Farrier’s Work Keeps Essential Arlington Treasures Moving

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U.S. Army Spc. Tyler Salas, a farrier at Arlington National Cemetery, uses a forge to heat up and reform a horseshoe. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

U.S. Army Spc. Tyler Salas uses a forge to heat up and reform a horseshoe. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Many service members wake up early to perform their duties, but very few spend their days tending to the highly trained horses that carry our nation’s fallen soldiers to their final resting places.

That’s the job of those who work in the Army’s elite Caisson Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment — the Old Guard — which is responsible for ceremonies and memorial proceedings at Arlington National Cemetery.

Salas uses a rasp to file a horse's hoof. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Salas uses a rasp to file a horse’s hoof. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

U.S. Army Spc. Tyler Salas, 24, works as a farrier for the platoon out of a stable at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. He grew up in the small town of Culver, Oregon, on a 100-acre farm that had several horses. They weren’t of interest to him then, though.

“I had dirt bikes and four-wheelers. The horses were my sister’s deal,” he said. “But once I got here to the Old Guard, I saw the horses in the cemetery and thought, ‘Man, I want to do that.’”

He took a horsemanship course and trained to join the Caisson Platoon, where he is one of two men who care for the dozens of horses that pull the caissons, or wagons, that were originally built in the early 1900s for carrying cannons. They’re now used to carry the caskets of fallen soldiers.

All In A Day’s Work

In the stable’s farrier shop, horseshoes hang from the walls, and welder masks and other tools can be found all over the place.

Salas, hidden behind a horse, works to nail on a horseshoe. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Salas, hidden behind a horse, works to nail on a horseshoe. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Salas’ day starts at 5:30 a.m., when he and fellow farrier Spc. Todd Kline get to work taking off the horses’ shoes, cleaning and trimming their hooves and remounting the shoes. They focus particularly on the teams of horses that will be part of ceremonies in the cemetery that day.

Once the horses are tended to, Salas and Kline turn into blacksmiths, of sorts, welding wagon limbers that need to be fixed and working on other odds and ends around the stable. A lot of their work is done on a forge, the spark-shooting tool used to shape metal.

“It’s propane-operated and gets to about 2,000 degrees. It turns the metal red-hot in minutes,” Salas said of the equipment that’s been one of his biggest challenges as farrier. “It takes a lot of time.”

Making horseshoes and fitting them correctly to the animals is an extremely important task. Since the horses are constantly on their feet on asphalt-covered cemetery lanes, their hooves can wear down pretty quickly. Because of that, they’re fitted with studded shoes – the equivalent of soccer cleats for horses.

Sparks fly as Salas uses the 2,000-degree forge to weld caisson limbers so the platoon is mission-ready. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Sparks fly as Salas uses the 2,000-degree forge to weld caisson limbers so the platoon is mission-ready. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“They’re on pavement, and there are metal rain gutters. During the winter, they’re out there on ice and snow. They need the traction to be able to pull a caisson,” Salas said.

The farriers build close ties with the prestigious animals.

“You just learn their personalities. You know what they’re going to do when you do a certain thing. You know how they’re going to react,” Salas said.

He, Kline and herd manager Robert Brown are a tight-knit group, too.

“It’s like a little family in here. We’re in here every single day working together. [Mr. Brown] shows us something new every day and tells us what we’re not doing right,” Salas said jokingly. “We’re a little bit of the glue that holds the barn together.”

Salas, who initially volunteered for the platoon, is the first to admit that being a farrier is no easy trade.

Salas cleans and trims a horse hoof, part of his daily routine. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Salas cleans and trims a horse hoof, part of his daily routine. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The work is physically hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” he said. “But I love it.”

That appreciation began during his first ride through the cemetery.

“When I marched for Bravo Company in the cemetery, I thought, ‘This is cool. I’m really doing something. I’m proud to be doing what I’m doing.’ But then, sitting up on a horse, pulling the remains into the cemetery, it hit a lot deeper,” he said. “It’s hard to explain, but there was instant love for it.”

It’s a tradition of which he and other platoon members are extremely proud.

“It’s just cool to think of how long this has been going on and what it means to the Army and the families, and that all of the soldiers in this barn are part of it,” he said. “It’s history, and I like that.”

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Farrier’s Work Keeps Essential Arlington Treasures Moving

40 Years After War, U.S.-Vietnam Relations Continue Upswing

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Vietnamese Minister General Phung Quang Thanh sign a joint statement after meeting at the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, Vietnam. DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Vietnamese Minister General Phung Quang Thanh sign a joint statement after meeting at the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, Vietnam. DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett


By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

It’s been 40 years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the War in Vietnam. Since that time, U.S.-Vietnamese relations have been re-established and seem to only be getting better.

Diplomatic relations weren’t normalized with Vietnam again until 1995, but the past two decades have been very productive, with efforts being made to rise above the past, overcome differences and promote shared interests.

Those efforts are in the spotlight this week. Defense Secretary Ash Carter met with members of Congress and Vietnam-era veterans today to remember and honor their sacrifices 50 years after the ground war began. Carter said that, militarily, the war taught us many lessons, two specifically: That the nation is committed to leaving no man behind and that we must support our service members, regardless of our feelings about war.

See Also: The Story Behind The Vietnam Wall | Vietnam Memorial Expands
Watch: Carter Speaks At Vietnam War Congressional Commemoration

Yesterday, President Barack Obama welcomed Vietnam’s Communist Party leader, Nguyen Phu Trong, to the White House — the first time the party’s leader has ever visited the U.S. The pair adopted a joint vision statement recognizing the strides made between the nations.

But how did we get to this point? Well, here’s the quick history of it:

U.S.-Vietnamese diplomatic relations were originally established in 1950, but that changed when the country gained full independence from France in 1954 and was divided between the communist north and anti-communist south. The U.S. fought alongside the south for more than a decade before its capital, Saigon, fell to communist forces in 1975 and all U.S. personnel and troops were brought home. But as Vietnam was reunified under communist rule, it was largely isolated internationally, experiencing little growth for more than a decade due to its policies and humanitarian issues.

By the mid-1980s, Vietnam slowly began to introduce the reforms needed to grow its economy and better protect human rights. Those efforts led to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S. in 1995, which have become increasingly cooperative and broad-based.  They’ve accelerated greatly since Obama and Vietnam’s president launched the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership in 2013, further bolstering our relations in many areas, such as:

1)      Accounting for all U.S. personnel missing in Indochina – it’s one of the highest priorities. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency continues its efforts to recover and identify servicemen who were lost. Vietnamese-led teams joined that effort in 2011.

2)      The U.S. and Vietnam are working together to decontaminate the country from the after-effects of the defoliant Agent Orange, as well as unexploded ordnance left behind after the war.

3)      Trade has grown dramatically. Statistics show exports and imports between the two countries have grown from $451 million in 1995 to nearly $35 billion in 2014.

4)      Both countries are working to address maritime security, especially amid recent developments in the South China Sea that have increased tensions, eroded trust and threatened to undermine peace, security and stability. The countries are also working to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, as well as address humanitarian challenges such disaster response and search and rescue missions.

5)      Educational cooperation has increased through university partnerships, including Vietnam granting a license for the new Fullbright University Vietnam.

6)      In October 2014, the countries put into effect a 123 Agreement, which establishes guidelines for commercial nuclear trade, research and technology exchanges.

7)      Both countries have an agreement on counternarcotics and hold regular dialogues on human rights.

Together, the U.S. and Vietnam have also accomplished much in the areas of science and technology, health care, tourism and response to climate change. Much of the success has also been attributed to the Vietnamese community in the U.S. and their contributions to better uniting the two nations.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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40 Years After War, U.S.-Vietnam Relations Continue Upswing

Did You Know That? Interesting Fourth of July Facts

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flag fireworks cropped

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

The Fourth of July makes us think of a lot of things: Barbeques. Parades. Fireworks. Lots of red, white and blue. Will Smith’s movie “Independence Day.”

Oh yeah, and the freedom that our founding fathers declared to the world 239 years ago.

While the date July 4, 1776, is ingrained in most of our memories, here are some cool facts you may not know about the holiday:

A boy wears American flag garb on a float in a Fourth of July parade in Vale Oregon in 1941. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

A boy wears American flag garb on a float in a Fourth of July parade in Vale, Oregon, in 1941. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

  • Unofficially, the United States’ Independence Day is July 2 — when the Second Continental Congress made the unanimous decision to break from England. However, the actual Declaration of Independence wasn’t approved and adopted until July 4, when the Liberty Bell was rung in Philadelphia. The document also didn’t become official until Aug. 2, 1776, when most congressional delegates finally signed it.
  • It’s often thought that July 4 kicked off the fight for independence, but the Revolutionary War actually began more than a year before that on April 19, 1775, when the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. That was one day after the legendary ride of Paul Revere.
  • John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — both signers of the Declaration of Independence who later became president — died on July 4, 1826, within hours of each other.
  • On July 4, 1776, there were an estimated 2.5 million people living in America. On July 4, 2014, there were about 318.4 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Census Bureau stats also show that $203.6 million worth of fireworks — a huge part of Independence Day celebrations — were imported to the U.S. from China in 2013. That same year, $4 million worth of American flags were imported; $3.9 million of them came from China.

A History of Celebration

Americans today avidly celebrate Independence Day, but it took a while to build up to modern-day festivities.

A Fourth of July parade in Watertown, Wisconsin, in 1941. Photo by photographer John Vachon, courtesy of Library of Congress

A Fourth of July parade in Watertown, Wisconsin, in 1941. Photo by photographer John Vachon, courtesy of Library of Congress

The first anniversary drew fireworks, a 13-shot cannon salute and spontaneous jubilee in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t until the War of 1812 that observing Independence Day became common.  Back then, the day was often used to coincide with large public events, such as the groundbreaking of the Erie Canal in 1817 and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1828.

Americans eventually began celebrating the Fourth of July with parades, flag-waving and fireworks — all things that Adams would have likely approved. According to a celebration letter he wrote to his wife on July 3, 1776, Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade … bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

By the 1870s, July 4 was one of America’s most celebrated holidays. On June 28, 1870, Congress passed a law making it an unpaid federal holiday. It took 64 more years for it to become a paid one.

Fanfare aside, the Fourth of July is very important. On that day 239 years ago, 56 patriots pledged their lives and honor to defend America’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — a sentiment our current troops still live by.  As we celebrate our nation’s birth, remember to honor the men and women who fight for those liberties, and strive to be worthy of their huge sacrifices.

Happy Independence Day, everyone! How do you plan to celebrate?

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Did You Know That? Interesting Fourth of July Facts

State-of-the-Art Lab To Help Identify Lost Service Members

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A rendering of what the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency lab in Hawaii will look like when it's completely finished. Photo courtesy of the DPAA.

A rendering of what the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency lab in Hawaii will look like when it’s completely finished. Photo courtesy of the DPAA.

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Sifting through the remains of lost military members is no easy task, but it’s one researchers and scientists take very seriously at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency labs in Hawaii. Now, they have a brand-new building that will centralize their efforts to identify the lost.

The Senator Daniel K. Inouye Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency building is an $80 million, 140,000-square-foot facility on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam that will give researchers state-of-the-art laboratory, administrative and operational storage space.

Considering the work they do, it’s much needed. The agency manages the largest forensic anthropology lab in the world, where researchers sift through remains of missing service members from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, then try to match them to DNA and return them to their loved ones.

“It’s very, very important to provide answers to families. Families want to know what happened to their loved ones – the men who never came home,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Edward Reedy, a DPAA medical examiner.

DPAA Hawaii is currently scattered throughout several older buildings. The new facility will centralize operations and provide much more space, including an entire floor dedicated to lab work and forensic analysis that’s three times larger than what was previously available.

Since the advent of DNA technology in the early 1990s, the process of identifying remains has shifted from using anthropological techniques to pulling mitochondrial and nuclear (autosomal) DNA from skeletal material.  The process can take anywhere from months to decades, depending on the quality of the remains. It can be painstaking, too, since many of the lost were buried in mass graves or moved over time.

“When you’re going through thousands of sets of remains, there could be 10 sets for (one soldier) and 10 sets for somebody else. We have to be able to identify each set individually prior to making a determination,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Shelia Cooper, public affairs noncommissioned officer in charge at the DPAA.

She said 99 percent of servicemen from the Korean War and earlier conflicts don’t have DNA on file, so the agency invites family members to give a sample to test the remains against. But that can still be tough, especially for those who may not have biological family available.

“We have a genealogist who works cases just like that, where they go in and look at the family tree where their ancestries are so that we can possibly get a DNA sample that way,” Cooper said.

More: Korean War Vet Comes Home After DNA Identification

The agency has morphed a few times since it was the Army Graves Registration Service during World War II, but the mission has always been the same.

“This is a humanitarian mission,” Reedy said. “We provide a way to open the door and access countries that our government hasn’t previously been able to set up a dialogue with.”

Much of the agency’s work is conducted in foreign countries, including some that might not have the best relationships with the U.S.  DPAA officials said their work transcends politics, and that’s how they get their foot in the door.

“We have access to places where other facets of the U.S. military can’t go,” said Gary Shaw, the deputy director of policy and negotiations at the agency. “Although our primary mission is to bring back our missing servicemen and women, there are some positive spinoffs in our relations with other countries. [The mission is] something everyone can get behind. … It’s also a reminder for us and the host nations that we operate in of the terrible price of war that must be paid.”

The new, energy-efficient DPAA facility was named in honor of the late U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, who was instrumental in getting it built. IT personnel are now working at the building, while the other DPAA divisions will slowly move in over the next few months.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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State-of-the-Art Lab To Help Identify Lost Service Members

8 Things You May Not Know About Rolling Thunder

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U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers salutes the Rolling Thunder members as they travel to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial through downtown Washington, D.C., May 30, 2010. Thousands of bikers from across the United States turned out for the annual event that aims to raise awareness for the needs of veterans. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers salutes the Rolling Thunder members as they travel to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial through downtown Washington, D.C., May 30, 2010. Thousands of bikers from across the United States turned out for the annual event that aims to raise awareness for the needs of veterans. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

In 1987, two Vietnam War veterans met to discuss how they could bring awareness to prisoners of war (POW) and those missing in action (MIA) from the Vietnam War. Those veterans were named Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, and out of that meeting, Rolling Thunder was born. From that point on, veterans took to the cause, and every year on Memorial Day, they and thousands of others, ride into Washington D.C. in unison, flying the Stars and Stripes beside stark black POW/MIA flags.

Here are some other facts you may not know about Rolling Thunder and the history behind it.

1. Rolling Thunder Inc. is not a motorcycle rally. It is a demonstration for POW/MIA accountability of all wars, reminding the government, the media and the public: “We Will Not Forget.”

2. The number of participants/spectators for the first Rolling Thunder in 1987 was 2,500; the last demonstration was estimated at 900,000.

3. Rolling Thunder, Inc. is a non-profit organization comprised mostly of veterans — many of whom ride motorcycles. — neither qualification is a prerequisite to join.

A mass of motorcycles and people fill the Pentagon's North Parking lot May 29 as hundreds of thousands of riders from throughout the country gather for Rolling Thunder 2005. The annual ride, which began in 1988 pays tribute to those killed in Vietnam and remembers those missing from all conflicts. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie Thurlby, USAF

A mass of motorcycles and people fill the Pentagon’s North Parking lot May 29 as hundreds of thousands of riders from throughout the country gather for Rolling Thunder 2005. The annual ride, which began in 1988 pays tribute to those killed in Vietnam and remembers those missing from all conflicts. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie Thurlby, USAF

4. The demonstration gets its name from the 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed “Operation Rolling Thunder.”

5. Rolling Thunder Charities, Inc. is a non-profit organization that helps raise funds for veterans, active duty military and their families in need of help.

6. Rolling Thunder Inc. has advocated and/or co-authored legislation to improve the POW/MIA issue, veterans’ benefits, concerns and interests as follows.

7. Rolling Thunder, Inc. veterans speak to youth groups about the honor of serving their country and educating them about the POW/MIA issue.

8. Thousands of hours are logged by Rolling Thunder, Inc. members at local VA hospitals nationwide.

Three Vietnam veterans listen to the speakers at the Rolling Thunder XIX Ride for Freedom at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 28. Photo by Sgt. Sara Wood, USA

Three Vietnam veterans listen to the speakers at the Rolling Thunder XIX Ride for Freedom at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 28. Photo by Sgt. Sara Wood, USA

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.

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8 Things You May Not Know About Rolling Thunder

Recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month

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Karen S. Guice, M.D., M.P.P. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

Karen S. Guice, M.D., M.P.P.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

By Karen S. Guice, M.D., M.P.P., Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

For more than 60 years, May has been nationally recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental wellness is essential for peak cognitive and physical performance and contributes to the readiness of our service members. This month the Military Health System (MHS) focuses on the mental wellness of service members, their families, retirees, and DoD civilians. We will highlight some tools and resources available for the improvement of the Defense community’s overall mental wellness.

I particularly want our service members to know that a healthy mind and body are essential to individual and unit readiness.  If you are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, or changes in mood, you should get help. Seeking care for mental wellness is no different than seeking other types of health care.

You can help maintain good mental health by getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, staying socially connected, practicing healthy behaviors, and managing your daily stressors.  Operation Live Well offers tips on ways to manage your mental health such as taking care of basic physical and emotional needs, staying connected, and periodically assessing how things are going in life. You can also find information on recognizing signs of trouble including excessive drinking, poor life choices, agitation or anger, and withdrawing from families and friends.

Everyone should care about mental wellness. We need to educate ourselves to recognize signs that something may be wrong in family members, friends, and colleagues. Sometimes the last person to recognize symptoms is the one who needs help, so keep an eye on loved ones.  Mentally healthy individuals are better able to cope with daily stress and overcome adversity resulting from long term stressors. As we highlight this observance and focus on mental wellness, we can also celebrate that most mental illnesses are both treatable and curable.

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Recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month

Vets Reflect, Bombers Reunite 70 Years After VE Day

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The crew of the B-24 Diamond Lil parks after a test flight.  Diamond Lil was used as a personnel and cargo carrier during WWII.  It's painted in the colors and markings of the 98th Bomb Group, Pyramiders of the 9th Air Force in North Africa.

The crew of the B-24 Diamond Lil parks after a test flight. Diamond Lil was used as a personnel and cargo carrier during WWII. It’s painted in the colors and markings of the 98th Bomb Group, Pyramiders of the 9th Air Force in North Africa.

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Imagine — you’re in your 90s, and you’re looking at some of the bombers you remember all too well from your days fighting in World War II. Memories would come flooding back, and they did for a few veterans as the nation gets set to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

May 8, 1945, marked the toppling of Hitler’s Nazi regime and the end of World War II on the Western front. It’s a day the world should never forget.

Ahead of the commemoration, a few veterans — in their 90s, but still as witty as they were in their prime — gathered at the Manassas Regional Airport in Virginia to put their memories into words and to see the planes they remember so well take to the skies again.

It was a rare moment — seeing two B-17 Flying Fortresses, a B-24 Liberator and the only remaining airborne B-29 Superfortress together on a runway. The aircraft were practicing for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., 70 years after VE Day.

“I can’t believe I’m here to experience this,” said retired Army Air Corps Lt. Col. Bob Vaucher, who flew 117 missions, including the first and last B-29 flights over Japan. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d be doing anything like this at 96 years old.”

The B-29s were brought into service toward the end of the war and were most famous for one thing — dropping the atomic bombs.

“Two days after [the first bomb drop], we all got pictures of what happened in Hiroshima. We looked at these pictures and we couldn’t believe that one airplane had done all the damage we had done with 450 airplanes,” Vaucher said. “It was almost unbelievable.”

One feisty vet experienced the VE Day practice flights firsthand. Urban Rahoi, 96, was a B-17 captain with the 15th Air Force’s 463rd Bomb Group and fought in Africa and Italy during WWII. He said he never had any fear while flying then — “If I live, I live. If I’m meant to die, I die” — and he certainly didn’t have any reservations now. He went up with the crew of one of the B-17′s at the flyover practice.

“I know two [current] Air Force majors, and they said they feel I could fly those planes myself right now, but I have no desire to do it,” Rahoi said while laughing.

He did get to fly a B-17 again just last year.

“It was kind of unique how it happened. Two guys flew it ahead of me and made rough landings. I thought I was going to have to fly in the right seat [as co-pilot]. So the guy in the right seat gets out, and I was getting ready to get up in there when the guy in the left seat [commanding pilot] gets out, turns around and says, ‘Captain, your seat,’” Rahoi said. “When I sat in that seat, I felt like I never left it.”

Rahoi — who looks 75, not 96 — credited his youthfulness to his wife’s attitude and common sense. He said he’s thankful for the commemoration, “the fact that somebody remembers it, what we did and what it was for.”

Another vet showed that same youthful exuberance and positivity. Karnig Thomasian, 91, was a B-29 left gunner with the U.S. Army Air Forces’ 20th Air Force in the China-Burma-India Theater, when his plane went down in December 1944 over Rangoon, Burma. As one of the few to survive the crash, he was taken prisoner by Japanese forces and thrown into a prisoner of war camp, where he faced isolation, interrogations and beatings.

His camp was liberated by the British long after VE Day, but it’s still a day he will never forget.

“It just made you feel great, because now they can really hone in and get us out of there,” Thomasian remembered.

Karnig Thomasian, 91, was a B-29 left gunner with the U.S. Army Air Forces 20th Air Force in the China-Burma-India Theater. He was a Japanese POW. Here, he happily stands with his daughter, Karla Robertson.

Karnig Thomasian, 91, was a B-29 left gunner with the U.S. Army Air Forces 20th Air Force in the China-Burma-India Theater. He was a Japanese POW. Here, he happily stands with his daughter, Karla Robertson.

Despite all he had seen and been through, Thomasian never let the stresses of war get him down.

“In all these crazy moments, there are moments that you’d have to laugh, which really keeps you going. To survive in prison, I think one of the chief things is you have to decide whether you’re going to capitulate and just go back into yourself and die, or you’re going to say, ‘Hey. I’m living. I’m breathing. I’m going to go on and succeed, and I’m getting out of here,’” he said.

That positive sentiment was a theme with the veterans, who had seen so much over their long lives.

“I lived my dreams. I got to do what every fighter pilot in the world wants to do — engage the enemy and win,” said Bud Anderson, an Army Air Forces fighter pilot who flew 116 missions, mostly escorting heavy bombers over Europe.

View from inside the pilot's cabin of B-29 Superfortress Fifi, the only B-29 left in the world that can still fly.

View from inside the pilot’s cabin of B-29 Superfortress Fifi, the only B-29 left in the world that can still fly.

“Our mission was to destroy the Luftwaffe and then allow the invasion of Europe to happen,” Anderson told a slew of reporters. The mission was successful — and Anderson was ever so humble about it. “It seemed like good fortune followed me everywhere I went.”

Neils Agather is the unit leader for the B-29/B-24 Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force. He pilots the B-29 that’s part of the VE Day commemorations — Fifi, which is named after his mother. The plane tours around the country, as do the other restored bombers.

“We still have a few veterans that come out, but unfortunately that number has dwindled. We now have a lot of children and grandchildren of veterans who come out, saying, ‘My dad sat in this position. What does that look like?’” Agather said. “They get on board and get a better appreciation.”

The restored bombers are four of more than 50 World War II-era aircraft to be part of the commemoration’s Arsenal of Democracy Flyover down D.C.’s Independence Avenue. The flights mark the first time since 9/11 that any civilian aircraft can fly over that restricted airspace.

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Vets Reflect, Bombers Reunite 70 Years After VE Day

Building the Force of the Future by Leaning In

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Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating officer of Facebook and author of Lean In, visited the Pentagon recently to highlight how empowering people will strengthen DoD.

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating officer of Facebook and author of Lean In, visited the Pentagon recently to highlight how empowering people will strengthen DoD.

By DoD News Staff

During Secretary Ash Carter’s first few months in office, he has made clear that people are the key to innovation and prosperity at the Department of Defense. According to him, we must continue to attract and inspire the best talent and expertise to contribute to the Force of the Future.

So it was fitting that Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and author of Lean In, visited the Pentagon recently to highlight how empowering people – specifically women and minorities – will strengthen DoD.

During her standing-room only speech, Sandberg talked about why women and other minorities are greatly underrepresented at leadership levels, and why both genders “let it” happen.

Sandberg said a lack of progress has endured for years, and one reason is that women commonly suffer from low expectations in their careers.

But, as Sandberg pointed out, “If any entity can effect societal change, and has proven it can do so in both the military and civilian sectors, it’s DoD.”

Sandberg clicked off numerous examples of how the military handled, coped with and even solved certain social issues. And now it is time, she said, for the military to develop mission-critical, diverse leadership. It will create a stronger military with stronger results, she said.

Sandberg made her pivotal point when she said “Just recognizing bias is not enough. It’s time to acknowledge issues and biases and counteract them.” She outlined three simple yet pervasive biases at work in the workplace:

– Performance bias, where everyone –- men and women — overestimate male performance and underestimate female performance;

– Likeability bias, in which powerful and successful men are likeable, but powerful and successful women are not. Rather, such women are chalked up as “bossy.”

– Responsibility bias, which is easily demonstrated by a household in which both parents work; yet, it’s often the woman who bears most of the responsibility for children. Studies show, Sandberg added, that equal chore division produces happier couples.

Leaving the auditorium, Sandberg’s closing words danced in my head: “I believe the military has an incredibly important role to play in leadership, and it’s the military that can lead the way” to break gender and racial boundaries across all of society.

Endless possibilities are just waiting for us to act on them.

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Building the Force of the Future by Leaning In

SecDef Promotes Innovation & Cyber Security

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

By Yolanda R. Arrington
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter heads to Silicon Valley today to drive home a message of how vital technology is to the future of the Department of Defense. Carter’s trip West marks the first visit by a Secretary of Defense to the region in nearly 20 years.

During the two-day stop in California, Carter is scheduled to deliver a speech at Stanford University, visit Facebook’s headquarters and meet with venture capital leaders. The Secretary will focus on three major goals during the trip: improving the way the Pentagon partners on innovation, building relationships that will drive change, and outlining the Department of Defense’s approach to cyber security.

Today, Carter will deliver the “Drell Lecture” at Stanford where he is expected to announce new initiatives focusing on how the DoD does business in the Valley. Carter will also unveil the department’s first Cyber Strategy update since 2011 during the lecture.

Secretary Carter has often repeated since taking the helm in February, “We must look outside of our five-sided box.”  In October, the Department launched a program that calls for technology and innovative ideas from the brightest minds in industry, small business, academia, start-ups and the public.

This program and the initiatives Secretary Carter will announce in his speech today builds upon the ongoing innovation already happening in the Department.  Here are some examples of the latest cutting edge technology the military is developing:

Dr. Burtyn Neuner III with his amazing Technicolor optical communication machine. (Photo provided by SSC Pacific/Released)

Dr. Burtyn Neuner III with his amazing Technicolor optical communication machine. (Photo provided by SSC Pacific/Released)

The Navy is currently working on laser communications to improve data and information transfers so that warfighters may make better decisions in undersea environments.

Marines are training with a robotic mule capable of tackling rugged terrain and carrying heavy loads.

The Army is developing technology to create synthetic training to help soldiers prepare for various environments.

Air Force Research Laboratory researcher, Dr. Joshua Hagen, holds up a sweat sensor prototype. AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing and the University of Cincinnati conducted the first successful human trials of the usable sweat sensor at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Feb. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michele Eaton/88 ABW Public Affairs/Released)

Air Force Research Laboratory researcher, Dr. Joshua Hagen, holds up a sweat sensor prototype. AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing and the University of Cincinnati conducted the first successful human trials of the usable sweat sensor at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Feb. 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Michele Eaton/88 ABW Public Affairs/Released)

Air Force researchers are testing sensors to store and analyze sweat with the help of smartphones. This bandage-sized innovation would track the body’s biomarkers to keep airmen safe during training and missions.

Carter’s trip will further highlight the ways the military is adapting to advance the nation’s status as a global leader in technology.

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SecDef Promotes Innovation & Cyber Security

Army’s Performance Triad Can Help You Reach Your Healthy Living Goals

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By Col. Deydre S. Teyhen, DPT, PhD, OCS | System for Health and Performance Triad | Health and Wellness Directorate, G-3/5/7, Office of the Army Surgeon General

Armys-Performance-Triad-article-pgI have the awesome responsibility to help execute the Army Surgeon General’s vision every day with my team. That vision includes instilling the Performance Triad of sleep, activity, and nutrition into the Army’s “DNA.” I want to share some of these great tips with all of you, too, so that you can start applying the Triad targets today and improve your overall health and resilience.

Sleep. Activity. Nutrition. Each is a vital component of the Performance Triad. The Performance Triad is the Army’s comprehensive plan to improve the overall health readiness and wellness of the total Army (soldiers, army civilians and family members) by promoting quality sleep, an active lifestyle, and good nutrition.

March 2-9 is National Sleep Awareness Week and a good time to highlight the vital role that sleep plays in maintaining a healthy body and mind. Sleep promotes peak performance, good moods, helps fight infections, and assists in maintaining a healthy weight. Healthy sleep habits include length and quality of sleep, both of which are important for your best performance. Adults need at least 7-8 (the Army standard) hours of sleep every night and the better quality the sleep, the greater its benefits.

“We know poor sleep is most times due to poor environment and poor habits,” said Lt. Col. Ingrid Lim, the Performance Triad Sleep Lead at the Army Surgeon General’s Office. She offers some tips to improve your sleeping environment: remove all electronics in the sleep area, limit caffeine at least six hours before bedtime, and set a bedtime routine.

Physical activity is essential to your performance, your physical readiness, and your health. It is more than just “exercise” or “working out” – it is about living an active lifestyle. Find a physical activity that works for you.

“Stress at work hasn’t stopped, but I know that every night I can get on the bike and decompress for an hour on my ride home, and that is everything,” said Army Col. David Bitterman, ‎Chief of Staff at Southern Regional Medical Command.

Eating right plays an important role in your daily life. Eating and fueling for performance enables top level training, increases energy and endurance, shortens recovery time between activities (or training), improves focus and concentration, and helps everyone look and feel better. Diet plans aren’t sustainable.

“I just make healthier choices now and make sure to eat less if I know I’ll be eating at a restaurant,” said Connie Johnson, a family member at Fort Lee, Virginia. Johnson cut back on her daily calorie intake and incorporates more fruits and vegetables into her diet. “People think I am crazy, but I don’t miss ice cream at all.”

Without proper sleep, activity, and nutrition a person will eventually lose the ability to perform effectively at work, at home, and in life. Lack of good nutrition can disturb sleep, which makes a person less likely to engage in activity. Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, which makes exercise and clear thinking more difficult and can lead to poor food choices. Inactivity can lead to weight gain, fatigue, and greater stress on the body.

Next time, I’ll share with you some tools that are available and tailored to the Army and military communities that will you start improving your sleep, activity and nutrition.

Learn more about the Performance Triad at: http://armymedicine.mil

Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD website.  

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Army’s Performance Triad Can Help You Reach Your Healthy Living Goals