The truth about cell phones in Basic Training - We Are The Mighty
Humor

The truth about cell phones in Basic Training

Thank god you got out when you did! The moment you received your DD-214, it was officially an end of an era. Hopefully, your branch won’t fall victim like all those other, weaker branches did. It’s Lord of the Flies in here.

New recruits are arriving in droves and they’re pulling out their cell phones to record themselves talking back to their drill sergeants. If the drill sergeants have a problem with it, they whip out their stress cards, go back to eating their Tide Pods, and continue listening to their music (which, coincidentally, has gotten progressively worse since your generation, too).


I saw it on Facebook. It has to be a thing, right?
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

In case you couldn’t tell, that introduction was slathered in enough satire to make Duffel Blog proud. If it wasn’t clear enough, don’t worry — stress cards weren’t ever a real thing and only a handful of people actually ate Tide Pods to get attention on social media.

The bit about cell phones, however, does have some basis in reality, but it’s nowhere near as overblown as you might think. First of all, phone calls are still a privilege (not a right) that’s dispensed at the discretion of the drill sergeant. If the drill sergeant says, “no phones this week,” that’s the final word.

Just like the old days… Or you know, like theu00a0Marines…
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Bolser)

Which leads directly into the next concern shared by many millennial-fearing vets. Let’s set the record straight: No. Privates in Basic are not allowed to keep their cell phones on them at all times. When Soldiers are allowed to use their phones, usually on a Sunday night, they follow the same rules as they were “back in the day” with pay phones. This time around, however, instead of allowing a line to form behind the phone, drill sergeants simply free recruits’ phones from lock-up.

Drill sergeants still monitor all phone use and often restrict photography, texting, and social media usage. If the recruits can send texts or check Facebook, it is entirely because the drill sergeant saw fit to reward them with such privilege. If the recruits are not allowed, then it’s just standard voice calls (wait — do phones still have a “voice call” feature?).

Either way, once their extremely short lease on phone time is spent, the phones are locked back up until the privilege is earned again.

The standards have never (and will never) change. Only technology has.
(Photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink)

The amount of pay phones in operation has dropped 95% since 1999, and a good portion of those that remain are in New York City. The pay phone business is far too dated to remain competitive in today’s world but the need for trainees to inform their family that they “just got here” and that they’re “doing fine” hasn’t magically evaporated.

So, yes. The military is an ever-changing, ever-adapting beast, but the high level of professionalism that you grew to love hasn’t been destroyed by the rise of cell phones.

Articles

This Corpsman saved his Marines despite being shot 4 times

Shortly after enlisting in the Navy in 1963, Robert Ingram contracted pneumonia while in boot camp and was sent to the hospital for recovery.


While in the dispensary, an outbreak of spinal meningitis occurred. Ingram watched and admired how the Corpsmen treated their patients with such dedication. As soon as Ingram was healthy, he requested a rate (occupation) change to that of a Hospital Corpsman.

After earning his caduceus, Ingram was assigned to 1st Battalion 7th Marines where he volunteered for “C” company — better than as “Suicide Charley.”

Related: This Corpsman saved a Marine suffering from a sniper headshot

Fully 7 months into his tour, an intense battle broke out against dozens of NVA troops and Ingram’s platoon was hit hard.

In one save during the battle, Ingram crawled across the bomb-scarred terrain to reach a downed Marine as a round ripped through his hand.

Hearing the desperate calls for a corpsman, Ingram collected himself and gathered ammunition from the dead. As he moved on from patient to patient, he resupplied his squad members as he passed by them.

Also Read: These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

Continuing to move forward, Ingram endured several gunshot wounds but continued to aid his wounded brothers. For nearly eight hours, he blocked out severe pain as he pushed forward to save his Marines.

On July 10, 1998, Ingram received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions from President Bill Clinton.

Medal of Honor Recipient Robert Ingram at his ceremony.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to watch Doc Ingram relive his epic story for yourself.

Medal of Honor Book, YouTube
Humor

6 crazy things some troops get away with living in the barracks

Unless you’re married, you better plan on living in the barracks — or prepare to be homeless. Although the idea of sharing a room with two or three other people sounds sh*tty, you can get away with some pretty interesting things if no one hates on you.


Many troops will try and bend the rules as far as they can, just to see what they can get away with.

Related: 7 ways barracks parties prepare you for college life

1. Having an unauthorized roommate.

Since staying in the barracks is like living in a cramped studio apartment, some service members occasionally invite a special someone to stay with them for various periods of time. Although it’s against the rules to allow a civilian to live in the barracks temporarily, you won’t get in trouble for it if they stay hidden in the closet while you’re off at work.

Unless you have plenty of haters around, you can manage to keep your civilian roommate a secret for a while.

2. Collecting BAH.

The barracks are usually run by what we call, “Barrack Sergeants.” If you’re cool with this guy or gal, you might be able to get yourself a free room, even though you’re collecting BAH.

3. Throwing loud parties.

How well someone can get away with throwing loud parties boils down to the number of people who like the person hosting the bash. If the barracks duty is a friend of yours, you can party all freakin’ night long.

Best barracks party ever!

4. Running a side-hustle business.

Contrary to popular belief, young enlisted troops can operate a business out of their barracks room. Since nobody pays rent, running a business requires little overhead. Although it sounds like a good idea to make some extra cash, the practice is highly frowned upon.

5. Using unauthorized appliances.

There are a few things you’re not allowed to have in your barracks room, like stoves, candles, and pets. However, some people get away with having appliances that aren’t on that list — if you’re cool.

He’s pushing it.

Also read: 5 things only medics can get away with

6. Getting a private room.

This is one of the hardest things to pull off in the barracks. Getting your own room is mostly a product of luck or a lot of a**kissing. Someone has to really like you out there — or your command has extra cash to afford private berthing quarters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

In 1989, Joseph Szecsei was charged by three elephants at the same time. He survived, but afterward, he decided the usual weapons for defense against giant animal attacks just weren’t sufficient. Szecsei sought out to make the perfect large-game animal stopper: The Szecsei & Fuchs “Mokume” bolt action double rifle.


Of course, Szecsei had a lot of firearm types and designs to choose from in creating the show-stopper. He could have chosen a larger round to shoot from a regular bolt action rifle. He could have created a semi-automatic rifle. There were a few factors (other than how to kill a large animal running at him at full speed) to consider.

First, he couldn’t create a semi-automatic weapon because they’re actually illegal in many of the places in which one might safari or otherwise hunt. Africa isn’t a completely lawless land of civil wars and corruption, no matter what television and movies would have you believe. Secondly, he needed a weapon that wouldn’t jam up at the crucial moment. Defense is the entire reason for the weapon, after all. So a bolt-action was necessary, but Szecsei still wanted the extra oomph of another shot.

Another shot of a round that could stop a charging elephant, that is. And large-caliber rounds just aren’t something a semi-automatic can do for a civilian. Taking a .50-cal out on safari might be frowned upon by the locals, so Szecsei returned to the idea of a large-caliber double-barrel bolt action rifle. And the Szecsei Fuchs “Mokume” rifle was born out of that idea.

The weapon is made of titanium to keep the weight down, along with titanium for its unique double magazine. The weapon fires anything from a .470-caliber round to the U.S. 30.06 – a rifle you can buy for whatever animal might be ready to gore down on your guts. It has two triggers, one for each barrel. With just one movement of the bolt, both rounds are expelled, and new ones are loaded into the chamber.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the next three elephants to come for Joseph Szecsei are in for a huge surprise. Please don’t hunt the most dangerous game with this rifle.

Articles

8 life lessons from ‘Major Payne’

Although it’s not considered an all-time military movie classic like “Full Metal Jacket” or “Stripes,” the 1995 military comedy “Major Payne” is an entertaining family film (with some salty language). The film stars comedian Damon Wayans as U.S. Marine Corps Major Benson Winifred Payne. Payne is a rough and tough Marine who becomes a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor after being discharged from active duty for not making lieutenant colonel. Payne’s job is to impart confidence and discipline in the rambunctious junior cadets and train them to win a military cadet competition.


The film has some funny and memorable lines – quoted in military training to this day – such as “What we have here is a failure to communicate” and “I’m gonna put my foot so far up your ass, the water on my knee will quench your thirst.” In between laughs, Major Payne bestows some surprising life lessons that apply to current service members, veterans, and society at large.

1. Career transitions are tough – expect setbacks

Major Payne is served his separation papers from the Marines in the beginning of the film. Just a week out of the service, Payne finds himself in jail after a failed attempt to become a police officer by slapping a man senseless during a training scenario.”It’s civilian life, sir. I had a minor setback,” Payne tells his former commander Gen. Decker, played by Albert Hall. Thanks to the help of his former commander, he lands the job as the JROTC instructor.

Lesson: Many people face a career change at some point in their lives. Setbacks are inevitable but it’s important to be patient. It is also important to use your network when looking for a new career.

2. Not everyone is sympathetic; mental toughness goes a long way

The gif above is Major Payne’s most famous quote. He gives his young cadets this verbal tirade as they struggle to complete an obstacle course in the pouring rain. Eventually, the persistence and will of the cadets lead them to overcome the obstacle course and achieve success.

Lesson: Not everyone will be sympathetic to your plight, no matter how difficult things are in your personal or professional life. When faced with challenges, being mentally strong and determined can help overcome any challenge, no matter the level of difficultly.

3. Keep trying to improve

In a classic drill instructor tone, Major Payne tells the young men, “You’re still a shit sandwich, you’re just not a soggy one” following a drill and ceremony routine. In his own unique way, the rough and tough character is acknowledging the effort put in by the boys to improve.

Lesson: Never stop trying to improve. You can always get better.

4. Don’t give up

For Major Payne, failure is not an option. He wants victory at all costs! In order to win the military games, he puts the cadets through hell. He shaves their heads, PTs them all day and makes them run in dresses in front of the whole school. Despite their disdain for the man and his tough training methods, the kids don’t quit.

Lesson: Life will bring challenges. Don’t let that prevent you from achieving your goals.

5. Teamwork is important

The cadets are a ragtag group from the beginning. Despite their differences, they build cohesion, delegate responsibilities and establish a common goal to win the military games.

Lesson: The value of camaraderie is vital in bringing a group of people to work well together no matter their differences. Working effectively as a team will bring success to any project whether you are in the civilian or military sector.

6. Loyalty is crucial

Major Payne is given the chance to return to active duty at the rank of lieutenant colonel. Initially, he chooses to take the job offer and leaves the boys high and dry before the competition. Eventually, his love and loyalty to the cadets brings him back to see his boys in the final event of the competition. He stays on as a JROTC instructor.

Lesson: It seems the thought of loyalty as a core tenet is slipping away to self-interest these days. Being loyal to friends, family or co-workers takes time and sacrifice. Believing in and devoting yourself to someone or something you care about is a great value to have for the rest of your life.

7. Self-confidence is essential

Major Payne instills confidence in all of his cadets, especially the smallest one in the group “Tiger.” He tells him a frightening version of “The Little Engine that Could,” and makes him the drill team leader. This gives Tiger the confidence he needs to trust his abilities. Tiger’s self-confidence shines through as the boys do a drill routine with a classic 90’s hip-hop beat and old-school rhymes. Tiger even breaks it down with the “Cabbage Patch” dance and some vintage Michael Jackson moves. His self-confidence helps him lead the team to victory.

Lesson: Trusting in your abilities will help you accomplish your goals. Believe in yourself.

8. Lighten up

Major Payne is a military badass. He takes his life and his work seriously but he begins to lighten up a bit during the movie. He even has a little fun on the dance floor with some sweet robot moves.

Lesson: There are times in life to be serious, but it’s ok to lighten up. Being able to enjoy life, relax, and not be so uptight can make life more enjoyable. YOLO.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Marines of the future will get their heavy vehicles to the beach

The Navy’s first newly built Ship-to-Shore Connector maritime warfare craft launched on the water in early 2018, paving the way for stepped up production and introducing a new era in modern amphibious warfare for the Marines.

Naval Sea Systems Command recently awarded a deal to Ship-to-Shore connector-maker Textron to acquire long-lead early procurement materials for the new fleet of watercraft. The new SSC mobile amphibious connectors are able to transport larger armored vehicles, such as an Abrams tank, from amphibious assault ships to combat ashore.

The new SSCs are designed to replace the existing fleet of Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC) able to move Marines, weapons and supplies from ship to shore for amphibious operations. The connectors will integrate emerging computer technology able to reduce the needed crew size and perform more functions independently.


The upgraded amphibious ship-to-shore craft includes lighter weight composite materials, Increased payload capacity, modernized engines, and computer automated flight controls, Textron Systems Vice President of Marine Systems Scott Allen told Warrior Maven in an interview in early 2018.

The SSC’s new Rolls Royce engines will have more horsepower and specialized aluminum to help prevent corrosion. The lighter weight be enable a better lift capacity, allowing the craft to transport up to 74-tons — enough to transport heavy armored vehicles from ship to shore for an amphibious assault, Allen said.

Textron Ship-to-Shore Connector.

The Navy’s 72 existing LCACs, in service since the 80s, can only transport up to 60-tons, reach speeds of 36-knots and travel ranges up to 200 nautical miles from amphibious vehicles, Navy officials explained.

Textron engineers also say the SSC is built with digital flight controls and computer automation to replace the traditional yoke and pedals used by current connectors. As a result, on-board computers will quickly calculate relevant details such as wind speed and navigational information, they explained.

The new SSC’s have also moved to a lower frequency for ship electronics, moving from 400 Hertz down to 60 Hertz in order to better synchronize ship systems with Navy common standards, Textron developers explained. Along with these properties, the new craft reduces the number of gear boxes from eight to two.

With some of the existing fleet of LCACs approaching 30-years of service, the Navy needs to begin replacing them with new ones, service officials have told Warrior Maven.

The new Rolls Royce engine is the same one currently used in an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, Textron developers said. The new SSCs also increases the strength of the deck and improve the propellers when compared with existing LCACs.

An amphibious assault vehicle assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, embarks the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Williamson)

LCACs can access over 70-percent of the shoreline across the world, something the new SSCs will be able to do as well, service officials said.

Designed with over-the-horizon high-speed and maneuverability, LCACs are able to travel long distances and land on rocky terrain — even driving right up onto the shore.

In order to bridge the gap from existing LCACs to the new SSCs, the Navy implemented a special service life extension program for the LCACs — many of which are now approaching three decades of service.

The LCACs were re-engined with new engines, given new rotating machinery, new command and control systems, new skirts and fixes to corrosion issues. The effort is designed to put another 10 years of life back into the LCAC, Navy officials described.

The idea with the service life extension is to bridge the time-lapse or gap until the new SSCs are ready to enter the force in larger numbers, senior Navy officials explained.

Some of the enhancements being engineered into the SSCs are designed to address the changing threat landscape in a modern environment, a scenario that is expected to change how amphibious operations will be conducted in the future.

Since potential adversaries now have longer-range weapons, better sensors and targeting technologies and computers with faster processing speeds, amphibious forces approaching the shore may need to disperse in order to make it harder for enemy forces to target them. This phenomenon, wherein potential adversaries have advanced weaponry designed to make it harder for U.S. forces to operate in certain areas such as closer to the shore, is described by Pentagon analysts as “anti-access/area-denial.”

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Navy almost blew up the President of the United States

If you mess up just one glorious time in the U.S. military, your friends and peers will never let you forget it. It’s always been this way, even in World War II. From November 1943 until she was lost in 1945, the destroyer USS William D. Porter was greeted by home ports and other U.S. Navy ships with: “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” That’s what happens when you almost assassinate the President.


Yes, that President.

In 1943, the USS Iowa was ferrying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, along with the top brass of the entire United States military in the middle of the biggest, most dangerous war ever. It was a very special, important mission. They were on their way to meet their Allied counterparts in Cairo and Tehran, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.

The whole thing was almost derailed by one torpedo fired at the Iowa, by a destroyer in the Iowa’s own convoy, the William D. Porter. And it was a fast-running, powerful 500-pound torpedo.

“Whoops.”

The Porter was a hard-luck ship that hadn’t even seen combat yet. As she left Norfolk, she scraped the side of her sister ship, almost tearing her apart. While on convoy duty crossing the Atlantic, one of her depth charges slipped out of its hold and detonated, sending the convoy into a tizzy. Later, a large wave washed everything on the destroyer’s deck into the ocean, including a sailor that was never found. Once things calmed down a bit, the crews settled in for some target practice as the President watched on.

The Iowa launched target balloons, which the ships fired at in turn, including the Porter. Next, the skipper of the Porter ordered torpedo practice with Iowa as the target. But when the simulated order to fire a torpedo accidentally launched an armed torpedo, the bridge understandably flipped out.

Yes, that USS Iowa.

Under strict radio silence to avoid attracting German u-boats, the crew of the Porter began to furiously signal Iowa. Unfortunately, in their haste, they mentioned nothing about a torpedo, instead telling the battleship that the destroyer was backing up at full speed. Eventually, they radioed the Iowa anyway. After a brief disagreement about radio procedures, the huge battleship moved out of the way of the oncoming torpedo, which exploded in the wake of the battleship, with President Roosevelt aware of the torpedo and watching it come.

The guns of the battleship turned on the William D. Porter. The ship was ordered to make its way to Bermuda, its entire ship’s company under arrest. It was surrounded by U.S. Marines when it arrived in Bermuda. The crew was dismissed to landward assignments, and its skipper was sentenced to 14 years in prison – a sentence President Roosevelt commuted to no punishment because he considered it an averted accident.

The “WIllie Dee” sinks in the Pacific, June 1945.

The destroyer itself would go on fighting the war while continuing its hard luck, accidentally shooting down American planes and strafing her sister ship with gunfire. In June 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot who missed his initial target sank into the sea next to the Porter. It exploded directly underneath the ship, however, and sent her to the bottom.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Spain says a US Marine raided a North Korean embassy

Just five days before President Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, 10 armed men staged a daring daylight raid on North Korea’s embassy in the Spanish capital of Madrid. They stole documents, computers, and maybe more, making off with the material. The men then handed the material over to the FBI.

In connection with the raid, U.S. authorities have arrested a Marine Corps veteran named Christopher Ahn in Los Angeles, where he is being held pending extradition to Spain.


U.S. Marines in Afghanistan.

The stolen material found its way back to the North Korean embassy some two weeks or so after being stolen in Spain. The arrests only came recently, weeks after the raid itself. Federal authorities say Ahn is a member of “Free Joseon,” a group dedicated to the dismantling of the Kim regime in North Korea. Ahn’s case has been sealed at the request of his lawyer, but federal authorities have also arrested Adrian Hong, the leader of the group.

Now the men who sought to aid the FBI with a trove of stolen North Korean documents and equipment of massive intelligence value are facing extradition back to Spain. Lawyers for the pair are concerned they could end up in the hands of North Korea, though the Justice Department says that scenario is unlikely.

“Extradition treaties generally provide that an individual who has been extradited to another country to face criminal charges cannot thereafter be extradited to a third country without the consent of the original country,” said a U.S. Justice Department spokesperson. The U.S. government has denied any involvement and Free Joseon has sworn that no governments knew of their raid until well after it was over.

According to the group, the assailants were actually invited into the embassy. Once inside, they began to tie up the staff members, cover their heads, and ask them questions. A woman reportedly escaped, which led to a visit from the Spanish police. Someone at the gate told the Spanish Police all was well, but then the thieves drove off, abandoning their vehicles on a side street.

Ahn, the onetime Marine, was formally charged in the raid on April 19, 2019. His fate remains uncertain, but the group’s lawyer had some stern words for the United States government.

“[I am] dismayed that the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to execute warrants against U.S. persons that derive from criminal complaints filed by the North Korean regime,” attorney Lee Wolosky said in a statement.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force will clear out hundreds of ‘stupid’ regulations

At an Air Force Association breakfast March 30, 2018, the Secretary of the Air Force talked up the service’s progress in ridding the service of outdated rules and procedures that burden airmen.

When she took office in May 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson ordered a two-year review of the service’s blizzard of instructions, policies, and rules with the overall goal of eliminating the unnecessary ones. Since then, the Air Force has gotten rid of about 100 of the total of about 1,400 instructions, she said.


As an example, Wilson cited a regulation that would have required her as Air Force secretary to sign off on how an obstacle course could be constructed on a base.

“We have an instruction on how to build an obstacle course,” Wilson said. “My guess is, if they need to build an obstacle course, they can probably figure it out.”

Wilson said the work continues to whittle down the Air Force’s body of rules and regulations.

Tech. Sgt. Joe Lovanisci climbs the inverted rope challenge.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

“We are prioritizing the ones that are outdated and actually track them every month,” Wilson said. “The biggest challenge we have been facing is in personnel and operations” as the Air Force presses to push decision-making down to the lowest levels to save time and money.

In addition to eliminating red tape, the Air Force is also intent on teaching airmen to act on their own initiative, she said.

“We don’t expect in future conflicts to have the exquisite command, control and communication we’ve had over the last 27 years of combat” as potential adversaries become more adept at jamming, Wilson said.

“We will need airmen to take what they know and take mission orders and execute the mission using their best judgment for the circumstances at the time. If we expect them to work that way in wartime, then we need to treat them that way in peacetime,” she said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 key features that define a machine gun

Even within the military, there are people who use the terms “machine gun” and “automatic rifle” interchangeably. While these classifications of weapon share similar functions and mechanics, it’s important to understand that they are, in fact, not the same.


In terms of mechanics, machine guns and automatic rifles are both capable of fully automatic fire. But, beyond that, there are some key differences. Due to differences in range and firing rate, you should never send an automatic rifle to do a machine gun’s job, or vice versa. Here are some of the key features you will find on a machine gun but not on an automatic rifle.

Hearing a machine gun firing is glorious, though.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Hersey)

One firing option

Machine guns are absolutely designed for automatic fire, but here’s the thing: most machine guns only have that option. You can either have the weapon on safe or fully automatic. Conversely, with an automatic rifle, there’s an option for semi-automatic fire when full-auto is not tactically wise.

There’s a reason they’re always carried on the shoulder.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Weight

Probably the biggest and most notable difference, machine guns are inherently heavier. Even the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, a “light” machine gun, weighs 17 lbs when empty. While 17 lbs may not sound like a lot, when you take into consideration the amount of ammunition you’ll need to carry and the weight of your other gear, it adds up.

Automatic rifles, specifically the M27, don’t compare — even when loaded.

The ammunition is also loaded onto a feeding tray.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Q. Hamilton)

Belt-fed ammunition

Plenty of machine guns offer a magazine-fed option, but that’s really only for extremely dire situations in which belt-fed ammunition isn’t easily available. An automatic rifle may be modified to be belt-fed, but the original design calls for magazines.

Melting the barrel would probably be an expensive — but amazing — “accident.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena)

Changeable barrel

Firing hundreds of rounds in rapid succession gets the barrel so hot it runs the risk of melting. So, to prevent machine guns from destroying themselves, barrels can be exchanged after a certain amount of time or number of bullets fired. An automatic rifle doesn’t need this option.

You can’t complete a disassembly without removing the buttstock.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Karnath)

Removable buttstock and pistol grip

In order to remove certain parts inside a machine gun’s receiver, the buttstock and pistol grip must first be removed. With an automatic rifle, the buffer and buffer spring can be removed by separating the upper and lower receiver.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to skydive with the Army Golden Knights

There’s skydiving, and then there’s Army skydiving.

Their origins began in the Cold War when the Soviet Union was dominating the emerging skydiving sport. In 1959, 19 Airborne soldiers began competing at the international level, and by 1961 they were known as the Golden Knights.

Since then, the Knights have conducted more than 16,000 shows around the world, and team members have broken 348 world records.

And sometimes if you’re very lucky, you can strap one on like a backpack and jump out of a plane with him.

Here’s how:


Shannon Corbeil

youtu.be

Watch what it’s like to jump with the Golden Knights

The Golden Knights are comprised of a few different teams: the demonstration teams perform at over 100 events per year (and if you haven’t seen them in action, run don’t walk — they’re remarkable) while the tandem team jumps with fellow soldiers, heads of state, celebrities, people of influence, members of the military community, and, well, military pin-ups as it turns out.

The Knights reached out to Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets, and while she declined (for now, Gina — but I am determined to get you up in the air!!), she did ask if she could send some of her more daring ambassadors. If you’re not familiar with Pin-Ups for Vets, it’s a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and military families.

Enter U.S. Army vet Erikka Davis, U.S. Marine Megan Martine, and me (U.S. Air Force vet — hello!).

Erikka Davis (U.S. Army), Megan Martine (U.S. Marine Corps), Shannon Corbeil (U.S. Air Force)

After a fun meet-and-greet with our fellow guests, who included people like an A.P. Bio Teacher, a Vice Principal, a firefighter, some Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders, and a stand-up comic, we set our alarms for an early wake-up and set out for our adventure. This is where I got to meet Sgt. 1st Class Chris “Ace” Acevedo, who would be my jump instructor.

And who apparently is also a legend.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B20UzKiA7_b/ expand=1]Shannon Corbeil on Instagram: “Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?) I might be a little biased but he’s my favorite jump instructor! ?…”

www.instagram.com

Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?)

Ace’s Army career included service as a Cavalry Scout and an Air Defensive Artilleryman in countries like Iraq and South Korea before he joined the Golden Knights. Over the past eleven years, he has served on both the Black and Gold demonstration teams, competition teams, and now the tandem team. He will also be representing the Army on the 2020 U.S. Parachute Team in the 2020 World Championships. I asked him what he had to do to make the team:

“Freefall at 300 mph.”

Oh. Is that all?

For comparison, during our freefall, we’d be descending at about 120 mph. So, yeah, the guy is fast.

He’s also got about 6000 jumps under his belt, which gave me a lot of comfort when confronted with this view:

Just imagine kneeling here and then…tumbling out. Because it was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT.

(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

It’s nice to know that if I somehow fell out of the plane without a parachute, my instructor could just…come catch me.

Because as you can see in the video above, when the students load up in the plane, we don’t have chutes. We strap in mid-flight, get a refresher from the morning’s instruction (hold chest straps, keep your eyes on your videographer, arch arch arch, two taps on the shoulder means you can release your hands, two taps on your hips means arch more, etc.), then shuffle to the door.

From there, it became a practice in trust. Walking to the edge of an open plane door without using my hands went against every instinct in my body — but I knew that Ace literally had my back.

Can you find the C-17?

(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

In 2003, I completed five unassisted jumps with the U.S. Air Force Freefall program, which meant I was responsible for pulling my own chute after a 10-second freefall. But with the Golden Knights, my job just was to “relax, arch, and have fun.”

Right before we took off, my videographer Sgt. 1st Class Rich Sloan told me that safety was the priority, but if we were stable then he’d reach his hand out to me, and we’d spin SO I WAS DETERMINED TO BE THE MOST STABLE POSSIBLE IN THE UNIVERSE.

“And we’re the three best friends that anyone could have…”

(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

In the video above, you can see what that spin looked like. You can also see from my reaction that it was thrilling.

During our descent, Ace pointed out a C-17 flying beneath us, maintained his checklist, and kept us alive – all of which I’m extremely thankful for. Then after what felt like 10 seconds but was actually a good 45 seconds, with a sharp salute he pulled our chute.

It went by so fast it surprised me, so I made a giphy of the moment BECAUSE MY LEGS KICK OUT AND IT’S HILARIOUS.

Weeeeeeeeeeee!

We had a good chute and did some spins under the canopy while Ace endured what I can only describe as me doing a breathless double rainbow guy impression (“Oh my godddddd! Oh my god this is amaaaaaazing!”) before he steered us to the landing zone and brought us gently and lovingly to the earth from whence we came.

For me, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. For Ace, it could have just been another one of 300 tandem jumps — but that’s not how he sees it. He still remembers his first jumps and the thrill of that experience, so he likes to share that feeling with others.

Talking with him after, I asked what some of his favorite parts of the job are. “Gold Star Families are pretty special. It helps them with their healing process, so that’s a big deal to me. I just want to help them through the day — for many of them, it helps them feel close to the person they lost.”

Feather-soft landing, I’m not even kidding.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

All I can say about the program is that if you get the invitation to jump with the Golden Knights, take it. They are so professional, so precise, and so skilled at what they do. I had no problem trusting this team with my life. I’m still incredulous that they even provide this kind of experience to people.

I asked Ace why they do it, and he said it’s so our country can get to know her soldiers.

“This is us. This is what an American soldier looks like. This is my Army story.”

MIGHTY GAMING

This is what class an infantry rifleman would be in a tabletop RPG

A Marine Rifleman is a jack of all trades. While our job is to focus on closing with and destroying the enemy, it doesn’t stop us from learning the basics of other jobs. Some times, sure, it’s to fill up training time slots but, why not learn how to use machine guns or mortars? Learning a little bit of everything is exactly why the infantry rifleman would fall under the class of “fighter” when it comes to table-top RPGs.

“Fighters learn the basics of all combat styles…” Is a sentence you’ll find if you look at the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook if you look under the class of “Fighter.” The writers of the handbook may not have intended for this sentence to also describe the Marine Corps’ main attack force but, it does a nice job of summing it up. But we’re not going to stop there.

Here’s why the infantry rifleman would be a fighter:


Notice how one Marine has a SAW and the other has a standard M16.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian M. Henner)

Weapon versatility

Riflemen are taught to be able to use every weapon on the battlefield. This means we’re meant to be able to pick up anything and know how to use it. Similarly, a Fighter is capable of using most weapons; whatever works.

Even prepared in the case of getting grappled.

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

Diverse training

Fighters can be used in a number of any kind of situations. Some can be defenders of a city or sent to combat in a distant land. Whatever the case is, a fighter is trained for it. Infantry riflemen are the same, there are very few situations that we are not trained for.

Any clime and place, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria)

A thirst for adventure

Whether it is trekking through a jungle with thick vegetation or across knee-deep snow on a mountain, you bet an infantry rifleman will find their enemy where they live and break everything they own. There is a slight difference here since, in reality, we have rules where players of a table-top don’t necessarily have that.

Look how they’re just charging in, ready for anything.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)

Fearing no enemy

Fighters are capable of facing down dragons and all sorts of beasts fearlessly, depending on how you’re playing. Dragons, in the sense of a table-top RPG, may not exist (for all we know) in our world. But that doesn’t mean an infantry rifleman couldn’t fight one if they did. Hell, there was even a recruiting ad that depicted Marines slaying a volcano monster… You know the one.

Articles

ALS is attacking military veterans in increasing numbers

There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.


Roger Brannon deployed as part ofu00a0Operation Enduring Freedom. He now suffers from ALS.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.

Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.

(Courtest of the Brannon Family)

“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.

What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.

(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.

“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”