Archive for June 2017

USS Alaska (SSBN 732) Marks 100th patrol!

June 21, 2017


Yellow Ribbon America News Desk:

KINGS BAY, Ga. (June 15, 2017) Sailors assigned to the ballistic-missile submarine USS Alaska (SSBN 732) assemble topside to commemorate the submarine’s 100th patrol following a medical evacuation exercise with a U.S. Coast Guard HH-65 “Dolphin” helicopter. (U.S Coast Guard photo/Released)

President Gives Mattis Authority to Set U.S. Troop Strength in Afghanistan

June 20, 2017

Obama hands over presidency to Trump at 58th Presidential Inauguration

Yellow Ribbon America News Desk:

By Jim Garamone

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2017 — President Donald J. Trump has delegated authority to manage the number of U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The secretary spoke about this delegation in his opening statement during a budget hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee this morning.

The American military effort in Afghanistan must be viewed as part of a larger regional context in South Asia,” Mattis told the senators. “Our primary national interest and the international interest in Afghanistan is ensuring it does not become an ungoverned space from which attacks can be launched against the United States, other nations or the Afghan people,” he said.

Partnered Operations, Training Afghan Forces

To meet this national interest, U.S. forces are conducting partnered counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, while other U.S. forces are working with NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train Afghan security forces to shoulder their country’s security mission.

“At noon yesterday, President Trump delegated to me the authority to manage troop numbers in Afghanistan,” Mattis said. “The delegation of this authority – consistent with the authority President Trump granted me two months ago for Iraq and Syria – does not, at this time, change the troop numbers for Afghanistan.”

Interagency Partners

Mattis promised to work with interagency partners to define the way ahead. “I will set the U.S. military commitment, consistent with the commander in chief’s strategic direction and the foreign policy as dictated by Secretary of State [Rex] Tillerson,” he said.

The fight in Afghanistan remains important, the secretary said, noting that Afghanistan was the staging ground for the al-Qaida terrorists who attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I would say that the reason we have not been attacked over many years from where the 9/11 attack originated is heavily due to the sacrifices that we have made over years as we have kept the enemy on the back foot,” Mattis said. “It’s hard for them to conduct external operations out of that former stronghold when they are just trying to hang onto their own lives and avoid us.”

Part of the reason for a resurgence of violence in Afghanistan was that international support was reduced too soon, he said. “We pulled out our forces, at a time … when the violence was lower,” he said. “But we pulled them out on a timeline, rather than consistent with the maturation of the government and the security forces.”

U.S. and coalition forces are working the support mission, and Afghan forces will receive the air support that was in short supply, the secretary said.

About 13,000 U.S and coalition troops are currently in Afghanistan.

U.S. Admiral Praises USS Fitzgerald’s Crew, Announces Investigations

June 19, 2017


Yellow Ribbon America News Desk:

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2017 — The response of the crew of the severely damaged USS Fitzgerald “was swift and effective, and I want to point out — as we stand by the ship — how proud I am of them,” Navy Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, said today at a press conference in front of the stricken ship that’s now moored in Yokosuka, Japan.

The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal in the Philippine Sea at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, June 17, while operating about 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, according to U.S. 7th Fleet news releases.

The Fitzgerald was able to return to its home port at Yokosuka under its own power aided by tug boats about 16 hours after the collision, according to a release.

Extensive Damage, Flooding

The Fitzgerald experienced extensive damage and flooding after the collision, Aucoin said in a news release issued today. The damage, he added, included a significant impact under the ship’s pilothouse on the starboard, or right, side and a large puncture below the ship’s waterline, opening the hull to the sea.

The ship, he continued, experienced rapid flooding of three large compartments that included a machinery room and two berthing areas for the ship’s 116-member crew.

Aucoin said the Fitzgerald’s commanding officer’s cabin was also directly hit, trapping Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the commander, inside. Benson is one of three injured sailors who were transferred by helicopter to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka for treatment after the collision.

All three patients are alert and under observation at the hospital, he said.

Thanks Japanese for Assistance

Shortly after the collision the U.S. made a request for support from the Japanese Coast Guard, which was the first on scene, according to a release.

Several U.S. Navy aircraft, as well as Japanese Coast Guard and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters, ships and aircraft were deployed to render assistance to the Fitzgerald, a release said.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri and JS Enshu were sent to join the JCG ships Izanami and Kano, according to a release. The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey served as an escort for the Fitzgerald and has also returned to Yokosuka.

The admiral expressed his “most heartfelt appreciation to our Japanese allies for their swift support and assistance.”

Praises Crew’s ‘Heroic Efforts’

At today’s press conference in Yokosuka, Aucoin saluted the Fitzgerald crew’s “heroic efforts” that prevented the flooding from spreading, which could have caused the ship to founder or sink.

The crew, he continued, navigated the Fitzgerald into one of the busiest ports in the world with a magnetic compass and backup navigation equipment. One of two of the ship’s shafts became locked, he added.

“Because of the tireless damage control efforts of a resolute and courageous team, the ship was able to make its way back to port safely on its own power last evening,” Aucoin said in the release.

“The Fitzgerald crew responded professionally as all sailors are expected to fight the damage sustained to their ship. They are known as the “Fighting Fitz,” and the crew lived up to that name,” the admiral added.

Navy Finds ‘A Number’ of Missing Fitzgerald Sailors

Seven Fitzgerald sailors were reported unaccounted for after the collision, and the Japanese Coast Guard launched a search effort, according a release.

After the Fitzgerald returned to its home port in Yokosuka, search-and-rescue crews gained access to the ship’s spaces that were damaged during the collision, according to a release.

At the press conference, Aucoin said the Navy “has found the remains of a number of our missing shipmates.”

He added, “Our deepest sympathies are with the families of these sailors. Out of concern for the families and the notification process, I will decline to state how many we have found at this time. We owe that to the families and friends of these shipmates and hope you can respect this process.”

The sailors’ remains were transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Aucoin said, noting the “families are being notified and will be provided the support they need at this difficult time. Please keep them in your thoughts are prayers.”

He said the names of the deceased will be released pending notification of next of kin.

In a Twitter message issued yesterday, President Donald J. Trump said his “thoughts and prayers [are] with the sailors of the USS Fitzgerald and their families. Thank you to our Japanese allies for their assistance.”


Aucoin said he’s initiating a Judge Advocate General Manual investigation into the collision, and that he’ll appoint a flag officer to lead that investigation.

There will also be a safety investigation, he added.

“We owe it to our families and the Navy to understand what happened,” Aucoin said.

The U.S. Coast Guard is slated to take the lead on the marine casualty investigation, he said.

More information on any further investigations will be forthcoming, the admiral said.

“I will not speculate on how long these investigations will last,” Aucoin added.

U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, speaks to members of the press about the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald during a press conference in Yokosuka, Japan, June 18, 2017. The Fitzgerald suffered severe damage in its June 17 collision with a Philippine-flagged merchant ship, but returned to Fleet Activities Yokosuka under its own power. The incident is currently under investigation. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Burghart

Red Flag Flight

June 19, 2017


Yellow Ribbon America News Desk:

An U.S. Air Force F-16 flies near a KC-135 Stratotanker during refueling operations over Alaska, June 14, 2017, as part of exercise Red Flag-Alaska 17-2. The exercise focuses on improving ground, space and cyberspace combat readiness and interoperability for U.S. and international forces. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Labbe

Happy 242th Birthday US Army!

June 14, 2017


Yellow Ribbon America News Desk:

The US Army’s Birthday: 14 June 1775

When the American Revolution broke out, the rebellious colonies did not possess an army in the modern sense. Rather, the revolutionaries fielded an amateur force of colonial troops, cobbled together from various New England militia companies.  They had no unified chain of command, and although Artemas Ward of Massachusetts exercised authority by informal agreement, officers from other colonies were not obligated to obey his orders.  The American volunteers were led, equipped, armed, paid for, and supported by the colonies from which they were raised.  

In the spring of 1775, this “army” was about to confront British troops near Boston, Massachusetts. The revolutionaries had to re-organize their forces quickly if they were to stand a chance against Britain’s seasoned professionals. Recognizing the need to enlist the support of all of the American seaboard colonies, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress appealed to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia to assume authority for the New England army.  Reportedly, at John Adams’ request, Congress voted to “adopt” the Boston troops on June 14, although there is no written record of this decision.  Also on this day, Congress resolved to form a committee “to bring in a draft of rules and regulations for the government of the Army,” and voted $2,000,000 to support the forces around Boston, and those at New York City.  Moreover, Congress authorized the formation of ten companies of expert riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, which were directed to march to Boston to support the New England militia. 

George Washington received his appointment as Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army the next day, and formally took command at Boston on July 3, 1775. 

John R. Maass
US Army Center of Military History

108th Soldiers complete Murph Challenge, Commemorate Fallen

June 13, 2017


Yellow Ribbon America News Desk:

Written by SGT Katie Eggers, Wisconsin National Guard

A group of Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers with the 108th Forward Support Company completed the Murph Challenge on May 29 at Crossfit Blue Moon in Sussex, Wisconsin, commemorating fallen service members as part of a Memorial Day tradition.

The Murph Challenge is a workout consisting of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another one-mile run, all while wearing a 20-pound vest or body armor. It was named after Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2007.

Initially Soldiers from the 108th planned to participate in the Sussex Memorial Day parade. The parade was canceled shortly before Memorial Day due to road construction concerns.

“I had several signed up to participate, so I didn’t want to let the day go by without offering an opportunity to come together and remember our fallen brothers and sisters,” said Capt. Hedy Vincent, commander of the 108th.

“Lt. Mike Murphy epitomizes strong selfless leadership to me,” Vincent said. “He gave his own life to save others as Jesus Christ did for the world. This workout honors Mike Murphy and what he stood for, my fallen brothers and sisters, my Savior, and the passion I put into serving my country.”

This is the first year Soldiers from the 108th came together to complete the Murph Challenge. Some of the Soldiers had never done the Murph before and didn’t realize how tough the workout is. Still, their motivation was unwavering, Vincent said.

“The commander kept on saying, ‘Respect the Murph cause you’ll learn,’ and we definitely all learned how difficult it was,” said Sgt. Brooke Bougie, an automated logistical specialist in the 108th.

This was Bougie’s first time completing the Murph.

“I wanted to really challenge myself and do something that was a little bit more meaningful on Memorial Day,” Bougie said.

Vincent, Bougie and other Soldiers in the unit also had a personal connection motivating them to complete the Murph. While completing the workout, they held the memory of one Soldier particularly close to their hearts.

On May 18, Spc. Jonathan J. Henke Jr. passed away in a motorcycle accident. Henke joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard in 2013 and served his military career with the 108th.

“He was one of those Soldiers who befriended everyone in the company,” Vincent said. “He was the center of attention when he told jokes and tall tales that prompted me to say, ‘That’s just not true.’ I smile thinking of him and how he brought the morale up with his jovial smile and personality.”

“He was definitely a talker,” Bougie said. “He loved to tell his stories and goof around. He had very far-fetched stories.”

The Murph Challenge not only built unit cohesion, but also helped with the grieving process for Soldiers who participated.

“It brought us together in his memory,” Vincent said. “We’ve obviously got a long road ahead of us, but I believe other unit members that saw the pictures realize how much we loved him as a family member.”

Henke will be sorely missed within the 108th, Vincent said. However, his memory will live on, and his death and the choice he made to be an organ donor brought life to others.

Vincent plans to incorporate the Murph Challenge in future Memorial Day events. She said there were many more Soldiers interested who couldn’t participate this year due to prior engagements but plan to participate next year.

“It was a painful event, but it’s something that I think I will definitely be doing in years to come,” Bougie said.

“I wholeheartedly believe that when you push one another and support each other in various challenges, you become more than just a unit,” Vincent said. “Developing trust in one another is of utmost importance to me. I hope that this will begin a tradition with the 108th.”


NASA Selects Air Force Pilot as Astronaut Candidate

June 8, 2017


Yellow Ribbon America News Desk:

By 412th Test Wing

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., June 8, 2017 — NASA has selected the commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron here to join the 2017 astronaut candidate class.

Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari, who has been selected for promotion to colonel, relinquishes command of the squadron tomorrow. He has overseen developmental testing of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter for the past couple of years while simultaneously serving as director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force.

Chari has flown more than 2,000 flight hours in the F-35 Lightning II, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F-18 Hornet, including F-15E combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom and deployments in support of the Korean Peninsula.

The Iowa native graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in astronautical engineering and engineering science. He earned a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

One of 12 Chosen

Chari is one of 12 new astronauts introduced yesterday who will train for missions into Earth’s orbit and into deep space. The seven men and five women comprise the 22nd class of American spaceflight trainees since 1959. The group is the largest selected in almost two decades, NASA officials said.

The 12 new candidates include six military officers, three scientists, two medical doctors, a lead engineer at SpaceX and a NASA research pilot.

Chari will report in August to begin two years of training as an astronaut candidate. Upon completion, he will be assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office while he awaits a flight assignment.

Picture: U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari stands in front of an NASA T-38 Talon supersonic trainer aircraft at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, June 6, 2017. Chari has been selected to join the 2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate Class. NASA photo by Robert Markowitz

No Time for Nerves: D-Day Through the Eyes of a Combat Medic

June 6, 2017


Yellow Ribbon America News Desk

By Military Health System Communications Staff

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2017 — They trained with the infantry, carrying first aid kits instead of weapons. They dodged bullets to tend to wounded soldiers, sometimes with whatever supplies they could find. And even in the midst of thick combat, they remained steadily focused on their mission of saving lives. They were the combat medics of World War II.

No amount of training or planning could have prepared them for the casualties inflicted during the largest amphibious assault in history: D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe.

“Boy Scouts was the closest thing to medical training I had before that,” said Edwin Pepping, who was a 21-year-old Army private first class at the time. “But you didn’t have a chance to be nervous.”

In preparation for ground combat after Pearl Harbor, the Army hurried to create a ready force. Medical units made up of individuals of both military and civilian background were gathered and trained. Their duties included treating minor injuries, applying splints and tourniquets, and bandaging wounds.

Known as “band-aid bandits” to their comrades, Pepping, who turns 95 in July, and Army Staff Sgt. Albert Mampre were attached to Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division — the unit later known as the “Band of Brothers.”


Seventy-three years ago today, the U.S. took part in the invasion of Normandy, which would ultimately be the turning point of the war in Europe. More than 13,000 aircraft and 5,000 ships were used in the D-Day landing, which was part of Operation Overlord. In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Pepping boarded a C-47 Skytrain transport for the big jump. But as often happens in combat, the plan didn’t go as expected.

“We were supposed to be dropped at 700 feet at 95 miles per hour, which was enough to get our parachute to open and get our equipment down safely, but they dropped us at 300 feet at 165 miles per hour, which is almost impossible to survive,” he said.

As Pepping jumped, he was hit by a gust of air that ripped 125 pounds worth of supplies off of him. His parachute opened at the same time, causing him to spin violently before falling to the ground. He hit the ground so hard that his own strapped helmet flew back and knocked him in the neck, leading to a concussion and three cracked vertebrae.

After landing near the town of Angoville-au-Plain behind Utah Beach, Pepping spent the next several hours helping another medic, Willard Moore, bring severely wounded soldiers to a makeshift aid station in a nearby church. Moore drove the jeep while Pepping loaded the wounded and nursed them until they got back to the church, he said.

Saving Lives

“There were so many catastrophic wounds that a lot of the time it was beyond us to do anything except to see if we could get a doctor to help,” Pepping said. Two other medics treated patients at the aid station. They used whatever medical supplies they could find after losing most of theirs in the jump, and they treated whomever they found — American, French and German alike. Together, they saved more than 80 lives that day.

“When we flew into Normandy, we met some very, very serious cases, and a lot of the time we didn’t know exactly how to handle them,” Pepping said, adding that it taught him perseverance. Today, the church serves as a memorial. The blood stains where the wounded were laid remain on the pews.

“A sense of humor is really what saved us,” he said, noting that the biggest lesson he learned as a medic was to duck. “You couldn’t make it through the war without it,” he added. Medics were unarmed, and they were identified by the Red Cross symbol on their helmets and arm bands. Even so, they weren’t always spared as a target.

Mampre, who had to miss the jump on D-Day after coming down with a severe infection just a few days before, went on to receive the Purple Heart for action in Holland. After spotting a wounded lieutenant in a field, he was told the soldier was dead and best left alone. Mampre ran out to him through heavy gunfire and found him alive. He was shot through the leg, but he and the lieutenant made it to safety and survived.

“I’d do it all over again,” Mampre said about being a combat medic. “But if they need me again at 95 years old, boy, we’re in trouble.”

Picture: Edwin “Doc” Pepping, left, and Albert “Al” Mampre served as combat medics attached to Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, also known as the “Band of Brothers.” Photo courtesy of Matthew Pepping