In the wake of Eagle Claw, the disastrous mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1979, President Carter and then-Defense Secretary Harold Brown ordered the U.S. military to form what would become the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. Much of the failure of Eagle Claw was due to the inability of the services to work together on specialized missions which required interoperability between branches. The Defense Department wanted to guarantee it would not repeat such fiascos during operations where failure would not be an option.
This year, author and counterterrorism reporter Sean Naylor published Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command, recounting the history and organization of this most secretive military group, from before Eagle Claw to the units in place today. It features inside stories on recent famous ops, including the raid in Pakistan which resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden and the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. It also contains stories behind the other successes and some of the failures of the organization, all of which are fascinating reads. Here are eight more interesting tidbits from Naylor’s book:
1. Two helicopters ran out of ammo while fighting the Taliban, then switched to small arms
In the early days of the Afghan War, two MH-6 “Little Bird” pilots hit a Taliban column of armored personnel carriers and T-55 tanks with their onboard .50 caliber guns and rockets. They then run into a truck full of Taliban fighters. The remaining Taliban personnel attempted to flee on foot into the desert. The helicopters, now out of ammunition, pulled out their personal M-4 rifles and grenades and engaged the fleeing fighters from their pilot seats.
The fighters would try to split up to escape the helicopters, but they kept flying a “wagon wheel” formation, with the pilot in the left seat firing at the enemy in the middle, dropping grenades forcing them back into the circle.
2. JSOC used homemade bombs on insurgents, which looked like an insurgent-made bomb
It was called the “Xbox” and it was used to take out insurgents who received political protection from the Iraqi government, then led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki protected Shia insurgents, who provided money and materiel to jihadis and militia in Iraq from Iran.
The device used parts and ingredients used by local insurgents after EOD troops disabled them and reverse-engineered them. In the Afghan-Pakistan theater of operations, the Xbox would be made from Chinese circuits and Pakistani parts with the explosives from old Soviet weapons. It was designed to be indistinguishable from an insurgent-made device.
3. A SEAL accidentally killed a British hostage
British aid worker Linda Norgrove was kidnapped in Afghanistan in September 2010. U.S. intelligence in Afghanistan found her in a compound in the country’s dangerous, infamous Korengal valley. SEAL Team 6 dispatched a squadron to rescue her the very next month. As they engaged insurgents while fast-roping from a Chinook, one of the SEALs threw a grenade at what he thought was a fighter in the brush.
That fighter was with Norgrove, who was fatally wounded in the grenade blast. The U.S. military initially reported a SEAL shot set off a suicide vest, but only because they didn’t know the other threw the grenade. They found out what happened when that SEAL told his team leader.
“To this day, the guy that threw the grenade, he’s a wreck,” a senior Team 6 operator told Naylor.
4. Delta Force created its own Iraqi intelligence network
They called these Iraqis “mohawks.” They were native Iraqis completely vetted and had necessary back stories to fill their cover. They provided Delta Force with information on buildings and targets of interest which the operators couldn’t get close to. They conducted Human Intelligence by talking with their families and friends and recruited other sources of information. They tracked insurgent activities all over, from Internet Cafes to the insurgents’ homes.
All this was part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s effort to “build a network to fight a network” in Iraq, the enemy network being al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups.
5. The search for Saddam Hussein crossed into Syria
JSOC used helicopters to chase a convoy of Iraqi vehicles they watched cross the border on June 18, 2003. They believed Saddam Hussein was in the convoy somewhere. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed a week later the attack happened, but in his words, it was “near the Syrian border.”
Delta operators and Army Rangers from the city of Mosul flew in helicopters and arrived slightly too late to keep the convoy from crossing into Syria. Rumsfeld himself cleared their pursuit into the neighboring country.
6. JSOC used cell phones to monitor, track, and kill insurgents
If insurgents were using their phones, JSOC could track the number and pinpoint its location, then they would hit the target. They developed a device that could home in on a specific mobile phone number, even if that phone was turned off. JSOC figured out how to turn phones on remotely, using cell phones as listening devices. They could clone an insurgent’s phone even without having the phone in their possession, allowing them to send and receive text messages from that phone.
Insurgents caught on to this vulnerability soon. Zarqawi and those closest to him were not allowed cell phones. One insurgent leader turned off his mobile, only to turn it on a year later, possibly thinking the U.S. couldn’t be tracking it after so long. He was incorrect, and got droned.
7. Delta operators dressed as farmhands to capture al-Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command
Ghassan Amin was not only al-Qaeda in Iraq’s number two guy and a close associate of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he also controlled an efficient counterintelligence force, completely controlled the Rawa region of Iraq, and controlled the flow of international Jihadist into Iraq, he also owned a farm on the West Bank of the Euphrates river. JSOC intelligence learned Amin would personally come to his fields to watch the harvest come in.
Delta operators dressed as Iraqi farmworkers floated down the Euphrates, “sequestered” the farmhands currently working in the fields, and began to do the work themselves, even driving tractors, waiting for Ghassan Amin to appear. When Amin arrived at the farm, he and two of his lieutenants walked right up to the operators, greeting them in Arabic. The Deltas took out their weapons and subdued Amin and his men.
8. Admiral McRaven wanted Seal Team 6 to surrender to the Pakistanis if surrounded
The SEAL team who went on Operation Neptune’s Spear were going to be more than 120 miles from the nearest U.S. forces. The CIA did clear the area before the raid and established a safehouse. In many media accounts, McRaven told the White House to seek a negotiated solution with the Pakistani government while the SEALs strongpointed the bin Laden compound, but Naylor writes some Team 6 operators believed McRaven said they should surrender to the Pakistanis.
President Obama rebuffed that idea, saying,”No, they’re not going to surrender. They’ll fight their way out and we’ll go in and get them if we have to.” It never came to that. Pakistani fighter jets scrambled while SEAL Team 6 made their way back to Afghanistan, but the jets flew to the east instead of west.
War movies wouldn’t be complete without some cinematic deaths. In some of these flicks, the troop is killed instantly by a barrage of incoming fire, but in others, the director decides to take his time with something dramatic and drawn out.
In some cases, there’s a hint of hope that the near-death character just might pull through — but that sh*t is freaking rare.
Check out these five on-screen wounds that the troop had no chance of surviving.
1. Cowboy (Full Metal Jacket)
In the film our favorite Texan takes a direct sniper round to his chest out of nowhere. F*ck! Cowboy’s Marines drag him to safety to render treatment, but there are two things working against him:
He got hit in the back and round went through his chest wall. That’s bad.
The squad’s Corpsman got killed in the previous scene. That’s double bad.
Cowboy made a boot mistake by standing in front of those two big-ass holes in the wall, giving that sniper a clear line of sight on him — just sayin’.
2. Nick (Deer Hunter)
While playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette — which we strongly recommend against — Nicky fires a round straight into his brain and falls to the floor. Michael rushes over and applies pressure to his massive, bleeding wound, but he doesn’t have a chance at saving his friend without an operating room and a skilled neurosurgeon on hand.
It’s a great movie, but why didn’t Micheal use Nicky’s red head wrap to help stop the bleeding? Just sayin’.
3. William Wallace (Braveheart)
William Wallace’s legacy is so impressive that we hate to rain on every Scotsman’s parade with this one. Toward the end of the film, Wallace is hung by the neck, his limbs are stretched apart by horses, and his entrails are pulled out his abdomen — brutal. Wallace is told throughout his execution that if he asks for mercy, they will grant it.
As they pull out his insides, he’s told one final time to ask for mercy — as if the medical technology of the time could help them properly restore those vital organs.
Plus, his diaphragm was probably ripped to hell, making it impossible for him to famously scream, “freedom!” — just sayin’.
4. Medic Wade (Saving Private Ryan)
Deep in the second act, Medic Wade takes a few rounds to his torso. Capt. Miller and the rest of the Rangers render the best treatment they can muster.
The soldiers use a lot of pressure dressings, iodized salt packets, and water to try and save their friend and only medic. Unfortunately, his wounds were far too severe. They never had a shot.
It’s a dramatic scene, but we also doubt Wade would’ve been able to speak as clearly as he was — just sayin’.
5. Elias (Platoon)
This fictional sergeant is one of the film’s most influential characters, as he brings a glimmer of humanity to an inhumane world. Once we witness (spoiler alert) Sgt. Barnes shoot Elias a few times, we figure he’s was dead. Little do we know, he’s got a lot more fight in him.
Later, we spot Elias running away from the enemy toward the helicopter and, for a split second, we think he just might make it. We’re so wrong.
It’s amazing none of those AK-47 rounds rip through the front of his chest wall like they do Cowboy’s — just sayin’.
I challenge you to count the number of times Elias gets shot. If you think you’ve got it, comment below.
Having fast hands and quick feet are just a few of the skill sets boxers need to possess to survive in the ring.
This month, sports fans are eagerly anticipating the much-talked-about Mayweather versus McGregor fight, so check out our list of men who went from serving their country, to “duking-it-out” in the ring.
During the early 1940s, Louis reportedly joined the Army after fighting in a Navy charity bout and was assigned to a segregated cavalry. He served proudly for the next fours years and earned himself the Legion of Merit medal for exceptionally meritorious conduct.
Fighting under the name “Kid Blackie” and “The Manassa Mauler,” Dempsey began his professional boxing career in 1914. During WWII, Dempsey joined the New York State National Guard before serving in the Coast Guard where he retired in 1953 reaching the rank of commander.
3. Ken Norton Sr.
Norton joined the Marine Corps in 1963 where he began to develop his boxing skills. Shortly after his discharge in 1967, Norton turned pro and started fighting elite boxers like Muhammed Ali. He retired in the early ’80s with the outstanding winning record of 42-7.
4. Rocky Marciano
Marciano was drafted into the Army in 1943 and discovered his boxing talent while stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. In 1946, he dominated an amateur armed forces boxing tournament taking first place. After a brief hiatus to pursue a baseball career, Marciano eventually returned to boxing where he began racking up knock outs.
Spinks joined the Marine Corps in 1973, giving him an opportunity to develop his boxing skills. Spinks fought in the 1976 Olympic games in Montreal and squared off with the legendary Muhammed Ali who he beat after fighting for 15 brutal rounds.
Spinks retired from the sport of boxing in the mid-’90s with the record of 26-17.
Nicknamed “Semper Fi,” Herring began his boxing training in the early 2000s before enlisting in the Marine Corps where he served two tours in Iraq. During his time in the Marines, Herring found himself on the All Marine Corps boxing team and competing on the national stage.
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.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
The Thunderbirds Delta formation flies by One World Trade Center during a photo chase mission in New York City May 22, 2015.
Capt. Nicholas Eberling, a solo pilot for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, maneuvers his F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft to close in on the refueling boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.
The USS Constitution (America’s oldest warship) may be in drydock for the next few years, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still “virtually” tour her on Google Maps.
An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sunliners of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 launches from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during an air-power demonstration.
Four containerized delivery system bundles parachute from an United States Air Force C-130 Hercules during a joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training mission, in Kosovo.
USS WASP, At sea – Two F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters complete vertical landings aboard the USS Wasp during the opening day of the first session of operational testing.
Louisburg, N.C – U.S. Marines assigned to Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit , conduct a high altitude low opening jump during category 3 sustainment training in Louisburg, N.C.
The Coast Guard, unlike the other military branches, is a law enforcement agency — meaning that it gets wrapped up in all sorts of operations that the Department of Defense generally is barred from by law.
One of the operations commonly undertaken by the Coast Guard is catching drug smugglers and their illicit cargos, and the Coast Guard gives special attention to the lucrative cocaine trade which has given them some of the largest maritime drug busts in history.
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.
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:
A U.S. Air Force F-16 “Thunderbird” sits on the flight line during sunrise at the 177th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard Base in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 23, 2017. The Thunderbirds, an Aerial Demonstration Squadron, performed at the Atlantic City Air Show, Thunder over the Boardwalk, in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 22-23, 2017.
The propellers of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft spin in the center of Hurricane Harvey during a flight into the storm Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Italian Army Paratroopers Folgore Brigade, descend onto Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, August 23, 2017. The combined exercise demonstrates the multinational capacity building of the airborne community and the airborne allied nations collectively. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
Soldiers selected by 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, as Soldiers of the month while deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti, were offered the opportunity to participate in a limited AT4 live-fire exercise at a range along the southern coast of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Aug. 22, 2017. The AT4 is a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon which is disposable after just one use, making it a special opportunity to fire one.
USS Constitution fires off a 40 mm 200 gram round from one of her saluting batteries. Constitution fires one round from her saluting battery twice a day to signify morning and evening colors.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five (EODMU 5), dive in Apra Harbor, Guam, Aug. 20, 2017. EODMU-5 conducts mine countermeasures, improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards, and disarms underwater explosives such as mines.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Flanagan, a cannoneer, attached with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, Gun 3, fires the M777A2 Howitzer at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, August 23, 2017. The purpose of the Northern Viper training exercise is to maintain interoperability and combat readiness within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. André T. Peterson
Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) rappel from a Bell UH-1 Iroquois on Camp Pendleton, Calif., August 24, 2017. 1st ANGLICO is conducting training to prepare Marines for future deployments.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew medevac a man experiencing symptoms of heart failure approximately 60 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, August 24, 2017. The helicopter crew arrived on scene at approximately 11:30 a.m., hoisted the man and transported him to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero in stable condition.
Three people were rescued by a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook near Highlands, New Jersey, on August 19, 2017. Their nine-foot John boat capsized sending them into the water.
Joining the military comes with all kinds of perks — you get to shoot guns, wear sexy uniforms, and take out car loans with ridiculous interest. But the best perk is the deployments.
It comes with its own set of bullsh*t, like your command putting on dog and pony shows everywhere you go to make you look good, but it also sends you to new, interesting places, even if your goal there is to forcibly remove select people from the population.
Joining the military gives you the opportunity to boldly go where most of your high school friends won’t. You get to go on trips to countries all around the globe and you get to work with their military. In your off time, your command affords you the opportunity to go and see the sights.
2. You learn their culture
Going on vacation to another country is one thing — you mostly choose where you want to go and who you want to interact with — but when you take a trip with Uncle Sam, you’re essentially forced into interactions with whoever is required.
Even if your command had someone give you a two-hour lecture on customs and courtesies, there’s no better teacher than experience.
3. You learn their language
In culture briefings, someone will usually give a basic rundown of the language. Typically, these cover the phrases for ‘hello,’ “thank you,” and “where the hell is the bathroom because your food is ripping apart my insides?”
Okay, maybe not that last one, but when you start to actually work with a foreign military, you’ll get the opportunity to expand your vocabulary to include insults and curse words.
4. You learn about their tactics
This is, by far, one of the coolest aspects of working with another country’s military. You get to see how they respond to certain threats and how they approach different situations, giving you the chance to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
This comes in handy in the event that you have to work with that country in a real war. You’ll know how they can help or hurt you.
5. You get to learn about their weapons
If you work with Southeast Asian countries, this point won’t always stand since the United States usually sells their old military weaponry to these countries. However, many countries use weapons that are foreign to Americans and it’s a cool opportunity to expand your knowledge, making you a more versatile warfighter.
6. You get to flex American tactics
Every country has a different approach (as mentioned above), but everyone knows Americans are the best at fighting wars. So, it’s always fun to learn about another country’s tactics and then immediately sh*t all over them. This gives you the opportunity to reinforce the idea that America is the best and you shouldn’t ever mess with us.
Marines provide cover fire during platoon-mechanized raid training at Su Seong-Ri Range in the Republic of Korea during exercise Ssang Yong 14. (Photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. Anthony J. Kirby)
When you go home and tell your friends about your experience overseas, this is the last thing you should mention. Your stories should always end with, “and, I got paid to do it!”
At the end of the day, this is the best part of the whole deal. No matter how much bullsh*t your command put you through on deployment, you got paid to go to another country and experience everything mentioned above.
Specialists in the Army are known as the E-4 Mafia. The rank insignia they wear — shaped like a shield — is known as the sham shield because members of the mafia are guaranteed to sham off of work at every opportunity. To see how they escape their duties in a strict environment like the Army, just study these seven strategies.
1. Make appointments. So many appointments.
Noncommissioned officers only make appointments for emergencies. Privates make an appointment when told to by a sergeant. Specialists make appointments for everything. They eat lots of sugar and excessively brush their teeth for maximum cavities. They get every twinge in their joints, real or imagined, checked out extensively at the medical center. They sign up for any college classes that take place during the duty day and enroll for help fighting addictions they don’t have.
2. Get privates to do the work.
Specialists may be junior-enlisted, but they’re the highest-ranking junior enlisted in the Army. When tasked with duty, the first thing a specialist will do is find a private too far from his or her NCO, so the specialist can pass duties off to the private. The specialist is still guaranteed to take credit though.
3. Do the visible parts of the job.
Every once in a while, the E-4 gets hit with a task when there are no privates available. The specialist will then pantomime doing the work, turning tools, pulling dipsticks, and rubbing baby wipes on something. But actually checking the oil? Properly cleaning the weapon? Correctly filing the papers? That’s what privates are for.
4. Have the proper inventory.
Whether he’s confiscated it from a private or procured it himself, a member or the E-4 mafia is never without tobacco, energy drinks, and contraband. Contraband can take the form of alcohol, adult entertainment, or unauthorized gear like reflective sunglasses. Usually all three.
5. Be a ghost.
Some of the Army’s uniforms for extreme cold weather don’t have velcro for unit patches or name tags; only a fabric loop to hold rank. This is the uniform of the shammer. Since NCOs primarily correct members of their own unit, specialists are sure to always appear like they belong to no unit. When truly caught by a superior and asked which unit they belong to, the specialists are guaranteed to lie, claiming another company and first sergeant. This way, nothing they do will make it back to their own chain of command.
6. Make deals.
The E-4 is always ready to strike a bargain. Want to get drunk this weekend but not wake up dehydrated? There’s an E-4 medic with a bag of saline that fell off a truck. Items missing from a hand receipt? Spc. Snuffy can get that taken care of. Just be sure to have something to trade.
7. Become promotable, but never get promoted.
To get promoted above specialist, a soldier has to clear two hurdles. First, they get selected by their unit and gain promotable status. Then, they have to earn enough promotion points to clear a cutoff score that changes every month.
Promotable status allows the soldier a little extra rank and leeway in the unit without yet saddling them with extra responsibilities. Dons in the E-4 mafia manage to get promotable status and then stay permanently a few points below the cutoff score for promotion. If promotion points are rumored to drop soon, you can bet Spc. Godfather is about to bomb a rifle qualification or physical training test.
Halloween is coming up, so we hope everyone has a great costume lined up, unlike most years when everyone just trades uniforms with a member of a different service for the night. Soldiers going as airmen, sailors going as Marines. It’s all cutting edge stuff.
Before you head into the housing areas to beg your first sergeants for candy, check out these 13 funny military memes: