We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.
The first veteran interviewed is Walter Stitt.
Walter served in World War II as a tank gunner. He was assigned to E Company of the 33rd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Upon answering the call and enlisting, his father gave him a piece of advice. He told Walter to not tell the Army that he was a truck driver, but to say he was a student — “maybe they’ll send you to school,” he mused. So, Walter listened to his father and told the Army he didn’t want to have anything to do with a steering wheel. And so, Walter was promptly assigned to be a tanker — which had levers and not a wheel (got to love Army humor, right?).
Stitt participated in the Normandy campaign and was initially anchored offshore because the weather was so bad. After three days, the tanks finally were allowed to move onto the beach and into the infamous hedgerow country of the Normandy peninsula. A mile up the road, he had to dig his first foxhole — and he quickly found out why. That night, a German bomber rained fiery mayhem on troops just a few yards from his position. After that, Walter said, “whenever they said ‘dig a foxhole”, I was one of the ones who grabbed a shovel and started.“
US M4 Sherman, equipped with a 75 mm main gun, with infantry walking alongside.
When Steve Austin asks, “what was it like the first time being shot at?” Stitt tells us a harrowing story of a sniper taking a shot at him and missing by a “matter of a couple of inches.” Unfortunately, not all of his fellow troops were so lucky. “If a tank got hit, usually someone got killed… That was the sad part.”
So, how dangerous was it to be a tanker during World War II? The 3rd Armored Division had more killed in action than the 101st Airborne. In that Division alone, over 22,000 men were killed and over 600 tanks were lost in the campaign to liberate Europe.
Stone Cold Steve Austin’s questions help Stitt take us on an amazing journey into one of the most far-reaching conflicts in history. To learn more, straight from the mouths of allied heroes, check out the interview.
To continue the Tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.
Nearly 74 years ago, in the skies over Hansa Bay on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas V. Kelly, Jr. was crewing a B-24 bomber named “Heaven Can Wait.” He and ten other crewmen were on a mission to destroy Japanese anti-aircraft batteries when, suddenly, his aircraft was struck, sending it crashing into the ocean below.
The wreckage and those on board were lost to the sea — until May 2018.
The crew of “Heaven Can Wait.” 2nd Lt. Thomas V. Kelly is pictured in the center, top row.
On that fateful day, March 11th, 1944, 2nd Lt. Kelly’s struggle ended — but for those he had left behind back home, it had just begun. Wracked with grief and left without closure, his family pieced together whatever information they could find — eyewitness accounts from military reports, mission documents, diary entries, etc. — to try and better understand. But without help, there would be no conclusion. That’s when Project Recover got involved.
Project Recover makes uses of the most sophisticated underwater imaging technology to find the once-unrecoverable.
Project Recover was established 2012 with the goal of locating the underwater resting places of the 72,000 Americans that have gone missing in action since World War II. Through a partnership between the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and the BentProp Project, the organization uses sophisticated, modern technologies to find those once deemed unrecoverable.
The northern end of Hansa Bay, Papua New Guinea.
Upon receiving the compiled evidence, Project Recover set out to Papau New Guinea in October 2017, with aims of searching for 5 sunken U.S. aircraft that accounted for 24 MIA. After carefully reviewing the documents and conducting an archaeological study, the team determined that “Heaven Can Wait” was resting somewhere in the north end of Hansa Bay.
It was there, after 11 days of searching across 27 square kilometers of sea floor, that they found her under 213 feet of water.
What remained of “Heaven Can Wait”
“This is an important step toward our ultimate goal of identifying and returning home the crew of “Heaven Can Wait” who bravely served our country,” said Dan Friedkin, a member of Project Recover and CEO of The Friedkin Group, whose substantial contribution to the Project made the trip to Papau New Guinea possible.
Since their discovery, a process has begun with the U.S. government to, hopefully, recover and identify the remains of the up to 11 crew members aboard “Heaven Can Wait.” In the last five months, there have been three repatriation ceremonies for veterans who served in World War II — all of which are a direct result of Project Recovery’s work — but much remains to be done.
Dan Friedkin stated, with determination, that the organization’s “search efforts for the more than 72,000 missing American service members from World War II will continue.”
For more about Project Recover, be sure to visit their website. For all the details on the amazing story surrounding the recovery of “Heaven Can Wait,” watch the video below.
The legal community is getting geared up for what might be the first trial involving criminal activity in space as a decorated Army officer and astronaut faces accusations of identity theft after she accessed a bank account belonging to her former spouse while on the International Space Station. If formal charges are filed, it would be the first prosecution of a space crime.
(Yeah, we were hoping that the first space crime would include theft of a rocket or mounting a laser on the Moon, too. But this is the world we live in.)
The World’s First Space Crime? IN SPACE! (Real Law Review)
First, a quick rundown of the facts: Lt. Col. Anne McClain acknowledges that she used the login credentials of her former spouse, fellow Army veteran Summer Worden, to access their shared finances from the ISS. Technically, that act could constitute identity theft, but McClain says her actions were a continuation of how the couple managed finances while married.
You may know McClain’s name from the planned all-female spacewalk in March 2019 that was canceled because there was only one spacesuit that would fit the two women scheduled for the spacewalk. Fellow astronaut Nick Hague took McClain’s place on the spacewalk, and Saturday Night Live did a fake interview with McClain the same week.
When it comes to the law that pertains to McClain in space, it does get a little murky. According to attorney Devin Stone, a practicing lawyer who runs the YouTube channel LegalEagle took a look at what laws could be brought to bear on McClain if it’s deemed that she committed a crime.
Article VI of that treaty says that governments are responsible for ensuring that all activities undertaken by their representatives or nationals conform to the rules of the treaty. The treaty also charges national bodies with creating the laws necessary for controlling their nationals’ conduct in space.
And Article VIII of the same treaty says that each state that is a party to the treaty will retain jurisdiction and control of any object that state launches into space as well as any personnel it sends into space.
And, as Stone points out in the video above, the ISS is controlled by another agreement signed in 1998 that further defines criminal jurisdiction aboard the ISS. Basically, Article 22 of that agreement states that any governments that are part of the ISS program retain criminal jurisdiction of their nationals while that national is aboard the ISS.
So, those articles together mean that McClain was subject to all applicable U.S. laws while in orbit. And presenting the digital credentials of another person in order to gain access to their financial information is identity theft.
If McClain did not remove any money and only presented one set of false identifying documents—if she just logged in with Worden’s username and password, but didn’t create a false signature or present other false credentials—then the maximum punishment for each false login would be five years imprisonment.
And even then, the law allows for judges to assign a lower sentence, especially if there are mitigating factors or if the defendant has no prior criminal history.
But there are still some potential hiccups in a potential prosecution of McClain. As Stone discusses in his video, a murder investigation in Antartica was derailed after competing investigations and jurisdictional claims prevented a proper inquiry into the crime. The rules governing space jurisdiction has a strong parallel in the treaties and laws governing conduct in Antartic research stations.
Hopefully, for McClain and the Army’s reputation, no charges are filed. But if charges are filed, someone gets to become the first space lawyer to argue a space crime in space court. (Okay, it would just be normal federal court, but still.)
US special operations forces who are believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued an airstrike on his compound to prevent the location from becoming a shrine, according to Newsweek.
Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, or Delta Force, conducted a raid against what they believed to be Baghdadi at the northern province of Idlib, Syria, on Oct. 26, 2019, unnamed US officials said in numerousnewsreports.
Baghdadi, who fetched a $25 million bounty in the US, is believed to have been killed in the raid. Military officials were still awaiting forensics verification, according to Newsweek, who first reported on the assault.
US troops faced incoming fire once they entered the site, a senior Defense Department official said to Newsweek, adding that the ISIS leader appeared to have killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Two of Baghdadi’s wives were reportedly killed by their own suicide vests.
Who Is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC
Prior to the raid against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, White House officials decided the US would bury him at sea in the event he was killed. Officials reportedly reasoned that it would prevent bin Laden’s gravesite from becoming a shrine. Then-CIA director John Brennan said the administration consulted with Islamic experts and that bin Laden was buried “in accordance with the Islamic requirements,” according to The New York Times.
Baghdadi’s last public sighting was from an April 29 propaganda video, the first visual sighting of him in five years. In September, an audio recording purportedly of Baghdadi issuing orders was released by the terrorist organization. Both of Baghdadi’s appearances followed ISIS’s loosening grip in Syria and Iraq amid the US-led coalition’s campaign to rid the region of the group.
Donald Trump FULL announcement ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed in military operation
In 2018, ISIS militants and Iraqi intelligence indicated that Baghdadi’s son, Hudhayfah al-Badri, was killed in Syria. ISIS’s social media channels claimed Badri was conducting a suicide bombing operation against Russian forces, while Iraqi reports suggested he and 10 others were killed in a Russian missile attack, Voice of America reported.
Baghdadi was previously rumored to have been killed or wounded by airstrikes on numerous occasions in recent years. He became ISIS’s leader in 2010 after two of his predecessors killed themselves before being captured by US and Iraqi forces.
President Donald Trump on Oct. 26, 2019, tweeted vaguely that a “very big” event had taken place, and a White House official said he would make an announcement on Oct. 27, 2019.
The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
USS Freedom (LCS-1), the lead of the Freedom-class of littoral combat ships, brought some much-needed positive attention to the LCS in 2010 when it carried out a deployment in Southern Command’s area of operations. In just seven weeks, it made four drug busts while accomplishing a host of other missions.
It’s no secret that the development and deployment of the Littoral Combat Ship has been rife with problems. This big success was exactly what the class needed to secure an export order. Well, to be more specific, a modified version of the Freedom has found an international buyer.
According to a showing at the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo, Lockheed Martin has been hard at work modifying and upgrading the Freedom-class LCS. Not only have they designed a guided-missile frigate based on this ship (which is to compete for selection via the Navy’s FFG(X) program), they also designed the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC), which is, essentially, a frigate designed to serve as a general-purpose vessel.
The RIM-162D Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is the primary anti-air armament of the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew J. Haran)
The MMSC maintains many of the same armaments as the Freedom-class LCS; it’s armed with a 57mm gun, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and the ability to operate two MH-60 helicopters. The MMSC, however, brings more punch to the table. For starters, it’s armed with eight over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles, either RGM-84 Harpoons or Kongsberg NSMs.
Also on the MMSC: an eight-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system. Each cell in this system holds up to four missiles, meaning the MMSC is armed with 32 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. This is a huge step up in air-defense capabilities. This plethora of missiles is joined by Mk 32 torpedo tubes for lightweight anti-sub weaponry, like the Mk 54 Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo or Mk 50 Barracuda.
USS Freedom (LCS 1) is the basis for Lockheed’s Multi-Mission Surface Combatant.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)
Currently, the MMSC has secured an export order with Saudi Arabia as part of a massive arms package that was worked out last year with the United States. Although this ship is impressive, it does drive us a little crazy that this is what the LCS could have been.
The US Navy deployed two carrier strike groups to the Mediterranean Sea to send an unmistakable message to Russia.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS John C. Stennis and their escort ships began dual carrier operations in the region April 23, 2019, the US Navy said in a statement. The combined force includes more than 130 aircraft, 10 ships and 9,000 sailors and Marines, a force that no other power has the ability to bring together.
USS John C. Stennis.
(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
In addition to the carrier, a strike group typically includes a guided-missile cruiser, two to three guided-missile destroyers, an attack submarine, and a supply ship.
The last time two carriers operated in the region simultaneously was in 2016, when the Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman carrier strike groups were deployed to the Mediterranean.
Current operations are being conducted alongside allies and partners in the region.
“In the era of great power competition, particularly in the maritime domain, one carrier strike group provides tremendous operational flexibility and agility,” Adm. James Foggo III, the head of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said.
“Two carrier strike groups operating simultaneously, while also integrating and advancing interoperability with our highly capable NATO allies and partners, provides an unprecedented deterrent against unilateral aggression, as well as combined lethality,” he added. “It also should leave no doubt to our nation’s shared commitment to security and stability in the region.”
Standing on the bridge of the USS Abraham Lincoln, he stressed that “we are not going to be deterred by any potential adversary and we are going to support our interests as Americans and also those of our allies as we steam throughout the world,” CNN reported.
USS Abraham Lincoln.
(US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
Russia has steadily expanded its military presence in the Mediterranean since 2015, when the Russian military joined forces with Damascus in Syria.
Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to Russia, said that the carriers, each of which represents “100,000 tons of international diplomacy,” are intended to send a message. “Diplomatic communication and dialogue coupled with the strong defense these ships provide demonstrate to Russia that if it truly seeks better relations with the United States, it must cease its destabilizing activities around the world.”
“When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy that is cruising in the Mediterranean — this is what I call diplomacy, this is forward operating diplomacy — nothing else needs to be said,” Huntsman added, according to CNN.
“You have all the confidence you need to sit down and try to find solutions to the problems that have divided us now for many, many years.”
Russian media accused the US military and the ambassador of unnecessary “saber-rattling” near Russia’s “doorstep.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Drone-controlled boats filled with explosives were reportedly used in at least one attempted attack on Saudi Arabia in early October 2018.
Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen, claimed that the A Royal Saudi Naval Forces frigate Al Madinah-class 702 intercepted two boats laden with explosives traveling toward the major port of Jazan, located directly north of the country’s border with Yemen.
He warned that coalition forces “will strike with iron fist all those involved in acts of terrorism.”
“Those hostile acts will not go by without holding the ones executing, plotting and planning them accountable for their actions.”
On Oct. 2, 2018, Saudi border guards said they rescued a Saudi fishing boat that came under fire from unknown attackers while in Gulf waters, according to Al Arabiya. Border guards said that three fishermen on board were being treated for injuries, and an investigation into the origin of attack was underway.
Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen.
Over the last year, regional forces reportedly intercepted several drone boat attacks.
Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.
“When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, “You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Before representing New Mexico’s first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.
Wilson said her responsibilities as SecAF were broader than those of any other executive position she held…she was obligated to the welfare of 685,000 total force airmen and their families, and the oversight of a 8 billion annual budget. Aware of the devastating toll sequestration and 27 years of combat had taken on the force, Wilson called on her wingmen – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright – to help devise and oversee plans to restore the readiness of the force, cost-effectively modernize, and revitalize Air Force squadrons. It would take an Air Force-wide effort to get after these challenges, and the senior leaders’ message to the airmen was clear.
“We trust you…we trust that you’ve been well-trained,” Wilson said. “We will try to give you a clear set of mission parameters and the skills and the abilities to get after the job. Don’t wait to be told what to do…see the problems around you and just get after them. Don’t wait for us.”
That’s one of the things Wilson said she’s appreciated most about the “intelligent, capable and committed” U.S. Air Force airmen – their unique way of handling business.
“I like the fact that airmen don’t always do exactly what they’re told in the way they were told to do it because they come up with better answers to complex, difficult problems,” she said.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to 2nd Maintenance Squadron airmen during a tour at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 14, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)
And for the issues that required Headquarters-level intervention, Wilson relied on her wingman for assistance.
“The law says the service secretary has all of the authority to run the service, but the chief of staff has most of the influence,” Wilson said. “There are very few decisions that I make without asking for his advice, and he freely gives that advice. If I know we have a difference in opinion I always want to understand why, and as a result I think we have a very close, professional working relationship, and that is transmitted to the force. We’ve been forging vicious partnerships between both the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the service, and it’s been very effective.”
After two years, the results of Wilson’s empowering leadership are palpable.
“There have been significant advances in the Air Force’s ability to win any fight, any time, including a more than 30% increase in readiness, she said. “We’ve also gone a long way in cost-effective modernization and taking the authorities we’ve been given to buy things faster and smarter. We’ve stripped 100 years out of Air Force procurement in the last year…we’re streamlining the schedules to get capability to the warfighter faster.”
With a shared focus on revitalizing squadrons, Wilson and Goldfein also returned power, time and support back to the squadron by removing redundant policies, revamping personnel evaluations, updating professional military training and extending high year of tenure.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington D.C., April 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)
On a larger scale, Wilson worked with the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to make the process of transferring duty stations easier for military families. Together, they wrote letters to governors across the United States to address two issues members said matter most – the quality of public schools near military installations and reciprocity of licensure.
“We told them, ‘We want you to know when we make basing decisions in the future we’re going to take these things into account,'” she said. “We had some leverage, and I’ve been really pleased at the number of states that have passed laws related to reciprocity of licensure.
“I hope the changes that we’ve made to assignment policies at Talent Marketplace has helped to make a difference, to give families more control and choice over their lives, and recognize that they’re balancing family life with service life,” she continued. “And I hope that ultimately that’ll mean we keep more highly capable airmen in the service for longer.”
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with airmen during a farewell interview at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, May 8, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)
Though her tenure as SecAF is at its end, the impact of her laser-focused efforts may reverberate throughout the service for years to come.
“I came here to try to make things better,” Wilson said. “Life’s short, time’s short, so you got to make a difference today. I hope people have a better quality of life and quality of service because we were here. And I hope that the Air Force is better because I served.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Military service isn’t for everyone. Many potential recruits are passionate about enlisting but can’t due to some limitation while others who would make perfect applicants have no interest. The Pentagon doesn’t sweat the loss of young adults who aren’t eligible or have no interest, however, because of the many able troops willing to raise their right hand and pick up the slack.
But, in more recent years, the number of eligible enlistees has been getting smaller and smaller.
According to recently released data from the Pentagon, only 10 million of the 34 million young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible to serve in the military. This is the continuation of a trend observed in 2014. To properly sustain the ranks, recruiters need to find the U.S. Army 80,000 new troops, the Marine Corps needs 38,000, the Air Force needs 33,000, and the Navy needs 31,000 annually. This brings the total to 182,000 troops per year. To make those numbers, 1.82% of the total 18-24-year-old American population that can enlist must do so.
The military relies on a constant flow of new recruits to fill in the gaps left by troops who left the service that year. That number grows and shrinks with each passing year, but if a manpower shortage becomes too great, it could spark a national security emergency.
But that’s a long ways off.
There are many reasons for disqualifying potential recruits. In recent years, the biggest disqualifier has been obesity. Basic training isn’t designed to get unhealthy people into fighting shape — it’s about getting reasonably fit people combat-ready. It’s not uncommon for potential recruits to get fit before they even step in a recruiter’s office.
The recruits who spend work months slimming down often take their service much more seriously. The same goes for other disqualifying factors, like education (which can be fixed with studying for the ASVAB or earning a GED) and financial concerns (which can be overcome through aid and personal perseverance).
If they’ve worked to earn their spot on the team, they won’t take it for granted.
BorgWarner said in a statement sent to RFE/RL on Jan. 1, 2019, that Paul Whelan was the company’s global security director. It added that he is responsible for overseeing the company’s facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan, “and at other company locations around the world.”
A spokeswoman for BorgWarner told RFE/RL that the company “does not have any facilities in Russia.”
Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rostec said in 2013 that its truckmaker, KamAz, had a long record of collaboration with a subsidiary of BorgWarner known as BorgWarnerTurboSystems.
David Whelan told AP in a Jan. 1, 2019 interview that his brother had been to Russia “several times” before and was helping a former U.S. Marine friend of his plan a wedding with a Russian woman.
On the morning of the day he was detained, Paul Whelan had given a tour of the Kremlin museums to a group of wedding guests, his brother said. He failed to show up for the wedding on the evening of Dec. 28, 2018.
David Whelan said his absence led the family to fear he had been in a car accident or perhaps mugged, and were searching the Internet for news about “dead Americans in Moscow.”
The U.S. State Department has said it knows about “the detention of a U.S. citizen by Russian authorities” and had been formally notified by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The State Department said on Dec. 31, 2018, that it had requested consular access to Paul Whelan and expected “Russian authorities to provide it.”
David Whelan said in the AP interview that his family was told by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that it has been unable to speak with Paul Whelan.
David Whelan said his brother had previously worked for Kelly Services, an international office-staffing company that does have offices in Moscow, and had been to Russia on business and to visit friends he had met on social-media networks.
Paul Whelan reportedly had a page on the Russian social-media site VKontakte on which he writes messages in basic Russian.
David Whelan said his brother was stationed in Iraq several times with the U.S. Marines and has been living in Novi, Michigan.
The announcement of Whelan’s detainment came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow remains open to dialogue with Washington in a New Year’s greeting to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Relations between the United States and Russia remain strained over a raft of issues including Russia’s role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged meddling in elections in the United States and elsewhere, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent in Britain.
At the end of November 2018, Trump abruptly canceled a planned meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Argentina, citing tensions after Russian forces opened fire on Ukrainian Navy boats before seizing them and capturing 24 Ukrainian sailors.
The detention of Whelan comes weeks after Russian Maria Butina pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.
The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.
In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.
In his annual year-end news conference on Dec. 20, 2018, Putin said Russia would “not arrest innocent people simply to exchange them for someone else later on.”
Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki earned the nation’s fourth-highest military honor during a ceremony at the Arizona base.
Both men were awarded for carrying out lifesaving rescues during raids against the Taliban.
While assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Fagan was attached to a combined force of US and Afghan Special Forces for a raid in Helmand Province on March 24, 2019. As the team approached a Taliban compound in Sangin, they were attacked by small-arms fire from a fortified position as well as an improvised explosive device, according to Air Force Magazine.
Fagan was recognized for his actions under fire in helping to save an Afghan commando who was wounded.
“The heavy small-arms fire, coupled with rocket-propelled grenade blasts and multiple [IED] detonations pinned down the Afghan Special Forces team and hindered access to the critically wounded casualty,” Air Force Magazine reported. “Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Fagan took immediate control of the dire situation and engaged the fortified enemy position, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy fire.”
Two Bronze Stars with valor sit on a table at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, on Oct. 1, 2020. US Air Force Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki, 48th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen, were presented Bronze Stars with valor for their actions in Afghanistan. Photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens.
Fagan engaged enemy forces to allow the rest of his team to reach the Afghan commando, who Fagan then treated before calling for a medical evacuation and moving the commando to the helicopter landing zone under small-arms fire and grenade attacks. He also provided cover for the helicopters to land.
“The culmination of Sgt. Fagan’s exceptionally brave actions and speed of patient delivery led to the destruction of an enemy weapons cache, the elimination of five enemy insurgents, and ultimately saved the life of a coalition partner,” the award citation states.
At the ceremony, Fagan attributed his success to his extensive training in calling in and executing medical evacuations.
“I knew what I was physically able to do, I knew I could treat that guy under fire in the dark,” he said at the ceremony.
Brudnicki was also assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar when he was attached as a medic to a combined force of US and Afghan Special Forces on May 3, 2019, for a counterinsurgency mission in Helmand.
In a village known to be a Taliban stronghold, the commandos breached a compound and were engaged by enemy fighters.
“[Brudnicki] and his team utilized the Taliban’s own kill holes against them with decisive small-arms fire,” according to Air Force Magazine. “At distances of less than 5 feet, he engaged relentlessly with personal weapons and hand grenades, despite their cover being damaged with a rocket that failed to detonate.”
Pararescuemen and Marine force reconnaissance members board a CV-22 Osprey at a training drop zone in Djibouti to conduct free-fall jump operations as part of joint training. Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook.
When a civilian was wounded in the fight, Brudnicki braved “effective enemy fire from an adjacent compound” while running through an open courtyard to rescue and stabilize the individual.
When an Afghan commando was severely wounded and pinned down, Brudnicki “rushed to join the fight and engaged the enemy’s fortified position by again crossing the open courtyard and exposing himself to grave danger,” according to the award citation. “He successfully suppressed the enemy, allowing partner force commandos to remove the casualty from the courtyard.”
Brudnicki then set up a collection point for wounded troops and created a plan to transport blood and evacuate people.
“His actions resulted in seven enemies killed in action, including a Taliban commander, and saved the lives of two coalition partners,” the citation states.
“My team leader quickly led the assault as we eliminated the enemy with small arms fire and hand grenades at room distance,” Brudnicki said in an Air Force release. “I treated multiple casualties with advanced medical interventions and helped coordinate exfiltration while my team continued to eliminate the threat.”
Pararescuemen work under the motto “that others may live.”
“It is an honor to be recognized, however, the experience and brotherhood created with my team overseas is the most valuable piece for me,” Brudnicki said. “The Air Force best utilizes its special warfare assets when putting them to work in the joint environment, and I am proud to be a part of that.”
The beat of the Native American drums reverberated through the halls of the clinic as Crow Nation drummers proudly sang a war song. The ceremony began with a Crow Nation prayer and the presentation of colors.
Hundreds were on hand to witness the long-awaited renaming ceremony of the Billings clinics for World War II Veterans Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last member of the Crow Tribe to become a war chief, and Benjamin Steele.
The Community Based Outpatient Clinic was renamed in honor of Medicine Crow and the Community Based Specialty Clinic was renamed in honor of Steele at the ceremony in February.
Shirley Steele beamed with pride while talking about her late husband. He was born and raised in Roundup, Mont., and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. He was a Bataan Death March survivor and prisoner of war for more than three years. He died in September 2016 at the age of 98.
Tiara Medicine Crow, granddaughter of Joseph Medicine Crow, a Bronze Star holder, talked about her love of her grandfather and all that he meant to the Crow Nation.
A.J. Not Afraid, grandson-in-law of Joseph Medicine Crow and chairman of the Crow Nation, spoke to his history and accomplishments.
A.J. Not Afraid and a child performer attended the ceremony in traditional Crow Nation dress.
Joseph Medicine Crow was born on the Crow Indian Reservation in eastern Montana. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1939. Medicine Crow was the first member of his tribe to attain that level of education. Medicine Crow joined the U.S. Army in 1943. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service. He died in April of 2016 at the age of 102.
The photo at the top of this story is of Not Afraid and Shirley Steele.
There’s an old saying that the best things in life are worth waiting for. For Mohammad Wali Tasleem, born into the chaos of war, all he ever wanted was a safe place to call home.
Growing up in Afghanistan, finding peace and serenity wasn’t easy. Tasleem’s earliest memories involve death and tragedy, stories seemingly unfathomable to most of us, but all too common and relatable to Tasleem and his family and friends.
At an early age, he saw his relatives fight against the Soviet invasion of his homeland. He vividly remembers being on the run and exiled to Pakistan during his childhood, as if it were only yesterday. No matter where Tasleem and his family turned, they couldn’t evade the perils of war. He knew there was a hard choice he had to make, but it was one he was willing to commit his entire life to.
At the age of 17, Tasleem took up the call to arms and enlisted in the Afghan Army — embarking on the fight against tyranny and terror, just as his ancestors had done. Fighting for his loved ones, fighting for his country, and fighting for a place to call home became his calling. In over a decade’s worth of service, based on his skill, diligence, and honor, Tasleem ascended to the ranks of major and company commander. Moreover, he became one of the most trusted and reliable leaders for joint Afghan-US efforts combating the Taliban in the region.
It was during those high-profile endeavors that he crossed paths with Black Rifle Coffee Company CEO Evan Hafer and Jeff Kirkham. Little did Tasleem know that their bond of brotherhood forged in the midst of war would provide him with a life-changing opportunity down the road — but only after he had arrived in the United States in search of his own version of the American dream.
“We were together for a long time in Afghanistan,” Tasleem recently told Coffee or Die Magazine. “They are my brothers. They always had my back. They still do. That’s why me and my family are here in Utah. But things weren’t always as great as they are now.”
Unbeknownst to Hafer and Kirkham, Tasleem, his wife, and their five children arrived in the United States in February 2015. Two years after applying for a special immigration visa, they eventually settled in Charlottesville, Virginia. At long last, Tasleem and his family didn’t have to worry about being targeted by the Taliban or becoming casualties of war. But arriving in a new country completely foreign to them presented a handful of unique challenges that were hard to overcome.
“I came from a very well-to-do family in Afghanistan. We helped out a lot of people. We had a nice car and house, but when I came here we lost that,” Tasleem said. “We came here to live a safe life but didn’t have the comforts of back home. We were starting over. It was hard.”
Tasleem recalled the numerous struggles they endured upon arriving in the United States. First and foremost, a stable job was hard to come by. After working for several months as a security guard, Tasleem began working full-time at a gas station. While he was thankful for the opportunity, it wasn’t the type of job that could support his family.
On top of that, the neighborhood they lived in was rough. Their public housing sector had a high frequency of crime; drive-by shootings were a regular occurrence. After fleeing Afghanistan, the Tasleem family now had to endure worries about their safety in their newfound home in the United States. A little over a year into their journey in America, Tasleem and his wife were beginning to have second thoughts and were considering moving back overseas.
“We were having such a hard time. My wife and I knew we couldn’t go back to Afghanistan, but I had reached out to my youngest brother in India and told him about our life here,” Tasleem said. “We had made plans to move there, but things changed when I reconnected with Jeff and Evan.”
Tasleem recalled reaching out one evening to Kirkham, whom he had serendipitously connected with on social media. When Kirkham learned about Tasleem’s situation, he promptly reached out to Hafer in order to do whatever it took to help their friend. In no time, Tasleem was headed to Utah to meet up with his friends at Black Rifle Coffee Company headquarters — men whom he hadn’t seen in a very long time.
The rest, as they say, is history. Just when Tasleem was about ready to give up on his pursuit of the American dream, his long-lost friends at BRCC inspired him to do otherwise. They offered him a job and a means to move his family from Virginia to Utah.
“I called my wife and turned on the camera,” he said. “I showed her pictures of the mountains and joked with her, ‘Look, I’m in Afghanistan.’ But that’s when I told her, ‘We don’t have to move back home or to India, I found my brothers and have a job here in Utah. We are going to be so happy.’”
Over the past three years, life couldn’t have been better for Tasleem and his family. He started out in the company’s print shop, and his hard work and leadership skills earned him a big promotion after just a year with the company. Today, he is tasked with the responsibility of being the facility manager at the BRCC roasting plant in Salt Lake City.
“Maintenance and general contracting, renovation, remodeling, things like that. Inside and outside the building, I’ll take care of everything,” he said.
But that’s not all Tasleem has strived to accomplish. He, alongside his brothers at BRCC, has helped move six other Afghans who served with him overseas to the United States — a testament to the company’s mission of giving back to those who have served and put their lives on the line for a greater purpose.
“There are six other Afghans here that BRCC has helped like me. There are seven of us now,” Tasleem said. “Their stories are similar to mine. They were soldiers and interpreters who served with us over in Afghanistan. I am happy they are here with us. They are as important here and as respected as they were back there. It’s an amazing feeling to have them here.”
While Tasleem’s commitments at BRCC keeps him busy, he and his growing family (now with seven children, six boys and a girl) have taken advantage of the beauty and majesty of mountainous Utah, which reminds them a lot of Kabul and their home in Afghanistan. In his free time Tasleem enjoys taking his family hiking and exploring the outdoors, as well as getting together often for picnics.
Tasleem also serves as president of the local Afghan community, which has several hundred families in the greater Salt Lake City area, and has played an integral role in helping them assimilate to life in America.
After years of fighting against and enduring never-ending terror, the Tasleem family is finally living a peaceful life — which is all they ever wanted.
“My three years in Utah with Black Rifle Coffee Company have given so much positive change to my life” he said. “I’m so thankful for Evan, Jeff, Mat [Best] and everybody else here. It’s not just a great company. It’s a brotherhood, it’s a family. I couldn’t be happier, and I’m excited about what we can accomplish together in 2021.”