SHAKO: “Forgotten” Belgian Hero Nurse at Bastogne Dies at 94

Augusta Chiwy.

If you saw the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” or read the Stephen Ambrose book on which the show was based, you probably remember the episode depicting the horrorific conditions the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division endured in December 1944 in a Belgian town called Bastogne.

"The Forgotten Nurse" book cover

“The Forgotten Nurse” book cover

Mentioned in passing in the book and seen very briefly in the television show is a young African-Belgian nurse aiding the wounded pouring in to an aid station that was out of everything from bandages and medicine to anesthetic and nurses.

That nurse, Augusta Chiwy, died Sunday (August 23) near Brussels. She was 94.

The New York Times obituary recounts her amazing wartime experiences as a volunteer civilian nurse in Bastogne when it was surrounded by German troops during  the worst winter weather in a century.

The Times also notes that her wartime heroism was largely unknown — or forgotten — until a British writer’s biography of her was published in 2010 under the title: “The Forgotten Nurse.”  The daughter of a Belgian veterinarian and a Congolese mother, Ms.Chiwy wasn’t even allowed to care for white soldiers at first until the only remaining Army doctor decided to break the rules and told wounded whites that Ms. Chiwy was a volunteer, adding, “You either let her treat you or you die,” according to the Times.

The book led to Ms. Chiwy receiving the recognition she deserved, including a knighthood by the king of the Belgians. It’s a fascinating story of courage, selflessness and caring. We commend it to your attention.

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SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.




August 27, 2015 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

WEAPONRY AND EQUIPMENT: Army Picks Oshkosh Corp.’s JLTV Offering

$6.75 Billion Contract.

Oshkosh Corp. L-ATV offering. (Photo courtesy of Oshkosh Corp.)

Oshkosh Corp. L-ATV offering.
(Photo courtesy of Oshkosh Corp.)

The U.S. Army has selected Oshkosh Corp. to build the new combat vehicle to replace the military’s aging Humvee troop carier.

In a statement released late Tuesday (August 25), the Army said was awarding the Wisconsin heavy truck maker a contract, valued at $6.7 billion, to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) for both the Army and Marine Corps.

Initial production, first at a low rate, 17,000 vehicles for the Army and Marines, is slated to begin in the first three months of Fiscal Year 2016, which begins October 1.  The Pentagon is expected to make a decision on full-rate production in Fiscal Year 2018. Overall the Marines will acquire 5,500 JLTVs, while the Army take nearly 50,000 by 2040. The contract could swell to $30 billion if all 55,000 vehicles are built.

The U.S. military has been looking to replace the lightly armored Humvee (High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle) since 2006. In the first years of the Iraq war, thousands of troops were injured or killed when even up-armored Humvees were blasted by mines and roadside bombs. The JLTV program sought a combat vehicle more heavily armored than the Humvee but more maneuverable vehicle than the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. Army soldiers in a Humvee in Iraq 2006. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 3rd Class Shawn Hussong)

U.S. Army soldiers in a Humvee in Iraq 2006.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 3rd Class Shawn Hussong)

The JLTV will be built in Oshkosh, Wisconsin with deliveries beginning 10 months after contract award. The Army anticipates having its first unit equipped with JLTVs in FY 2018.

The Army, which led the JLTV joint acquisition program with the Marines, selected Oshkosh over Humvee manufacturer AM General and giant defense contractor Lockheed Martin. At a Pentagon briefing late Tuesday, Army officials declined to specify what characteristics led them to pick Oshkosh’s offering, known as the L-ATV. That may be because one or both of the also-rans could file a protest, challenging the decision.

Lockheed and AM General have 10 days to file formal protests over the contract award, the Associated Press noted. Both companies issued statements saying they are considering their options.

All three companies participated in the program’s engineering and manufacturing development phase, which began in 2012. Each competitor send a total of 22 prototypes for field tests at Aberdeen, Maryland and Yuma, Arizona, and other government proving grounds.

August 26, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Three Americans, Briton Honored for Thwarting Train Attack [UPDATE]

Gunman Foiled.

Two Thalys trains in 2013. (Photo by Ale Sasso via wikipedia)

Two Thalys trains in 2013.
(Photo by Ale Sasso via wikipedia)

UPDATES with identities of the train passengers who subdued the gunman and the alleged gunman’s identity.

It turns out there were three Americans involved in the tackling and subduing a heavily armed gunman last week on a Paris-bound high-speed train.

They are Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23; Oregon National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos, 22, and a 23-year-old California college student Anthony Sadler. The three boyhood friends were on a two-week vacation touring Europe when they stepped up and took out the alleged gunmen, who has been idenified as Ayoub El Khazzini, .

On Monday (August 24) French President Francois Hollande bestowed the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration, on the three Americans and Chris Norman, 62, a British consultant, who subdued Khazzani.

At a ceremony in Paris, Hollande said their actions last week in the face of terror provided “a message of courage, solidarity and hope,,” according to the Voice of America website.

A French citizen, who was the first to tackle the gunman, but who declined to be identified, and Mark Moogalian, 51, who has dual U.S. and French citizenship , who was wounded in his struggle with the attacker, will receive the French honor at a later date, the New York Times reported.  

Stone, the airman, suffered a serious cut, which nearly cost him his thumb, and an eye injury in the struggle on the packed train. 

There are conflicting reports on whether the alleged gunman, said by French news media to be a 26-year-old man of Moroccan origin, was able to fire an automatic weapon before being subdued. He was placed under arrest by French police when the train stopped in the northern French city of Arras. Also unresolved: how many people were wounded and what their medical status is. The Associated Press reported that the attacker did not fire his automatic weapon but wounded one man with a handgun and another with some sort of blade.

At the Pentagon,  a spokesman confirmed that a member of the American military was on the train and had been injured, the New York Times reported. Quoting a Pentagon statement, the Associated Press said “The injury is not life threatening.”

A European counter terrorism official told CNN said the two Americans were Marines in civilian dress. That turned out to be incorrect. The White House called them U.S. Service members, CNN reported, adding that a member of the Oregon National Guard on personal leave was involved in the incident.

French officials praised the Americans for preventing a tragedy on the crowded Thalys  train, which is owned by the French and Belgian railways and operates high speed trains to several European cities.

While the French government has not yet classified the incident — which occurred on Belgian soil — as a terrorist attack, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted @CharlesMichel “I condemn this terrorist attack.” Both countries are cooperating on the investigation.

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Air Strike Kills a Top Terrorist.

The White House confirmed today (August 21) that the second-in-command of the violent extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was killed in a U.S. attack earlier this this week.

In a statement, Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council said Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, the second in command of ISIS (which the U.S. government calls ISIL) was killed in a U.S. military air strike on August 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq.

Iraq map by CIA World Factbook

Iraq map by CIA World Factbook

“Al-Hayali was an ISIL Shura Council member and, as the senior deputy to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was a primary coordinator for moving large amounts of weapons, explosives, vehicles, and people between Iraq and Syria,” the statement said, adding: “Al-Hayali’s death will adversely impact ISIL’s operations given that his influence spanned ISIL’s finance, media, operations, and logistics.”

According to Rudaw, a Kurdish news agency, Mutazz was an ethnic Turk born in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. He was an army commander under late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and joined the anti-U.S. insurgency after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Reuters reported. After being charged with terrorism, Mutazz spent time in Camp Bucca, the notorious U.S. prison in Iraq, Rudaw reported. He changed his name and joined ISIS after being released.

Al-Hayali has been declared dead before, including as recently as last December, the New York Times reported.  “This time we are 100 percent certain,”a senior official with the American-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State told the Times. “We have multiple confirmations he was in the car at the moment of the strike.”

August 21, 2015 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (August 21, 2015)

Rugged Country.

Defense Dept. photo by Lt. Kristine Volk, Resolute Support Public Affairs

Defense Dept. photo by Lt. Kristine Volk, Resolute Support Public Affairs

U.S. Army Sergeant Major Jody Volz, adviser for Train, Advise and Assist Command South in Afghanistan, flies over Kandahar, Afghanistan in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter,  with Afghan National Army (ANA) and TAAC-S leaders to gain situational awareness and a shared understanding of key terrain in the area.

The ANA is responsible for security in Afghanistan and works closely with coalition partners from TAAC-S, a part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission. Resolute Support took over from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) when NATO’s combat role in Afghanistan ended last December.

Click on the photo to get a better look at this forbidding terrain. To see more photos from this mission, click here.

August 21, 2015 at 9:09 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 21, 2015)

The Starting Lineup.

Marine Corps photo by Corporal Preston  McDonald

Marine Corps photo by Corporal Preston McDonald

Marines  wait for the final check of their amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) to begin their training exercise on Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune North Carolina Monday (August 17).

These Marines are with the 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion.

August 21, 2015 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: First Two Women Pass Army Ranger Course

Ground and Glass Ceiling Breaking.

Soldiers participate in rappel training during the Ranger Course on Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia., July 12, 2015. Two of 19 women who were the first to take the course have passed. (U.S. Army photo)

Soldiers participate in rappel training during the Ranger Course on Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia., July 12, 2015. Two of 19 women who were the first to take the course have passed.
(U.S. Army photo)

Two women have successfully completed the Army’s elite Ranger school, one of the toughest combat training courses in the world, the Army announced Monday (August 17).

The female soldiers weren’t identified beyond being described as West Point-trained officers, NBC and other news outlets reported. They were among 96 soldiers who will graduate Friday at Fort Benning, Georgia, and receive the coveted Ranger shoulder tab, the Army said.

The 96 soldiers were winnowed from 400 — 19 of them women — who started the course on April 20.

It was the first time in U.S. Army history that female soldiers were allowed to participate in the Ranger course. It is part of a one-time assessment of the program to determine how to open combat jobs to women after the Defense Department ordered that all occupations be open to women beginning in 2016

The Ranger course has three grueling phases starting with the Benning or Darby phase, which includes fast-paced instruction on troop-leading procedures, principles of patrolling, demolition, field craft, and basic battle drills focused on squad ambush and reconnaissance missions. The mountain phase consists of four days of military mountaineering training, four days of techniques training, 10 days of student-led patrols, and one administrative day, where the students are counseled on their performance.

The last phase of the Ranger course, at glin Air Force Base in Florida, focuses on skills needed to survive in a rain forest or swamp.

While only about 3 percent of active-duty soldiers have earned their Ranger tabs, doing so is considered an unofficial prerequisite for many infantry commands, the New York Times reported. And it is an explicit requirement for leading combat troops in the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, the service’s premier light-infantry unit.

But the two female officers still won’t be able to apply for assignment to the Ranger Regiment, the Times reported. The elite unit has a separate selection process, which isn’t open to women yet.The same is true, so far, of postings as infantry or tank officers.

August 18, 2015 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 14, 2015)

Apache Dance.

82nd Airborne Division photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull

82nd Airborne Division photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull

U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters provide a demonstration of their firepower during a live fire exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

According to the Defense Department, Operation Dragon Spear included a forcible entry operation with Army and Air Force units showcasing the U.S. global response force‘s ability to deploy, fight and win. If you click on the photo to enlarge the image, you’ll see the flaming vehicles struck by the Apaches. Any questions?

The demonstration, with 1,500 soldiers and airmen participating, included the 82nd Airborne Division, the 75th Ranger Regiment, 10th Special Forces Group and Air Force units supplying transport aircraft. To see more photos, click here.

August 14, 2015 at 12:08 am Leave a comment

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