Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change - We Are The Mighty
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Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

President-elect Donald Trump could reverse a historic policy change kicked off in 2013 allowing women to serve in direct combat roles, and that has advocates of the change worried.


“We are absolutely concerned,” Kate Germano, a former Marine lieutenant colonel who now serves as COO of the Service Women’s Action Network, told Business Insider.

Also read: Here’s who Trump may pick to lead the Pentagon’s nearly 3 million military and civilian personnel

SWAN and other groups have long lobbied for a change in the policy excluding women from certain direct combat roles, such as infantry and artillery. They won that fight in 2013, when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered all military services to lift the ban on women in combat roles, giving them until January 2016 to fully integrate or ask for special exemptions.

Only the Corps asked for that exemption, which was overruled by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

However, since Congress never passed a law on the issue, a Trump White House could just reverse the decision made by the Obama administration, or order exceptions to be made for certain services, such as the Marine Corps.

“It’s our earnest hope” the next administration will look at quality of service members rather than gender, said Germano, though some things Trump has said on the campaign trail cast doubt on whether that will be the case.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
US Marine Corps

When asked in October by a former Army colonel what he would do about the “social engineering and political correctness” that had been imposed on the military, Trump seemed to agree that the military’s acceptance of transgendered troops and women in combat roles was wrongheaded.

“You’re right. We have a politically correct military, and it’s getting more and more politically correct every day,” Trump said. “And a lot of the great people in this room don’t even understand how it’s possible to do that. And that’s through intelligence, not through ignorance — believe me — because some of the things that they’re asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous.”

Though he added: “I would say I would leave many of the decisions of some of the things you mentioned to the generals, the admirals, the people on top.”

As it stands right now, there’s at least one person in top leadership who seems to disagree with the policy change — Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford— who would be one of Trump’s closest military advisors, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Others in the Republican Party seem to be weighing in ahead of Trump’s transition as well. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a former Marine officer who has been floated as a potential pick for Defense Secretary, on Sunday called for a “counterrevolution” in the military.

“It doesn’t do anything to further our capacity as war fighters,” Hunter told The Washington Times of women being placed in infantry roles. “It doesn’t do anything to make us more effective or efficient at getting the job done and killing our enemies and protecting our allies. It’s just a distraction. It’s not like there are thousands of women getting into the infantry now. It will never be that way.”

Like Hunter and others, critics of the policy change have referred to it as “social engineering” within the military ranks. But Germano disagrees with that assessment, telling Business Insider it’s not social engineering but instead, expanding the pool of qualified applicants who can do jobs within the military.

“We believe that women who are highly-qualified for the position and can do the job should have the opportunity to do the job,” Germano said.

A reversal in policy wouldn’t just affect women who had planned to go into combat roles in the future. Since the military has been slowly integrating them into the force, some women would have to be taken out of the roles they had trained for alongside men and put back into non-combat jobs.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

In October, the Army graduated 10 new female infantry officers, many of whom are now going through follow-on training before they will be assigned to infantry units. Another woman, Capt. Kristen Griest, transferred to the infantry in April after she became one of the first women to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School.

While the Marine Corps has graduated some enlisted females through its infantry training pipeline, no women have been able to graduate its infantry officer course, though more than 30 have tried.

If President-elect Trump decides to change the policy back, he would deal with pushback from the courts. A 2012 lawsuit filed by four female service members who claimed that being excluded from some roles was a violation of their constitutional rights is still ongoing.

The DoD tried to have the suit dismissed after the ban was lifted, but it still remains in litigation — in part because the next president could single-handedly deny those women those rights in the future.

“If we have a Republican president, we may well be in the same position we were when we filed this complaint, a categorical exclusion of all women from combat units,” Steven Perry, an attorney for the four women, told a judge in federal court, according to the Military Times.

The Judge agreed with that assessment and set the next court date for January 12 — eight days before Trump is inaugurated as president.

Regardless of the final status of women in combat roles, it’s clear that women have been involved in combat through the Global War on Terror. Two of the plaintiffs in the 2012 suit were wounded and awarded the Purple Heart medal, and many other women have served alongside male infantrymen in Iraq and Afghanistan on “female engagement teams.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pound for pound, these were the deadliest boats of World War II

They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.


Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)

youtu.be

America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.

But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.

Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)

These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.

Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.

The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.

They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.

The little boats would distinguish themselves over and over again, even though there were only 29 in the Navy at the start of the war. Gen. Douglas MacArthur slipped out of the Philippines on a two-day trip through the enemy fleet with Lt. John D. Bulkeley on a PT boat. Bulkeley would earn a Medal of Honor for his actions.

The boats launched constant attacks against Japanese ships, hitting them with Mk. 8 torpedoes. The Coast Guard used 83-foot designs for their submarine hunters and patrol boats, many of which saw service at D-Day where they served as the “Matchstick Fleet” that rescued drowning soldiers.

Also at D-Day, similar landing craft made by Higgins were modified to fire rockets at the shore to suppress shore positions.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

Navy Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy on PT-109.

(U.S. Navy)

But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”

Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.

The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.

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What You’ll Miss When You Get Out

military_transition


Military service ends for everyone at some point.  Regardless of how rewarding and enjoyable it has been, regardless of rank attained or awards earned, eventually it’s time to start the next chapter of a working life – a time to transition to a civilian career.

Also Read: This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans 

For me the time came at the 20-year mark.  I spent the majority of my time in uniform stationed at an air base in Virginia Beach attached to various F-14 squadrons.  When I received orders to teach at the Naval Academy in Annapolis I knew my flying days were most likely over, so I started considering what life on the outside might look like for me once I became retirement eligible.

Nothing really jumped out at me.  Because I’d been a Naval Flight Officer – a backseater – and not a pilot, the airlines weren’t an option (not to mention the airline industry has had a major employment downturn in the last decade or so).  I had a bachelor’s degree but it was in political science . . . pretty useless in terms of determining a viable civilian career field.

In spite of the fact that for decades I had assumed that there would be all kinds of jobs waiting to be blessed by my presence when I elected to get out, only when I actually started looking for one did I realize my options were limited.  And when I say “limited” I’m not necessarily speaking about limited in terms of income potential.  I’m talking about limited in terms of job satisfaction potential.

You see, like most of us who stay in the military past our initial obligations, I enjoyed what I was doing.  Of course there were bad days and the challenges of long periods of family separation, but I was living a life of consequence, working a job that Hollywood makes movies about.  I’d flown from aircraft carriers sailing in hostile waters and worked with incredible professionals.  We had carried out the important missions we’d been given.

So among my fears as I transitioned to my first civilian job – that of a civil servant working one of the aircraft programs at a systems command – was that my day-to-day efforts wouldn’t amount to anything important.

And they didn’t . . . at first.

As I traded my flight suit for khakis and a golf shirt I was thrust into a world of grey areas.  Sure, there were job titles and GS pay scales, but those didn’t replicate the structure I’d known during my time on active duty.  Who was I relative to my co-workers?  Absent rank on my collar or warfare devices and ribbons on my chest what did they know (or care) about my years of service?

Nothing, or so it seemed.  I was suddenly just the new guy.  I had no track record.  I’d never done anything that mattered.  Instead of flying fighters and leading troops I was now tasked with, among other minutiae, updating the program’s social roster.  I felt like I was stuck in that Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days”:

“Glory days, they’ll pass you by; glory days, like the wink in a young girl’s eye . . .”

I had no flight schedule to comply with.  I had no detailer to call for my next set of orders.  I had no master chiefs to keep me out of trouble.  I had no uniforms to wear.  Nobody was going to be filming any movies about the action-packed life of a civil servant.

In spite of all my “prep” for the transition (including mandatory TAP, of course) I wasn’t prepared for the subjective part of the move – the “spiritual” side, if you will.  I was more lost (and depressed) than I ever thought I would be.  And the scary part is I wasn’t even fully in the private sector; I was working for the Department of Defense.

Fortunately by the end of the first year of my transition, I’d found my footing, job-wise.  I switched programs to one that actually needed what I had to offer in terms of talent, outlook, and enthusiasm.  In time I was a trusted member of a team again, one with a seat at the decision-making table, and the position was rewarding in its own way.  And that job ultimately gave me the confidence and experience to make the move to the private sector into a role that fully leverages my military career and creativity.

Change is hard; transitioning out of the military is harder.  Part of making it easier is thorough prep work research and networking-wise.  The rest is understanding that it won’t be easy and fighting the notion that the best years are behind you.  Sometimes you might need patience.  Sometimes you might need to go after it in a hurry.  But the same elements that made you an effective warfighter will ultimately serve you well during the civilian chapter of your working life.

NOW: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015 

OR: The Vice President Just Pulled A ‘Jody’ Move At The Defense Secretary’s Swearing-In 

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The famed Gurkha warriors have taken Everest

For the first time in history, currently serving Gurkha soldiers have summitted the tallest peak in the world, Mount Everest.


The team reached the summit on May 16 and received congratulations from the British Army on their achievement.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
The Gurkha climbing team poses during the 2015 attempt that was eventually abandoned after a massive earthquake struck the Gurkhas’ homeland and destroyed the Everest base camp. (Photo: British Ministry of Defence)

The Gurkhas had previously attempted the climb the mountain in 2015 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Gurkha Brigade, but the climb was abandoned when a massive earthquake struck the area around the mountain, triggering an avalanche that destroyed the base camp.

The 2015 team abandoned the climb and rushed to aid those affected by the quake. Gurkhas are recruited out of a small region of Nepal that sits in the same mountain range as Everest, and many of the team members had immediate family affected by the quake.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Gurkha soldiers celebrate their successful climb of Mount Everest after they reached the summit on May 15,2017. (Photo: British Ministry of Defence)

They returned in 2017 thanks to a decision by the Nepal Ministry of Tourism to honor all 2015 Everest permits for an additional two years.

The climb is a grueling challenge under even the best of conditions. The base camp sits over three miles above sea level and each camp above that is more than half a mile above the previous camp.

The summit sits 5.5 miles above sea level, where the air is so thin that most climbers rely on bottled oxygen for much of the climb.

Articles

This drill sergeant saved 8 soldiers in the most heroic way

Inspired by his favorite hero Audie Murphy, Pfc. John Baker, an assistant machine gunner, found himself getting ready to battle enemy forces in the Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam, in the fall of 1966.


Assigned to Company A of the 27th Army infantry, Baker’s unit was sent out on a mission to help support a sister company trapped by an aggressive and well-supplied Viet Cong force.

Shortly after Baker and his unit arrived at the combat zone in the early morning, intel reports suggested that the enemy had grown to nearly 3,000.

Without regard for their own lives, 257 allied troops loaded their weapons and proceeded into the heart of the jungle.

“The jungle itself was so thick, it looked like going into a wooded area at night,” Baker recalls.

Related: Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

As the sun began to rise, enemy gunfire rang out in multiple directions. Baker removed his gear and used his 5-foot 2-inch build to crawl approximately 20-yards undetected, where he discovered several enemy bunkers. Baker quickly returned to brief his CO.

Enemy gunfire was again broke out, temporarily trapping Baker and his squad.

“The only way we could get out was fight our way out,” Baker proudly states.

As the chaos mounted, Baker bravely took the left flank and blew up a few enemy bunkers. Then he spotted several wounded soldiers and carried him to the rear for medical treatment.

Also Read: This is how Hanoi reacted to the epic Ken Burns ‘Vietnam War’ documentary series

Baker replenished his ammo and ran back into the fight killing a few VC snipers along the way.

Then, it happened. Boom!

An enemy grenade detonated nearby causing Baker to sustain multiple fragmentation injuries. He dusted himself off and got right back into the fight. At the end of the intense firefight, Baker was credited for killing 10 enemy troops, destroying six enemy bunkers and saving eight allied troops.

After Baker returned from Vietnam, he worked as a drill sergeant in Fort Jackson in South Carolina. During his time there, he was informed by his company commander that President Johnson was to award him with the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Medal of Honor Recipient John F. Baker, Jr. at his ceremony.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear Baker’s story firsthand for yourself.

MedalOfHonorBook, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

US special ops troops injured in Bragg explosion

An explosion during a training exercise injured a number of U.S. special operations forces at Fort Bragg on Thursday.


The soldiers were taken to the Army base’s Womack Army Medical Center for treatment, said Lt. Col. Rob Bockholt, a spokesman for the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command, which is based at Fort Bragg.

Bockholt didn’t yet know the number of soldiers injured or the extent of those injuries. He also could not say what exactly caused them.

More than 50,000 active duty personnel are attached to Fort Bragg, located in Fayetteville, N.C. It is the largest Army installation by population and covers about 161,000 acres. The Special Operations Command has about 23,000 soldiers spread over several sites.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Feds plan crackdown on refi schemes that target vets

Federal officials plan to crackdown on what they view as predatory lending schemes — reminiscent of the toxic practices seen during the housing boom — targeted at thousands of veterans nationwide who have VA home loans.


The abuses involve serial refinancings that generate hefty fees for lenders and loan brokers but leave borrowers in worse financial shape than they were before the transaction. Lenders are dangling teaser interest rates, “cash out” windfalls, and lower monthly payments, sometimes using shady marketing materials that resemble official information from the Department of Defense. Not infrequently, officials say, borrowers end up in negative equity positions, owing more on their loan balance than their house is worth.

Officials at the Government National Mortgage Association, better known as Ginnie Mae, say some veterans are being flooded with misleading refi offers and are signing up without assessing the costs and benefits. Some properties are being refinanced multiple times a year, thanks to “poaching” by lenders who aggressively solicit competitors’ recent borrowers to refi them again and roll the fees into a new loan balance.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Image courtesy of USAF.

The costs to the veterans can far outweigh the relatively modest reductions in monthly payments. In an analysis of questionable refinancings, Ginnie Mae found “many” examples where the borrowers were persuaded to switch from a long-term fixed interest rate to a lower-rate, short-term adjustable, but saw the principal amount owed to the lender jump by thousands of dollars. In an average fixed-rate to adjustable-rate refi, according to data provided to me for this column, borrowers added $12,000 to their debt in order to reduce their monthly payment by $165. Just to break even on that deal would take more than six years, according to Ginnie Mae, and could push unsuspecting borrowers into negative equity.

A typical pitch for one of these loans was received recently by a veteran and his wife who live in Silver Spring, Md. Along with a fake “check” made out to the veteran in the amount of $30,000 — all he had to do to get the cash was sign up for a refi — were come-ons like this: a new 2.25 percent interest rate, no out-of-pocket expenses, a refund of his escrow money, and up to two months with zero mortgage payments.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston

“Call now and lock in your rate before rates go any higher,” urged the lender. In small print on the back of the check were a couple of key disclosures: Homeowners would have to switch from their current 3.75 percent fixed rate to a “3/1” adjustable rate that could increase 36 months after closing and rise to as high as 7.25 percent during the life of the loan. There was nothing about fees or the fact that opting for the refi could add to the family’s debt load.

VA home loans are backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and often have no down payment. Lenders who originate them receive guarantees of a portion of the loan amount against loss in the event of a default. Ginnie Mae bundles VA and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans into mortgage bonds, which are then purchased by investors who receive guarantees of timely payments.

In an interview, Michael R. Bright, acting Ginnie Mae president, said some of the abuses he is seeing hark back to 2005 and 2006 — heyday years of the boom before the bust. “We’re seeing borrowers refinance three times in less than six months and (their) loan balances going up.” Homeowners also are dumping fixed-rate loans for riskier adjustables.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Image from Wisconsin State Legislature.

“That was the play back then” during the boom, he said. Now it’s back.

Bright declined to name mortgage lenders who are most aggressively involved in abusive refis, but he said violators of agency rules face financial penalties and loss of eligibility to participate in bond offerings — essentially closing down their funding source.

Bottom line for VA borrowers: Look skeptically at all refi promotions. Run the numbers to see whether refinancing will leave you better off — or deeper in debt.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US F-22 stealth fighters intercept Russian bombers off Alaska

US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters intercepted two sets of two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 bombers, one of which was accompanied by two Su-35 fighter escorts, off the coast of Alaska on May 20, 2019, according to North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced May 21, 2019, that Russian Tu-95MS bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, conducted an observation flight May 20, 2019, near the western coast of Alaska, adding that at certain points during the 12-hour flight the bombers and their escort fighters were shadowed by US F-22s, Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency reported.


It is unclear why the Russians sent so many bombers near US air defenses, and NORAD was unable to say whether the Russian bombers were armed. It is also unclear why such bombers were used at all, as observation is not the traditional role of the large, four-engine, propeller-powered bombers, which are essentially heavy cruise-missile platforms.

NORAD sent out four F-22s, two for each intercept, to intercept the Russian aircraft after they entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. An E-3 Sentry provided surveillance during the intercepts. The Russian bombers remained in international airspace, NORAD said in a statement.

“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD, said. “Our ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching US and Canadian airspace.”

The bomber flights May 20, 2019, came roughly two months after Russia accused the US of unnecessarily stirring up tensions between the countries by flying B-52H Stratofortress bombers near Russia for training with regional partners.

“Such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters at the time.”On the contrary, they create additional tensions.”

The US military, however, stressed that the training missions, which included simulated bombing runs, were necessary to “deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners.”

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

Articles

Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)


The Marines have been having a hard time with their force of F/A-18 Hornets. The situation was bad enough that a couple of months ago, they pulled nearly two dozen from Davis Monthan Air Force Base’s preservation facility. But things have gotten worse, with three crashes, two of them fatal, over the summer.

The result: The Marines recently called a timeout. All three Marine Air Wings were ordered to halt F/A-18 operations for 24 hours while commanders figure out a way to reduce the accident rate on these planes. As reported by the USNI Blog, each MAW is required to take two such days each year for purposes of sharing “best practices” and to figure out how to improve the Marine Corps’ Hornets’ state of readiness. Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ Deputy Commandant for Aviation, who ordered the stand-down, will receive reports on the readiness of Marine Hornet squadrons.

Service-wide groundings of a particular model of airplane have happened before. F-15s across the United States Air Force were grounded in November 2007 after one Eagle assigned to the Missouri Air National Guard fell apart during a flight. It was later discovered that a longeron (that connects the aircraft’s skin to the frame) failed, causing the aircraft’s mid-flight disintegration. The Air Force retired its F-15A/B models as they, too, aged. A report from The Los Angeles Times at the time of the F-15 crash stated that many F-15s were already under flight restrictions due to concerns about metal fatigue.

Despite the issues that the F-15 force had with fatigue and flight time, the F-22’s production was stopped at 187 airframes in 2009, forcing a number of F-15C airframes (roughly 178 – almost ten squadrons’ worth) to keep soldiering on, despite their advancing age (the last F-15C serial number for the United States Air Force was from Fiscal Year 1986 – over three decades ago).

The Marines use the F/A-18C/D versions of the Hornet, while the bulk of the Navy’s force has transitioned to F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The Super Hornets have longer range and greater payload, as well as more modern electronics and some signature reduction. The Marines did not buy Super Hornets, choosing to hold out for the F-35. But because of F-35 program delays, the Marine Hornets have had to hold out longer than planned.

This situation is ironic in one sense: The F/A-18 first entered service with the Marine Corps, which was seeking to replace aging F-4 Phantoms. The Hornet drew raves for ease of maintenance and its availability. Now, the F/A-18s are the aging mounts, and the Marines are struggling to keep them airborne.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers get down and dirty in this muddy ‘playground-of-the-day’

A seven-minute drive and there it was; a training site with water pits, steep hills and lots of mud. This was the playground-of-the-day for soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, during their wheeled vehicle recovery class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, late July 2019.

The training was designed to submerge vehicles in a controlled setting so soldiers could use the skills they’ve learned to retrieve it safely, according to Sgt. 1st Class Thomas McKenzie, an instructor with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company, from Fort McCoy. Soldiers train in the same scenarios they may face overseas to prepare for the elements, he added.


“I have the firm belief that if you have to call one of our recovery guys, something bad has happened,” said McKenzie, whose unit goes by the motto, “You call, we haul.”

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Brett Cosaboom with the Regional Training Site Maintenance Company in Fort McCoy, Wis., prepares a truck during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

“We never go out when it’s a bright, sunny day and pretty outside,” said McKenzie. “We always go out in the worst possible conditions.”

The group huddled up for a weather briefing just as the clouds rolled in. Despite the inclement weather, they continued mission. Each soldier stood in their respective positions and waited for the next move. Torrential rains pounded down creating conditions of limited visibility, but the soldiers carried on without hesitation.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, walk through deep water during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

“We don’t stop during bad weather because this is the kind of stuff these soldiers are going to have to deal with, as long as we can do it safely. I tell my soldiers all the time, the number one goal for this class is 10 fingers, 10 toes, vertical and breathing when you leave it,” said McKenzie.

Each soldier took their turn walking into the mire pits to attach massive chains to the submerged vehicles for recovery.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, perform reconnaissance before an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

According to Pfc. Kaleen Hansen, with the 445th Transportation Co., this type of training is an invaluable resource not only for the soldiers in the class, but also the Army Reserve as a whole. Wheeled vehicle mechanics do their job so that other soldiers can get on with theirs, she added.

Throughout the 17-day course, instructors practiced a crawl-walk-run style of learning to ensure soldiers are set up for success in the field, added McKenzie.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Austin Smith with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

“People think it’s just hooking up a cable or chain and moving on. It’s not. There’s a lot of math. These guys are doing a lot of complex equations to figure out what they need to do,” said McKenzie.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, rinses out his uniform after getting soaked during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

Safety and readiness are the two main concerns when conducting this type of training, according to Spc. Austin Smith, with the 445th Transportation Co. These vehicles weigh-in at 96,000 pounds, so all safety measures are taken seriously to avoid any accidents or injury, he added.

“You take care of us, we’ll take care of you … and we’ll get it done faster than heck,” said Smith.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. Kaleen Hansen with the 445th Transportation Company from Waterloo, Iowa, prepares a vehicle during an equipment recovery exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 20, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Alicia Pennisi)

Despite tornado warnings, rain and gusting winds, soldiers of the 445th Transportation Co. weathered the storm enough to safely recover all vehicles in a training environment. After a couple more days of practical exercises, the wheeled vehicle mechanic course at Fort McCoy wrapped up July 24, 2019, ensuring, rain or shine, they will be able to support when needed.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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7 kids who joined (even commanded) military units for a day

Make-A-Wish Foundation sets up special experiences for kids diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. While kids can wish for forts in their backyard, shopping sprees, or trips to Disney, some choose to get in the dirt and mud with the U.S. military. These 7 kids used their wishes to join (and in a couple of cases command) military units.


1. Evan takes command of Naval Air Station Fallon.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Pablo Jara Meza

When Evan was offered a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he wished to become a Top Gun fighter pilot. The commander of Naval Air Station Fallon welcomed Evan into his office and had an instructor escort him around the school. Evan was then able to attend a Top Gun graduation ceremony where he received an honorary certificate. His escort, Major Chip Berke, told a Marine Corps journalist, “There were so many volunteers to help escort Evan and his family, but I was fortunate to get the job. Evan tells me that I work for him. He even asked to be taken back to ‘his office’ a few times after leaving Base Admiral Mat Moffit’s desk.

2. Jorge makes brigadier general in minutes.

Jorge’s Wish from Michael Kroh on Vimeo.

Jorge was promoted to brigadier general for the day soon after arriving at Camp Pendleton, California to meet Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations – West. While in command, he rode in assault vehicles, attended a Marine Corps boxing lesson, and supervised an amphibious assault demonstration held in his honor.

3. Ian Field packs a 20-year career into two days.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Photo: US Army

The Army’s 1st Infantry Division learned Ian Field wanted to be a soldier for his wish and their 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team set up a two-day event for Ian to climb from private to command sergeant major April 14-15, 2011. He began by enlisting in the Army and being promoted to private first class. He then fired weapons, trained with grenades, shot artillery, rode in a helicopter, drove a tank, and rescued an injured comrade. As a final event, now-Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Field led his squad during a ceremony commemorating their time together.

4. Carl “pilots” his plane right into the ocean.

Carl, an avid history buff, asked to be a World War II pilot for the day. Specifically, a pilot on the run after being downed. The Air Force trained him in survival skills before he flew to Hawaii. Soldiers and Marines welcomed him at the Hawaii airport with 1940’s military vehicles and gave him a tour of military museums and installations on the islands. Then, he was flown in a Navy bi-plane to a remote beach where he had to cut himself out of a parachute, find his gear, and lead his dad to safety. While they were setting up their position, a pair of Navy SEALs swam in and Carl led their assault on an enemy camp.

5. Andrew becomes a Marine, sailor, soldier, and airman in one day.

Andrew toured multiple bases and served with the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps in a single day for his wish. First, he visited March Air Reserve Base and toured a C-17 in a custom flight suit and helmet and saw a Predator drone and F-16 up close. Then he headed to the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton where he became an honorary sergeant major. The Navy showed him some of their inflatable boats and let him fire weapons on a computerized shooting range before the Army showed him around their vehicles.

6. Riley learns the Ranger’s Creed in time for graduation.

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
Photo: US Army Army Capt. Jeremiah Cordovano

Riley Woina chose to be a Ranger for a day and practiced jumping out of planes with them before witnessing an actual airborne parachute drop with the 6th Ranger Battalion at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. During airborne training, a Ranger pulled Woina’s reserve parachute for him and accidentally gave the boy a black eye, but Woina decided to continue with training. He also assisted the Ranger candidates in clearing a room and was able to fire off some blank rounds from an M4 and M249. At Ranger graduation, he recited the Ranger Creed from memory.

Riley gave an interview to the Fort Benning Public Affairs Office where he discussed why he chose to be a Ranger for his wish, available here.

7. Jacob makes a World War II movie to honor the military.

Jacob Angel wished to be a World War II soldier in a movie depicting the exploits of World War II heroes. In the film, embedded above, he has to take a hill and fly the American flag over it.

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Congressman calls Navy secretary a greater threat to Marines than ISIS

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change
(Youtube screen capture)


Representative Duncan Hunter has declared that Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, is “a greater threat to the Marine Corps than ISIS” because of his efforts to open combat roles to women in spite of a study conducted by the Marines that indicated that warfighting effectiveness would suffer as a result.

“The reason the military is there is not to be a transgender, corporate organization,” Hunter told POLITICO, referring to the Pentagon’s plans to allow transgender service members to serve openly. “The military is there to execute American policy overseas, protect our allies and kill our enemies. It’s not a corporation. We’re not all treated equal.”

Hunter is most tweaked about Mabus’ memo to the Corps directing them to gender-integrate boot camp and to lose the word “man” from military job titles.

“These are long lasting,” Hunter said. “These changes that they’re making are not thought out, they’re not researched, they’ve not been debated. The American public has no idea what’s going on … It’s going to get people killed.”

Read more here.

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