Everyone knows the “I’m important!” feeling of getting their first medal and the “Oh, this dog and pony show again?” of getting pretty much every award after that.
It was probably a little different for these guys when they got a medal with their own face plastered on the front. There has to be a whole different feeling that wells up when your medal doubles as a form of ID.
1. Rear Adm. William T. Sampson
Rear Adm. William T. Sampson entered the Navy in 1857 and served on the blockade of the American South during the Civil War. He went on to distinguish himself in the Spanish-American War, leading both blockades and attacks around Cuba.
Sailors who fought in major engagements in the West Indies during the Spanish American War received the Sampson Medal, also called the West Indies Naval Campaign Medal. The medal could only be given once, with additional awards being given as campaign bars affixed to the ribbon.
2. Gen. of the Armies John “Blackjack” Pershing
Gen. of the Armies John Pershing is known for the expedition to capture Pancho Villa, a Mexican revolutionary, and for being the top American commander in Europe in World War I. He is also one of only two men to hold the rank of General of the Armies, a rank senior to all other generals in the U.S. military. George Washington is the only other General of the Armies, and he received the rank posthumously.
The Army of Occupation of Germany Medal bears Pershing’s face and was awarded first to Pershing himself. It was created in 1941 and used to retroactively honor troops who served in Germany and Austria-Hungary during the occupation from 1918 to 1923.
3. Adm. of the Navy George Dewey
Adm. of the Navy George Dewey served from 1858 to 1917. In 1903, he was retroactively promoted to Admiral of the Navy effective 1899. He is the only Admiral of the Navy in history and the rank was awarded partially in recognition of his service at the Battle of Manila Bay.
At the Battle of Manila Bay, then-Commodore George Dewey led a small American fleet that destroyed a large but outdated Spanish fleet in the Philippines. The victory was a huge news story in America and Congress authorized a medal for every sailor and Marine who served in the battle. Dewey was known to wear the medal backwards, showing the sailor on the reverse rather than his own face.
4. Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd III
Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd III earned his fame through a series of challenging Antarctic expeditions and also served in World War II. Promoted to rear admiral at the age of 41, he was the youngest admiral in U.S. history.
He bears the unique honor of being the only American to have his face on not one but two medals that he was authorized to wear. The Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal and the Second Byrd Antarctic Expedition Medal were established to honor the service members who explored the continent for America.
In the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been sixteen Medals of Honor conferred, but ask any military member and they’ll likely bring up some other heroes who deserved the nation’s highest award but didn’t receive it.
Whether it be the chaos of battle, lack of witnesses, or that they were not recommended for the Medal of Honor although they almost certainly should have been, some troops never got the recognition they really deserved.
As articles in The Washington Post and Army Times have pointed out, the standards for military awards are rather inconsistent. The muddled process of which actions earn the nation’s highest award has resulted in a generation of “forgotten heroes” in the War on Terror, as I wrote previously at Business Insider.
Here are seven of those heroes who arguably should have received the Medal of Honor.
1. Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesberger cleared part of an insurgent-filled house in Fallujah all by himself.
During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.
Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.
“Adlesperger was killing insurgents so they couldn’t make it up the roof,” said platoon corpsman Alonso Rogero, in his written statement of events. “The insurgents tried to run up the ladder well, but Pfc. Adlesperger kept shooting them and throwing grenades on top of them.”
Finally, an assault vehicle broke through a wall on the main floor. Adlesperger rejoined his platoon and demanded to take point for the final attack on the entrenched machine gun. He entered the courtyard first, and eliminated the final enemy at close range. By the end of the battle, Adlesperger was credited with having killed at least 11 insurgents.
He died a month after his heroics in that Fallujah house, but Adlesperger was posthumously promoted to lance corporal and recommended for the Medal of Honor. The award recommendation from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines originated with 1st Lt. Dong Yi and moved up the chain of command, with concurrence from Adlesperger’s battalion commander, regimental commander, and division commander.
Two years later, when his recommendation reached the MEF Commander, Lt. Gen. John Sattler, it was downgraded to the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award. His award recommendation did not include any comments or reasons as to why. He was awarded the Navy Cross on April 13, 2007.
2. Army Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard led a 12-man team of soldiers against an overwhelming enemy force. Three hours later, more than 265 insurgents would be dead.
After receiving a call for support from Iraqi Army soldiers being attacked by insurgents on Jan. 28, 2007, a small team of soldiers with Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard — believing the enemy strength was only around 15 to 20 militants — went out to help them.
As they neared the beleaguered Iraqis, an AH-64 Apache helicopter providing air cover crashed. “When I saw the Apache go down, it immediately changed everything,” Ballard, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Military Transition Team 0810, told Army Public Affairs. “Everything was focused on that crash site; nothing else mattered. That’s where we had to go and that’s what we did.”
Once they got to the crash site, the soldiers quickly realized the insurgent force was much larger than 20. The vehicle of Ballard’s commander started getting slammed by machine-gun and RPG fire and a major firefight broke out.
“We began engaging, and continued engaging. There were 265 bodies reported at the end, but I can tell you, there was more than that,” Ballard told Army Public Affairs. “Everything we shot was targets and collectively, we burned up about 11,000 rounds of machine gun ammo, M4 ammo, M203 grenade launcher ammo and 10 air strikes.”
The team of 12 soldiers had apparently fought nearly 1,000 insurgents, according to Ballard. The entire team received the Army Commendation Medal and two others received the Bronze Star. Ballard was awarded the Silver Star.
3. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez kept calling in crucial air strikes on enemy positions, even after he was shot in the chest and believed he would die in minutes.
As the lone combat controller assigned to an Army Special Forces team, Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez brought critical skills of directing accurate air strikes on enemy positions in past battles. On Oct. 5, 2009 while on a mission to find a high-value target in Afghanistan, those skills would be put to the test again — this time while he was seriously wounded.
The team was ambushed, and after a fellow soldier’s weapon had jammed, Gutierrez began firing at enemy fighters until he was struck in the upper chest. The enemy bullet just missed his heart, collapsed his lung and he began to cough up blood, according to Fox News.
“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez later told Fox News. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”
Ignoring his injuries and refusing to take off his body armor, Gutierrez remained calm and stayed on the radio to call in gun runs. Enemy fighters were lined up on a wall just 30 feet from him at one point in the battle, but the staff sergeant called in three A-10 strikes at “danger close” range to take them out.
The A-10 pilot talking to him on the ground said he had no idea Gutierrez was wounded, that his voice was calm the whole time, and only realized the man was injured when his team moved to the medical landing zone.
“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin said. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.”
After losing nearly half his blood, Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battlefield after four hours of fighting. He received the Air Force Cross for his heroism in 2011.
4. Marine Cpl. Brady Gustafson kept directing heavy fire on insurgents despite an RPG partially amputating his leg.
On July 21, 2008 while manning the turret atop an MRAP in Afghanistan, Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson continued to engage enemy fighters despite a devastating wound to his right leg.
Ambushed from multiple directions with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns, Gustafson’s vehicle took a hit from an RPG that partially severed his leg and knocked his driver unconscious, according to The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe.
“I looked down, and a lot of my right leg wasn’t there,” he told Time Magazine. “I could see muscle and bone, and I was bleeding pretty hard.” Still, he remained calm and unleashed hell from his machine-gun.
Despite his injuries, Gustafson remained vigilant on his M240B machine gun, locating and accurately firing on several insurgent positions, some as close as 20 meters from the vehicle.
He remained in the turret, reloading twice and firing over 600 rounds, while Lance Cpl. Cody Comstock, an Anderson, Ind. native, applied a tourniquet to his leg.
Gustafson was recommended for the Silver Star and ended up receiving the Navy Cross in 2009. But his battalion commander, Col. Richard Hall, later told The Marine Times that he regretted not putting him up for the nation’s highest award.
“When you consider that his leg is taken off, his driver is unconscious and he’s shouting to his driver to get him out of the kill zone. Meanwhile, he’s maintaining the presence of mind to keep returning fire on the enemy and to try to suppress them overwhelming that four-vehicle convoy, or patrol,” Hall told the paper. “The vehicle behind them was stuck, and Gustafson reloads no less than two times and wakes up his driver, tells him to push the burning vehicle behind them out of the kill zone, all while bleeding out and refusing medical aid for his severed leg.”
5. Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe pulled six soldiers from a burning Bradley fighting vehicle even though he was drenched in fuel.
Following a devastating improvised explosive device strike under his Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Daliaya, Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005, Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe managed to escape from the burning vehicle, out of his spot in the gunner’s hatch.
Then he went back in under enemy fire to save his fellow soldiers three times, all while he was drenched in fuel.
Cashe rescued six badly burned soldiers while under enemy small-arms fire. His own uniform caught fire, engulfing him in flames. Even with second- and-third degree burns over three-fourths of his body, Cashe continue to pull soldiers out of a vehicle set ablaze when a roadside bomb ruptured a fuel tank.
“I told him, ‘Don’t go over there playing a hero. You learn how to duck and come home,”‘ his sister, Kasinal Cashe White told the Orlando Sentinel. “He said, ‘I’m doing the job I was trained to do. I have to take care of my boys.”‘
Cashe held on until Nov. 8, when he succumbed to his wounds at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. According to his sister Kasinal, who spoke with the Los Angeles Times, his first words when he was able to speak at the hospital were “how are my boys?”
The full extent of Cashe’s heroism became muddled in the chaos of war, and the soldiers he rescued were unable to provide details since they were hospitalized with severe wounds, The Times reported. He was recommended for, and posthumously received the Silver Star for his incredible bravery.
But many have advocated for Cashe to receive the nation’s highest award, including his former battalion commander.
“You don’t often find truly selfless sacrifice where someone put his soldiers’ welfare before his own,” Brig. Gen. Gary Brito told The Los Angeles Times. “Sgt. Cashe was horribly wounded and continued to fight to save his men.”
6. After being ambushed, 1st Lt. Brian Chontosh ordered his driver towards an enemy trench-line. Then he cleared much of it himself using his own weapons — and the enemy’s.
As a platoon leader in the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 25, 2003, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh was ambushed and couldn’t escape the kill zone. So he ordered his driver to move right into the Iraqi trench-line as the turret gunner laid down fire with the .50 cal.
It was the first major firefight of the war for the anti-armor platoon Chontosh led, belonging to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Moments after the ambush began, Iraqi troops had already hit two vehicles with machine-gun, rocket-propelled grenade, and mortar fire, killing one soldier and severely wounding another.
Once his Humvee reached the enemy position, “Tosh” (as he calls himself) got out of the vehicle and jumped into the trench, mowing down enemy soldiers with his rifle until he ran out of ammo.
“I shot my pistol dry twice,” then grabbed an AK off a dead Iraqi, shot every bullet in it, picked up another AK and emptied it, too. “It’s just crazy,” he recalled to Phil Zabriskie for his book “The Kill Switch.”
When it was all over, Chontosh had cleared 200 meters of the enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others. He had used up all of his rifle and pistol ammo, along with two enemy AK-47s, and an RPG.
He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, but he didn’t want to take all the credit, and instead commended the Marines with him that day for saving his life.
“They saved my life, multiple times that day, during the ambush,” Chontosh told Stars and Stripes. “That’s all them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be the lieutenant who would be reported as … a case of what not to do.”
7. Despite heavy enemy fire, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman ran into a house multiple times to save Marines who were trapped inside.
On Dec. 23, 2004, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman was leading one squad of Marines while his friend Sgt. Jarrett Kraft had another. Searching houses in Fallujah, Kraft took the left side of the street while Workman took the right.
On the third house they entered that day, Kraft’s squad came under heavy fire on the second floor. Workman immediately rallied his squad to rescue his fellow Marines.
“I was scared,” Workman told The Washington Post. “I really was … when you get caught in a situation like that, it’s a real man check. For two seconds, you have to look in that invisible mirror that’s not there and look at yourself and question yourself as a man. And say, ‘Okay, I’m a corporal in the Marine Corps and I have guys that are looking up to me for leadership. What am I going to do?’ … So I grabbed everybody in the house and we come running.”
Dreading the worst, Workman organized his squad to enter the building. A corporal at the time, he and his Marines faced a maelstrom of small-arms fire and grenades. Three times, he sprinted up a stairwell under fire to fight the insurgents and help the pinned down Marines, who eventually escaped through the roof. At times, the Marines were close enough to see the insurgents’ faces amid the smoke and flashes of gunfire.
Two Marines — Cpl. Raleigh Smith and Lance Cpl. James Phillips, both 21 — were mortally wounded in the house, while several others were hurt but survived. Lance Cpl. Eric Hillenburg, 21, was killed nearby, cut down by enemy sniper fire as he and his fire team raced to the house to help. Workman sustained multiple shrapnel wounds from grenade explosions, but escaped without being seriously hurt.
Workman and his fellow squad leader Kraft were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions that day. Workman’s citation credited him with the “elimination of 24 insurgents.”
“I accepted this medal for three guys who didn’t make it back,” Workman told The Post. “So it’s really theirs.”
8. Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel while shielding another Marine from a grenade blast.
On Nov. 13, 2004 while serving in Fallujah as the company first sergeant for Weapons Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Brad Kasal joined up with a squad entering a house to rescue Marines inside.
Soon after he found a wounded Marine inside, Kasal and another Marine were both severely wounded in the legs by enemy fire. Then the insurgents threw grenades at them. The bleeding first sergeant rolled on top of the wounded Marine with him and absorbed the shrapnel.
Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel and was shot seven times inside the “House of Hell.” He lost roughly 60 percent of his blood, according to an article in VFW Magazine.
“When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention. Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they continued to clear the structure,” reads his citation. He was awarded the Navy Cross.
As Kasal was carried out of the house by two of his Marines — covered in blood and still clutching his pistol — Lucian Reed captured the scene, in what was perhaps one of the most iconic photographs to come out of the Battle of Fallujah.
Sometimes the smallest thing can mean the difference between nations emerging triumphant or collapsing in defeat. Here are 7 moments from military history where the outcomes hinged on a minor detail:
1. A colonel didn’t read a note, and his men were slaughtered by Washington
Col. Johann Rall was the commander of Hessian soldiers in Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day in 1776. Rall was partying with his officers when someone handed him a note that he shoved in his pocket without reading it. A few hours later, he and his men were effectively wiped out by Patriots fighting under Gen. George Washington.
2. A weather report and a birthday party changed World War II
Nazi and Allied planners had forecasted potential dates for a summer invasion based on tides, phases of the moon, and weather trends. The best window for the Allies was June 4 to June 6, 1944. June 4 started with clear skies but Allied meteorologists believed it would turn nasty, which was true.
Allied Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower postponed the invasion, and Nazi commanders left their coastal defenses for war games. German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel even left for home to celebrate his wife’s birthday. But the Allies had more Atlantic weather stations and found a lull in the bad weather that the Nazis didn’t know about. The invasion was launched into rough seas and winds Jun. 6, but the weather cleared early in the day.
3. World War I began because of bad driving directions
Conspirators attempted to kill the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 by attacking his car during a parade. One assassin threw a grenade but it bounced off the Archduke’s vehicle before the royal was rushed to safety.
Reports vary about whether the royal couple attempted to leave the city after the attack or continue the parade, but they definitely were driving back along the route when they were spotted by another assassin, Gavrilo Princip. The car stopped directly in front of Princip as the occupants argued about the proper directions.
Princip took two shots, killing both the Archduke and his wife, which set off the powder keg that was 1914 Europe and began World War I.
4. Germany lost the Battle of the Marne (and maybe World War I) because of a rumor
Early in World War I, Imperial Germany was marching quickly towards Paris after forcing British and French forces into a series of retreats. At the Battle of the Marne in Sep. 1914, the British and French barely stopped the Germans through a series of desperate actions like using taxis to ferry troops to the frontlines.
Germany might have won if it had the two divisions it had sent to the Belgian coast. The Germans had believed rumors that Russian soldiers were forming in Britain for an amphibious assault. This false rumor was later traced by historians to either a shipment of 100,000 Russian eggs that was noted in a train report as “100,000 Russians now on way from Aberdeen to London” or a group of soldiers from Ross Shire being misheard by local train officials.
Either way, the rumor began circulating that large numbers of Russian soldiers were entering the fight on the Eastern Front and Germany redeployed troops to deal with them. Those troops then weren’t available for fighting near Paris, and France was able to hold on, prolonging the war and allowing an Allied victory.
5. A slight time miscalculation ended the Bay of Pigs invasion
On Apr. 17, 1961, 1,400 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and attempted to overthrow the Castro regime. If successful, this invasion would have led to the downfall of Communist Cuba and allowed America more influence over its southern neighbor. It also would’ve cut off Soviet access to the island, preventing the Cuban Missile Crisis and giving American a stronger hand in the Cold War.
6. Nagasaki was destroyed because of a single cloud at the original target
There are two cities that are synonymous with the destruction from atomic bombs: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, America’s target list actually included Kokura. On Aug. 6, Hiroshima was the primary target and Kokura was the backup. Since Hiroshima was clear, the bomb was dropped there.
On Aug. 9, Kokura was the primary target and Hiroshima was the backup. The B-29 crew (bomber nicknamed Bock’s Car) flew over Kokura multiple times but had orders to only drop the bomb if they could physically see the targeted weapons factory beforehand. A single cloud kept blocking their view, and so they moved on to Nagasaki, sparing the city of Kokura.
7. Constantinople fell because of an unlocked gate
Constantinople in 1453 was facing serious problems. The skilled conqueror Mehmed II was hammering at the walls with his cannons while the defenders fought among themselves about whether the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church of Byzantium was the true Christian faith.
When a commander designates you and your squad to be OPFOR (Opposing Force), what they’re doing is giving you an opportunity at the most fun you can have in training — playing bad guy.
This is a way for you to use all the knowledge and dirty tricks you’ve ever learned to put other troops in your unit through the ringer.
The purpose of this is to give realistic training to test the unit’s knowledge and metal so your commanders can figure out where the faults are and how to fix them. While being OPFOR is still training to a degree, it’s a great way to skate in the field and get the hell away from your platoon for a couple hours.
Your goal as OPFOR is to ultimately “die.” The unit you’re fighting against will have a mission and a plan, which typically end in their victory. Don’t let that get you down — you still need to put up a good fight. Don’t just hand them an easy victory. The point is to give them some good training; so put them through hell so they can learn something.
2. Be deceptive
Deception is key in any form of a defense. Your goal is to fake out the enemy to make it easier for you to wipe them out. If you’re unpredictable, the enemy’s life will be much harder when they come after you. In the case of OPFOR, you’ll already know what you’re defending so make sure to lead your “enemy” through a big maze.
3. Use their tactics against them
They’re your unit, so you understand their tactics and standard operating procedures, which gives you an edge that a real enemy won’t have. You know what they’re going to do in any given situation so you can provide a perfect countermeasure. When evaluating your unit’s SOPs, be sadistic in your planning to give the ultimate defense.
4. Use your environment
Urban areas are filled with tons and tons of props. Training sites will likely imitate this and place old furniture all over the place, and if you’re training in an abandoned housing area, the chances of this will be much higher. If there are doors around, set up barriers or obstacles. Make your enemy work for their victory.
5. Use every weapon or tool you have
If you’ve got para-cord/550 cord with you, use it. Set-up as many booby traps and trip-wires as you possibly can to increase the level of difficulty for the guys trying to get to their objectives and accomplish their mission. If you have smoke grenades, oil, and/or trip flares, use those to the most frustrating extent possible.
The use of unconventional tactics dominates on the modern battlefield; when you’re OPFOR, it’s a great opportunity to toss out the rule book and mix your conventional knowledge with unconventional tactics to kick some serious ass.
Fight aggressive, fight dirty, and be deceptive. Fight to win and give the guys in your unit a real challenge to test their steel. If you manage to beat the hell out of them, it only increases the amount of fun you’re already bound to have playing bad guy.
When the military needs to get where they’re going, they climb into some of the most intimidating military vehicles on the planet.
Gun turrets, heavy armor, and aggressive stylings all make sure enemies know death is bearing down on them. But in the World Wars, many of the vehicles of industrial warfare were just getting started. These are six of the scariest military vehicles that generation served in.
Though quieter in a dive than their nuclear counterparts, diesel submarines were fraught with dangers. The batteries could catch fire and asphyxiate the crew or explode and sink the boat. Sub crews also had to fear their own weapons as torpedoes would sometimes “circle run,” traveling in a loop and hitting the sub that fired them.
M4 Sherman Tank
Early design flaws, such as ammunition storage in the tank turret, made these military vehicles susceptible to large explosions from minor hits. While the flaws were later fixed, it was just in time for the tanks to start facing off against newer Axis tanks with larger guns and thicker armor than the M4. Tank crews were forced to sandbag the inside of their vehicles and weld spare steel or old vehicle tires to the outside. The 3rd Armored Division deployed with 242 tanks and lost 1,348 over the course of the war.
Flying Aircraft Carrier
Two were built: The USS Akron and the USS Macon. The Akron was introduced to the fleet at the end of 1931 and experienced fatal accidents in 1932 and 1933. The first occurred while the ship was attempting to moor in California. Three ground crew members were killed and one was injured. In 1933, a crash at sea resulted in 73 of the 76 members of the crew dying and the total loss of the ship.
One of the survivors, Lt. Cmdr. Herbert Wiley, later took command of the USS Macon. Another storm at sea in 1934 brought down the Macon, but due to the addition of life jackets and the launching of rescue boats, only two members of the crew died. All three fatal accidents involving the airships, as well as multiple other crashes, were caused or complicated by trouble balancing the large ships’ lift and ballast. Flying aircraft carriers were largely abandoned until November of last year when DARPA put out a call for new designs to carry drones.
Mark I Tank
The first tank to see combat, the British Mark 1 was revolutionary, but serving in it was rough. Inadequate ventilation meant the crew breathed carbon monoxide, fuel and oil vapors, and cordite fumes. Temperatures in the tank could climb to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Crews endured the heat and noxious gasses while wearing metal face masks because rivets from the hull would shoot through the cabin when struck by enemy rounds.
Within two months of fielding, multiple wing failures led to the aircraft being grounded until it could be reinforced. One of the failures occurred while the famed Red Baron piloted it. In addition, the radiator was positioned immediately above the pilot, meaning holes from enemy fire caused the hot radiator fluid to immediately boil onto the pilot’s face.
Sherman DD Amphibious Tank
A descendant of the M4 Sherman above, the DD carried a rubber screen that would hold out water and allow it to float. But the craft could only handle waves up to one foot. They were deployed at D-Day where many sank due to rough seas and being launched far from shore. Crews were given breathing apparatuses in case they floundered, but the equipment only provided five minutes of air.
Marines speak a slightly-different language than the rest of the United States.
While everyone in the Corps speaks and uses English most of the time, there’s another layer of terminology added on top which is uniquely Marine. If you are around Marines long enough, you’ll hear someone being called a “boot” or dozens of them screaming out “yut.”
This is what it all means.
1. “Rah.” or “Rah!” or “Rah?”
Short for “Oohrah,” a Marine greeting or expression of enthusiasm similar to the Army’s “Hooah” or the Navy’s “Hooyah.” Rah, however, is a bit more versatile. You could be agreeing with someone, by saying “rah.” You could be excited about going on a mission by exclaiming, “Rah!” Or you could be asking the platoon if everyone understands, “rah?”
It’s like the Marine version of the mobster’s “fuggaddaboutit.”
This is an even more shortened-down version of “rah.” But it’s most often used as a lazy-man’s version of agreement. Your platoon sergeant may ask if everyone understands the plan of the day, to which everyone will respond with “Errrr.” Translation: Yeah Gunny, we got it.
Arguably used more often than “Oohrah” by junior Marines to express enthusiasm. Instead of “oohrah,” Marines will often just say “yut” when in the presence of motivational speeches and/or talk of blowing things up.
4. Semper Gumby
A play on the Marine Corps motto of “Semper Fidelis (Latin for “Always Faithful”), Semper Gumby for Marines means “Always Flexible.” This phrase is often used when you are told to do one thing, then told a different thing, then told to just stand by, then told to go back to doing the original thing. “Semper Gumby, bro.”
A pejorative term for a new Marine fresh out of boot camp. The term’s origin apparently comes from Vietnam, as an acronym meaning “beginning of one’s tour.” New Marines joining a unit are usually referred to as “boots” until they go on a deployment or have at least a year or two in the Corps. Especially among post-9/11 era infantry Marines however, you are pretty much a “boot” until you’ve been to combat.
6. Fire watch
This is what Marines call guard duty. While sentries may well have been looking for fires in the past, Marines pulling fire watch nowadays can be walking around a barracks aimlessly or standing their shift behind the machine-gun in Afghanistan.
Since this is one of the most important duties of recruits at boot camp, senior Marines will often say boots only have the “fire watch ribbon,” a pejorative for the National Defense Service Medal that everyone gets.
Acronym often used in response to someone complaining. “Hey dude, SITFU.” That means suck it the f— up. You can also just ask if they have a straw. Most Marines will understand the reference.
8. “Improvise, adapt and overcome.”
An unofficial motto of Marines that means exactly what you think it means. As the smaller service — and with much less funding than the Army — Marines have an attitude of doing more with less. “Improvise, adapt, and overcome” sums it all up.
9. Grand Old Man of the Marine Corps
The nickname for the fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps, Archibald Henderson, who served in the Marine Corps for 54 years. But most of the time when this phrase is used, it’s in referring to the oldest guy in the unit. Common usage: “Hey grand old man, what was it like serving with Jesus?”
Sure, it can literally mean kill. But in Marine-speak, kill can mean “yes, I understand,” “hell yeah,” or “let’s do this.” Marines will even say “kill” as a half-joking version of hello. Using this one outside of the Corps can get plenty of strange looks, so don’t try this one on your local college campus.
Acronym for the Marine Corps’ six troop-leading steps. It stands for begin the planning, arrange reconnaissance, make reconnaissance, complete the planning, issue the order, and supervise. But most Marines just say “BAMCIS” when they successfully complete a task. It’s like when Chef Emeril says “Bam!” Just add a “cis.”
The term Marines use for slacking off. Soldiers call this behavior “shamming,” but Marines can “skate” out of boring tasks by avoiding them somehow, usually by getting a dental appointment. And of course, S-K-A-T-E is even an acronym: S: Stay out of trouble / K: Keep a low profile / A: Avoid higher-ups / T: Take your time / E: Enjoy yourself.
13. Direct reflection of leadership
This is often used sarcastically to rib a non-commissioned officer when one of his or her Marines gets in trouble. “So, two guys from your squad got caught drinking in Tijuana then got arrested at the border. Direct reflection of leadership, right corporal?”
What some Marines will call an extremely gung-ho coworker. It’s not a compliment.
15. Ninja Punch
Non-judicial punishment — also known as the Article 15 — is what Marines can face if they break the rules, but a commander doesn’t feel it’s bad enough to warrant a court martial. While the military justice system is the same across branches, the Marines refer to it as an NJP. If you walk out of your commanding officer’s door going down a rank or losing some pay, you probably got “ninja punched.”
16. Pvt. or Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli
The John Doe of the Marine Corps. He’s the screw-up and the guy always getting in trouble. The Marine who is lost all the time. The anonymous service-member who stands as the example of what not to do. This term will usually be brought up by a senior leader, like: “Hey gents, you are all doing good things. Be safe out there this weekend, but don’t let me get a phone call about Pvt. Schmuckatelli getting all drunk out at the club and getting into trouble, good to go?”
17. Semper I
Another play on “Semper Fidelis,” which often gets shortened to “Semper Fi.” While the motto means “Always Faithful” and brings up teamwork and esprit de corps, “Semper I” is used when a Marine goes off and does their own thing without thinking of others. Sometimes used as “Semper I, f— the other guy.”
18. Terminal Lance
Lance Corporal, or E-3, is a Marine rank that comes with more responsibility than a private or private first class, but is not a non-commissioned officer. In order for Marines to pick up the next rank of corporal, they need to have a high-enough “cutting score” to be promoted. If they get out after their four-year enlistment at Lance Corporal, they are a “Terminal Lance,” which can be bad or a point of pride, depending on who you talk to. “Terminal Lance” is also a hugely-popular online comic strip started by Maximilian Uriarte.
19. Let’s break it down, Barney-style.
Some Marines need some help in understanding how to complete a task. When this happens, a leader may want to break it down into baby steps and explain it very slowly. You know, just like Barney.
These are what Marines call the glasses you get issued at boot camp, or “boot camp glasses.” Most know them by their nickname, which is “birth control glasses,” because well, you probably don’t want to hit the club wearing these things.
21. The Lance Corporal Underground
The source of most rumors that go around the Corps. Since lance corporals make up a large part of the Corps, the underground is often responsible for passing word of what’s going on, or completely made-up falsehoods.
22. “Good initiative, bad judgment.”
This phrase comes out when a Marine does something for a good reason, but things turn out awful. A great example would be when your platoon commander says he knows a shortcut through the woods, then he gets the platoon completely lost. “Good initiative, bad judgment, sir.” Next time, let’s stick to the planned route.
23. Field Day
Traditionally run on Thursday, the one night of the week Marines usually dread. No, it’s not the field day of play and sports like back in school. It’s the term used to describe the weekly ritual of cleaning rooms in the barracks. Field day cleaning involves moving furniture (often completely outside of the room), dusting top-to-bottom, vacuuming, scrubbing, and waxing floors.
“Basically Field day is just another tool used by Marine Corps leadership to piss off and demoralize Marines on a weekly basis,” reads the top definition in Urban Dictionary. If your first sergeant finds a speck of dust anywhere, you’re screwed.
What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.
Marine drill instructors go through some intense training to earn the military occupational specialty of 0911. With various tasks they have to complete on a daily basis, DIs have to be mentally and physically stronger than of those they train — consistently being on top of their game at all times and never letting anyone spot their flaws or weaknesses.
Despite what is typically a male-dominated world, no doubt these powerful female television characters could make badass drill instructors if they wanted to.
Played by Mariska Hargitay, this strong female lead has the ability to look deep into your soul and break you down from the inside out — a natural talent that can’t be taught.
2. Catherine Willows (C.S.I)
Played by Marg Helgenberger, this super smart detective takes pride in her ability to take down the bad guys with her attention to detail and exceptional investigative skills. Her focus on the most minute details would be perfect for finding flaws in someone’s uniform on inspection day.
3. Brenda Leigh Johnson (The Closer)
Played by Kyra Sedgwick, this determined leader of the major crimes division of the LAPD has no issue offending her peers to get the job done — a perfect trait for a DI.
4. Jane Tennison (Prime Suspect)
Played by Helen Mirren, this brilliant sleuth is one the first female chief inspectors of London’s Metro Police Service who looks to drive herself up in the rank structure. She’s highly moto!
5. Lydia Adams (Southland)
Played by Regina King, after years of working in some intense police situations, Adams’ passion for justice and her strong personality would have landed her in the right spot to scream at recruits to cover down and get in-line.
6. Jane Rizzoli (Rizzoli Isles)
Played by Angie Harmon, a homicide detective who is known for her raspy voice and quick decision-making skills, Rizzoli would be perfect for playing f*ck-f*ck games with future Marines.
She even knows proper trigger-finger placement before she’s prepared to fire. Outstanding! (Source: TNT )
7. Rosa Diaz (Brooklyn 9-9)
Played by Stephanie Beatriz, this detective is known for her stoic attitude and hard-hitting nature. Her strong physical stature allows her to bring down the hardened criminals in the rough streets of Brooklyn, making her a perfect candidate to shape up those recruits that will stand on the famous yellow footprints of MCRD.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrew Barth a physical therapist with the 349th Medical Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., practices weapons safety with an M4 carbine at Young Air Assault Strip, Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 16, 2017, as part of exercise Patriot Warrior. More than 600 Reserve Citizen Airmen and over 10,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and international partners converged on the state of Wisconsin to support a range of interlinked exercises including Patriot Warrior, Global Medic, CSTX, Diamond Saber, and Mortuary Affairs Exercise (MAX). Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint and international partners in airlift, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support. This exercise is intended to test the ability of the Air Force Reserve to provide combat-ready forces to operate in dynamic, contested environments and to sharpen Citizen Airmen’s skills in supporting combatant commander requirements.
A German air force Tornado and an F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 314th Fighter Squadron fly in formation together during the last joint flying mission at Holloman Air Force Base, Aug. 17, 2017. The GAF has entered its final stage of departure, however they will not complete their departure from Holloman AFB until mid 2019.
U.S. Army Paratroopers, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fire an M777 towed 155 mm howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq, August 15, 2017. The 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., enables Iraqi security force partners through the advise and assist mission, contributing planning, intelligence collection and analysis, force protection and precision fires to achieve the military defeat of ISIS. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) participate in a division run August 16, 2017 at Fort Campbell, Ky. The run commemorated a “Legacy of Heroism” for the division’s 75th birthday.
Rendezvous with destiny, brothers!
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Richard Hill, right, welds a table leg aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with its carrier strike group in preparation for an upcoming deployment. COMPTUEX tests a carrier strike group’s mission readiness and ability to perform as an integrated unit through simulated real-world scenarios.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) departs Theoule-sur-Mer, France. Oscar Austin was in Theoule-sur-Mer, France, to participate in events commemorating the 73rd anniversary of Operation Dragoon, the liberation of southern France by allied forces during World War II.
Members of the U.S. Marine Corps assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, and U.S. Airmen with the 496th Air Base Squadron, and Spanish Air Force members in a moment of silence and a show of solidarity and partnership in honor of those lost in the attack on Barcelona, Spain, at Morón Air Base, Spain, Aug 18, 2017. SPMAGTF-CR-AF deployed to conduct limited crisis response and theater security operations in Europe and North Africa.
U.S. Marines exit the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft Aug. 18, 2017, in Hokudaien, Japan, marking the first time the aircraft has landed in northern Japan. Col. James Harp, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander of Northern Viper 17, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Col. Iwana, deputy commander of Northern Army 11th Brigade, particpated in a joint interview to discuss the Osprey’s capabilities. This aircraft allows Marines to have the ability to rapidly respond to any contingency worldwide.
The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut (WLB 205), a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Honolulu is shown coordinating search efforts with a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Honolulu, for five crewmembers aboard a downed Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter off Ka’ena Point, Oahu, Aug. 17, 2017. Two Black Hawk aircrews were reportedly conducting night training Aug. 15, between Ka’ena Point and Dillingham Airfield when communications were lost with one of the helicopters.
A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro small boat crew transits international waters in support of Operation North Pacific Guard Aug. 15, 2017. Operation North Pacific Guard is a multilateral effort by North Pacific rim nations to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing to include high-seas drift net fishing.
Dating in the military is tough. There are rules against fraternization: no dating within your unit, no public displays of affection, and no dating of subordinate. On top of all of these rules, troops work long hours and have myriad duty responsibilities, so there’s very little time to get off base and meet someone.
So when liberty arrives, service members have to maximize their chances. This is where the a good wingman can come in handy.
The Department of Defense Warrior Games began in 2010 as a way to celebrate the the talents of injured or ill warrior-athletes. The 2015 games showcased some of the finest talent of the American and British wounded warrior communities. Showcased below are 13 of the most inspiring photos from the games.
While the games are about celebrating recovery and the warrior spirit, there are winners and medals. The Warrior Games closed on Sunday with the Army winning the overall competition. Check out the the final medal counts and more photos at Defense.gov.
1. U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Marcus Chischilly takes off during the swimming finals at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center in Manassas, Va., June 27, 2015. Chischilly is a member of the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games All-Marine Team. The 2015 DoD Warrior Games, held at Marine Corps Base Quantico June 19-28, is an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured Service members and veterans from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces.
2. Lance Cpl. Charles Sketch is presented with a gold medal during a standing ovation from spectators from around the world at the 2015 Marine Corps Trials. Competition provides opportunities for the Marines to train as athletes, while increasing their strength so they can continue their military service or develop healthy habits for life outside the service. The Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment enables wounded, ill, or injured Marines to focus on their abilities and to find new avenues to thrive.
3. A member of Team Air Force throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 DOD Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.
4. Retired Marine Cpl. Ray Hennagir, an Orlando, Florida native, keeps his eyes on the ball during sitting volleyball practice at the 2015 Marine Corps Trials.
5. U.S. and British athletes compete in the 100-meter sprint at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.
6. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ray Hennagir prepares to shoot the ball during the wheelchair basketball championship game at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.
Photo: DoD News EJ Hersom
7. Army visually impaired cycling teams finish together to take gold, silver and bronze during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 21, 2015.
8. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Peter Cook practices swim form during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 21, 2015.
9. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jenae Piper prepares to serve during the bronze medal volleyball game during the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Va, June 26, 2015.
10. Army Staff Sgt. Monica Martinez, left, And Army Staff Sgt. Vestor ‘Max’ Hasson compete, but in separate 1,500 meter wheelchair race categories during the Army Trials at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas April 1, 2015.
11. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Clayton McDaniels’ son receives a gold medal on behalf of his father whose team won the wheelchair basketball championship game at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.
12. U.S. Army Sgt. Blake Johnson, Bethesda, Md., attempts to block the shot of his Air Force opponent while playing a wheelchair basketball game during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games at Barber Fitness Center, on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 20, 2015.
13. A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 DOD Warrior Games, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 23, 2015.
It’s not unusual for troops to have a nonchalant or comical attitude about the worst of humanity. Sometimes comedy is all they have to make it through hardships that are unimaginable to most, and those who have deployed to remote locations and hot zones know this all too well.
It’s a mechanism to keep their sanity in the midst of snipers, ambushes, and IEDs. Sometimes the worse a situation gets, the more they laugh. One thing is for sure, troops go to comical heights to cope with the hand they’re dealt.
Here are 8 examples of dark humor in the military: