Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tycho's Supernova Remnant

Tycho's Supernova Remnant
X-Ray Image Credit: NASA / CXC / F.J. Lu (Chinese Academy of Sciences) et al.
Poem: Alice Allen (apologies to William Blake)


Tycho! Tycho! burning bright
In the darkness of the night,
What exploding white dwarf star
Did frame thy remnant from afar,

In the distant deep dark skies
Under gaze of human eyes?
Seen by mortals and their ma
Named for one called Tycho Brahe.


He Ain't Heavy..

"Every soldier is one of our own. Every soldier's family is OUR family.."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding: Welsh Guard and 'Jerusalem'

The Procession to Buckingham Palace (Welsh Guard)

War On Terror News previous column on military involvement in the Royal Wedding: here.

'Jerusalem' is based on a poem by William Blake, and is one of my favourite English hymns. Yes, I DO know all the words.

NASA: Earth's Satellite

Add Image

It's Friday and I support the troops!

Do you?


From the Australian DoD:


Artillery training team hits mark

The Afghan National Army (ANA) Artillery Training School in Kabul has reached an important milestone with its first graduates joining Afghan and ISAF combat elements in Kandahar Province.

Commanding Officer of the International Artillery Training Team – Kabul (ATT-K), Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Kane Mangin said that the school’s first intake had been a success.

“This is an important month for the school because our first group of graduates has been formed into the first of the newest batteries of the ANA artillery,” LTCOL Mangin said.

“The graduates deployed to Kandahar in early April and with a bit of extra training they will be into the fight later this year.”

The school, mentored by the Australian led ATT-K, prepares Afghan soldiers to become skilled artillerymen and is an important step towards Afghan security forces taking full responsibility for security in the coming years.

“The ATT-K comprises six member nations and our collective task is to implement and develop the school of artillery for the ANA,” LTCOL Mangin said.

“Our mission is to spread the capability of the ANA Artillery Branch across Afghanistan.”

Australia currently has 20 artillery trainers mentoring Afghan instructors at the school, which officially opened in October 2010.

Although training includes live firing of the ANA’s D-30 Howitzer guns and rigorous gun drills, an important aspect of the school curriculum is to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills.

The national literacy rate in Afghanistan is around 28% but for recruits it is only 14%. Therefore, these skills are key to professionalising the Afghan National Security Forces, and are highly valued by the students.

The ANA Artillery Training School was the first military school in Afghanistan to develop and run a literacy program for its students.

“Most of the soldiers we receive come straight off the street and cannot read or write,” LTCOL Mangin said.

“Artillery is a technical trade requiring literacy and numeracy skills so we implemented a literacy program which gives our trainees basic fundamentals to do the job.”

At any one time, the school typically has 440 students attending one of nine different courses.

The goal for the school is to provide artillery training to approximately 2100 officers and soldiers over the next twelve months, which translates to approximately 23 artillery batteries for the ANA.

The creation of these newest batteries indicates progress is being made and the future for the ANA Artillery branch is looking positive.”



Soldiers serve as linguists; ambassadors

Written by Maj. William Mott, STT, 1st Bn., 12th Cav. Regt. UPAR, 3rd AAB, 1st Cav. Div. Tuesday, April 26, 2011

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRAH, Iraq – Most of us are familiar with the local national interpreters, however there is a new generation of Soldiers born from Operation Iraqi Freedom, and developed into combat multipliers for Operation New Dawn; U.S. Soldier interpreters under the military occupational specialty O-9L Linguist here in Basrah, Iraq.

They are referred to as “oh-nine-leemahs,” Arabic speaking Americans who have joined the U.S. military to serve as linguists.

Spc. Ali Gamah, originally from Iraq and Spc. Ehab Amer, from Egypt, are two examples of this new breed of Soldiers and are deployed with Stability Transition Teams (STT) within 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. “I came into my mission at the Basrah Operations Center (BaOC) with all the concerns and fears that I have as an American Soldier born and raised in Basrah,” said Gamah.

Initially, he thought translating his native language into English would be an easy job but quickly realized his tasks were more extensive. From coordinating convoys without violating operational security to coordinating with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) for missions with U.S. forces, his job is not easy.

The BaOC conducts 24-hour operations. The five-person team manages the BaOC convoys to accomplish the counter indirect fire patrols, humanitarian aid missions, Provincial Reconstruction Team movements, ISF convoys and training tasks.

Gamah has been performing this pivotal job since February with Spc. Ehab Amer. Amer, who calls Alaska home, joined the STT by way of Fort Irwin, Calif.

Amer said he is impressed with the level of responsibility he has in translating information for U.S. and Iraqi officers concerning military intelligence.

“Spc. Gamah and I have developed a high level of cooperation with the entire Iraqi staff, and they readily share concerns they get from the Iraqi ground forces,” said Amer. ...

More here.


HMS Cornwall's final homecoming

A History and Honour news article

27 Apr 11

HMS Cornwall returned to HM Naval Base Devonport in Plymouth for the final time yesterday, following a six-month deployment conducting counter-piracy operations east of Suez.

HMS Cornwall at Devonport

HMS Cornwall at Devonport
[Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Dan Hooper, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

HMS Cornwall deployed from the UK on 28 October last year to patrol the Gulf of Aden as the command ship for CTF 151 - the Counter-Piracy Task Force of a multi-national naval partnership.

The partnership promotes security, stability and prosperity across 2.5 million square miles (6.5m sq km) of international waters in the Middle East, including some of the world's most important shipping lanes which are vital for the UK's trade.

Commander David Wilkinson, the ship's commanding officer, praised his crew as they returned home yesterday:

"They have been utterly professional in all that has been asked of them, but today is about reunion with our loved ones and recognising the support they have given us to keep us strong over the past six months."

The ship's final entry was marked by a fly-past of the ship's helicopter and a gun salute from one of the ship's guns as she passed Plymouth Hoe.

Crowds welcome HMS Cornwall at Devonport

Families and friends of HMS Cornwall's company congregate en masse in the Plymouth sunshine to welcome home their loved ones
[Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Shaun Barlow, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

HMS Cornwall is one of four Plymouth-based Type 22 frigates which are being decommissioned under the Government's strategic defence and security review.

Commander Wilkinson added:

"The final homecoming is a day of mixed emotions -- happiness to be returning home at the end of a successful deployment and being reunited with our families, yet also sadness to be bringing this proud ship home to her base port for the final time...

Go read the rest here.



Iowa Guard Agribusiness Development Team saves Afghan man’s eyesight

By Air Force Capt. Peter Shinn
Combined Joint Task Force 101

Spc. Daniel Kersbergen, security forces team member with the Iowa National Guard's 734th Agribusiness Development Team, administers an intravenous fluids bag to Roz Amin, an injured Afghan road worker, as Army Staff Sgt. Michael Martinez, the ADT's senior combat medic, supervises at the Sarkani District Center April 25, 2011. (Photo by Air Force Capt. Peter Shinn, Combined Joint Task Force 101)

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (4/28/11) - During a mission in the Sarkani District April 25, the senior combat medic for the Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team provided urgent medical care to an Afghan road worker whose eyes had been accidentally doused with diesel fuel.

Co-workers of the injured man, Roz Amin, carried him to the Sarkani District Center shortly after the accident, which occurred on a road paving project just a few meters away. Members of the ADT were at the district center conducting a key leader engagement with the district sub-governor and other officials.

Amin’s co-workers brought him to a member of the ADT’s security forces and explained Amin had fallen into hot tar.

The security forces team member quickly located U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Martinez, the ADT’s senior medic, and asked Martinez if he could help Amin.

“When we’re out on mission, our job is to treat our soldiers first, but if an Afghan has an emergency involving life, limb or eyesight, we have a duty to treat them, too,” said Martinez.

“So when I first heard it was a burn, I was prepared for the worst, because I’ve seen a lot of burns at home and here in Afghanistan and it can be pretty bad.”

However, when Martinez assessed Amin, he discovered he had only minor burns on his hands and face....

Go read the rest here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

If you're reading this - for our families

My heart hurts to know that 9 more American HEROES gave their all in service this week.

THIS is for their families, with much respect, gratitude and love.

I stand with you, for you. ALWAYS.

"The Angels sing 'Amazing Grace'..."

ALWAYS remembered. ALWAYS honoured.

"NO ground troops in Libya"! Really?

Just caught this from the MoD:

UK troops in Libya

Several national newspapers have reported that Britain may consider deploying ground troops in the Libya campaign for humanitarian purposes or to protect safe havens for civilians. Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has said that Britain 'may have to look at' deploying ground troops as part of the Libya campaign to establish safe havens for civilians. However, in evidence given to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, he stressed that the Government has no plans and 'no intentions to deploy British forces on the border of Libya'.

Yes, emphasis mine. Pay attention!

Women Veterans and Mental Health

Because our women veterans matter:


Women's Mental Health

Smiling United States Marine posing with her mother

Women Veterans and Mental Health

Recent research shows that about 25 – 30 percent of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of a mental disorder. Untreated mental health issues can result in long-term problems for you, your family, and your community, so it’s important to see your doctor or a counselor if you’re feeling depressed, sad, or anxious.

If you served in the military, you are at risk for mental health problems as a result of your experiences or injuries. These mental health issues may include:

Home life struggles are also common, and can include marital and caregiver stress, elder abuse or neglect, and problems with parenting anger management. These types of relationship challenges can build on already existing mental health problems or lead to them.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Women Veterans

Are you thinking of suicide? If yes, please do the following:

  • Dial: 911
  • Dial: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Check yourself into the emergency room.
  • Tell someone who can help you find help right away.
  • Stay away from things that might hurt you.

PTSD can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you.

If you are in the military, you may have seen combat. You may have been on missions that exposed you to horrible and life-threatening experiences. You may have been shot at, seen a friend shot, or seen death. These are types of events that can lead to PTSD.

Military sexual trauma can also lead to PTSD. Sometimes, PTSD is also associated with intimate partner violence (IPV).

Women are more likely than men to develop chronic, or long-lasting, PTSD after experiencing a trauma. Not all women who experience a traumatic event develop PTSD. However, women are more likely to develop PTSD if they:

  • Have a past mental health problem (like depression or anxiety)
  • Experience a very severe or life-threatening trauma
  • Were sexually assaulted
  • Were injured during the event
  • Had a severe reaction at the time of the event
  • Experienced other stressful events afterwards
  • Do not have good social support

Some PTSD symptoms are more common in women than in men. Women are more likely to be jumpy, to have trouble feeling emotions, and to avoid things that remind them of the trauma....

There is much more information, and resources, HERE.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Milbloggie Awards make it official: I DO support US Military!

"I proudly stand up next to you, and defend her still today. Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land, God Bless the USA.. "

The 5th Annual Milblog Awards (The Milbloggies) are in the finalist voting stages. This site is one of the finalists in the US Military Supporter category!

I know some have already voted for Assoluta Tranquillita. Thank you. Your job is not done yet, though. You still have more voting to do. From War on Terror News:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Best Military Reporter & Other Milblog Nominations

War On Terror News is honored to have been nominated and selected to compete in the "Best Reporter" category of the annual "Milblog Awards." We face some stiff competition. Susan Katz Keating is an awesome supporter of the Military, who educates the world on Cold War History, while explaining it's meaning in context. She's been on our link list for longer than I can recall.

Jeffrey Schogol, aka the Rumor Doctor, has a helluva platform to get the votes out at Stars & Stripes. He's one of the good guys, even if we've gone head to head on the correct spelling of Teufelhuenden. (It's Devil Dogs, not the devil's pets.)

Michael Yon has a rabid fan base, which we can't match. We don't have fans. We have readers. Personally, I like it that way. I don't want fans to spur me on to destruction. I want readers and friends and contacts, that will tell me if I step over the line, and coax me back onto the straight and narrow.

But making the voting round, as an underdog, is not our greatest achievement. It is much more satisfying that most of our own nominations have made it. I'm going to guess about 90% of my nominations made it to the voting round. One of the best things to come out of the Milblog Awards is finding new blogs, that I hadn't yet discovered. I've already found one that I like. Look around the finalists and you may find a few too! Here are the nominations we put in, or those we would have, had someone not beat us to the punch:

Be sure to check out WOTN's recommendations for voting HERE. You might see at least one or two you recognise..

Then GO VOTE, please. You are voting for Assoluta Tranquillita and WOTN, aren't you? No, I won't 'threaten' anyone with the infamous pom poms - which are always locked and loaded - but to remind you why any of us keep blogs going, here's one of my favourite videos, for one of my favourite Gold Star Moms (and Jason):

Everything I do, I do it for you...It really IS that simple..

Wednesday Hero

This Weeks Post Was Suggested by Michael

Col. Robert L. Howard
Col. Robert L. Howard
70 years old from Waco, Texas
Army Special Forces MACV-SOG Special Operations Command Korea
July 11, 1939 – December 23, 2009
U.S. Army

You learn very quickly that Col. Robert Howard was an amazing man. Wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat. 8 Purple Hearts, 4 Bronze Stars, 2 Distinguished Service Crosses. And the awards go on from there. But it's the three Medal Of Honor nominations for three separate actions within a thirteen month period that stand out.

1st Lt. Robert Howard Receives The Medal Of Honor

You can read more about Col. Robert L. Howard here and here and a tribute page dedicated to him here.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
Wednesday Hero Logo

Hydrogen in the LMC

Hydrogen in the LMC
Credit & Copyright: Marco Lorenzi (Star Echoes)

Explanation: A satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is an alluring sight in dark southern skies and the constellation Dorado. A mere 180,000 light-years distant, the LMC is seen in amazing detail in this very deep 4 frame mosaic of telescopic images, a view that reveals the Milky Way's satellite to have the appearance of a fledgling barred spiral galaxy. The mosaic includes image data taken through a narrow filter that transmits only the red light of hydrogen atoms. Ionized by energetic starlight, a hydrogen atom emits the characteristic red H-alpha light as its single electron is recaptured and transitions to lower energy states. As a result, this mosaic seems spattered with pinkish clouds of hydrogen gas surrounding massive, young stars. Sculpted by the strong stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation, the glowing hydrogen clouds are known as H II (ionized hydrogen) regions. Composed of many overlapping clouds, the sprawling Tarantula Nebula left of center, is by far the LMC's largest star forming region. The Large Magellanic Cloud is about 15,000 light-years across.


British Officer Cadets make their mark at US academy competition

A Training and Adventure news article

26 Apr 11

British Officer Cadets taking part in this year's Sandhurst Cup in America have won the top two best international team positions.

Officer Cadet Oliver Wootton

Officer Cadet Oliver Wootton gets the boot during the obstacle course in this year's Sandhurst Cup in America
[Picture: Sergeant Ian Forsyth RLC. Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

The British Cadets also won the Navigational Streamer, presented to the overall winner of the land navigation section of the two day challenge.

Fifty teams took part in the annual inter-company military skills competition at the United States Military Academy West Point, including seven international guest teams from Canada, Australia, Afghanistan, Taiwan, Chile and two Royal Military Academy Sandhurst teams.

The two day competition combined a six minute team marksmanship challenge, as well as a four and a half hour combat assault challenge including obstacle courses, command tasks, mental and physical endurance challenges such as a rope ravine crossing and casualty carries, a 90 minute navigation course followed by a river boat crossing and a first aid casualty assessment, before finishing with a series of mental military challenges.

The teams then needed to complete a written test to evaluate their observational skills during the course, and complete a final weapons check....

Much more here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Toby Keith Visits Big 'E'

Big 'E' Hosts Country Music Star


USS ENTERPRISE, At sea (NNS) -- Country music superstar Toby Keith visited thousands of Sailors and Marines aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), April 23.

Keith has long been associated with his public support of the U.S. military and has participated in many USO tours and performances for deployed troops.

The trip to Enterprise is Keith's first time touring a deployed U.S. Navy ship.

Before performing for the crew in the ship's hangar bay, Keith and his band members had a chance to tour the ship, to meet the crew and see exactly what it is they do on board the "city-at-sea" called USS Enterprise.

"Spending time with our troops around the world is something I've always regarded as a privilege and honor," said Keith. "I won't forget for a second who's really doing the heavy lifting to keep this country safe. And that's why I'll keep going back and spending time with those good folks every chance I get."

Prior to the show, Sailors and Marines had the opportunity to eat dinner with Keith and his crew.

"I had a great time at the dinner," said Yeoman Seaman Joshua A. Wright. "It's not everyday you get to eat dinner with Toby Keith and his crew."

During the show Keith wore an Enterprise tee shirt to show the crowd how proud he is with the ship and her crew.

"I think the concert was great for the crew," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class (SW/AW) Darren Villano. "After what this ship has been through so far this deployment, this concert is exactly what the doctor ordered. This is such a morale booster for the crew."

Keith spent most of the time on stage singing his award-winning songs and spoke to the crowd in between them. He received extremely loud cheers when he began his hit song '
Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,' which is a song about 9/11 and Operation Enduring Freedom, which the ship has supported during its current deployment.... (More here)

And of COURSE, I have to share this video:

Toby Keith's ninth tour on behalf of the USO is currently underway in the Middle East. Keith and members of his band spent Easter Sunday (April 24) with the crews of both the USS Enterprise CVN-65 aircraft carrier and the USS Leyte Gulf CG-55 guided missile launcher, both stationed at sea. As part of the 12-day tour, Keith also performed for U.S. troops and their families stationed in Bahrain on Friday (April 22) and had his picture taken in an F-18 fighter jet decorated with his name and his "Big Dog" nickname on Saturday (April 23). So far on this trip, he has performed for more than 9,900 service members. "Since my first tour, I've been hooked on performing for troops. I start looking forward to my next USO trip the minute I touch down here in the States. I love it and I love our troops, they are the best in the world," Keith said. (From CMT here)

Welcome Home 2 SCOTS!

2 SCOTS return from Afghanistan

A History and Honour news article

26 Apr 11

The last personnel from the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland to return from their six month deployment to Afghanistan arrived home today, Tuesday 26 April 2010.

Piper Corporal John Harvey leads (left to right) Lance Corporal Jason McGowan, Lance Corporal Warren Grant, Fusilier Robert Muir and Fusilier Dominic Milligan to Scots Corner the 2 SCOTS Community Centre
[Picture: Mark Owens, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

During their six month deployment, the Battalion operated from Lashkar Gah City in Helmand Province,with their supporting elements, to provide security in the region and train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in preparation for them assuming full control of security in the country in the future.

The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS), deployed on Operation HERRICK 13 in September 2010.

During their time in theatre they improved the lives of the indigenous population by providing protection from the insurgents and implementing projects to raise the quality of life for the people.

Throughout the tour, the Jocks, as they call themselves, were aided by their partners from the ANSF. All elements of the Battle Group were assisted by personnel from the Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) or other elements of the Afghan Security Forces.

Most lived with the 2 SCOTS soldiers, sharing patrol bases with them and conducting operations with them. This benefited everyone as the Afghans were able to talk to the local people and interact with them in a way the Jocks couldn’t, whilst the Afghans benefited from the superior firepower of the Jocks as well as the training that they received from them.

In the city of Lashkar Gah itself the ANSF were able to conduct security operations without the help of the forces from 2 SCOTS.

Fusilier Kristofer Crawford with three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Hannah and two-week-old Dominic

Fusilier Kristofer Crawford with three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Hannah, and two-week-old Dominic at Penicuik today
[Picture: Mark Owens, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]


You KNOW there is more here.


Monday, April 25, 2011

ANZAC DAY: Lest We forget

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers were known as Anzacs.

Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand. This is a rare instance of two sovereign countries not only sharing the same remembrance day, but making reference to both countries in its name.

When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a Federal Commonwealth for thirteen years. In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, under a plan by Winston Churchill to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The objective was to capture Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk). What had been planned as a bold strike to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. The Allied Gallipoli casualties included 21,255 from the UK, an estimated 10,000 dead soldiers from France, 8,709 from Australia, 2,721 from New Zealand, and 1,358 from British India. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.

Though the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives of capturing Istanbul and knocking Ottoman Empire out of the war, the Australian and New Zealand troops' actions during the campaign bequeathed an intangible but powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as an "Anzac legend" became an important part of the national identity in both countries. This has shaped the way their citizens have viewed both their past and their understanding of the present.

(GO read here.)

Lest we forget...

2011 White House Easter Egg Roll

*This is a parody*

2011 White House Easter Egg Roll

Welcome to the 2011 Easter Egg Roll, a White House tradition since 1878! This year's event will be held on April 25, 2011 from 7:30 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. Last year, we welcomed 30,000 people from 50 states and the District of Columbia.

White House construction

Due to the massive construction zone established for the White House tunnel system expansion project, we are holding the annual White House Easter Egg Roll inside the White House this year.

This year's theme is "Let's Go Play Indoors!" Instead of the traditional "rolling of the eggs with a wooden spoon" outside on the lawn, guests will have the opportunity to participate in a good old-fashioned hunt for easter eggs.

We will have 13,000 hard boiled eggs hidden all around three floors of the White House.

The following areas will be open to the public for the Easter Egg Hunt:

2011 White House Easter Egg Roll / Hunt inside Oval Office
  • Oval Office
  • Cabinet Room
  • Press Briefing Room
  • Situation Room
  • Roosevelt Room
  • Lincoln Bedroom
  • Treaty Room
  • State Dining Room
  • East Room
  • Red Room
  • Blue Room
  • Library
  • Movie Theater
  • Bowling Alley
  • White House Mess

Easter Egg Roll Entertainment Schedule

Let's Go Play Indoors! This will truly be an unforgettable experience. Our Easter Egg Roll schedule of activities will include hide-and-seek, laser tag, egg tossing, and Wii Sports! The latest video games will be available on computers located throughout the White House complex. Also, we will have an indoor reading stage and music stage set up where entertainers, artists, and some special guests will perform throughout the day. ...

Okay, this IS a parody, and yes, pretty funny, so hop over here, and read the rest.

[H/T Mickey]

Pfc. Jeremy Faulkner: Amazing Grace

Over at The Unknown Soldiers (a blog site I found only recently), is a must read column about one of our Fallen Heroes:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Amazing Grace

Image courtesy: U.S. Army

While listening to the haunting bagpipes of "Amazing Grace" during an April 9 memorial service honoring Pfc. Jeremy Faulkner in Jonesboro, Ga., I realized I had no idea what the 1779 song's famous lyrics, written by John Newton, actually meant. Faulkner's pastor, family, friends and fellow soldiers, who filled the huge church to capacity, helped clarify the beloved hymn's resonance.

"With a hail of fire all around him, Jeremy saw amazing grace," Rev. Ron Little said.

On March 29, Faulkner, 23, was one of six Task Force No Slack warriors of the storied 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) to die fighting for our country in Afghanistan's Kunar province. ...

Go - now - and read the rest of this MUST read column, here. Then bookmark that site, and visit often. I guarantee you will meet many of our finest, that the msm overlooks all too often.

U.S. Army Honours Heroic Canadian

Another story of a Canadian who served honourably in the US Military:

U.S. Army Honours Heroic Ottawan

U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense

Growing up in Ottawa’s Manor Park, Grant Derrick wanted more than anything else to be a hockey hero.

A goalie, he loved being at the heart of a team, being its crisis manager, its rock. But when his professional hockey dream didn’t materialize, Derrick studied e-commerce at Ottawa’s CDI College, then accepted a job in Memphis, Tennessee. He tried to settle into office life, but it just didn’t feel right.

“I never made it in hockey; I had never made it in anything else,” says Derrick, a graduate of Immaculata High School.

“I was still young, and before I settled down or it was too late for me to do anything else, I wanted to challenge myself: to go out and see what I could really do.”

He joined the U.S. army in 2003, determined to secure a place on a special forces unit. He earned his Green Beret and went on to serve one tour of duty in Iraq and three in Afghanistan, where the nature of his heroism was ultimately defined.

Last month, Staff Sgt. Derrick, a combat medic, was awarded the Silver Star for his “exceptionally valorous conduct” during a 10-hour battle with Taliban insurgents.

His mother, Marie Hallé, travelled from Ottawa to attend the medal ceremony in Fort Bragg, North Carolina....

There is a long history of Canadians heading north to fight alongside Americans in war zones around the world. Staff Sgt. Derrick' story is well worth the read here.

Thank you for your service, Sir.

Operation Overlord takes fight to the enemy

From ISAF Afghanistan:

Operation Overlord Eliminates Enemy Stronghold

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Darrin C Ricketts, deputy commander of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division U.S. Army Lt. Col. Donn H. Hill, commander of Task Force White Currahee, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division and U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Uberti, deputy commanding general of Afghan Development, 101st Airborne Div., speak with an Afghan National Army commander for Naka District, Afghanistan, during Operation Overlord, April 14. Operation Overlord, a joint effort with Afghan national Army, pushed Taliban forces out of Naka and denied them exit through the mountain terrain. (Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Zachary Burke)

Combined Joint Task Force 101
Story by U.S. Army Sgt. Luther L. Boothe Jr.
Task Force Currahee Public Affairs

PAKTIKA, Afghanistan (April 24, 2011)
— Nearly 350 Afghan National Security Forces and U.S. Army Soldiers from Task Force White Currahee air assaulted into Naka District, Afghanistan for the first time this deployment April 10-21.

Their mission, the largest combined operations for TF White Currahee, was to clear and eliminate the insurgent staging area.

The preparation for Operation Overlord was months in the making.

“Traditionally, (insurgents) have used Naka as a staging area and bed down location, so they can conduct operations throughout our AO and AOs to the south,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Matthew D. Nunes, the platoon leader with 2nd Platoon, Co. E, 2-506th, 4th BCT, 101st Airborne Div. and native of Dennis, Mass. “Throughout the deployment we have been doing shaping (operations) to cut off their access to the rest of our AO and basically limit them to only being able to operate in Naka. This was our big push to take Naka away from them too.”

According to U.S. Army Spc. Rex W. Hann, an infantryman with 1st Platoon, Company E ‘Easy’, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division and native of Lafayette, Ind., their mission was to disrupt any enemy that might be in the area and keep the local populace in Naka safe.

“It affects the overall security, because we have pretty much pushed the Taliban and foreign fighters to Naka, the farthest point from our (Combat Outpost), and we are trying to push them completely out of (our area of operations). Their last strong hold was in Naka,” he said.

Not only did the Soldiers face the challenge of clearing unfamiliar hostile territory, they accomplished it in weather conditions that included rain, hail, cold temperatures and gusty winds with enough equipment on their backs to last a minimum of three days.

“We carried around 110 pounds worth of gear in the rain, cold and wind while we moved around the mountains in the vicinity of Naka,” said Nunes.

During missions to remote villages the Soldiers face other challenges outside of the enemy threat.

“There are a lot of challenges, but one of the biggest is the communication barrier,” said Hann. “It is hard to speak to the locals not knowing the language—a lot of times they won’t trust the Americans because the Taliban has influenced them or told them false things about (us).”

To counter the issue, the Soldiers of Easy Company encouraged their Afghan National Police counterparts to take the lead when dealing with their countrymen.

“We worked with the ANP on this mission,” said U.S. Army Spc. Sean P. Bedard, a counter-insurgency team leader with E Co., 2-506th Inf. Reg., and native of Castor Valley, Calif. “It really helps to have them with us because it puts a local face on what we are trying to do, and the villagers trust these guys more because they speak the same language.”...

Go read the rest of this one here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cat's Eye Nebula

The Cat's Eye Nebula from Hubble
Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)


Staring across interstellar space, the alluring Cat's Eye nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this sharp Hubble Space Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across. Of course, gazing into the Cat's Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution ... in about 5 billion years.

I found this stunning picture on Astronomy Picture of the Day, a site that Kathi recently pointed me to...

Afghan Woman’s Hour Shone Light on Dark History

From Helmand Blog:

Women in Afghanistan

April 24, 2011


As a presenter of the ground-breaking Afghan Woman’s Hour, Zarghuna Kargar became a friendly voice and confidante for countless female listeners living under the Taliban.

Afghan Woman’s Hour, which ran until last year, was launched in January 2005 with the aim of providing women in Afghanistan with a radio show that would cut across all tribal, social and economic boundaries.

Through my work on the show I learnt about the dark period that the women of my country had endured during the Taliban era, while I was living abroad in Pakistan and later in Britain. I heard how families had felt pressurised into giving away their daughters to older men, how women were treated as if they were no longer of any use because they couldn’t work or get an education.

For a decade their faces had been hidden behind the walls of their houses and their voices had never been heard, but I decided to give these women a voice by airing their stories. Since the fall of the Taliban the situation for women has to an extent improved in Afghanistan: there are more than 60 women in parliament, and women can once again leave their homes to work or study.

However, scratch beneath the surface and stories such as the ones I tell below are still being repeated all over the country every day. By telling these stories I want to give an insight into what it’s like to live in one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous countries....

For much more, go here.

Every Day Hero: Lieutenant Tul Bahadur Pun, VC RIP

Lieutenant Tul Bahadur Pun, who died on April 20 aged 88, won the Victoria Cross while serving with the Second Chindit Expedition in Burma in 1944.

Tul Bahadur Pun Photo: Heathcliff O'Malley

From the Telegraph:

21 Apr 2011

Early in March that year the Second Chindit Expedition, a force of six brigades comprising some 9,000 men together with stores, was air-landed in Burma. The main objectives of the Expedition were twofold: first, to support the advance on Myitkyina by the American-led Chinese troops and to establish a strong position astride the Japanese lines of communication; and secondly, to impede the build-up of Japanese forces for an invasion of India by harassing them in the Mogaung area.

The Chindits were supplied by establishing a number of fortified bases with airstrips south of Myitkyina. These strongholds provoked a strong reaction from the Japanese, and some of them subsequently proved indefensible and had to be abandoned.

On May 27 the 77th Indian Brigade was ordered to capture the Japanese supply centre of Mogaung. After almost a month of savage fighting which had greatly depleted the brigade’s numbers, the 3rd Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the railway bridge at Mogaung on June 23. As soon as the attack had been launched, the Japanese opened concentrated and sustained crossfire at close range from a position known as “The Red House” and from a strong bunker position 200 yards to the left of it.

Captain Allmand, in command of “B” company, went forward alone and charged a machine-gun nest, but he was mortally wounded. So intense was the fire that both the leading platoons of “B” Company, one of which was Rifleman Pun’s, were pinned to the ground. Pun’s section — apart from himself, the section commander and one rifleman — was wiped out.

The section commander led his two remaining riflemen in a charge on The Red House, but he was at once severely wounded. Pun and his comrade continued the charge — but the latter, too, fell badly wounded. Pun then seized the Bren gun and, firing from the hip as he ran, continued the charge on the heavily bunkered position. He charged alone in the face of a shattering concentration of automatic fire directed straight at him.

With the dawn coming up behind him, Pun made a perfect target for the Japanese. He had to cross 30 yards of open ground, ankle deep in mud, through shell holes and over fallen trees. Against all the odds, he reached The Red House and closed with the occupants.

Pun killed three of the enemy, put five more to flight, and captured two machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave accurate supporting fire from the bunker to the remnants of his platoon, enabling them to reach their objective. Among the lives saved by Pun’s action was that of Major James Lumley, father of the actress Joanna Lumley, who has become one of the Gurkha Welfare Trust’s staunchest supporters....

Much more on this Hero here.

For more videos on the Ghurkas, go here.

Rest In Peace, Sir.

Every Day Hero: Captain Hamish Pelham-Burn RIP

From the Telegraph:

Captain Hamish Pelham-Burn

Captain Hamish Pelham-Burn, who has died aged 92, was one of the Second World War’s Renaissance men, and displayed his lethal talents variously as a soldier, fighter pilot and behind-the-lines saboteur with SOE.

20 Apr 2011

In March 1944 SOE ordered Pelham-Burn to return to England from Camp STS 103, Canada, where he had been instructing potential agents in sabotage. He reported to the Baker Street HQ and was asked whether he was prepared to lead a small demolition team which would be dropped into France with the objective of destroying a radar installation.

Captain Hamish Pelham-Burn
Captain Hamish Pelham-Burn

A close friend, also in SOE, had been killed in what Pelham-Burn regarded as a botched mission and he agreed to go only if he could have the two Canadian sergeants, Andy McClure and Jack Clayton, with whom he had worked at the camp.

In the early hours of the morning, three days before D-Day, they were dropped by a Wellington into rough, rolling Brittany country with rocky outcrops, with Pelham-Burn carrying detonators in a cotton-wool-lined box taped to his chest. After burying their parachutes in the bracken, they moved as fast and silently as possible to within 200 yards of their objective, where a hut with a single window and a sentry stood before the mast.

Pelham-Burn cut the telephone line. Clayton dealt with the sentry. The charges were taped to the mast and the time pencils set with a 20-minute delay. The whole operation had taken four minutes. As they were creeping away, there was a flash of light followed by a great explosion: one of the pencils had detonated prematurely.

Germans ran out of the hut firing in all directions. A dispatch rider on a motorcycle started off down the road, and Pelham-Burn had to shoot him despite the fact that this revealed their position.

The two sergeants picked off the rest of the Germans with single, well-aimed shots. The mast was a pile of charred and twisted girders.

Pelham-Burn led the way to a small farm that was to be their “safe house”. For the next five days, the three men hid in the hay in a small cupboard-like extension of the barn. They were then picked up by Lysander.

Pelham-Burn recommended his two colleagues for Military Medals. As for his own wartime feats of derring-do, many seem destined to remain unknown, details having mysteriously disappeared from his service file.

Charles Hamish Pelham-Burn was born at Nairn, in the Highlands, on March 17 1918. He was brought up at Killiecrankie, Perthshire, and then at Kilmory Castle, Argyll. An idyllic childhood was interrupted by preparatory school in Sussex. He detested the place and, in the hope of being expelled, tried to burn it down. He was beaten instead. After Harrow, where he was captain of golf and in the cricket XI, he went to Sandhurst and was subsequently commissioned into the Seaforth Highlanders and posted to the 2nd Battalion.

As a junior officer, he found peacetime soldiering very dull. Climbing, fishing, shooting and driving sports cars occupied his leisure moments but, in 1940, he accompanied his battalion to France as part of the BEF. During the withdrawal he managed to get hold of a BSA motorbicycle and, travelling by roads crammed with refugees and strafed by German bombers, reached Cherbourg.

To escape from the tedium of regimental soldiering, Pelham-Burn volunteered for a temporary transfer to the RAF and was sent to flying school. He became adept at crosswind landings, sideslipping, stalling, spinning and aerobatics and was the first on the course to be allowed to go solo. But he disliked the strain of having to fly in formation....

Much more here.

You can also find more on Captain Pelham-Burn on a WW2 forum here.

And there is this:

Reproduced with permission of Jim NcBeth and the Scottish Daily Mail from Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Hamish Pelham Burn on the ridges overlooking Oshawa - 1943

ON a night when the moon did not exist, the squat building was an indistinct shadow. Captain Hamish Pelham-Burn moved with the litheness of a cat, his face painted black beneath a woollen cap. The secret warrior’s skill and the explosives in his bergen were about to change the course of the Second World War.

He froze in the darkness at the sound of a German sentry’s voice. As he waited, the luminous dial of his watch revealed he had only minutes to complete his mission. In a few hours, the biggest seaborne invasion in history would land troops on the beaches of Normandy,and this unremarkable, heavily-guarded radar installation behind enemy lines held the key. If it remained intact, it would forewarn the enemy. Reduce it to rubble, and the silence could preserve the lives of thousands of Allied soldiers. Pelham-Burn, the 27-year-old scion of a distinguished family of Scottish landed gentry, directed his two companions to keep a lookout as he crawled forward. When he re-emerged minutes later, he had time only to offer a thumbs-up sign before an explosion made madness of the night, sending great gouts of flames into the sky. In the mayhem, Britain’s greatest but least-known saboteur led his men to the coast where they would be picked up. By the early hours of June 6, 1944, the great armada was sailing towards Continental Europe. For four years, Pelham-Burn had delivered sterling service to the nation and now, as the last nails were about to be driven into Adolf Hitler’s coffin, his war was over.

The secret and significant nature of his exploits is not yet to be found in history books, nor revealed in the chapters of self-aggrandising biographies of old soldiers extolling their long-forgotten heroics. The full details of the nation’s debt to Pelham-Burn, who died last month at the age of 92, remain hidden in manila folders which have gathered dust for seven decades in the National Archives in London and remain sealed under the Official Secrets Act until January 1, 2019.

THROUGHOUT his long life the perennial bachelor, farmer, conservationist and mountaineer took his wartime oath of secrecy so seriously that he rarely spoke of his career as one of the first of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive – the almost mythical secret army which, from 1940, waged its ‘dirty war’. In the years before the invasion, Pelham-Burn had killed Germans and destroyed their installations while working alone or alongside French resistance fighters and Yugoslav partisans. Later, at secret bases in the Highlands and Canada, he passed on his expertise, moulding and training the new breed of warrior nicknamed ‘commandos’ – silent killers who would inspire fear and pass into legend.

It is only the anecdotal testimony of those closest to him that offers an insight into the bravery of the shy, unknown hero who passed away at Pitlochry Community Hospital in Perthshire. Few who thought they knew the old warrior realise the crucial role he played in the war. ‘Hamish Pelham-Burn is certainly the bravest man I have ever known,’ says Lynn Philip Hodgson, the author of Inside Camp X and Dispatches from Camp X, the secret base in Canada where, from 1943 until 1944, Pelham-Burn was a chief instructor. ‘He was a good friend and a real hero, although you would not have known it to talk to him,’ adds the Canadian author.

The old soldier, who spent his last years in a residential care home, had another unique claim to fame, and one which never failed to make him blush. When he trained SOE operatives in Scotland, one of his ‘pupils’ was Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond...

Go read the rest here, and be grateful that such men lived.

Rest in Peace, Sir.

Music and Me

No apologies from me for re-posting, as this IS one of my favourites.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

NASA: The Water Planet

Happy St. George's Day

St George's Day.

I vow to thee, my country—all earthly things above—
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.


"And now for something completely different!"

on Apr 18, 2011

An Army officer from Rheindahlen in Germany believes he has a serious chance of winning a world championship -- for charming worms! As an officer in the Intelligence Corps, Captain Iain Logan helps to predict an enemy's plans but his hobby also means keeping an ear to the ground! Now his skill is being tested as never before.

Only a Brit, you say? Dare we say winning the war, one worm at a time? The possibilities are endless.


From War on Terror News:

Military Wives By Day, Black River Rollers By Night

Spouses find off-the-beaten-course outlet for coping with military life

Apr 21, 2011

By Jennifer Caprioli (USAG Fort Drum)

FORT DRUM, N.Y., April 21, 2011 -- They don helmets, mouth guards and knee pads about five days each week. They raise families and hold down careers while their husbands fight for a peaceful nation. And they love to blow off steam by plowing through groups of roller skaters.

The women of the Black River Rollers, especially the military spouses, hold it together as a team and have each others' backs - on and off the course.


Photo Credit: Jennifer Caprioli, USAG Fort Drum.

Black River Rollers from left, Whitney Walker, Amanda Moore and Kristy Pastrano, all military spouses, block the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Roller Radical skaters during Saturday's bout at the Watertown Arena.

The skaters busted their way along the Watertown Arena's 130-foot roller derby course Saturday, during the Black River Rollers' first-ever bout.

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Roller Radicals made the four-hour trip to take on the local roller derby team, and after an hour of pushing, shoving and falling, the Radicals beat the Rollers with a score of 141-138.

Roller derby made its debut in 1935. Since then, interest in the sport has risen and fallen, and in 2001 was revived.

Teams are composed of a pivot, the skater who sets the pace for the rest of the team; a jammer, the only skater who can score; and blockers, the skaters who help their jammer score by blocking the opposing team's jammer.

The Black River Rollers, an all-female team founded in January 2010, is composed of 11 competing skaters; six of them are military spouses.

Whitney Walker, who was on a roller derby team in Georgia, joined the team in February 2010 after moving to Fort Drum with her husband, Spc. Cody Walker, 1st Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment.

They have three children, including a 4-month-old infant. Although her husband is deployed, Walker still finds time to make it to practice...

Much more at WOTN here.