These combat camera vets return to train young troops - We Are The Mighty
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These combat camera vets return to train young troops

It’s no longer just the higher-ranking, saltier NCOs and senior NCOs training young troops. In the world of military photojournalism, veterans who have been separated or retired for a decade or more are returning to teach the newest generations to capture stories on the battlefields.


Some of the military’s most surprisingly underreported jobs may be in the visual journalism fields. Every branch of the armed forces of the United States features teams of correspondents, photographers, and even combat artists and graphic designers.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Veteran military journalist Paul Watts Jr. mentors a student editor, an active duty combat photojournalist.

They go through the same rigorous news writing and storytelling training as any student in any j-school in America. They learn the potential for every medium in visual journalism at the military’s disposal.

One problem with this is that they also have to focus on the fight. They have to learn small unit combat, urban warfare, close-quarters battle, self-aid and buddy care — the list goes on and on — and drill it into their muscle memory, not to mention learning the particulars of their branch of service.

When these young combat camera troops get into active service, they are thrown into an oft-underfunded world of retirement ceremonies, passport photos, and base change of command ceremonies.

Imagine a potentially world-class photographer working a Sears Photo Studio.

When one of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen, or Marines gets to where the action is, they need to be able to adequately show and tell the military’s story. It’s not just for history’s sake, it can literally mean life and death for their subjects.

“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” says Stacy Pearsall, an Air Force combat camera veteran, referring to the Army units she covered during the Iraq War. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”

Military photojournalists have since taken it upon themselves to train their youngest and greenest combat troops in the artistry of visual media. These veterans want to turn every one of the newbies into award-winning multimedia storytellers.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Andrew Breese, award-winning producer from Airman mentors a team on site for the Shoot Off competition portion.

It’s not just higher-ranking active duty. Juan Femath is a veteran Air Force aerial videographer. In 2011, he and some fellow Air Force and Army veterans decided to help the military do a better job of telling its own story.

“The photographers in the military have a great culture of older guys coming back to teach the younger troops,” Femath says. “There are so many photography workshops where skilled military photogs come to speak and mentor.”

One such workshop is the D.C. Shoot Off Workshop, run by Navy Veteran and White House news photographer Johnny Bivera.

Bivera uses his professional connections to bring attention to the military photojournalism world, attracting brands like Nikon and Adobe to his training weekends.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Military cameramen train incognito on The Mall in Washington, DC.

“The best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country volunteer for this event,” Bivera says. “These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development, helping to fill training gaps for our military and civil service photographers.

The weekend-long workshop starts with a seminar portion, covering the most important storytelling and production fundamentals used by civilian media today. These lectures are given by some of the media’s most important producers — many of them veterans themselves — from companies like HBO, USA Today, NFL Films, NBC, Canon, and the Washington Post.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Participants then break into teams and go out to apply the skills they just learned. Each team produces a two to five minute multimedia piece based on a topic drawn from a hat and are given an expert media producer as a mentor to guide them through the process. There is a hard deadline: work submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for awards.

Final products often reflect the experiences and inherent creativity of military photojournalists from every branch of service. They are thoroughly judged and critiqued by a panel of experts who make themselves available to everyone’s questions.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Producers from the Washington Post and NFL Films were among previous judges.

Though the Shoot Off charges an entry fee, the most telling aspect of the Shoot Off is that no one gets paid for their time — not the sponsors, the creators, mentors, or speakers. The fees cover only the overhead costs of running the workshop.

The D.C. Shoot Off Video Workshop, now in its seventh year, will be held May 4-7, 2017. For more information and to register visit dcvideoshootoff.org. It is open to all military, civil service, government, and veteran media producers.

The still photography Shoot Off has multiple dates and is held in Washington, D.C. in the Spring and San Diego in the fall. For more information visit visualmediaone.com.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier stayed awake for 40 years after being shot in the head

After the outbreak of World War I, young Paul Kern joined millions of Hungarian countrymen in answering the call to avenge their fallen Archduke, Franz Ferdinand. He joined the Hungarian army and, shortly after, the elite corps of shock troops that would lead the way in clearing out Russian trenches on the Eastern front. In 1915, a Russian bullet went through his head, and he closed his eyes for the last time.


Which would be par for the course for many soldiers – except Kern’s eyes opened again in a field hospital.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Many, many other Austro-Hungarian eyes did not open again.

From the moment he recovered consciousness until his death in 1955, Kern did not sleep a wink. Though sleep is considered by everyone else to be a necessary part of human life. There are many physical reasons for this – sleep causes proteins in the brain to be released, it cuts off synapses that are unnecessary, and restores cognitive function. People who go without sleep have hallucinations and personality changes. Sleeplessness has even killed laboratory rats.

But for 40 years, Paul Kern experienced none of these symptoms. His biggest issue with being awake for 24 hours a day was the costs associated with being awake and functional for that extra eight hours.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

The face you make when you haven’t slept since 1915 and have time to do literally everything.

Doctors encountering Kern’s condition for the first time were always reportedly skeptical, but Kern traveled far and wide, allowing anyone who wanted to examine him to do so. The man was X-rayed in hospitals from Austria to Australia but not for reasons surrounding the bullet – the one that went through his right temple and out again – was ever found.

One doctor theorized that Kern would probably fall asleep for seconds at a time throughout the day, not realizing he had ever been asleep, but no one had ever noticed Kern falling asleep in such a way. Other doctors believed the bullet tore away all the physical area of the brain that needed to be replenished by sleep. They believed he would find only an early death because of it.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Don’t let Adderall-starved college students find out about Russian bullets.

Kern did die at what would today be considered a relatively young age. His wakefulness caused headaches only when he didn’t rest his eyes for at least an hour a day in order to give his optic nerve a much-needed break. But since Paul Kern had an extra third of his days given back to him, he spent the time wisely, reading and spending time with his closest friends. It seems he made the most of the years that should have been lost to the Russian bullet in the first place.

Articles

Mattis says ISIS militants are caught in a military vise

Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.


Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.

In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”

Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”

Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.

The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro.

“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”

Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.

“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”

It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.

In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.

With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.

“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.

Articles

The Navy wants you to stop bringing drones from home

The Navy has released a message to its entire force telling them to please get their unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, certified before taking them to the skies in any capacity.


These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Sorry, drone with its own GoPro. You’ll have to get certified before you can go on missions. (Photo: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0)

The all Navy administrative message released by the SecNav Ray Mabus reminds all Navy commanders that any aircraft owned, leased, or procured in any way by the Department of the Navy must gain an “airworthiness approval” before it can be flown in any capacity.

So, leave your commercial, off-the-shelf drones at home until you get them certified sailor (or Marine)!

The Naval Air Systems Command told WATM, “The airworthiness assessments of small [commercial off-the-shelf] UAS  focus on the safety of flight, which assesses risks to personnel and property on the ground and in the air, and that the system can be operated safely and safety risks are understood and accepted by the appropriate authority.”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
This is not a chief throwing an unauthorized drone into the sea. This is just a sailor launching a drone that does have an airworthiness approval. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bill Dodge)

For everyone hoping that this announcement came because Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli flew his drone into a Harrier engine while the big bird was attempting a vertical landing, no dice.

In their message to WATM, NAVAIR said that the ALNAV was released to alert UAS operators to existing policies because cheap, commercial drones had allowed Navy organizations who wouldn’t typically buy aircraft to do so.

The Navy is trying to bring these non-traditional aviators up to speed, not responding to Seaman Skippy’s assertion that no one had specifically said he couldn’t fly a drone over the carrier during flight ops.

Commanders with a full inventory of drones without airworthiness approvals don’t have to panic, though. NAVAIR said that it has streamlined the approval process for small, commercial drones and it can take as little as a few days.

Some factors could cause it to take much longer, such as if the drone will be used for an especially challenging purpose or in a dangerous operating environment.

Those who are curious can read the full ALNAV here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The House just passed a veteran mental healthcare act

Veterans denied basic mental health care service benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs because of an “other than honorable” discharge may soon be able to receive the care they need.


The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, spearheaded by Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican and Marine Corps combat veteran.

“Today, this House sent a critical message to our men and women in uniform,” Coffman said in a release. “That message is that you are not alone. We are here to help those suffering from the ‘invisible’ wounds of war.

“The passage of [this bill] is an important bipartisan effort to ensure that our combat veterans receive the mental health care services they need. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line,” he said.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Photo courtesy of VA.

The legislation, H.R. 918, would require the VA to provide initial mental health assessments and services deemed necessary, including for those at risk of suicide and or of harming others, regardless of whether the individual has an “other than honorable” discharge.

Currently, individuals who have such discharges, known as “bad paper,” are not eligible for veteran benefits beyond some emergency mental health services. Veterans who received a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge would still be ineligible to access the services.

“It’s important that we give all of our combat veterans, irrespective of the discharges they receive, access to mental health care through the Veterans [Affairs Department],” Coffman told Military.com during an interview in February, when he reintroduced the bill.

He is the only House member to serve in both the first Iraq War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

At the time, Coffman said of the “bad-paper” separations, “I question the nature of the discharges in the first place, and I’m exploring that.”

Read Also: This is what John McCain thinks of the VA’s Veterans CARE Act proposal

May 2017 Government Accountability Office report found 62 percent of the 91,764 service members separated for minor forms of misconduct between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2015 had been diagnosed within two years prior to separation with post- traumatic stress disordertraumatic brain injury or other conditions that could be associated with their misconduct, according to the release.

The bill applies to those with other-than-honorable discharges who served in a combat zone or area of hostilities; piloted unmanned aircraft; or experienced a military sexual trauma.

The VA secretary can sign off on outside care if specific care at a VA facility is clinically inadvisable; or if the VA is unable to provide necessary mental health care due to geographic location barriers.

H.R. 918 also requires the VA to establish a formal “character of service” determination process, triggering reviews of the “character of discharge” for potential eligibility of VA benefits.

High Ground Veterans Advocacy, a grassroots organization training veterans to become leaders and activists in their local communities, has advocated for the move.

“There are some veterans out there who’ve been waiting for this day for decades — but there’s still a fight ahead of us,” said High Ground founder and chairman Kristofer Goldsmith.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

“Until the Senate passes this bill, and the president signs it — some of our nation’s most vulnerable veterans, who served between Vietnam and today’s Forever Wars, are being denied the holistic care that they deserve from the VA,” he said in an email.

Goldsmith continued, “Today, the House recognized that the United States has failed to care for hundreds of thousands of veterans in the way that they deserve — veterans who were administratively discharged and stripped of a lifetime of essential benefits without the right to due process.

“But the problem isn’t yet fixed. Until Congress holds hearings dedicated to looking at the problem of bad-paper discharges, we won’t have all available solutions on the table,” he said.

Articles

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Ellis behind the controls of a U.S. Army Blackhawk. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)


By the time Nate Ellis reached the sixth grade he knew there were two things he wanted to do with his life: make movies and fly airplanes for the military.

Ellis was raised in a family with military experience. His father had joined the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era as a way to avoid the draft and his older brother had joined the Air Force ROTC program as a way to pay for college. He says he was the first among them to go in actually motivated to serve.

“All I wanted to do was Army aviation,” he said.

Ellis attended Austin Peay State University in Tennessee on a ROTC scholarship and wound up the top-ranked cadet nationwide among aviation selectees. Three days after graduation he found himself at Fort Rucker ready to start flight school. A year or so later he was a Blackhawk pilot.

In time he found himself in Afghanistan, stationed at Shindand Air Base in the western area of the country as part of the 4th CAB contingent there. He was assigned as the “battle captain,” overseeing all of the unit’s air operations, a position of great responsibility.

He was also flying Blackhawk sorties, and one night he launched as part of an air assault package comprised of three Blackhawks and two Chinooks. The helicopters carried a total of 99 troops — Italian special operators and Afghan National Army regulars — for a raid to capture a “high-value target,” one of the Taliban’s bad guys.

The helicopters touched down at the LZ around 3 AM, and after the troops jumped out they immediately came under fire. The helos took off and held nearby.

“We were at the holding point listening to the chaos, waiting, burning gas,” Ellis said. “It was the worst.”

There were two Apache attack helicopters on station, but one ran out of ammo and the other took an enemy round through the cockpit. The ground force, facing overwhelming numbers, wanted to get out of there immediately. But, by the helicopters’ operating procedures, it was too hot for them to fly back in to pick them up.

The mission commander, a lieutenant colonel, made the call to go in, but only after taking a quick survey of his fellow pilots over the radio to see what they thought about the risk.

“We went up and down the line, and all aircrews said they wanted to go in,” Ellis remembered. “But everyone was concerned at the same time. Everyone knew what they were getting into.”

The LZ was in the middle of a valley, what Ellis described as “the worst place to fly into.”

He saw the gunner in the Blackhawk ahead of him return fire on a group behind a wall as his own gunner froze, unable to pull the trigger. Sixty of the troops came running at them trying to load up. The Blackhawk only had room for 12 of them, so Ellis’ crew chief heroically jumped out and sorted the situation out as the bullets landed around them. After “the longest 3 minutes of my life,” they lurched back into the air at the Blackhawk’s maximum takeoff weight.

“Because we were heavy we couldn’t yank and bank,” Ellis said. “We had to fly straight ahead. My missile warning gear was going off the whole time.”

Once he was out of harm’s way, he had an epiphany.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Nate Ellis in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)

“I was more present than I ‘d ever been in my life,” he said. “It was like all of the bullshit in my life came to the surface and skimmed off. I heard my inner voice: ‘Life is short. Live with a purpose. Do what you love.'”

And Ellis realized — along with flying Army helicopters — that he loved making movies, something he’d continue to dabble in even during the most demanding parts of his military life.

“I was always working on something while I was in,” Ellis said. “Short films — writing and directing. I’d edit them on my computer and post them to YouTube or wherever.”

After his war tour, he was stationed in South Korea while his marriage to another Army helicopter pilot came apart. “Long story short, we were separated for 18 months,” he said.

He was ready for a change in his life. So after 7 years of active duty, he resigned his commission and entered USC to get a master’s degree in filmmaking. While he immersed himself in the curriculum, he also found himself processing a lot of anger.

“I’d lose my temper if somebody jumped in front of me at a bar or cut me off in traffic,” he admitted. “I felt this sense of entitlement, like, who are they to treat me like that? Don’t they know who I am and what I’ve done?”

By his own account, it took him three years of grad school to process his emotions.

“I don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I don’t want to feel that way. Now it’s more like who cares? That guy, that girl, they have their own thing going on. They have their own path.”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

He made a name for himself among the talented grad students at USC. He created five short films, including “10,000 Miles,” his thesis film that had a $30,000 budget plus a $350,000 Panavision grant.

Ellis also made “The Fog,” which he describes as “very personal,” another short that won a faculty screenwriting award and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2016 GI Film Festival. “The Fog” was also a semi-finalist for the student Academy Awards.

Ellis left USC with an impressive body of work, and an effective Hollywood network that included his USC-assigned mentor who also happened to be the president of a major studio. With his master’s degree in hand, he’s wasted little time in making some things happen. He wrote a screenplay based on “Chickenhawk,” the classic Vietnam-era story about a helicopter pilot, and he said Harrison Ford is “interested.”

At the same time, he worked as a production assistant on “The Wall,” directed by Doug Liman (who also directed “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Bourne Identity”), wrote another screenplay targeting both Chinese and American audiences, and co-created an animated web series called “Thrift Video” that he described as “‘Adult Swim’-type humor.”

And, somewhat ironically, Ellis’ work in Hollywood placed him behind the controls of a helicopter again.

“My USC mentor introduced me to the president of Studio Wings, Steve Stafford, a Marine vet,” he explained. “I’ve been flying a Huey, one of the types of helicopters I flew during my time in the Army.”

And the Studio Wings Huey is owned by one Vince Gilligan, the creator of the hit series “Breaking Bad.” Ellis and Gilligan have co-piloted the Huey on several occasions.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Ellis in action as a director. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)

“Vince is a super-nice guy and very interested in my active duty experience,” Ellis said. “He’s also interested in my screenplay.”

Ellis is quickly learning that success in the movie business is about two things: who you know and how much talent you have.

“All this stuff is just coming out of the blue,” Ellis said. “But I love the non-linear aspect of Hollywood. You’re thrown into the big mix with everybody. How do you set yourself apart?”

Ellis has also learned when and where to leverage his military experience and the limits of it.

“The whole reason I’m flying helicopters with Vince Gilligan is because I flew helicopters in the Army,” he said. “But after that, it’s about the quality of my work.”

 

Articles

This is what the new VA chief thinks about using medical marijuana to treat PTSD

On May 31, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he is open to expanding the use of medical marijuana to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.


Shulkin said that although federal laws would limit the ability to use marijuana, he said it could be possible to take action in states where medicinal marijuana is legal.

“There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that,” Shulkin said during a press conference. “Right now, federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans … I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts and we will implement that law.”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
David Shulkin (right) seeks major VA hospital reform. (DoD Photo by Megan Garcia)

The head of the VA also said the agency he oversees is in a “critical condition,” likening the veterans’ healthcare provider to a patient in bad health.

Shulkin, a doctor appointed by former President Barack Obama, said patients wait too long for services from VA hospitals and government bureaucracy prevents the agency from firing employees who perform poorly. The VA oversees the care for more than 9 million veterans.

“I’m a doctor and I like to diagnose things, assess them, and treat them,” Shulkin said. “Though we are taking immediate and decisive steps stabilizing the organization … we are still in critical condition and require intensive care.”

“As you know, many of these challenges have been decades in building,” Shulkin added.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
Shulkin aims to improve medical services for our nation’s veterans. DoD Photo by Greg Vojtko.

In reference to the VA’s inability to fire employees quickly, Shulkin said “our accountability processes are clearly broken.”

In one example, it took the agency more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a veteran.

Shulkin said now is the time to face the VA’s challenges and address them “head on.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Marines can be so arrogant, according to a Marine

Admit it, you read that headline and thought, “Yeah! Marines are super cocky!” Well, you aren’t exactly wrong. Hell, even if you are a Marine, you’ll agree with that fact. But why are we this way? What is ingrained in our DNA that makes us so damn arrogant?


Marines already know the answer. We’re reminded of it every day while we’re on active duty. Higher-ups are constantly telling us that we’re a bunch of morons with guns bad asses backed by a long and illustrious history of proof. But, if questioned by anyone outside of the Corps, we might not have an easy answer. Furthermore, service members in other branches might be supremely annoyed by the arrogance — and who could blame them?

So, if you’re wondering why this is, here’s your answer:

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

The fighting spirit and notorious reputation we’ve gained throughout history is a huge source of arrogance for us.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

History

As mentioned above, Marines can always point to their history as proof that we really are as badass as we say. Of course, higher-ups and drill instructors might have you believe that it’s because Marines have never lost a battle or retreated but… that’s not exactly true.

Marines have definitely had to surrender, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t fight like hell beforehand. When Marines had to surrender, you can bet that they made the enemy pay for it with blood. Regardless, Marines have a history of (usually) winning battles, typically against overwhelming odds. Victory comes at a high price. The ability to do this is certainly something to be proud of.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Overcoming the challenge of boot camp is just the first step.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)

Training

Whether Marine Corps boot camp is, in fact, the toughest basic training in the military is impossible to prove, but one thing is for sure: it sucks. And then after that, if you’re a grunt, you’ll go to the School of Infantry and, any one of us will tell you that SOI sucks way worse than boot camp ever could.

Even when you hit the fleet, you’ll still have to train for deployments, and that sucks, too. But through the experience of “The Suck,” you gain a lot of pride. You overcome these insane challenges that you never thought you could, and you understand that you did so by digging deep into your own spirit to find the motivation.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Even something as simple as morning PT sucks.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.)

Lifestyle

The lifestyle of a Marine is, in short, not that great — especially considering that we almost exclusively get leftovers no one else wanted. We work with trash and usually come out on top regardless. Remember the training we were talking about? It sucks worse than everyone else’s (outside of special forces) because we simply don’t have the ability to make it any easier.

But who needs easy when you’re a badass? Not Marines. If there’s anything that lends itself to the arrogance of a Marine, it’s the lifestyle. Having to live in barracks with broken air conditioning during the summer in Hawai’i or the Stumps, eating garbage mess hall food, having strict rules regarding everything, etc. These are all things that make us believe we’re better than everyone else because we know that we have it tough, but that’s what makes us so damn good.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Marines can be some of the best people you’ll meet.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ernest Scott)

Humility

No matter what you think about arrogance or Marines or the combination of the two, Marines can be some of the most compassionate, humble people you’ll ever meet, and it’s specifically because of our tough lifestyle. We don’t have the best gear to work with and our living quarters suck, but we learn to live with less and it teaches us to appreciate little things.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Civilian contractors receive top valor medal for Afghan gunfight

Three retired soldiers were honored at the Pentagon on Aug. 14, 2018, for exceptional gallantry in action against an armed enemy while serving in Afghanistan as civilian contractors.

Retired Army Master Sgt. William Timothy Nix, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Anthony Dunne and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Ray Seabolt received the Medal of Valor, the Defense Department’s highest civilian award for valor.

Nix was working as a civilian contractor at a coalition base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2015, when he heard the massive boom of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.


“I just grabbed a weapon and ran out,” Nix said.

Insurgents had breached the entrance at Camp Integrity, launching the deadly attack with a vehicle-borne IED and then using direct fire, hand grenades and suicide vests.

Nix and Dunne, a fellow contractor, rushed to the fight, teaming up with military personnel to defend the camp, suppress the enemy and evacuate the wounded.

“[The insurgents] blew the whole front of the camp. The gate came off. It collapsed the guard tower out there,” Dunne said, recalling that a suicide vest exploded 30 feet away from him. He thought he would die, he said, but he kept fighting.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Mr. Ray Seabolt, Mr. Tony Dunne, and Mr. Tim Nix will be presented the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor.

(Screenshot from DoD video)

Nix was serving as an irregular warfare analyst for the NATO Special Operations Component Command Afghanistan in support of the Resolute Support mission. Dunne was an operations intelligence integrator there.

Fighting was intense and the situation was chaotic, they recalled. Army 1st Sgt. Peter “Drew” McKenna Jr., who was leading the charge against the terrorists, was killed, as were eight Afghan contractors.

Their citations laud their heroism for exposing themselves to direct enemy fire, hand grenades, suicide vests, and other explosives to suppress insurgents who had breached the camp. Their actions undoubtedly saved countless lives at great risk to their own lives, their citations read.

Bravery During Attack in Helmand

Seabolt received the Medal of Valor for his actions in response to an attack near Helmand on Dec. 17, 2015. He had spent 22 years in the Army and was serving as a civilian contractor and counter-IED expert with the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Agency.

On a mission with U.S. Special Forces and Afghan commandos, something didn’t add up for Seabolt, he recalled. He knew very well that could be an ominous sign. “We walked inside this compound,” he said. “There was an open door, and I said, ‘That’s not normal.'”

Then, the withering, close range, semi-automatic and automatic fire from the enemy began. “We entered the compound with about 10 people, and there were two of us left in the fight,” he recalled. Two Afghan commandos were killed; the others were wounded.

Seabolt’s citation lauds his exceptional actions in exposing himself to enemy fire and suppressing the insurgents so Afghan commandos and U.S. Special Forces could move forward. He single-handedly fended off the insurgent onslaught until the return of other team members, it reads.

“Mr. Seabolt’s bravery and confidence instilled courage among the entire force, resulting in effective fires on the target, softening the objective and allowing the recovery force to approach with little resistance,” according to the citation.

Honoring Citizen-Warriors

Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency‘s deputy director for combat support, said he is honored and humbled to call the men Americans heroes and partners and colleagues in service to the nation.

“We honor these three men for the remarkable valor they exhibited on the battlefield, for reminding us of the awesome power of the human spirit and for symbolizing the fearless determination of great warfighters,” he said.

The men, who are all former special operators, exhibited the very best of what it means to be a servant and a citizen-warfighter, he said.

“Each of these award citations serves as a moving testament — and a fitting reminder — that the work being done by those who fight on the front lines and protect us all is exceptional, essential and extraordinary,” Rogers said.

Featured image: Left to right: Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, Defense Threat Reduction Agency deputy director for combat support, applauds after awarding the Medal of Valor to Michael Anthony Dunne, William Timothy Nix and Brandon Ray Seabolt at the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2018. The men, retired military special operators, were recognized for their actions against an armed enemy while serving as civilian contractors in Afghanistan.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Finland accuses Russia of scrambling GPS during war games

Finland’s prime minister said on Nov. 11, 2018, that GPS signals in the country were intentionally disrupted during NATO military exercises in the region over the past few weeks and the culprit could have been Russia.

Finnish air-navigation services issued a warning for air traffic on Nov. 6, 2018, due to a large-scale GPS interruption in the north of the country. Norway posted a similar warning about loss of GPS signals for pilots in its own airspace at the end of the October 2018.

The NATO exercise, called Trident Juncture, ran from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.


“It is technically reasonably easy to interfere with the radio signal in the open space,” Prime Minister Juha Sipila told public broadcaster Yle. “It is possible that Russia has been the disrupting party in this. Russia is known to possess such capabilities.”

Sipila, who is a pilot, said the goal of such interference would be to demonstrate the culprit’s ability to do so and that the incident would be treated as a breach of Finland’s airspace.

“We will investigate, and then we will respond,” he said. “This is not a joke. It threatened the air security of ordinary people.”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops

Finnish military personnel in formation at the Älvdalen training grounds in Sweden, Oct. 27, 2018.

(Finnish Defence Force photo by VIlle Multanen)

Finland is not a NATO member, but it took part in Trident Juncture, which NATO officials said was the alliance’s largest exercise in decades. Forces from 31 countries — all 29 NATO members, Finland, and Sweden — participated in the exercise, which took place close to Russian borders in an area stretching from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

The exercise involved some 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and dozens of ships and aircraft. While much of the activity was based in central and southern Norway, fighter jets and other military aircraft used airports in northern Norway and Finland.

Russia dismissed Finland’s suggestion that it intentionally interfered with GPS signals. “We are not aware that there could be something to do with GPS harassment in Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Nov. 12, 2018.

Finland shares an 830-mile border and a fraught history with Russia. In recent years, Helsinki has moved closer to NATO but stopped short of joining the alliance, in keeping with its history of avoiding confrontation with its larger eastern neighbor.

Russia has warned Finland and Sweden, which is also a close NATO partner but not an alliance member, against joining the defense bloc.

Reuters contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China debuts stunning missile that could nuke US cities

China has successfully tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a potential “hypersonic strike weapon” that could one day be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and evading all existing defense networks like the US missile shields, according to Chinese state-run and state-affiliated media, citing experts and the domestic designers.


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The Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic experimental waverider vehicle designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing can reportedly achieve a top speed six times the velocity of sound.

During the recent test, conducted Aug 3, 2018, at an unspecified location in northwestern China, the aircraft was first carried by a multistage solid-fueled rocket before it separated to rely on independent propulsion — it is said to have maintained speeds above Mach 5.5 for 400 seconds. The max speed was reportedly Mach 6 or 4,600 miles per hour, according to the state-run China Daily.

The wedge-shaped vehicle made several high-altitude and large-angle maneuvers at a maximum altitude of a little over 18 miles. The aircraft then landed in the targeted area as intended, with observers touting the test as a “huge success.”

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This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

How this Navy jet ended up 3,000 feet under the Atlantic

The US Coast Guard rescued a Navy pilot whose jet crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Keys.


Lt. Russ Chilcoat said in a news release the pilot ejected and was rescued in early August with no apparent injuries. The crash happened some 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Key West. The pilot, whose name wasn’t released, was the only person on board.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
A US Navy Northrop F-5N Tiger II  assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 “Sun Downers” launches from Boca Chica Field of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. (US Navy photo)

Chilcoat says parts of the F-5N were recovered but the rest is under about 3,000 feet (900 meters) of water. He says the Navy has no immediate plans to recover the aircraft.

The pilot is attached to Fighter Composite Squadron 111, the “Sun Downers,” based at Naval Air Station Key West. Officials say the jet was conducting training operations and the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Colombia is still fighting its decades-long drug war

After hitting a low in 2012, Colombia’s cultivation of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, jumped 134% between 2013 and 2016, US officials said late 2017.


2016 alone saw a 52% increase in the area under coca cultivation, rising to 360,774 acres from 237,221 acres in 2015, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Potential cocaine production jumped 34%, from 712 tons in 2015 to 954 tons a year later.

The amount of cocaine seized in the country also rose by nearly half, the UNODC said, from 253,591 kilos in 2015 to 378,260 kilos in 2016. That was accompanied by a 26% increase in the number of illegal cocaine labs destroyed, from 3,827 in 2015 to 4,842 the following year. (The real amounts are likely much higher than official estimates.)

Also read: Argentina found 400 kilos of cocaine in the Russian embassy

Colombia has faced pressure from the US to clamp down on that surge, but there were a variety of factors that drove it through 2016, when the government signed a peace accord with left-wing rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Under that deal, the government has pursued crop-substitution and alternative-development programs to pull farmers away from coca.

But a lack of resources has hindered implementation of those programs, and in lieu of an alternative, Colombian growers have forged ahead with the only one they can grow profitably.

“What really happened, I think, is that the government did stop fumigating, which was a factor,” said Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America. “It also cut way back on manual eradication, and it didn’t make a presence” in often-marginalized parts of the country where cultivation has been the most intense, Isacson told Business Insider.

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
A coca farmer worker speaks with the police during a working day of manual eradication in Taraza, Colombia. (Photo by William Fernando Martinez)

Isacson, who spent a month on the ground in Colombia in February 2018, pointed to Putumayo, a department on Colombia’s southern border.

“That fringe area with Ecuador is no-man’s land, and nobody’s seen an eradicator or a development official, same for most of Catatumbo,” he told Business Insider, referring to a region in the northwest Colombian department of Norte de Santander, where cultivation is also intense.

Related: How the Coast Guard intercepts half a million pounds of cocaine

“So if it’s no-man’s land and you see your neighbor’s now got waist-high coca bushes, and they’re two years old and nobody’s messed with him, it’s probably pretty tempting to grow it yourself,” Isacson said.

Efforts to get farmers to grow other crops have faltered because they aren’t economically viable — in part because getting those crops to market from rural, isolated areas eats away the profit margin.

“You probably often make more with almost any other crop, but it’s always a different crop. Sometimes it’s coca. Sometimes … something else might be getting a better price than coca, but coca never goes down,” Isacson told Business Insider. “It’s just this always above-average price. It’s like an insurance policy for them.”

“The government has tried alternate-crop development and what have you, but it’s never worked, because growing breadfruit, bananas, and other crops does not come close to fetching the prices that coca does,” said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

The value of coca increases dramatically as it is refined and moves toward consumer markets.

The ton of fresh coca leaf needed to make a kilo of cocaine costs a few hundred dollars in Colombia. After its processed and turned into power, that kilo can fetch $30,000 or more in the US. On the street, once that kilo is “stepped on” by cutting it to grams and adding fillers, its total value can exceed $100,000. (Though not all that money filters back to the source.)

More: How some special operators are turning to illegal drugs to deal with deployment stress

“Coca cultivation has always been the most marketable and the highest-priced commodity that the criminal groups have engaged in, because really there’s no other crop that brings the price that cocaine does,” Vigil, who worked on the ground in Colombia while in the DEA, told Business Insider.

That doesn’t necessarily translate into a boon for farmers, however. Traffickers and criminal groups, as the main buyers, have outsize control at the point of purchase, often dictating the price.

“The farmers really don’t have a say, because they have to be able to sell the cocaine that they produce,” Vigil said. “If they don’t acquiesce to the prices of the major drug-trafficking organizations, they’re going to move on, and there’s always somebody else that they can buy it from.”

These combat camera vets return to train young troops
A member of an anti-narcotics police squad in front of a burning hut during a raid to destroy a coca laboratory near Tumaco, in southern Colombia, June 8, 2008. (Photo by William Fernando Martinez)

Farmers have also been left vulnerable by the Colombian government, which has forged ahead with manual eradication, which has vastly outstripped the building of roads and infrastructure that would support alternative development and cultivation of other crops, in part because of an economic downturn that has lashed the government’s budget.

And while nearly 30,000 families are now receiving benefits from Colombia’s Comprehensive Program for Illicit Crop Substitution, that’s only about one-quarter of the families who have signed collective agreements, which is just the first step in a long process to get aid.

Also read: Cocaine bust highlights growing Air Force role in Southern hemisphere

With a lack of state support, farmers interested in moving out of the coca trade are often exposed to FARC dissidents and other criminal groups, who have rushed to fill the vacuum left by demobilizing FARC units and want farmers to continue tending coca bushes.

“They don’t have the money to support us, and the pressure to continue [growing coca] is fierce,” a community leader in the isolated southwest municipality of Tumaco — a global hub for coca — said in late 2016, after a deadly clash between state security forces and farmers protesting efforts to destroy their coca.

In January 2018, the Colombian government sent 2,000 troops to Tumaco to contain violence there.

“What we have seen — in Norte de Santander it’s happened [and] in Putumayo to some extent — is people signing on to the crop-substitution programs [and] getting threatened or killed for … abandoning it.”

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