#OnThisDay in 1999, PFC Barry Winchell, U.S. Army, Murdered

It can be easy to forget the time before the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. As we’re now over a decade into allowing lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) servicemembers to serve openly and a year and half out from the lifting of the ban on transgender people, there are countless stories of folx enduring the hard realities of homophobia and transphobia. Before DADT’s repeal, it was not uncommon to find threads of attacks and abuse woven into the fabric of our nation’s fighting forces. Unfortunately, there a more unknown stories than those we’ve come to learn about even now. But those we’ve seen come to light paint a picture of a time when we absolutely HAD to serve and suffer in silence or face humiliation and harm to our bodies, hearts, and minds. Today marks the tragic anniversary of one such story, a light snuffed out: the death of Army PFC Barry Winchell.

Continue reading “#OnThisDay in 1999, PFC Barry Winchell, U.S. Army, Murdered”

On this day, the Air Corps Act of 1926 changed the name of the Air Service to Air Corps, but left unaltered its status as a combatant arm of the U.S. Army. The act also established the Office of Assistant Secretary of War for Air. The Air Corps had at this time 919 officers and 8,725 enlisted men, and its “modern aeronautical equipment” consisted of 60 pursuit planes and 169 observation planes; total serviceable aircraft of all types numbered less than 1,000.

July 2022 Observances

Do you ever wonder how organizations, businesses, and individuals know when a certain observance or awareness month, week, or day is? If so, below is a tailored list of observances for the month of July 2022 specifically for military, Veterans, and LGBTQ+ folx. We may issue graphics for some of the events listed below. Because there are so many events and awareness campaigns, the listing is not all-inclusive; that said, if you do not see something here, it’s not because it’s not important, it’s likely because it was unknown at the time of this post’s publication.

Continue reading “July 2022 Observances”

On June 6, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the go-ahead for the largest amphibious military operation in history: Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of northern France, commonly known as D-Day.

By daybreak, 18,000 British and American parachutists were already on the ground. An additional 13,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion. At 6:30 a.m., American troops came ashore at Utah and Omaha beaches

The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture Gold, Juno and Sword beaches; so did the Americans at Utah. The task was much tougher at Omaha beach, however, where the U.S. First Division battled high seas, mist, mines, burning vehicles—and German coastal batteries, including an elite infantry division, which spewed heavy fire. Many wounded Americans ultimately drowned in the high tide. British divisions, which landed at Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches, and Canadian troops also met with heavy German fire.

But by day’s end, 155,000 Allied troops–Americans, British and Canadians–had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches and were then able to push inland. Within three months, the northern part of France would be freed and the invasion force would be preparing to enter Germany, where they would meet up with Soviet forces moving in from the east.

Before the Allied assault, Hitler’s armies had been in control of most of mainland Europe and the Allies knew that a successful invasion of the continent was central to winning the war. Hitler knew this too, and was expecting an assault on northwestern Europe in the spring of 1944. He hoped to repel the Allies from the coast with a strong counterattack that would delay future invasion attempts, giving him time to throw the majority of his forces into defeating the Soviet Union in the east. Once that was accomplished, he believed an all-out victory would soon be his.

For their part, the Germans suffered from confusion in the ranks and the absence of celebrated commander Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who was away on leave. At first, Hitler, believing that the invasion was a feint designed to distract the Germans from a coming attack north of the Seine River, refused to release nearby divisions to join the counterattack and reinforcements had to be called from further afield, causing delays.

He also hesitated in calling for armored divisions to help in the defense. In addition, the Germans were hampered by effective Allied air support, which took out many key bridges and forced the Germans to take long detours, as well as efficient Allied naval support, which helped protect advancing Allied troops.

Though D-Day did not go off exactly as planned, as later claimed by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery–for example, the Allies were able to land only fractions of the supplies and vehicles they had intended in France–the invasion was a decided success. By the end of June, the Allies had 850,000 men and 150,000 vehicles in Normandy and were poised to continue their march across Europe.

The heroism and bravery displayed by troops from the Allied countries on D-Day has served as inspiration for several films, most famously The Longest Day (1962) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). It was also depicted in the HBO series Band of Brothers (2001).

Source: History.com – D-Day: Allies storm Normandy’s coast

#OnThisDay in 1948, the U.S. Air Force Reserve was Established

Today, the U.S. Air Force Reserve turns 74!

Formally established in 1948, the Air Force Reserve stemmed from the Preparedness Movement and the National Defense Act of 1916 that authorized an Organized Reserve Corps. The Corps served as “a body of experienced technical men to organize and train in peacetime and be available when needed for war.”

In April 1948, President Harry Truman saw the Air Force Reserve as a program similar to one established during World War I when Reservist stood ready to serve during wartime. Since it’s formation, the Air Force Reserve has evolved from a reserve force for emergencies to a major command (MAJCOM) of the U.S. Air Force.

Today, the Air Force Reserve performs about 20% of the work of the Air Force conducting traditional flying missions and more specialized ones like Weather Reconnaissance, Modular Aerial Fire Fighting, and Personnel Recovery. Headquartered at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, there are approximately 70,000 Reservists comprised of commissioned officers and enlisted airmen.

To ALL U.S. Air Force Reservists out there, thank you for stepping up in service of the nation and Happy Birthday, U.S. Air Force Reserve!

On This Day in 2015, Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL Began

After 13 years of combat operations in response to and following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the U.S. military began a new phase in what was known as Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL. This after U.S. combat ops officially concluded on December 31, 2014; those ops were known as Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF).

Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL (OFS) was part of the larger Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and a part of the NATO-led RESOLUTE SUPPORT (RS) mission. OFS had two components: working with allies as part of RS and “counterterrorism operations against the remnants of Al-Qaeda to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks against our homeland,” according to SECDEF Chuck Hagel.

At the start of OFS in 2015, U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan were at about 9,800; by 2019, that number increased to 14,000 troops that supported RS and OFS.

Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL was expected to formally end on August 31, 2021; however, the complete withdrawal of U.S. military personnel concluded on August 30, 2021 following the advancement of Taliban forces throughout Afghanistan. The plan was to continue airstrikes on the Taliban after military personnel withdrew but those plans ended with the Islamic Republic fell.

According to the DoD, Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL saw 107 total deaths (51 KIA) and 612 WIA.

In March 2015, it was announced that OFS qualified for the award of the GWOT Expeditionary Medal and the GWOT Service Medal.

The SITREP thanks all Veterans and Servicemembers who were a part of OFS and OEF for their service.

On This Day in 2003, the War in Iraq Began

On March 19, 2003, the United States along with a coalition of forces mostly from the UK started the war on Iraq. It would served as the first stage of the war with the air campaign commencing on March 19th followed by the ground campaign on March 20, 2003.

The justifications for the Iraq war started with Iraq’s failure to disarm as the “single trigger.” Over time, the Bush Administration would state Iraqi violation of UN resolutions, the Iraqi government’s repression of its citizens, and violations of the 1991 ceasefire as additional justifications for war. To the disarmament, it was alleged that then-leader/dictator Saddam Hussein possessed or was attempting to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that Hussein had terrorist ties, specifically al-Qaeda.

It would be about three weeks before the Iraqi government and military would collapse. U. S., British, and other coalition forces overwhelmed the Iraqi Army and Iraqi civilians with U.S. soldiers pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad.

As for Hussein, he went into hiding and was captured in December 2003 outside his hometown in Tikrit. After standing trial, Saddam Hussein was executed three years later in 2006.

Back to the war in Iraq, on May 1, 2003, President Bush formally declared an end to the military phase to take down the Hussein regime. Bush would speak from the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner.

However, the Iraq war was quite far from over as loyalists to the Hussein regime went on to lay the foundation of a postwar insurgency. In the meantime, no WMDs were ever found in Iraq and the U.S. would remain in Iraq for eight years before declaring an end to the war on December 15, 2011.

In 2021, the U.S. military completed troop-level drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq; there are reportedly now 2,500 servicemembers each in both areas of operation.

Most recently, U.S. and coalition forces came under a rocket attack in western Iraq on March 3, 2021. No U.S. troops were injured; however, a civilian U.S. contractor died of a heart attack during the attack at Al Asad Air Base.

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VA Resources

On This Day in 1941, the Tuskegee Airmen were Established

On March 19, 1941, the U.S. War Department established the 99th Pursuit Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC) that would become the first unit consisting of African American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. In a time when segregation was the law of the land, the Tuskegee Airmen pushed back on the prevalent racism within and outside the ranks of the U.S. military. Following accomplishments in flight by pilots like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart in the decades before (1920s & 1930s), young men and women lined to up follow their flight paths; among them were young African Americans looking for their chance to take flight.

Unfortunately, African Americans were regarded as less-than and this widespread way of thought presented significant obstacles. In fact, black people were regarded as inferior in combat and seen as unable to become trained pilots. In 1938, President Roosevelt, seeing war was on the horizon, expanded the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) in the U.S. to ramp up the number of pilots in the nation; black people were excluded. But, in 1939, the CPTP opened up to historically black colleges which helped increase the number of black aviators. In 1940, the Roosevelt Administration announced that the AAC would begin training black pilots. At the start of 1941, it was announced that an all-black fighter pilot unit would be trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama located in the heart of the Jim Crow South.

Tuskegee airman Instructor Daniel “Chappie” James

The Tuskegee Airmen would go on to confront racism at home and abroad while racking up an exemplary record in World War II. The Tuskegee program would train some 1,000 pilots and nearly 14,000 navigators, bombardiers, instructors, aircraft and engine mechanics, control tower operators, and other maintenance and support staff. The Tuskegee Airmen flew about 1,600 missions and destroyed over 260 enemy aircraft in Nazi-controlled territory. In addition to the airmen’s amazing record, they would help lay the foundation for President Truman’s decision to finally desegregate the armed forces in 1948.

Following the war and desegregation, the Airmen carried on in the newly formed U.S. Air Force (USAF) and some taught in civilian flight schools. They were instrumental in developments in aviation and one Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. became the first African-American to attain the rank of four-star general. Another Airmen Marion Rodgers went on to work for NORAD and served as a program developer for the Apollo 13 project.

Time has seen the Tuskegee Airmen cement a remarkable legacy of breaking barriers and accomplishments during and after World War II.

Time has also seen members pass on with age. Robert Holts, the last known member of the Tuskegee Airmen, died on February 12, 2021 at the age of 96.

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On This Day in 1942, the K-9 Corps was Formed; It is K-9 Veterans Day

PICTURE IT, U.S. Army, 1942…

On this day in 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the U.S. Army began training dogs for the newly formed War Dog Program, or K-9 Corps. Militaries around the world have employed dogs since ancient times. Originally, dogs were employed in offensive operations, being sent into enemy territory to break up formations and tearing down as many enemies as possible. Over time, dogs were used as couriers, sentries, and scouts.

It’s estimated that over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I as messengers and providers of comfort to soldiers. After WWI, the U.S. largely halted the practice of training dogs for military purposes. When the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, a movement was formed by the American Kennel Association and a group called Dogs for Defense to ask dog owners to donate healthy animals to the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. The QMC started training dogs in March 1942 and, later that year, more dogs were trained for the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

Initially, the K-9 Corps accepted over 30 breeds of dogs but that was narrowed down to seven: German Shepherds, Belgian sheep dogs, Doberman Pinschers, collies, Siberian Huskies, Malumutes, and Eskimo dogs. Training consisted of 8 to 12 weeks of basic obedience training after which canine recruits were sent through specialized programs to become sentries, scouts or patrol dogs, messengers, or mine-detectors. Scout dogs were notable because they proved essential in alerting patrols of enemy approach and preventing surprise attacks.

Since then, canine compatriots have put their paw prints on military history, proving themselves vital in every conflict. Here are some notable K-9s:

  • Sergeant Stubby, 102nd Infantry Regiment: In 1917, a stray pit bull mix wandered into where members of the 102nd Infantry Regiment were training and proceeded to participate in drills, even learning how to salute with his right paw. It was clear Stubby would fit right in and he was adopted by Private J. Robert Conroy who smuggled him into the trenches of France where he proved himself in war. Stubby warned troops of imminent poison gas attacks and learned how to locate the wounded during patrols. He was promoted to Sergeant after sniffing out a German spy and attacking him until reinforcements arrived. Sgt Stubby served 18 months during which he took part about 17 battles, surviving wounds and boosting morale of his fellow soldiers.
  • Chips, 3rd Infantry Division: Trained as a sentry dog, Chips, a Collie-German Shepherd-Siberian Husky mix, was donated to serve during WWII and deployed with the 3rd ID in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany. In the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler were pinned down on the beach by a machine gun team. Chips jumped off leash and jumped into the machine gun pillbox, attacking the gunners and causing them to surrender. He sustained a scalp wound and powder burns in the battle but this did not deter him from helping take 10 Italian prisoners later that day.
  • Cairo, U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six: A Belgian Malinoi, Cairo deployed with the SEAL Team that stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in May 2011. He was tasked to stand guard outside the compound and keep locals at bay. Inside, he would sniff out bombs or booby traps. Depending on the needs of the mission, Cairo was trained to fill any role; however, when the first of two choppers hovering around compound had to ditch, Cairo’s chopper made a landing across the street. From there, Cairo and four SEALs set up a perimeter while the rest of the team stormed the site. It would be over a half hour before bin Laden was confirmed dead, then Cairo and his SEAL team came back to base.

March 13th is K-9 Veterans Day

Today, March 13th is a day set aside to honor and commemorate the service and sacrifice of military working dogs throughout history. America’s military dogs serve important roles in units around the globe. It’s estimated that the U.S. Army employed 1,500 dogs during the Korean War and 4,000 in the Vietnam War.

According to the U.S. Army, today, there are about 578 dog teams that have seen action in Afghanistan and Iraq. These dogs carry on a tradition of distinguished service, continuing to save life and prevent injuries to our troops.

To every American military K-9 and handler, past and present, thank you for your service!

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On This Day in 2019, Pentagon Announces Enforcement of Ban on Transgender Service

Following the previous day’s news of a Maryland federal judge lifting the 3rd of four orders barring the military from enforcing the previous administration’s ban on transgender military service, the Pentagon announced that it would be enforcing the policy to bar certain transgender people from joining the military.

DoD spokesman Charles Summers stated that the proposed policy would allow transgender troops currently serving to stay in and those “who’ve had medical service for gender dysphoria” would not be allowed to enlist.

Under the proposed policy, no one may be denied entry into the military or involuntarily discharged based solely on gender identity. However, a diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria, a medical condition requiring long-term treatment, can be disqualifying.

In January, a three-judge federal appeals court unanimously concluded that it was factually incorrect to describe the proposed policy as a blanket ban on service by transgender persons.

Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, Spokesman for Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan

The then-President announced the transgender ban on Twitter in July 2017.

A 2016 Rand Corp. study found that transgender people serving in the military would have a minimal impact on readiness.

Read more: Pentagon Set to Block Some Transgender People from Joining the Military (Military.com), 08 March 2019

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