The war in Afghanistan began in October of 2001 following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Since then, approximately 2,300 American service men and women have fallen in the line of duty while protecting their great country.
The memories of those who died have existed mostly in the hearts of their friends and family — until now.
Navy veteran and two-time USA memory champion Ron White decided to put his unique talents to good use and pay a special tribute to those who died while serving in Afghanistan.
After returning home from Afghanistan in 2007, White began to form the idea of creating a unique tribute as his way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“The general public has no idea the scope of the sacrifice that so many families and heroes made,” White patriotically states.
On Feb. 28, 2013, White began handwriting every single troop’s name he had memorized (including rank, first and last name) in chronological order of their untimely deaths using a white marker — accumulating over 7,000 words.
“Every few hours, somebody will walk by that wall and remind me, this is just not 7,000 words,” White admits. “This is their son or daughter.”
The Texas native’s primary reason for him paying this special tribute is to honor the memories of fallen which he states has made him a better person by learning about all the various stories behind the names — the selfless acts of heroism.
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Thursday on whether to confirm Gen. James Mattis as the next defense secretary, and plenty of interesting bits came out of the roughly three-hour session.
The retired four-star general gave frank and concise answers on everything from cybersecurity policy to what he expects will be the biggest threats to the United States.
Shortly afterward, he was approved for a waiver for the requirement of having a seven-year gap between being active-duty in the military and serving in the civilian role at the Pentagon.
When asked whether the US can confront the terror group in its capital of Raqqa, Mattis said he believed the US could, but he added that the anti-ISIS strategy needed to be reviewed and “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”
He told members that “we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so there is no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there.” For the US, according to Mattis, that means attacking ISIS’ main areas of strength so they cannot pop up elsewhere.
He mentioned Russia as the biggest threat
Despite President-elect Trump’s restraint on calling out Russian aggression and cyberwarfare, Mattis didn’t pull punches in his assessment of Moscow.
“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.” He praised NATO and its effectiveness, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to break” that alliance.
In some areas Russia and the US can work together, but in many others, Mattis said, Putin remained a strategic competitor or an outright adversary.
“I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin,” he said.
Mattis says he wouldn’t roll back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or the change on women in combat roles
In the past, Mattis has not really been a fan of women being integrated into combat roles, such as infantry. He was asked about this repeatedly — at times having his speeches quoted to him — and asked whether he would reverse the 2013 policy change.
“I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda of changing anything,” he said. “I assume the people before me deserve respect for the decisions they’ve made.”
That answer did not satisfy Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), however, and she continued to press him. In the end, Mattis told her: “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000 person division … I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”
He was also asked about protections for LGBTQ service members, and he had a very blunt answer to that. “Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”
He says the Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it should remain intact
Mattis called the Iran deal an “imperfect” one, but still supported the US keeping its end of the bargain. The answer was a break from the President-elect, who has promised to “rip up” the deal with Tehran.
“I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”
Later, he said, “It’s not a deal I would have signed.”
Mattis says cyberwar is a big problem that still has no clear doctrine in place
Mattis was asked interesting questions on cyberwarfare, which were especially pertinent in the wake of Russian hacks of Democratic party officials and their affect on the presidential election. Unfortunately, he said he did not believe the US has anything resembling a sophisticated cyber doctrine.
In other words, there is no strategy in place for the US to respond to cyber attacks, like there is for other physical examples, such as a nuclear strike or an attack on a NATO ally.
Mattis said there needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to address this shortfall, because “cyber cuts across everything we do today.”
He added: “Because of the cyber domain, it’s not something the military can do in isolation.”
When you’re the closest neighbor to a country like North Korea, you tend not to put up with a lot of provocative behavior from unfriendly countries. It should be no surprise that there’s a huge difference between how the United States and South Korea respond to violations of their airspace. The U.S. will send the most advanced fighters to intercept the perpetrator and escort them back to international airspace.
South Korea comes in guns blazing.
In late July 2019, Russian military aircraft, two Tu-95 bombers and one A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, flew into South Korea’s air defense identification zone off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. But the Russians didn’t stop there. The A-50 flew closer to South Korea, entering its airspace. In response, the South launched interceptor planes who scrambled into the area firing flares and live ammo at the intruder.
The Russian got the message and quickly evacuated the area – and maybe his pants. But he didn’t stay gone for very long. Just a few minutes later the Russian returned to South Korean airspace.
The Russian Tu-95 “Bear” Bomber
Scrambled South Korean fighters again rolled out the red carpet for the visiting Russian A-50, this time with twice as many flares and many, many more rounds fired in the Russian’s direction. The Russians, of course, deny all of this.
“If the Russian pilots had identified such a threat to themselves, they would have immediately given an appropriate response,” Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash told Russian state news media.
Although it’s unclear what the “appropriate response” from the Russian fighters might be, the Russians did say their aircraft were flying over international waters and not violating any treaty obligations. Kobylash said the South Korean air defenses scrambled and merely escorted the Russians, but they did it over neutral airspace. He described the South Korean Air Force’s actions as “aerial hooliganism.”
Russia’s A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft.
No matter what the South Koreans did or did not do in the face of the Russian aircraft, South Korea lives in what has become a rough neighborhood in recent years, with provocations from North Korea increasing in number and in the severity of potential threats, along with a more aggressive China and Russian air and naval forces, South Korea takes its defense very seriously.
South Korea’s presidential national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told Russia as much, saying another incident will warrant a much stronger response from the Republic. This was the first foreign military violation of its airspace since the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Promotions are hard-fought and well-earned by the right troops. After proving themselves to their chain of command, an ambitious troop is rewarded by being placed into a higher rank that’s worthy of their effort. In general, there’s a timeline for promotions. When you’re among the junior enlisted ranks, you can expect to your hard work to be recognized (roughly) every six months and, at your third or fourth year, you’ll be considered for the move up to NCO.
Then, there are troops that get a leg up on their peers by getting that promotion early. With the utmost respect to the troops that have dutifully earned their promotion, I think it’s fair to say we all know some troops that get handed a leadership position for all the wrong reasons.
Just because someone can do their job well and scores high on their PT test doesn’t automatically mean they’ve got what it takes to lead troops into battle.
Any hindrance on the unit may prevent it from fulfilling its sole purpose: fighting and winning America’s wars.
(U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Christine Jones)
While most soldiers, including myself, can attest to the lackluster leadership abilities of some fast-tracked leaders, the RAND Corporation is finally backing it up with evidence in a recently released report titled, The Value of Experience in the Enlisted Force.
The report explores the relationship between a leader’s experience and junior soldiers’ attrition rate. The three key traits of an effective leader, as found through interviews, were:
leaders who care about their soldiers,
leaders who effectively train their soldiers,
leaders who are knowledgeable.
Soldiers under leaders who mastered all three of these were far more likely to reenlist in the Army. Soldiers who served under leaders who failed in two or more these categories were far more likely to leave after just one term. This is precisely where a lack of experience in leadership positions hamstrings the unit.
Being a leader is more then even book knowledge – it’s finding the balance in all traits of being a leader.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale)
There are two key types of experience that leaders need in spades: Interpersonal experience, which is knowing your soldiers and how they react to things, and technical experience, which can be learned in school and by simply leading. Both of these can only be achieved with time.
Soldiers who are tossed under leadership lacking in this invaluable experience are set up for failure. They’ll be unprepared to handle all the minor things that no one tells you about leading troops, like the insane amount of paperwork required or a complete lack of a personal life.
Most of these problems of inexperience are solved by gradually transitioning a troop into a leadership role. It’s best to start someone with command over one or two soldiers rather than immediately putting them in charge of the entire platoon.
Just be honest with yourself and your superiors. Everyone is affected by a single leader in the unit.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Alex Kilmon)
Now, this isn’t to say that fast-tracking promotions is inherently wrong. It’s more to say that the qualities many units use to identify troops for quick promotion are flawed. These should include leadership skills — not just outstanding PT scores or test results.
As for sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class, they should only bite off what they can chew. If it takes a trip to the NCO academy before they’re 100-percent confident in leading, then they should go. No one is being helped by shoehorning an unprepared NCO into a leadership position just to maintain the status quo.
U.S. Army Pfc. Michael J. Perkins silenced seven enemy machine guns and captured 25 German troops when he rushed a pillbox with just a small bomb and a trench knife in 1918.
Company D of the 101st Infantry was assaulting German lines in Belieu Bois, France when they came under fire from a pillbox. Fire from seven automatic weapons rained down on them. The American infantrymen maneuvered on the Germans to try and silence the guns.
Unfortunately, the enemy had expected the American move and began tossing grenades out the door to the fortification, preventing anyone getting too close.
Perkins waited by the door until the Germans attempted to throw out another grenade. As soon as the door cracked, he threw his bomb inside. The explosion opened the door permanently, and Perkins rushed inside with his knife.
The enemy inside were likely dazed by the bomb, but Perkins was still heavily outnumbered. He used the trench knife to kill and wound the first few Germans before accepting the surrender of the 25 survivors.
After another week of keeping the barracks secure from enemy attack, Pokemon, and —most importantly—the staff duty NCO, you deserve some funny military memes. Here are 13 of the best that we could find:
1. Wait, you can get out of PT just because you’re already dead?
We’ve heard this one before, but a senior U.S. military official said Sept. 13 that a swarm of coalition jets bombed a facility near Mosul, Iraq, he claimed was making chemical weapons for the Islamic State terrorist group.
The general in charge of Central Command’s air forces said the recent strike on a former pharmaceutical plant involved a dozen aircraft — from A-10 Thunderbolt IIs to B-52 Stratofortresses — on 50 different targets.
“Intelligence had indicated that Daesh converted a pharmaceutical plant complex into a chemical weapons productions capability,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian during a press briefing Sept. 13. “This represents just another example of [ISIS] blatant disregard for international law and norms.”
The air chief admitted there’s a long history of false reporting on chemical weapons production in the Middle East, particularly with Iraq, but said intelligence pointed to specific weapons being manufactured there.
“The target set, as we better understood it, was basically a pharmaceutical element that they were, we believe, using them for most probably chlorine or mustard gas,” Harrigian said. “We don’t know for sure at this point.”
The strike included F-15E Strike Eagles; A-10s; B-52s; Marine F/A-18D Hornets and F-16 Falcons.
“With respect to the number of airplanes we used, so as we looked at the number of points of interest … specifically, we had a pretty significant number of them,” Harrigian said. “And so to allocate the right types of weapons from the — the necessary number of platforms, we needed that many jets to be able to take out the breadth from that facility that was out there on the ground.”
“The strike near Al Bab, Syria, removes from the battlefield ISIL’s chief propagandist, recruiter and architect of external terrorist operations,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. “It is one in a series of successful strikes against ISIL leaders, including those responsible for finances and military planning, that make it harder for the group to operate.”
After years of being featured at trade shows and trotted out for high-ranking Marine Corps officials, the Marines’ barrel-chested Legged Squad Support System — known affectionately as the robotic mule — has been put out to pasture.
The machine, which resembles a headless pack mule made of metal, came about through a $32 million, two-and-a-half year contract between the Pentagon’s research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google Inc.’s Boston Dynamics, of Waltham, Massachusetts.
DARPA teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to create an autonomous four-legged creature that could lighten troops’ load by carrying 400 or more pounds of weight, according to reports about the 2010 contract.
A second contract worth almost $10 million was awarded in 2013 for an additional phase of the LS3 program that would demonstrate how the legged robot would work by following troops on foot through rugged terrain, carrying their gear, and interpreting verbal and visual commands. The contract also provided for the construction of an enhanced version of LS3 that featured a quieter power supply and better survivability against small arms fire.
In 2012, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos attended a demonstration of the prototype’s capabilities at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. At the time, Amos expressed pride in the developing technology and said it was getting close to something the Marines might use, according to reports.
The robo-mule had its big moment in summer 2014 at Rim of the Pacific, the largest military exercise in the Pacific region. It was featured in high-profile field tests with Marines who put it through its paces on patrols and demonstrated its ability to respond to commands and cross rugged ground.
But the experiment also exhibited the shortcomings of the prototype, Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.
“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Olson said. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”
In addition to the lawnmower-like noise of the mule’s gas-powered engine, there were other challenges without clear solutions, including how to repair the hulking robot if it breaks and how to integrate it into a traditional Marine patrol.
With the final funds remaining in the second Boston Dynamics contract, the DARPA-Warfighting Lab team built “Spot,” a robotic quadruped the size of a large dog that functioned on quieter electric power. Last September, Marines put the smaller robot to the test in the woods of Quantico, Virginia.
But while Spot eliminated the noise problem, its slighter frame could only carry loads of 40 pounds or so and didn’t display the advanced autonomous technology that LS3 had.
“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” said Capt. James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.”
For now, both Spot and LS3 are in storage, with no future experiments or upgrades planned. Pineiro said it would take a new contract and some new interest from Marine Corps top brass to resurrect the program.
While it may seem as though years of work with the robot quadrupeds has wrapped up without a tangible result, Warfighting Lab officials said the Marine Corps did gain important insights about autonomous technology and its potential.
“We tend to play with things that are fanciful and strange,” Olson said. “Learning from it was a big part, and we’re still learning.”
Meanwhile, the lab has ongoing experiments featuring drones and other unmanned vehicles and are exploring uses for them including medical resupply and reconnaissance.
VA Office of Connected Care to share solutions to enable veterans to receive the care they need
SAN ANTONIO – USAA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will host a free, Facebook Live event at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Feb. 23 to discuss how VA telehealth technologies and initiatives are helping bring care to Veterans lacking necessary resources to connect with medical professionals. The use of telehealth services has risen significantly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but for many Veterans in rural areas, or with limited broadband connectivity, accessing these services can be challenging.
“Veterans should have access to high quality VA health care regardless of where they choose to live,” said Dr. Leonie Heyworth, VA’s National Synchronous Lead for Telehealth Services, and a participant in the virtual event. “We look forward to highlighting initiatives that have been created to increase access to care for Veterans everywhere.”
The use of VA telehealth has increased by 1,180% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Jan. 6, the VA provided more than 20,000 Digital Divide Consults enabling more than 12,000 Veterans to receive internet access or a video-enabled device for their care needs.
“Bridging the Digital Divide” will be hosted on USAA’s Facebook page for Veterans, their families and caretakers, and feature leaders from VA’s Office of Connected Care and Office of Rural Health. The discussion will highlight VA technologies that enable Veterans to receive care when they need it and regardless of where they live. The discussion also will cover what the VA is doing to address broadband connectivity issues and provide specific instructions on where Veterans and their families can go for assistance.
“USAA and the VA have worked together for years and believe it’s very important to make Veterans and their families aware of available resources and technology to receive the care they need in these challenging times,” said Mike Kelly, assistant vice president of Military Affairs at USAA and moderator for the virtual event.
VA’s partnership with USAA does not imply endorsement of USAA or its products.
Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to nearly 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, military surplus gear is like a box of chocolates — you never know what’s inside until you open it up and look.
For one lucky buyer, Nick Mead, who owns a tank-driving experience business in the United Kingdom, a $38,000 purchase of a Chinese-built Type 69 main battle tank off of eBay was a bargain, since he scored $2,592,010 of gold that had been hidden in the vehicle’s diesel tank! That represents a net profit of over $2.55 million.
According to militaryfactory.com, a battle-ready Type 69 main battle tank is armed with a 100mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, and can be equipped with a 12.7mm machine gun. The tank has a crew of four. Over 4,700 of these tanks were produced by China.
But this tank, while produced by China, was exported to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam bought as many as 2,500 Type 59 and Type 69 tanks. While many were destroyed during Operation Desert Storm, this one survived the BRRRRRT!
The tank is believed to have also taken part in the original invasion of Kuwait. During the occupation of that country, Iraqi forces looted just about everything that wasn’t blasted apart. That included gold and other valuables.
Mead discovered the gold when checking out the tank after he’d been told by the tank’s previous owner that he’s discovered some machine-gun ammo on board. Mead then discovered the gold hidden in the fuel tank.
Currently the five bars of gold, each weighing about 12 pounds, are in police custody as they try to trace the original owners.
There’s something about football that just lends itself to the melodramatic emotions of our youth. It’s the closest socially acceptable approximation to gladiatorial combat young men in our modern civilized world can pursue, and as such, it tends to hold an honored place in our hearts. The gridiron is where we proved our mettle; Where we found that toughness within us we always hoped was there.
And then, just like that, it’s gone. For most of us, football ends right around when real life begins, and you’re left with no choice but to trade in your pads and passion for a steady job and a pile of bills. Although I once had college football aspirations, an injury cost me that opportunity, and I found myself working as a race mechanic alongside a dozen other “coulda beens”–if only we’d made that one last tackle, dodged that one block, or chased the dream while our knees were still strong enough to hack it.
I joined the Marine Corps at 21 years old and with no intention of finding my way back onto the field. I had found my way to rugby after my college football “career” ended, but as I checked in to my first duty station at 29 Palms, California, neither was on my mind. That is, until I noticed the battalion team practicing just a few blocks away from my barracks room.
The next season, I earned myself a starting spot on the battalion team, which led to a spot on the base team, and eventually, to the first of two Marine Corps championships. Those successes, however, were hard earned… as playing ball for the Corps wasn’t quite like it had been back home in the hills of Vermont.
Playing pulling guard meant I at least got a running start before I tried to smash these dudes.
You’re playing against Marines, some of whom are battle-hardened veterans.
As Al Pacino once so eloquently put it, football is a game of inches. For all the strategy, practice, and technique involved, football is one of the few places left that sheer toughness remains a high-value commodity. Sometimes, when everything else is even, it’s the guy that’s willing to hurt that’ll get the job done. Sometimes you have to choose between the game and your safety. Knowing that reaching for that ball thrown across the flats against a zone defense will almost certainly mean taking a helmet to the sternum and choosing to do it anyway isn’t something you’re taught. It’s just who you are.
In most leagues, you’ll be lucky to find a few players willing to throw their bodies into the grinder for a “W.” In the Marine Corps, we already live in the grinder. Infantry units field teams between combat deployments, Marines attend football practices between training rotations in martial arts and on the rifle range. Mental and physical toughness is a prerequisite to success in the Corps, and as such, the playing field is ripe with men willing to hurt in order to achieve their goals.
The things we do to have a Sergeant Major hand us a wooden football.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott Schmidt)
Service members thrive on competition (and that can really suck).
Playing football in the Marine Corps comes with a level of competitive social pressure that can really only be compared to some high-level college teams. When you’re on a squad with a shot at some trophies, you’re representing more than the team itself, you’re representing your unit. The commanding general may not give a sh*t about your last inspection, but he does about the score of this week’s game. A slew of wins can make you feel like a celebrity, but a bad loss can make you ashamed to show your face at work… or in front of your commanding officer.
Marines, perhaps more than other services, are in a perpetual state of competition. Like Ricky Bobby, if we aren’t first, we’re last… and nobody’s going to let you forget it.
We’re all here with a job to do.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Albert F. Hunt)
The Corps always comes first.
If you play football for a successful college program, you’re expected to keep up with your grades, but otherwise, the sport is your job. Marine Corps football can be a lot like that–with the obligations of the sport occasionally taking precedence over other duties (like when you go TAD/TDY for away games), but at the end of the day, the Marine Corps is a warfighting institution.
Infantry units, for instance, often had their seasons cut short by field requirements or combat deployments. Players on your team would be pulled from the roster to augment a deploying unit. Last season’s star quarterback may miss this season because he has to travel for training or worse, because he’s been injured or killed since we last took the field. Football is a way of life for most that love the sport, but nothing supersedes the Corps. We’re Marines first, football players second, and if we’re lucky, we eventually get to be old men writing stories about our days with an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on our helmets.