Blackhawk!

Archive for the ‘Memorial’ Category

S.O.Tech Reaches a 300,000 Mask Milestone While Incurring a Sad Loss

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

It was with great pride that this week the S.O.Tech team delivered our 300,000th cloth facecover, but that news turned somber when we learned that a dear friend to the company, Deputy Tim Tellez, died battling COVID-19. So we dedicate our accomplishment to Tim’s memory, and we will continue the effort for Tim and other fallen first responders.

If you’ve seen a picture of police gear on SOTECH’s website, it was probably strapped onto Tim, we just cut his face out and blurred his name badge. He took gear design to heart and was always there to give thoughts and feedback on patrol officer gear because he cared about his fellow LEOs.  He was a 20 year veteran of LASD. We will be making a donation in his honor.

Not only was S.O.Tech able to deliver the 300,000 masks, but we have been able to fill major military, aerospace and law enforcement contracts in the face of a pandemic strained supply line.  We are proud of the teamwork exhibited by our staff.

In Memoriam – Mike DeBenedetto

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Silent Warrior Foundation founding board member Mike DeBenedetto due to complications arising from COVID-19.

The veteran’s organization he helped found has a great tribute to his memory.

May He Rest In Peace.

December 7th, 1941, A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

Monday, December 7th, 2020

With those words, President Franklin Roosevelt told America, and the world, that we had entered the war.

Today is the anniversary of the surprise Japanese attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbor. Sadly, we no longer even hold ceremonies commemorating that day.

We have raised generation after generation who take what we have for granted and vilify the sacrifices of our forebearers. They make us out to be the bad guys.

Every year there are fewer and fewer of out greatest generation among us. Let us always honor their sacrifices to keep America, and the world, free.

I’d also like to take a moment of silence for the 2402 Americans who were lost on that day, along with the hundreds more, who were wounded during the attack. We are forever in your debt.

Female Military Working Dog Handlers Honored at Military Women’s Memorial

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

WASHINGTON –- It was a hot and muggy evening at Fort Clayton, Panama, as then-Pfc. Renae Johnson scanned the jungle tree line in an attempt to stop thieves from gaining entry into the installation.

It was 1992, and Johnson was a member of the Missouri National Guard’s 205th Military Police Battalion. Determined to protect and serve, she enlisted just a year prior at age 17, which landed her a short deployment to support local law enforcement efforts with the 534th MP Company.

A career with the Missouri Guard felt like the right path at the time, or at least that was what Johnson thought until that evening, she said.

“That is when I met my first military working dog (MWD) handler coming out of the jungle,” as she crossed paths with then-Staff Sgt. John McKinney and his narcotics detection dog “Solo 503P” out on patrol, she explained.

McKinney was an imposing figure, standing over 6-feet tall with stacked airborne and air assault badges on his uniform, Johnson said. Solo stood idly beside him and appeared just as large and threatening as his handler.

He stuck around to answer all of Johnson’s questions and even suggested she move to active-duty to pursue a career as a MWD handler, she said.

Six months later, she finalized her transition paperwork and moved to active-duty. Johnson would then go on to spend the next seven years, to include multiple deployments and assignments, working toward her goal, she said.

“I just knew it was something I was meant to do,” she said. “Being an MWD handler is an intense and high-impact job — a way of life.”

On Oct. 17, the Military Women’s Memorial unveiled its first monument on the eve of its 23rd anniversary. The memorial honors and tells the stories of women, past and present, who have served the nation.

The monument, titled “The Pledge,” captures a moment of mutual respect and love between a female handler and her Belgian Malinois, said Susan Bahary, its artist.

The monument depicts a dog reaching up to her handler as she kneels beside the dog. It captures a feeling of commitment and support, as both reach out to each other with a desire to accomplish their mission, Bahary added.

Johnson proudly served as a handler before retiring in 2012 as a sergeant first class with a military occupational specialty code of 31BZ6, or a MP officer with a working dog additional skill identifier, she said. The Army transitioned to the new 31K MWD handler career field just two years later.

“The job was physically and mentally draining, but none of that mattered if I had my dog beside me,” she said.

As a career handler, Johnson attended the unveiling ceremony with other military handlers. Together, they showed their combined support for their career field and paid respect to the female handlers who helped paved the way, she said.

“It is a beautiful monument that will one day change the trajectory of some little girl’s life,” Johnson said, much like the way her life changed when she first met Solo and McKinney.

MWD impact

Military working dogs are a force multiplier, often used to provide patrol, narcotics, and explosive detection capabilities in garrison or on the battlefield, said Sgt. Maj. Viridiana Lavalle, the Army’s most senior ranking 31K MWD handler.

These dogs can do “a plethora of things that no piece of equipment or Soldier can emulate … with their sense of hearing, smell and ability to detect,” said Lavalle, who is the provost sergeant major for the directorate of emergency services at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Handlers often operate as individual augmentees and can deploy at home or abroad with any unit or agency to provide immediate animal support, she said.

“Dog handlers must be extremely self-sufficient and independent, regardless if they are an 18- or 19-year-old private first class or a seasoned staff sergeant,” Lavalle added.

These Soldiers need to display a high level of maturity and professionalism to find success, she said. Handlers are considered subject-matter experts the moment they arrive and must be able to articulate the limitations and capabilities of the MWD to their chain of command.

Like Johnson’s experience in Panama, Lavalle’s passion for dogs led her to join the military police corps in 2001 and later transition to a MWD handler in 2003.

“I think we have evolved when it comes to women serving in the MWD MOS,” Lavalle said, adding that more women should choose to serve as a 31K.

The Army currently has close to 650 Soldiers in the MWD field, with nearly 20% of them female, she said.

“We have made a tremendous amount of progress, but we are still facing various obstacles,” Lavalle said. “I have faith we will continue to overcome them and exceed the standards.”

Overall, the MWD career field is one of the best jobs the Army has to offer, she said.

“I can’t even explain how rewarding it is,” Lavalle said. “When you first get your MWD assigned to you and you start to build that bond — then you start to see that team concept.”

Developing trust

Building trust with a K-9 counterpart is a critical aspect of the career field, Johnson said, as she recalled one incident with her explosives detection dog named Fido that warned Soldiers of a possible danger.

While deployed to Iraq, Johnson and another MWD handler joined a quick reaction force to track down an escaped prisoner in a vast junkyard filled with decommissioned Iraqi military equipment and vehicles.

The junkyard spanned across several acres with multiple entry points, Johnson said. Leaders decided to split the handlers into smaller squads and enter the scrapyard on opposing sides to cover more ground.

“I am telling my dog, ‘Find the bad guy,’ as he almost pulls my arm out of the socket,” Johnson said. “We are moving through the junkyard when he starts going crazy and immediately sits down.”

Thinking Fido was just confused by her command, Johnson encouraged him to get back up and continue the search. He pressed forward a little further before deciding to sit once again.

That was when it dawned on her that she recognized her dog’s signal for unexploded ordinances in the area.

Military working dogs are trained to receive praise or reward after completing a task, Johnson explained. An MWD never stops working. In this instance, Fido made the right choice to signal instead of blindly searching the area for the escaped individual.

“I turned around to the squad leader and said, ‘Shut off all your radios, let my dog in front of you and only step where we step.’”

Johnson led the team out of the junkyard and ran around to extract the other squad. The second handler was paired with a narcotics detection dog and was not trained to detect explosives in the area.

“Establishing a bond and rapport is everything to that handler,” Lavalle said. “Without it, that team will not be effective” or could become a liability.

“That is something that we establish from day one when a Soldier goes through dog handling school,” she added. “Understanding the need for a common mutual respect between the dog and handler, and building the rapport and fundamentals during training” is critical to the mission.

The Pledge

Planning for the monument started just under two years ago after the U.S. War Dogs Association commissioned a memorial to honor the service and sacrifice of female MWD handlers, Bahary said.

“With ‘The Pledge,’ we felt it had to represent all women in the military,” Bahary said. “When you can move people emotionally through a work of art, it can open their hearts and make them more apt to learn.”

As Bahary started designing the monument, she was determined to convey a strong message of duty, capability, commitment and compassion in both figures. She began by looking at many photos of MWD handlers to draw inspiration for her design.

At one point in the design process, Bahary physically kneeled as if to pose herself in front of a dog sitting with an outstretched paw. Doing so helped ensure a level of authenticity in her final design, she said.

Bahary then went on to start the female figure using a metal armature as a base and covering it with layers upon layers of clay, she said. She then began the sculpting of the military working dog and later added the intricate details of the uniform and equipment.

The model was then cast to create a series of molds, she said. From these molds a multi-step process known as a lost-wax was used to produce a bronze casting of the final figure. The metal process can take two to three months to complete.

The final piece was welded together, the metal was finished, sprayed, and brushed with different chemicals and heated to create color variations. It was then mounted onto a granite base for display at the memorial.

Bahary created the country’s first official war dog memorial, “Always Faithful,” in 1994 to honor all military working dogs killed during service. It was unveiled at the Pentagon and dedicated at the Marine Corps War Dog Cemetery in Guam. It depicts the well-known Marine Corps Doberman named Kurt that fought during the Second Battle of Guam during World War II.

She is also working on the National Service Animals Monument. This monument will be dedicated to the deeds and sacrifices of all animals employed by the military, police, and search and rescue groups, along with the animals providing assistance and companion services or emotional support.

“As an artist, this is an incredible honor,” Bahary said. “It feels so gratifying to know that the women in the military are finally getting this kind of well-deserved recognition in our nation’s capital.”

The Pledge monument is genuinely humbling, Lavalle said, adding that Bahary did a phenomenal job representing all female handlers.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to be the first female handler to achieve the rank of sergeant major, and to be a part of this era where women handlers are starting to be formally recognized and honored for their sacrifices and commitment to the military working dog program,” Lavalle said.

“As a 31K dog handler, it is my duty and the duty of other women handlers to continue to pave the way,” she added. “This is my passion, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I was born to be a dog handler and trainer.”

By Devon Suits, Army News Service

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Operation Gothic Serpent

Sunday, October 4th, 2020

Yesterday and today October 3rd and 4th is the Day of the Rangers, Battle of Mogadishu or better known as Blackhawk Down. Task Force Ranger was tasked with conducting a raid to capture two lieutenants of a Somali warlord. Task Force Ranger was made of members of C squadron of the 1st Special Forces Group Detachment Delta and B company of 3rd Ranger Battalion, Task Force 160 Special Operation Aviation Regiment, SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Development Group and Air Force Pararescuemen and Combat Controllers from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. They were transported to the target by ground and helicopters. The mission should have only taken about an hour. They inserted around 1350 local time, from the start they found themselves under heavy fire. When two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down (the first being around 1620 local) it quickly went from a snatch and grab to a rescue and recovery. A long ground battle to place and the U.S. forces were heavily outnumbered. By the time the last Troops made it to safety at a UN base it was around 0640 local on the 4th.

While leaving the last crash site, a group of Rangers and Delta operators led by SSG John R. Dycus realized that there wasn’t enough room in the vehicles for them and they were forced to move out on foot to a rendezvous point on National Street but they ended up going all the way back to the UN Base. This is known as the Mogadishu Mile. They think it was anywhere from 3.5 to 4 miles.

Casualties included 19 dead American soldiers and 73 wounded, with Malaysian forces suffering one death and seven wounded, and Pakistani forces suffering one death and two injuries. There were between 315 and 2,000 Somali casualties. Two Medals of Honor were posthumously awarded to MSG Gary Gordan and SFC Randy Shughart for their actions on the ground to protect one of the pilots (Mike Durant) and the crash site.

1st SFOD-D 

MSG Gary Gordon Killed defending the crew of Super Six-Four Medal of Honor

SFC Randy Shughart Killed defending the crew of Super Six-Four Medal of Honor

SSG Daniel Busch Crashed on Super Six-One, died from wounds received defending the downed crew Silver Star

SFC Earl Fillmore Killed moving to the first crash site Silver Star

SFC Matt Rierson Killed on October 6, 1993 by a mortar which landed just outside the hangar Silver Star

MSG Tim “Griz” Martin Died from wounds received on the Lost Convoy Silver Star and Purple Heart

3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment

CPL Jamie Smith Died of wounds with the pinned-down force around crash site one Bronze Star with Valor Device and Oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart

SPC James Cavaco Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

SGT Casey Joyce Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

PFC Richard “Alphabet” Kowalewski Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

SGT Dominick Pilla Killed on Struecker’s convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

SGT Lorenzo Ruiz Killed on the Lost Convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device

160th SOAR (Nightstalkers)

SSG William Cleveland Crew chief on Super Six-Four-killed Silver Star, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

SSG Thomas Field Crew chief on Super Six-Four-killed Silver Star, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

CW4 Raymond Frank Copilot of Super Six-Four-killed Silver Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

CW3 Clifton “Elvis” Wolcott Pilot of Super Six-One and died in crash Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

CW2 Donovan “Bull” Briley Copilot of Super Six-One and died in crash Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor Device

2nd Battalion 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade 10th Mountain Division

SGT Cornell Houston Killed on the rescue convoy Bronze Star with Valor Device, de Fleury Medal

PFC James Martin Killed on the rescue convoy Purple Heart

The Anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

Everyday marks an anniversary of a significant event in American military history, but today stands out among them.

On this date in 1993, US service members were engaged in what is now known as the Battle of Mogadishu. A joint organization was formed named ” TF Ranger” to deploy to Mogadishu, Somalia in support of a UN-led humanitarian mission. Already having conducted operations for some time, on 3 October they raided the city’s Olympic Hotel in order to capture key leaders of the Aidid Militia.

Unfortunately, during the exfil portion of the raid, a battle ensued which claimed the lives of 18 Americans and wounded another 73. Additionally, CW3 Michael Durant was captured by the Aideed militia. Fortunately, Durant was later repatriated and went on to retire from the 160th.

Of the men killed that day, two would be awarded the Medal of Honor, Delta Operators Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, for their selfless efforts to protect Durant after his aircraft, callsign Super 64, was shot down.

If you are unfamiliar with the events, one of the best accounts of the battle is contained in the book, “Blackhawk Down” by author Mark Bowden. Much of the information was serialized prior to the book’s publication in the Philadelphia Enquirer. Later this was made into a movie bearing the same name.

Please take a moment to remember these men and their sacrifice.

Additionally, the 75th Ranger Regiment was created on this day in 1984, with the stand up of its 3rd Battalion. Thirty-five years later, the Ranger Regiment boasts boasts five battalions of some of the most elite warriors on the face of our planet.

Wreaths Across America to Dedicate the Colonel Roger Donlon Vietnam War ‘Welcome Home’ Room at its History & Hospitality House in Maine

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Col. Donlon, United States Army Special Forces (Retired), was the first recipient of the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War

COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine – Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 – On Saturday, Oct. 3, Wreaths Across America (WAA) will dedicate the Colonel Roger Donlon Vietnam War ‘Welcome Home’ Room at its newly renovated History & Hospitably House located next door to the nonprofit’s national headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine.

Colonel Donlon became the first American soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor in Vietnam for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 July 1964. Col. Donlon and his wife Norma have dedicated their lives to service of this country and the communities in which their family has been stationed throughout Roger’s 30-year military career.

“Norma and I are honored and proud to participate in the dedication of this special room.  As a Vietnam era Gold Star Wife, Norma is grateful to WAA for providing a place where families can gather when visiting to participate in the Remembrance Tree Program,” said Col. Donlon. “As Blue Star parents of three sons who have served our country, we encourage others to visit WAA and enjoy the warm hospitality of the Worcester Family and all those involved with the mission to Remember… Honor… Teach.”

The Vietnam War ‘Welcome Home’ Room is the latest of the WAA History & Hospitality House room projects to be completed by WAA since starting this endeavor nearly three years ago, and is the largest room in the house, chosen because of the space it offers for local Vietnam Veterans to gather and share stories with each other and the community.

“Several years ago, a land purchase was made to secure a right-of-way and access to the Wreaths Across America headquarters – a building donated to the organization by the community. This historic home built in 1820 was part of that purchase,” said Karen Worcester, executive director WAA. “We decided that it would make a great house for the many Gold and Blue Star families, and veterans that visit throughout the year. In keeping with our mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach, each room is being renovated and decorated to represent a period in United States history associated with a military conflict.”

As ambassadors for Wreaths Across America, and active participants in the program in their hometown of Leavenworth, KS, the Donlon’s have become very involved in the mission over the last several years. They first traveled to Maine in 2017 to help with the opening of the similarly named Vietnam ‘Welcome Home’ Exhibit at the National Wreaths Across America Museum. That same year, the couple also served as honorary co-grand marshals for the annual escort to Arlington National Cemetery. Most recently in 2018, they participated in the dedication of the Medal of Honor Remembrance Park, which is an 8-acre park located on the tip land where balsam is harvested to make veterans’ wreaths each year for placement on National Wreaths Across America Day.

“Not only is Roger an American hero, but he and Norma, are dear friends who have become part of the Wreaths Across America family,” added Worcester. “To have them be here together for this event, and give others the opportunity to learn from them as we have had the honor to do, is truly humbling.”

To view a short video on why the mission matters to the Donlon’s click here.

To learn more about Col. Roger Donlon’s service and the actions that lead to his receiving the Medal of Honor, please click here.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – National Gold Star Family Day

Sunday, September 27th, 2020

Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day is observed on the last Sunday in September. Also known as National Gold Star Mother’s Day, it honors the mothers and families of fallen military service members. The observance began during World War I and was created to recognize and honor those who have lost a son or daughter who served our country in the Armed Forces. On June 23, 1936, a joint congressional resolution designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day and proclaimed annually by each president.  

The history of National Gold Star Mother’s Day and their families begins with the U.S. entering WW1. An Army Captain Robert L. Queasier, whose two sons were serving on the front-line, created what is now called the Service Flag. The flag was displayed (normally hung in a window) with a blue star to represent a child serving in the military during times of war or hostilities. The flag quickly became the unofficial symbol of someone in the family in the service. 

 

 

 

A Gold Star Family is the immediate family member of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict. A Gold Star Family can display a Gold Star Service Flag for service members who were killed or died, while serving in the Armed Forces, from causes other than dishonorable. The number of gold stars on the flag corresponds to with the number of individuals who were killed or died. A gold star is placed over the blue star on a Blue Star Service Flag so that the blue forms a border and creates Gold Star Service Flag. The U.S. Department of Defense also issues Gold Star lapel pins to immediate family members of a fallen service member of the military. These pins can be worn by spouses, parents, and children of service members killed in the line of duty and contain a gold star on a purple circular background. 

 

 

The Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses ask President Wilson to authorize that mothers who had lost a child who served in the war could wear a traditional black mourning armband with a gold gilt star in 1918. This approval led to the tradition of a gold star covering the blue star on the Service flag to show that the service member had passed. It’s is also believed that Wilson coined the term “Gold Star Mother.”

George Washington once said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” I believe this is also true when it comes to our veterans and families of the fallen. There are many groups and organization out there that help the family’s, but nothing will replace the fallen service member. But being involved with the family and helping those organizations is an amazing way to stay connected to your brothers and sisters that are gone.  

 

Later this week on Tuesday the 29th is St Michaels day. In the Christian, Jewish and Islamic he is known for leading gods’ arms against satan. He is not really a saint but an archangel. In medieval Christianity he was made a patron saint of chivalry, now he is considered the patron saint of Law Enforcement, Military and Paramedics (technically medics also have/ lean towards St Luke and St Albert). Please take a minute or two on Tuesday and say thank you for having people that will do those jobs. Even if it is just saying it in your mind to yourself.