15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor - We Are The Mighty
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15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

Fifteen years after a 17-hour battle on an Afghan mountaintop, a pararescueman’s extraordinary heroism was recognized with an Air Force Cross, upgraded from a Silver Star, following a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.


15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Then-Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller –against overwhelming odds and a barrage of heavy fire from Al Qaeda militants– dashed through deep snow into the line of fire multiple times to assess and care for critically-wounded U.S. service members, March 4, 2002.

Miller was previously awarded the Silver Star medal for these actions, Nov. 1, 2003. The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor.

“We are blessed to have Airmen like Keary in the Special Tactics community,” said Col. Michael Martin, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander, who directed training for Miller’s pararescue team before their deployment in 2002. “In an extraordinary situation, Keary acted with courage and valor to save the lives of 10 special operations teammates. This medal upgrade accentuates his selflessness despite an overwhelming enemy force…although Keary may humbly disagree, he belongs to a legacy of heroes.”

Miller was deployed from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, an Air National Guard unit based in Standiford, Kentucky. During the mission, he was the Air Force combat search and rescue team leader assigned to a U.S Army Ranger quick reaction force.

Also read: Special tactics airman receives medal upgrade for dramatic rescue

“I would describe Keary as a dedicated pararescueman – dedicated to his craft and dedicated to the motto ‘That others may live.’ That’s how he defined himself and that really defines his actions that day,” said Lt. Col. Sean Mclane, the 123rd STS commander, who was a second lieutenant in Miller’s home unit during that time. “We have a proud legacy and a tradition of valor, and Keary is a big part of that.”

On March 4, 2002, his team was tasked to support a joint special operations team on a mountaintop called Takur Ghar, occupied by Al Qaeda forces– an engagement commonly known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge after the first casualty of the battle, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts.

One of the most significant events in recent Special Operations history began when a joint special operations team attempted to infiltrate Takur Ghar, which held a well-fortified and concealed force. The ensuing battle would result in the loss of seven special operations team members.

“We were notified there was a missing aircrew and we were launching a team to go find them,” said Maj. Gabriel Brown, a Special Tactics officer, formerly an enlisted combat controller. “It was unknown who exactly was missing, but we loaded up two helicopters full of Rangers and the (combat search and rescue) package, which included me, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham [pararescueman] and Keary, who was my team leader. I trusted him.”

As the quick reaction force helicopter made its approach over the landing zone, they were struck by rocket propelled grenades at close range –they returned fire with mini guns, but the helicopter impacted the ground hard, lurching into the snow.

“Once we landed, 7.62mm rounds ripped through the fuselage–the daylight popping through, smoke aglow; then the rotors decelerated to a grinding halt,” Brown said. “Immediately, we had several casualties; I remember seeing two Rangers face down. Keary and I were deep in the aircraft—and we made eye contact and shared kind of a ‘here we go’ moment.”

The team disembarked from the aircraft to combat the blistering fire of a waiting enemy. At great risk to his own life, Miller moved through the snowy terrain, crossing into the line of fire on several occasions in order to assess and care for critically wounded servicemen.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

“I saw Keary taking action on the wounded, worried about collecting the casualties and triaging them,” Brown said, who was in charge of aircraft communications and precision strike. “He was careful in his thoughts and actions, conducting himself calmly and coolly – relaying the casualty information to me all morning.”

As the battle continued, Miller collected ammunition from the deceased to distribute it to multiple positions in need of ammo, moving through heavy enemy fire each time.

“I was listening to the updates as they were coming in; I was so proud because my friends were on that mountain and their future was so uncertain but they were rocking it – they were doing everything right,” Mclane said, who was listening real-time to satellite communications of the battle. “It’s like, these guys might not make it off this mountain, but by God, they’re going down swinging.”

When Cunningham was killed during another attack, the casualty collection point he was at was compromised. Miller assumed Cunningham’s role — providing medical aid under fire to the wounded – and braved enemy fire to move the wounded to better cover and concealment.

Related: 12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

“I wholeheartedly believe the Air Force Cross accurately represents Keary’s actions that day,” said Brown. “I know those lives were saved that day were because of his efforts within that environment…the steps he took to ensure they made it off the battlefield.”

Miller is credited with saving the lives of 10 U.S. service members that day, and the recovery of seven who were killed in action.

Following his deployment, Miller returned to the 123rd STS as a mentor for the newest generation of operators. The events he experienced helped him to shape tactics, techniques and procedures for years to come.

“Keary was already a mature pararescueman before he went on that mission,” Mclane said. “But, when he returned, he really dedicated himself to improving our body armor, our equipment, our (tactics, techniques and procedures) when under fire – he was driven to be better, and to make his teammates better.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

16 facts you never knew about the American flag

It’s time to get out your stars and stripes – it’s Flag Day! June 14, 1777, is the date that Congress officially chose the design for our flag, and Americans have been pledging their allegiance to it ever since. While you’ll only get the day off work if you live in Pennsylvania, the state where the flag originated, the holiday’s history and meaning are important to know. Whether you’re reading this on Flag Day or any other day, these facts are fun enough to learn all year long.


15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

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1. Betsy Ross may not be the flag’s real designer

Betsy Ross is often cited as the designer of the first American Flag, but we have little evidence to support that claim. Her grandson presented statements by his own family in 1870, but beyond that, there’s no proof. Some historians want to transfer the credit to Francis Hopkinson, who was named as the flag’s designer in journals from the Continental Congress.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

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2. The celebration of the flag was invented by a teacher

In 1885, a 19-year-old teacher named Bernard J. CiGrand asked his class to write an essay on the symbolism of our flag. He spent the following half-century trying to make Flag Day a national holiday.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

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3. There have been 27 official versions of the American flag

On the American flag, the stripes represent the 13 original colonies, while the stars represent each state. Since there weren’t always 50 states, there weren’t always 50 stars. Each flag was similar, but with a different number of stars. If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, you can see the remnants of the 15-star, 15-stripe flag that inspired the national anthem.

4. The colors of the flag have important meanings

Red, white and blue were chosen to represent, respectively, valor, liberty and purity. The colors also have specific names; “Old Glory Blue,” “Old Glory Red”, and white. Just plain white.

5. The current version of the flag was designed by a student

In 1949, 17-year-old Robert G. Heft created an updated flag for a class project, and the poor kid only got a B-. Luckily, that didn’t dissuade him. He submitted his idea to President Eisenhower when Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood. Our of over 1500 submissions, his design was chosen.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

6. The flag has rules of its own. Lots of them.

According to the U.S. Flag Code:

– The flag shouldn’t be flown in bad weather.
– It should be raised and lowered slowly.
– No other flags should be placed above it.
– When flags from two or more nations are flown, they should rest on separate poles at the same height. They should also be about the same size.
– It must be flown at every school and during all school days.
– If flown at night, the flag should be illuminated.
– Flags can be burned if they become damaged and can no longer be flown.
– And many more.

7. You can’t sign your name on it

Despite what flag-signing politicians would have you believe, The Flag Code strictly prohibits adding any markings or drawings to the flag.

8. … or put it on a t-shirt

Every 4th of July, half the country is decked out in stars and stripes. As it turns out, we’re not really supposed to do that. The Flag Code actually specifies that the Stars and Stripes should never be used on clothing, bedding, or decorations. Considering how much Americans love our flag merch, that’s one rule we’ll probably keep breaking for a long, long time.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

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9. Flying a flag upside down isn’t necessarily disrespectful

At least not in the way you’re thinking of. An upside-down flag isn’t usually a signal of protest, rather, it’s a signal of distress. On your next cruise, if you see someone frantically waving an upside-down flag on a nearby island, he’s probably not a rebel. He’s stranded.

10. Burning a flag isn’t technically illegal

Historically, unlike flying a flag upside down, burning the flag WAS done as an act of protest. The Flag Protection Act of 1968 made this illegal, but the act was revoked 20 years later. The Supreme Court ruled that the government couldn’t limit citizens’ First Amendment rights, making it legal to do whatever you want to a flag with no legal consequences.

11. Indestructible flags exist

Historically, enemies of the United States have burned or defaced our flag to make a statement. (That’s why messing with the flag is a really, really bad idea, even if it’s not illegal!) To protect defaced flags from being used as a propaganda tool by enemies, a Green Beret veteran has designed an all but indestructible flag. Made out of kevlar and Nomex, the new materials ensure the flag can’t be burned or torn while still allowing it to fly naturally. Here’s how to order your Firebrand Flag today (and the first 150 WATM readers to order get off and free shipping – a additional savings!)

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

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12. Using the American flag in burial ceremonies isn’t just for veterans

While draping the flag over the coffins of government officials and veterans is common practice, it’s not their exclusive right. Anyone can adopt this tradition if they like it!

13. Old Glory was the nickname of a specific American flag 

We now refer to any ol’ flag as Old Glory, but that wasn’t always the case. It started with a sea captain named William Driver, who nicknamed the flag on his ship “Old Glory” when he saw it flying on his ship’s mast back in 1831. It was such a good nickname that it stuck for good.

14. After 9/11 we held our flag a little closer

National tragedies are known for bringing our country together. According to Karen Burke of Walmart’s Corporate Communications, their stores sold 115,000 flags on September 11, 2001, compared to only 6,400 flags in 2000. In the following year, they sold a whopping 7.8 million US flags- around triple the sales of the previous year.

15. There are 6 American flags on the moon

…but only 5 are standing. Over the course of many moon expeditions, six US flags have been planted. The wind generated by the landing and takeoff of a shuttle, however, dislodged the original flag placed there by Neil Armstrong during the first-ever moon landing.

16. ‘Gilligan’s Island’ directors respected the flag.

During the opening sequence of the first season of the show, the American flag is filmed at half-staff. This was done to honor President Kennedy, who was assassinated the day the pilot episode was filmed.

You don’t have to walk to the moon to honor our flag. Kick off the Flag Day festivities by learning how to properly fold a flag, learn more about its history, or try one of these tasty, patriotic treats!

Which fact was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Articles

Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

The Dec. 13 crash of a MV-22B Osprey off the coast of Okinawa is the eighth involving this plane – and the fourth since the plane was introduced into service in 2007. Over its lengthy RD process and its operational career, 39 people have been killed in accidents involving the V-22 Osprey.


Sounds bad, right?

Well, the Osprey is not the first revolutionary aircraft to have high-profile crashes. The top American ace of World War II, Richard Bong, was killed while carrying out a test flight of a Lockheed YP-80, America’s first operational jet fighter.

The top American ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, died when the F-86H he was flying crashed.

That said, the V-22 came close to cancellation numerous times during the 1990s, and killing it was a priority of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He failed, and the United States got a game-changing aircraft.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

It should be noted that most of the 39 fatalities happened during the RD phase of the Osprey program.

A 1992 crash near Quantico Marine Corps Base took the lives of several personnel, according to a report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The July 2000 crash was the worst, with 19 Marines killed when the V-22 they were on crashed during a simulated night assault mission. According to an article in the September 2004 issue of Proceedings, the Osprey involved crashed due to a phenomenon known as “vortex ring state.”

The December 2000 Osprey crash that killed all four on board had a more mundane cause. The plane suffered a failure in its hydraulic system, causing the tiltrotor to start an uncontrolled descent.

Wired.com reported in 2005 that a software glitch caused the plane to reset on each of the eight occasions that the crew tried to reset the Primary Flight Control System. The Osprey’s 1,600-foot fall ended in a forest.

Since entering service in July 2007, the Osprey’s track record has been much stronger.

Counting the most recent crash, there have been four Osprey accidents in the nine years and four months the V-22 has been operational. Two of those crashes, one in April 2010 that involved a special operations CV-22 in Afghanistan and an MV-22 in Morocco that crashed in April 2012, killed six personnel.

The crashes in December 2012 and the one earlier this week, resulted in no fatalities.

Three other personnel died in accidents: A Marine died in October 2014 when a life preserver failed, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. In May 2015, a fire after an Osprey “went down” killed two Marines per an Associated Press report.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

Despite the recent incidents, the V-22 has been remarkably safe, particularly in combat.

None have been lost to enemy fire, a distinction that many helicopters cannot boast. The CH-53 series of helicopters, saw over 200 personnel killed in crashes by the time of a 1990 Los Angeles Times report, which came 15 years before a January 2005 crash that killed 31 personnel.

The BBC reported at the time that the helicopter was on a mission near Rutbah, Iraq.

Articles

US destroyer fires flares at Iranian attack boat

A U.S. Navy destroyer had a close encounter with an Iranian vessel Monday, just two days before a crucial Iranian presidential election.


An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessel came within 1,000 meters of the USS Mahan, forcing it to fire flares toward the IRGC vessel after attempting to turn away from it, according to the Associated Press. The encounter is the latest of the Navy’s close encounters with Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf, coming two days before Iran’s radical conservative faction attempts to retake the presidency.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

“[The] Mahan made several attempts to contact the Iranian vessel by bridge-to-bridge radio, issuing warning messages and twice sounding the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts with the ship’s whistle, as well as deploying a flare to determine the Iranian vessel’s intentions,” Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a 5th Fleet spokesman, told the AP in a statement Wednesday.

Iran’s leading conservative candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, is the supposed favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate authority over the IRGC. It is unclear if the two events are related, but the timing of the event is telling. The IRGC’s provocation could be an attempt to exhibit the hardline faction’s strength against the U.S.

The Mahan had a previous encounter with Iranian vessels in January, at which time it was forced to fire warning shots at two patrol boats.

The IRGC has drastically increased its encounters with U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf. Many of the encounters occur near the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel through which 33 percent of the world’s oil passes. The U.S. Navy recorded 35 “unsafe and/or unprofessional” encounters with the IRGC in 2016, up from 23 in 2015. Seven such instances have been recorded in 2017, including Monday’s incident.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Articles

Tyler Perry just bought this old Army base

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: Courtesy Fort McPherson


Georgia’s Fort McPherson, the historic Army base that operated in suburban Atlanta from 1885–2011, has been sold to filmmaker Tyler Perry, who plans to redevelop the facility as movie studio.

Perry will control 330 of the facility’s 448 acres and has plans to build up to 16 soundstages. His $30 million purchase includes the post’s former golf course, key office buildings and the fort’s historic parade grounds and officers’ quarters.

A civilian agency has been tasked with redeveloping 144 acres of land not included in Perry’s purchase. Those plans could include rehabbing the fort’s historic village in the northeast quadrant of the post and turning it into neighborhood retail and restaurants.

Tyler Perry has become a major player in Georgia’s growing film industry and the new studio will house his company’s 350 employees.

Before its establishment as an Army base in 1885, the land was used as a Confederate base during the Civil War and later as a post for Federal troops occupying Atlanta during Reconstruction.

More from Military.com

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian hackers almost caused massive blackouts in 2017

Hackers working for Russia claimed “hundreds of victims” in 2017 in a major, long-running campaign that enabled them to gain control over some U.S. electric utilities, where they could have caused blackouts, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Citing officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Journal reported on July 23, 2018 that the Russian hacking campaign has likely continued in 2018 and involves a state-sponsored group known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear.


The hackers broke into supposedly secure networks owned by utilities with relative ease by first penetrating the networks of vendors who had trusted relationships with the power companies, the Journal reported.

“They got to the point where they could have thrown switches” and disrupted power flows, Jonathan Homer, a department analyst, told the Journal.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

‘Hundreds’ of victims

The department has been warning utility executives with security clearances about the Russian threat to critical infrastructure since 2014.

But on July 23, 2018, the department gave out detailed information about the intrusions publicly for the first time at an unclassified briefing for the industry. It did not provide the names of alleged victims, but said there were “hundreds.”

It also said some companies still may not know they were compromised, because the attacks used credentials of actual employees to get inside utility networks, potentially making the intrusions more difficult to detect.

“They’ve been intruding into our networks and are positioning themselves for a limited or widespread attack,” Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, who is now a senior director at the Penn Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Journal. “They are waging a covert war on the West.”

Russia has denied targeting critical infrastructure.

Homer told the Journal that the long-running cyberattack, which surfaced in the spring of 2016 and continued throughout 2017, exploited relationships that utilities have with vendors who have special access to update software, run diagnostics on equipment, and perform other services that are needed to keep millions of pieces of gear in working order.

He said the attackers began by using conventional tools — spear phishing e-mails and watering-hole attacks, which trick victims into entering their passwords on malware-infected websites — to compromise the corporate networks of suppliers, many of whom were small companies without big budgets for cybersecurity.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

Automated attacks?

Once inside the vendor networks, they pivoted to their real focus: the utilities, officials told the Journal. They said it was a relatively easy process, in many cases, for the intruders to steal credentials from vendors and gain direct access to utility networks.

Then they began stealing confidential information. For example, the hackers vacuumed up information showing how utility networks were configured, what equipment was in use and how it was controlled.

The hackers also familiarized themselves with how the facilities were supposed to work, because attackers “have to learn how to take the normal and make it abnormal” to cause disruptions, Homer told the Journal.

The department said it plans three more industry briefings and hopes to determine whether there are any new network infections, and whether the hackers have figured out ways to defeat security enhancements like multifactor authentication.

In addition, the department is looking for evidence that the Russian hackers are automating their attacks, which investigators worry could presage a large increase in hacking efforts.

It isn’t yet clear whether the hackers used their access to prepare for some future, devastating blow to the U.S. electric grid, investigators told the Journal.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Intel

The 8 steps of counting down to deployment

Anticipating a deployment is at once stressful, exhilarating, and boring as hell. Here are the 8 basic steps:


1. Announcement

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: US Marine Corps Land Cpl. Katelyn Hunter

The announcement comes down from the Pentagon that your unit is headed overseas at some point. Everyone will respond to this differently. Newer troops will walk with a swagger as they think about becoming combat veterans. Actual combat veterans will sigh heavily.

2. Keeping it a secret (while telling everyone)

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

Sure, operational security and all that. But you have to tell your family. And your best buddies need to know. Also, those guys at the bar won’t buy you drinks just for sitting there. Is that hot girl over there into deploying troops?

3. First stage of training

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: US Army Capt. Lisa Browne Banic

“Time for pre-deployment training! Time to become the most elite, modern warriors in the world!” you think for the first 15 minutes of the first training session.

4. The rest of training

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

“Oh my god, how much of this is done via PowerPoint?” Also, your weapon will be completely caked in carbon from those blanks.

5. Culmination exercise

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Suddenly, it’s exciting again. Pyrotechnics, laser tag, a bunch of awesome pictures that can become your Facebook cover photo so those girls from high school can see them. Someone in your squad can edit out the blank firing adapters.

6. Packing (and packing, and packing …)

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

That brief adrenaline rush at the final culmination exercise will not last. You will realize you still have to clean and pack the gear to go home. Then pack the connexes to send to country. Then pack your bags to go into other connexes. Then pack the …

7. Pre-deployment leave

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

Finally! After months of hard work, a brief rest before more months of hard work. Also, a chance to “not” tell more hometown girls that you’re deploying.

8. Getting on the plane (or ship or whatever)

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julio Rivera

Time to go somewhere really “fun” and live there for a year or so. But hey, only [balance of deployment] left until redeployment.

Articles

This is why going mudding in a World War I era tank is a bad idea

The front line of WWI was a dangerous place. From bullets to bombs to poison gas, the death that could be dealt on the battlefield came from many directions.


Mother nature included.

Excessive rains made mobility difficult as troops were forced to navigate through the mud-choked battlefields, making resupply and transport nearly impossible. With both sides bogged down, tanks were thought to enable a breakthrough, but they too soon succumbed to the clutches of mud.

Known as “Mark 1,” the first tank was constructed with 105hp Daimler engine and carried two Hotchkiss six-pound (57mm) guns. The crew consisted four gunners and three drivers, and the tank maneuvered on caterpillar tracks with separate gearboxes.

Soldiers had to endure intense heat in the crew compartment, extreme noise and would sometimes be trapped for days if the tank got stuck.

After multiple design failures, the British considered canceling their tank program, but supporters kept them in the Empire’s arsenal.

Related: Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

New tactics breathed new life into the lumbering beasts, focusing them into mass attacks that took advantage of proper terrain.

Check out the History Channel‘s video below to see how these first tanks made an impact on the battlefields of the War To End All Wars.

(History Channel, YouTube) 
Articles

‘Lt. Dan’ received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

And he did it while thanking World War II veterans for “defeating tyranny”.


Gary Sinise paid tribute to military veterans as he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The “Forrest Gump” and “Apollo 13” actor was joined by members of the armed forces and emergency services during the ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard.

The 62-year-old was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Vietnam War veteran Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump and created the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2003 to support servicemen and women.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

On stage, Gary thanked Second World War veterans for “defeating tyranny over 70 years ago”.

“Just imagine the world if we had not succeeded in defeating that tyranny all those years ago,” he said.

“I’m grateful for these heroes and all who continue to defend us. It’s a gift to be able to use some of the success that I’ve had in the movie and television business to try to do some good for those who serve and sacrifice each day for our precious freedom,” he added.

“It’s a great country. I’ve been so blessed over the years.”

General Robin Rand, head of the US Air Force Global Strike Command, described Gary as a “true American patriot”.

Also read: 11 celebrities you didn’t know were passionate about helping vets

Addressing Gary on stage, he said: “My friend and brother Gary doesn’t stop. Like a tiger in battle, he doesn’t quit. He’s just there for us, quietly and without fanfare. You’re a humble servant and you’re a valued friend to American warriors who serve in ill forgotten places. Your star is a legacy of service and a legacy of love.”

Other guest speakers at the event included “Everybody Loves Raymond” actress Patricia Heaton and “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna.

Gary was presented with the 2,606th star on the Walk of Fame.

Military Life

Here’s what the first 36 hours of Marine Corps boot camp are like

 


Here was my experience at Marine Corps Boot Camp in San Diego, California.

As has been said there is no way to describe boot camp or even the Marine Corps accurately enough to really make them feel what it is like. But, I will give it a shot. I began writing this and realized it was turning into a short story, so I will shorten it to the first 36 hours of boot camp, and it will give you some idea of how it is in boot camp.

Boot camp is the time when a teen, or young adult, is taken and slapped in one of the worst places to be. That kid is broken down to that of a whimpering boy, then rebuilt into what the Marine Corps wants in its warriors.

The first time I asked myself “what am I doing here?” was basically my first run in with a drill instructor. This was at the USO in San Diego’s Airport, yep that’s right an airport. All recruits are flown to the airport and staged in the USO, effectively out of ear shot, or sight from the flying passengers. Everyone there is basically thinking the same thing, holy crap what is about to happen! There will be people there who pretend to act calm and collected, that’s fake. Everyone is terrified, and waiting for that minute to get there. They told you the time, I assume to mess with your head! 7:25 p.m. I will never forget it.

So, there I was, 17 years old, one month out of high school, sitting on the couch watching T.V. I have no idea what was on because that wasn’t what I was worried about. There were other soon to be recruits playing pool, drinking soda, eating the free food that was given. All of the workers at the USO had a look of “oh honey, you are about to have a bad three months.”

 

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: Cpl. Octavia Davis/USMC

7:25 p.m. on the dot I heard, “Everyone going to MCRD get on your feet and get outside!” Not a scream, but just enough fire to make your heart race. I jumped up, and saw the drill instructor, about 6 feet tall, service charlie uniform perfect to every thread, that iconic campaign cover aka. smokey bear, and wouldn’t you know it, an eye patch! This dude was scary.

I ran outside as the Drill Instructor (DI) signed the paper work for the USO. We were all just standing around with no direction, or any idea of where or what to do. Then there was that voice again, “Get in a single file line at the side of the bus, have your SRB (service record book) ready to give me when you get on, do you understand?!” There were a lot of reserved “yes sir’s,” some said nothing, other’s snickered. “THE CORRECT RESPONSE IS YES SIR, DO YOU UNDERSTAND!” This time we all said it!

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: Lance Cpl. Rodion Zabolotniy/USMC

As I stood in line something caught my attention to my right (at this point any Marine reading this is probably saying don’t do it man, don’t do it), but I looked over to see what it was, and quickly looked forward. “HEAD AND EYE BALLS TO THE FRONT!” I said nothing, because I didn’t know he was talking to me.

Side note: Every single person who goes through boot camp is, at some point, a blubbering idiot. All common sense leaves!

“YOU, OPEN YOUR MOUTH!” Still I said nothing, and now he was approaching. This was about to be my first, to put it into Marine jargon, ass chewing of my new career.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: Cpl. Caitlin Brink/USMC

The DI was directly in front of me, slightly at a 45 degree angle, seeing as there was another recruit in front of me. “I GUESS I DON’T RATE A RESPONSE, IS THAT RIGHT RECRUIT!” Then I looked at him, you are taught to look at anyone who is speaking to you, in boot camp this is suicide. As I looked I answered with a “nyes sir” Yep, a no and a yes combined so elegantly into recruit words. “I GUESS I SAID LOOK AT ME RIGHT, KEEP YOUR HEAD AND EYE BALLS FRONT, AYE AYE SIR!” DI’s would sometimes give you the correct response at the end of their belittlements. So I shouted “Aye aye sir.”

Finally on the bus were we could take a simple breath, still too petrified to look anywhere but forward, my eyes burning from fear of closing them. “PUT YOUR HEAD IN YOUR LAPS!” We did without saying a word. “THAT RATES A RESPONSE, AYE AYE SIR!” We all shouted “aye aye sir” as we kept our heads in our laps.

“You will keep your heads in your laps until you are told otherwise, do you understand?” “Yes sir” we all shouted. The bus started driving to our new home, MCRD San Diego, California. The drive was probably only about 5 minutes, seeing as the airport is literally attached to MCRD. Not one person dared raise their head in defiance, even though the DI wasn’t on the bus with us, we wouldn’t even chance it.

The bus stops, and the air being released from the brakes was almost deafening. My senses were all in over drive, my body telling me to get the hell out of there. There was a squeak from the door and footsteps up the ramp. “EYEBALLS!” This was the command given to recruits that instructed them to look at the DI. We all somehow figured that out without any prior knowledge because we all looked. This started the phase known as receiving.

Receiving:

“You will stand up and quickly exit the bus, you will find yellow footprints on the pavement outside, you will fall in on those footprints from front to back, you will do this as fast as humanly possible, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME!”

“YES SIR!”

“GET OFF MY BUS!”

The iconic yellow footprints, you hear about these things in tales of the past, this is the same spot where every Marine has stood. You never knew if you were standing on the same prints as any of the hero’s of old. Perhaps these belonged to a Medal of Honor recipient. You are told so much about these footprints that you expect you will be on them for three months. NOPE!

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: Lance Cpl. Vaniah Temple/USMC

As soon as every recruit was on the foot prints we were taught the position of attention. Once that was accomplished we were gone. After being taught Article 86 of the UCMJ, dealing with hazing, we were off into the building. We had numbers written on our arms, our head was shaved, any and all personal belongings were taken, excluding money, credit cards, IDs, etc., we were issued our gear, and our identities were effectively removed. From this point on I was recruit Evans, the lowest of the low. There wasn’t one thing on the planet that I was above. Trash was more important than me, or so this is what they make you believe. We were turned over to our receiving DI’s, these would not be our permanent ones of course, that is later.

The first 36 hours are the worst, well the worst part of receiving, because you don’t sleep, and are herded around so quickly you don’t have time to even think. From line to line, desk to desk, room to room, the DI’s had us processed in every system, on every piece of paper, and in every way attached to the United States Marine Corps. By hour 30 I was closing my eyes just to wish I could sleep, but I was standing most of the time. You dare not fall asleep. I guess the recruit next to me didn’t get that memo because he fell asleep, while standing, fell over, and didn’t wake up until he hit the ground. I didn’t even know that was possible.

Finally, FINALLY a bed. In the deep recesses of MCRD, in squad bays that looked, and probably were, condemned. This was the time when you go to sleep and think, tomorrow will be better. It can’t be this bad the whole time.

The next morning, Wednesday, we were awaken in a very peaceful way, by our drill instructor throwing metal trashcans, shaking the beds, screaming things I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy, and banging anything that made noise. It was 3 a.m. or at least that is what I assume because we didn’t have watches, and I felt as though I had slept for about an hour. We got dressed as quickly as possible in the very noticeable attire of a Marine Corp recruit.

Basically it is hell, and anyone who says it isn’t or wasn’t is lying. Or just had a really easy time in boot camp. Also, anyone who says that they couldn’t do boot camp because they would just laugh at the DI’s yelling at them is ignorant in every way. These are US Marines who are trained to destroy your soul. We had a couple of those people in my platoon, they didn’t last long with their laughing. Only a drill instructor can make holding a pen the worst experience of your life.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Photo: Cpl. Octavia Davis

 

To give some examples of life in boot camp I will list a few of my experiences.

– My shortest shower was 4 seconds long. Impossible? DI’s made it work.

– House turnover . . . I just cried a little. Imagine someone coming into your house with the soul intention of destroying it completely. This means taking clothes and putting them in the shower, moving 100 pound bunk beds from one side of the room to the other (the room being big enough to hold 130 recruits), pouring anything and everything they want on any clothing or gear, throwing everything in every drawer or cabinet anywhere they wish, pouring soap, detergent, or anything else they could get their hands on all over the place. Just imagine walking into that mess. Now, imagine someone forcing you to do it all the while screaming at you, then imagine having to clean that up.

I lost things I never got back, I had someone else’s shoes for the remainder of boot camp. It was a mess. Thankfully this only happened only 3 times.

– Pushing the Nile:

My DI came up with this one. There were two rooms: The squad bay, and the head (bathroom). No door separated the two rooms, just a 6 foot wide opening. The tiles on the bathroom floor were different from the cement on the squad bay floor. In the bathroom there were two nozzles on which hoses could be attached. Why? I HAVE NO IDEA! The DI would turn the nozzles on and pour buckets of dirt on the floor. The recruits job? Never allow the water or dirt to touch the squad bay floor.

 

– My shortest meal was on graduation day; I sat in my chair, and got back up immediately. That was the meal.

– How many people do you think can fit in one standard Porta-John, now imagine how many can fit wearing a flak-jacket, and a kevlar helmet? Got your number? Our DI accomplished 9. He once made a platoon of 89 recruits disappear in 10 porta-johns.

Now, this may all sound harsh and unnecessary, but I wouldn’t have had it a different way. It teaches you more than you can imagine. Including showing you that your limits are in your mind. There are tons of experiences any Marine can offer, but as I said it is impossible to know what it is like unless you live it.

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3 stories you won’t see in the Dunkirk movie

The story of Dunkirk is often relayed as an evacuation that saved the British army from complete disaster. Christopher Nolan’s new movie portrays just that — the herculean effort and incredible fear of those on the beach, at sea, and in the air.


The original hope for the evacuation at Dunkirk was to get some 40,000 men off the beach and back to England to regroup for a possible German invasion. In the end, the British were able to evacuate over 300,000 soldiers from multiple countries.

That would not have been possible if brave men hadn’t held their positions to defend the perimeter, holding off the German onslaught to allow their brothers to escape.

These are the men that stayed behind and made the evacuation possible:

1. Capt. Marcus Ervine-Andrews

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

Ervine-Andrews was leading a company of the 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, defending 1,000 yards of line along the Canal de Bergues in front of Dunkirk. Positioned directly in front of the German onslaught of his comrades on the beaches, Ervine-Andrews endeavored to hold them off.

As the Germans crossed the canal, the defenses began to break so he moved to the front line and ordered troops into the gaps. He then climbed atop a straw-roofed barn and, under withering fire, began engaging the enemy. Ervine-Andrews “personally accounted for seventeen of the enemy with his rifle, and for many more with a Bren gun.”

Unfortunately, even Ervine-Andrews’ daring was not enough to hold back the Germans. With his company decimated, he ordered the wounded to the rear in the last available vehicle while he and his remaining eight men covered the retreat.

Related: This forgotten soldier survived 4-months in Dunkirk by himself

He then led his men safely back to friendly lines, often times swimming or wading through neck-deep water to get there, before once again taking up position on the lines with the rearguard.

Ervine-Andrews and the rest of the rearguard were evacuated the night of June 2, the last British troops to leave. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery.

2. 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Probably location of the massacre. (Photo by wiki user Mattyness)

As the evacuations began, the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, along with the rest of the British 2nd Infantry Division, were ordered to hold the line along the La Bassée Canal. Their prospects for retreat, rescue, or evacuation were grim.

On May 27, the Royal Norfolks holding the line at the village of Le Paradis were attacked by the German 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf (Death’s head). As the Germans closed in, the Brits gave them hell, even killing the commanding officer of the attacking regiment. However, at 1130 that morning, the Royal Norfolks received their last orders: “Do the best you can.”

Gallantly they fought on. After the farmhouse they were using as a headquarters and shelter was destroyed, they took up positions in a cowshed. At 1715 that evening, the remaining 99 men had run out of ammunition. They had no choice but to surrender.

Also read: This is the Dunkirk hero who deserted then changed his name to rejoin the army

Unfortunately, the British surrendered to the sadistic SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Fritz Knöchlein and his company. The British were stripped of their weapons and marched to another barn where they were machine-gunned to death.

Two men managed to survive by playing dead and later testified against Knöchlein, who was hanged for his crimes.

The sacrifice of the Royal Norfolks held up the German advance for an entire day, allowing the evacuations to begin.

3. French 12th Motorized Infantry Division

While the initial prospects for the British soldiers were grim, the “miracle at Dunkirk” had allowed nearly all remaining personnel of the British Expeditionary Force to escape back to England. The same would not be true of their French counterparts.

While some French units were able to cross the channel, many took up the positions of the retreating British rearguard. After engaging in a fighting retreat to the Dunkirk perimeter, the men of the 12th Division, now numbering less than 8,000, made their way to the Fort des Dunes on the eastern end of the line on June 1.

For four days, the French endured bombings from the Luftwaffe and attacks against their defenses. Their commanding officer, Gen. Gaston Janssen, was killed on June 2.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

They made their way to the evacuation beaches on June 4, the final day of the withdrawal; however, they were too late and had missed their opportunity.

The men of the 12th Motorized Infantry Division were taken prisoner on the beaches they had defended so that 338,000 of their comrades might live to fight another day.

There is an apt epitaph on the Kohima War Memorial in India where the 2nd Infantry Division made another valiant stand, which seems to apply to the forgotten defenders of Dunkirk as well:

When you go home, tell them of us and say,

For your tomorrow, we gave our today.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea exchange fire as another soldier defects

A “low-ranking” North Korean soldier reportedly crossed the heavily-fortified land border and defected to South Korea Dec. 21, South Korean military officials said in a Yonhap News Agency report.


The incident did not spark a dramatic rescue like the one that captured international attention in November, when a North Korean soldier fled the country amid a hail of gunfire, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The latest soldier — believed to be around 19-years-old — to defect reportedly showed up in front of a guard post around 8:04 a.m. under a thick fog, the Joint Chiefs told Yonhap News.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Korean Demilitarized Zone. ROK and US Soldiers at Observation Post Ouellette, South Korea. (Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.)

At 9:30 a.m., South Korean troops reportedly fired around 20 warning shots at North Korean border guards who approached the military demarcation line and appeared to search for their soldier, a South Korean official said.

Troops from North and South Korea were believed to have fired shots, according to military officials.

Read More: Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

This would be the fourth defection by a North Korean soldier this year, the Joint Chiefs said to Yonhap News.

The defector in November — identified by his last name “Oh” and believed to be 24-years-old — was shot at least five times as he made his escape. US troops airlifted the defector by helicopter from the South Korean side of the border and transported him to a nearby hospital, where is he said to be recovering.

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Commandant: Dropping ratings would create ‘chaos’ in Coast Guard

With the Navy‘s decision to phase out ratings in favor of an alphanumeric job code system to create more career flexibility, the Coast Guard is the only service to continue using traditional ratings.


Don’t expect that to change anytime soon, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said.

Also read: These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

Speaking to reporters following an address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Zukunft said the Navy’s change had prompted a brief internal evaluation for the Coast Guard — and one with a definite conclusion.

“With the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard [Steven Cantrell], we said, ‘What would the workforce think about this,’ and it would cause chaos,” Zukunft said. “I cannot afford chaos when every person in the Coast Guard has a 24-by-7 job to do.”

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb stand ready for a uniform inspection prior to the cutter’s change of command ceremony held at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach on June 16, 2016. | U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson

The Coast Guard, the smallest of the branches, has an active-duty force of about 40,000, compared to the Navy’s nearly 324,000. It also has a smaller ratings system, with fewer than two dozen separate ratings compared with 89 for the Navy.

The Navy and Coast Guard use the same naval rank system, which is different from that used by the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Coast Guardsmen are “very proud of the rating badge that they wear on their sleeve,” Zukunft said, “so I’ve listened to my master chief and he’s provided me the best advice. So that was a very easy question for me to say ‘no’ to.”

The Navy has also had to contend with pushback from sailors and Navy veterans who have strong attachments to the 241-year-old ratings system, with culture and community built around certain titles.

15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor
Adm. Paul F. Zukunft | U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley

A WhiteHouse.gov petition to reverse the decision reached 100,000 signatures within a month, prompting a member of the White House staff to issue a response backing the overhaul and promoting the Navy’s goals of creating additional opportunities and career paths for sailors and a more straightforward transition to jobs matching their skills as they enter the civilian sector.

The chief of naval personnel, Vice Adm. Robert Burke, has engaged in a number of efforts to sell the concept to sailors, writing opinion pieces and essays addressing the fleet and traveling to the Middle East to participate in town hall meetings with some 9,000 sailors at the end of October and beginning of November.

Navy officials say the full transition to the new system will take time and be done in stages. Key decisions have yet to be detailed, including the future of Navy ratings badges.

Burke published a timeline in October indicating plans to update uniform insignia in keeping with the new job title system, but it remains possible that the badges will be redesigned rather than eliminated.

“Did we choose an easy path forward? Absolutely not,” Burke wrote in an op-ed published by Military.com on Nov. 20. “But I believe this change needs to occur, and now is the right time to do so.”