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Gulf of Aden. (August 26, 2023) The U.S. Navy is on the hunt for pirates and drug smugglers in some of the most dangerous waters in the world. In this photo by MC2 Kerri Kline, Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner depart the ship in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat during visit, board, search, and seizure operations. The Hudner is underway with the U.S. 5th Fleet Area to ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region.
The Gulf of Aden is notorious for attempted hijackings and human/drug smuggling, mostly by pirates coming from nearby Somalia and Yemen. The Gulf of Aden leads to the Red Sea and is part of the vital Suez Canal shipping route used by over 21,000 ships a year that transport approximately eleven percent of the world’s oil.
In the late 2000s, the Gulf evolved into a hub for pirate attacks on commercial shipping as well as a highway for drugs and weapons shipments from Iran to its allies in Yemen. In both nations, there are high levels of unemployment, poverty, violence, and corruption that has created a climate where piracy and smuggling has flourished.
The pirates operate very small craft and carry small arms and occasionally rocket propelled grenades to attack civilian ships. Particularly vulnerable are luxury yachts that are tempting targets for opportunistic attacks, hijackings, or armed robbery.
In addition to warding off desperate pirates, the Navy must also confront attempts by Iran to ship military supplies to its Houthis allies in Yemen in violation of international sanctions. Under international law, military cargoes are not permitted to be shipped to the warring parties in Yemen and are subject to seizure. One example of such a seizure came in December 2021 when the USS Tempest and USS Typhoon interdicted a stateless fishing vessel transporting a cache of illicit weapons including 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition bound for Yemen.
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Fort Belvoir, Virginia. (August 24, 2024): In this photo by Bernardo Fuller, Army Specialist David Lashner, assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the “old Guard”, unveils the engraved name of Medal of Honor recipient retired Army Colonel Paris D. Davis at the National Museum of the U.S. Army. Col. Davis received our nations’ highest award for his actions while serving with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Vietnam in 1965.
Captain Davis commanded a detachment of the U.S. Army 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) while serving as an advisor to Republic of Vietnam troops. He led these soldiers on their first combat mission, a daring nighttime raid against a superior Viet Cong force. While returning from the successful raid, Captain Davis and his company were ambushed and sustained many casualties.
Constantly exposing himself to enemy fire, Captain Davis rallied his disorganized troops while expertly calling in artillery to within 90 feet of his own position. Although wounded in the leg, he aided in the evacuation of other wounded men of his unit but refused medical evacuation himself.
He then ignored intense enemy fire to rescue a seriously wounded comrade and, while carrying the man to safety, was wounded a second time. Despite these wounds, Captain Davis again refused medical evacuation, remaining with his troops under fire. After repelling several Viet Cong assaults, Captain Davis went on to save a U.S. advisor under his command who had been wounded during the initial ambush and was presumed dead.
For his selfless and courageous acts on that day, Colonel Davis will live forever in our national memory for going above and beyond the call of duty.
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Salem Air Base, Kuwait. (August 19, 2023): American troops are told that, if they are injured in combat, they will receive lifesaving care during the “golden hour”, the time it takes to get a warfighter to a proper hospital. In this photo by Staff Sergeant Kevin Long, U.S. Air Force Medical personnel from the 386th Expeditionary Medical Squadron field response team and the 405th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron prepare to load victims from a simulated attack onto a C-130J Super Hercules. This training to handle a mass-casualty event gave multiple wings and squadrons the chance to put their life-saving medical capabilities to the test.
Medical evacuation teams like these are adapting to the new reality of war against a “near peer” rival like China. In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, aeromedical evacuation squadrons were able to provide immediate care and swift evacuations due to American air superiority. These squadrons had the time to get a wounded warfighter off the battlefield and into a proper hospital within one hour of their being injured. Treating these patients quickly greatly improves outcomes.
This “golden hour” standard, however, may not be possible in future wars.
The near total air superiority enjoyed by U.S. units may not be the case against an adversary like China or Russia. Worse, future conflicts are likely to be large-scale operations dispersed around the world thus complicating the task of evacuating casualties quickly.
Based on these realities, American planners realize that the "golden hour" handoff to surgical teams will not be possible. This puts extreme pressure on Special Operations medics and duty corpsmen to master advanced care methods including administering pain medications, long-term pain control, airway management, and nursing skills like changing dressings. Instead of quick evacuations, injured warfighters will need to be treated near the front lines, sometimes for days.
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Lahaina, Maui. (August 21, 2023): The servicemembers of the Hawaii National Guard, many of whom are themselves victims of the recent wildfires, have sprung into action to help their neighbors. In this photo by Sergeant Andrew Jackson, search and rescue Soldiers and Airmen assist with recovery efforts as part of the national Lahaina wildfire response. Guardsmen mobilized after the fire to sweep the affected area for dangers before it can be reopened to the public.
Hawaii is unique in having both an Army and Air Force component in their National Guard which has proven especially critical in these types of emergencies. Hawaii’s 154th Air Wing, based at Hickam Field, Honolulu, has extensive airlift capability including refueling squadrons and helicopter fleet. The Army component consists of the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 103rd Troop Command, and the 298th Regiment Training Institute. Its medical detachment has the highest readiness percentage than any other unit in the Army National Guard. Together, these units conduct multiple exercises each year to be ready for any emergency. The Guard participates in an annual tsunami response exercise along with active-duty troops from across the Pacific.
Despite this training, nothing could prepare these troops for the grim task that lies ahead. Troops will continue to search for hundreds of missing people in the historic coastal port city of Lahaina. As of this writing, the death toll has risen to at least 114, but unfortunately many more are expected.
Officials estimate at least 2,200 structures have been destroyed and another 500 damaged in the blaze at an estimated cost of about $6 billion.
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Okinawa, Japan. (August 20, 2023): In this photo by Corporal Alora J. Finigan, Marine Corporal Matthew Kamm, left, a transmission systems operator, and Lance Corporal Ali Fish, right a data systems administrator, both with Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, load debris into a seven-ton truck at Camp Courtney, Okinawa after Typhoon Khanun. The typhoon struck the island in early August with category 4 hurricane high winds, heavy rain, and high seas in one of the strongest storms to hit Japan in years.
Immediately after the storm, Marines moved out across the island to assess damage and begin repairs to ensure the III Marine Expeditionary Force remains operational. Typhoon Khanun went on to pummel the west coast of the Korean Peninsula causing widespread flooding and at least two deaths.
Camp Courtney is named after Major Henry A. Courtney who was killed in action on Okinawa and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Courtney hailed from Duluth, Minnesota and received his law degree from Loyola University before the outbreak of war.
Major Courtney fought at the battles of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands before participating in the invasion of Okinawa and what would become known as the battle for Sugar Loaf hill. This group of three small knolls were honeycombed with well dug in enemy forces and each could defend the other with interlocking fields of fire. While these unassuming little hills did not appear to be anything more than a bump in the road to the Marines, they would soon find themselves fighting for their lives.
While serving as executive officer of a battalion of the 22nd Marines, 6th Marine Division, Major Courtney led a successful night attack against Sugar Loaf hill when he was killed in action after exhibiting great courage and self-sacrifice. He is a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart.
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Colorado Springs, Colorado. (August 12, 2023): Bursting with youthful exuberance, Air force Basic Cadet Trainees endure a rite of passage during Basic Cadet Training. In this photo by Rayna Grace, Basic Cadets from the Class of 2027 complete the obstacle course at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Jacks Valley training area in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Basic Cadet Training is a six-week indoctrination program to guide the transformation of new cadets from being civilians to military academy cadets prepared to enter a four-year officer commissioning program.
The Class of 2027 has 130 cadets who are 70 percent men and thirty percent women with one third racial minorities. They are a smart bunch with 53 percent finishing in the top ten in their high school graduating class.
These young cadets endure a two-phase program that pushes them to their mental and physical limits. The first phase of Basic, called life "On the Hill" , is especially difficult for these newcomers as they make the transition from civilian to military life. Physical exercise begins at dawn and continues throughout each day, before and after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.