Jimmie Howard led the USMC's most decorated platoon - We Are The Mighty
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Jimmie Howard led the USMC’s most decorated platoon

Because of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jimmie Howard’s perseverance and focus, a platoon was able to hang on during one of the Vietnam War’s fiercest battles.

Two years after earning two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star, Jimmie Earl Howard arrived in Vietnam in April 1966, when he was 36 years old. The Burlington, Iowa, native enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 after completing a year at the University of Iowa.


Here’s a look back at GySgt Howard’s career and what he and his platoon managed to accomplish.

June 13, 1966: Staff Sgt. Howard’s platoon, which includes just 15 other Marines and two Navy hospital corpsmen from C Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, are helicoptered inside enemy-controlled Hiep Duc Valley in northern Southern Vietnam. Their landing point, Nui Vu Hill, is a 1,500-foot observation point. Known on military maps as Hill 488, it would quickly become rechristened as “Howard’s Hill.”

June 15, 1900: An Army SF team reports that a 300-person North Vietnamese Army battalion is moving toward Hill 488. Darkness is falling, and there’s no time to alert Howard or pull out the platoon.

2100: American personnel shoot a Viet Cong scout just 12 feet from their position, provoking a fire barrage that wounds one Marine. Howard pulls her men into a tight circle just 20 yards in diameter.

A lull in the firefight is short-lived. The NVA returns with reinforced lines that attack Howard and his unit with gunfire, grenades, mortars, and machine guns. Howard moves in between his young Marines, encouraging them, redirecting when necessary, and helping them pinpoint their targets. Despite his advice, every single Marine and both Navy corpsmen are wounded. Two are killed in fierce hand-to-hand combat. The enemy falls back – temporarily.

Howard uses the fall back to radio Lt. Col. Arthur J. Sullivan at nearby Chu Lai. He tells Sullivan, “You have to get us out of here.”

But there was no rescue force that could reach Howard and his men that night.

From deep in the valley comes the voice of the enemy. “Marines, you die in an hour.”

One young Marine looks at Howard and asks if he can respond. Howard tells him to yell anything you like. Soon, the entire platoon is shouting at the enemy with the worst schoolyard taunts. Later Howard would recall that when his unit started laughing at the enemy, something shifted for the NVA soldiers. “I think it had a chilling effect on them,” he recalled.

For five hours, the NVA alternates between small probes and full-on assaults of the entrenched platoon. Howard is hit in the back with grenade fragments and can’t move his legs. He continues to drag himself around the perimeter to encourage his platoon and distribute ammunition.

Soon the grenade supply is gone, so Howard issues one of the most basic military strategies – he tells his Marines to throw rocks at the enemy. The NVA mistake the sound of rocks as grenades and inadvertently expose themselves to single-shot fire.

At 0300, the radio dies. Commanders in Chu Lai fear that Howard and his Marines are gone. Three hours later, Howard sounds Reveille, as if his unit hadn’t been in a firefight all night. Demoralized, the NVA troops begin to fall back.

Dawn comes to the valley, and that’s when, finally, the helicopters start to arrive. By now, the surviving Marines have only eight rounds of ammunition between them, and they’re still under sporadic fire. Howard waves off the first of the rescue aircraft, and one gets shot down. It takes another five hours for a full relief force to fight its way from the hill’s base to where Howard and his Marines are on top. When the rescue arrives, just three Marines can walk without assistance. Six out of the 18 are dead.

Three Marines and one corpsman are awarded Navy Crosses, and 13 Marines receive Silver Stars. A year later, Howard received the Medal of Honor. The ceremony is attended by eleven of the surviving Marines.

Howard retired from the Marines in 1977 after serving 27 years in the Marine Corps. He died on Nov. 12, 1993. In 1998, Navy Secretary John H. Dalton named one of three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Howard in honor of GySgt. Howard and his courage in Vietnam.

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This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.

Known as “drop tanks,” these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they’re hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.


Drop tanks became popular in the late 1930s as a means for fighters to carry more fuel for longer escort and patrol missions. Easily installed and removed, they were a quick solution for the burgeoning Luftwaffe’s fighter and dive bomber fleets, which would prove to be instrumental in the opening months of WWII.

By the onset of WWII, air forces with both the Axis and Allies were experimenting with the use of drop tanks in regular combat operations. In the European theater, British and German pilots stuck to using their drop tanks as range-extenders. American fighter pilots changed the game.

 

A P-47 Thunderbolt with a drop tank
A P-47 Thunderbolt with a drop tank.

(US Air Force)

Though it wasn’t common practice, P-47 Thunderbolt pilots were noted for their creativity in combat, switching their fuel feed selector to their internal tanks while making a low pass over an enemy position. With relative precision, they would jettison their drop tanks, still filled with a decent amount of fuel, before climbing away.

After releasing their tanks, pilots would swoop back around and line up again with their target. If they timed it right and aimed well, a long burst from their cannons would ignite the fuel left inside the tanks, blowing them up like firebombs.

This didn’t always work, however, especially as paper tanks became popular during the war as a method of conserving metal. So, by the end of the war, American crews in both the European and Pacific theaters had to refine their drop-tank technique.

Instead of pilots peppering the tanks with shells from their cannons, they’d simply fill up the tanks with a volatile mixture of fuel and other ingredients to form rudimentary napalm bombs, which would detonate upon impact.

 

USAF F-51D Mustang with drop tanks
USAF F-51D Mustangs dropping tanks repurposed as napalm bombs during the Korean War

(US Air Force)

By the time the Korean War started, the newly-formed US Air Force had cemented the practice of filling drop tanks with napalm and using them as makeshift bombs for low-level close air support missions. According to Robert Neer in his book, Napalm: An American Biography, British statesman Winston Churchill notably decried the practice of using napalm during the Korean conflict, calling it cruel and noting the increased likelihood of collateral damage and casualties during napalm strikes.

In the Vietnam War, the use of napalm expanded greatly, though factories now began building bombs specifically designed to carry napalm internally. Today, the US military has virtually ceased using napalm as a weapon. Here’s what life is like for US Army Tankers, today. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia unsheathes a mysterious new laser weapon

A new Russian laser weapon designed to instantly obliterate targets entered military service December 2018, the Russian defense ministry revealed.

Russia’s Peresvet laser system, named after the medieval warrior monk Alexander Peresvet, entered experimental combat duty on Dec. 1, 2018, the Russian defense ministry’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper reported Dec. 5, 2018.

The military began taking possession of the first shipments in 2017 as part of Russia’s ongoing military modernization program, according to The Moscow Times, and there is speculation the lasers could shoot down incoming missiles and airplanes.


Watch Russia unveil Peresvet laser system:

Заступление на опытно-боевое дежурство новейших лазерных комплексов «Пересвет»

www.youtube.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin first announced the existence of this new laser weapon in March 2018 during his State of the Nation address, during which he briefly introduced the “Combat Laser Complex.”

“We have achieved significant progress in laser weapons,” he boasted, “It is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.”

“We are one step ahead our rivals,” Putin added without providing any evidence.

Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov offered a bit more information in an interview with Russian state media outlet TASS, explaining that the device could destroy targets “within fractions of a second.”

“We can talk a lot about laser weapons and movies were made about them a long time ago and fantastic books have been written, and everyone knows about this,” he introduced. “But, the fact that these systems have started entering service is indeed a today’s reality.”

The Russian defense ministry posted a video of the weapon in July 2018, before it had officially entered service.

Боевой лазерный комплекс «Пересвет»

www.youtube.com

Not much is publicly known about the Peresvet combat laser system, as Sputnik, a Russian media outlet controlled by the government, noted. What exactly it does has been the subject of much speculation.

“It is expected to be an air-defense system that can track and shoot down hostile aircraft and missiles,” Sputnik explained, adding, “Some suggest it will be tasked with ‘blinding’ sophisticated enemy systems, making them inoperable.”

Other countries, like the US and China, are also developing directed energy platforms.

China unveiled the LW-30, a vehicle-based laser weapon built to quickly eliminate a variety of aerial targets, at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai in November 2018.

Experts speculated that the weapon designed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) could be deployed to the South China Sea.

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

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This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.


JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.

Gutierrez was part of a night time raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.

The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.

“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.

“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”

Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.

“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.

“How close?”

“Less than 10 meters.”

Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.

An A-10 bombing run, too explosive to support Gutierrez’ team (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.

The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.

After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.

To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Bin Laden was ‘not a fighter’ and fainted when battles broke out

Osama Bin Laden, the terror leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US, has gone down as one of the most vicious figures in history, but he admittedly lacked the courage to fight in an actual battle.

In an interview with The Guardian on Aug. 3, 2018, Bin Laden’s family and those close to him opened up about his personal life and the fallout he brought down on Saudi Arabia after his rise to infamy.


Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence for 24 years until September 1, 2001, told The Guardian that “there are two Osama bin Ladens… One before the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and one after it.”

Bin Laden got his first taste of warfare in Afghanistan during its 1970s war with the Soviet Union, but it turned out he wasn’t made of soldiering stuff.

“He was very much an idealistic mujahid [this word has a similar meaning to jihadist]. He was not a fighter. By his own admission, he fainted during a battle, and when he woke up, the Soviet assault on his position had been defeated,” Turki said.

2001 video of Bin Laden.

Bin Laden’s family portrays him as drifting towards radicalism and away from the family in the decades between that struggle and 2001 in The Guardian interview. The family has tried to distance itself from Bin Laden’s acts of terrorism, but his youngest son went to Afghanistan to “avenge” his death, they said.

Bin Laden famously led Al Qaeda and planned the 2001 attacks. Again, Bin Laden himself did not engage in the hijackings, and simply coordinated them behind the scenes.

When Bin Laden finally came face to face with US forces, taking the form of US Navy SEALs storming his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, initial US government reports said he hid behind women in the complex to use them as a human shield.

Later the White House walked back those statements . The Pentagon never released images of Bin Laden’s body, and the SEALs that participated in the attack all say it’s because he was left in unpresentable shape.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A longtime Pacific ally that’s key to confronting China is tearing up a major military agreement with the US

The Philippines, a Pacific ally that has been on the front lines of US efforts to confront and deter China, especially in the contested South China Sea, notified the US on Tuesday that it was officially terminating a bilateral agreement on the status of US troops rotating in and out of the country for military exercises.


Finally following through on a threat he has made many times, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a critic of the alliance and a proponent of a foreign policy independent of the US, said he would end the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.

“It’s about time we rely on ourselves,” the president’s spokesman said, according to Reuters. “We will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”

Teodoro Locsin Jr., Duterte’s foreign secretary, tweeted late Monday that the Philippines was unilaterally terminating the agreement. The pact will end 180 days after the country notifies the US.

The US Embassy in the Philippines confirmed in a statement Tuesday that it received notice of the Philippines’ intent to end the agreement from its Department of Foreign Affairs, CNN reported.

“This is a serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance,” the statement read. “We will carefully consider how best to move forward to advance our shared interests.”

The US and the Philippines continue to be bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but hundreds of US military exercises with the Philippines, such as the large-scale Balikatan exercises, could be in jeopardy.

Terminating the VFA also puts US counterterrorism support, deterrence in the South China Sea, and other forms of security assistance at risk.

The Philippines has been central to the US’s efforts to counter China’s growing power. Subic Bay gives the US Navy a port to repair and resupply ships that patrol the contested South China Sea, and Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts and Marine F/A-18 Hornets have used the nearby Clark Air Base for training. US special operations troops have also assisted the government’s campaign against terror networks in the country’s south for roughly two decades.

The move to end the VFA followed the US’s decision to cancel the visa of Philippines Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a key player in Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, the extrajudicial killings of which have resulted in the deaths of thousands of suspects and civilian bystanders.

“I’m warning you … if you won’t do the correction on this, I will terminate” the agreement, Duterte said in a televised address in late January, according to The Associated Press. “I’ll end that son of a b—-.”

While the VFA is only one part of a collection of security agreements, Philippine officials have expressed concerns that terminating it could have a domino effect.

“If the VFA is terminated, the EDCA cannot stand alone, because the basis of the EDCA is the VFA, and if the VFA is terminated, the EDCA cannot be effective,” Philippine Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told reporters before Tuesday’s announcement, according to CNN.

Drilon added that if the visiting forces agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement “are no longer effective,” the Mutual Defense Treaty “would be inutile and would serve no purpose.”

Duterte has previously threatened to end the other bilateral agreements and called for the removal of US troops from the Philippines, often in response to American criticisms of his drug war or concerns about US efforts to push the Philippines to confront China.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why Coast Guardsmen aren’t getting paid while other troops are

On December 22nd, the United States entered a partial government shutdown due to a failure to get legislation signed that appropriated funds for 2019. All politics firmly set aside for the sake of this discussion, the fact is that about 400,000 of the 2 million civilian federal employees are expected to be furloughed.

Troops in four of the five branches of the Armed Forces will not be affected. Life, for the most part, will continue as it has, with only minor hiccups felt by a few civilian employees. The major exception to this is the roughly 42,000 Coast Guardsmen who currently face uncertainty.


Since Coast Guardsmen are contractually obligated or possibly deployed at this moment, it’s not like they can just work Uber or Lyft until this blows over.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Daniel Lavinder)

To put it simply, the Coast Guard is a part of the United States Armed Forces, but isn’t a part of the Department of Defense. They’re a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Defense has many safeguards in place to ensure that troops are taken care of in case of government shutdowns. The budget for Fiscal Year 2019 was determined by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for FY19 back in August, and it covers DoD expenses for the year until October, 2019.

Unless this shutdown is an extreme case and lasts until October, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines don’t need to worry. The longest shutdown on record ran for 22 days in 1995, so it’s pretty unlikely.

But even if there were a shutdown around the time an NDAA needed to be completed (as was the case in 2013), paying the Armed Forces is a bipartisan issue and is protected by the Pay Our Military Act of 2013. This solidified the troops, including the Coast Guard, as essential personnel to receive pay and tapped directly into the treasury to ensure that the troops were taken care of in 2013. Unfortunately, that bill only covered Fiscal Year 2014.

Today, the Coast Guardsmen are being left in the dust.

You can keep that promise with one simple email or phone call.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Jennifer Nease.)

Coast Guardsmen are essential employees that are required to work without pay until the government reopens. Thankfully, they did receive pay on December 31st and the 0 million required to properly pay them was given, so the effects aren’t being felt quite yet.

If the shutdown lasts 25 days — which would be a new record by 3 days — we’ll be at January 15th. Then, Coast Guardsmen will start feeling the effects of being an entire paycheck behind. The official statement of the Coast Guard says that personnel should, essentially, maintain a stiff upper lip, but contact financial institutions, banks, and creditors in case of the worst. If the shutdown ends or a stop-gap is put in place by January 15th, things will be alright again.

There is one thing that can be done, shy of including the Coast Guard in the NDAA for FY2020, and that’s through the recently proposed “Pay the Coast Guard” Act.

Contact your legislator and tell them that our Coast Guardsmen deserve to be paid.

We, as troops and veterans, may make fun of our little sibling branch for being puddle pirates, but we always look to protect our own. Right now, our brothers- and sisters-in-arms need our help.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Air Force just brought this B-52 bomber back from the dead

A decommissioned B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bomber nicknamed “Wise Guy” was brought back from the Air Force’s “boneyard” and delivered to an operational unit, the Air Force announced May 14, 2019.

Col. Robert Burgess, the commander of the 307th Operations Group, 307th Bomb Wing, flew the aircraft back to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on May 14, 2019, The War Zone reported.


The art on the side of “Wise Guy.”

(307th Bomb Wing)

“Wise Guy” being delivered to the 307th Bomb Wing.

(307th Bomb Wing)

“Wise Guy” at Barksdale Air Force Base, May 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Facebook)

“Wise Guy” lands at Barksdale Air Force Base, May 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Facebook)

“Wise Guy” is the second B-52 to ever return from the “boneyard.” The other, a bomber nicknamed “Ghost Rider,” was brought back and delivered to the 307th Bomb Wing in 2015.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 heroes who saved American lives on Heartbreak Ridge

The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in 1951 was supposed to be a quick win by U.S. and U.N. forces in Korea. They had just pushed the North Koreans and Chinese off of the nearby “Bloody Ridge,” and they believed the communist forces could be pushed off the ridge quickly as they’d had a limited time to dig in, but it turned into a month-long slugfest that would leave almost 30,000 dead.

Here are six heroes who ensured most of those deaths came from North Korea and China:


Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

(Military Sealift Command)

Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

Infantryman Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau’s company was holding a key position at Pia-ri on the ridge when, after repeated attacks, the platoon was nearly out of ammo. They needed to withdraw temporarily, but the near-continuous attacks made that challenging. Pililaau volunteered to stay in position as the men near him withdrew.

Communist forces charged the lines as the rest of the company withdrew, and Pililaau fired through his automatic weapon ammo, threw hand grenades until he ran out, and then fought hand-to-hand with his fists and trench knife until he was overwhelmed. He is thought to have killed more than 40 before dying and later received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.

(Pfc. James Cox, U.S. Army)

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of a series of attacks near Mundung-Ri from October 8-9, 1951. They hit an entrenched force and the attack stalled, except for Burris. Burris charged forward and hurled grenade after grenade, killing 15 and creating an opening. The next day, he spearheaded an assault on the next position.

He was hit by machine gun fire, but pressed the attack anyway. He took a second hit, but remained forward, directing a 57mm recoilless rifle team to come up. He drew fire from the enemy machine gun, allowing the team to take it out. Then, he refused medical evacuation and attacked again, taking out more machine gun emplacements before taking a mortal wound. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

Corpsmen assist wounded from the 7th Division at the Battle of Triangle Hill in 1952. May was from the 7th Division.

(U.S. Army)

Sgt. Homer I. May

On September 1, 1951, Sgt. Homer May helped lead an assault squad against enemy positions, but the attackers encountered withering machine gun fire. The sergeant sent his men into cover and maneuvered against the guns himself and got eyes on three bunkers, and took one out with grenades.

He doubled back for more grenades and made his way back forward, taking out the other bunkers. The attack was successful, and May received the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts. He tragically died the next day while helping fend off an enemy counterattack against the hill.

U.S. infantrymen from the 27th Infantry Regiment defend a position near Heartbreak Ridge in August, 1952.

(National Archives Records Administration)

Cpl. James E. Smith

Army Cpl. James E. Smith was manning a defensive position on September 17 as waves of enemy forces attacked. His company was able to repulse attack after attack, but ammunition dwindled and the attacking waves got closer and closer to the American lines. As it became clear that the unit would need to pull back, Smith stayed in position to cover the withdrawal.

He fired through all of his ammunition and then fought with bayonet and his bare fists until he was killed. He is thought to have downed 35 of the enemy before succumbing, earning him a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

French Sgt. Louis Misseri

French Army Sgt. Louis Misseri was part of an assault on September 29 against a hill that was part of Heartbreak Ridge. The French Battalion came under artillery and mortar attack but kept pressing forward. Misseri split his squad into two sections and led one of them against enemy bunkers on the hill, taking them out.

When the communist forces launched a counterattack, Misseri led the defense and, despite suffering a serious wound, hit 15 enemy soldiers with his rifle fire. He was able to reach the top of Heartbreak Ridge and remained in position until the rest of his force had withdrawn. He would later receive a Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S.

Infantrymen move to the firing line in July 1950 during fighting in Korea.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Sgt. George R. Deemer

On October 10, Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, was attacking Hill 800 as mortar and artillery fire rained down. Sgt. George R. Deemer went into the battle carrying a 57mm recoilless rifle. A companion helped him load and he advanced with the skirmish line, knocking out one enemy emplacement after another.

When the company took the Hill, he used the weapon to aid in the defense until he ammunition ran out. Then, he organized two machine gun teams and made three trips under fire to keep them supplied with ammunition. During the third trip, he was mortally wounded by mortar fire. He received a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military families call for the right to withhold rent in privatized housing disputes

Army Col. Scott Gerber said he had to pay out-of-pocket for an independent inspector to verify mold infestation and water damage in his home in an effort to get the attention of the private company running base housing at Fort Meade, Maryland.


Military spouse Linda Gherdovich said she had similar problems with mold at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

“The only reason we knew [it was there] was because our kids were getting sick,” she said.

Gherdovich said she had to pay ,700 to an outside inspector to verify her claims, and she’s still fighting to get reimbursement.

In testimony Tuesday before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Gerber and Gherdovich echoed the demands of other military families for an expansion of the recently approved Tenant Bill of Rights to let them withhold rent in disputes over repairs and maintenance of privatized military housing.

And in a following panel the same day, representatives from four military housing companies said that they supported giving that right to military families.

They also expressed varying levels of regret for the military housing problems that have been detailed in numerous reports and hearings, including mold and pest infestation, poor performance on fulfilling work orders, and negligence in responding to tenants’ complaints.

In his prepared statement, Richard Taylor, president of Balfour Beatty Communities, said, “I would like to begin by saying that we sincerely apologize for having fallen short of the high standards our nation’s military families deserve.

“We fully accept that we must make improvements, and we are determined to regain the trust and confidence of our residents and our military partners,” he added.

On Feb. 25, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the secretaries of the service branches had signed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights, which was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

There were 15 provisions in the bill, including “the right to a written lease with clearly defined rental terms” and “the right to reside in a housing unit and a community that meets applicable health and environmental standards.”

The Pentagon’s announcement acknowledged that three rights were missing from the list — access for tenants to a maintenance history of their units, a detailed process for dispute resolution, and the withholding of rent until disputes are resolved.

The military will work with the private companies and Congress to get those three provisions added to the list, the Pentagon said at the time.

At the hearing, Gerber said the right to withhold rent is vital to leveling the playing field with the private companies.

He said he and his wife, Sandy, “lived through two mold-infested homes,” adding “our situation wasn’t unique.”

Military families need “the ability to hold that contractor accountable. We need an easy mechanism to stop that [Basic Allowance for Housing]” from going to the private companies during disputes, Gerber said.

In a separate panel at the hearing, representatives of four companies managing private housing on military bases said they are in favor of adding the ability to withhold rent and the other two missing provisions to the Tenant Bill of Rights.

Denis Hickey, chief executive officer of Lendlease Americas, said under questioning, “We realize we can and must do more” to improve conditions.

“Obviously, some of our families feel our company has come up short,” said Jeff Guild, vice president of Lincoln Military Housing. The company is resolved to “repairing a culture of trust with our residents,” he added.

Heath Burleson, a senior vice president at Corvias Group, said the company had gotten away in the past from the “basic blocking and tackling” needed to keep homes in good repair. “I believe we’re on the right path, but we’re not done,” he said.

After listening to the company representatives, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, the subcommittee’s chair, said, “all of your testimony is very nice now, [but] the system was set up as a gravy train for your companies.” There’s no accountability to military families, she added.

“It is outrageous,” she said.

The military contributed to the failures of the system through inattention and poor oversight of the performance of the private companies involved in military housing, said Pete Potochney, the acting assistant secretary of defense for sustainment.

“The fact that we’re having this hearing and others like it is saddening,” Potchney said. “We simply took our eye off the ball” over the years in oversight of military housing.

“We sure as hell didn’t do a great job,” he added.

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

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Watch this bomber’s rare low-level flyover of powerful Navy carriers

Admit it — you like seeing the low-level flyovers by Air Force or Navy planes. Especially when they are sleek and just exude the notion that they are flown by pilots who appreciate fast jets and faster… well, you get the idea. But while fighters often have that distinction, the B-1B Lancer has shown it, too can exude that — while still carrying a lot of firepower.


From back to front, the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (Youtube screenshot)

During President Trump’s trip to East Asia, the sailors on three Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers got to see a pair of B-1B Lancers do just such a flyby. The carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) operated with a Japanese “helicopter destroyer” during that time.

An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter flies near the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Danielle A. Brandt)

Each of these carriers usually operates with four squadrons of strike fighters, either F/A-18C Hornets or F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. That’s a powerful force, but the F/A-18Cs are limited to two missiles like the AGM-84 Harpoon/SLAM or AGM-158C LRASM, while the F/A-18E/Fs can carry four.

F/A-18E Super Hornets, assigned to the “Fist of the Fleet” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25, fly over the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Flynn/Released)

By comparison, a B-1B Lancer can carry twenty-four. So, the two Lancers in the video below can deliver the same number of missiles as an entire squadron of F/A-18Cs. In a naval battle with China, eight B-1s with LRASMs could conceivably take out two Chinese carrier groups. What those bombers could do with the AGM-158 JASSM and JASSM-ER to land targets would be equally devastating.

A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B can also carry a large number of standoff missiles, like the AGM-158C LRASM. (U.S. Air Force photo)

You can see a video of the Lancers doing a flyby of the three carriers and the Japanese “helicopter destroyer” below. The video was taken from a Navy helicopter orbiting the three-carrier formation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An all-out Saudi attack on a Yemen port city is a real disaster

The Saudi-led coalition launched a major assault on Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah on June 13, 2018, killing 250 Iranian-backed Houthi fighters, according to UPI.

The coalition’s initial assault on Hodeidah, which the UN has warned could end up killing 250,000 civilians and exacerbate the already terrible humanitarian condition, included several airstrikes and also led to the capture of 140 Houthi fighters, UPI reported.

The Houthis at the same time reportedly hit a coalition warship with two missiles, according to Jane’s 360. The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates — the two major actors in the coalition — have not commented on the claim.


Almasirah Live, a Houthi media outlet, has broadcasted purported footage of the coalition ship on fire:

MIGHTY TRENDING

These Army drink packets can deliver the hydration of an IV

The Army used to have a powder chock full of electrolytes to add to water for rehydration. But there was a problem.


“It was terrible — tasted so bad that nobody would use it,” said Gregory Sumerlin, senior director of Government Military Accounts for DripDrop ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions).

Enter DripDrop, with packets of lemon-, cherry- and watermelon-flavored powders that were on display Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington.

Sumerlin said the packets, which cost about $1.82 a piece, have been used by the Army for about four years. The other services also have shown interest, he said.

Medics in Afghanistan and Iraq have carried a supply of the packets, and troops also can keep a few stuffed in their packs, he said.

DripDrop is medical grade rehydration. (Image DripDrop Facebook)

According to DripDrop’s website, the powders have “proven to hydrate better and faster than water or sports drinks, and are comparable to IV therapy.”

“By solving the taste problem, DripDrop ORS has made the most highly effective oral hydration solution known to medical science, practical for use by anyone who finds themselves with a hydration need where water and sports drinks just aren’t enough,” the site says.

The packets contain a balanced amount of electrolytes, including sodium citrate, potassium citrate, chloride, magnesium citrate, zinc aspartate and sugars to provide what DripDrop called “a fast-acting, performance-enhancing hydration solution.”

The product also has an endorsement from Bob Weir, co-founder of the Grateful Dead:

“There is no better test of a hydration drink’s effectiveness than a summer tour. If I didn’t have DripDrop, I’d have to rethink about how I would go about performing a 3.5-hour show.”