The Silent Drill Platoon symbolizes the consummate professionalism and extreme discipline the United States Marine Corps is known for.
Stationed at the legendary Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., it is a 24-man rifle platoon that tours the country showcasing their precision drill and rifle movements in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators a year.
A highly selective unit, Marines are individually interviewed and picked from the Schools of Infantry at Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune.
Once selected, each Marine will be assigned to the platoon for two years while more experienced members can audition to become one of two rifle inspectors.
The drill master, along with the rifle inspectors, are responsible for passing on the traditions, training, and mastery.
If you are ever fortunate to witness a live performance, their synchronized movements and individual expert rifle handling skills will leave you in awe.
These photos capture moments during their precision performances that show off how awesome they really are.
Tis the season to be grateful! We know 2020 has been hard but we can all unite around the joyous performances from our US Army Field Band! And we’ve made a holiday special for you all to enjoy!
The Army Field Band (not to be confused with the Army Band — that’s different) plays over 100 concerts annually, culminating with their holiday event, Sound the Bells. The President and dignitaries always attend, but given the restrictions of COVID, a live concert isn’t possible. Working with the Army, We Are The Mighty produced an alternative that everyone can enjoy! Watch the video below or on Fox Business and Fox Nation from 12/23 to 12/26.
Hosted by military supporter and A-Lister Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds, The Simpsons), the run of the show includes seven holiday songs with vignettes from Army Leadership as well as a special interview with Harry Miller, a WW2 Veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. The special has seven featured songs, including such holiday favorites as I’ll be Home for Christmas, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Silent Night, an animated version of the Nutcracker and a special portrayal of Christmas 1914, sung by SSG Megan Pomales. When a fellow soldier and producer shared that he wanted Pomales to sing Christmas 1914 for the holiday special, Pomales said she listened to it and was “completely undone.”
Written by Catherine Rushton in 2004, the song is an emotional and haunting walk down the experiences of ground troops fighting during World War I. In 1914 the Pope suggested a truce for Christmas. Taking the suggestion to heart, the Germans and allied troops entered into an unofficial cease fire. Tales were told of Christmas carols being sung and words of goodwill echoing through the night. The lyrics of the song tell a story of the beauty of Christmas and the reality of war that followed the celebration: For three days we played football, three nights we drank and sang, ‘til it came time to say farewell. Then we went to ground; each side fired three rounds. And just like that we all were back in hell.
Don’t miss Sound The Bells! This incredible holiday special honoring our military community is a must see.
The U.S. officially joined World War II after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, but the U.S. knew that it would likely get dragged into the war in Europe and Asia for years before that.
For the last few months of 1941, America was preparing for an open conflict and the U.S. Navy was looking for a fight. At least four times before Dec. 7, both the Navy and the Coast Guard engaged in combat with German forces, capturing a vessel, threatening U-boats, and suffering the loss of 126 sailors.
1. The destroyer USS Greer duels with U-652 on Sept. 4, 1941.
The U.S. destroyer USS Greer was officially delivering mail to Argentia, Newfoundland, on Sept. 4, 1941. A British anti-submarine plane signaled the Greer that it had just witnessed a German submarine diving 10 miles ahead of the Greer.
Greer locked onto the German submarine U-652 and began following it.
The British airplane fired first. It was running low on fuel and dropped its four depth charges and flew away. The Greer, still in sound contact with the sub, soon had to dodge two torpedoes from U-652. Greer answered with eight depth charges after the first torpedo and 11 more after the second.
Neither vessel was damaged in the 3.5-hour fight.
2. Coast Guardsmen capture a German vessel and raid a signals post in Sept. 12-14, 1941.
Just a few minutes later, the sub fired a spread of three torpedoes, one of which hit the Kearny near an engine room and crippled the ship. Despite the damage and the loss of 11 of the crew, the Kearny was able to navigate to Iceland under its own power.
Jeremy Butler is a successful CEO, Naval officer and husband. He’s also a Black man in America, a title that has impacted many pages of his story.
“I had intended to go to college and never really gave the military a thought. During my junior year though, I was studying in Europe and it just really opened my eyes – not only to the world – but that I just didn’t want a traditional job,” Butler explained. Although he would look into the Peace Corps, he ultimately decided he wanted to be a sailor.
The Navy recruiter continually asked him if he wanted to take the test to fly and be a pilot but Butler was adamant that he would be on a ship or nothing at all. He attended Officer Candidate School in 1999 and had full intentions of just doing four years and getting out.
But then 9/11 happened.
Butler was on a ship out of Washington on a counter-narcotics mission when America was attacked. “I was completely separated from the country for three months and really came back to this changed world — and it was jarring,” he shared.
Soon, he was stationed on a new ship in Japan. Butler shared that when he joined the Navy, it was the one place he had always wanted to be stationed. It wasn’t long before his ship was joining the fleet for a counter-strike mission aimed at Iraq. He and his crew escorted ships in and provided defense for the carriers and ships launching tomahawks during the invasion.
After finishing his deployment to Iraq and tour in Japan, Butler headed back stateside to teach at the Naval Academy. “It was a really incredible experience to teach those midshipmen about Navy life,” he said. He also got married and made the decision to come off active duty and go into the Navy Reserves.
Butler became a defense contractor, doing work for the likes of the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security but wasn’t feeling the fulfillment that wearing the Navy uniform every day brought. “As a reservist, I ended up mobilizing a couple of times, going to places like the Philippines and West Africa,” he said. Butler also spent a few years working in the Pentagon for the Navy in between all of that.
When he and his wife were ready to leave Washington D.C. a few years later, they headed to New York City. It was there he began his work with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, in 2015. He moved up quickly within the organization, eventually becoming their COO and then, in 2019, their CEO. “It’s been an incredible journey and I found that it gave me that sense of fulfillment that I wasn’t getting in my previous civilian jobs,” Butler shared.
A year later, Butler was successfully leading the organization when the murder of George Floyd sent shock waves across the world. “It really brought me to a reckoning about who I am and to become much more outspoken about how life has been for me as a Black man in America,” he said.
The notion of racism wasn’t a new concept for him. Butler grew up in rural Illinois in a predominately white town. “I was in schools where people would regularly use the n-word and then look at me and say, ‘Oh, but I’m not talking about you,'” he shared. He was also frequently followed around in stores and the clerks would regularly check his pockets before he could leave.
It also wasn’t uncommon for people to stop him while he was with his white mother to ask if he was adopted. They never asked when he was with his father, an Army veteran, who is Black.
Despite these ongoing experiences, Butler thought everyone went through the same thing. It wouldn’t be until he was older that he would recognize it for what it was: racism. Though he knew it existed, he still attended good schools and had great opportunities. “I felt like I never had the right to be more outspoken about the struggles for Black people in America,” he said. Butler also noted that as a Black officer, he’s sure that his military experience was much different than that of an enlisted person of color.
IAVA struggled in the past to get legislation passed that targeted issues around race and gender, although it was always on their radar. After George Floyd’s murder, Butler was understandably angry. He felt strongly that he needed to use his voice and within the IAVA, the team encouraged him to do so – regardless of repercussions. The words he wrote were powerful. Here is a small excerpt from his statement posted to the IAVA website:
“When in uniform, I am thanked for my service. When in a suit, I’m treated respectfully as I walk into a store or restaurant, a customer worthy of gracious attention. But catch me on a weekend, two days behind on a shave, wearing a hoodie and I am now a threat. This is not me being sensitive. It is evident in the guarded reactions of fellow pedestrians rounding the corner and seeing me in their path. It is evident in the less accommodating reaction of the restaurant host when I walk in alone, hoping to catch a seat for a meal and a drink. It is evident in the expression of the department store clerk who sees me not as a possible sale but someone to be followed.”
Though Butler’s challenging experiences as a Black man and veteran aren’t ones he wishes on anyone, he does see hope on the horizon. His message to those who hear his story? Shore up on empathy.
“I think regardless of who you are personally, everyone should try a little harder to understand what it’s like for others,” Butler explained. “A rising tide raises all boats and I think that’s something a lot of people don’t understand. When we make things better for those who have the least, we are improving things for everyone.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Since March 2015, the Air Coalition has consistently flown nearly 4,500 flying missions a month, striking more lucrative targets to greater effect. Targets include strikes against logistics, command and control, weapons manufacturing areas, and Daesh financial resources, impacting Daesh’s ability to sustain combat operations and impacting their decision-making capability.
The Air Coalition now stands at 20-nations. The broader Coalition is more than 60 countries.
Senior Airman Tariq Russell, a 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, shakes the paw of his partner, PPaul, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 14, 2016. MWD handlers are assigned one dog for their entire duration at Peterson AFB.
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman
An Army paratrooper, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, descends onto Frida Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, June 29, 2016, after exiting a United States Air Force 86th Air Wing C-130 Hercules aircraft during airborne operations.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
An trainee undergoing Basic Combat Training with 13th Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson, S.C., exits the skyscraper obstacle and falls several feet onto a mat, June 22, 2016.
PEARL HARBOR (June 29, 2016) Families wave as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) renders honors to the USS Arizona Memorial as the ship prepares to moor at Joint Naval Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in Rim of the Pacific 2016.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (June 28, 2016) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Wildcats of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).
Candidates with Delta Company, Officer Candidate School (OCS) conduct the Fireteam Assault course aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 13, 2016. The mission of OCS is to educate and train officer candidates in order to evaluate and screen individuals for qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.
A Marine with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 16.2, directs an F/A-18D Hornet returning to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, June 9, 2016. VMFA(AW)-533 operates and conducts strikes as part of the Aviation Combat Element of SPMAGTF-CR-CC in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community.
A boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral, Florida, enforces a safety and security zone during a rocket launch off the coast of Cape Canaveral, June 24, 2016. The Coast Guard helps provide safety and security services for launches out of the Kennedy Space Center.
Capt. Peter F. Martin relieves Capt. Brian K. Penoyer of command of Sector Houston-Galveston during a change-of-command ceremony at the Bayport Cruise Terminal in Bayport, Texas, June 17, 2017.
China’s recent military parade included several new weapons systems and a flyover by the J-20, a stealth jet that many think incorporates stealth technology stolen from the US into a design built to destroy weak links in the US Air Force.
But the US has decades of experience in making and fielding stealth jets, creating a gap that no amount of Russian or Chinese hacking could bridge.
“As we see Russia bring on stealth fighters and we see China bring on stealth fighters, we have 40 years of learning how to do this,” retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Barrett told Defense News’ Valerie Insinna at a Mitchell Institute event on August 2.
While China’s J-20 seeks to intercept unarmed US Air Force refueling planes with very-long-range missiles, and Russia’s T-50 looks like a stealthy reboot of its current fleet of fighters, a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft for a US defense contractor told Business Insider that other countries still lagged the US in making planes that could hide from radars.
The scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of their work, told Business Insider the J-20 and T-50 were “dirty” fighters, since the countries lack the precision tools necessary to painstakingly shape every millimeter of the planes’ surfaces.
Barrett said of China’s and Russia’s stealth attempts, “There are a lot of stuff hanging outside of these airplanes,” according to Defense News, adding that “all the airplane pictures I’ve seen still have stuff hanging from the wings, and that just kills your stealth.”
Additionally, the US has stealth-fighter tactics down, while China and Russia would take years to develop a similar playbook.
Meanwhile, the US has overcome the issue of external munitions blowing up a plane’s radar signature by having internal weapons bays and networking with fleets of fourth-generation aircraft.
Because the F-35 and F-22 can communicate with older, non-stealth planes, they can fly cleanly, without weapons hanging off the wings, while tanked-up F/A-18s, F-15s, or F-16s laden with fuel, bombs, and air-to-air missiles follow along.
The F-35s and F-22s can ensure the coast is clear and dominate battles without firing a shot as older planes fire off missiles guided by the fifth-gen fighters.
Guardians with the USCGC Bertholf captured a semi-submersible boat on Mar. 3 with 12,800 pounds cocaine worth nearly $203 million dollars in its hold. The boat was moving up the Central American Pacific Coast when it was spotted by a Customs and Border Protection aircraft who radioed the Coast Guard cutter.
The bust happened 300 miles southwest of Panama. The U.S. Coast Guard is generally thought of as operating only on the U.S. coast but actually deploys around the world to assist other maritime forces and enforce international law.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along.
The differences don’t stop at uniforms. Each branch has its own goals, mission, and its own internal culture. At the upper levels of the services, they compete for funds and favor from civilians in DoD. In the lower ranks, they compete for fun and favor from civilians in bars and strip clubs (especially in North Carolina). The branches are like siblings, competing for the intangible title of who’s “the best” from no one in particular.
“The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.” —Gen. Curtis LeMay, U.S. Air Force
Of course, when it comes to joint operations downrange, a lot of that goes out the window. But when the op-tempo isn’t as hectic and frustration has time to build, the awesome Army platoon who saved your ass last month become a bunch of damn stupid grunts who steal everything you don’t lock down and leave their Gatorade piss bottles everywhere. Parsing out the best and worst of our services isn’t hard if we’re honest with ourselves.
Here’s how the other branches hate on the Navy, how they should actually be hating on the Navy, how the Navy hates on the Navy, and why to really love the Navy.
The easiest ways to make fun of the Navy
Sailor harassment has its roots in the age-old reality that since man first decided to put military power to sea in ships, those aboard those ships were forced to spend weeks and months underway before being afforded a few days of downtime in a foreign port. As a result of this ratio, sailors may have had a tendency for exuberance while on liberty over the years. And that exuberance may have caused a scuffle or two that caught the attention of bar owners and other locals who may have developed impressions that were less than positive.
Over time these locals spread rumors that these sailors couldn’t hold their liquor and tended to burn through what little cash they had in a short time. Word of these phenomena returned stateside, which gave birth to the saying, “spending money like a sailor on liberty.”
Because sailors spend time on the water, service members from other military branches wanted to give them a nickname that was both sufficiently pejorative and germane. Naturally marine life came to mind. “Sharks” was too cool and tough and “guppies” was too cute, so they settled on “squids.” So if you want to make fun of a sailor call him or her a “squid.” They really hate that because squids are spineless and ugly and otherwise devoid of personality. (They can swim fast, but nobody really cares about that.)
Because SEALs. In the wake of the Bin Laden raid, SEALs have managed to morph from silent professionals to the warfare specialty that is quick to tell all to land book and movie deals.
Because Top Gun. No other military movie in history has done more to give the public the wrong idea about what it means to serve. And it’s got a lot of homoerotic imagery, which leads to . . .
. . . The quickest way to strike a squid’s nerve is to make “gay” jokes. Yes, you know the kind, “100 sailors go out, 50 couples come back,” or “it ain’t gay if it’s under way,” and many, many more. It also doesn’t help that sailors are a popular gay fantasy.
Henri Belolo created the Village People around macho male stereotypes that gays fantasize about. The cowboy, cop, construction worker, leather-clad biker, Indian, and the sailor. The band became popular, moved into the mainstream and took the sailor in the cute Crackerjack uniform along with it. Yes, we said “cute.” Admit it, the sailor dress uniform has more in common with the Japanese school girl uniform than with the other service branches.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, of course. This is, after all, the post-DADT world.
Because nuclear power. While the introduction of this science gave Navy ships the ability to sail a long, long time without refueling, the existence of it also created a zero-tolerance culture that has raised the bar of fun suppression to heights that can never be lowered. And this ability to sweat the load has crossed over into other warfare specialties and other branches of the military. Thanks, Nukes . . .
Why to actually hate the Navy
Every service tries to imitate the Marine Corps when it comes to celebrating its birthday, and the Navy’s history makes this in many ways the biggest joke (which is a polite way to say “the biggest lie”). While the Navy uses October 13, 1775 as the birth date, they leave out the fact that the first version of the U.S. Navy was dismantled completely after the Revolutionary War because the ragtag bunch of vessels they managed to assemble on the fly did little to protect ports or disrupt the British in any way.
And this anti-Navy sentiment in and around DC lasted a while after that. Thomas Jefferson hated the idea of a standing Navy and few in Congress thought any differently about it. It wasn’t until early Navy badass Stephen Decatur decided to take a couple of ships to Tripoli to raise some Yankee hell against the Barbary Pirates. His successes made lawmakers take notice and actually warm to the idea of a standing Navy, and one with an over-the-horizon outlook.
So the real birth date of the Navy would be somewhere around 1810 when Decatur took the USS United States up and down the east coast to show the American public what they had in terms of seagoing capability.
Hate SAPR training and the CYA leadership atmosphere you’re currently serving under? Blame the Navy.
All the mechanisms that surround using the military as a social experiment and other morale-sapping things that get labeled as “politically correct” started with the Tailhook Scandal in the early ’90s. Of course, sexual battery, never mind harassment, is a bad thing that should never be tolerated, but Navy leadership over the years has done little to stop agenda-based over-corrections that have marginalized the culture in undesirable ways (in the eyes of those who intimate they know about warfighting and such).
So, regardless of your branch, if you feel like you’re serving in a nanny state, blame the Navy.
Because Jimmy Carter. He’s a Naval Academy grad and a submariner, but he never really acted like it when he was Commander-in-chief. His “man is inherently good” naivete made for some very bad foreign policy, most notably in how he de-fanged the CIA and emboldened the Iranian government to take Americans hostage for 444 days. And the Desert One rescue attempt was a disaster. Basically his time in the White House made the country very happy to see Ronald Reagan.
And because the Navy is the absolute worst when it comes to changing uniforms. Remember aviation greens? How about service dress khaki? No? Well, here’s one for you: aquaflage. What are you hiding in, the water? And if a sailor is in the water don’t you want to be able to see him or her? We rest our case.
Because they wrecked most of what was cool about the band Godsmack and made them corporate sellouts.
Because sailors don’t have to eat MREs when they deploy. Ships are built with mess decks and Navy cooks (and supply officers) generally take pride in serving the crew good food.
Why to love the Navy
Because Navy SEALs. They popped OBL and the Somali pirates and many more high value bad actors since 9-11. Their warfighting skills are second to none.
Because Hollywood remains enamoured by Navy life, it keeps teeing up Navy-themed shows like “The Last Ship,” and as a result, the general public has a favorable opinion of the military.
Because strike warfare. As has been the case throughout history U.S. Navy carriers and surface combatants were the first on the scene after 9-11, and because of that we were able to take it to the enemy a mere three weeks after the homeland was attacked.
Because the U.S. Navy really is, as the commercials state, “a global force for good.” From Hurricane Katrina to the Haitian earthquake to the tsunami in Thailand, when a country needs humanitarian assistance, the Navy has always been first on the scene.
Because the Navy continues to fight “the war between the wars.” The Navy goes to potentially hostile places like the littorals of Yemen and Chinese-claimed islands to prove to those nations that we’re willing to protect the sea lanes to keep goods moving safely to and from our shores.
On the heels of Turkey’s entry into the war against ISIS in Syria, its precipitous loss of territory, and the death of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani — the group’s spokesman and frontman for “lone wolf” attacks abroad — al-Qaeda is already planning its resurgence in war-torn Iraq.
According to Reuters reporter Maher Chmaytelli, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called on Iraq’s Sunni population – who (nominally) share the sect of Islam with ISIS and al-Qaeda – to prepare for what he called a “long guerilla war.”
Within the last 18 months, the Islamic State has lost half its territory in 2016 to various groups in Iraq and Syria. Syrian government forces are poised to capture the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa. Kurdish and U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are at the gates of Aleppo, and now the Turkish army is squeezing the terrorist movement from the North.
In Iraq, security forces and Peshmerga units have recaptured the key cities of Ramadi and Fallujah in June, and are poised to recapture the major Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State. Many strategists and U.S. officials say when Mosul falls, so too does ISIS.
“The Sunnis of Iraq should not just surrender upon the fall of (their) cities into the hand of the Shi’ite Safavid army,” Zawahiri said in a video on social media. “Rather they should reorganize themselves in a long guerrilla war in order to defeat the new Crusader-Safavid occupation of their areas as they defeated them before.”
“Safavid” is a derogatory comment for Iraq’s Shia-led government. You can probably guess what he means by “Crusaders.”
He also implored Syrian “mujahideen” to help those in Iraq because they are “fighting the same battle.”
It’s unclear which group he was addressing. The Syrian rebel al-Nusra Front cut ties with al-Qaeda and rebranded, just as ISIS did when it stopped being known as al-Qaeda in Iraq. And there’s friction between the terror groups, since ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi doesn’t recognize Zawahiri as the successor to Osama bin Laden.
Some believe Iraq’s Sunni minority may be forever changed by its experience under occupation and may not respond to the al-Qaeda leader’s video.
After the liberation of Fallujah by Iraq’s security forces in June 2016, Vocativ’s Gilad Shiloach reported its citizens celebrating “a Fallujah without terror,” and residents tweeting things like, “From today on, Fallujah will never send explosives to Baghdad and the Shiite provinces.”
Some Iraqis think ISIS was somehow a creation of the U.S. Even so, they’re glad when the terrorists leave.
“The legend that was created by America has been smashed in Fallujah today,” wrote an Iraqi Twitter user. “It has appeared as a paper tiger in front of the strikes of our army and militias.”
An investigation into events that led to the reliefs of the commanding officer, former executive officer and command master chief of the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge earlier this month implicated 15 other officers and senior leaders on the ship in the scandal.
Cmdr. Sean Rongers, Cmdr. Brandon Murray, and Command Master Chief Richard Holmes, were relieved April 7 by Destroyer Squadron 28 commander Capt. Richard Brawley after an investigation found fireworks were being stored aboard the Bainbridge in violation of Navy instructions and unlawful gambling was taking place among officers, officials said.
A 149-page preliminary inquiry report released to Military.com through a Freedom of Information Act request found the ship’s leaders also failed to get a pregnant officer transferred off the ship in keeping with Navy policy, conducted certain ship maneuvers that endangered gear, and encouraged relaxed uniform guidelines under long underway periods with the sale of “no-shave chits.”
A command climate survey also obtained by Military.com dating from February also found that the ship’s top officers presided over a command marked by exeptionally poor trust in leadership and leadership and organizational cohesion.
According to the February investigation, Rongers, the commanding officer, directed the purchase of just under $1,500 worth of fireworks for a July 4 display aboard the Bainbridge, using funds from the ship’s morale, welfare and recreation account. In April 2015, Rongers directed a subordinate to purchase the fireworks, knowing that the ship had conducted a similar fireworks display in 2013.
The subordinate, whose name is redacted in the report, negotiated a deal with the company Phantom Fireworks to buy the pyrotechnics. An overnight trip was made to purchase the goods, which included fireworks with names like “The Beast Unleashed” and “Swashbuckler 72-shot.”
Some of the fireworks purchased were not available for sale in Virginia, the investigation shows. Then, while the ship was operating in the Virginia Capes area, near Virginia Beach, Rongers dispatched rigid-hulled inflatable boats to pick the fireworks up at Rudee Inlet in a late-night operation.
Rongers told investigators that the fireworks were brought aboard via late-night boat operations in order to avoid force protection measures or other regulations that might have prohibited them coming through the main gate when the ship was pierside in Norfolk, Virginia. He also said he checked with another officer about the legality of using MWR funds for fireworks and got the all-clear. The officer, whose name is redacted in the investigation, denied that Rongers had checked with her.
The fireworks were stored in black trash bags in the ship’s pyro locker, near its barbershop. Ultimately, however, officials from Destroyer Squadron 28 got wind of the fireworks plan when a prospective weapons officer from the Bainbridge raised concerns, saying he had already confronted Rongers and Murray, the executive officer about having them stored aboard ship.
Rongers had the fireworks removed from the ship and loaded into his own car. The MWR funds used to purchase them were never reimbursed, however.
Investigators found that Rongers and Murray failed to do the research needed to ensure the fireworks purchase and display were legal. They violated MWR policy prohibiting funds from being used to pay for “hazardous activities,” according to the report, and Rongers “rationalized” his actions because a fireworks display had taken place before, even though Navy policy prohibits fireworks being stored aboard ship and transported the way that they were.
Rongers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Military.com.
The gambling accusations stem from a weekly Friday night officers’ poker game that took place in the Bainbridge officers’ wardroom with Rongers and Murray’s consent and participation during the ship’s 2015 deployment. There was a $10 buy-in, and participants played with chips in lieu of money and kept scores and money owed written on a piece of paper.
Concerns arose after an officer was asked to pay a buy-in fee she claimed she was never informed about. A legal officer approached Rongers and Murray with doubts about the legality of the command-sanctioned game, according to the report, but they dismissed these concerns, saying no one was forced to play.
Ultimately, the game was temporarily closed down and replaced by a non-gambling game night with activities like Uno and Risk. However, the game started up again later in the deployment, investigators found.
The investigation also revealed a booming business: the purchase of “no-shave chits” which allowed Navy personnel to grow facial hair or, if female, to wear their hair in a ponytail during long periods underway. At $30 a pop, the MWR raised nearly $12,700 on a single deployment from sale of the chits, the investigation found. The ship’s leaders sanctioned this practice, and Rongers even purchased a chit at one point, documents show. While the practice of selling the chits is fairly common, investigators found, it is not permitted by policy.
Bainbridge leadership also fell afoul of policy when an officer became pregnant. Though regulations stipulate that pregnant sailors need to be transferred off-ship by the 20th week of pregnancy, she was not transferred until some five weeks after that deadline, even though the report shows she repeatedly brought the matter to the attention of her chain of command. Moreover, Murray waited until January 2016 — past the pregnancy’s 20-week point — to inform the ship’s placement officer of the need to transfer the officer, even though he was aware of the situation in November, the investigation found.
Finally, Rongers’ handling of the Bainbridge on breakaways following underway replenishment caused alarm among sailors and led to the loss of some gear, the investigation found. On multiple occasions, witnesses testified, Rongers would conduct the breakaways at high speed, before personnel and gear were secured. In one case, sailors ordered to clear the deck could hear items tumbling around as the ship broke away. Two aluminum drip pans were lost over the course of the deployment, and one “killer tomato” or inflatable naval gunnery target, was struck loose by the wind, but was ultimately recovered.
Investigators faulted many other officers for failing to take appropriate action in light of the improper behavior taking place aboard the Bainbridge. While Rongers and Murray were advised they were suspected of violating articles 92 and 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, violation of a general order and conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman, respectively, 16 others were cited on suspicion of dereliction of duty or violation of a general order.
These include the ship’s chief engineer, the supply corps officer, the weapons officer, the force protection officer, the recreational services officer, the Tomahawk leading chief petty officer and others, though the names of these individuals were redacted.
Investigators recommended that Rongers face non-judicial punishment for directing a subordinate to illegally transport and store fireworks. They also recommended that the ship’s chief petty officers ensure sailors are taught lessons on “misplaced loyalty” with regards to the fireworks incident, since many aboard ship were found to have covered for leadership, rather than adhered to policy.
While the investigation does not cover how problems with the ship’s command affected the rank-and-file, a command climate survey from the time reveals troubling trends. Fifty-three percent of sailors on the Bainbridge rated their trust in leadership unfavorably, according to the survey. On leadership cohesion, 63 percent of sailors gave unfavorable ratings, and 47 percent of sailors rated organizational cohesion unfavorably. Organizational processes received a 52 percent unfavorable rating, and 42 percent of sailors rated their job satisfaction unfavorably.
A spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic, Lt. Cmdr. Myers Vasquez, said Rongers, Murray and Holmes remain assigned to SURFLANT in Norfolk. Vasquez said the administrative process was still ongoing for the sailors named in the investigation and declined further comment.
The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) accepts orders to make and deliver custom gear that will help soldiers do their job better.
Anyone from a private to the Chief of Staff of the Army can place a “10-liner,” the shorthand for the unit’s request form. The REF will then evaluate the request and use existing gear or emerging technologies and concepts to build what you need. They will even work with soldiers through the entire process to make sure they get it right; they call this process co-creation.
From submission to completion, the REF can have a solution on the field within weeks instead of years by avoiding the usual Pentagon bureaucracy. They can field as quickly as 90 days according to the official Army website.
To speed up the process, the REF has strategic units around the world near combat zones to be closer to soldiers. For example, at the height of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the REF had teams in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait according to the REF’s website.
They also have mobile labs that can pack up in a single day and ship it anywhere in the world called REF Expeditionary Labs. According to the REF website, these labs give soldiers access to expert scientists, engineers, and equipment like:
Raven – a hand-launched remote control drone for field surveillance
Minotaur – robot technology that helps troops safely deal with explosive devices
PILAR – a system that locates sniper fire location on an LCD screen
The REF was founded in 2002 when the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Col. Bruce Jette was looking for a solution to prevent soldiers in Afghanistan from sustaining casualties from booby traps while searching and clearing caves. He asked the Army:
Can robots help Soldiers clear caves?
Can a robotic capability be deployed within 90-days?
Is there an existing Army unit that can accomplish the task?
Shortly after, Jette was authorized to form the Rapid Integration of Robot Systems (RIRS) to find a solution to his questions. In less than 30 days, they found the answer and deployed it to Afghanistan. Riding on the team’s success, Jette recommended to the Army that the REF should be formed. For the past 12 years, the REF has continued to provide solutions for soldiers, and on January 30, 2014 the Army declared the REF an enduring capability according to the REF site.
The following video is an overview of the REF’s capabilities:
In another positive sign for the beloved A-10, Air Force maintainers at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona have outfitted the Warthog with an upgrade for combat search and rescue missions, or CSAR.
Dubbed the lightweight airborne recovery system, the upgrade helps A-10 pilots “communicate more effectively with individuals on the ground such as downed pilots, pararescuemen, and joint terminal attack controllers,” according to an Air Force statement.
CSAR missions jump off with little warning and often involve going deep into enemy territory, so becoming certified to perform CSAR missions takes tons of training, which only A-10 pilots undergo.
Senior Airman Clay Thomas, a 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, loosens paneling screws from an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen
The A-10’s rugged survivability, massive forward firing power, newly acquired communication capabilities, and long loiter times at low altitudes make it ideal for flying low and slow and finding the lost person.
According to the Air Force, an “urgent operational need arose in August” for increased CSAR capabilities. Within a few months, the “massive logistical challenge” that required the Air Force to “build a production machine, find facilities, manpower, equipment, tools, and make material kits (to) execute the requirement” came together, and now 19 A-10s sport the upgrade, according to the Air Force.
“A-10 pilots take the combat search and rescue role very seriously,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Hayde, 354th Fighter Squadron commander and A-10 pilot, according to the Air Force statement. “While this is just one tool, it can assist us in bringing them back to US soil safely.”
While the A-10 still faces the chopping block in 2018, new investment in the Warthog and the reopening of the production lines in October bode well for the plane’s future protecting American interests and infantry soldiers.