The United States military faced challenges on multiple fronts in 2014. Combat operations in Afghanistan ended, but a new threat arose in the form of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In Western Africa, the world was faced with an outbreak of the Ebola virus. In addition to external issues, the military faced a number of internal trials as well.
When reporting topics involving the military, national security is always the biggest story. Looking back, it is impossible to ignore the sacrifice, heroism, and creativity of our men and women in uniform.
In September, the Navy performed the biggest test yet on its massive maritime surveillance drone, the MQ-4C Triton. Sometimes soaring at heights of more than 50,000 feet, the Triton left a Northrop Grumman facility in California, flew east to Florida and then turned north, finally arriving at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. When it becomes operational in 2017, the Triton will use advanced onboard sensors and cameras to provide video and photographs to the military.
When militants executed American journalist James Foley in August, they did so with the implication they would kill another correspondent if the United States did not cease airstrikes in Iraq. In response, 14 more airstrikes were ordered the very next day. When one American official was asked if the US might suspend airstrikes, the official replied that the “only question is if we do more.”
In October, an investigation was started by the Utah National Guard in an attempt to determine if military equipment, facilities, and personnel were improperly used to create the “Hot Shots 2015″ swimsuit calendar. The calendar featured scantily-clad British models shooting automatic rifles, operating tanks, using explosives, and handling a sniper rifle. House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig said, “Either leadership knew about this or their security protocols aren’t robust enough.”
In November, retired Marine Corps Major “Fox” Sinke, who holds dual Canadian-American citizenship, once again donned his uniform, this time to guard the Canadian War Memorial. He felt compelled after the murder of Canadian Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed while guarding his post at the Memorial. After volunteering, Sinke reported that he had received threatening phone calls in Arabic, but his response was merely, “I promise you this: If they come here, they’ll die here.”
At a July service at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, Adm. Michelle J. Howard was promoted to her new rank of four-star Admiral. She became the first woman and the first African-American to hold that rank.
In June, President Barack Obama presented Marine Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter with the Medal of Honor for his heroism during a 2010 incident where Carpenter attempted to shield another Marine from harm when an insurgent threw a grenade at them. The President also praised the “medical miracle” that it took to keep Carpenter alive after his injuries. Carpenter made a remarkable recovery and has since run a marathon, went skydiving, completed a mud-run. Medically retired, Carpenter is now attending the University of South Carolina.
A former Marine Corps corporal who was at the center of an international scandal died at his home in August. Robert Richards and others endured worldwide outrage and faced military discipline when a video showing Richards urinating on dead members of the Taliban was uploaded to YouTube in 2011. Many veterans were critical about how the case had been handled by the military.
In July, President Obama saluted a Marine with his coffee cup after stepping off a helicopter. Many people noted the breach in protocol, pointing out that it is inappropriate to salute while carrying items.
In July, a Minnesota jury voted 8-2 to award former governor Jesse Ventura $1.845 million in damages in his defamation suit against late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. In his 2012 book, Kyle had written that he punched a celebrity who was badmouthing deployed SEALs. He later publicly identified that celebrity as Ventura, who in turn said the entire incident was fabricated. After the verdict Ventura’s attorney told reporters that there were “no winners” in the case.
In December, a video surfaced of a former infantryman publicly calling out an individual in uniform who was wearing false decorations and Ranger tab and scroll. When confronted, the impostor could not even answer basic military questions correctly. He was using the uniform to receive free discounts at a shopping mall during the “Black Friday” shopping weekend. It was later found out that this was not his first time stealing valor. In 2003, he was busted for stealing the identity of a fallen police officer. The video went viral, causing outrage in the veteran community.