in fiscal 2019:

Bomber pilots (11B), fighter pilots (11F) and mobility pilots (11M)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to 12 years
  • Lump-sum, up-front payment options of 0,000 exist for seven to nine year contracts and 0,000 for 10-12 year contracts
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Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop completes preflight checks before his first sortie in an F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Remotely piloted aircraft pilots (18X/11U) and special operations forces pilots (11S)

  • o Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to twelve years

Command and control/intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance pilots (11R) and combat search and rescue fixed wing pilots (11H)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years and ,000 for contract lengths of 10-12 years
  • A lump-sum, up-front payment option of 0,000 exists for seven to nine year contracts

Combat search and rescue rotary wing pilots (11H)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years

Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to six years and ,000 for contract lengths of seven to nine years

For aviators whose contracts have expired or who have never signed a previous AvB agreement, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered:

Pilots (11X) and RPA pilots (11U/12U/13U/18X)

  • Annual payments of ,000 to ,000 based on the three to six year rates of the member’s core community identification as set above for contract lengths ranging from three to nine years
  • Contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service

Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to five years
  • Eligible airmen must have 19 years or greater of total active federal military Service and contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service

The application window for airmen interested in applying for the fiscal 2019 AvB program will be open until Aug. 30, 2019. For full eligibility requirements and details about program changes in fiscal 2019, airmen should visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. general: Russian aircraft flown to Libya linked to Moscow’s pursuit of foothold in Region

The U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) has rejected Russia’s claim that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on May 29 that the aircraft reflected Russia’s goal to establish a foothold in the oil-rich country.

Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director for intelligence at ARFICOM, said the U.S. military tracked the 14 MiG-29 fighter jets and SU-24 fighter bombers that were flown in by the Russian military, landing at Libya’s Jufra air base.


The base is the main forward airfield for Khalifa Haftar and his eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which has been waging an offensive to capture Tripoli.

Hadfield said Russia’s activities in Libya gave it access to that country’s oil and a military base in striking distance of Europe.

“Backing the LNA and backing Field Marshal Haftar — it really isn’t about winning the war, it’s about developing strongholds,” Hadfield said in an interview on May 29 with a small group of reporters.

A big U.S. concern would be if Russia placed missiles in such a location, he added.

“If Russia secures a permanent position in Libya and, worse, deploys long-range missile systems, it will be a game changer for Europe, NATO, and many Western nations,” Hadfield said.

Russia has denied links to the aircraft, calling the claim “stupidity.” Viktor Bondarev, the former Russian Air Force chief who heads the Defense Committee in the upper house of parliament, said the planes were not Russian, but could be Soviet-era aircraft owned by other African countries.

Hadfield disputed that, saying there were none of those aircraft in that part of Africa. And, he said, “not only did we watch them fly from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya, we were able to photograph them at multiple points.”

AFRICOM first released information about the arrival of the Russian aircraft in Libya on May 26. It provided more details on May 27, saying Moscow deployed the jets and bombers to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping Haftar battle forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.

AFRICOM said that MiG-29s and Su-24s bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”

After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”

Hadfield said the fighter aircraft will likely provide close air support and offensive strikes for the Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin that has been helping Hafter’s forces.

The aircraft have not yet been used, but he said they will have to be flown either by pilots from Russia or contractors employed by Vagner.

Also on May 29 the U.S. State Department announced that Malta on May 26 seized id=”listicle-2646139035″.1 billion worth of counterfeit Libyan currency that it said was printed by a Russian state-owned company.

The money was printed by Joint Stock Company Goznak and ordered by “an illegitimate parallel entity,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in the statement.

The statement said the influx of Russian-printed Libyan currency in recent years “has exacerbated Libya’s economic challenges,” adding that the United States remained committed to working with the United Nations and international partners to deter illicit activities in Libya.

“This incident once again highlights the need for Russia to cease its malign and destabilizing actions in Libya,” Ortagus said.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country is now split between a government in the east allied with Hafter and the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says the situation in Libya is continuing to deteriorate and that a cease-fire announced in January is in tatters.

The cease-fire “has definitively collapsed, and hostilities have resumed in full,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on May 29, according to Interfax.

The balance of power differs significantly from what it was when the cease-fire came into effect due to “massive foreign assistance,” she said.

Russia is in contact with all sides in the conflict and will insist it is resolved through diplomatic means, she said.

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

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