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.
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.
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.
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.
Russian snipers and separatist marksmen trained in Russian military camps outmatch their Ukrainian counterparts in the Donbas conflict with better rifles, equipment, and ammunition, an analysis by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation says.
Given that the conflict in eastern Ukraine has entered a positional phase of trench warfare, the role of snipers and the advantages Russia-backed forces have in this area is more acute, the think tank said on February 25.
In these conditions, snipers are “an effective multiplier on the battlefield, able to precisely strike long-range enemy targets, conduct indispensable reconnaissance of enemy movements and positions, as well as demoralize enemy troops,” the analysis said.
When the war broke out in April 2014, Ukraine was using Soviet-era Dragunov (SVD) rifles, while their better-funded and technologically more advanced adversary was using the same rifles but with new barrels, scopes, and high-quality rounds.
“Russian professional snipers at the middle and rear lines” were using bolt-action rifles that “fire three times farther than the SVD rifles.”
Lack of funding made it challenging to buy Ukrainian shooters night-vision devices, camouflage, rangefinders, ammunition, thermal sights, and silencers, something the Russia-backed forces are in no shortage of, it said.
Therefore, Jamestown Foundation wrote, Kyiv is still playing catch-up.
Call of Dutyhas become a staple of military gamers. Both casual and hardcore gamers can enjoy picking up a controller and going a few rounds with their buddies in the barracks while waiting for their command to tell them it’s time to clean weapons at the armory or reorganize that connex container. While it’s a great pastime, there are plenty of titles to choose from, and not all of them are as good as the others.
Since the first release in 2003, Call of Duty has been the title of around 15 video games with the most recent being Black Ops 4, and there is another one on the way later this year. While a lot of people enjoy the multiplayer in the game, the franchise has also done a great job with storytelling in several of its installments.
It’s tough to choose from the 15 title roster, so we’re going to look at titles from the past decade that gave us a great story to play:
That last mission is one of the best.
World at War
Okay, okay, this one was released in November of 2008 so not technically from the last decade, but it’s January 2019 so deal with it. This game needs to be on this list. The reason for this is that World at War featured some more mature thematic elements, showing World War II as a tragic and horrific event and showing that there’s a lot of moral gray areas.
The game also gave you control of a Russian character to see their side of the war, as well as giving birth to the Black Ops series.
You fight off a Russian invasion of the United States.
Modern Warfare 2
While the first Modern Warfare installment was great, its sequel built on the strengths of its predecessor and made an even better game. This game’s story felt more like a military-action thriller, giving you a mystery to uncover, while still bringing realistic, war-related thematic elements and even serving up some controversy as a side dish.
Sgt. Woods is one of the best characters in the entire series.
The first game in the series to start in Vietnam, going into the Cold War, this game seriously delivered on some awesome story. This game also featured some of the best three-dimensional characters in the franchise and gave us a taste of Vietnam, something we want more of.
This series is a lot of fun.
Black Ops II
The third installment of the series and definitely worth mentioning, Black Ops II was the first in the line-up of futuristic warfare games. Building off the story of the previous installments of the Black Ops series, this story gave you some insight into the ripple effect of one’s actions, showing how the previous two story-lines bled into the future.
This also led to the creation of the best fictional unit for stolen valor.
Not loved by many but there are some of us who loved the story and the concept. This game really focuses on what brotherhood means as it follows two literal brothers as they fight to stop an organization known as the “Federation of the Americas” and their father’s former teammate.
But that’s what happened to Sigurd the Mighty, a man born as a commoner who went on to be a great military leader under Olaf the White, a Viking sea king.
It all started when Sigurd’s older brother, Earl Rognvald of Moeri, lost a son while serving King Harald in the invasion of islands of Shetland, Orkney, and Hebrides. Harald expanded Rognvald’s holdings by granting him the Orkney and Shetland islands, but Rognvald wasn’t interested in ruling those islands. So he returned to Norway and passed the title and lands of the Earl of Orkney to his brother, Sigurd, in 875.
Sigurd was pretty lucky to get an earldom all to himself, and he appears to have taken the responsibility seriously. He led troops during multiple campaigns and became known as Earl Sigurd the Powerful.
(Peter Nicolai Arbo, Public domain)
But he had trouble controlling the lands he had captured for the king. He built a stronghold in the Moray area of Scotland to project power, but the Norse were not popular that deep into Scottish land. So a local leader, Maelbrigd, became a thorn in Sigurd’s side.
Sigurd sought to end his struggles with Maelbrigd once and for all. The men agreed to meet in honorable combat with 40 men each. But Sigurd didn’t trust Maelbrigd to fight honorably, so he did that classic thing where he cheated first. He brought 40 horses, but he put two men on each horse. Maelbrigd, on the other hand, did fight honorably.
The 80 men of Sigurd’s force won. Big surprise. And Sigurd told them to strap the heads of their enemies to the horses to celebrate. Sigurd, of course, strapped Maelbrigd’s head to his own horse.
But Sigurd had a sore on his leg. And Maelbrigd’s teeth rubbed against that sore and infected it. In one of the most unlikely kills in history, Maelbrigd killed his foe from beyond the grave with a mouth full of bacteria.
Sucks to be Sigurd.
By the way, you can learn more about the struggle between the Norse and Scottish for Orkney and the surrounding lands in The Orkeyinga Sagaavailable here.
Whether you’re on a small FOB — let’s face it, most airmen won’t be here — or a military base, Afghanistan deployments can either be the most boring or a little bit exciting, depending on how you play your cards. Okay, fine — it’s going to be a little boring no matter what.
Yes, deployments are most often filled with binge-watching TV on time off or working out multiple times a day, but these are some tips that can make time in the sandbox a little more exciting.
That is, if you can get away with them and not get an Article 15 or court-martial.
4. Alcohol in mouthwash bottles.
Everyone knows that drinking while deployed is against general orders — meaning this you could get in heaps of trouble if you’re dumb and get sh*t-faced. Tip: Don’t be dumb.
It’s easy to get alcohol into Afghanistan if you utilize everyday items to smuggle it in and send it through regular mail. Just don’t go around swigging out of the mouthwash bottle or else someone is going to figure out what’s up.
And if you’re going to share, make sure the ones you share with don’t f*ck it up by opening their mouths to supervisors.
3. Befriend a loadmaster.
Okay, okay — this might only work if you have access to a loadmaster or if you work near the flightline, but networking saves the day in dire times.
Make friends with a loadmaster — or heck, even a pilot — and they’ll willingly bring you back anything you want from wherever they go, probably for a price. Obviously, you’ll pay the price of whatever they bring back, but you might find yourself owing them a favor later (No, not that kind of favor, sicko. Just be willing to help them when they need it).
2. Hang with the foreign military.
Any chance you can spend time with military personnel from different countries, do it. New Zealand is particularly delightful because they can drink on deployment and their accents are easy on the ears (ladies).
Besides the allure of alcohol and the accents, getting to know others from other countries just opens up new lines of communication, and meeting people kills time. You might also end up with some cool challenge-coin swag and squadron T-shirts by the end of deployment.
1. Last Resort: O’Doul’s at the BX and binge watch TV shows.
If you’re not daring enough to do any of the above for fear of a court-martial or an Article 15, stick with a couple of O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beers and watch movies on your laptop or smartphone. The Air Force Exchanges are notorious for selling almost anything you can get at a Walmart, so go wild, go crazy, and buy some fake beer.
It might sound boring and pointless, but at least there are no general orders being broken. So, airman, crack open that O’Doul’s and re-watch Dexter for the third time, because that might be as good as it’s going to get.
2019 San Francisco 49ers Season: Playoffs: Super Bowl LIV 2020 Kansas City Chiefs vs San Francisco 49ers Sunday, February 2, 2020 Santa Clara, CA (49ers Photo)
When Air Force Academy football player Ben Garland broke his left hand at practice in 2009, Head Coach Troy Calhoun thought he might miss the rest of the season. Garland played that week.
“You thought, ‘My goodness, this guy, he’s a pretty special human being,”’ Calhoun said.
Garland, 32, is now entering his sixth NFL season overall and his second season with the San Francisco 49ers. For the last nine years, the offensive lineman has spent his offseasons with the Colorado Air National Guard.
Garland was 5 years old when he attended an Air Force football game with his grandfather, who was a colonel. That experience led the determined boy to vow to play on that field someday and become an officer.
Garland played on the defensive line at the Air Force Academy from 2006 to 2009, earning all-Mountain West conference, second-team honors as a senior. He signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent and placed on the reserve/military list for two years so he could honor his military commitment.
Garland became an offensive lineman in 2012 and has been on three teams that reached the Super Bowl — the Broncos after the 2013 season, the Atlanta Falcons after the 2016 season and the 49ers last February. Garland started at center during San Francisco’s 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
“I’m definitely known around the wing as the guy who plays in the NFL,” said Garland, who is 6 feet 5 and weighs 308 pounds.
Capt. Ben Garland. Courtesy photo.
Garland has worked primarily in public affairs with the Air National Guard, handling media and community relations as well as internal communications. He has deployed abroad, including to Jordan in 2013.
He was also the recipient of a 2018 Salute to Service Award, in part, because of actions off the field including donating game tickets each week to service members, visiting the Air Force Academy annually to speak to students, working with Georgia Tech ROTC and mentoring local young officers, according to the NFL.
“Once you join the military, you are always an airman or soldier or whatever branch you choose, but we’re all service members,” said Major Kinder Blacke, chief of public affairs for the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard. “I don’t really think you take that uniform off. I guess I would say I see him as a guardsman who’s an excellent football player and has pursued both of those dreams at once. It’s really admirable.”
Garland said he cherishes his time at Air Force.
“It was extremely challenging and physical, and you were exhausted at times, but the challenging things in life mean the most to you,” he said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I have some of my closest friends from it.”
Garland served on active duty from 2010-12 after graduation. He was already a member of the Air National Guard by the time he made his NFL debut for the Broncos against the Raiders in Oakland on Nov. 9, 2014.
“The way he is able to have a full plate but to do it with such drive and energy, he has an enormous amount of work capacity,” Calhoun said.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered the sports calendar and left a question mark over Garland’s NFL career. There is no guarantee that Garland will be with his teammates for the 49ers’ scheduled opener against the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sept. 13.
Regardless, Garland still possesses a clear vision for what lies ahead.
“Once my NFL career is over, I’d love to do more stuff with the military,” he said. “It just depends where my body’s at. …[In] the military, you get people from all walks of life to come together to be one of the best teams in the world. These selfless, incredible, courageous people, you get to know and be friends with. I definitely want to be a part of that as long as I can.”
Keep up with Garland’s career updates by following him on Instagram.
Breastfeeding moms who also work face plenty of challenges, from a lack of dedicated pumping areas to unsupportive supervisors and colleagues. Things can be even tougher if your job is as a member of the armed forces, as Robyn Roche-Paull learned firsthand.
Per Romper, Roche-Paull was in the Navy when she had her baby in the 1990s, an era in which there were no breastfeeding policies, no deployment deferments, and just six weeks of maternity leave. When she returned to work, she had no time or place to pump, and she resorted to using dirty, chemical-filled supply closets that often didn’t lock.
A female supervisor even told here that she was “making all the women look bad with me asking for time to pump every three to four hours.” Yikes.
“There were no books on this subject, and no one to talk to about the questions and struggles I was facing,” she recalls, so when she left the Navy in 1997 she decided to fix that. She became a lactation consultant and created a Facebook group to collect stories from military moms that eventually became a book, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.
“The page was way more successful than I ever dreamed, which in turn made me realize that I could have a website with all this information freely available to the public.”
The project morphed into a non-profit organization, also called Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, that provides resources to moms struggling to breastfeed while enlisted.
“Being successful with breastfeeding is a challenge. They have to overcome not only cultural issues, but finding time and place to pump, how to ship milk home from overseas, travel, deployments, and possibly exposure to hazardous materials, not to mention maintaining weight and physical fitness standards.”
And just as importantly, it’s a supportive community that can help moms realize that it is possible to balance the obligations of military service and motherhood, often through simply sharing photos of breastfeeding or pumping in uniform.
“These are moms who have decided that serving their country — a sacrifice in itself — is very important, but so is making sure that their babies receive their breast milk even if that means shipping their milk home from Afghanistan for six months,” Roche-Paull says.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Being in the military is hard. I served in the military for 13 long years, and I know how demanding and exhausting that job is. But, do you guys want to know what’s hard too?
Being a military spouse.
Being a military spouse comes without a title, without a rank, without the specialized training, and most of all, without the brotherhood that accompanies the life of an armed forces member and that, my friends, is not easy. Out of all the jobs that I have done in my life, and believe me when I say that I have had my share of challenging and insanely stressful jobs, being a military spouse has been, by far, the most difficult one.
I still remember when I became a military spouse 21 years ago. By the time I became Mrs. Morales, I was already a hard-core soldier. A soldier that had been trained to go to war, trained to kill, trained to survive in the most difficult situations, but also trained to save lives. Yes, I was trained to be a combat medic in the Army, a job that I enjoyed doing with all my heart, but one thing the Army never trained me for was becoming a military spouse, which I became when I was just a 20 year old kid.
U.S. Army Spc. Leo Leroy gets a kiss from Regina Leroy and a bow-wow welcome from dogs Yoshi and Bruiser at a homecoming ceremony on Fort Hood, Texas, Nov. 28, 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sharla Lewis)
My friend, the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, asked me once how it felt to be a military spouse, especially during war time. When she asked me that, I realized that, as much as I wanted to tell her how it felt, I didn’t have the words to express all I wanted to say, so I froze, and after a while, she changed the topic and I never got the chance to give her an answer to her difficult question. But, now that I think about it, I do have an answer.
Military spouses come from all backgrounds, and all of us characterize ourselves as strong individuals who are not only capable of running a household by ourselves, but who are also experts at making miracles out of nothing. I’m sure that most military spouses out there will agree with me. But, those of you who are not military spouses may be thinking, what’s wrong with that? Well, let me tell you.
Have you ever been in a position where being strong is the only choice you have even when your entire world is collapsing on top of you? Well, that’s what military spouses do every single day, and the difference between our service members and us is that, we don’t get trained for such challenging job. We are just expected to perform the job and move on.
As a soldier, I had many great and challenging experiences, but nothing could ever compare to living at home as a military spouse. There were many times when my husband was overseas when I questioned my commitment to the military, and no, I don’t mean my commitment as a soldier, I questioned my commitment as a military spouse.
Capt. Lucas Frokjer, officer in charge of the flightline for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, reunites with his family after returning from a seven-month deployment with HMH-463.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Barber)
I still remember the time when my husband was sent to West Africa for 18 months. Those 18 months were the longest 18 months of my life. At that time, I was not only serving in the military myself, but I immediately became the sole caregiver of three children, who needed my full attention and my full support, but three children who also used to go to bed, every single day, crying because they didn’t know when or if their father was going to come home again.
How did I survive those 18 months under those circumstances, you may ask? Well, let me tell you; I became a functional zombie. A zombie who was able to keep three children alive, keep a household running while serving in the military herself, but most important of all, able to stay strong amid all the challenges that came into her life during those 18 months. Challenges that I had zero control over them, but that I knew I had to overcome not only for the well-being of my children, but also for the sake of my marriage. And again, that’s a job I was never trained for.
The bottom-line is, Marielys the soldier was a very strong individual, but Marielys the military spouse had to be even stronger. I wasn’t trained for this job, but I did it proudly so that my husband could go and serve his country without having to worry about anything other than the mission he was assigned to do. And for that, I can proudly say that I am not only an Army veteran, but I was also A Badass Military Spouse.
Marielys Camacho-Reyes formerly served for 13 years in the US Army, first as a Combat Medic and later on as a Human Resources Manager. She also served in the US Army for 21 years as a Badass Army Wife. She is currently a stay home mom and a member of the Vet Voices Program in Central FL.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
We see you. Peering through the windows of your government-issued duplex at the neighbor’s waving flag, sizzling grill and luscious green patch of America. No amount of rent-controlled water allowance has produced grass so green on your side of things, despite the best of efforts. How is it that lawncare has suddenly become a relevant metaphor for marriage? Happily ever military didn’t tell you about the unspoken vow we all recite, to endure. To preserve during droughts, rebuild after landslides, and endure no matter where we’re planted.
Military marriage is about watering the lawn you have today, and sometimes, calling it for what it is and putting down a patch of turf to get by. Here to help is advice from spouses in it for the long haul.
We all pick fights when the schedule goes completely nuts.
“I’m guilty of misdirecting my anger at my husband, when really it’s the late nights and last-minute changes that I’m angry at,” says Kayla Narramore, United States Marine Corps spouse.
A good marriage requires balance, but all too often, everything you had planned gets scratched at the last minute. Remembering that unlike conventional jobs, when they’re coming home, what happens next, and how long they’ll be gone can all change at any given time. Analyze what, not who you’re frustrated with instead.
Relying on friends is how we all get by
Your service member is your life partner, but your military friends are who you can depend on. Scheduling a kid-free hair appointment, catching the flu, or even a night out are all normal tasks spouses rely on each other to tackle, but all run the risk of being canceled without much notice. Try penciling in your spouse as the back-up, with a non-active duty person as the primary. Always hope that they can step up, but this insulated plan keeps a fight or feelings of being let down out of the equation.
Counseling is not only for quitters
Between deployments, training, and schools that last for months, it’s no wonder why the common state of marriage in the military a bit is out of whack. Cohabitating is hard for anyone. Yearly marital checkups should be as commonplace as yearly physicals. Sometimes a nasty cold needs to run its course and sometimes may require treatment. There’s no body or no marriage that lives its life with a completely clean slate.
“I’d love to open a bakery, but we move so often that’s nearly impossible,” explains Tiana Nomo, Army spouse when discussing her stress points. Coming to grips with what’s feasible versus possible is where spouses reframe their world in a positive light. While no one would blame you for feeling envious of their consistent career, remembering the bigger picture is helpful in eliminating circular arguments. Rehash the five-year goals often, to be a truer reflection of both parties’ interests.
We don’t always find fitting in easy
“I had gone from working multiple fulfilling jobs to being alone, as a stay at home mom while my husband was deployed. My walls were up, to say the least,” says Anna Perez, Army spouse about her time at their first duty station. Military spouses may have one large common denominator but come together from opposite ends of all spectrums in career, life, expectations, and culture. The same can be said for the service member, however, with most of their days and time welded together, bonding appears to come more naturally than for the spouse. Without a secure network, it becomes easy for spouses to begin isolating themselves, even within their marriages. “I reached outside of the post, and into the local town where I found friendships and mentors who changed my outlook and career path,” says Perez who has her sights on becoming a lawyer.
Picking up on a theme? So much of military life is unpredictable, taking marital expectations through drastic ups and downs. Learning to love through potential decades of military service requires a strong tolerance for upheaval and a willingness to hang on, even if by one rooted strand.
For many of us, one of the hardest parts of service is hanging up the uniform for the last time. After spending an entire career learning the ins-and-outs of war, you’re being thrown into the lion’s den that is the civilian workforce and, for once, you feel unprepared.
But veterans have tools that civilian employers are beginning to recognize: Our undying drive for success, a willingness to get our hands dirty, and a natural ability to lead.
And there’s no better place to apply these skills than in the agricultural industry.
Watch the documentary below to see this group of veterans apply what they’ve learned in the military to the farming world, and see how this course can help change lives.
Tribeca Studios and Prudential Financial teamed up to create a documentary about a class of veterans who attend a six-week hydroponics training course through Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, or “Archi’s Acres,” a program accredited by the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
In it, veterans from all corners of the country bond over their shared experiences, using what they’ve learned in service to create something from seemingly nothing.
“The journey back into civilian life can be incredibly challenging for many reasons,” says Chuck Sevola, head of Veterans Initiatives at Prudential. “Innovative programs like this one provide consistent and focused support from people who understand the challenges that veterans face, which is critical to helping our servicemen and women find quality, purposeful work and peace of mind after their military service.”
Spending time sowing, growing, and cultivating a harvest isn’t just about learning a new skill, it can also help veterans who are going through post-traumatic stress.
“Archi’s Acres is a path into becoming someone else, and something else, involved in something bigger and better than the combat we may have experienced. Being able to communicate that to other veterans that I see, who are maybe in a place of hurt, and showing them that there is another option — that can be life-changing. That’s been instrumental in giving me a healthier outlook.” says Jon Chandler, one of the course’s beneficiaries.
When I frequented my Marine Corps recruiting office from 1999 until I enlisted in 2003, Staff Sgt. Molina used to welcome me with a familiar, “Ey devil,” and Staff Sgt. Ciccarreli would echo with “Eyyyyyyy.” Vintage recruiting posters were sprinkled among more modern propaganda. The message they consistently reinforced was that the Corps’ values—especially service above self—are timeless.
In one of the old posters, a strong, black Marine standing tall in his dress blue uniform with gold jump wings stared back at me. I couldn’t tell whether he was grinning or scowling—welcoming a potential recruit or warning me. Scrawled in bold typeface across the bottom third of the poster were the words “Ask a Marine.” My reaction was visceral. Where do I sign?
The iconic Marine recruitment ad campaign featuring Capers. He was the first black man to be featured in such a campaign.
The man in the poster was James Capers Jr., a now retired major whose 23-year career was defined by breaking barriers and blazing a path of excellence in the Marine Corps special operations community. Capers recently published “Faith Through the Storm: Memoirs of James Capers, Jr.,” and the book is a powerful portrait of an extraordinary life.
As the son of a sharecropper in South Carolina, Capers had to flee the Jim Crow South for Baltimore after his father committed some petty offense, which he feared might get him lynched. Capers describes his flight in the back of an old pickup driven by a white person as a sort of “Underground Railroad.” His trip to Baltimore is reminiscent of Frederick Douglass’ escape north because not much had changed for black people in the South since 1830.
We get a vivid picture of Capers’ early years and family life in Baltimore before he joins the Marine Corps. In the Marines, Capers finds an organization where men are judged by their actions, and he excels. He polishes his boots, cleans his weapons and learns what he can from the old salts, who mostly respect his effort. Early on, Capers commits himself to a standard of excellence that distinguishes him above his peers. That struggle is a consistent theme throughout his career.
When applying for special operations swim qualification, an instructor cites pseudo-science to explain that black people can’t swim. Capers has to beg to be let into the class. When a white student fails the test required to graduate, Capers pleads with the cadre to allow the student to swim it again. Then he swims with the Marine, motivating him to muster up the fortitude and faith in himself to pass.
At one point, Capers can’t find an apartment in Baltimore even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had recently passed and was promoted to end housing discrimination based on race. While assigned the temporary lowly duty of a barracks NCO, a white Marine flicks a cigarette butt at Capers—already trained as an elite Force Reconnaissance Marine—and tells him to pick it up. The slight weighs heavily on Capers until he tracks the Marine down and does something about it.
As Vietnam approaches, Capers is eager to get in the fight. A seasoned veteran of more than 10 years, he volunteers to return to special operations, and in the spring of 1966, he deploys with 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company.
Capers (bottom right) with his Marine Corps 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company in Vietnam.
The section about Capers’ Vietnam tour is harrowing and crushing. He survives and thrives as a warrior and leader through several months of brutal combat in the jungle. Eventually, he receives a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant and becomes the first black officer in Marine special operations. By the heart-pounding final mission in Vietnam, I couldn’t help but feel like the book is a 400-page summary of action for a Medal of Honor.
Heart is the book’s central theme. Its most moving parts focus on overcoming adversity and heartbreak. In one chapter, Capers leads his men through two minefields to avoid the enemy. His inspiring leadership carries them through alive against all odds.
Characters frequently appear only briefly enough to become attached to before they die. Capers recalls fondly an old black first sergeant who had fought on Iwo Jima in World War II and saved Capers from some trouble. He dies in Vietnam.
In another scene, a Marine hollers a cadence on a medevac transport out of Vietnam to raise the spirits of wounded Marines who join the sing-song before the Marine dies somewhere along the way.
These wrenching memories reminded me of returning to the recruiting office after my first combat deployment and asking Staff Sgt. Alvarado whatever happened to Staff Sgt. Molina, whose son had fallen under my supervision when I was an assistant karate instructor before I enlisted. Alvarado’s eyes looked to the ground, “You didn’t hear?” I’d seen enough death on my deployment to suddenly know without having to be told, and a mental image of his cherub-faced child still tugs my heart because that kid had an especially wonderful dad.
The death surrounding Capers takes its toll on him, and though he is a hard charger and maybe the best Marine in Vietnam, he is not a machine. His pain is complicated. The book’s strength is in Capers’ brutal honesty about his emotional state, which deteriorates as the death toll mounts and the misuse of his recon team by new out-of-touch officers costs more than he can bear.
Retired Marine Corps Maj. James Capers II.
(Photo by Ethan E. Rocke)
This memoir may not break into the mainstream like a Matterhorn or Jarhead because it’s steeped in Marine culture that may not translate to readers outside of those bounds. It deserves a mini-series due to its dramatic story arc and relevance regarding the unique historical experience of a black U.S. Marine who is able to achieve in the Marine Corps what most likely would not have been accessible to him in the society of his time.
“Faith Through the Storm” should be required reading for Marine infantry officers. It’s the perfect book for The Commandant’s Professional Reading List. This book ultimately adds another dimension to one of the Corps’ most famous recruiting posters.
For the defenders of a remote outpost in Afghanistan’s Nurestan Province, Oct. 3. 2009 was “A Day for Heroes.” Combat Outpost (COP) Keating was relentlessly attacked by 400 Taliban fighters and protected by 53 soldiers from Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
For 12 hours, Bravo Troop fought to keep the enemy from overrunning the base. The bloody fighting cost both sides dearly.
In the end, an estimated 200 Taliban fighters died trying to destroy the base. In all, eight American soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded. The defenders of COP Keating were awarded 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals for valor, 3 Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars for valor, 7 Silver Stars, and 2 Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos and 1st Lt. Andrew Bundermann’s Silver Stars were later upgraded to Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Clinton “Clint” Romesha and Spc.Ty Carter received the Medal of Honor for their actions that day.
The battle is the subject of the new movie, The Outpost, directed by Rod Lurie and starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones and Orlando Bloom, now in theaters and on demand. The film is based on CNN correspondent Jake Tapper’s book about the Battle of Kamdesh, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.”
COP Keating was not a place the soldiers should have been in the first place. Their limited reach and manpower turned their counterinsurgency mission into a constant need to defend the base itself, according to the Army’s after-action report on the battle.
To make matters worse, defending that base was a nightmare. Positioned at “the bottom of a bowl,” it was surrounded by high mountains, ceding the high ground to the enemy. It made the base an “attractive target,” according to reports. The Taliban attacked COP Keating 47 times during the soldiers’ five-month deployment there.
Combat Outpost Keating from up high
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Brad Larson)
But they weren’t just randomly attacking the COP. Taliban fighters were probing the base, gathering information on key areas, and learning the soldiers’ defensive tactics in preparation for a larger strike.
Worse still, there was not much help that could come to their rescue in case of an attack. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets were being used in the search for a missing soldier elsewhere. Other forces that could have been used to reinforce the defenders or speed up the closure of the base were being used on a mission for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The soldiers soon became accustomed to the probing attacks.
Until the morning of Oct. 3, 2009, when the base became a Taliban shooting gallery.
Just before 6 a.m. local time, the soldiers woke up to a high volume of fire coming from the surrounding hills. Using the information from their probing attacks, Taliban fighters overran Keating’s 60mm and 120mm mortar support and began to hit COP Keating in force, taking the Army by surprise.
Incoming attacks from the surrounding mountains laid a punishing fire on the base and its defenders, the Taliban were closing in and the Army was losing ground. Soldiers defending the base withdrew into a tighter perimeter and began to call down close-air support from Air Force aircraft and AH-64 Apache helicopters, often inside the base’s original perimeter.
Things looked bleak, but there was still a lot of daylight left.
(Screen Media/’The Outpost’ Film)
By the afternoon, the Bravo Troop was angry and ready to hit back. Inside the TOC, the soldiers listened to the din of battle; explosions, bullet hits, and near-constant shouting from outside. According to Mark Seavey’s account of the battle for the American Legion, Staff Sgt. Clinton “Clint” Romesha suddenly spoke:
“‘Ro’ said in a very stern and demanding voice – just as there was a moment of odd but haunting silence – ‘I’ll tell you what we are going to do. We are going to take this f***ing COP back!'”
After enduring hours of withering fire and fighting off the invaders, the Army began to turn the tide. A quick-reaction force landed three kilometers to relieve the defenders of COP Keating. Even if the base was secured, they still had to focus on bringing the fight to the enemy outside of the valley using air support to neutralize Taliban positions in the nearby hills and villages, including a local police station.
The Taliban lost half of their attacking force and sustained scores of wounded. The base was still in American hands, but it was more clear than ever that it was in an unsustainable situation. Soon after the fight for COP Keating, the base was abandoned and destroyed by American aircraft to keep it from the enemy.
The soldiers from Bravo Troop displayed incredible heroism and valor in the face of an enemy onslaught that could have totally wiped them out and destroyed the base. Every medal citation from the Battle of Kamdesh reads like a Homeric epic.
To learn more about the Battle of Kamdesh or the story behind COP Keating, check out Jake Tapper’s exhaustively detailed book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, and catch the new movie, The Outpost, in theaters and on demand now!
A Philippine Airlines Boeing 777 plane had to make an emergency landing after it caught fire shortly after takeoff on Nov. 21, 2019.
Video footage of the incident posted to Twitter showed the plane’s right engine spewing black smoke before appearing to catch fire and shooting out flames.
Flight 113 took off from Los Angeles International Airport at 11:45 a.m. local time but had to make an emergency landing because of a “technical problem” in one of its engines shortly after takeoff, according to a statement from Philippine Airlines.
The airline said all 342 passengers and 18 crew members were safe and were able to disembark using regular airstairs.
“We greatly appreciate the calmness and patience of our PR113 passengers, who cooperated well with our cabin crew during the flight and the emergency landing,” Philippine Airlines said in the statement.
Andrew Ames watched the incident and told Reuters: “It almost looked like backfire flames from a motorcycle or car.”
It is not immediately clear what the exact cause of the technical problem in the engine was.
GE Aviation, the company that makes the engine for the Boeing 777, said it was aware of the incident and was “working with the airline to determine the cause of the event and to promptly return the aircraft to service,” according to Reuters.
Boeing is under scrutiny following the deadly crashes involving its 737 Max aircraft, which killed a combined 346 people, led to questions over the plane’s design, and left the aircraft grounded across the world.
Training standards, regulatory oversight, and pilot experience have also been called into question following the scandal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.