With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 about here, I find this a touching tribute by the men of 160th SOAR and the young lady from American Airlines. God bless America and NSDQ!
With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 about here, I find this a touching tribute by the men of 160th SOAR and the young lady from American Airlines. God bless America and NSDQ!
|Sgt. 1st Class Ray Castillo lost both legs after an ambush in Iraq two years ago while on his 10th combat deployment. (Photo by VInce Little, The Bayonet)|
By Vince Little
FORT BENNING, Ga., (USASOC News Service, May 18, 2011) - Sgt. 1st
Class Ray Castillo is again flourishing as a senior noncommissioned
officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., but that almost didn't seem
possible two years ago.
That's when his 10th combat deployment with the 75th Ranger Regiment resulted in a life-changing event on the dusty battlefield of northern Iraq. Today, he's a double amputee - above the knees - but set to graduate next week from Fort Benning's seven-week Maneuver Senior Leaders Course.
"Just because I lost my limbs doesn't mean I can't give my experience and my knowledge to other guys, (but) I understood eventually I was going to be behind a desk," said Castillo, now an operations sergeant with 2nd Battalion. "There's nothing I could've done about that. I still wanted to be in the military, I still wanted to contribute."
The incident occurred Feb. 9, 2009, near Mosul. Castillo was a platoon sergeant with the regiment's 2nd Battalion with the unit in pursuit of a high-value target. The Soldiers had dismounted and were approaching the objective on foot when they got ambushed.
A command-detonated improvised explosive device hit Castillo.
"It was real quick," he recalled. "(The enemy) hid it really well in the ground. I got to that location, and it just went off. I blacked out for a short period of time, but I remember the explosion going off and flying through the air."
Covered in blood, Castillo went into shock. A platoon medic treated him at the scene and he got evacuated within a half-hour. On the ride to the hospital, he slipped in and out of consciousness.
"I was in so much pain," he said. "I told my medic, 'Hey, you need to give me something. I don't care if you punch me in the face or whatever, but I'm in so much pain.'"
Castillo had multiple lacerations, including to his liver, spleen, intestines and right kidney. A lung was punctured in three different areas.
After the blast, when he was dragged to a stretcher, Castillo remembered looking down and seeing his right leg severed at the ankle. He figured he might lose part of one leg, but woke up from an induced coma about a month later at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to find both gone. The infections had spread too quickly, doctors told him.
"I wasn't expecting to see 70 percent of my legs gone," he said. "Because of the infection, they had to keep cutting off more and more and more, because of all that bad stuff they have in the dirt over in Iraq."
He's undergone dozens of procedures, and not just to the legs. Doctors also removed shrapnel from his abdomen area.
"I lost count (of the surgeries). I had so many, I was sick of surgery," he said. "I still have a lot of shrapnel in me. Every once in a while, I'll get a scratch here or there 'cause it's trying to come out. It's all over the place."
There's a little ball of metal floating around a finger in his left hand. Castillo said X-rays at the dentist reveal more pieces in his head.
Castillo spent almost two months at Walter Reed and actually re-enlisted there in March 2009 from a hospital bed, surrounded by most of his family. He'd planned to do that in Iraq before getting wounded.
"I would say it's more frustrating than difficult," he said of his lengthy recovery. "There's a lot of frustration that goes with having some type of new life. Everyone has a goal in life, and then when something happens, it can change."
"You can still stay on certain career paths and other paths you want to do in your life," he explained. "It can be difficult doing those things, but it's more frustrating. There are simple things that you have to try to overcome and adapt to."
After being transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for rehab, Castillo said he encountered other Soldiers in worse predicaments.
"Looking at them being able to do certain things, it gives you strength," he said. "I remember seeing a woman in San Antonio - she had both arms gone. She was an (explosive ordnance disposal) Soldier missing both arms up high. The wounds were so high up her shoulders that she couldn't have a prosthetic arm."
"Seeing someone like that reminds you, 'Hey, you shouldn't be complaining about certain things.' You don't want to have someone always helping you out, because they're not always gonna be there," he said. "In Texas, they taught (me) how to do stuff on (my) own. I had to figure a lot of things out and learn how to overcome those little obstacles and hurdles."
Castillo was fitted with prosthetics in May 2009. That November, his formal therapy ended and he left Fort Sam Houston the following January. He returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord but had to clear a medical evaluation board just to stay in the Army - his paperwork was approved four months later.
"My focus was just to get back to my unit," he said. "I worked really hard every day as much as I could because that was my main focus - recovery and getting better so I could get back to my unit and continue working."
Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy was the 75th Ranger Regiment's command sergeant major when Castillo got wounded in Iraq.
"His personal courage and commitment is truly an inspiration to us all," Hardy said. "He epitomizes the warrior ethos - I will never quit, I will never accept defeat. He symbolizes the strength of the American Soldier and I feel privileged to know him."
Castillo said he's driven to stay in and wants to reach the 20-year mark in his Army career. He'd like to become an instructor after his time with the Ranger Regiment ends.
The sergeant first class did a tandem jump at the Ranger Rendezvous in August 2009, only months after the ambush, and plans to return again this year. Calling the regiment a "brotherhood," Castillo said he knows some of the other Rangers better than his own family, and vice versa, after all they've experienced together in war.
The learning process also hasn't ended in his own recovery. Just walking downstairs, along a sidewalk or grass, and downhill can be challenging.
"Even when it snowed in Washington state, just going through the snow and it being slippery, I don't feel where I step until I put my weight on it," he said. "I drive, too, and that's a learning curve. My endurance and balance are getting much better. Being able to do random chores around the house or just doing stuff at work is getting better. It's gotten easier, with time."
On April 1, 2010, The US Department of Defense announced its intention to give up ownership of its GPS Satellite Network, citing concerns about the mix of consumer and military traffic, and the cost to maintain the system as it experiences record growth in use.
The GPS Satellite Mobile Phone Consortium, a group of the 24 largest telecoms worldwide, is expected to take ownership of the satellite network.
The so-called 'GPS Satellite Mobile Phone Consortium' will combine 24 of the world's largest mobile carriers, including America Movil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom Austria, MTN Group, NTT Docomo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, VimpelCom and WIND. The four operators in the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) mobile apps initiative - Vodafone, China Mobile, SoftBank and Verizon Wireless - are also included.
Under the terms of the agreement, the mobile phone group will lease the satellites currently in operation and be responsible for the cost of launching any new ones. It is expected that GPS will be completely under their control by 2012. By that time, a GPS device will need to use a cellular identifier to decode GPS signals.
Department of Defense officials declined comment on the future of the use of GPS in military applications, citing security concerns. It is speculated that the military has been launching a new satellite network strictly for its own use.
Not all are happy with the move. High on the list of consumer complaints is that the perception that mobile phone companies, in their typical fashion, will levy monthly fees for a GPS signal that used to be free.
In response to this criticism, the Mobile Phone Consortium stressed their intention to make the technology affordable and available to all. The Consortium itself will levy no fees for GPS use, but choices of pricing will be left to the individual telecoms.
The question comes up also of the future of GPS receivers that don't have a mobile phone component. While the number of mobile phone gps receivers has now overtaken these in number, there are still millions of these in existence. The GPS Satellite Mobile Phone Consortium says they are willing to license their technology to these manufacturers, and companies such as Garmin and Magellan may even join the consortium.
Resistance to the idea of a mobile phone owned GPS network has gone beyond words. Programmers who preferred not to be identified announced their intention to hack the new network as soon as it was launched. If they succeed, exploits will be posted widely around the internet, with the goal of keeping the technology free for all.
If you are concerned about this transfer of GPS ownership, add your name to those concerned by taking a short survey at this web address:
The remains of two high-tech World War II Japanese submarines designed to attack the United States mainland have been found off Oahu.
The announcement was made this morning by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Undersea Research Lab at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and the National Geographic Channel.
The submarines -- the subjects of a National Geographic special, "Hunt for the Samurai Subs" -- were part of a top-secret Imperial Japanese Navy plan to attack cities on the U.S. mainland, including New York and Washington, D.C.
The I-14 was capable of carrying two fighter bombers while submerged; the I-201 was the fastest attack submarine of its time.
Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, maritime heritage coordinator for NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries in the Pacific Islands, said the submarines incorporated design and warfare concepts in use today.
"If you look at a sub like the I-201, it was nothing like anybody had in World War II," he said. "It had a streamlined body and conning tower and retractable guns. It looks more like a Cold War sub.
"And the (400-foot-long) I-14 predates the cruise missile concept."
Similar to a modern-day "boomer," the I-14 carried enough fuel to travel around the glode, Van Tillburg said. That meant it could pop up off the East Coast, assemble and launch its folded-wing planes within 10 minutes and then submerge again.
After the war, five of the subs were captured by the U.S. and brought back to Pearl Harbor where they were studied. They were intentionally sunk by the U.S. Navy in 1946 when Russian scientists began to demand access to the technology under terms of the treaty that ended the war.
Since 1992, a team led by Hawaii Undersea Research Lab operations director Terry Kerby has used the manned submersibles Pisces IV and Pisces V to hunt for the Japanese subs.
In March 2005, the team discovered the I-401, which could carry three aircraft.
The I-14 and I-201 were found in February in 3,000 feet of water.
Kerby said the search for the I-14 and I-201 was aided by veterans after the discovery of the I-401 became public.
Joe Gould, who was assigned to be the executive officer of the I-14 while it was at Pearl Harbor, shot 16mm film of the sinking of the sub somewhere off Pearl Harbor.
"As the (camera) panned from Kaena Point to Diamond Head, we were able to pick out landmarks and triangulate a rough position," Kerby said.
Van Tilburg said Japan began working on the new fleet of submarines too late in the war and was only able to produce a small number of them.
"If they had been able to produce them earlier, it might have turned the tide in some battles," he said.
None of the submarines' missions were carried out.
"Hunt for the Samurai Subs" premieres Nov. 17 on the National Geographic Channel.
Mismanagement and underinvestment by the U.S. Air Force could possibly lead to the failure and blackout of the Global Positioning System (GPS), a federal watchdog agency says.
The risk of failure starts in 2010, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report quoted by PC World.
The failure would impact not only military operations, but also the millions of people and businesses who rely on the satellite-based navigation systems built into cars, boats and cell phones.
"If the Air Force does not meet its schedule goals for development of GPS IIIA satellites, there will be an increased likelihood that in 2010, as old satellites begin to fail, the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. government commits to," the GAO report states.
The report says the Air Force has struggled to build successful GPS satellites within cost and on schedule.
Morning Edition, March 24, 2009 · Sometime during the first week in April, North Korea is expected to launch a three-stage, long-range rocket for only the third time in its history.
The North Koreans say the rocket is purely civilian in nature, designed to put a satellite in orbit. But suspicions have grown that this launch may actually be a test of a long-range ballistic missile.
American satellites are watching the launch site carefully to determine North Korea's true intentions.
Preparations have been under way for weeks at Musudan-ni in North Korea for the launch of a rocket, known as the Taepodong-2. The activity at the site provoked concern in the U.S. that the North Koreans were preparing to test a long-range missile that might have the capability one day to deliver a warhead on U.S. territory.
But recently, the North Korean government has taken steps that point to an attempt to put a satellite into orbit, says Mitchell Reiss, vice provost at the College of William and Mary and former head of policy planning at the State Department.
"There's a context in which this launch is going to take place. And so far, the North Koreans are trying very hard to manipulate and shape the context to persuade everybody that this is a civilian-based space launch vehicle," he says.
Earlier this month, North Korea notified international organizations that it intends to launch the rocket between April 4 and 8, on a trajectory east from North Korea. It has warned ships and aircraft to avoid that flight path during those days.
The North Korean actions have been persuasive, says Jack Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute.
"I do think that they are going to attempt to launch a satellite of some form," he says.
Recently, the U.S. director of national intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had reached the same conclusion.
"I tend to believe that the North Koreans announced that they are going to do a space launch, and I believe that that's what they intend. I could be wrong, but that would be my estimate," he said.
Still, uncertainties persist. The North Koreans are assembling the rocket inside a long covered building, out of sight. They will disassemble it, bring the parts out to the launch pad, and reassemble it there. Erecting the rocket on the launch pad will take three days, and it will take another two days to fill it with liquid fuel.
Satellite photos of the rocket on the launch pad will not be available until then.
The rocket will be highly vulnerable to attack once it's been reassembled, hardly a sign that this is a military test launch. But many analysts say civilian and military launches are quite similar, according to Evans Revere, president of the Korea Society.
"Whether it's a satellite launch or something else, what they are essentially doing here is developing the launch vehicle, the same launch vehicle that could be used to launch a warhead of some sort at one of its neighbors or even the United States at some point down the line," he says.
Experts in rocketry say there are significant differences between a space launch vehicle and a long-range missile. Their trajectories are quite different, and that makes for different stresses on the rocket.
With its assortment of sensors in space and radars in Japan, Alaska and at sea, the United States will know within the first minute whether the North Koreans really are trying to put a satellite in orbit.
There has been much talk of using American missile defense interceptors to destroy the North Korean rocket, but such an attempt would be considered only if it was on a flight path to reach U.S. territory. North Korea has said that would constitute an act of war.
Pritchard, of the Korea Economic Institute, believes the North Korean rocket is highly unlikely to pose a threat to the U.S.
"There's no public, nor do I understand, any classified information that suggests that there is any type of warhead, conventional or otherwise. So the potential for this being a risk to U.S. security is not there, as far as we know," he says.
There also is great concern in Japan about this rocket because it will overfly Japanese territory.
Reiss, of the College of William and Mary, believes that everybody ought to take a deep breath and use diplomacy to get North Korea back to the bargaining table over its nuclear weapons and its missile development.
"What we need to do is to think very clearly about what level of threat this space launch vehicle really presents to us, make sure that our allies don't overreact, then try to think through exactly what it is that we want from the North Koreans in the future," he advises.
This will be only the third time North Korea has launched a Taepodong-2. In 1998, Pyongyang claimed it put a satellite in orbit, but there has been no proof of that. In 2006, there was a missile test, but it exploded 45 seconds after launch.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. fighter jets in Iraq have shot down an unmanned Iranian spy drone aircraft, the U.S. military said Monday.
The Iranian aircraft had been flying in Iraqi airspace for 70 minutes before being shot down 60 miles northeast of Baghdad last month, the military said.
"This was not an accident on the part of the Iranians," the U.S. military said in a statement. "The [drone] was in Iraqi airspace for nearly one hour and 10 minutes and well inside Iraqi territory before it was engaged."
Two F-16 fighter jets followed the drone for about an hour before shooting it down, a Pentagon official said.
The drone had no weapons and was strictly a spy aircraft, the official told CNN.
The U.S. military has taken ownership of the drone, which the Pentagon official said is in "pretty good shape."
Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, declined to comment on the allegation and most major state-run media outlets in Iran did not carry news of any incident involving an Iranian drone.
The Bush administration regularly accused Iran of meddling in Iraq and arming fighters, and in 2002 President George W. Bush put Iran in his "axis of evil."Since President Barack Obama took office he has appeared more conciliatory towards Iran although the country continues to cause U.S. concern over its nuclear ambitions and its role in Iraq.
MOSCOW - A top Russian military official has confirmed that the Kremlin is thinking of parking some of its strategic bombers in Cuba or Venezuela, within easy range of the continental United States.
That's just one of several options currently under discussion in Moscow that, if carried out, would see Russia's armed forces take up positions around the world on a scale unseen since the cold war ended almost two decades ago.
Venezuelan President Hugo "Chavez has proposed to us a whole island with an airfield that we can use for temporary basing of strategic bombers," Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, chief of Russia's strategic aviation forces, told journalists on Saturday.
"There are four or five airfields in Cuba with 4,000-meter-long runways, which absolutely suit us," he added. "If the two chiefs of state display such a political will, we are ready to fly there."
In late 2007 Russia resumed its cold war-era bomber patrols along the North American coast, using lumbering 1950s-vintage turboprop Tu-95 Bear bombers as well as a few needle-nosed supersonic Tu-160s, which were introduced in the 1980s.
But Russian generals complain that in the absence of refueling and maintenance facilities in the western hemisphere, the planes are able to remain as little as half an hour on station before beginning the long flight back to their bases in Russia.
As the Monitor reported recently (see story here), two Tu-160s visited Venezuela last September as part of joint war games that included a large flotilla of Russian warships and a visit to the region by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Last week, the two Georgian breakaway statelets of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose de facto independence was established by Russian military intervention against Georgia last summer, offered long-term leases for the construction of Russian military bases on their territory. South Ossetia has offered basing rights to Moscow for 99 years, while Akhazia says it is ready to lease facilities for 49 years. Russian media reports suggest those bases, housing thousands of troops and naval facilities on the Black Sea, are likely to be completed by year`s end.
The two statelets' self-declared independence has been recognized only by Russia and Nicaragua, while Georgia, with the support of most Western countries, insists that it has full sovereignty over the territories under international law.
"Russian troops are the only factor supporting the independence of South Ossetia, which is why they should stay there for a long time," Alexander Khramchikhin, an expert at the independent Institute for Military and Political Analysis, told the Moscow daily Novye Izvestia last week.
And Moscow has recently been in talks with former Soviet allies about re-establishing cold war-era naval bases at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam and Tartus in Syria (see the Monitor's recent story here) as well as taking steps to beef up its own regional security alliance with several countries of the ex-USSR.
But some experts suggest that the noises coming out of Moscow about basing nuclear bombers in Cuba or Venezuela could be just a propaganda gimmick in advance of forthcoming US-Russian negotiations for a new strategic accord (story on treaty discussions here).
"Talking about building Russian bases near the US is a good way to get Washington's attention, and drive home the point that this is exactly what they've been doing to us for years," says Irina Zvigelskaya, an expert with the independent Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Moscow.
She says that Moscow still has an institutional memory of the stinging diplomatic defeat suffered by the USSR in 1962, after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev deployed medium-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, and no one in the Kremlin today is likely to repeat that mistake. But for Moscow, she adds, US intentions to station strategic anti-missile weapons near Russia's borders and the continuing Washington-backed drive to include Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, are seen as similar encroachments on Russia's strategic comfort zone.
"We are hopefully going to see some rethinking of the US-Russian relationship, and so we are positioning our arguments. The talk of basing Russian bombers in Cuba is more of a bargaining ploy than a real plan," Ms. Zvigelskaya says.