Military News

Monday, May 14, 2018

Face of Defense: Resilient Soldier Fights, Beats Cancer


By Army Capt. Eric Hudson, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- When Army Sgt. Joseph Mickonis called his fiancee early in 2016 to say doctors thought he might have cancer, he couldn’t stop laughing.

“I’m trying to tell her she should come down to the hospital, but I can’t stop laughing,” he said. “So, she doesn’t think I’m serious. It was just one of the weirdest feelings, ever.”

Mickonis said he didn’t think it was a joke; laughing was just his way of dealing with the news. After some tests, doctors confirmed it was Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that spread in his neck.

‘What’s Next?’

“I didn’t break down in tears, I was like, ‘What’s next?’” Mickonis said.

What was next was an estimated four months of chemotherapy, which turned into nine months. He would leave his platoon in 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, where he served as a mortarman and joined the Warrior Transition Battalion to focus on his medical appointments at Tripler Army Medical Center at Fort Shafter.

Now, almost a year and a half later, Mickonis is cancer-free and ready to return to his unit.

A close friend in his company, Army Spc. Jacob Lewis, was with him through the entire process.

‘It Never Really Got Him Down’

“It never really got him down,” Lewis said. “He always just did what he had to do and kept going.”

Still, Lewis could tell when Mickonis had just been through a treatment.

“You could tell the day of and the day after,” Lewis said. “He’d seem tired, but if there was something he wanted to do he’d go do it. He never let it stop him.”

Mickonis said the treatment made the sun feel especially harsh on his skin. He would often walk around completely covered in hoodies and pants just to cover his skin. But when his fiancé, Jessica, came to visit him in Hawaii from Texas, they decided to go to the beach.

“I thought, ‘I’ll suck it up and go,’” he said. “I ended up getting blisters all over my shoulder and it hurt like hell.”

He said there were some days that were rough, “Especially after they were like just two more treatments, then two more, then two more. By the end I was just ready for it to be over.”

Resilience

But he thinks of himself as resilient. As a 7 year old, Mickonis said his parents were involved in a car accident that fatally injured his father and left his mother almost a quadriplegic.

“Once you’ve been through something like that, I thought having a little cancer wasn’t that bad. I didn’t look at it as a death sentence,” he said. “It was OK you’ve got cancer; let’s deal with it and move on to the next thing.”

Mickonis said he kept trusting his doctors and eventually he was cancer-free.

“You get to ring a little bell,” he said of getting the news. “I was happy, but I was just ready to move on.”

Lewis said Mickonis never showed a lot of emotion and he tended to be pretty stoic in nature. But Mickonis did want to reenlist in the Army and was concerned the cancer might prevent that.
Now that Mickonis has beaten cancer, he is just waiting on some administrative work until he can return to his unit and eventually reenlist. And the fiancee that thought he was joking about having cancer is now his wife and the two are expecting their first child by the end of the year.

French Naval Aviators Partner With U.S. Navy During Chesapeake 2018


By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Zachary P. Wickline, USS George H.W. Bush

ATLANTIC OCEAN -- A French navy Rafale fighter jet crests the horizon, on a glide path to touch down as part of an historic combined flight operation aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group and French Carrier Air Wing departed Norfolk, Virginia, May 7 to begin combined exercise Chesapeake 2018.

Carrier Qualifications

French sailors embarked aboard the USS Bush to conduct carrier qualifications, a series of arrested landings and takeoffs from an aircraft carrier done regularly by squadrons to maintain their naval aviation proficiency. The exercise consists of one E-2C Hawkeye and 12 Rafale French navy aircraft and 27 pilots looking to keep their skills sharp.

“In preparation for the underway portion of this exercise the Rafales and Carrier Air Wing, eight aircraft worked side byside out of [Naval Air Station] Oceana doing tactical missions,” said Navy Capt. Sean R. Bailey, commanding officer of the USS Bush.

Operational Training

The French navy has one aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, which is undergoing a maintenance period. Approximately 3,700 U.S. and 301 French sailors are working together to maintain, launch and recover aircraft to strengthen interoperability between U.S. and French naval forces during Chesapeake 2018.

“We’re busy; we’ve got a flight deck full of aircraft,” Bailey said. “A key piece of this exercise is not only to get [French aviators] carrier qualified. Once they’re fully qualified, that allows us to move into some more operational training, integrate them with our CAG-8 aircraft, and they can practice some higher-end training and missions beyond the basics of taking off and landing.”

Historic Partnership

Chesapeake 2018 is named after the historic Battle of Chesapeake during the Revolutionary War when French naval ships cut off British supply lines to British Gen. Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, Virginia. The French navy’s victory stranded Cornwallis’ army, and less than eight weeks later he surrendered to Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army.

The USS Bush strike group is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier air wing exercises with the French navy to strengthen partnerships and deepen interoperability between the two nations' naval forces.

Dunford Arrives in Brussels for NATO Meetings


By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

BRUSSELS -- Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived here today to participate in NATO Military Committee chiefs of defense meetings that will set the stage for the alliance defense ministerial conference next month and the NATO summit in July.

Dunford will join the chiefs of defense from the other NATO members “to discuss NATO operations and missions and provide the North Atlantic Council with consensus-based military advice on how the alliance can best meet global security challenges,” said Joint Staff spokesman Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder.

Czech Gen. Petr Pavel chairs the Military Committee, the highest military council in the alliance.

Issues Confronting the Alliance

The meetings will examine a range of issues confronting the alliance. The chiefs of defense will discuss Russia and the progress of deterrence in Eastern Europe. Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller and Greek army Gen. Mikhail Kostarakos, the chairman of the European Union Military Committee, will join the discussion.

The chiefs will also discuss threats in the Middle East and North Africa. They will discuss the military aspects of NATO’s Projecting Stability initiative, including the NATO training effort in Iraq. Leaders from the partner nations of Australia, Finland, Sweden, Georgia and Jordan will join that discussion.

The chiefs will examine NATO-European Union cooperation, especially in regard to military mobility, the reinforcement of the alliance maritime posture and the NATO Readiness initiative.

NATO Modernization

Finally, the chiefs will discuss alliance modernization. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, and French air force Gen. Denis Mersier, the supreme allied commander for transformation, will brief the chiefs on the NATO command structure adaptation and the detailed implementation plan.