Coins have long been used to honor fallen warriors. In ancient Greece, it was customary to leave coins either on the eyes or in the mouths of the fallen. It was said that the spirits of the deceased would use these coins to pay Charon the Ferryman to carry their soul across the River Styx and into the afterlife. Many other cultures have taken on some variation of this tradition — and they’ve persisted. Today, many people still leave a coin on the headstone of the dearly departed.
While it’s not exclusively a military tradition, this is common at the resting places of fallen troops. But the thoughtfully placed coins can’t just be left to pile up indefinitely — and the fallen don’t have much use for them. Eventually, someone has to collect these coins and put them to good use.
So, what happens?
Now, I can’t say for certain that the grave of “Texas Jack” Omohundro wasn’t visited by 27 people who were there when he was killed over 130 years ago, but if it was, he must’ve had a lot of vampire friends.
(Photo by Peter Greenburg)
There’s an often-shared chain email that suggests each denomination of coin left on a headstone has a different meaning — a sort of hidden message left to be interpreted by other veterans who visit the grave. A penny is used to simply honor the dead, a nickel means you went to boot camp or basic training with the fallen, a dime means you served with them in some capacity, and a quarter means you were there when they died.
This multi-coin theory is suspect at best. The first documentation of such a tradition is only as old as 2009, and you’ll often find nickels, dimes, and quarters on gravestones from World War I and earlier — which just doesn’t make physical sense. Still, this idea has been spread around enough that it carries at least some degree of significance.
One fallen veteran’s coins being used to honor another veteran’s life is a noble act.
(American Battle Monuments Commission)
When too many coins pile up at a gravesite, a caretaker collects the money and puts it in a separate fund to help pay for cemetery upkeep. The coins are put towards things like washing graves, mowing the lawn, and killing pesky weeds if the state or local government doesn’t already allocate funds for such things.
The same fund also contributes toward the burial of an indigent veteran who cannot otherwise pay for the process. The VA and other charitable funds may help cover some of the costs, but if the veteran (or the veteran’s estate) still cannot afford the difference, the coins left on the graves of their brothers- and sisters-in-arms will help.
What? You didn’t think it was odd that were so many perfectly sized rocks just feet away from nearly every grave?
(U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue)
While coins are most common — most people reading this article probably have a spare coin sitting in their pocket right now — other mementos are also placed on veterans’ graves.
In nearly every case, caretakers will remove these tokens in order to keep the area in pristine condition. Rocks are also commonly used, but they’ll more like likely be removed and placed nearby, for another visitor to “happen upon.” Military challenge coins, however, are often left on the stone for years.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
How I always got stuck right next to Barticus in every cramped-quarters situation I’ll never know… but I always did! Barticus was the biggest pipe-hitter in my squadron, therefore took up the most room and always left me squashed. But for the value of the man as a hard-fighting warrior, well… I just resigned to remaining squashed.
And squashed I was on an MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft climbing passed 20,000 feet toward… well, it really didn’t matter much past 18,000 feet because we all had to go to breathing pure oxygen though a supply mask. It was night and the stress was piled on. Oh, how I hated jumping, on oxygen, from that height, at night… and oh, how Barticus knew that.
As my stress mounted I began to tolerate less the cramped conditions and the mass of Barticus pressing against me. I started to squirm and fidget more and more. Finally Barticus called to me his baritone voice muffled by the mask:
“Yeah, what man?”
“Have I ever told you, that I find you very attractive?”
That’s all it took and I was laughing out loud and coughing into my mask, but I was also chilled out and doing much better. A really good friend knows how to push your buttons sure, but they also know how to hit your funny bone and calm you down.
Barticus made his way into an opportunity of a lifetime recently to jump near the town Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy, France on the 6th of June in honor of the men who jumped there 75 years ago. There but for the grace of God go I — oh, how I wish I could make that jump too; such an honor!
(Barticus W. Ricardo [left] and the author Geo kit up for an assault in South America)
I asked Barticus to please get me a photo of the famous Sainte-Mère-Église paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele’s effigy that the people of the town hung at the base of the bell tower of the church where he “landed”. John’s parachute snagged an outcrop of the church’s architecture and left John hanging for many hours with an injured foot until some German soldiers hiding inside the bell tower cut him loose.
(Two aspects of Private Steele’s effigy where it hangs still today from the base of the bell tower)
Traditionally, U.S. military organizations have taken veterans back to Sainte-Mère-Église for another jump back onto the Drop Zone (DZ) that they landed on so many years ago. These days it is highly unlikely that there are still veterans of the campaign who are in conducive physical condition to foot that bill.
Our young generations of fighting men, active duty and retired like Barticus and his crew, will continue to make that jump every year on the day of the anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, as long as there is still ground in Normandy to land on.
(The church at Sainte-Mère-Église feature an effigy of paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele who descended into the town and became suspended when his parachute snagged an outcropping of the church structure.)
This innovative process uses 3-D printing software to break down a digital model into layers that can be reproduced by the printer. The printer then builds the model from the ground up, layer by layer, creating a tangible object.
Marine Corps Sgt. Adrian Willis, a computer and telephone technician, said he was thrilled to be selected by his command to work with a 3-D printer.
3-D printing is the future
“I think 3-D printing is definitely the future — it’s absolutely the direction the Marine Corps needs to be going,” Willis said.
The Marine Corps is all about mission accomplishment and self-reliance. In boot camp, Marine recruits are taught to have a “figure-it-out” mindset, and 3-D printing is the next step for a Corps that prides itself on its self-sufficiency.
“Finding innovative solutions to complex problems really does harken back to our core principles as Marines,” Willis said. “I’m proud to be a part of a new program that could be a game-changer for the Marine Corps.”
The Marines deployed here use their 3-D printer as an alternative, temporary source for parts. As a permanently forward-deployed unit, it’s crucial for the 31st MEU to have access to the replacement parts it needs for sustained operations. The 31st MEU’s mission — to deploy at a moment’s notice when the nation calls — is not conducive to waiting for replacement parts shipped from halfway around the world. So 3-D printing capabilities dovetail with the MEU’s expeditionary mandate.
‘Fix it forward’
(Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Stormy Mendez)
“While afloat, our motto is, “Fix it forward,” said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Rodriguez, CLB-31’s maintenance officer. “3-D printing is a great tool to make that happen. CLB-31 can now bring that capability to bear exactly where it’s needed most — on a forward-deployed MEU.”
Proving this concept April 16, 2018, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 successfully flew an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a part that was supplied by CLB-31’s 3-D printer. The F-35B had a plastic bumper on a landing gear door wear out during a recent training mission. Though a small and simple part, the only conventional means of replacing the bumper was to order the entire door assembly — a process that’s time-consuming and expensive.
Using a newly released process from Naval Air Systems Command for 3-D printed parts, the squadron was able to have the bumper printed, approved for use and installed within a matter of days — much faster than waiting for a replacement part to arrive from the United States.
‘My most important commodity is time’
“As a commander, my most important commodity is time,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer. “Although our supply personnel and logisticians do an outstanding job getting us parts, being able to rapidly make our own parts is a huge advantage.”
VMFA-121 also made history in March as the first F-35B squadron to deploy in support of a MEU.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Making further use of the MEU’s 3-D printing capability, the MEU’s explosive ordnance disposal team requested a modification part that acts as a lens cap for a camera on an iRobot 310 small unmanned ground vehicle — a part that did not exist at the time. CLB-31’s 3-D printing team designed and produced the part, which is now operational and is protecting the drone’s fragile lenses.
The templates for both the plastic bumper and lens cover will be uploaded to a Marine Corps-wide 3-D printing database to make them accessible to any unit with the same needs.
The 31st MEU continues to brainstorm new opportunities for its 3-D printer, such as aviation parts and mechanical devices that can be used to fix everyday problems. Though only in the beginning stages of development, officials said, the 31st MEU will continue to push the envelope of what 3-D printing can do in the continued effort to make the MEU a more lethal and self-sufficient unit.
On 18 March, U.S. crude oil prices fell to their lowest level in 18 years. The following day, momentarily distracted from their hype of the coronavirus pandemic, pundits and analysts reminded us again that low oil prices are the result of Saudi Arabia instigating a price war with Russia. And again, the culprit named was Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Among his motives, they claimed, is hobbling the fracking industry that has ended American dependence on Middle East oil. Now, let’s examine the real backstory.
Weeks before a scheduled meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel dedicated to supporting oil prices, the Saudis became concerned that the coronavirus pandemic was causing the oil price to decline. To stop or at least slow that decline, Riyadh worked to get oil-producing countries to agree to counteract falling prices with a production cut of 1.5 million barrels per day.
The Saudis were successful with OPEC and non-OPEC members, with one exception: Russia. On March 7th, it was clear that the Russians would not agree to any cut in their production, despite an existing 3-year old deal with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh then punished the Russians by undercutting prices to all their main customers – like Communist China – by increasing production by 2 million barrels per day.
On 20 March, Brent crude closed at .98 per barrel, far below Russia’s cost of production. Even at , Russia loses 0 million to 0 million per day. Goldman Sachs predicts the price will continue to drop to per barrel, far below Russia’s budget needs. Analysts say that even if the ruble stays stable, Russia needs per barrel, even with spending cuts and drawing on monetary reserves. With Russia’s main exports being energy and weapons, there are few other options.
Two things drove Russia to make its drastic decision. First, Russia’s power in the world, especially in the EU, has a great deal to do with energy politics. Russia is one of Europe’s main energy suppliers, and with Brexit, that dominance will increase. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a critical element in Russia’s European energy strategy and Washington, understanding that levied sanctions on the pipeline as well as on state-owned Rosneft. As a result, Moscow rightly believes that American fracking-based energy independence underpins Washington’s ability to threaten Russia’s global energy politics. That was demonstrated in the first days of March when Putin met with Russian oil companies. At that meeting, Rosneft’s head, Igor Sechin, said that low energy prices “are great because they will damage U.S. shale.”
Second, the Kremlin is determined to maintain the political influence it has achieved in the Middle East after years of expensive effort. To continue to meet those expenses, Russia must not only use profits from weapons sales but also from unrestricted production and sale of crude oil and gas. Propping up oil prices by restricting production does not fit that requirement, and higher prices certainly do not “damage U.S. shale.”
As it continues to confront Russia’s motives, Washington should take comfort in the knowledge that the dark clouds of the oil price war have silver linings with regard to American national security.
First, rock bottom oil prices that force Russia to sell crude at a net loss will undoubtedly impact its budget, which in turn will substantially lessen its appetite for foreign military adventures. As a bonus, low oil prices will similarly impact Iran. Together, those two aggressive nations continue to menace the United States and kill American soldiers on a roll call of battlefields.
In Iraq, Tehran is attempting to ramp up attacks by its proxy forces on bases manned by U.S. forces. These relatively minor and uncoordinated attacks are hampered by a lack of leadership and lack of essential funding. The recent U.S. killing of an enemy combatant, General Soleimani, has been as telling to Iran as the fall of oil sales revenue.
In Syria, Russia and Iran are successfully propping up dictator Bashar al-Assad at considerable cost. The Saudis are as concerned about Syria as they are about their long border with Iraq, so Riyadh will not be anxious to end the economic punishment they are meting out to Moscow and Tehran.
Who will win the oil war?
Russia has boasted they will survive selling oil at a loss for years by “adjusting the budget.” Those adjustments will mean at least pausing their expensive aggression in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya, not to mention developing and brandishing new weapons aimed at NATO and the United States. Despite their brave front, the pain was already evident when Russia signaled it was willing to join an OPEC conference call to discuss market conditions. Saudi Arabia and other members did not agree to attend. The call was canceled.
Iran is using its disastrous domestic coronavirus epidemic as a ploy to gain sympathy, pleading for the lifting of sanctions. The firm U.S. response was to increase sanctions, excepting only agricultural and humanitarian supplies. With just a sliver of oil sales income remaining, domestic unrest, inflation and disease are turning the Islamic Republic into a failing state.
Saudi Arabia, like Russia, stated its budget can weather the lower oil prices for years and is already trimming expenditures by 5%. If further cuts are needed, it will be relatively easy for the Kingdom to postpone ambitious domestic projects – knowing they will not run out of oil for a very long time.
The United States, preoccupied with the coronavirus, is almost a bystander in the oil price war. Despite loud complaints from Wall Street brokers and the discomfort of over-extended oil companies, our domestic energy supply remains secure for civilians and warfighters. Gas prices at the pump have dropped to levels not seen in twenty years. We are filling our strategic reserve with inexpensive oil as a hedge against the future. And Saudi Arabia is an ally that has clearly stated, whatever else may drive it, that it has no intention of crushing our fracking industry.
As for Russia and Iran, Ronald Reagan once summed it up nicely: “They lose, we win.”
General James Mattis once called Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations the one book every American should read. Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher, but he was also a Roman emperor, who bore trials and tribulations throughout his life with a quiet strength that continues to inspire us.
Here are seven things to know about the life of Marcus Aurelius.
1. He was adopted into the imperial family
In the Roman Empire, it was common for the emperor to adopt the man who would later become his heir. At just seventeen years old, the philosophically-minded Marcus Annius Verus was adopted by Antoninus Pius, himself the adoptive son of then-emperor Hadrian. Marcus was renamed Marcus Aurelius, or Marcus the Golden. After Hadrian died and Pius became the emperor, Marcus and his adoptive brother Lucius became successors to the throne. During his time as the imperial heir, the emperor taught Marcus the importance of self-discipline and civic virtue, qualities he would later come to exemplify.
2. He was a co-emperor with his brother
When Antoninus Pius died in 161 AD, Marcus and Lucius became co-emperors. Marcus was an impressive man of impeccable character, who shared his power with Lucius and the Roman Senate and used his power for the benefit of the empire. He was keen on administration but naive in war, having never commanded his own army or province during Pius’ long and peaceful reign. But when war came to Rome, Marcus did not fail in his duty.
3. He faced threats from all directions
In the same year Marcus and Lucius became emperors, the king of Parthia invaded the Roman-controlled Kingdom of Armenia, and replaced its king with a puppet. Despite the presence of hostile German tribes across the Danube River, Marcus withdrew three legions from the Danube front and sent them to Armenia under Lucius’ command. Lucius defeated the Parthians and pushed them out of Roman territory for the next thirty years. Only five years later Rome was invaded by the Marcomanni, a confederation of German tribes. Marcus raised two legions for war, but an epidemic in the empire forced him to wait an entire year before advancing.
4. He was forced to fight Rome’s enemies alone
In 168 Marcus and Lucius finally left for the German front, but were forced back due to the spread of the disease. One year later, Lucius was dead of smallpox and Marcus was the sole emperor of Rome. He never took this responsibility lightly. Now alone, Marcus marched to push the Germans back across the Danube. After a rocky start, the Romans were able to turn the tide of the invasion. Marcus and his legions crossed the Danube, fighting some tribes and negotiating with others to turn the Marcomanni against one another. In 175 he negotiated a peace that allowed thousands of Roman soldiers to return home along with many Germanic warriors to serve in Rome’s legions.
5. He never had the chance to relax
Just as Marcus made his peace with the Germans, there was a rebellion in Syria. Marcus started the journey east to quell the rebellion, only for it to be suppressed before he arrived. Nevertheless he continued his tour of the east to provide the people with an image of strength. He would need his own strength when on the tour his wife Faustina died in 175. Their relationship had been difficult, but he faithfully mourned her death. For the first time in eight years, and now completely alone, Marcus returned to the city of Rome. He could enjoy a brief respite, but it would not last.
6. He spent the rest of his life at war
In the year 177 there was another Germanic rebellion which forced Marcus Aurelius to leave Rome. He would never step foot in the city again. For the next few years, the Romans fought the rebellious tribes in their own territory. The war seemed to be going well until March 17, 180, when Marcus Aurelius died from a mysterious illness in the military outpost of Vindobona. His years of warfare brought him no pleasure, but his sacrifices bought time for an empire that in the coming years would descend into chaos.
7. He is still remembered today
Marcus Aurelius is known as the last of the Five Good Emperors. Even in his own time he was considered an ideal philosopher-king, who always placed his duty above himself. Today he is most famous for his Meditations, the modern name for the private journal he kept during his time on the German front. In this journal he shared his deepest thoughts, on the challenges he faced as an emperor and as a man, and how he struggled to overcome them. Marcus’ Meditations was written to himself, but is really a universal letter to humanity about life and holding one’s head up despite it all.
In September 1961, the Irish Army under the United Nations flag was engaged in operations against Katanga, a breakaway region in Congo. Some 155 Irish troops were stationed at a little base near Jadotville in order to protect the citizens of the small mining town. But the locals in Jadotville wanted nothing to do with the Irish, believing the U.N. had taken sides in the conflict between the Congolese government and Katanga.
For five days, the 155 Irish fought for their lives against as many as 4,000 mercenaries and rebels who tried to take them captive.
Commandant Pat Quinlan, leader of the Irish Defence Forces led a team that was not prepared for the battle ahead.
The enemy came at the Irish in the middle of a Catholic Mass. Luckily for the Irish, one of their sentries, Pvt. Billy Ready (seriously, his name was “Ready”), fired the shots that alerted the Irishmen to their enemy. What they saw when they went to their posts was 3,000-5,000 hired guns ready to take down their position – the Irish numbered just 155. The mercs brought with them not only heavy machine guns, but also artillery and heavy mortars. They also had air cover in the form of an armed trainer aircraft. It didn’t rattle the Irish one bit, as they later radioed U.N. headquarters:
“We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey.”
As far as weapons go, the Irish had only light machine guns and 60 mm mortars to defend their position. But in a testament to warfighting fundamentals, the Irishmen were able to shut down their enemy’s mortar and artillery capabilities using just accurate mortars and small arms. It was the pinpoint accuracy of the U.N. troops that would sufficiently level the playing field. This exchange lasted four days. Now, down to 2,000 men, the Katangese asked the Irish for a cease-fire.
“And that’s when they asked us to stop killing them for a few minutes. Damndest thing.”
Meanwhile, a U.N. relief force of Swedes and Indian Army Gurkhas were making a move on the Katangese positions from the other side. They were held down at a bridgehead on the road from the main U.N. base at Elisabethville and despite inflicting heavy losses on the defending Katanga fighters, they could not breakthrough. Meanwhile, the Irishmen could not break out. They were running out of water and ammunition. With no help forthcoming, they were forced to surrender.
Luckily, the mercenaries didn’t slaughter the Irishmen, despite the brutality of the fighting. They were taken prisoner and held captive to extort the United Nations for favorable cease-fire terms. They were released after a month and returned to their Elisabethville base and eventually sent home. The Irish surrender was considered a black eye to the Irish Defence Forces, despite Commandant Pat Quinlan’s brilliant defensive perimeter tactics, which are now taught in military textbooks worldwide. Quinlan also ensured each of his men survived and came home.
They brought the herd of camels into unfamiliar territory as part of an experiment, but when things went wrong, they accidentally let them loose to terrorize the countryside. No, that’s not the plot of a campy, direct-to-DVD horror film, that’s a true piece of US Army history.
Following a siege at Camp Verde, Texas, just before the onset of the American Civil War, nearly forty camels escaped US Army custody. These camels turned feral, reproduced, and roamed the southwest for years, damaging farms, eating crops, and generally wreaking havoc wherever they went. A few of them even ended up as the basis for a handful of ghost stories.
The sad and bizarre history of the U.S. Army Camel Corps
I mean, if it worked for the Ottomans, it’ll work for us… right?
(Imperial War Museum)
The experiment technically started back in 1836 when U.S. Army Lt. George H. Crosman came up with a brilliant solution to traversing the stark deserts of the American Southwest before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Horses could only take them so far through the sands and would eventually refuse to work in extreme heats. His solution? The Arabian camel.
In 1855, his plan began to take shape. In theory, the imported camels were to replace horses in the region. They were far more accustomed to heat, they could go great distances with little water, and they preferred to eat the shrubbery that other livestock and horses wouldn’t.
Unfortunately, they were still camels. Giant, goofy, smelly camels. As it turned out, they weren’t any faster or able to carry any more weight than a horse or mule — and they had a tendency to scare smaller livestock nearby. But they were able to go more than a few hours without water, so the plan was labelled technically a success.
The Army gave it the stamp of approval and the Camel Corps was unofficially green-lit.
Even today, troops aren’t the biggest fans of camels.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Clark)
The camels were housed in Camp Verde, Texas, which is roughly half way between San Antonio and El Paso. Since camels were very expensive to buy and maintain and had niche applications, the Camel Corps never really went anywhere.
Instead of being useful assets in the desert, the camels were more something that soldiers stationed at Camp Verde just had to deal with. Their smell wasn’t pleasant, to say the least, and were generally apathetic towards doing anything useful. When camels get agitated, which would obviously occur when their handlers mistreated them, they tend to spit, kick, and will outright refuse to do anything. The camels were basically just contained within either Camp Verde or at Fort Tejon, wherever the guy advocating their use was stationed.
Imagine you were a 19th century pioneers would have absolutely no knowledge of what the a camel was and you see one out of your ranch… You’ve got yourself a recipe for many horror stories.
(Photo by Pelican)
Then, just months before the Civil War broke out, Confederate troops overthrew Camp Verde on February 28th, 1861. In the chaos of the battle, the camels were set free to cause a distraction. They did exactly that and the camels scattered. Of the over one hundred original camels stationed there, the Confederate troops were only able to capture 80 of them — meaning plenty were scattered to the wind.
The camels were said to be spotted all across the west. Sightings were reported from Iowa to California to even British Columbia. In the following decades, the camels would periodically destroy and the locals would look on, many of whom had no idea what a camel even was. To them, these were odd, giant, humped beasts that occasionally spat at them.
These camel sightings continued until 1941. For the most part, their sightings were often met with confusion or wonder as they would happen upon a random farm here and there. Weird, but they are gentle giants, after all.
Just because there’s a logical explanation for it doesn’t mean it’s not creepy.
As the story goes, two ranchers went out for the morning and left their wives back home with the kids. The dogs started barking at something and one of the wives went to go check on it. There, she saw a terrifying, reddish monster (one of the Camel Corps’ camels) stampeding through the farm. It is said that the woman’s dead body was found trampled on with hoofprints left behind were larger than those of nearby horses.
A few nights later, a group of nearby prospectors were awoken to thunderous stomping and a terrifying scream (if you haven’t heard a camel make noise, I guess it’d sound creepy on a moonlit night.) They saw the beast and corroborated the ranchers’ tale. Of course, as with all tall tales, there was a good deal of exaggeration involved — one miner said they saw the “Red Ghost” kill a grizzly bear. Camels are tough, but they’re not that tough.
The story continued to evolve until, eventually, storytellers spoke of a ghostly figure riding atop the red beast — but this part might have been true. The “Red Ghost” was eventually tracked down and killed by a hunter nine years later. Oddly enough, the hunter found the beast with a saddle attached. Attached to those straps was a long-deceased corpse.
Who that person was or how long the camel was carrying them is still shrouded in mystery.
Writer’s Note: Some of the information about camels in the original version of this article were a bit incendiary towards the lovable goofy beasts. As a few people who’ve worked with camels have informed me, they’re rarely aggressive unless seriously agitated.
What may have also been a contributing factor to their aggression past that was left out of the original version was their extremely poor handling and maltreatment by the troops at Camp Verde. If you treat them well, they really are gentle giants. If you beat the camels, as was done by their “handlers” in those times, it will definitely win that fight.
U.S. military nutrition experts hope to start testing a new assault ration, known as the Close Combat Assault Ration, that is drastically lighter than existing field rations by 2020.
Ten years ago, the Defense Department’s Combat Feeding Directorate began fielding the First Strike Ration, which was designed to give combat troops the equivalent of three Meals, Ready to Eat a day in a compact, lightweight package.
At about two pounds, the FSR is about half the weight and size of three MREs.
Prototypes of the Close Combat Assault Ration weigh about as much as one MRE and take up about 75 percent less room as an equivalent number of individual meals inside a pack, according to Jeremy Whitsitt, deputy director of the CFD.
“It’s designed for those guys like Army Rangers, special ops guys, light infantry — guys that would potentially be in a mission scenario that would require them to carry multiple days of food, ammunition, water, other supplies, without the potential of being resupplied,” he told Military.com.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika)
The idea of having a combat ration tailored to the needs of ground troops has been bounced around before. In 2016, Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry professionals at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, that he was interested in developing an MRE specially designed for Marine grunts, who need the most nutrition at the lightest weight possible.
While the CCAR is still in prototype stage, it weighs about 1.5 pounds, Whitsitt said, explaining a process of vacuum microwave drying that shrinks the food by about 50 percent.
A sample CCAR menu contains a tart cherry nut bar, cheddar cheese bar, mocha dessert bar, vacuum-dried strawberries, trail mix of nuts and fruit, Korean barbeque stir fry packet, spinach quiche packet with four small quiches, French toast packet, and a banana that was vacuum microwave dried to about one-third of its original size, according to a recent Army press release.
The goal is to begin testing the CCAR in 2020 and fielding it to replace the FSR in 2023, Whitsitt said, adding that the CCAR will not replace the MRE, which will remain the primary field ration.
On a five-day mission, rather than “field-stripping 15 MREs and taking things that are easy to carry, they can take five of these Close Combat Assault Rations and still get 3,000 calories a day but have more room in their pack for more ammunition, more medical supplies, more water — things that will keep them in the fight longer,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Many service members can recall their recruiter’s insistence that they will be swarmed with the attention of beautiful women as soon as they graduate from basic. For the most part, this claim is incorrect.
There are those who are absolutely into the fact that you signed on the dotted line. One can usually find them within close proximity to a military base, keeping always on the alert, and searching for their future spouse. Of course this would never happen to you but, if you think your buddy is in a relationship with someone like this, there are signs to look for:
You walk into the bar just outside base, have a seat with your boys, you all are celebrating finally making it to fleet. You walk to the bar for another round when she taps you on the shoulder. She is gorgeous — you’ve never talked to girl like this, much less had one approach you. Must be your lucky day right? Well…
5. She asks if you are married, not if you’re single
Ok, maybe it’s just you — after all, you’re much more fit than you used to be and she doesn’t even know you serve. How could she? (haircut, farmer’s tan, affliction t-shirt) Then she asks if you are married. Not if you are single — but if you are married. This is a little to the point but maybe she just knows what she wants. Maybe she saw you and just fell in love.
4. She knows your contract better than you
You let her know that you are not married, that you live in the barracks, and have your meals at the chow hall. She informs you that if you were married you could live off base and could eat whatever you want, whenever you want.
3. She explains BAH to you
You kindly explain to her that you wouldn’t be able to afford to live off base and the cost of groceries is also a little steep. She smiles at you the same way an adult does a child, pats you on the head and says, “Oh sweetie, you sweet ignorant little thing, the basic allowance for housing is X amount of dollars here which is more than enough for us to live in a small place, not to mention the basic allowance for subsistence which would get you off that prison food in the chow hall.”
2. She proposes to you just before deployment.
So you’ve been dating now for two-weeks and things are getting serious. She sits on your rack and stares at her phone while you play video games in your barracks room. Things are perfect, until you hear her say it. “You should get married before you deploy.” (Pauses game, turns slowly)
“They’d pay you so much more: BAH, SAH, separations pay, hazardous duty pay, baby you’d clean up.”
So you are married now, congratulations. First deployment is about to be underway, and where is your new bride? She was at the dentist on Monday, the dermatologist on Tuesday, optometrist Wednesday, and seems to have a healthy relationship with the ear nose and throat doctor. It may be time for you to make an appointment with the proctologist, because this is all highly suspect.
The Marine Corps doesn’t promise you a rose garden.
When potential recruits show up to boot camp, they quickly realize what they are in for. While standing on the yellow footprints at either Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California, young men and women are lined up, berated by drill instructors, and then go through a 36-hour whirlwind of receiving.
And then they have three more months to go. It’s a huge culture shock for civilians who have little idea of Marine culture or what happens at boot camp. The shock leads to some complaints, though they will likely never dare mention it to the drill instructors.
1. These drill instructors are literally insane.
They scream, use wild gestures, throw things, and run around a room and back again. In the eyes of a recruit, a drill instructor is an insane person, hell-bent on making his or her life a living hell. They kind of have a point.
During the first three days or so of boot camp, receiving drill instructors take recruits to supply, get their uniforms, feed them, and house them, before taking them to their actual DIs that will have them over a period of three months. As trained professionals, the DIs put on a front of being upset about basically everything a recruit does, right or wrong.
2. There’s no way I can put on this uniform in less than 10 seconds.
One of the “insane” things that drill instructors constantly stress is that recruits move fast. Impossibly fast. DIs will give countdowns of everything — from tying your right boot to brushing your teeth — that usually start from very small numbers like 20 seconds that rapidly dwindle depending on how hard the DI wants to make it.
The countdowns induce a level of stress in recruits that are used to completing tasks at a leisurely pace. When a DI says you have ten seconds to put on your camouflage blouse and bottoms, you better not still be buttoning at 11.
3. How are there no freaking doors on these bathroom stalls right now?
Who needs privacy when you are trying to forge a brotherhood of Marines? Walk into any male recruit “head” (aka the bathroom) at the depot and you’ll notice a couple of things: There is a big trough-like urinal with no dividers, and bathroom stalls have no doors on them.
Even during the times when a recruit is used to having maximum privacy, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, there is none. Thankfully, once they are Marines, they will earn their Eagle, Globe, Anchor — and the right to have a bathroom door.
4. This recruit really wishes he were treated like a human being.
The moment boot camp begins, drill instructors are teaching recruits that they are pretty much worthless, and they have a long way to go before they earn the title of Marine. Being the “worthless scum” of recruit means not even being able to speak in the first person anymore, and having to ask to do basic human functions, like using the bathroom (often refused on the first request).
No longer can recruits use “I,” “me,” or “my.” Instead, they must say “this recruit” in its place. “Sir, this recruit requests permission to make a sit-down head call,” is the way you ask to go #2. Three months later, it’ll be a bit weird at first when a new Marine can just walk into a bathroom and go.
5. What the hell is fire-watch?
Though it may not seem like it, recruits at boot camp usually get around seven to eight hours of sleep per night. But most will have to pull “fire-watch” during the night. Fire watch, put simply, is guard duty. But unlike a guard duty they may pull in Iraq or Afghanistan behind a machine-gun, guard duty at boot camp means recruits walk around aimlessly in the squad bay for an hour.
Pulling security and protecting your team of Marines is a basic function that recruits need to learn. But it’s also incredibly boring, and seems pretty pointless. And then, sometimes this happens in the middle of it:
6. Going to the head? ‘El Marko’? What language are these people speaking?
The Marine Corps has its own language, and recruits get their first taste of how weird it is during boot camp. There’s naval terminology mixed in with other terms that seem to not make any sense, and it takes a while to pick up. The bathroom is referred to as “the head,” a black Sharpie is now called an “El Marko,” the “quarterdeck” is where the drill instructor “smokes/kills/destroys” recruits.
7. These flies are the devil (Parris Island recruit) — or — These airplanes are the devil (San Diego recruit).
The Marine Corps Recruit Depots on the east and west coasts follow similar training programs, so it’s hard to call either one easier or harder than the other. But they do have their own unique quirks. For recruits on the east coast, Parris Island is known for sand fleas, which make their home in the infamous sand pits and humid air of South Carolina. While recruits are getting “thrashed” — doing strenuous exercise — in the pits, sand fleas provide another terrible annoyance. But don’t dare swat one. If you are caught, a drill instructor is likely to scream about an undisciplined recruit and make you hold a funeral for the fallen creature.
Meanwhile, San Diego recruits live right by the busy airport downtown. Throughout their time there, they will hear airplanes taking off and landing, and it’s usually not a morale boost. While PI recruits are isolated, San Diego recruits often daydream about being on one of those flights taking off from the nation’s busiest single runway airport.
President Theodore Roosevelt formed the Boone and Crockett Club and many other conservation organizations because of his love of all things natural. In the 1870s, fishing and hunting organizations urged local governments to restrict encroaching corporations from violating America’s natural resources. There was hope for the wilderness with an ally like Roosevelt in Washington.
John Muir was a naturalist who had been advocating for increased protections for Yosemite, as it was under threat of commercialization, overgrazing, and logging. Muir was one of the chief lobbyists to make Yosemite a National Park. On October 1st, 1890, it earned official status. He then founded the Sierra Club in 1892 to protect the sanctuary; however, it was still an uphill battle to preserve America’s natural beauty.
Meanwhile, other lobbyists were gaining momentum to further their own agendas (many of which were bad for the land) because even though Yosemite was a National Park, protections and regulations were administrated at the state level. Yosemite needed a champion and, in 1903, halfway through his presidency, the park found one in Teddy Roosevelt.
Roosevelt arrives at the Wawona Hotel
Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt looked forward to his stop in California because for three politic-free-days, he had a private tour of Yosemite with John Muir. Muir was an active voice in the realm of conservation, and his passionate ideals caught the attention of the President himself. Roosevelt loved the outdoors, and he personally wrote a letter to invite Muir to schedule the three-day camping trip through the park.
The favor of the President would surely land the support in Washington the park desperately needed. Muir replied, “…of course, I shall go with you gladly” via mail.
Mariposa Grove, then and now.
On May 15, 1903, Theodore Roosevelt arrived at Raymond, California to begin his adventure into the Sierra Nevada. He and his entourage had rooms at the Wawona Hotel, but he only ate lunch there. He was far more interested in mounting his horse and seeing as much of the park as he could. He visited the Mariposa Grove of giant trees, taking pictures, and set camp for the first leg of his stay.
Roosevelt and Muir discussed their shared beliefs on conservationism over fried chicken.
The following day, the President and Muir were up at dawn, determined to explore more of the trails and Glacier Point. When they reach the summit at 7,000 feet above sea level, they were hit with a snowstorm. They made camp at Washburn Point, marooned together amid the pine trees and snow-covered peaks.
The final day was spent with more exploration of the park’s majestic natural wonders. They rose horses until dusk before deciding to set up camp one last time at Bridalveil Fall. When Teddy laid eyes on Yosemite, it was love at first sight. By the third day, he was convinced that the park needed his influence in D.C. to preserve and protect it.
“We were in a snowstorm last night and it was just what I wanted,” he said later in the day. “Just think of where I was last night. Up there,” pointing toward Glacier Point, “amid the pines and silver firs, in the Sierran solitude in a snowstorm. I passed one of the most pleasant nights of my life. It was so reviving to be so close to nature in this magnificent forest…”
All of Teddy’s clubs had connections in Washington D.C., and his first-hand experience brought passion and determination to the subject. He signed the American Antiquities Act of 1906 that transferred the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove back under federal protection and control. A decade later, when the National Park Service formed in 1916, Yosemite had its own agency to protect it, thanks to Roosevelt’s efforts.
Air Force Capt. Forrest “Cal” Lampela was about to put the aircraft landing gear down in Shannon, Ireland, eight hours into a flight. If all had gone according to plan, he and his C-17 Globemaster III crew should have been more than halfway over the Atlantic.
He couldn’t see the runway because of dense fog, catching a glimpse of it from only 100 feet above the ground — the absolute minimum altitude to which the large transport aircraft can descend before its pilot must either call for a landing or to abort approach.
Somewhere below, an ambulance stood by, waiting to pick up a sailor who had been wounded in combat and was in critical condition.
“I was a little bit afraid of where the ambulance was going to be because I didn’t want him to try to run up on the jet while we still had engines running, because the fog was that bad,” Lampela said.
He recalls it as “the most challenging landing that I’ve ever done.” But on top of dangerous, foggy conditions, Lampela and the crew, call sign Reach 445, had just entered a country where they had not received diplomatic clearance before touching down.
“I wouldn’t do that unless it was an emergency,” Lampela said in a recent interview with Military.com, recounting the April aeromedical mission to transport the sailor. He and his team belong to the 14th Airlift Squadron out of Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.
Senior Airman Kyle Bowers, left, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, and Capt. Cal Lampela, a C-17 pilot, are instructors assigned to the 14th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Joshua R. Maund)
“If I’m going to fly into a country without diplomatic clearance, it’s going to be [over a potential] loss of life or [loss of] your craft or safety of flight,” he said. “We were … essentially a flying ambulance.”
The flight included Lampela, the aircraft commander and C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Chris Puckett, a C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Ken Dickenscheidt, a C-17 pilot; Senior Airman Chris Kyle Bowers, a C-17 instructor loadmaster; Airman 1st Class Timothy Henn, a C-17 loadmaster; and Tech. Sgt. Nick Scarmeas, flying crew chief of the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
The decision they made to turn back from the U.S. and head to Ireland to save the sailor’s life got the Air Force’s attention: The six airmen are now under consideration for the Air Medal for making the right call under difficult circumstances. The sailor remains unidentified for privacy reasons.
“For their act of heroism and success in operating beyond what is expected and routine, Capt. Lampela and his crew were submitted to be awarded single-event Air Medals,” Lt. Col. Kari Fleming, 14th Airlift Squadron commander, told Military.com on June 10, 2019. “It is my honor to recognize this deserving crew with such a rare decoration.”
The medal is awarded to U.S. and civilian personnel “for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight … in actual combat in support of operations,” according to the service. It can also be awarded to foreign military personnel.
“Our airmen dedicate their lives to serve this great nation to deliver lifesaving capabilities, so our wounded may return to their loved ones,” Gen. Maryanne Miller, head of Air Mobility Command (AMC), said in a separate statement. “The crews of Reach 445 highlight that our incredible airmen are our greatest advantage.
“Sound decision-making and superior care once again bring a hero home to his family,” she added.
A C-17 Globemaster III sits on a flightline at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Jan. 9, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi)
Diverting the flight
The crew had begun their transit at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, reaching Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. But they had to delay the second leg of their journey because of bad storms on the U.S. East Coast. Their home base, Joint Base Charleston, had lost power; some squadrons there had been sent home early.
“We [were] just bringing some stuff from Al Udeid back home to Charleston, [and] we were in Germany for the crew to rest up,” Lampela said.
But “it looked like pretty terrible storms all the way across the East Coast,” he added.
Their delay meant they were the only C-17 in theater with the tools and space required to transport the patient to Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. They headed to Ramstein Air Base, approximately 70 miles away, to pick up medical teams from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
“We were told that he was in such a state that Germany couldn’t care for him anymore, and Walter Reed [is] the best trauma center,” Lampela said.
With the six members of the crew, the patient and the Critical Care Air Transport Team, known as a CCATT, there were 17 people bound for Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, said Bowers, the instructor loadmaster. The CCATT is known throughout the Air Force as a “flying intensive care unit.”
Col. Allison Cogar of the 313th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron, currently deployed to Ramstein, gave general background information on CCATTs. More specific information on the Reach 445 flight was unavailable for confidentiality reasons.
CCATTs typically transport a ventilator and monitors, along with other gear, she said.
“We have IV pumps, we have suction equipment — that’s kind of the standard equipment,” Cogar said. “We can augment that with other things that are specific to the patient.”
Teams can perform surgical tasks, she said, but “it’s pretty uncommon.”
“If I’m having a patient who’s having issues, I try and alert the crew early on so they can communicate with [air operations and command centers],” Cogar said of reasons why a flight would be diverted. “It’s much safer and better for the patient to do on the ground, where you have a lot more resources available to you. So we try and kind of pre-emptively fend off any of those things that we think we may need to do.”
A C-17 Globemaster.
Making the call
The sailor took a turn for the worse and needed immediate surgery. The medical professionals knew they’d have to divert or face a grim outcome.
“We were approximately halfway over the ocean when the patient started to destabilize,” Lampela said. The crew contacted the air operations center at Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to strategize.
“They couldn’t get his blood levels under control,” Lampela said. “They brought enough blood for the flight, but he was bleeding out in one and, they thought possibly, two wounds. So they didn’t have enough blood to keep him stabilized. Secondly, we needed dialysis because his kidneys had failed, so they needed a hospital.”
The crew looked at the available options.
“I was probably four hours from the tip of Canada, which even making it to Canada, there was nothing until I hit probably stateside, and I was probably six hours from Boston. I was approximately two hours from Ireland, probably three to England, and [roughly] five hours to Iceland,” Lampela said.
University Hospital Limerick, about 30 minutes from Shannon airport, had the necessary equipment. They made the decision to turn around and head to Ireland.
In the back of the C-17, Bowers, the loadmaster, was trying to ease the stress, communicating back and forth with the cockpit and the cargo hold. He had already reconfigured the cargo hold to fit the sailor and the CCATT before they boarded.
Around 2 a.m., 60 miles from their approach to Ireland, Lampela got a call from air traffic control that fog had unexpectedly rolled in.
Air Force pilots in a C-17 Globemaster III during takeoff at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)
Wheels down in Ireland
Lampela had asked the pilots, Puckett and Dickenscheidt, to take turns in the co-pilot seat assisting, since they were about to do a Cat II minimum approach — meaning the pilot must make a decision whether to land at only 200 to 100 feet altitude.
“Keep in mind: During this time, I also have a patient who’s bleeding, and I don’t know how much time and I don’t know where else I can go,” Lampela said.
He added, “The landing itself was not eventful. But I will tell you, with a patient you have in the back, and going through 200 feet above the ground, and you still don’t see anything … you start to get really [anxious and hope] that you see the runway real quick.”
The sailor was taken off the C-17 five minutes after the aircraft landed. Soon after, Lampela was answering calls from both the Irish and U.S. embassies.
“They wanted to know several things, such as were we there to spy, or if we had anything that was not allowed in the country, such as guns or something like that,” he said.
Lampela called his chain of command in Charleston to say they would be delayed.
“I said, ‘All right, uh, don’t get mad. I declared an emergency. I’m in Ireland without diplomatic clearance or, if you hear something about me, it was warranted,'” he recalled.
After receiving clearance, the crew stayed in Ireland for 24 hours, waiting for the sailor to undergo surgery before flying him to Joint Base Andrews. He was transported in stable condition.
Soldiers and equipment disembark from a C-17 Globemaster III in southern Arizona.
(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)
“Essentially, you wake up in the morning, and there’s been many times where we’ve been picked off for different missions,” Lampela said. “So you’re actually going here, you’re going to this country, or a humanitarian issue pops up. So you’re never really sure of … what you think you’re going to do. But until you actually go do it, nothing’s really guaranteed.”
Air Mobility Command has logged 245 aeromedical evacuations in the first quarter of this year, moving 1,183 patients. Last year, airmen moved 5,409 patients in 866 aeromedical events, according to statistics provided to Military.com.
While some Reach 445 members had been on aeromedical tasking before, the critical level made it rare.
“Every situation is different,” Bowers said. “We’re constantly learning on a daily basis. There’s never going to be a similar incident. But as far as, are we going to do better, get better and are we going to be more prepared? Absolutely.”
“In AMC and in the flying world, we preach this attitude of readiness,” Lampela said. “I’m humbled to have been a part of this opportunity.
“We woke up; we weren’t expecting this. But because of our training, we were prepared to go out and do this. We were ready to go. And I’m glad it [turned out] OK,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Do you know someone who is going to Marine boot camp or who is already at boot camp? If so then your recruit is officially beginning their journey to becoming a United States Marine! Over the next 12 weeks, your recruit will be pushed beyond their limits and if successful be made into a Marine. Through this transformation, your recruit will need your support and motivation to help them succeed. Here is all you need to know about sending Letters to Marine boot camp.
MCRD San Diego Mailing Address
MCRD San Diego Mailing Address
RECRUIT First Name, Last Name #(st, nd, rd) BN “Company” Platoon #### ##### Midway Avenue San Diego CA 92140-####
RECRUIT John Doe 1st BN Alpha Company Platoon 1000 38001 Midway Avenue San Diego, CA. 92140-5670
MCRD Parris Island Mailing Address
MCRD Parris Island Mailing Address
RECRUIT First Name, Last Name #(st, nd, rd) BN “Company Name” Platoon #### PO Box ##### Parris Island, SC 29905-####
RECRUIT John Doe 1st BN Alpha Company Platoon 1000 PO Box 16945 Parris Island, SC 29905-6945
What should I write in my Letters to Marine boot camp?
Over the next thirteen weeks recruits will be pushed beyond their limits and, if successful, transition into a United Staes Marine.
Mental and physical exhaustion will become a norm as the loved one you said goodbye to is transformed into a completely new person.
Mail call will be the most anticipated time of the day, and your recruit will enjoy receiving a lot of mail from your over the course of the next three months.
In case you ever face writer’s block, we’ve come up with some questions to ask your recruit when writing Letters to Marine boot camp.
1. What were your first thoughts when you got off of the bus and stepped onto the yellow footprints?
2. What time do your mornings start?
3. How delicious is the chow?
4. What has been the worst thing about boot camp?
5. If you could describe boot camp in one word what would it be?
6. How many recruits are in your platoon?
7. What’s the name of one friend you’ve made, where are they from?
8. On a scale of 1 to 10 how much fun are pugil stick battles?
9. What is one thing your platoon gets yelled at for the most?
10. What time do you normally get to sleep?
11. Have you been given a nickname?
12. Is there anyone in your platoon not receiving mail that I can write to?
13. Has it been hard to keep your rack area clean and in tip top shape?
14. What have you liked best about boot camp?
15. How hard is it to keep your M-16 clean?
16. How fast can you take your M-16 and put it back together?
17. What has been the funniest thing your DI has said this week?
18. What’s the best advice you have received at boot camp?
19. What was going through your head when you jumped off of the repel tower?
20. What is the dumbest thing you have seen or heard another recruit do?
21. Has boot camp been what you expected it to be?
22. What is your wish list of bases you would like to be stationed at?
23. What’s the first thing you want to do after graduation?
24. What homemade/fast food meal do you miss the most?
Your Letters to your recruit don’t need to be long and they don’t need to be fancy. What’s important is that you’re sending mail to support them through this journey.
Sending Letters via the Sandboxx app, will get your message and photos into your recruit’s hands within a couple of days (we overnight your Letters directly to the ship). We also include a return envelope with every Sandboxx Letter so your loved one can write you back!
Ready to send your first Letter to Marine boot camp?
Send your first letter to Marine boot camp with the Sandboxx app, write your message, include a photo and hit send.
Save and attach our week one image below to give your recruit motivation for their first week at Marine boot camp.