The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked - We Are The Mighty
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The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked

It’s always fun to sit around and war game which country could beat up which, and it’s even better when you have hard facts to back up your decisions.


Below is a summary of the top ten militaries in the world, according to Global Firepower, which tracks military power through publicly-available sources. We’ve scrapped Global Firepower naval comparisons since they track naval strength by number of ships, making a patrol boat equal to a supercarrier. This list of the largest navies by weight is being used instead.

Below the spreadsheet we’ve added a breakdown of each military power.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Germany and Turkey’s naval tonnage come from Wikipedia.com

Breakdown

1. United States of America

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz

No real surprise here. The U.S. spends $577 billion per year, nearly four times more than China’s $145 billion defense budget. The U.S. is behind both India and China on all measures of manpower, but it makes up for it with vastly superior airpower and a carrier fleet larger than any other country’s entire navy.

2. Russia

America’s Cold War rival still packs a major punch. Its high ranking is fueled strongly by superior armor numbers. Russia also fields a large navy and is the world’s largest oil producer. Russia is fourth for number of military personnel, but its numbers are padded by short-term conscripts. Though it isn’t calculated by GFP, Russia’s special operations forces and propaganda arms have been proving themselves in Ukraine where Russia is a major destabilizing force.

3. China

China has the second largest military budget, third largest fleet of aircraft, second largest tank force, and the world’s largest number of military personnel. China’s special forces also took 3 of the top 4 spots at 2014‘s Warrior Games in Jordan. Though China technically has a draft, it is rarely used.

4. India

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Antônio Milena

India’s ranking is largely due to its large labor force and large number of service members. It also has a large fleet of aircraft and tanks as wells as a respectable navy. It suffers though due to a large amount of oil consumption vs. a very small amount of oil production. Interestingly, India’s Border Force is the only modern military force that maintains a camel-mounted regiment.

5. United Kingdom

Despite a small tank force, low number of aircraft, and low number of military personnel, the United Kingdom maintains a spot in the top five with the world’s fifth largest navy and fifth highest military budget. The British military is also aided by geography as it’s hard for an invading force to attack an island.

6. France

France doesn’t post up the most impressive numbers of ships, planes, and tanks, but what equipment it has is modern and very capable. Mirage and Rafale jets, Tiger helicopters, LeClerc main battle tanks, and the only nuclear-powered carrier outside the U.S. provide the main muscle behind the French military. France also manufacturers much of its own military supplies, meaning it has the ability to create more equipment in a protracted war.

7. South Korea

Though South Korea has the sixth largest military by population, the sixth largest fleet of aircraft in the world, and the eighth largest navy, it has a relatively small budget and armored corps. Its largest threat is North Korea which, despite having the largest navy by number of ships, is weak because of antiquated equipment and undertrained personnel.

8. Germany

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

Germany got a decent rank on Global Firepower and a great one at National Interest due to a strong economy, military spending, and good training. However, news coming out of Germany suggests its position may be weaker than it appears on paper. It consumes much more oil than it produces, and imports come from Russia, its most likely adversary. Germany’s ability to weather an oil shortage is also decreasing as it moves away from coal and nuclear power. Also, it’s facing a major problem with its standard rifle.

9. Japan

Japan would be ranked higher if its people had a greater appetite for war. The sixth largest military spender, it has the fifth largest air fleet and the fourth largest navy. Still, a lackluster ground game drags it down and its constitution limits the military’s ability to project force worldwide.

10. Turkey

An expanded military industry bodes of good things to come for Turkey’s military. It has a large military population and tank force. It is upgrading its navy. The Turkish preparations for war are becoming more urgent as ISIS stands at its doorstep.

NOW: The most-epic military movie ever needs your help to get made

OR: The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

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These three dogs helped top leaders win World War II

A true warfighting professional knows how to be civilized at armed conflict. And what many military greats learned over the ages is that there’s nothing like a friendly animal by your side to keep you calm and centered when things get kinetic. And when it comes to friendly animals, a dog is hard to beat.


Here are three dogs that did their part keeping their masters focused during World War II:

1. Gen. George S. Patton’s American Bull Terrier Willie

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Gen. Omar Bradley talking to Gen. George S. Patton as Patton’s dog Willie takes a snooze in his favorite chair. Photo: U.S. Army)

Patton acquired an American bull terrier in 1944 and named him “William the Conqueror,” although the dog proved to be anything but aggressive and was actually scared of gunfire. But in spite of his timid disposition Patton loved him like few other living things on the planet.

‘My bull pup . . . took to me like a duck to water. He is 15 months old, pure white except for a little lemin [sic] on his tail which to a cursory glance would seem to indicate that he had not used toilet paper,’ Patton wrote in his diary.

2. Commander-in-chief Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottie Fala

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
FDR and his dog Fala. (Official White House photo)

FDR received his dog Fala from a cousin in 1940 with the idea that a canine companion would keep the commander-in-chief more relaxed during stressful times. The president and his dog became inseparable from that point forward, which arguably made Fala the most famous White House pet of all times.

According to the Daily Mail, the pup was given obedience training before he formally took up residence in the White House in November 1940, where he could be spotted attending press conferences. He even learned how to stand at attention on his hind legs when the national anthem was played.

The adorable Scottie captured the hearts of Americans and became a national symbol as World War II spread across Europe.

3. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Scottie Telek

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Ike talking to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in October of 1943. (Photo: AP)

Like Patton, Ike also relied on a faithful dog during the war.  Telek was surrounded by controversy however, as it was rumored that the dog was co-owned by his mistress and driver Kay Summersby.

‘One day when they were driving in the country, Kay mentioned that she wanted a dog,’ according to Dr. Ronnie Elmore, a professor from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in an interview with a school publication in 2004 about Ike’s pet.

Though numerous Eisenhower contemporaries have refuted claims of a torrid love affair, Summersby inherited the Scottie after his departure from Europe, further sparking rumors of the intimate bond between the two.

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Dale Dye wants to make this epic World War II movie with veterans


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Dale Dye wants to make the “air version” of “Saving Private Ryan,” and he wants to film it with as many military veterans as possible.
“If you think of the first 18 minutes or so of ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ” Dye said, “This will be that but airborne. This will be guys coming out of those aircraft and sky full of tracers.”
 
Dye wrote the script for “No Better Place to Die” from a story he’d studied during his active duty days. He felt the story perfectly exemplifies what Americans troops can do when they come together after everything goes wrong.
 
It’s about the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers during the D-Day invasion and their contribution to winning the war. If it weren’t for these troops, the German’s may have pushed the allied beach invasion back out to sea, according to Dye.
 
While the filmmaking world knows him as Hollywood’s drill sergeant, Dye has reserved the director’s seat for himself.
 
“Given what I’ve done in my 30-year career the only way this going to get done right — the only way this is going to blow people right out of their seats — is if I direct it because I know how,” Dye said. “I know how to do this cool.”
 
As for hiring veterans, Dye is looking to fill on and off camera roles to make a filmmaking statement.
 
“My absolute promise is that I’m going to make this movie with as many veterans in front of the camera and behind the camera as I can find,” Dye said. “That’s the way I’m going to do it. I’m hoping that it will serve as a showcase to Hollywood. It will show them the talent that’s out there and what these folks can do. What they bring to the table and how motivated they can be, and I want to demonstrate that.”

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and managing editor

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Guest: Captain Dale Dye

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Captain Dale Dye at We Are The Mighty

Before Dale Dye was making some of our favorite military movies, he was fighting America’s wars overseas, eventually retiring as a Marine Corps captain. Having been around infantrymen all his life, he knew we were badly represented on film. The majority are intelligent, creative, and full of heart.

He felt the image of the dumb boot blindly following orders was a grave disservice to those brave service members who had risked and often gave their lives so that our nation could survive and prosper. So he looked for the best medium available to reach the hearts and minds of the public to spread his message — film and television.

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11 legends of the US Marine Corps

Thousands of heroes have emerged since the U.S. Marine Corps was founded on November 10, 1775. Here are 11 among them who became Leatherneck legends:


1. Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps

Lewis “Chesty” Puller joined the Marines during World War I, but that war ended before he was deployed. He saw combat in Haiti and Nicaragua before the outbreak of World War II.

In the Pacific theater of World War II, Puller led an American advance that succeeded against a huge Japanese force at Guadalcanal. During the Korean War Puller and his Marines conducted a fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir that crippled seven Chinese divisions in the process. He remains one of America’s most decorated warriors with 5 Navy Crosses and numerous other high-level awards.

2. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps

Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called “the fightinest Marine I ever knew” by Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. He is possibly most famous for leading outnumbered and outgunned Marines in a counterattack at the Battle of Belleau Wood with the rallying cry, “Come on, you sons of b-tches, do you want to live forever?”

He also received two Medals of Honor. The first was for single-handedly holding a wall in China as Chinese snipers and other soldiers tried to pick him off. The second was awarded for his role in resisting an ambush by Caco rebels in Haiti and then leading a dawn counterattack against them.

3. Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps

Like Daly, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler is one of the few people who have received two Medals of Honor. His first was for leading during the assault and occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1914. Eighteen months later he led a group of Marines and sailors against Caco rebels holed up in an old French fort. For his bravery during the hand-to-hand combat that followed, he was awarded his second Medal of Honor.

Butler also led troops in combat during the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, Nicaragua, and World War I France.

4. Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

John Basilone first served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines but switched to the Marine Corps in time for World War II. He served with distinction in the Pacific Theater and received a Medal of Honor for his actions at Guadalcanal and a posthumous Navy Cross for actions at Iwo Jima.

At Guadalcanal he emplaced two machine gun teams under fire and then manned a third gun himself, killing 38 enemy soldiers before charging through enemy lines to resupply trapped Marines. He later destroyed a Japanese blockhouse on his own and then guided a tank through a minefield and artillery and mortar barrages at Iwo Jima. While escorting the tank, he was struck by shrapnel and killed.

5. Col. John Glenn

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Col. John Glenn is probably more famous for being the first American to orbit the earth than he is for his Marine Corps career. But he is a decorated Devil Dog with six Distinguished Flying Crosses, 18 Air Medals, and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

He flew 122 combat missions in World War II and Korea and had three air-to-air kills to his credit. During a particularly harrowing mission in Korea, Glenn’s wingman experienced engine trouble immediately before 6 enemy MiGs attacked him. Then-Maj. Glenn turned into the enemy jets and drove them off, killing at least one while giving his partner time to return to base.

6. Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: Marine Corps Archives

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is one of America’s greatest snipers. He joined the Marine Corps on his 17th birthday in 1959. He distinguished himself as a marksman in basic training, set a record that was never beaten at the “A” course at USMC Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and defeated 3,000 other shooters to win the coveted Wimbledon Cup for snipers.

He was originally deployed to Vietnam as a military police officer in 1966 but was soon sent on reconnaissance patrols and then employed as a sniper.

In Vietnam he was credited with 93 confirmed kills including that of an NVA general deep in enemy territory, a female interrogator known for brutal torture, and the record-breaking 2,500-yard kill of a guerrilla with an M2 .50-cal. machine gun in single-shot mode.

7. Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland Diamond

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland Diamond was possibly the world’s saltiest and most gung-ho Marine recruit when he joined at the age of 27 in 1917. He quickly became known for being loud, not caring about rank or uniform regulations, and always being ready to fight.

He was well-known for his skill with mortars and made a name for himself in World War I at battles like Belleau Wood and St. Mihiel. He fought twice in the Sino-Japanese War and again in World War II. At Guadalcanal, the then 52-year-old mortarman drove off a Japanese cruiser before he was forced to evacuate due to “physical disabilities.”

8. Brig. Gen. Joe Foss

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps

Joe Foss joined the Marine Corps before America joined World War II and earned his aviator wings in March of 1941. After Pearl Harbor, he was deployed to the Pacific Theater and spent three months defending American-occupied Guadalcanal. Foss was shot down while strafing Japanese ships in 1942. He later tied Air Force Legend Eddie Rickenbacker’s record of 26 aerial kills.

Foss was awarded the Medal of Honor for his World War II exploits. After that war, he helped organize the American Football League and the South Dakota Air National Guard. He deployed to Korea with the Air National Guard and rose to the rank of brigadier general before retiring.  He died in 2003.

9. Cpl. Joseph Vittori

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Cpl. Joseph Vittori made his mark on Hill 749 in Korea on Sep. 16, 1951. Vittori and his fellow Marines were securing a hill they had just taken from Chinese forces when a counterattack forced a 100-yard gap that could’ve doomed the U.S. forces. Vittori and others rushed into the opening with automatic rifles and machine guns.

After hours of stubborn resistance, Vittori was shot through the chest but continued fighting. The Marines suffered more casualties and when Vittori was shot for a second time, he told his friend to run back to the ridge behind them. Vittori and his friend stopped one more wave before a shot to the face finally killed the young corporal. Vittori posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

10. Sgt. Charles Mawhinney

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps Pfc. Garrett White

Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney may not have the name recognition of Carlos Hathcock, but he has 10 more confirmed kills with 103. Mawhinney’s work in the Vietnam War was almost forgotten until a book, “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam” revealed that he had the most confirmed kills in Marine Corps history.

One of the scout sniper’s greatest engagements came when an enemy platoon was attempting to cross a river at night on Valentine’s Day to attack an American base. Mawhinney was on his own with an M-14 and a starlight scope. He waited until the platoon was in the middle of crossing the river, then dropped 16 NVA soldiers with 16 head shots.

11. Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Photo: US Marine Corps

Gilbert Johnson served in both the Army and Navy for a total of 15 years before joining the Corps. When he began Marine Corps basic training, he was nicknamed “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than many of his instructors.

He was one of the first African-Americans to join the Corps, to serve as a drill instructor, and to be promoted to sergeant major. During World War II he requested permission to conduct combat patrols and later led 25 of them in Guam.

(h/t to the U.S. Marine Corps for their 2013 “Ultimate Marine’s Marine” competition. Their bracket fueled the rankings for this article, and the cover image of this post is from their blog.)

Lists

6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

The Marine Corps infantry is a place where a boots’ dreams go to die. A fresh private first class or lance corporal might arrive at the Fleet Marine Force with loads of ambition only to have it ripped to shreds as the stark realization that they might never reach the rank of Corporal sinks in.


Today, we offer advice for lower-enlisted Infantry Marines on how to succeed in everyday tasks — the rank will come soon enough.

Related: The fascinating beginning of the term ‘grunt’

Keep in mind the following 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry:

6. Get a haircut.

Yes, we know this one is difficult when you’re out of range of the barber for weeks at a time, but when you finally can get a haircut, get something respectable that won’t result in an ass-chewing from your platoon sergeant.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
This is only acceptable if it grows during a field op. (Image via Terminal Lance)

5. Keep a clean uniform for garrison.

Higher-ups will preach until the day of their retirement that there is no such thing as “field cammies,” but grunts know otherwise — have a uniform set aside for when you’re in the rear that is always clean.

Likewise, make sure that the uniforms you have for the field and deployments are as clean and pristine as possible, but don’t worry about keeping them that way.

4. Know yourself and seek self-improvement.

This is one of the 7 Marine Corps leadership principles, but it applies to all areas Marine infantry. Know your faults and always work towards improving them.

3. Train in your off-time.

This one goes with point #4. Once you recognize your deficiencies, train in your off-time to fix them. If you’re not the strongest grunt, go to the gym. If you’re feeling underread, pick up a book.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Never stop training. (Image via Marines.mil)

2. Stay humble.

Just as you should never stop learning your trade, never see yourself as the best. Don’t believe you’re done improving because you’re not — and you never will be. Even after you’ve been praised and earned awards, maintain some humility. Be confident, but don’t be arrogant.

Also read: 9 ways not to get treated like a complete boot in the infantry

1. Always be a student.

Never stop learning your trade. When you’re bored at Camp Wilson or on a ship somewhere, read a book about Marines who have been there and done that.

Check out the commandant’s reading list — you might find something you’ll learn a lot from.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Don’t worry, there will be time to read. (Image via Daily Mail)

Articles

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Retired US Navy Admiral William McRaven had an esteemed 37-year military career — which included leading the assassination of Osama bin Laden — but it was a night from Navy SEAL training’s Hell Week that taught him the power of a leader.


In 2014, McRaven gave the commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin, breaking down the 10 biggest lessons he learned in the six months of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) training in his early 20s, and how they were universally applicable.

Now the chancellor of the University of Texas system, McRaven has released “Make Your Bed,” a short book expanding upon these principles he spoke about a few years ago.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven makes remarks during his retirement ceremony. | DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp

In it, he recounts his night in the Tijuana mud flats, where he and his fellow SEAL candidates had virtually every inch of their bodies covered in mud, the experience made worse by a brutally cold night.

Hell Week comes during week three of the six month-long BUD/S training, and is meant to weed out early the candidates who are not ready to become SEALs. According to SOFREP, only about 25% of candidates make it through the week’s intense trials of physical and mental endurance.

One of the trials involves various exercises in expanses of cold, neck-high, clay-like mud.

As McRaven remembers, on this particular day, he and his fellow candidates had spent hours racing each other in boats, paddling through the mud. Now they were standing in it during a suddenly chilling night. To make it worse, it was only the halfway mark of Hell Week. Doubt was setting in among all the young men.

“Shaking uncontrollably, with hands and feet swollen from nonstop use and skin so tender that even the slightest movement brought discomfort, our hope for completing the training was fading fast,” McRaven writes.

From the edge of the flats, an instructor with a bullhorn tried to lure the candidates to comfort. The instructors, he said, had a fire going and had plenty of hot soup and coffee to share. Furthermore, if just five of the candidates quit, the rest of the guys would be given a break. Taking this offer meant ending your SEAL training.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
BUD/S trainees covered in mud during Hell Week. | Department of Defense photo

A student next to McRaven started walking through the mud toward the instructor. McRaven remembers the instructor smiling. “He knew that once one man quit, others would follow,” McRaven writes.

Then one of the candidates started singing. It was raspy and out of tune. Even though it sounded terrible, other students soon joined him, including the one who was on the verge of quitting.

The instructor began yelling at them, demanding that they stop. “With each threat from the instructor, the voices got louder, the class got stronger, and the will to continue on in the face of adversity became unbreakable,” McRaven writes. He remembers that behind the facade of anger, he could see the instructor smiling at the turn of events.

McRaven realized that all it took was one person to unite the entire group, when many of them were on the verge of abandoning their goal.

Interestingly, former Navy SEAL platoon commander Leif Babin writes in his book “Extreme Ownership,” that he learned a similar lesson when he was one of the Hell Week instructors. When the instructors switched the leaders of the best and worst performing boat race teams, they were amazed to see that the formerly worst team rose to the top under new leadership, while the formerly best team suddenly dropped in the rankings under its new poor leader. It was proof to Babin that, “There are no bad teams — only bad leaders.” One exceptional person can change the entire fate of a group.

The night in the mudflats stuck with McRaven during his maturation as an exceptional leader, one who would rise to the highest rank in the Navy, lead all of America’s special operations, and oversee the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

“If that one person could sing while neck deep in mud, then so could we,” McRaven writes. “If that one person could endure the freezing cold, then so could we. If that one person could hold on, then so could we.”

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Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

One by one, the veterans made their inaugural trip up the steep mountainside armed with harnesses and ropes.  For most of them, rock climbing was a brand new experience, yet they were scrambling up and repelling down the cliff face at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colorado, with barely a semblance of a beginner’s nerves. Amid shouts of encouragement and good-humored banter, the Airmen were bonding. While they’d been strangers just the day before, they’d already become a team.


Traveling from different areas of the U.S., the eight Air Force wounded warriors, sponsored by Team Racing for Veterans’ (R4V), arrived at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado, to participate in three unfamiliar sports: rock climbing, fly fishing and mountain biking. The biannual camps give wounded veterans a chance to prove to themselves they can adapt to and overcome any current limitations, from amputations to post-traumatic stress.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Military veterans ascend a 50-foot-tall mountainside during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The full day of rock climbing at the Hartman Rocks encouraged team building and camaraderie among the group of wounded warriors. While there, the veterans received lessons on safety, etiquette, knots, belaying, rappelling and climbing technique. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

For those attending the camp, it was a chance to network with other wounded warriors who wanted to get out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges, and pursue a sense of normalcy.

In addition to sharing their common goals and adaptive sports experiences at the camp, the wounded warriors had a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting during their down time. Instead of staying in a hotel where they would be scattered throughout the building, the Airmen stayed in a large ranch-style home that was donated for the camp’s use. During some of their meals and at the close of each day, the wounded warriors could gather in a common area and talk.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Each night of the camp ended with reflection and therapeutic conversations. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

While engaging in one such casual conversation in the living room with four other veterans, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland National Guard, found himself smiling and feeling at ease. The openness he displayed was something new, because Connelly had grown up building walls around himself that no one could get through.

As a child, his experiences in the foster care system left him unwilling to depend on others. Though he was eventually taken in by his aunt and uncle, Connelly still found himself disappointed after witnessing his relatives getting robbed by other children they had adopted.

“Watching those kids grow up, how cruel and jagged they could be, it just pushed my trust in people away a lot more,” Connelly said.

“Before these guys,” he indicated the other wounded warriors, “you had no shot for me to trust you.”

Unexpectedly, the injuries that brought Connelly into the wounded warrior family were causing him to change for the better, he said.

On July 5, 2011, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly’s life took an abrupt turn after a motorcycle accident on the streets of Baltimore. As a result of the crash, Connelly lost his left leg below the knee, his right knee required a partial replacement, and his right arm had to be artificially restructured.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The first couple years were hard,” he said. “It was like gut-wrenching pain in my arm when I was lifting weights, curling, or anything like that, just because there wasn’t much muscle around the metal.”

Eventually he was able to build his strength back up, but by the time the doctors could take out the hardware in his arm, bone had grown over it and become fused to the metal. Because of this, Connelly opted not to have it removed.

“I’ve adapted to it,” he said. “I’ve adapted with my leg, my knee, and the arm was another thing. I just had to get over it.  Cold affects it, but you move your wrist around a little bit and keep going. I’m all about adapting and overcoming everything. I’m not going to let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”

Three years after his injury, Connelly became involved in the world of adaptive sports and attended an AFW2 camp. Striving for more, he was also selected to represent the Air Force during the 2014 Warrior Games in shot put, discus, and the 100- and 200-meter sprints. It was at this competition that he met a group of wounded warriors and began to finally let down his guard.

Two years later, his wounded warrior family remains important to him – it is a group of people he keeps in touch with nearly every single day.

Although Connelly is busy training in pursuit of his dream of running track at the Paralympic Games, he leapt at the opportunity to try new sports at a Team R4V mountain adventure.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Retired Tech. Sgt. Jessica Moore rides her bicycle down a mountain trail during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The camp participants spent two full days completing bicycle trails and endurance activities. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“Mountain biking: that was the sport that brought everybody together today,” Connelly said. He found it inspiring to watch the guys zooming down the mountain tracks on hand cycles.

“The trails are probably 20 inches wide – the same as their wheel base – and they are just flying,” he added. “Watching them struggle, but still make it up and down the hills, it was awesome!  It was definitely team building and it brought us that much closer together.”

Ricky Rose Jr. knew that the sports therapy aspect of Team R4V’s camps would help him physically, but he hesitated to participate.

After being medically discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant, Rose thought about attending a wounded warrior camp. It was an idea that had run though his mind many times before but what always stopped him were questions: Did he deserve to go? Would he even fit into the group?

When Team R4V invited him to their fall camp, Rose decided to set those doubts aside and give it a go.

At first he was nervous, but after realizing many people in the house shared the same medical conditions he did, Rose began to feel more comfortable. He found there was relief in being surrounded by people who’d gone through tough situations — from battling cancer to being shot in Afghanistan – because they could all relate to one another.

“While each individual’s circumstances are different in the grand scheme, we’re all fighting the same demons,” Rose said. “That’s been the most beneficial part of this camp; you feel comfortable talking to somebody that you know has been there and done that.”

At the camp, much of the conversation and bonding begins over food.

The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked
Retired Staff Sgts. Richard W. Rose Jr. and Nicholas Dadgostar joke during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

With a focus on overall wellness, Team R4V cooks healthy meals for the wounded warriors each day, and encourages them to eat breakfast and dinner together. At the kitchen table, sharing a meal and talking about the day’s events, the Airmen got to know each other better. As they talked, Rose felt a sense of camaraderie return, one that he’d missed since the last day he’d hung up his Air Force uniform.

“I wasn’t expecting us to come together as a family as quickly as we did,” he said. “We all realized pretty quickly that we’re all Airmen and we’re all in this together.”

Surrounded by people who could empathize with his journey, Rose spoke about his experiences in the Air Force and the daily challenges he continues to face as a wounded warrior.

During his time in service, Rose deployed three times, once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq.  Employed as a combat photographer, his objective was to document the war through the experiences of the troops with whom he was embedded – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.

“They didn’t send us on missions where we would just sit on base all day,” he said. “They’d send us on missions where crap was going to hit the fan, or there was a really good chance of it.  More times than not, we were attacked … we got blown up what seemed like almost every mission.  It felt like almost every day could have been the day you died because we lost a lot of people too. War is just nasty, and I got to help show that as honestly as I could to people.”

While deployed, Rose captured thousands of images, braving firefights and mortar attacks to accomplish his job. In 2007, Rose was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, in part for his dedication in the combat zone – a place seared into his memory by the very tool he used to perform his mission.

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Retired Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. holds a portion of his daily dose of medication, which he takes to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The hardest thing, and I didn’t know this until after a lot of therapy and a lot of different doctors, but I didn’t realize, as a photographer, how many of those images I took were just going to stay in my brain,” Rose said. “I just kind of thought I’d take a picture and then they’d go away, but they don’t.”

Even at home, he was unable to turn his mind away from the combat zone. Feeling unstable, Rose asked for help. He went to see a doctor and was ultimately diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents a variety of negative effects, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts and memories. Military members with PTSD can become hyper-vigilant, angry and depressed. Sights and sounds, such as large crowds, random crazy noises, and sudden flashes of light – can mentally bring them back to the combat zone and trigger an unconscious response.

“PTSD is horrible,” Rose said. “Imagine never being able to feel comfortable or like everything is alright. Every day is a challenge because I don’t know how my body and mind will react to whatever happens that day. Will I see, touch, or smell something that will give me an instant flashback and turn me into a different person? Will my conversations lead to nightmares? Do I feel like killing myself today? That’s what it’s like.”

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Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland Air National Guard, leaps over a mountainside area during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Connelly lost his left leg after a motorcycle accident a few years ago, but he didn’t let it stop him from competing in sports. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

The temporary home in Colorado is quiet and isolated from outside stimuli. The intensity and focus needed to learn new sports is designed to wear the Airmen out and give them the ability to be calm.

“I haven’t really had a bad thought since I’ve been here, other than being exhausted and tired (from the day’s activity),” he laughed, adding, “I haven’t really had a trigger or nightmare or anything since I’ve been here. It’s been peaceful, very peaceful.”

The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise have been proven time and time again, which is why Team R4V staff said they provide support to veterans through a wide variety of physical activities. Rehabilitation though adaptive sports has been an idea at the forefront of the organization since its conception.

Inspired by a friend who coached the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s team for the Warrior Games, a Defense Department competitive adaptive sports event for injured, ill and wounded service members, Bethany Pribila, Team R4V’s founder and CEO, decided to start a non-profit organization that would enable veterans from every branch of the military to benefit through participation in sports.

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Military veterans leave the Hartman Rocks during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The full day of rock climbing at the Hartman Rocks encouraged team building and camaraderie among wounded warriors who’d experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, amputations and other injuries. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Team R4V provides wounded warrior athletes with funding for races and events, but it is their own sports camps, which they host in partnership with the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, that holds a special place in the heart of the organization.

At the camp’s end, Pribila reflected that everything had gone as envisioned.  She had witnessed the wounded warriors supporting one another, cheering each other on, and forming lasting bonds. Though the Airmen had arrived as strangers, when they left, it was as friends and as family.

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Nic Cage takes command of the USS Indianapolis in the real world story of nukes, subs, and sharks

The sinking of the USS Indianapolis was the greatest single loss of American lives in the history of the U.S. Navy. The story of how it ended up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean started with the Manhattan Project and wouldn’t end until her captain, Charles B. McVay III, was exonerated in a court-marital.


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In the first official trailer for “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage,” (directed by Mario Van Peebles!) we see Nicolas Cage as the skipper of the Indianapolis, given a highly classified mission and then surviving the sinking of his ship. We also see his court-martial, which, as mentioned, is part of the ship’s real world story. In fact, much of what we see in this trailer really did happen to the ship’s crew.

The Indianapolis served with campaigns in New Guinea, the Aleutians, and the Gilbert Islands. As the flagship for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, she not only supported the Gilbert invasions but also Tarawa, Marshall Islands, Western Carolines, Saipan, Okinawa, and fought in the famous “Marianas Turkey Shoot.”

Her most famous mission sent her from San Francisco to Hawaii, carrying the bomb components for the atomic bomb Little Boy which would be dropped on Hiroshima. The ship also left port with half the world supply of Uranium-235. It departed San Francisco on July 16, 1945, delivering the parts ten days later. Because of its top secret mission, the Indianapolis had no escort and few knew the ship’s location.

On its way to join Task Force 95 for its next assignment, it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk in 12 minutes, with the loss of 300 of the 1,196 crewmen. The rest were adrift in the open water. The ordeal wasn’t over for the crew. For days, they fought exposure to the elements, dehydration, and extreme shark attacks – the most in human history. Only 321 of the surviving 880 were recovered alive.

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In November 1945, Captain McVay was court-martialed and convicted for hazarding his ship with his failure to follow the Navy’s guidelines for avoiding submarines and torpedoes. McVay said he moved the ship in a zig-zag pattern, consistent with those guidelines. The star witness at McVay’s trial was Hashimoto Mochitsura, the commander of the submarine that sank the Indianapolis. He testified that zig-zagging would not have saved the ship, whether McVay followed the regs or not. McVay was the only captain in World War II to be court-martialed for the loss of his ship.

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Some families still blamed McVay for the deaths of their sailors. McVay retired in 1949, but the guilt of losing the sailors stayed with him until the end of his life. He committed suicide in 1968 at age 70, found on his front lawn with a toy sailor in his hand.

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8 US Navy ships named for women

The United States Navy has a history of honoring women – one that goes way back to 1776, when a row galley was named for Martha Washington (George’s wife).  Currently, seven Navy ships named for women are in active service with the United States Navy, and an eighth is on the way. Here’s a rundown on these ships:


1. USS Hopper (DDG 70)

This Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is named for Rear Adm. Grace M. Hopper according to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.” Admiral Hopper was a computer scientist who served from 1941 to 1986 in the Naval Reserve and active Navy. At the time of her retirement, she was the oldest commissioned officer in the Navy.

The destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System with a total of 90 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standard missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets. She also has eight RGM-84 Harpoons in two Mk 141 launchers, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, and two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes.

In January, 2008, the Hopper was one of several U.S. Navy warships that had close encounters with Iranian speedboats.

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USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

2. USS Roosevelt (DDG 80)

This Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is named in honor of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady for 12 years, then served as a diplomat and spokesperson for the United Nations.

The destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total of 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters.

According to a 2006 US Navy release, the Roosevelt and the Dutch Frigate De Zeven Provincien took part in an attempted rescue of a South Korean fishing vessel captured by pirates. In 2014, the DOD reported the destroyer took part in delivering a rogue oil tanker to Libyan authorities.

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USS Roosevelt (DDG 😎 in the Suez Canal. (US Navy photo)

3. USNS Sacagawea (T AKE 2)

This Lewis and Clark class replenishment ship was named for Sacagawea, the Native American woman who guided the expedition lead by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across the Louisiana Purchase. A previous USS Sacagawea (YT 326) was a harbor tug that served from 1925 to 1945.

The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Sacagawea carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels.  She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.

In 2013, the Sacagawea took part in Freedom Banner 2013 as part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force.

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USNS Sacagawea (T AKE 2) replenishes two amphibious vessels. (US Navy photo)

4. USNS Amelia Earhart (T AKE 6)

The first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart was one of the few women who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 under unknown circumstances. DANFS notes that a Liberty Ship was previously named for the famous aviator.

The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Amelia Earhart carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels. She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.

DANFS notes that on Nov. 20, 2014, the Amelia Earhart collided with USNS Walter S. Diehl (T AO 193).

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) and the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) conduct an underway replenishment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (US Navy photo)

5. USNS Mary Sears (T AGS 65)

Mary Sears was the first Oceanographer of the Navy during World War II. According to the website for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, her research on thermoclines saved many American submariners’ lives by enabling our subs to hide from enemy forces.

Fittingly, the U.S. Navy named the Pathfinder-class oceanographic research vessel USNS Mary Sears in her honor. The 5,000-ton vessel has a top speed of 16 knots, and carries a number of sensors for her mission. In 2007, the Mary Sears helped locate the “black boxes” from a missing airliner.

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Mary Sears supports worldwide oceanography programs, including performing acoustical, biological, physical, and geophysical surveys. (Unattributed or dated U.S. Navy photograph, Mary Sears (T-AGS-65), Ship Inventory, MSC)

6. USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10)

Former Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — whose husband is astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly — served for five years before resigning her seat in the aftermath of an assassination attempt.

The Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords has a 57mm gun, four .50-caliber machine guns, and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. The vessel can carry two MH-60 helicopters and MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles.

The ship just entered service in December, 2016, and had a cameo in Larry Bond’s 2016 novel, Red Phoenix Burning, where it was rammed by a Chinese frigate, suffering moderate damage.

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An aerial view of the U.S. Navy littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) during its launch sequence at the Austal USA shipyard, Mobile, Alabama (USA). (US Navy photo)

7. USNS Sally Ride (T AGOR 28)

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, flying on two Space Shuttle missions (missing a third after the Challenger exploded during launch), who died after a battle with pancreatic cancer in 2012.

The Navy named the Neil Armstrong-class oceanographic research vessel USNS Sally Ride in her honor. The vessel, which is operated by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, is equipped with acoustic systems for ocean mapping and modular laboratories, according to DANFS. In February,the Sally Ride helped map an underwater fault off the coast of California, providing information that helped to update Google Earth.

A sister ship, the USNS Neil Armstrong (T AGOR 27), named for the first person to walk on the moon, is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.

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Dr. Tamara E. O’Shaughnessy, Sally Ride’s sponsor, breaks a bottle across the ship’s bow during her christening at Dakota Creek’s shipyard in Anacortes, Wash., 4 August 2014. Joining O’Shaughnessy on the platform are Dick Nelson, president, Dakota Creek Industries, Inc., the reverend Dr. Bear Ride, matron of honor, Kathleen Ritzman, assistant director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, Kathryn Sullivan, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research. (US NAvy photo)

8. USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123)

Lenah Higbee was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross – being recognized for her service as Superintendant of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in World War I. She was recognized with a Gearing-class destroyer in 1945, according to DANFS, that saw action in the last months of World War II.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee will have a 5-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total on 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters when she enters service. MarineLog.com reported in January that construction of the destroyer had started.

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Lenah Higbee, Superintendant of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps during World War I. (US Navy photo)

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APRIL 8: Today in military history: The Japanese take Bataan

On April 8, 1942, the Japanese captured the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. The next day, the U.S. surrendered the peninsula to the Japanese, leaving the approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan to the mercy of their captors, who forced the brutal 65-mile trek to prison camps known as the Bataan Death March.

The Japanese Imperial Forces’ attack on Pearl Harbor in Dec. 1941 is perhaps the most infamous attack of a much larger campaign unleashed on U.S. and Allied Forces across the Pacific. The day after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched an invasion against the Philippines, capturing the capital within a month. 

Over the following months, U.S. forces fought desperately to hold the islands, but by April 6, they were fighting against overwhelming odds as defensive lines were destroyed or ordered to withdraw before they could be fully occupied. Crippled by disease, starvation, and lack of supplies, the U.S. defense was deteriorating.

On the morning of April 8, the U.S. was fortifying new positions on the Alangan River in an attempt to form one last safe space from which to fight when Japanese planes began hitting the line and forced the withdrawal of the infantry and tanks on the right side of the line.

That night, the U.S. dug a final line of defense at the Lamao River only to discover that the Japanese already held ground on their flank. 

Forces were redistributed to try and stem the tide, but U.S. Navy sailors were sent to destroy the remaining stockpiles of ammunition and other material before it could be captured. The siege of Bataan was essentially over — and the Japanese had won.

The next day, U.S. forces surrendered and the Japanese forced the survivors, including 12,000 Americans, on the cruel march to the prison camps in San Fernando. Thousands of prisoners died along the way at the hands of their captors, who starved, beat, and bayoneted the marchers. Thousands more would die from disease, abuse, and starvation in the prison camps.

Featured Image: This picture, captured from the Japanese, shows American prisoners using improvised litters to carry those of their comrades who, from the lack of food or water on the march from Bataan, fell along the road.” Philippines, May 1942.

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6 tips we learned from ‘Ferris Bueller’ on how to ‘skate’ in the military

Ferris Bueller is the ultimate skater.


Skating is an art form which most people will never fully learn — until now. In 1986, Paramount pictures released “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” which taught countless teens how to play sick and get out of school.

Written and directed by the legendary John Hughes, the film focuses on a teenager who embarks on an incredible journey throughout Chicago while being unknowingly stalked by his high school principal.

While taking the day off, Bueller and his two friends learn more about themselves in a day than they would ever expect.

Related: 8 tips for ‘skating’ in the military

So check out our list of how Bueller taught us the art of the skate.

1. Be convincing

First, come up with an epic excuse why you’re unable to partake in a military activity (like going to work), and make sure you sell that sh*t like Bueller sold being sick to his parents.

Getting a “Sick in Quarters” slip is the goal if you’re in the military.

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I hope I look sick enough. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

2. Use your assets properly

Unfortunately, Bueller doesn’t have a car to drive himself around. So once he officially earns his day off via his parents, it’s time to get on the phone and find someone to pick you up.

Skating should be a team effort, but make sure you repay the favor and help someone else skate on another day.

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Come over to the barracks and pick me up. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

3. Know the loopholes

Here, Bueller hacks the school’s computer absence program and changes how many days he has been absent. You probably won’t have this ability unless you have a special security clearance, but the moral of this story is to understand your limits.

For instance, if your boss isn’t going to be around — you’re not going to be around. Get it? Good.

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Knowing the loopholes will get you far in life. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

4. Have an epic backstory

During roll call, Bueller’s name is called out several times before this hot girl (Kristy Swanson) gives the teacher a bullsh*t reason why he isn’t in school. It works well during military roll call when the service member calling out names just wants to get on with the day and not hear any excuses — another loophole.

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How could you not trust this face? (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

5. Play the role

In the event you get an unknown phone call or run into someone outside your skating circle, divert into the sick mode ASAP.

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Remember act sick. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

Also Read: 11 hiding spots for an E-4 to sham

6. Make it a team effort

Ferris uses his best buddy Cameron to impersonate his girlfriend’s dad to get her out of school. Now, you probably won’t have to do all that, but it’s awesome to have military friends who are willing to skate alongside you that you trust.

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Our favorite hypochondriac, Cameron Frye. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

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This quadruple amputee is opening retreat to help other wounded warriors

Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills awoke in a hospital on his 25th birthday to learn that an explosion in Afghanistan had robbed him of all four limbs. He later told his wife to take their daughter and their belongings, and just go. He didn’t want her saddled with his burden.


“She assured me that’s not how this works,” Mills said, “and she stayed by my side.”

Family support aided his recovery, Mills said, and now a foundation he created is bringing others with war injuries and their families to Maine to continue their healing while surrounded by others who understand what they’ve gone through.

The retreat at the lakeside estate of the late cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden will be dedicated this weekend after an overhaul that included accessibility upgrades.

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Staff Sgt. Travis Mills discusses his foundation’s resort on a Maine television program. Screenshot: YouTube/CentralMaineCATV

Mills uses his personal story to offer encouragement: “I don’t look at myself and pity myself. I tell people to never give up, never quit, and to always keep pushing forward.”

The soldier’s life changed abruptly on April 10, 2012, when a bomb that evaded detection detonated when Mills unwittingly dropped his backpack on it.

The blast disintegrated his right arm and leg, shredded his wrist and blew several fingers off. His left leg dangled.

As life drained from him, Mills used what was left of his remaining hand to make a radio call for help for the others.

“My medic came up to me and I tried to fight him off, saying, ‘Doc, you’re not going to save me. There’s really no reason to keep trying. It’s OK. I accept what happened. Just tell my family I love them, and don’t waste your time,'” he told The Associated Press.

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DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

At the field hospital, his remaining leg came off with his pants as he was undressed for surgery. Two days later, his left arm was removed.

When it came to recovery, Mills said, the support of his family was just as important as top-notch medical care. His wife remained with him. Their 6-month-old daughter lifted his spirits. His father-in-law lived with him at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and oversaw construction of a home adapted for his disabilities.

“Without my wife and daughter, I can’t tell you that I’d be sitting here today doing as well as I’m doing,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do. Because we believe there is more healing with the family and other people in the same situation.”

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(TravisMills.org)

His wife, Kelsey, pregnant with their second child, said her husband has been competitive since his days as high school football captain in Vassar, Michigan. He was always the “life of the party,” she said, which helps to explain his charisma, enthusiasm, and constant jokes.

“He’s always had a strong drive, and getting injured was like a challenge to him to overcome it,” she said.

These days, he travels 165 days a year, delivering motivational speeches, and it seems there’s little he can’t do thanks to grit and advanced prosthetics. He’s gone skydiving, participated in adaptive skiing and mountain biking, and paddled on lakes. He’s written a book, “Tough As They Come.”

The retreat is an extension of Mills’ work at Walter Reed, where he lifted others’ spirits while recovering from his wounds over a 19-month period.

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Walter Reed General Hospital. DoD photo by Samantha L. Quigley.

This summer, 56 families will be served free of charge.

They’ll kayak, go tubing, and fish, allowing injured soldiers and Marines to see that they don’t have to sit on the sidelines during family activities, Mills said.

Nearly $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions have gone into the camp, building on a pilot program. Mills hopes to raise enough money to create a permanent endowment.

Craig Buck said his son-in-law knows that not all injured military personnel have received the same family support. “This is his way of paying it forward,” Buck said. “That’s the reason we built the retreat.”

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The Taliban are using ‘culturally sanctioned male rape’ as a weapon

“Bacha Bazi” – a.k.a. “boy play” – is a practice in which young boys are coerced into sexual slavery, sometimes dressed as women and made to dance. It was popular among the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in the years preceding Taliban rule. The centuries-old custom was abolished under the Taliban, a ban that carried a death sentence for those who broke the law. That ban was in effect from 1996 until after the 2001 NATO invasion when it resurfaced.


In Uruzgan province, in central Afghanistan, north of Kandahar, the custom affects many of the local police chiefs. It’s so deeply ingrained in the society there, Taliban insurgents use young boys coerced into the act in Trojan Horse attacks.

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The boys infiltrate the ranks of the Afghan national police or are recruited by the Taliban with the promise of revenge. According to reports from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Afghan policemen say the boys are known to be commanders’ sex slaves and can move about freely. One teenager waited until all the policemen were asleep, then went on a shooting rampage. He allowed the Taliban into the base to finish off any survivors. Such attacks have been going on for two years. There have been many in the first six months of 2016, an indication of a Taliban tactic that seems to be working.

AFP reports all of the 370 Afghan police checkpoints have such sex slaves. The boys are recruited illegally and also used as fighters when necessary. Many policemen in Uruzgan will not work for a checkpoint that doesn’t have these young boys. Provincial governors have difficulty enforcing the laws against Bacha Bazi because the men jailed for it are needed to fight the war against the Taliban or because the leaders are complicit in the crime.

Though the U.S. Department of State considers the custom “culturally sanctioned male rape,” one U.S. Army Special Forces NCO, Charles Martland, was almost kicked out of the Army for trying to prevent the practice. Martland assaulted an Afghan police commander to prevent the commander from raping a young boy. He spent years in limbo before being allowed to stay in the Army.

Related: Green Beret who beat up accused child rapist will be allowed to stay in uniform

Central government authorities are afraid to investigate local police commanders, considering the amount of power they yield. They fear the commanders will not allow anyone investigating them for Bacha Bazi crimes to leave their jurisdiction alive. When the UN raised the issue with the first Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his response was curt.

“Let us win the war first,” Karzai said. “Then we will deal with such matters.”

The Russian government-funded Russia Today (widely known as RT), produced a short documentary about the practice in early 2016.

 
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