Military News

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Oklahoma Servicewomen Remember Past, Celebrate Future



By Air Force Staff Sgt. Kasey Phipps, Oklahoma Air National Guard, 137th Special Operations

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., Oct. 24, 2017 — Nearly 40 Oklahoma Air and Army National Guard women gathered here Oct. 21 with hundreds of active duty, retired and reserve service members from all branches of the military to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.

Honoring U.S. Military Women

The memorial honors all women who have defended America throughout history. The gathering featured a weekend filled with remembrance, honor, service, leadership, mentorship and inspiration.

“It just makes you reflect back on how much has changed in these 20 years, and the sacrifices that women are still making,” said Army Col. Cynthia Tinkham, the Oklahoma National Guard’s director of personnel. Tinkham is one of five of the event attendees with the Oklahoma Guard who were present at the memorial’s dedication 20 years ago.

The memorial here serves as a 4.2-acre ceremonial entrance into Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial honors honor a very the nearly 3 million women who have served or are serving in or with the U.S. military since the American Revolution.

The group arrived here Oct. 20, touring the memorial’s long arching hall of memorabilia that covers the history of U.S. women in military service.

“I’ve learned a lot about women’s history and the impact it has on the Air Force and every other branch,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, a member of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.

WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary Ceremony

Major events throughout the weekend included a celebration dinner, WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary ceremony, an honor walk and an after-dark service of remembrance. Attendees ranged from women World War II veterans to those currently serving in all branches of the U.S. military.

The keynote speaker of the morning’s ceremony, retired Air Force Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, who’s also the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in Services chair, compared her experience at the dedication in 1997 to the 20th anniversary ceremony this year, emphasizing that each year there are more “firsts” to celebrate -- the first woman to serve in a particular branch, in a particular career field and the first to die while serving.

“There are so many firsts that the memorial represents,” Wolfenbarger said. “But, the real objective is that there are no more firsts.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Ryan, the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s assistant adjutant general, emphasized the importance of honoring the past later that evening as Oklahoma Guard members and the other attendees held candles honoring the lives of the 167 women who have fallen since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

“We can never forget our history and those who have perished for the sake of us all,” said Ryan, who was asked to speak at the event in honor of the women killed in action.

‘Sacrifice is Meaningless Without Remembrance’

“Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance,” he added.

Among the fallen was both the youngest and only woman in the Oklahoma National Guard to die in combat, 19-year-old Army Spc. Sarina Butcher, who was killed in 2011 in Afghanistan and is honored within the memorial.

“These women represent a bridge to those that came before them,” said Tinkham who spoke on behalf of Oklahoma’s fallen women. “To those of the new and current generation and to those still to join, I implore you to keep telling their stories. Be proud of them. Honor them … and tell your own stories.”

Medal of Honor Awarded to Army Captain for Actions in Laos

By C. Todd Lopez Army News Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2017 — More than 47 years after his heroic actions in Laos during the Vietnam War, Army Capt. Gary Michael Rose was recognized with the Medal of Honor.

"This will enshrine him into the history of our nation," said President Donald J. Trump, during the Medal of Honor ceremony yesterday at the White House.

Rose served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War with the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, part of Army Special Forces. He was recognized for his actions between Sept. 11-14, 1970, in Laos. The mission he was part of, "Operation Tailwind," had for many years been classified.

Trump said Operation Tailwind was meant to prevent the North Vietnamese Army from funneling weapons to their own forces through Laos, along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The operation involved about 136 men, including 16 American soldiers and 120 Montagnards -- indigenous people from Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

The men were inserted by helicopter deep inside Laos.

"Once they landed in the clearing, they rushed to the jungle for much-needed cover," Trump said. "Soon, another man was shot outside their defensive perimeter. Mike immediately rushed to his injured comrade, firing at the enemy as he ran. In the middle of the clearing, under the machine gun fire, Mike treated the wounded soldier. He shielded the man with his own body and carried him back to safety."

4-Day Mission

That was just the start of the four-day mission, Trump said. There was much more to come.

"Mike and his unit slashed through the dense jungle, dodged bullets, dodged explosives, dodged everything that you can dodge because they threw it all at him, and continuously returned fire as they moved deeper and deeper and deeper into enemy territory," Trump said.

"Throughout the engagement, Mike rescued those in distress without any thought for his own safety," Trump said. "I will tell you, the people with him could not believe what they were witnessing. He crawled from one soldier to the next, offering words of encouragement as he tended to their wounds."

Rose would repeat those selfless actions throughout the four-day Operation Tailwind mission.

Rose was himself injured, Trump said. On the second day, Rose was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, which left shrapnel in his back, and a hole in his foot.

"For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded," he said. "Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep, or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow soldiers."

On the fourth day in Laos, Rose and others boarded the third of four helicopters that had been sent in to evacuate participants of Operation Tailwind. So many troops had boarded the first three helicopters that the fourth remained empty. It seemed to be the end of the mission and a return to safety. But it was not.

Crash

That third helicopter was already damaged by enemy fire when it picked up Rose and the remainder of the fighters, and it took off with only one working engine. Shortly after lifting off, its remaining engine failed, meaning the aircraft would have to be "auto-rotated" to the ground.

On board was an injured Marine door gunner who had been shot through the neck and was bleeding profusely. As the helicopter pilots attempted to safely land a helicopter with no power, Rose tended to that young Marine's neck -- saving his life.

Ultimately, the helicopter crashed, and Rose yet again proved his valor.

"Mike was thrown off the aircraft before it hit the ground, but he raced back to the crash site and pulled one man after another out of the smoking and smoldering helicopter as it spewed jet fuel from its ruptured tanks," Trump said.

At the conclusion of Operation Tailwind, thanks to the efforts of Mike Rose, all 16 American soldiers were able to return home. All of them had been injured. All but three of the Montagnards returned as well.

During those four days in Laos, "Mike treated an astounding 60 to 70 men," Trump said. And of the mission, which proved to be a success, "their company disrupted the enemy's continual resupply of weapons, saving countless of additional American lives."

Medal of Honor

At the White House for the event were members of Rose's family, including his wife, Margaret, his three children and two grandchildren, and nine previous Medal of Honor recipients.

Also in attendance were 10 service members who fought alongside Rose during the operation: Sgt. Maj. Morris Adair, Sgt. Don Boudreau, 1st Sgt. Bernie Bright, Capt. Pete Landon, Sgt. Jim Lucas, Lt. Col. Gene McCarley, 1st Sgt. Denver Minton, Sgt. Keith Plancich, Spc. 5 Craig Schmidt, and Staff Sgt. Dave Young.

"To Mike and all the service members who fought in the battle: You've earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation," Trump said. "You faced down the evils of communism, you defended our flag, and you showed the world the unbreakable resolve of the American armed forces. Thank you. And thank you very much."

After speaking, Trump placed the Medal of Honor around Rose's neck.

Collective Medal

Following the Medal of Honor ceremony, Rose said he believed the medal he received was not only for him, but for all those who served -- especially those who had fought in combat but who had not been able to be recognized due to the classified nature of their operations.

"This award, which I consider a collective medal, is for all of the men, to include the Air Force and the Marines who helped us," Rose said. "This is our medal. We all earned it. And to a great extent, it is for all the men who fought for those seven years in MACSOG, and even further than that, for all the Special Forces groups who fought and died in that war.

"In honor of all those individuals that went for so many years, when the military didn't recognize the fact that MACSOG even existed, and all of those men that fought -- this kind of brings it home. And now our story has been told, and now with this award I am convinced that they have been recognized for the great service they provided to this country. Thank you and God bless the republic of the United States."

Combat Search, Rescue Exercise Pacific Thunder Begins in South Korea



By Air Force Airman 1st Class Gwendalyn Smith, 51st Fighter Wing

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea, Oct. 24, 2017 — One of the largest joint combat search and rescue exercises in the Pacific region, Exercise Pacific Thunder 18-1, kicked into full swing yesterday at Osan Air Base, South Korea.

This year, the exercise is the largest it has ever been. More than 20 U.S. Air Force squadrons and nine South Korean air wings are involved, giving the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons opportunities to train in simulated combat search and rescue missions all while working alongside their South Korean counterparts.

“Pacific Thunder originally started in 2009 as a one-week exercise between the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd Rescue Squadron, and has since grown into a [Pacific Air Forces]-level exercise,” said Air Force Capt. Travis Vayda, the 25th Fighter Squadron Pacific Thunder 18-1 coordinator.

Although the annual exercise now has a vast range of units participating, it is still centered on the 25th Fighter Squadron, which operates A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, and the 33rd Rescue Squadron, which operates HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters.

“Combat search and rescue is one of the most important mission sets we have in the A-10 community because we are really the only fixed-wing asset in the Air Force who trains to the CSAR mission,” Vayda said. “We are the close muscle, so essentially we are the bodyguards of the person on the ground and the helicopters that are rescuing them. Obviously in a CSAR [situation], you don’t want to have another type of shoot down or anything happen.”

Realistic Training

During the exercise, the 33rd Rescue Squadron is able to directly work with A-10 pilots from the 25th Fighter Squadron, a level of joint training that both units typically have to simulate.

“The realism of the exercise gives us an opportunity to really see how the 25th FS operates,” said Air Force Capt. Dirk Strykowski, the 33rd Rescue Squadron’s HH-60 Pave Hawk flight lead. “Back in Kadena, we pretend as best we can to know what these guys are going to sound like on the radio, what calls they’re going to make and what kind of information they are going to provide, but being able to come up here and refresh what that’s actually going to be like is probably the biggest take away from the exercise.”

To make the exercise even more realistic, pararescuemen and survival, evasion, resistance and escape personnel from the 31st Rescue Squadron are not only participating in rescue missions, but also role-playing as isolated personnel.

“The intent of this exercise is to train like you fight, and we are trying to replicate that as best we can,” Strykowski said. “We have a lot of support from our pararescue and SERE. They’re out there on the ground now pretending to be downed pilots. So every step of the way, we are making it as realistic as it can get.”

Through combined CSAR training, exercise Pacific Thunder enhances the combat effectiveness between U.S. and South Korean air forces. Exercises like Pacific Thunder ensure the region remains ready to “Fight Tonight