Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes: The Army Ranger Who Beat Down A Suicide Bomber With His Fists

on February 25, 2016

When Spc. Joe Gibson found himself face to face with an al Qaeda suicide bomber in Iraq, he didn’t back down.

On the night of April 26, 2008, UH-60 Black Hawks delivered U.S. Army Rangers to a grassy field in rural Iraq. As the soldiers took up their positions beneath the ascending helicopters, a heavy barrage of small-arms fire began whipping in through the tall grass. The men of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment had arrived on a mission to find and eliminate an al Qaeda cell. Now they were being ambushed by a group of insurgents less than 50 meters away.

Two of the Rangers went down almost immediately, one with a life-threatening gunshot wound.

“The guy that got hit was a real good friend of mine, and he called out to me,” Spc. Joe Gibson later told the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in a report published by the military blog Blackfive. “Me and another guy moved to him. I had the medical equipment, so I started getting that prepped while other people started taking care of him. We got him ready for [evacuation], patched him up, and started moving him out.”

With the casualty evacuated, Gibson returned to his squad and the Rangers continued their mission. The gunfire had died down.

As he moved through the chest-high grass, Gibson stepped on something that he thought was garbage. After taking a few more steps, he turned to make sure. It wasn’t garbage — at least not in the literal sense. It was an al Qaeda fighter armed with an AK-47. “He didn’t say anything other than giving his war cry,” Gibson recalled. “He had an advantage on me. I didn’t have a chance to get my weapon ready and I knew he was gonna shoot me, so I dived on him.”

The insurgent’s rifle was raised, but Gibson managed to knock the muzzle to the side just as it went off. Unable to raise his own weapon, Gibson tackled the man to the ground and began pounding him with his fists. “[He] ripped off my helmet and all my optics, so I couldn’t see all that well,” Gibson said.

As the two men fought in almost total darkness, Gibson felt the insurgent reaching down for something on his belt. Gibson figured it was a knife, but when the man yelled, “Bomb!” he realized it was the detonator for a suicide vest. While Gibson lunged for the detonator, the insurgent maneuvered around and began choking him. Fearing he was about to pass out, Gibson reared back and delivered one more blow that connected at the temple and knocked the insurgent out.

Gibson leapt back and raised his M4. “I got my weapon into his stomach and fired,” he told the US Army Special Operations Command public affairs office. “He came back to consciousness after that, [but] I knew I got him. I stood up and neutralized him.”

There’s no telling how many Rangers would have lost their lives had he not neutralized the insurgent.

Gibson was awarded the Silver Star for his actions that night. “Rangers are proven over and over again in battle,” said Adm. Eric Olson, then-commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, during the award ceremony. “Rangers are glorified in Hollywood movies, but you aren’t actors. You are real men who make real sacrifices.”



Adam Linehan

Adam Linehan is a senior staff writer for Task & Purpose. Between 2006-2012, he served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army, and is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow Adam Linehan on Twitter @adam_linehan

A Year In Space

NASA Spaceman Scott Kelly Back from Record Year Flight

Associated Press | Mar 02, 2016 | by Marcia Dunn


ISS crew member Scott Kelly of the U.S. shows a victory sign after landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. (Krill Kudryavtsev/Pool photo via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth on Wednesday after an unprecedented year in space for NASA, landing in barren Kazakhstan with a Russian cosmonaut who shared his whole space station journey.

Their Soyuz capsule parachuted onto the central Asian steppes and ended a science-rich mission at the International Space Station that began last March and was deemed a steppingstone to Mars.

It was a triumphant homecoming for Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko after 340 days in space. Kelly pumped his fist as he emerged from the capsule, then gave a thumbs-up. He smiled and chatted with his doctors and others as photographers crushed around him in the freezing cold.

"The air feels great out here," NASA spokesman at the scene, Rob Navias, quoted Kelly as saying. "I have no idea why you guys are all bundled up."

Clearly animated and looking well, he said he didn't feel much different than he did after his five-month station mission five years ago.

Kelly and Kornienko had checked out of the space station 3½ hours earlier. In total, they traveled 144 million miles through space, circled the world 5,440 times and experienced 10,880 orbital sunrises and sunsets during the longest single spaceflight by an American.

Kelly posted one last batch of sunrise photos Tuesday on Twitter, before quipping, "I gotta go!" His final tweet from orbit came several hours later: "The journey isn't over. Follow me as I rediscover # Earth!"

Piloting the Soyuz capsule home for Kelly, 52, and Kornienko, 55, was the much fresher and decade younger cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, whose space station stint lasted the typical six months.

The two yearlong spacemen faced a series of medical tests following touchdown. Before committing to even longer Mars missions, NASA wants to know the limits of the human body for a year, minus gravity.

As he relinquished command of the space station Monday, Kelly noted that he and Kornienko "have been up here for a really, really long time" and have been jokingly telling one another, "We did it!" and "We made it!"

"A year now seems longer than I thought it would be," Kelly confided a couple weeks ago.

Not quite a year -- 340 days to be precise, based on the Russian launch and landing schedule. But still record-smashing for NASA.

Kelly's closest U.S. contender trails him by 125 days. Russia continues to rule, however, when it comes to long-duration spaceflight. The world record of 438 days was set by a Russian doctor during the mid-1990s.

"A really smart person said to me one time, 'Teamwork makes the dreamwork in spaceflight,' and spaceflight is the biggest team sport there is," Kelly said Monday. He acknowledged each of the 13 U.S., Russian, European and Japanese space fliers with whom he and Kornienko lived during the past year. "It's incredibly important that we all work together to make what is seemingly impossible, possible."

For NASA, that mission possible is Mars.

Scientists are hoping for more one-year subjects as NASA gears up for human expeditions to Mars in the 2030s. Radiation will be a top challenge, along with the body and mind's durability on what will be a 2½-year journey round trip. With his one-year mission, Kelly has "helped us take one giant leap toward putting boots on Mars," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

The choice of the pioneering Kelly turned out to be a bonanza. His identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, offered himself up as a medical guinea pig so researchers could study the differences between the genetic doubles, one in space and the other on the ground. They provided blood, saliva and urine samples, underwent ultrasounds and bone scans, got flu shots and more, all in the name of science.

"My brother @StationCDRKelly is back home on our planet! Talk about aliens. He's been off the planet for a year," Mark Kelly joked via Twitter.

Kelly and Kornienko were due to split up later Wednesday. Kelly heads to Houston with two flight surgeons and several other NASA reps, arriving late Wednesday night. That's where he'll be reunited with his two daughters, ages 21 and 12; his girlfriend, a NASA public affairs representative at Johnson Space Center; and his brother and his brother's wife, former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

"Excited to welcome him back in Houston," Giffords tweeted.

Kornienko returns to his home in Star City, Russia, near Moscow, to his wife, daughter and toddler grandson.

Kelly has spent more time in space, altogether, than any other American: 520 days over the course of four missions. Realizing this is likely his last journey, it was "a little bittersweet" saying goodbye to his orbiting home. He'll have plenty of pictures, at least, for the scrapbook — he posted 1,000 dramatic, color-drenched pictures of Earth on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

"What a ride he took us on!" fellow astronaut Reid Wiseman said in a tweet from Houston.

"Those of us who dream of sending astronauts to deep space thank Scott Kelly for his sacrifice," said Jim Green, director of planetary science for NASA, "and are thrilled to welcome him home."

US SpecOps Troops Capture 'Significant' ISIS Operative

US SpecOps Troops Capture 'Significant' ISIS Operative in Iraq

Fox News | Mar 02, 2016


This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked ISIL marching in Raqqa, Syria. MILITANT WEBSITE

A U.S. special operations assault force captured an ISIS operative during a recent raid in northern Iraq, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday.

The official would not discuss specifics of the raid, including the identity of the captured militant, due to the sensitivity of the mission. The operation was first reported on by CNN. A report in The New York Times described the operative as a "significant" member of the terror group.

In December, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that a special operations task force was headed to Iraq. Fox learned the 200-man unit, which included an assault force, intelligence cell and aviation element, would be based in Irbil in northern Iraq.

In October, Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a Delta Force commando, was killed during a mission to rescue of dozens of mostly Kurdish prisoners held by ISIS in northern Iraq.

In May, a Delta Force raid in eastern Syria resulted in the death of an ISIS commander, Abu Sayyaf, and the detention of his wife Umm. U.S. forces hope to gather evidence about the terror group's operations from its latest captive, as it did in the case of Umm Sayyaf.

Umm Sayyaf remains held by the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. She was charged last month by the Justice Department with being part of a conspiracy resulting in the death of Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old American aid worker kidnapped by ISIS.

Mueller was held as a sex slave by the Sayyafs and repeatedly raped by ISIS' self-proclaimed emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, while in his custody.

Mueller was "sexually abused by Baghdadi, who forced her to have sex with him," according to the Justice Department statement.

A U.S. official told Fox News the latest so-called "kill or capture" mission follows the template of the raid that targeted the Sayyafs and will be the model for such missions going forward.

The official also said there was "no plan to make a detention center," in Iraq, adding that captured ISIS operatives would be held either by the Kurds or the Iraqi government.

Carter reiterated his desire to close the military detention center at the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during a Pentagon press conference Monday.

But Carter acknowledged closing the prison is currently against the law and that some prisoners are too dangerous to transfer to other counties.

-- Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.

Army Reviews Tape Test

Army Now Plans to Review Tape Test Policy This Summer

Mar 02, 2016 | by Matthew Cox

The U.S. Army will launch a review this summer of its tape-test policy for measuring body fat as part of a larger evaluation of the service's Body Composition Program.

Sgt. Major of the Army Daniel Dailey recently requested that the G1 review the method the service uses to determine body-fat composition, commonly known as the tape test.

Military.com on Tuesday reported that G1 officials said they were unsure when the service would carry out the SMA's request for a review of the policy. Later that evening, the Army sent out the following update.

"The revision process for AR 600-9, The Army Body Composition Program (dated June 2013) will begin this summer 2016.  As part of the revision process, AR 600-9 in its entirety will be addressed to include a review of the Army's tape test," according to a statement from G1 spokesman Paul Prince.

Soldiers are screened at least every six months to ensure they meet the prescribed body-fat standard, measured by the circumference-based tape method outlined in the regulation.

"Commanders have the authority to direct a body fat assessment on any soldier that they determine does not present a soldierly appearance, regardless of whether or not the soldier exceeds the screening table weight for his or her measured height," according to the regulation.

Dailey's request for the review, which was previously reported by Army Times, was prompted by solider complaints that the test is not the most accurate method for measuring fitness, said Master Sgt. Michelle Johnson, a spokeswoman for the SMA.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Vet unemployment

Vet unemployment sees record year despite December jump

By George Altman,

Staff writer 6:47 p.m. EST January 8, 2016

(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Veterans unemployment measures jumped by more than a full percentage point in December, government data show, but even these higher numbers put the jobless rate at levels that would have been stunningly low just a couple of years ago.

The December blip aside, 2015 was a year of employment success for veterans of all generations not seen since the boom days before the recession, Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate. And for the youngest generation of veterans, 2015 was the best year ever for employment — by far.

The nation as a whole added 292,000 jobs in December, with unemployment holding steady at 5 percent.

The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans increased to 5.7 percent in December, up from November's mark of 4.2 percent, an all-time low for that metric, for which data go back to September 2008.

Over the past year, an all-time low in that measure was set three times. And six of the eight monthly unemployment reports from May to the end of the year were either the lowest or the second-lowest vets' unemployment rates ever recorded at the time they came out.

The unemployment rate for Afghanistan and Iraq war vets in 2015 was 5.8 percent. (Photo: K. Chamberlain)

Averaged together, the unemployment rate for all 12 months for post-9/11 vets was 5.8 percent — down significantly from 2014's 7.2 percent number, which was itself the lowest annual average recorded until now.

For veterans of all generations, unemployment jumped to 4.8 percent in December from November's 3.6 percent. No monthly unemployment rate lower than November's had been charted since late 2007. The overall veterans unemployment rates for the 12 months of 2015 average out to 4.6 percent. The last year with an average that low was 2008.

North Korea

North Korea defiance challenges moral authority of nuclear club

By Eric Talmade and John Chol Jin,

The Associated Press 3:59 p.m. EST January 9, 2016

(Photo: Wong Maye-E/AP)

PYONGYANG, North Korea — When North Korea claimed triumphantly that it had tested its first hydrogen bomb, it was roundly and predictably condemned by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and India, countries estimated to possess a combined total of more than 15,000 nuclear warheads.

Non-nuclear powers condemned the test, too, including Japan, the country that was on the receiving end of the only atomic bomb attack in history — the U.S. bombing that ended World War II in the Pacific in 1945.

But while most of the world, East and West, agrees that no one wants North Korea to be an effectively functioning nuclear power, a question that can't be escaped lurks behind the condemnation: How much right do nations have to tell other nations what to do? Moreover, how much of a right do nuclear powers, which have no intention of giving up their own arsenals, have to demand others to give up theirs?

North Korea, of course, says none.

In a show of defiance and nationalist pride that is so characteristic of the North, masses of North Koreans filled Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square on Friday, which happened to also be leader Kim Jong Un's birthday, to celebrate their military's new crown jewel. Fireworks and dancing parties were held after the rally.

"This hydrogen bomb test represents the higher stage of development of our nuclear arms," Pak Pong Ju, North Korea's premier, told the crowd, which officials said was 100,000-strong. "It will go down in history as a perfect success and now the DPRK is proud to be ranked among nuclear states possessing hydrogen bombs. The Korean people can demonstrate the stamina of a dignified nation with the strongest nuclear deterrent."

The North's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

With its latest test last Wednesday, which may or may not have been of an H-bomb — outside expert opinion remains divided — it is treading further down a dangerous, but well-worn, path.

As has been the case with every nation that went nuclear, possession of such weapons is seen by the North's regime as a strategic necessity. That's why decades of pleading with and punishing the North simply haven't worked.

Developing a credible nuclear force is in the long run cheaper for Pyongyang and far more likely to be successful than building and maintaining the massive and highly sophisticated conventional forces that would be needed to deter the United States. Though mega weapons like the H-bomb have become largely irrelevant to superpower military planners, who now have the technology to conduct precision attacks that are far more effective and less likely to generate universal condemnation, it's the kind of threat that still works for Pyongyang.

Its self-defense claim is also hardly extraordinary. It has been used by all of the nuclear powers.

After dropping its first nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States went on to develop its arsenal of nuclear doomsday devices because of what it saw as the threat of Soviet aggression. The Soviets made the same claim, but about the U.S. Some European allies, not wanting to be too dependent on the U.S., followed Washington's lead. The Chinese, worried about both Washington and Moscow, got one of their own. India got the bomb because of Pakistan, and Pakistan because of India. And Israel is believed to have nuclear weapons because of its neighbors.

None has given up their nuclear arsenals. The recent nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran may have made a dent in Pyongyang's thinking, but two countries that did start down that path and failed — Iraq and Libya — appear to still weigh much more heavily.

"The Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gadhafi regime in Libya could not escape the fate of destruction after being deprived of their foundations for nuclear development and giving up nuclear programs of their own accord, yielding to the pressure of the U.S. and the West keen on their regime changes," the Korean Central News Agency said in an editorial Friday.

If, as North Korea claims, it is trying to defend itself against a nuclear-armed adversary bent on regime change and with which it is actually at war — the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty — why should its claim to have a right to possess nuclear weapons be treated any differently from other nuclear powers?

For the nuclear haves, that's not even worth considering — North Korea is too irresponsible, too unpredictable and too untrustworthy for it to be a valid question.

"There is no need to argue about why North Korea can't have nuclear arsenal while other countries have already become nuclear powers," said Shi Yinhong, one of China's best-known international relations scholars at Renmin University and a sometime government adviser. "All the nuclear powers such as U.S., China, France, the U.K. and Russia are responsible major countries in this field."

"Of course, decades of antagonism between the U.S. and North Korea helped the North Korean leader to make up his mind to go nuclear, but it is not the main reason," Shi added. "The main reason for the North to go nuclear is the need of the North Korean regime to hold on to its autocratic power."

China, however, also conducted its first tests under an autocrat, Mao Zedong.

Iranian rockets launched near Truman

Navy: Video shows Iranian rockets launched near Truman, other warships

By Ken Chamberlain and Lance M. Bacon,

Staff writers 12:33 p.m. EST January 9, 2016

(Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. M. Tolbert/Navy)

The U.S. Navy released a video in response to a Military Times FOIA request of what the Navy says is an Iranian ship on Dec. 26 firing several unguided rockets near the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and other Western warships and commercial craft.

The U.S. military released a video Saturday showing what it says is an Iranian military vessel firing several unguided rockets near the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and other Western warships and commercial craft.

The incident occurred Dec. 26 in the Strait of Hormuz. Navy officials released the video to Military Times in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The images show what appears to be an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel firing rockets from a distance of about 1,370 meters.

Officials with U.S. Central Command first disclosed details about the incident last month. Approximately 20 minutes before the incident occurred, the Iranians had announced over maritime radio that they would be carrying out a live-fire exercise, officials said.

Although the rockets traveled away from the Truman, firing weapons "so close to passing coalition ships and commercial traffic within an internationally recognized maritime traffic lane is unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law," said Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Iran had dismissed the U.S. claim as "psychological warfare" against the Islamic Republic.

"The Guard's Navy had no drills in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz and didn't fire missiles or rockets during the past week and the time claimed by the Americans," Gen. Ramezan Sharif, a Revolutionary Guard spokesman, said on the Revolutionary Guard's website.

Stephens said on Saturday that while "most interactions between Iranian forces and the U.S. Navy are professional, safe, and routine, this event was not and runs contrary to efforts to ensure freedom of navigation and maritime safety in the global commons.