On Dec. 4, 1950, Ensign Jesse Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator, was leading a six-plane reconnaissance patrol over North Korea near the Chosin Reservoir. Marines and soldiers on the ground were conducting a fighting retreat and Navy aviators were covering their withdrawal.
The Korean and Chinese soldiers were well-camouflaged, so Brown’s flight of F4U Corsairs from Fighter Squadron 32 flew at low altitudes to try and spot the enemy infantry. The noise of the engines prevented the pilots from hearing ground fire, but muzzle flashes began blinking against the snow.
Immediately after the shots, Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner, a friend of Brown’s and a member of the flight, spotted vapor streaming from Brown’s engine. Hudner radioed Brown, who confirmed that he was quickly losing oil pressure. 17 miles behind enemy lines, Brown was going to crash.
Hudner pointed out an open expanse of snow where Brown could land with relative safety, but the crash was still violent enough that the cockpit buckled in. Hudner worried that Brown was dead until he began moving. Knowing that Brown wouldn’t survive long in the extreme winter cold of the Korean mountains, Hudner crash-landed his own plane near Brown’s.
He jumped from his cockpit and rushed to Brown. He attempted to free his friend, but saw that his leg was pinned down by the instrument panel.
Hudner began alternating between trying to free Brown and packing snow around the smoking engine to keep it from bursting into flames. When he got a chance, he returned to his plane and requested a rescue helicopter with an ax and fire extinguisher.
When the helicopter arrived, Hudner and the helicopter pilot, 1st Lt. Charles Ward, continued to try and free Brown. It became clear that they would need more equipment, and Hudner asked his friend to hold on.
“I told Jesse we couldn’t get him out without more equipment, and we were going to get more,” Hudner told The New York Times in 2013. “He didn’t respond. I think he died while we were talking to him.”
Hudner and Ward flew back to the USS Leyte Gulf. A few days later, Fighter Squadron 32 decided that they wouldn’t be able to secure the crash site and recover Brown’s remains, so they conducted a napalm run to burn them rather than allow their capture.
Hudner and Brown had been unlikely friends. They met in the locker room of Fighter Squadron 32 in Dec. 1949, a year before the events at the Chosin Reservoir.
“Shortly after I joined the squadron, I was changing into flight gear and he came in and nodded ‘Hello,” Hudner said in The New York Times interview. “I introduced myself, but he made no gesture to shake hands. I think he did not want to embarrass me and have me not shake his hand. I think I forced my hand into his.”
Brown was the son of a Mississippi sharecropper who knew he wanted to be a Navy aviator since he was a child. He fought tooth-and-nail to overcome racial barriers and become one of the first African-American Navy officers and the first Navy’s first black aviator. Hudner was the privileged son of a Massachusetts business owner and a graduate of the Naval Academy.
The story of Brown and Hudner is the subject of “Devotion,” a new book by New York Times bestselling author Adam Makos. Hear Hudner tell the story in his own words in the video below.
All sailors, from the “old salts” to the newly initiated are familiar with the following terms:
Chit: A chit in the Navy refers to any piece of paper from a form to a pass and even currency. According to the Navy history museum, the word chit was carried over from the days of Hindu traders when they used slips of paper called “citthi” for money.
Scuttlebutt: The Navy term for water fountain. The Navy History Museum describes the term as a combination of “scuttle,” to make a hole in the ship’s side causing her to sink, and “butt,” a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water; thus the term scuttlebutt means a cask with a hole in it.
Crank: The term used to describe a mess deck worker, typically a new transferee assigned to the mess decks while qualifying for regular watch.
Cadillac: This is the term used to describe a mop bucket with wheels and a ringer. When sailors are assigned to cleaning duties, they prefer the luxurious Cadillac over the bucket.
Knee-knockers: A knee-knocker refers to the bottom portion of a watertight door’s frame. They are notorious for causing shin injuries and drunken sailors hate them.
Comshaw: The term used when obtaining something outside of official channels or payment, usually by trading or bartering. For example, sailors on a deployed ship got pizza in exchange for doing the laundry of the C-2 Greyhound crew that flew it in.
*Younger sailors may use the term “drug deal” instead of comshaw.
Gear adrift: The term used to describe items that are not properly stowed away. The shoes in this picture would be considered gear adrift. Also sometimes phrased as “gear adrift is a gift.”
Geedunk: The term sailors use for vending machine and junk food.
Snipe: The term used to describe sailors that work below decks, usually those that are assigned to engineering rates, such as Machinists Mates, Boilermen, Enginemen, Hull Technicians, and more.
Airdale: These are sailors assigned to the air wing — everyone from pilots down to the airplane maintenance crew.
Bubble head: The term sailors use to describe submariners.
Gun decking: Filling out a log or form with imaginary data, usually done out of laziness or to satisfy an inspection.
Muster: The term sailors use interchangeably for meeting and roll call.
Turco: The chemical used for washing airplanes.
Pad eye: These are the hook points on a ship’s surface used to tie down airplanes with chains.
Mid-rats: Short for mid rations. The food line open from midnight to 6:00 a.m. that usually consists of leftovers and easy-to-make food like hamburgers, sandwich fixings, and weenies.
Roach coach: The snack or lunch truck that stops by the pier.
Bomb farm: Areas on the ship where aviation ordnancemen men store their bombs.
Nuke it: The term used when a sailor is overthinking a simple task. Here’s how the Navy publication, All Hands describes the term:
“The phrase is often used by sailors as a way to say stop over thinking things in the way a nuclear officer might. Don’t dissect everything down to its nuts and bolts. Just stop thinking. But that’s the thing; sailors who are part of the nuclear Navy can’t stop. They have no choice but to nuke it.”
On October 14, 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Yeager, a West Virginia native, was a combat pilot during World War II, flying 64 missions over Europe. He claimed 13 Axis kills and was shot down over France. He evaded the Nazis on the ground with aid from the French Underground. After the war ended, he was one of the pilots to test-fly the experimental X-1 rocket plane, built by the Bell Aircraft Company specifically to attempt to break the sound barrier, something many thought impossible.
Many thought the drag from supersonic speed would tear an airplane apart until Yeager flew his X-1 over Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California. A B-29 carried his X-1 to 25,000 feet and then released it through the bomb bay, blasting to 40,000 feet and then to 662 miles per hour which is the sound barrier at that altitude. The rocket plane, nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis,” was designed with a .50 caliber bullet in mind.
The project was still classified however, and Yeager’s speed was not announced until June 1948. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975 with the rank of brigadier general. Yeager, now 92, tweeted this on the 2015 anniversary of his first supersonic flight:
Today, 68 years ago, at 10:24am,I broke the sound barrier w/ only 1.5 minutes of fuel. I told Ridley: Something wrong with this Mach meter
President Donald Trump signed a bill April 19 to temporarily extend a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector, part of an effort by the president to deliver on a campaign promise.
The extension will give Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a more comprehensive plan to allow veterans to more easily go outside the VA health system for care. Under the bill Trump signed into law, the VA will be allowed to continue operating its Choice Program until the funding runs out, which is expected early 2018.
The program was scheduled to expire on Aug. 7 with nearly $1 billion left over.
Trump said veterans have “not been taken care of properly” and that the program will continue to be able to see “the doctor of their choice.”
“You got it? The doctor of their choice,” he repeated for emphasis.
Shulkin, who attended the bill signing, has said the money is needed to pay for stopgap services while he works on the longer-term plan. He said April 19 that the plan is due in the fall. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA health system.
Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care.
“It’s this approach where veterans can get care wherever they need it that really is the way that we’re going to address all the needs and honor our commitments to our veterans,” he said after Trump signed the bill.
The Choice Program was put in place after a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months to be scheduled for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.
The program is intended to provide more timely care by allowing veterans to go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own.
The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.
Major veterans’ organizations and Democrats support a temporary extension of the Choice Program, but are closely watching the coming VA revamp of the program for signs that the Trump administration may seek greater privatization. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers.
Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care “at a private service provider of their own choice.”
Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done. Lucas said the Choice Program was a well-intentioned “quick fix” to the Phoenix scandal, but that it remains flawed and has forced too many veterans to seek care at what he termed failing VA facilities.
“Congress now has some time to work with Secretary Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms that will truly put the veteran at the center of their health care and remove VA bureaucrats as the middlemen,” Lucas said. “We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to.”
Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program. He said those appointments would have otherwise “lagged” in the VA scheduling system.
More than 1 million out of 9 million veterans in the VA system use some Choice care, with agency data pointing to even greater use this year.
McCain, a Navy veteran, said the extension “sends an important message that we will not send our veterans back to the status quo of unending wait-times for appointments and substandard care.” He said more work is needed, but called the legislation “an important first step.”
Shulkin has said he would like to expand veterans’ access to private care by eliminating the Choice Program’s current 30-day, 40-mile restrictions. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and “customer service,” something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.
Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.
On September 11, 2007, Russia announced to the world that it had successfully tested the world’s most powerful nonnuclear bomb.
The “father of all Bombs,” (FOAB)named in response to America’s smaller “mother of all Bombs,” has the power of a nuclear bomb but does not produce chemical or radioactive fallout.
“The results of tests of the aviation explosive device that has been created have shown that it is comparable with nuclear weapons in its efficiency and potential,” Alexander Rukshin, deputy chief of the Russian armed forces, told Russia’s ORT First Channel in 2007.
“The main destruction is inflicted by an ultrasonic shockwave and an incredibly high temperature. All that is alive merely evaporates. At the same time, I want to stress that the action of this weapon does not contaminate the environment, in contrast to a nuclear one.”
The lack of environmental damage from the FOAB is as a double-edged sword as it makes the bomb less likely to cause the sort of massive destruction that a nuclear bomb would produce through fallout. This lack of fallout, though, also heightens the chances that the FOAB would be used in a military confrontation.
The FOAB, according to RT, is a thermobaric bomb. This sort of weapon explodes in midair, which ignites a fuel-air mixture.
This then proceeds to cause an incredibly hot and powerful outward blast that vaporizes targets and can collapse structures. The FOAB can produce blasts and aftershocks as powerful as a nuclear blast.
The blast from the FOAB is equivalent to a blast yield of 44 tons of TNT. The FOAB has a destruction radius of nearly 1,000 feet.
Everything within that area becomes superheated to the point that surfaces melt, and the ground takes on an almost moon-like quality.
In addition, the burning of gases within the vicinity by the blast produces a vacuum, which can compound damage by dragging nearby objects toward the epicenter of the explosion.
The Tuskegee Airmen, who were referred to as “Red Tails” due to their brightly painted aircraft tails, were an all-black fighter group during WWII and consisted of more than 900 pilots. Hardy, among 354 others, were sent overseas to conduct bomber escort missions.
“The greatest thing about this is that there’s a Red Tail flying in England,” Hardy said. “It means so much to us that there’s a Red Tail still around.”
A bomber was never lost to enemy fire during their escort missions. However, the group lost 66 Tuskegee Airmen during the war.
Flying the restored P-51D Mustang, nicknamed “Tall in the Saddle”, was Peter Teichman, Hangar 11 Collection pilot. Teichman tracked down Hardy through history groups after acquiring the retiree’s original P-51.
“Colonel George Hardy is a real war hero, the real deal,” Teichman said. “I never thought I would get to meet the colonel or to take him flying. He’s a very remarkable man, and men like him need to be remembered.”
Hardy completed 21 sorties in his P-51 during WWII. He was only 19, and he didn’t even have a driver’s license.
“So many great pilots, and I was flying with them,” Hardy said. “You couldn’t beat that – I was on top of the world. We demonstrated that we could fly like anyone else. ”
Hardy, 71 years later, reunited with his plane, completed one last flight to RAF Lakenheath to share his story with the Liberty Airmen who awaited his arrival.
“This is a huge honor for us here at the 48th Fighter Wing,” said Col. Evan Pettus, 48th Fighter Wing commander. “The Tuskegee Airmen have a very rich history and an incredibly important place in the culture and heritage of the United States and the United States Air Force. To see him here on RAF Lakenheath in his aircraft is very, very special for us.”
Following the heroics of the famed Red Tails during WWII, the U.S. Air Force was established and became the first service to integrate racially. Many attribute this milestone in U.S. history to the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen and those who served with them.
With the use of a massive ship and a cover story involving billionaire Howard Hughes, the CIA pulled off one of the most epic heists of the Cold War during the 1970s.
The story begins in 1968, with the sinking of a Soviet submarine. In September of that year, the nuclear-armed K-129 and all of its crew sank 16,500 feet to the bottom of the Pacific ocean. The Soviets conducted an unsuccessful search over the next two months — and that’s where the CIA comes in.
After the Soviet Navy failed to pinpoint the location of the wreckage, the US Navy found it. So the CIA decided to raise it off the seabed. They called this mission “Project Azorian,” and its details have been an official secret for decades. It took three years for retired CIA employee David Sharp to get permission to publish in 2012 his account of the mission and his role.
Onboard the sub were live nukes, secret documents, electronics, and cryptography equipment that could help the Americans crack Soviet codes, according to Maritime Reporter. But the CIA couldn’t just build a massive recovery ship emblazoned with “US Navy” on its side and get to work in the middle of the Pacific. The Soviets would be very suspicious.
Long before the CIA concocted the fake movie “Argo” to rescue hostages in Iran, it brilliantly bullsh–ted the Soviets with the help of an eccentric billionaire. The agency approached Howard Hughes, and recruited his help in providing the cover story: The ship, called the Glomar Explorer, would be conducting marine research “at extreme ocean depths and mining manganese nodules lying on the sea bottom. The ship would have the requisite stability and power to perform the task at hand,” according to the CIA’s account of the operation.
The massive 618-foot-long ship took four years to build, and was incredibly complicated. Meanwhile, Hughes was talking up the mining effort in the press, enjoying headlines like “SECRET PLAN: HUGHES TO MINE OCEAN FLOOR.”
While Moscow had no idea what was going on, in August 1974 the Explorer wrapped its mechanical claw around the K-129 and began raising it up from its three-mile depth. Unfortunately, the operation did not go exactly as planned: As it neared 9,000 feet below the surface, the claw failed and a large part of K-129 broke apart and fell, according to PRI. But the CIA still managed to bring up the ship’s bow, with the bodies of six Russian sailors.
The CIA could have given it another try (and planned on it) if it had time to build a new claw, except the secret operation was exposed in the press shortly after Hughes’ L.A. headquarters had a break-in. The thieves had stolen a number of secret documents, one of which linked Hughes, Glomar, and the CIA. The Los Angeles Times broke the story in 1975.
There’s are a few interesting post-scripts to the story. The bodies of the Russian sailors were buried at sea in a secret ceremony, video of which was later shared with the Soviets in 1992 as a gesture of goodwill. And the Glomar Explorer was later bought by TransOcean and converted for deepwater oil drilling, though it’s soon headed to the scrapyard after 40 years of service.
But perhaps most famously, the incident highlighted the CIA’s standard “Glomar Response,” an incredible non-answer that has annoyed everyone from average Joes to journalists alike: “We can neither confirm or deny the existence of such an operation.”
We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.
As Hurricane Hermine passed through Florida last week and moved northward, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia was faced with the problem of protecting its F-22 Raptors.
Costing about $140 million a pop, not including development costs, the stealth aircraft became vulnerable to the elements as Virginia declared a state of emergency.
That’s when the Air Force reached out to NASA’s Langley Research Center nearby.
With 85,200 square feet of space in their hangar, NASA’s Category 2 hurricane-rated facility seemed like the ideal location to hold 13 F-22s. After it was all said and done, 22 aircraft, including a massive C-130, was squeezed into the hangar.
The Air Force even showed their gratitude with the following tweet:
Considered the toughest and most disciplined basic training of all military branches, Marine Corps boot camp is a 12-week transformation of civilian recruit to a United States Marine. Tasked with the daunting challenge of transforming recruits to Marines are drill instructors, each of which are the embodiment of the most highly-trained and disciplined Marines the Corps has.
With the recruits every moment from when they step on the yellow footprints to graduation, drill instructors challenge each recruit until they are all instilled with the long standing traditional Marine Corps values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. While earning the title Marine is the most proud moment a recruit will have, every Marine will never forget the terrifying moments they had courtesy of their Drill Instructors.
Here are 23 photos that capture those terrifying moments every recruit will have while earning the title United States Marine.
1. Civilians who have enlisted but have not yet been sent to boot camp are called ‘Poolees’ and will have functions with Drill Instructors where they get a taste of what boot camp will be like.
2. A receiving Drill Instructor gives instructions and orders to new recruits as they stand on the infamous yellow footprints at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
3. The look a Drill Instructor gives to recruits just before they walk through the doors of MCRD can send a chill down their spine. In this moment, recruits realize their challenge to earn the title United States Marine is about to begin.
4. When recruits call home to say they have arrived safely, their family has no idea that their future Marine could be surrounded by Drill Instructors.
5. Some recruits have been known to lose all bowel control when receiving their first knife hand from a Drill Instructor.
6. “Black Friday” is when recruits meet the Drill Instructors tasked with turning them into Marines. Their Senior Drill Instructor makes the recruits feel terrified of not living up to the high expectations and challenges he sets for them.
7. Once the Senior Drill Instructor is finished setting his expectations, he has his DI’s carry out the plan for the rest of the day with speed and intensity.
8. Drill Instructors are skilled at being able to break every recruit down mentally…
9. …and physically.
10. To recruits, it may feel like Drill Instructors hate them. They do.
11. Drill Instructors make it clear that they will never allow you to quit on yourself … even if you do.
12. There is no avoiding the wrath of a DI once their attention is focused on you.
13. Chances are your loud will not be loud enough!
14. No matter if across the squad bay or right in front of them, recruits can feel the glare of a Drill Instructor pierce through them.
15. “Brimming” is an intimidation technique where Drill Instructors get so close to the recruit when they correct them that they can bounce the brim of their “smokey bear” campaign cover off of them.
16. Although physically and emotionally exhausted, the last thing a recruit wants to do is fall asleep during a class and wake up to a DI in their face.
17. Drill Instructors turn disciplining recruits in to an art form.
18. Drill Instructors swarming. Basically, this is a recruits worst nightmare.
19. Whether one foot away or 100 feet from a recruit, Drill Instructors will use the same high level of volume to get their point across.
20. A Drill Instructor doesn’t seem impressed at the skill level of a recruit trying to hold an ammo can over her head during a Combat Fitness Test.
21. There is no place a Drill Instructor won’t go to motivate their recruits.
22. A guaranteed way to be scolded by a Drill Instructor is to have them discover you have an unclean weapon.
23. As recruits progress through boot camp, they are subjected to inspections. The terror they feel is from the discovery of a flaw, no matter how subtle, in their uniform.
But no matter how many terrifying moments recruits may endure, it is all worth it once their Drill Instructors hand them an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor and award them the title United States Marine.
The offensive to destroy ISIS in Syria took a big step forward recently with US military advisers, helicopters, and artillery helping position a force of about 500 soldiers near a strategic damn outside of Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital.
The US military, along with Kurdish forces and the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Foces rebel group, have moved to put a stranglehold on Raqqa with shelling, air support, and ground forces at the last route in and out of the city, according to a press release.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the 68-nation mission to destroy ISIS, flew in fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed rebel group, behind enemy lines to a strategic dam.
“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull of an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve told the Times.
“Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqah from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city,” said the release. But while the US says they’re mainly backing local forces, they seem poised to take on a more active role with conventional forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Raqqa.
The Pentagon has been considering sending as many as 1,000 ground troops to help take back Raqqa from ISIS, which would signal a reversal of the Obama-era policy to fight ISIS via train and equip methods and airstrikes.
The coalition says they’ve conducted more than 300 airstrikes around Raqqa in the past month.
Syrian Democratic Forces with their Syrian Arab Coalition fighters prepare for an offensive to liberate Tabqah Dam from ISIS Mar 22 in Syria pic.twitter.com/2Ho1SQYhL1
Raqqa, situated along the Euphrates river in the mostly barren Easter Syria has been ISIS’ main Syrian stronghold since 2014.
The US, Inherent Resolve coalition partners, and local forces have been involved in a massive air and ground campaign to rid the country of the terrorist group while simultaneously carrying out similar operations in neighboring Iraq.
Syria: Our partners have rolled back ISIS territorial gains to the East, North, West of Raqqah, capturing over 7,400 sq km of territory.
That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.
Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”
“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”
The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.
It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”
In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?
If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.
Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.
But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”
The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.
So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?
The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”
“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”
Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”
A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.
Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”
“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”
While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.
“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.
In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.
But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.
Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”
Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.
Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”
But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?
It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”
Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.
The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.
And, for nearly 70 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has trained all of its academy cadets on a 295-foot sailing vessel commissioned by the Nazis, ridden on by Adolf Hitler, and originally named for the man who wrote the Nazi Party anthem.
The ship, now called the USCGC Eagle, has an amazing history.
Launched in 1936 as the SSS Horst Wessel, the vessel was always destined to be a training ship. The Nazis made her the flagship of the training fleet of the Kriegsmarine, the navy.
Hitler is believed to have rode on her only one time, but legends persist in the Coast Guard about where Hitler may have napped while on board. A sailor on the Horst Wessel in World War II, Tido Holtkamp said in a BBC interview that Hitler’s boots had nails that scratched the deck, but everyone was too afraid to say anything.
She served in this role for three years, but was sidelined at the start of World War II in 1939. For a few years, she was a dormitory for Hitler Youth. In 1942, the ship was pressed back into service with a complement of anti-air guns but they weren’t very effective. Hotkamp remembers an American bomber attempting to destroy the ship, but it only survived because the bombs missed.
The ship was captured by the British in 1945. In 1946, Allied commanders splitting up the captured spoils of war reportedly pulled the names of captured ships from a hat. A Russian commander pulled the Horst Wessel, but a U.S. officer eager to bring home the tall ship convinced him to trade it.
The ship was sailed across the Atlantic by a mixed crew of Germans and Americans. In American, she was rechristened the USCGC Eagle. It is the sixth cutter to bear the name.
When the Revenue Cutter Service — a prelude to the modern U.S. Coast Guard — began training cadets, it had no physical building to train them in. Instead, it took it’s first class of nine cadets and trained them on the USRC Dobbin, a cutter. In 1932 the academy received a permanent shore facility, but it has continued to use a sailing ship as a major part of the training process for potential officers. Since 1946, the vessel cadets have trained on has been the USCGC Eagle.
Training for emergencies is important when taking a nearly 80-year-old ship across the ocean.
Today, the training vessel also operates as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S., visiting friendly ports in the U.S. and around the world.
It has visited Kiel, its original homeport, a few times throughout history. She’s due to return next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of her trip to America.
A few presidents have been photographed on board the Eagle. The first was President Harry Truman.
President John F. Kennedy toured her and later gave a speech on deck.
Future president Lyndon B. Johnson was there for the speech by Kennedy.
Sergeant Henry Gunther was actually a private the day he charged a German machine gun nest for the last time in World War I. He had just been busted down in rank for criticizing the war in a letter he wrote home, and he wasn’t happy about it.
Luckily for millions of other soldiers and civilians in Europe, everyone knew the Armistice would come into effect on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
This is why so many question why Sgt. Gunter charged a German machine gun nest at 10:59 that same day.
Gunther and his unit came across a German position north of Verdun on Nov. 11, 1918. As they took cover from the machine guns, they received word that the war would be over in less than an hour.
That’s when Sgt. Gunther charged the position with a fixed bayonet.
The Germans fired a number of warning shots and tried to yell at Gunther – in English – to stop.
But Gunter wasn’t the only troop to die in that last hour of World War I. Some 3,000 men died in that short time. Some historians even speculate that Gunther was ordered to charge the machine guns.
Even though so many others died around the same time, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force General John J. Pershing declared that Gunther would be known as the last man killed in action in the war.
Sergeant Henry Gunther was engaged before the war started and just secured a job as a bookkeeper in the Baltimore area before he was drafted in 1917.
After his death was recorded at 10:59, his fellow troops moved his body and buried him near where his company was posted. His remains were moved to the United States in 1923.
On Veteran’s Day 2008, a memorial was constructed on the site where he was killed in Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, France.