Hildisvíni sings the song of its people.
107th Fighter Squadron A-10’s fly close air support training missions at the Grayling Air Gunnery Range in northern Michigan.
(Video by Tech Sergeant Rachel Barton, 12 APR 2014.)
Hildisvíni sings the song of its people.
107th Fighter Squadron A-10’s fly close air support training missions at the Grayling Air Gunnery Range in northern Michigan.
(Video by Tech Sergeant Rachel Barton, 12 APR 2014.)
We rock the body, rock the body…
U.S. Marines, with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, practice clearing rooms with multiple entrances at Range 8C’s “Shoot House” during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. RIMPAC trains and improves leadership at all levels, including individual proficiency, and sharpens command and control skills while challenging participants to adapt to changing conditions as part of a joint or combined force.
(Photo by Lance Corporal Wesley Timm, 22 JUL 2014. Title lyrics from "Bodyrock" by Moby.)
Life and Death in the Korengal.
Baker Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, August 2009.
(Photos and article by Sergeant Matthew Moeller, 22 AUG 2009.)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — As bullets started to rain down on Baker Company’s position, a Soldier sighed, and said, annoyingly, “Well here we go.”
Over the next twenty minutes the service members fired everything from bullets to curse words at the invisible enemy attacking from the surrounding hills.
"Just once I’d like to come out here and not get shot at," said an exasperated U.S. Army Sgt. Graham Mullins, of Columbia, Mo., using a four-foot stone wall for cover. "Just once."
Near the end, two F-15 fighter jets pummeled the insurgent forces with 500-pound bombs, and an eerie silence fell across the battlefield. For the U.S. service members, it was just another morning in the notorious Korengal Valley.
Nicknamed “The Valley of Death,” the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Soldiers have called the isolated valley, in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, home, since arriving in June.
"This place is definitely its own monster; there are a lot of other dangerous places in Afghanistan, but I would say this place lives up to the hype," said U.S. Army Capt. Mark Moretti, Co. B. commander, and New Windsor, N.Y., native.
"It’s all just a waiting game," said a Co. B Soldier, during a ‘routine’ patrol. "We come out here, and wait for them to open fire on us."
Seeing some of the toughest fighting in Afghanistan on a daily basis, many Baker Co. Soldiers find humor in the idea that many of their fellow Soldiers are envious of their assignment, who often refer to the almost constant battle as the ‘infantryman’s dream.’
"I would tell them to seriously reconsider their thinking positions," U.S. Army Spc. Guadalupe Gardenias, a B Co. Soldier, said, laughing.
Living in conditions that rival the third-world villages they patrol, the tiny U.S outposts dotting the valley walls are in stark contrast to other American mega-bases in Afghanistan, such as Bagram Airfield, which offers everything from personal internet to American fast food restaurants.
Here, if a resupply helicopter gets cancelled, Soldiers miss not only letters from home, but risk having to ration their food.
At the Korengal Outpost, Soldiers use outhouses and hope to shower once a week to conserve water. At nearby Restrepo Outpost, Soldiers lack any running water, and eat field rations for every meal.
"The conditions out here are tough, and it’s a tough fight," said Moretti. "But given the chance, I don’t think anyone would want to leave."
Despite daily gun battles, poor hygiene and tortuous terrain, the men of Baker Co. seem content living their life in the “Valley of Death.” When asked if they would take an easier assignment, the answer was always the same. “Not unless everyone else came with me.”
To these Soldiers the debate back home about the war in Afghanistan means little. To them, it’s the brotherhood, born in combat, keeping these Soldiers motivated to stand shoulder to shoulder.
"Before I came into the Army a lot of people would talk about brothers in arms, and I thought it was kind of cheesy, but being out here, I can definitely say that it brings us a lot closer," said Gardanias. "Cause no matter what we say, or what we do, nobody besides us is going to know what we went through, and what it was like."
Remembering Doc Restrepo, today, and always.
US Army Private First Class Juan S. “Doc” Restrepo. KIA 22 JUL 2007. Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
Ever Wonder Why U.S.Army Helicopters Have Native American Names (Mostly…)?
From Army Aviation Digest - March 1977 - Contest to Name the UH-60, Which Would Become the Blackhawk:
AR 70-28, dated 18 June 1976, specifies that Army aircraft should be given the names of American Indian tribes or chiefs or terms. The name should appeal to the imagination without sacrifice of dignity, and should suggest an aggressive spirit and confidence in the capabilities of the aircraft. The name also should suggest mobility, agility, flexibility, firepower and endurance.For brevity, it is suggested the name consist of only one word. The names given Army aircraft are primarily for use in public releases and other documents as a ready reference but have proven popular among Army personnel. In the past some Army aircraft, such as the 0-1 Bird Dog and OH-23 Ravenwere not given Indian names. In most cases, such aircraft were given their names before the present policy went into effect. These names have not been changed. The last aircraft introduced into the Army without an Indian name is the AH-1G HueyCobra. This aircraft, an outgrowth of the UH-1 Iroquois (Huey), was named by its maker before it was purchased by the Army. When the Army started buying the helicopter the name quickly was shortened by common usage to ” Cobra,” which is descriptive of its impressive fighting ability. The names of fixed and rotary wing Army aircraft are listed below.
Now you know… and knowing is half the battle.
via The Aviationist
OH-58 Kiowa thats all, they are Angels down range
[List is missing the newest sibling of the bunch: UH-72 Lakota.]
Brother shielding brother, even in death.
Sgt. Ryan Pitts holds a bracelet he wears that commemorates the late Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler, former platoon sergeant of 2nd platoon, which is taped over another bracelet (not visible) that commemorates the fallen of 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, who were killed Nov. 9, 2007, in an ambush. Commemorated on the second bracelet are: Capt. Matthew Ferrara, Spc. Joseph Lancour, Cpl. Lester Roque, Cpl. Sean Langevin and Sgt. Jeffrey Mersman. This bracelet prevented shrapnel from penetrating Pitts’ wrist.
Brothers to the last.
(Courtesy photos and official Medal of Honor narrative via DVIDS.)
On July 8, 2008, elements of Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade; Army engineers; Marine Corps Embedded Training Team mentors; and Afghan National Army conducted Operation “Rock Move,” in the Waygal Valley of northeastern Afghanistan.
The operation was aimed at repositioning forces from Combat Outpost Bella to the outskirts of a village called Wanat, in order to disrupt militant trafficking in the Waygal Valley, and to set the stage for effective economic and security development in the region.
This was the third and final move southward for Chosen Company, the final mission of their 14-month deployment. Over the course of 2007-2008, Chosen Company engaged in persistent combat with the enemy as the unit responsible for security in the volatile Waygal Valley region. For then-Sgt. Ryan Pitts and his teammates, Operation Rock Move meant the end of a long deployment was in sight.
Several factors prompted the decision to close COP Bella. Bella was located 16 kilometers from the nearest base, which was Forward Operating Base Blessing to the south, and relied solely on helicopter support for supplies and reinforcements. The small village of Wanat was halfway between Bella and FOB Blessing, at about 8 kilometers from FOB Blessing, which housed the company’s quick reaction force as well as the tactical operations center. Also, an improved road network made Wanat accessible to ground vehicles.
COP Bella was originally positioned to disrupt militant traffic, but its impact dwindled as Anti-Afghan Forces left the area or established alternate resupply routes. Additionally, the sparse development opportunities near Bella were further limited by a pervasive lack of cooperation from the traditional village leaders nearby.
Repositioning to Wanat would allow coalition forces to better interdict militant traffic, and lay the foundation for local economic and security improvements, a key component of counter-insurgency strategy. Wanat was the site of a new district government center and a new police station. Co-locating coalition forces in Wanat would foster relationships with the local government officials and improve goodwill with the local population, building on positive relationships from a bridge construction project completed in Wanat, in 2006.
After Army leaders announced the pending closure of COP Bella in June 2008, coalition forces began to receive reports of large enemy forces massing in the Waygal valley, who planned to attack COP Bella as forces withdrew. The reports were reinforced by several harassment attacks on COP Bella throughout mid-June and into early July. The final two attacks on Bella, on July 3-4, 2008, resulted in American and militant casualties, as well as allegations of Afghan civilian causalities.
Prior to the start of Operation Rock Move, theater-level engineering elements and Chosen Company leadership had visited Wanat to develop a base defense plan, which included an interior and exterior wall, a formal entrance control point, and guard towers. Civilian equipment operators were scheduled to arrive six days after 2nd platoon’s arrival to Wanat, to build these and other permanent structures. To bolster defenses until then, 2nd platoon was reinforced with an engineer squad using a Bobcat front-end loader, a six-man mortar section using a 120 mm mortar and a 60 mm mortar, four M114 armored Humvees, and a TOW (tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided) anti-armor missile system, among other assets.
Under the cover of darkness July 8-9, Chosen Company airlifted 1st platoon out of COP Bella, and 2nd platoon left FOB Blessing to begin setting up the new vehicle patrol base, known as a VPB, at Wanat. Chosen Company’s 2nd platoon nicknamed the new post VPB Kahler, in honor of their former platoon sergeant and slain comrade, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler. Once at VPB Kahler, 2nd platoon, along with an attached engineer squad and 6-man mortar team, established a perimeter and began securing the base.
VPB Kahler was established in an open area and was roughly the size of a football field, aligned lengthwise from north to south. The open area lay southwest and adjacent to the village of Wanat, with the Waygal River forming its rough western border, and the road running from FOB Blessing to Wanat forming the eastern border.
On the northwest side of the VPB stood a large blue-roofed building surrounded by a high stone wall. Next, moving in a clockwise direction, a one-story mosque, a hotel/café complex, and a bazaar (marketplace) ringed the VPB.
Upon arriving, 2nd Platoon placed Observation Post “Topside,” on a ridge to the east of the main base, and east of the bazaar and hotel complex. The ridge was high enough to block visibility from the VPB to the low ground in the northeast and southeast. Therefore, OP Topside was placed on the high ground to give 2nd platoon visibility of the terrain to the northeast and east, which might serve as an enemy avenue of approach into Wanat. OP Topside’s location also provided visibility of two bridges just north of the town, and its close proximity to the VPB ensured it could be reinforced in the event of enemy contact.
One challenge of the placement of OP Topside was that it had no direct lines of sight to the north, where the ground fell away into a tree-filled ravine ten yards past the OP. The ravine contained a small offshoot of the Wayskawdi Creek. The creek curved along the north, northeast, and east of the ridge. Thus, the OP site had considerable dead space, which is an area that could not be seen. Any enemy in this dead space could enter the hotel complex undetected. To mitigate this risk, Chosen Company developed pre-planned indirect fire support targets in the dead space that could be engaged if needed.
On July 13, 2008, 2nd Platoon conducted stand-to at 4 a.m. local time. Stand-to consists of placing personnel at their defensive positions in preparation for enemy attack, at the most likely time of attack – just before dawn. Sgt. Pitts, the forward observer, was positioned at Topside with a team of eight other paratroopers. Also assigned to Topside were: Spc. Jonathan Ayers, Spc. Jason Bogar, Sgt. Matthew Gobble, Pfc. Chris McKaig, Spc. Matthew Phillips, Spc. Pruitt Rainey, Spc. Tyler Stafford, and Spc. Gunnar Zwilling.
Shortly after stand-to, Soldiers conducting surveillance with the thermal imaging sights on a TOW (tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided) anti-armor missile system, which was located inside the main vehicle patrol base perimeter, identified potential insurgents on the western high ground above Wanat. Pitts and Gobble, located in the center of the observation post, began putting together a request for indirect fire in response. Rainey, Ayers, and McKaig were located in the eastern position, referred to as the crow’s nest. Stafford and Bogar were in the southern position, and Phillips and Zwilling were located in the northern position.
Before they could complete the call for fire, at approximately 4:20 a.m., the paratroopers heard a burst of machine-gun fire coming from the direction of a two-story building located on a terraced hill to the north. Then the valley erupted in enemy fire. An estimated 200 enemy fighters launched a full-scale assault, focusing their fires on the base’s key defensive weapons systems and positions: VPB mortar-firing position, the vehicle with the TOW missile system, and OP Topside. The insurgents had infiltrated Wanat, setting up firing positions and weapons caches in the town’s bazaar, hotel complex, homes, and mosque.
The paratroopers at OP Topside were simultaneously hit with small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and hand grenades thrown at close range by insurgents concealed in the draw to the north of the observation post. All of the paratroopers at OP Topside were wounded, and two were killed, by the first volley of fire. Pitts was wounded by grenade shrapnel in both legs and his left arm.
After the initial blast, Pitts found himself thrown toward the northern position of the observation post. Stunned by the blast, he crawled to the southern end of the observation post, where he found Bogar. Seeing Pitts’ leg wound, Bogar applied a tourniquet to Pitts’ right leg. Meanwhile, Stafford informed them that Phillips and Zwilling had both been killed by hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades in the initial volley of fire.
Realizing the enemy was in hand-grenade range, Pitts returned to the northern position, where the grenades were stored. Despite the risk of running into a short fuse, Pitts started “cooking off” grenades, letting them burn for several seconds before he threw them into the draw just beyond the observation post perimeter to the north. This tactic prevented enemy forces from throwing the grenades back at the observation post, before they detonated. By using this tactic, Pitts put himself at risk, but ensured the blasts were concentrated toward the enemy. Between deploying hand grenades, Pitts called in a situation report to the company commander, Capt. Matthew Myer. He informed Myer of the casualties and estimated enemy locations.
Pitts decided to fire the M240-B machine-gun in the northern position of OP Topside, in an effort to conserve hand grenades. Unable to stand because of his injuries, Pitts blind-fired over the wall of waist-high sandbags with the machine gun to provide momentary cover, then propped himself up on his knees to fire over the wall. Without another paratrooper in the northern position to act as assistant gunner, Pitts repeatedly fired until the gun jammed, then cleared the malfunction, and loaded more ammunition from the bag beneath the gun.
Within minutes, as the remaining paratroopers at OP Topside fought for their lives, the enemy forces had destroyed the TOW system and injured the personnel manning the 120 mm mortar firing pit, setting the pit that held it ablaze. Myer, attempting to control the battle from the center of the vehicle patrol base, was desperate to get additional firepower to support the paratroopers at OP Topside. Pitts was the only contact between the command post and the OP, and the only person left capable of controlling indirect fire support. While firing the machine gun in the northern position, Pitts maintained contact with Myer on the radio, directing artillery fires from FOB Blessing onto the pre-planned targets around the OP.
At approximately 4:45 a.m., 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom and Spc. Jason Hovater maneuvered from the VPB main perimeter, through direct enemy fire coming from the hotel, to reinforce the paratroopers under direct attack at the OP. Pitts gave Brostrom a situation report and described the locations of the enemy, before surrendering the machine gun to Spc. Rainey and exchanging it for an M4 with a mounted M-203 grenade launcher. While Brostrom, Hovater, Bogar, and Rainey re-established the OP’s defensive position, Pitts manned the radio and continued to call in requests for indirect fire to Myer.
Suddenly, Pitts realized he could no longer hear other fires coming from within the OP. Realizing he was probably alone, and not wanting to reveal his position to the enemy, Pitts crawled silently from his position to the southernmost edge of the perimeter, checking to see if anyone was still alive. He discovered that McKaig, Stafford, Gobble, Brostrom, Rainey, Bogar, and Hovater were gone. All the paratroopers still with him in the OP were dead. Pitts later learned that Stafford and Gobble had moved to the casualty collection point at the traffic-control point, referred to as the TCP CCP, while McKaig maneuvered to the VPB for ammunition. The reinforcing troops, Bogar, and Rainey had been killed while setting up a defensive perimeter on the northwest side of the OP.
Alone and losing blood, Pitts radioed Myer to inform him that everyone at the OP was deceased or gone. Pitts was informed that reinforcements for the OP were not available. At this point, the insurgents were in such close proximity to Pitts, that Soldiers at the command post and those listening in on the channel could hear enemy voices through the radio. In that moment, Pitts resigned himself to certain death, but remained determined to do as much damage as possible to the enemy before they overwhelmed the OP.
Taking up the M-203 grenade launcher, Pitts began firing it almost directly overhead, straight up, placing grenades that would detonate just on the other side of the perimeter, where the insurgents had concealed themselves in the draw. Pitts also called on the radio for any Soldier with a sightline to the OP to begin firing over the sandbag wall at his position, to knock the enemy back if they breached the wall. Sgt. Brian Hissong at the TCP CCP answered the call, and began laying down fire directly over Pitts.
Then, four Soldiers – Staff Sgt. Sean Samaroo, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Spc. Michael Denton, and Spc. Jacob Sones – maneuvered from the TCP CCP to reinforce OP Topside. They found Pitts fighting for his life. Sones was initially able to treat Pitts, before another round of explosions rocked the OP, mortally wounding Garcia. While the other Soldiers attempted to secure the OP’s perimeter despite their injuries, Pitts crawled to Garcia and comforted him. Samaroo, Denton and Sones then pulled Garcia out of the open, to the OP’s casualty collection point at the southern position.
Soon after, attack helicopters arrived to provide close air support. Despite being nearly unconscious, Pitts continued to communicate with headquarters, providing needed feedback to Myer as he called in the first helicopter attack run to engage the insurgents to the north of the OP. This strike, only 30 meters from the friendly troops at OP Topside, took the pressure off the Soldiers at the main base enough so that a third group of reinforcements from the VPB could scale the terraces and secure the OP. Meanwhile, reinforcements from FOB Blessing arrived and began clearing enemy positions within the town and adjacent hillsides.
At approximately 6:15 a.m., after fighting for more than an hour while critically wounded, Pitts was medically evacuated along with Samaroo, Sones, and Denton. His actions allowed U.S. forces time to reinforce the OP and bring-in airstrikes which turned the tide of the battle.
If not for his ability to be the commanders’ eyes and ears in his critically wounded state, the enemy would have gained a foothold on high ground and inflicted significantly greater causalities onto the main vehicle patrol base, and the enemy could have been in possession of seven fallen Americans.
The remaining 2nd Platoon Soldiers and 1st Platoons reinforcements continued to fight-off the scores of Anti-Afghan Forces for several more hours. The OP and VPB Kahler-main were secured.
A few days later, Chosen Company left the village of Wanat – it was clear to Task Force Rock leaders – the same elders who welcomed them had betrayed them. The situation in Wanat had changed.
Sky Soldier Pathfinder receives highest honor.
President Barack Obama and former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts enter the East Room of the White House for a Medal of Honor ceremony Washington, D.C. Pitts became the 9th living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was selected for the honor for continuing to fight after sustaining life-threatening injuries during a fierce battle in Afghanistan July 13, 2008. Pitts served as a forward observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
(DoD News photos by EJ Hersom, 21 JUL 2014.)
SOLDIER STORIES: Martial arts instructor teaches with passion.
(Article by Air Force Staff Sgt. Leslie Keopka, Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, 18 JUL 2014.)
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti - Street lights shine down on a tent in a turf field as Marines of all ranks gather inside, night after night, to learn crucial skills that could someday save their lives.
These Marines not only are learning important martial arts tactics, but also are learning how to be martial arts instructors.
"One mind, any weapon," is the motto for the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, meaning that a Marine is a weapon, even without carrying one.
Marine Corps Sgt. Lawanda Ruiz, administration chief for the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa personnel office here, has dedicated more than 400 hours as an MCMAP instructor trainer, both here and at her home station of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The martial arts program combines mental, physical and character discipline. Marines must have a balance of honor, courage, commitment, professional military education, determination, and physical and mental strength, Ruiz said.
Ruiz, a native of Anniston, Alabama, graduated seven new instructors last month. The course was three weeks long, six days a week, and its 120 hours of instruction covered tactics, nutrition and Marine Corps history.
"The thing that we wanted to do during the Martial Arts Instructors Course was let everyone get away from the mixed martial arts mindset and put it into a combat mindset — full fighting gear," Ruiz said. "Utilizing this course, I was able to show the Marines that regardless of their job, they might be called upon to take charge and ensure the safety of military, diplomatic and civilian personnel."
Ruiz completed the seven-week Marine Corps Center of Excellence Instructor Trainer’s Course in March. This was the first class she taught alone.
She said couldn’t have done so well without the support of the combined joint task force staff here and her husband, Marine Corps Sgt. Carlos Ruiz, Marine Corps Security Force Regiment, Chesapeake, Virginia, and a 2nd-degree black belt Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor trainer.
"My husband got me into the program; he gave me motivation and encouraged me to go to the instructor course," Ruiz said. "I looked to him, and he helped me so much with this first course. I was calling him every day saying, ‘How do I do this? What would be the best way?’"
When Ruiz finishes her deployment, she will transfer to the Martial Arts Center of Excellence headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, where she will be a full-time instructor trainer.
"I want to show people the positives of MCMAP," she said. "I want them to tie MCMAP in with their careers, their lives, and use it to help make them be a better man or woman. I just want to be able to say that I gave every student my all."