Hooyah! - The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Hooah… Oorah… Hooyah… Few sounds grate on the ears of the non-initiated more than the service battle cry. If you have ever been around U.S. Army personnel for an extended period of time, for example, then you have surely heard “hooah” (rhymes with Tua, as in the NFL quarterback) flung about ad nauseam to indicate accordance with a command, suggestion, directive, exclamation, or any other kind of simple declaration. 

Examples:

“It sure is sunny out.”
“Hooah, ma’am.”

“Clean that toilet, Private.”
“Hooah, Sarge.”

“Johnson, go clear that bunker of the enemy!”
“Hooah!!”

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry
“Wait, did you mean ‘Hooah, I’ll do it’ or ‘Hooah, I’m excited?’” “Uh… Hooah?” “Damn it, Perkins!” (U.S. Army photo)

You get my drift. It is an indication of the affirmative, a response to almost anything, and a type of verbal salute. The U.S. Marine Corps, on the other hand, has its own battle cry, “oorah” (rhymes with Poobah, as in “the Grand Poobah”). The Marines’ “oorah” is more commonly reserved as a true battle cry than is its Army counterpart. In other words, “oorah” does not get thrown out dozens of times in a 15-minute conversation, but rather, is used to indicate a collective rallying cry, usually in response to some statement of motivation, or love for the Marine Corps. 

Example:

“Now, grab your weapons, and let’s introduce these bastards to the United States Marine Corps!”
“OORAH!!!” (thunderously exclaimed)

I am of course horribly simplifying these battle cries, and will no doubt be corrected for some error in my reporting on them. No matter. The above preamble is merely to set the stage for the U.S. Navy SEAL battle cry: “hooyah” (rhymes with boo yah!). The SEAL battle cry, similar to the U.S. Army “hooah,” is heard most commonly (and un-ironically) during Navy SEAL training. BUD/S trainees are expected to bellow a “hooyah” in unison throughout a typical BUD/S training day. They are also expected to use it in answer to instructors when spoken to by them. 

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Abe McNatt/Released)

Examples:

“Are you weak and stupid, Ensign Jones?”
“No, Instructor Patstone.”
“Are you sure, Ensign Jones?”
“Hooyah, Instructor Patstone

“Class 227, you are dismissed.”
“Hooyah, Instructor Allen!”

“Do you even wanna be here, Petty Officer Johnson?”
“Hooyah, Instructor Miller.”

The SEAL battle cry is also used after BUD/S, when one has made it into the SEAL Teams, but far more selectively. It’s usually in some particularly hairy moment, or when one is making a call-back to BUD/S, SEAL Team lore, or the culture in general. 

Examples:

“The helo can’t go any lower; screw it, let’s just fast-rope from 90 feet instead of the 60 we planned on.”
“Hooyah, man.” (with that resigned look, usually indicating, “Well, this sucks.”)

“I just heard that Tom Smith — from our BUD/S class — is picking up Master Chief (E-9).”
“Damn! Hooyah to him.”

Again, I am simplifying and not adequately explaining all the ways in which the battle cry is used, but hopefully you get the point. This leads one to ask, where the hell does the battle cry come from? And no, I am not about to launch into the etymology of the word itself (although, I assume it derives from the British huzzah, but that is neither here nor there as far as we are concerned).

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry
“Salt water in my brain… Hooyah!” (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Here is what I know about the word’s origin as the Navy SEAL battle cry, which was provided on the occasion of the recent death of retired U.S. Navy Captain James Hobbs on December 12th, 2020. Hobbs graduated with Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) Training Class 16 back in the mid-1950s. UDT Training was BUD/S before it was called BUD/S. One of Hobbs’ instructors, Ken Wortley — who later became a teammate on UDT-12 (the UDTs were precursors to the SEAL Teams) —provided the background:

Jim was the senior trainee in UDT (BUD/S) class 16 in Coronado. That class, number 16, was the first to use the term HOOYAH, which has been a rallying cry of the UDTs and SEALs since that time.

Class 16 used the cry to respond to the BUD/S instructors to perform some difficult training requirements, i.e.: hit the surf in full combat gear, lie in the surf, arms linked with your teammates, get soaked in the 58-degree water, then roll around in the soft sand, and then run to the North Island fence and back to the team area.

This would be the start of Hell Week and the normal reaction of training classes prior to class 16 would be to lose 50 percent of the trainees before lunch the first day. However, class 16 was different. No matter what the instructors demanded the trainees do, the class would shout HOOYAH in defiance and perform the task and this lasted right up to class 16’s completion of training and graduation.

This rallying cry has become a tradition since class 16 in 1956 and is still being used by the SEALs today. Then-LTJG James Hobbs, as senior trainee of class 16, was the individual who was instrumental in getting it started.

So there it is. Of course, I have no way of knowing if this story is absolutely true —or merely apocryphal — nor do I really care. Ultimately, it does not matter how the battle cry came to be, only that it is. The above origin story is as good as any, and to that, I say, Hooyah.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 memes that sum up everyone’s reaction to canceled plans

These days, it’s just so easy to cancel plans. You can call, text, email or DM a person letting them know your excuse. Whether or not it’s true (or believable), it can be done in an instant. Gone are the days when you had to show up because others were expecting you. With all this tech, you can cancel in 10 different mediums. 

Canceling plans is a favorite for some … and a dreaded event for others. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, these memes can help sort out your feelings. 

  1. When you didn’t want to go to anything anyway and the universe provided the best excuse
Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Thanks, universe. 

  1. Forgetting you made plans in the first place

Re: OTW 

  1. The time you were all hyped up but changed your mind.

Ughhhhhhhh. 

  1. When you have something *better* to do.

#sorrynotsorry

  1. When you were secretly hoping your friend would back out … and they did. 

All the perks, none of the guilt. 

  1. But when you secretly want to still hype up your Insta feed.

Who’s guilty?! 

  1. The times you REALLY wanted to do the thing

You could feel it crumbling for days. 

  1. And someone cancels on you this time around

This time the grass is … browner.

  1. Still wanting to get invited, even when you never show up

It’s the thought that counts, right?

  1. FInally giving up on trying to offer excuses

Honesty feels so freeing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines, soldiers, and sailors participate in joint training exercise

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics participated in exercise Resolute Sun from June 11-19, 2019.

The exercise allowed Marines to increase combat operational readiness in amphibious and prepositioning operations while conducting joint training with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy during a joint logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) scenario.

JLOTS provides operational movement capabilities in places where access to and from an area is not accessible. It is meant to strengthen interoperability between service branches so they can quickly build an improvised port and get equipment to and from wherever it is needed.


The Marines started the exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. and convoyed down to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, more than 250 miles away.

“We don’t get an opportunity to conduct long-range convoys like that all the time; it takes a lot of discipline to accomplish something of this scale,” said 1st Sgt. Brent Sheets, company first sergeant of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “The Marines got to see that there is more behind their job then the routine mission they do every day in garrison.”

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

U.S. Army Soldiers with 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Regiment prepare for a landing craft, utility to dock on a trident pier during exercise Resolute Sun at Fort Story, Virginia, June 18, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

After the convoy, the Marines embarked 38 vehicles onto the USNS Watkins (T-AKR-315), once they reached Joint Base Charleston.

The USNS Watkins is part of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command 19 Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off Ships. The ship is used for prepositioning of ground vehicles and is designed to carry vehicles which are driven on and off the ship.

After the ship was embarked with all cargo, it set sail for Fort Story, Virginia. There, the equipment was offloaded utilizing a trident pier built by the U.S. Army’s 331st Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th transportation Regiment. Simultaneously, Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, Naval Beach Group 2 conducted a beach landing utilizing the improved navy lighterage system.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

U.S. Marine Corps logistics vehicles system replacements from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation as part of exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“We’ve worked smoothly with the Marines during this exercise. They are our main counterparts,” said Construction Mechanic First Class Mark Paystrup, with Beach Master Unit 2, Battalion Cargo Group 10. “Because we work with them often, we are familiar with each other’s roles. What is more of an adjustment, is working with the Army. It is always good to practice that interoperability between the Services.”

The Navy-Marine Corps team works together all over the world, regulatory conducting beach landing operations together. The Army only has a few ship-to-shore assets, and sailors and Marines make sure to capitalize on training with soldiers to improve functionality between them.

“What we are doing today is exactly how we’re going to fight when we need too,” said Lt. Col Jonathan Baker, the Commanding Officer of 2nd TSB. “We’ll never go to war alone. We’ll go as a coalition. It’s important to understand how to do this jointly.”

Another benefit to the joint training environment is the ability to stay fiscally responsible while conducting such a large exercise. Working together with the Army and Navy, the price can be spread out amongst the branches, with each unit only being held responsible for paying for the gear and supplies they need.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load an M970 semitrailer refueling truck onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation during exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“Doing a joint training exercise such as this one, allows for all branches to get connected and get the same amount of training,” said Baker. “This is training that they have to do, so if we can get connected to that, it provides us with cost-saving opportunity and unique training situations that we would normally get through warfare.”

All 38 vehicles from 2nd TSB were able to be offloaded and redeployed via convoy 220 miles back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. within two days of the USNS Watkins arriving in Virginia.

“It takes a lot of individual actions to make something like this happen. That’s the individual Marine knowing his job and doing it effectively,” said Capt. Bryan Hassett, company commander of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “109 Marines worked together seamlessly as a unit to accomplish the mission, and that is something that needs to happen every time we go out, no matter where we are anywhere in the world.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former Navy SEAL commander: You have to know when to follow

Former Navy SEAL commander Leif Babin knows that, as a leader, it can be difficult to keep an ego in check. But it’s necessary.

“As a leader, you’ve go to be decisive, you’ve got to make calls, you’ve got to be ready to step up and lead even in the most difficult circumstances,” he told Business Insider. “And yet, if you want to be the most effective leader, you absolutely have to be a follower as well.”

Babin was one of two platoon leaders reporting to Jocko Willink, who led US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser in the Iraq War. The two founded the leadership consulting firm Echelon Front in 2010, and their firm has worked with more than 400 businesses.


In their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” Babin shares a story of a mission that illustrates his point of how a leader must also be a follower.

During the 2006 Battle of Ramadi, Babin led a night mission where his SEALs were providing cover for Army soldiers and Marines. The late Chris Kyle, of “American Sniper” fame, was Babin’s point man. At one point, the team gathered on a roof to determine where they would set up a sniper overwatch. Babin and his leaders decided they would move to a certain building for that, but Kyle countered with a different selection that was not close to Babin’s choice.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Jocko Willink.

Babin outranked Kyle, but he also recognized that Kyle had the most experience with sniper missions of anyone on the team, including himself.

“‘Leading’ didn’t mean pushing my agenda or proving I had all the answers,” Babin wrote. “It was about collaborating with the rest of the team and determining how we could most effectively accomplish our mission. I deferred to Chris’ judgment.”

It was a call Babin said turned out to be the right one, and led to a successful mission. In the book, Babin reflected on a moment when he was a fresh platoon leader, and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge a suggestion from a team member who was lower in rank but had more experience led to a failed training exercise. It was fortunate he learned the lesson before deploying.

“Had we gone with my initial choice — had I disregarded Chris and overruled him because ‘I was in charge’ — we would have been highly ineffective, disrupting virtually no attacks, and that might very well have cost the lives of some of our brethren,” Babin wrote.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

OP-ED: This is what it takes to lead the Navy during war

In thinking about who to select as the Navy’s next generation of senior leadership, the Nation should be fully engaged, particularly with the increasing potential of war at sea against a peer competitor. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral John M. Richardson, who wrote an article for Proceedings Magazine in June 2016 entitled, “Read, Write, Fight,” understands this. So too does Admiral Scott H. Swift, former Commander, Pacific Fleet, who suggested a way to better prepare for a fight in his March 2018 Proceedings piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Given the possibility of high-end warfare facing the nation now for the first time since the end of the Cold War, picking the right leaders will be key. The question is: Is the right leadership being picked today? Is there a different, better way to consider who will lead the Navy in war?


Since 1974, every Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has come to the office with the following credentials: command of a carrier strike group (CSG); command of a fleet, and; an operational, four-star command, either Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), Atlantic Fleet/U.S. Fleet Forces Command (LANTFLT/FFC) or Naval Forces, Europe (NAVEUR). The one exception to this formula is that submariners do not command CSGs: Instead, they command submarine groups at the one-star level.

In the last 44 years, there have been only three anomalies: Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda, the 25th CNO never commanded a fleet. Then, in 1996, Admiral Jay L. Johnson, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) who had been scheduled to command Naval Forces, Europe, instead became the 26th CNO when Admiral Boorda took his own life. The current CNO, Admiral Richardson, is the third anomaly in that he has neither commanded a fleet nor had an operational four-star command.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Richardson.

Not surprisingly, there are considered reasons in this successive, operational flag, command rule: First, the Navy exists to support the operational element of the fleet – the so-called, “pointy end of the stick.” It is believed that the leader of an organization whose mission is to “conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea,” should be a person who is closely acquainted with firing shots in anger, from ensign to four stars. Second, perhaps of even greater import, the CNO sits in the “tank,” with the other Joint Chiefs. It is imperative that he or she knows the score out in the various combatant commands, and this requires genuine joint expertise attained at a high level. This sort of experience comes in places such as the forward fleets, and especially to those who command PACFLT, NAVEUR, or FFC.

This is not to say that the formula works perfectly. By the turn of the century, Surface Warfare Officers dominated a majority of significant leadership positions in the Navy, and held the office of the CNO, without pause, between 2000 and 2011. It was also this generation of leaders which presided over the diminution of the entire surface community. Still, this may all say more about either the struggle against increasing budget restrictions or a misplaced spirit of selflessness on the part of these CNOs than it does about a faulty selection approach. Nor is this to say that those who were anomalous did not perform admirably as CNO. That is for others to decide, in time.

Either way, the questions are these: How does an officer arrive at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the first place? What are the implications which arise when there are sustained and dramatic perturbations at the flag-level? And finally, what does (or should) the future hold in preparing the Navy to face a new era of potential conflict at sea?

A process defined

Sustained superior performance is essential, but beyond that, a careful choreography occurs in every community beginning at first command if not before. Selection to flag is seldom, if ever, accidental or unanticipated. This management becomes even more meticulous once flag officers are selected. At that point, there is a determination made as to who will be groomed for the three and four-star levels, and who will serve in other, still important flag positions. To effectively regulate this complex daisy-chain, a detailed, long-term, name-to-job interaction occurs between all of the warfare communities and the Navy’s (and ultimately government’s) top leadership.

There are really only a few, key, operational flag positions available, and they are earmarked for those bound for the top. This is important as the timing and positioning associated with getting the right officers through those wickets is not a matter of chance. Here is one example: In the surface community, presume that eight officers make flag each year. Of these eight, only four will go on to command a CSG. Of those four, only two will deploy. These deployers are those who have been selected for upward movement, and this is easily observed in a historical review of those who rose higher. Likewise, while there are any number of important three-star commands, they are in not all equal regarding carrying an officer to the office of the CNO.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) left,the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) transit the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Barnes)

Moreover, it is necessary to mention the one outlier in this job pecking order; Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP). A remarkable number of four-star admirals, some of whom achieved senior operational command, have passed through the CNP’s office, including Admirals Leon A. Edney, Ronald J. Zlatoper, John C. Harvey, Mark E. Ferguson III, and former CNOs Jeremy Boorda and James D. Watkins. Evidently, excelling in this position imparts a unique cachet, though it is neither joint nor operational.

The point here is that delicate timing and positioning are required to marshal those deemed to be most deserving to the top. Though off and on-ramps may be built into the process to allow for surprises and opportunities, the whole process is quite fragile. In recent years, this fragility has been demonstrated through two events; The “Fat Leonard” scandal, and the aftermath of the two warship collisions in Seventh Fleet.

Gutting the operational side in the Pacific

As every sailor knows, there are two sides to any chain-of-command – operational and administrative. The administrative side of the equation is responsible for the manning, training and equipping of units provided to the operational side of the chain. The operational side employs these “all-up rounds” in carrying out the nation’s business at sea.

Following the collisions in Seventh Fleet in the summer of 2017, justice was meted out on behalf of the Navy, through the agency of a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr, Chief of Naval Reactors, appointed by the CNO, Admiral Richardson. Ultimately in this effort, the entire operational chain-of-command in the Pacific, from the ships’ officers of the deck, to CIC watch officers, to the command master chiefs, to the executive officers, to the commanding officers, and then up through their destroyer squadron commander, task force commander, fleet commander and all the way to the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was implicated and then either actually or effectively fired. It was a scorched earth approach never before seen in the Navy, and it appeared to be aimed at not only justice but at sending a message to the American people.

Though the punishment handed out to Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden may seem to have been appropriate, particularly in view of the fact that he was the responsible administrative agent charged to provide fully ready ships to the operational commanders, the fact is that he was only a small part of the responsible administrative chain-of-command. Actually, CNSF relied on a universe of other administrative commands to carry out its mission effectively. For example, the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) was responsible for providing schools and personnel (both of which were in demonstrated to be in short supply), and the Office of the CNO was responsible for the provision of funding. U.S. Fleet Forces Command was the “parent” command of CNSF, just as Pacific Fleet was the parent of Seventh Fleet. So, while it may have been desirable, for whatever reason, to create a firewall between the operational commands and those administrative commands responsible for providing the necessary wherewithal to the fleet, it also meant that significant responsibility was evaded by nearly half the chain-of-command, top-to-bottom.

The long reach of Fat Leonard

A crisis was created when Admiral Scott H. Swift, then Commander, Pacific Fleet, was implicated in the Seventh Fleet collisions. Admiral Swift had long been expected to become the next Commander, Indo-Pacific Command, and his removal from the field meant that the Navy was in danger of losing control of its most historic and treasured combatant command to the Air Force. The solution hit upon was to send Admiral Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, to command the U.S. Pacific Command. Not only was Admiral Davidson one of the few viable candidates with sufficient credential and seniority, but he was arriving fresh from completion of the Comprehensive Review (CR) of the collisions, and was unsullied by that disaster. Though that may have been good news regarding saving Pacific Command for the Navy, Admiral Davidson’s last and only tour in the Pacific was a single one as a commander, serving as a staff officer at Pacific Fleet headquarters. Whether a conscious part of the decision or not, his lack of Pacific-experience meant that he was beyond the potential taint of Fat Leonard.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Admiral Phil Davidson.

Numerically speaking, only a few flag officers have been caught in the Fat Leonard scandal. Nevertheless, there have been many more who were frozen in place while the investigation continued. This “freezing” caused some of these officers to miss their planned wickets, resulting in an extraordinary upset in the carefully mapped-out flag progression. As for the collision aftermath, it is impossible to know the exact impacts of those events on the “daisy-chain.” Certainly, the loss of ADM Swift and the shifting of ADM Davidson are significant.

Regardless, all of this begs the question of who may be the next CNO? Watchers had long considered Admiral Davidson to be a leading candidate for the position, and his shift to INDO/PACOM has stirred debate regarding who might be a viable relief for Admiral Richardson.

Based on the historical template, the next CNO likely will be one of the following:

  • Commander, U.S Pacific Fleet: Admiral John G. Aquilino
  • Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces: Admiral Christopher W. Grady
  • Commander, U.S Naval Forces, Europe: Admiral James G. Foggo III
  • Vice Chief of Naval Operations: Admiral William F. Moran

Each of these officers has all of the historical credentials of operational command and joint experience at the highest level, with the exception of Admiral Moran. However, Admiral Moran merits inclusion in that he would not be the first former Chief of Naval Personnel to become the CNO, though he has not had either fleet nor four-star operational command. Moreover, the current CNO, Admiral Richardson likewise arrived at the job with credentials other than the classic operational command/joint ones which have been common. In other words, a new template may have been set.

Reset the grid for war

If the Nation is moving from a “Profound Peace” into a period of “Great-Power Competition,” then every effort must be bent to ensure that America is fully preparing to meet what may well be an existential challenge. If, as suggested by Captain Dale Rielage, in his May, 2018, USNI General Prize-winning essay, “How We Lost the Great Pacific War,” the United States were to be defeated in a conflict with China – a conflict which would most certainly be primarily a fight at sea – the United States would, for the first time since World War II lose primary control of the sea lines of communication, in the vital Pacific. China would assume dominance of at least Asia and become a prime hegemon all the way to the Arabian Gulf.

In thinking about who the Nation selects for our Navy’s senior leader, it is understood that he or she must be fully and unselfishly engaged in preparing the Fleet for war at sea against peer competitors. What are the characteristics and experiences of peace-time Navy leaders (beyond the aforementioned operational positions)? Are these characteristics the same as those which might be sought leading into a major conflict? History suggests that they are different. One needs only consider the last, great war-at-sea. Many of the Navy’s leaders at the start of World War II were cast aside in favor of those who could bring fire to the enemy. For many of those officers, including Admirals Earnest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey, it is fair to say that they might never have arrived at flag rank based were they measured against today’s standards. To win that war no one cared who was charming or polished or politically astute or properly connected. The question had nothing to do with who had attained a “zero-defects” record. It had everything to do with who could and would defeat the enemy.

More recently, there have been other “reaches” undertaken to identify the right person for the job. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reached deep to select Admiral Arleigh Burke as the 15th CNO. At the time of his appointment, Burke was still a rear admiral (two-star). He was promoted two grades and over the heads of many flags of far greater seniority. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon selected Admiral Elmo Zumwalt as the 19th CNO for very specific reasons and aims, despite his lack of “traditional” credentials.

Today, more than ever, modern war is a “come-as-you-are” affair. There will be no slow, years-long buildup allowed. Economies and modern weapon systems suggest that a real fight will ramp up to criticality almost immediately and that wide-spread, cannot-be-quickly-replaced/repaired damage will be done to the fleets in a matter of months, if not weeks. In other words, what the Navy has, regarding leadership and wherewithal, on day one, is the best that it may have throughout the conflict. The point is this: The right leadership needs to be found and selected, now.

Prove your readiness

Cast a wide net, and seek leaders who are determined to resist the self-interested pressures of outside agencies, prioritizing lethality in the Navy above whatever else may be prized. Who in today’s ranks is best equipped to lead the Navy in waging a high-end war?

An answer may lie in Admiral Swift’s March 2018 piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Deeper opportunities may be offered to the Navy in this Fleet Problem concept. If, as he suggests in his piece, the new Fleet Problem is designed to do more than check a box, before the deployment of carrier strike groups…if Pacific Fleet is determined to truly test leadership in simulations which approach the real world…if officers will be challenged to do more than just go through the motions…if failure is an option, is this not a chance to really put officers, at a variety of levels, to the real test?

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Ships from Carrier Strike Group 8 in the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julia A. Casper)

And this test need not only apply to strike group commanders, and their respective warfare commanders. A variety of officers, all at different places in their careers, can be tested in this crucible. Is there any reason that an upward-bound submariner could not take command of the Maritime Operations Center (MOC) for the duration of the game? Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC). Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Command. Is there any reason for an officer under consideration for fleet command could not play fleet commander during the game?

Admiral Swift offers a key point in all of this: “We have to guard against the natural byproduct of this training reality, which is an aversion to the risk of failure that is associated with learning at the leading edge of knowledge. We had to convey to the operational leaders that failure during the Fleet Problem was not just tolerated but expected. Without pushing our operational art to the point of failure, learning would be subdued and subtle, not stark and compelling. High-velocity learning happens at the leading edge of knowledge, not at its core, and certainly not at its trailing edge.”

Learning yes, but also testing. Officers at every level can be regularly assigned to the game, and throughout their careers, to test whether they possess skills beyond administrative? The Navy needs lions for leadership in war. The Navy also needs able administrators. Certainly, there are officers in the ranks who are both.

The Navy regularly pulls officers out of their employment to serve in a wide variety of boards. Is there any reason to think that this proposal would not be infinitely more valuable to the service, both in developing the entire officer corps for real, war-time thinking at the operational and strategic level? Let officers merit their promotion beyond unit-level by demonstrating the skill necessary to fully grasp that which is imperative in fighting a war…and that which is chaff.

The next CNO has, in all likelihood already been selected. The process of selection and vetting in long and complex and it is unrealistic to think that ADM Richardson approaches the end of his tenure without a relief already having been selected. The question is, and should be, this: Is the next CNO equipped to lead in war-time?

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Russia finds new Arctic islands amid power competition with the US

Russia, already the owner of the world’s longest Arctic coastline, has spent the past few years bolstering its presence there.

Now changes wrought by climate change are giving Moscow more territory to work with in the Arctic as the US is still looking for ways to get into the high north.

Russian sailors and researchers explored five new islands around the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean off Russia’s northern coast during an expedition in August and September 2019.


The islands, ranging in size from about 1,000 square yards to 65,000 square yards, were first spotted in 2016 but not confirmed until the expedition by Russia’s Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society.

The new islands are “associated with the melting of ice,” expedition leader Vice Adm. Aleksandr Moiseyev said on Oct. 22, 2019, according to state news agency Tass. “Previously these were glaciers, but the melting of ice led to the islands emerging.”

The discoveries come as Moscow has boosted its military presence in the region, refurbishing Cold War-era bases, setting up new units, opening ports and runways, and deploying radar and air-defense systems.

In all, Russia has built 475 military facilities in the Arctic over the past six years and deployed personnel, special weapons, and equipment to them, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in March 2019.

US officials regard Russian activity in the Arctic as “aggressive” and have questioned their Russian counterparts on it.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Russian officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, upon arrival at the remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land, Russia, March 29, 2017.

(Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin)

“When I was as at the [Arctic Conference in 2017] and [with] the Russian ambassador … I asked him, ‘Why are you repaving five Cold War airstrips, and why are there reportedly 10,000 Spetsnaz troops up there?'” Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said at a Brookings Institution event on Oct. 23, 2019, referring to Russian special operation forces.

“He said, ‘search and rescue, Mr. Secretary,'” Spencer added.

Asked whether Russia was a competitor or partner or both in the Arctic, Spencer said he “would love to say both” but expressed concern.

“I worry about their position there,” he said, pointing to the Northern Sea Route, which cuts shipping time between Europe and Asia by 40% compared to the Suez Canal route but runs through Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In April, Moscow said foreign ships using that route would have to give notice and pay higher transit fees.

“That said, dialogue must remain open. We have to keep those avenues of communication,” Spencer added. “You’ve seen the arguments compared to the Suez Canal, the time and dollar savings by going over north, that’s happened. It’s going to continue to happen. We have to be present.”

Catching up in the high north

The emphasis on the Arctic is a part of the “great power competition” described in the 2018 US National Defense Strategy, which outlined a turn away from two decades of combat against irregular forces in the Middle East and toward revisionist foes like Russia and China.

But the US still has some catching up to do when it comes to the Arctic.

The US has just one heavy icebreaker, the decrepit Polar Star, operated by the Coast Guard. Russia, which gets some 25% of its GDP from the Arctic, has more than 40 icebreakers of varying sizes with more on the way. The Coast Guard recently awarded a contract to build three new icebreakers, but the first isn’t expected until 2024.

Marines have deployed on rotations to Norway since 2017 and taken part in exercises in Alaska with the Army and Air Force in an effort to get used to harsh conditions at higher latitudes. But the Navy’s biggest moves have come at sea.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Sailors and Marines aboard the USS Gunston Hall observe an underway replenishment with the USNS John Lethall, Oct. 6, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)

“We did Trident Juncture. We went north of the Arctic Circle, [and for the] first time since 1996 we had a carrier strike group and amphib ships north of the Arctic Circle,” Spencer said at the Brookings event.

Trident Juncture in late 2018 was NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War and included the carrier USS Harry S. Truman. One of the Navy ships accompanying Marines to the exercise, the USS Gunston Hall, was banged up by rough seas during the journey.

“We learned a lot, where we had to shore up our learning and where we had to shore up our sets and reps,” Spencer said. “Gunston Hall hit some heavy weather, [which] tore the hell out of the well deck.”

Some sailors suffered minor injuries aboard the Gunston Hall, which had to return to the US. Bad seas also forced another ship, the USS New York, to detour to Iceland, but it eventually made it to the exercise in Norway.

“I’ll write a check for that kind of damage any single time, when I saw what we’d learned from going up there,” Spencer said.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

The Truman’s trip above the Arctic Circle after a two-decade absence, like the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s participation in the Northern Edge exercise in Alaska for the first time in a decade, is significant, and recent Navy exercises in Alaska laid the groundwork for future training up there, but whether the Navy will be back for good is uncertain.

“We will be in the Arctic Circle … in the high north in the Atlantic and the high Pacific in the Bering Straits on a regular basis,” Spencer said at the Brookings event.

“Will we have permanent basing up there? I don’t know. Would I like to see a logistic center up there — something like a Nome [in Alaska] — that would be great,” Spencer added.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer with Cmdr. Kevin Culver, commanding officer of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock, in Seward, Alaska, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains)

As of late September 2019, the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, which is tasked with finding innovative and cost-effective methods to meet the Pentagon’s high-priority environmental needs, was deciding on proposals to guide Arctic infrastructure projects, according to John Farrell, executive director of the US Arctic Research Commission, who sat in on the panel making the decision.

“They were in the midst of making final selection on proposals to directly address this very topic of Arctic infrastructure design — a design tool that would look at the rapid environmental changes that are going on and give guidance to engineers better than the current guidance they have, which is outdated, about how to design infrastructure that will last 20, 30, 40 years in a rapidly changing environment,” Farrell said at a Hudson Institute event at the end of September 2019.

“This is of great importance to places like Thule Air Force Base in Greenland and other bases that we have in the north, not just in the US but pan-Arctic,” Farrell said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part five

As we made our way from Saigon to Buon Ma Thuot (or as I knew it, Ban Me Thuot) the low lying farm lands turned into gently rolling foothills covered with coffee fields being tended by local farmers living along the edges, just as the rubber plantations had been during my time before.

Night began to fall and we ran into a series of storms at the edge of the Central Highlands – my mind flipped and I remembered how darkness and rain actually became a good thing as they masked movement and noise and helped us deceive the enemy as to where we were and what we were doing.


Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

The rain slackened as we approached Ban Me Thuot and the city streets were covered in arches of lights – there must have been a festival or something, but everyone joked it was a gala reception for my return. The wide avenue we entered on led us to the central roundabout with a centerpiece that had a majestic arch with a T-55 Soviet Tank celebrating the “liberation” of the city by North Vietnamese forces.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

After a bit of confusion finding a hotel we settled on one directly on the roundabout and then wandered over to the monument. Some local teenagers were taking pictures of each other and then asked if we would take a group photo for them. People are the same the world over – enjoying life and making the most of it.

I marveled at how much BMT had grown and flourished over the years and how it has become a very metropolitan area now as opposed to the small sleepy city I remembered.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

The next morning we drove out to East Field where our camp had been. The camp was long gone, the buildings torn down and the jungle had reclaimed the site. The small dirt and oil airfield that was adjacent to the camp has become a regional airport, much like those in any small city in the US. The hill southeast of the camp that we used for a radio relay sight was clearly visible and brought back memories that are recounted in the video. Some of them funny and some of them a bit scary. The red clay dirt is still there – I think I’ve still got a pair of jungle fatigues with that clay imbedded in them at home in Fayetteville.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

As I stood near where our camp had been, with butterflies in the background, memories came back of past times – as a friend said the other day, some good and some bad. That’s what life is made of, good and bad memories and it’s how we deal with them that counts.

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Women join ranks of cavalry scouts

Every soldier in the Nebraska Army National Guard has a story: the reasons why they joined the military, picked their particular military occupational specialty (MOS) job, or serve in their military unit of choice.

For two soldiers serving in the Nebraska Army National Guard’s Troop B, 1-134th Cavalry, the stories are particularly different than those around them. That’s because Sgt. Nicole Havlovic and Sgt. Danielle Martin are two of only a very few women serving in the Nebraska cavalry squadron. In fact, the two Nebraskans are one of only a few women in the nation who have successfully graduated from the Army’s tough combat arms MOS school and earned the title of “cavalry scout.”

Havlovic originally joined the Nebraska Army National Guard as a water treatment specialist. However, after serving for six years, she decided to leave the Guard for a year. “I got out because I was bored,” Havlovic said. “I really didn’t have any guidance about what I could do or what the possibilities were. I wanted to do something different and fun and be out there training.”


It was that desire to do something different that drove Havlovic to join the Nebraska Army Guard cavalry squadron. “I felt like it would be a really good fit. I’m pretty outdoorsy and this — being out in the field — doesn’t bother me at all,” Havlovic said.

Sgt. Danielle Martin’s route to being a cavalry scout was not a direct one, either.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Sgt. Danielle Martin approaches the finish of a ruck march during the 1-134th Cavalry Squadron’s spur ride during annual training in the Republic of Korea June 18, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

“I’ve always wanted to go into combat arms,” Martin said. “It really was a year before joining the military that I knew combat arms was what I wanted to do. However, I was still junior enlisted and so I really couldn’t do much about it.”

The last restrictions against women serving in combat roles were lifted in 2013. However, Army regulations specified that units were first required to have two female cavalry scouts in leadership positions before other female soldiers would be allowed to join their ranks. This made integrating junior-ranking women into the units all that much more difficult.

So, Martin began her career in the Nebraska Army National Guard as an automated logistical specialist before joining a military police unit. After rising to the rank of sergeant, Martin said she finally saw a way to reach her combat arms goal.

“It was already on my radar that I had just gotten my E-5 [sergeant] and I wanted to go to 19-Delta [cavalry scout] school,” Martin said.

Both Sergeants attended a cavalry scout reclassification school, an Army school designed to train soldiers from other MOS in the skills needed to become operational cavalry scouts. Martin attended the November reclassification course in Boise, Idaho. After completing the course, she reported to the Mead, Nebraska-based Troop B this past January.

Martin said the reception she received from her new unit let her know that they respected her newly-earned skills. It wasn’t about changing who anyone was, she said, but having a mutual respect between soldiers.

“They don’t treat me any differently just because I’m female,” said Martin. “I’m one of the guys and I think it needs to be that way… I’m not coming in here to change them. I’m coming in here because I know I can physically and mentally handle it, and I want to do the job.”

Havlovic attended the cavalry scout transition course in Smyrna, Tennessee, and reported to Troop B in April 2019. She said her fellow soldiers don’t treat her differently than any other member of the unit.

“They really don’t treat me any differently,” Havlovic said. “I don’t expect them to…I expect them to believe that they can trust me with the mission and what we have to do and be able to keep up and be trustworthy and dependable…Everyone has actually been really welcoming to me.”

With Havlovic and Martin completing their transition courses, Nebraska National Guard’s 1-134th Cavalry Squadron became the ninth Army National Guard unit, fourth Cavalry Troop and second Infantry Brigade Combat Team Cavalry Troop to be opened for junior enlisted female cavalry scouts.

1st Sgt. Andrew Filips, Troop B’s senior enlisted soldier, has spent 15 years in the squadron. He said the change of policy wasn’t an issue.

“What it really comes down to is that we’re a combat arms unit and there’s only one standard,” Filips said. “You either perform or you leave. You either make the cut or there are other units for you to go to.”

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Nebraska National Guard Soldiers with the 1-134th Cavalry Squadron receive certificates and silver spurs after successful completion of a spur ride during annual training in the Republic of Korea June 21, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anna Pongo)

1st Sgt. Christopher Marcello of Grand Island’s Troop A, 1-134th Cavalry Squadron, is a 22-year veteran of the cavalry squadron. He has also been a member of the Grand Island Police Department for six years. He echoed Filips’ thoughts.

“I work with women every day as a police officer and that’s a tough job where you can get punched in the face, or shot or beat up and you have women doing that every day. So combat arms isn’t any different,” Marcello said. “You have to have the right fit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. It doesn’t matter. You have to be the right kind of person to be a scout.”

The Nebraska Army National Guard’s 1-134th Cavalry Squadron is part of the larger 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which is headquartered in Arkansas. The brigade is responsible for providing training and readiness oversight of its subordinate units. According to Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory White, the 39th IBCT senior enlisted leader, the way the brigade finds the right soldiers for their difficult job has changed from looking at who can physically do it to those who want to do it.

White also said that women who hold a combat arms MOS are the best representatives to recruit other women into the field.

White spoke with Martin during a visit to B Troop’s recent annual training in the Republic of Korea. They both agreed the focus should be on reaching out to women who want the challenge of serving in combat arms positions, and once they do, give them the tools they need to become advocates.

“Having her [Martin] talk to them is going to be so much better than a guy who has been in for 30 years,” White said. “A 50-year-old man talking to these young women just is not going to reach them in the same way as when she talks to them.”

Filips says the physical demands are not the only aspect of combat arms that new recruits need to consider. The relatively demanding training pace also makes combat arms units different. Troop B regularly trains in the field and spends most drill weekends training throughout the night. That is often one of the bigger reasons why some soldiers eventually choose to transfer into the squadron.

“If you want to come into the Guard and feel like this is what I want to do; (that) I want to… be awesome and be the baddest dudes and wear the cool hats and do all that, then yes go for it,” said Filips. “But if you are ‘I want to try this because it would be neat’, there’s other places to be neat. Come here because this is what you always wanted to do in life. You have to want it.”

Marcello seconded those comments, adding that Troop A is willing to let soldiers — male or female — try being a cavalry scout for their drill weekend.

“We’re more than happy to let people come in, try it out and if it doesn’t work for you, we get it,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with gender, doesn’t have anything to do with sex; it has to do with can you do the job.”

Both Havlovic and Martin said they realize they are now mentors and role models for those around them. They are also quick to encourage other soldiers to give it a try.

“It’s definitely something I would sit down, explain to them and educate them on,” said Havlovic, who now works for the state recruiting office.

“It’s not for everybody. It really isn’t. I don’t believe that just because combat arms has been opened up to females mean that all females belong here. But if you can do it, then do it.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Every step of this story is true.

It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.

The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.


Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)

The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.

A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.

The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.

Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.

After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.

It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.

Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.

That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.

He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.

This was the home that American flag had been brought into.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.

Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.

He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.

He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.

He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.

The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.

Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.

The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.

Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.

Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.

With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.

The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.

An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.

A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.

The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.

Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.

That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just changed enlisted performance reports

The Air Force recently updated evaluation policies for enlisted airmen, refining the process and requirements for enlisted performance reports.

The revised policies are in response to feedback from the field and are geared towards increasing flexibility for commanders and empowering performance within the enlisted corps.

“We are continuously making strides to reform our talent management system, including evaluating updates we previously made to the Enlisted Evaluation System,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services. “Our focus is on making our system more agile, more responsive, simpler and more transparent to better meet the needs of our airmen and our Air Force.”


The updated policies will impact almost every active duty enlisted airman as well as those in the Guard and Reserve.

One of the more significant updates covers a long and widely debated subject. Under the new policy senior noncommissioned officers who complete an associate’s degree or “higher level degree from a nationally or regionally accredited academic institution” are eligible for promotion and senior rater stratification or endorsement consideration.

Prior to this update, only degrees obtained from the Community College of the Air Force could be considered for senior rater stratification and endorsement. Airmen should ensure completed degrees are updated in their personnel records in the Military Personnel Data System.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

Another update focuses on equitability and streamlines the stratification process by removing ineligible airmen from the senior rater stratification pool. The previous policy allowed airmen with an approved high year of tenure, or HYT, retirement date to be factored into the senior rater’s endorsement allocations. For airmen reaching HYT, performance evaluations are also now considered optional.

An additional update authorizes the senior enlisted leader, previously only an advisor, to be a voting member of the Enlisted Forced Distribution Panel. In addition, the policy affords large units the ability to use the Enlisted Force Distribution Panel process. If a designated large unit chooses not to do so, the unit commander must publish and disseminate alternate procedures no later than the accounting date for each evaluation cycle to ensure transparency.

In yet another update, commanders now have authority to designate any number of non-rated days if they determine an airman “faced personal hardships during the reporting period.” The option provides commanders the agility to reflect periods of extenuating circumstances on annual evaluations without negatively impacting the airman.

Air Force senior leaders also made recommendations regarding referral evaluations. Currently, a report is automatically referred when “met some, but not all expectations” is selected on the AF Forms 910 and 911. To allow raters the opportunity to identify and document potential areas of improvement, these ratings will no longer be considered a mandatory referral enlisted performance report. This particular policy change will take effect in conjunction with the staff sergeant static close out date on Jan. 31, 2019.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said the change to referral evaluation requirements allows raters to provide airmen with more honest, realistic feedback of their performance while, at the same time, allowing airmen more room to improve.

“Under the previous policy, if we set 100 expectations for an airman and they met or exceeded 99 of them but fell short on one, in essence we were saying they should be removed from promotion consideration,” Wright said. “That doesn’t align with our vision of talent management. We want supervisors and command teams to have the option to make decisions that make sense for our airmen, tailored to each individual situation.”

Wright added that providing this decision space for commanders aligns with the Air Force’s effort to revitalize squadrons and empower leaders.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US soldiers seen as more trustworthy than judges, new poll finds

Almost 70% of Americans surveyed in a recent online poll said soldiers are more trustworthy than judges, police and Transportation Security Administration agents.

SafeHome.org, a company that researches and reviews security products and services, conducted the survey of more than 1,000 Americans through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), a virtual job outsourcing platform often used to conduct studies. Survey recipients were asked specifically about soldiers, but the word was intended to represent all U.S. troops.

Gesa Pannenborg, the survey’s project manager, said SafeHome.org wanted to study how people relate to those in authority or power positions during this “particularly divisive time” in American history.

“We were surprised by the extent to which our politics may influence how we interact with authority figures in our daily lives — perhaps more than we realize,” she wrote in an email.

Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.

“I think we as a country have always held soldiers in high regard, as the brave men and women who protect us and risk their lives for our freedom,” Pannenborg said. “It’s encouraging to see that, while politicians or wars can be unpopular, people, both left- and right-leaning, are pretty uniformly unwavering in their deference for those we entrust to carry on with the fighting.”

The study found 63% of Democrats surveyed thought of soldiers as trustworthy compared to 82% of Republicans. Professors had a similar 20% trustworthy disparity, though they rated higher with Democrats.

Republicans also had significantly more trust in police than Democrats did, but overall, the police fared worse than company supervisors and security guards.

“In recent years, there have been numerous highly publicized, controversial incidents involving police officers,” Pannenborg said. “Some of the results we found were likely a response to that press coverage, and it’s clear that Republicans and Democrats are more divided in their perception of the trustworthiness of police officers.”

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.

Survey takers’ ages ranged from 19 to 83. Nearly 450 of them were Democrats, about 240 were Republicans and 264 Independents. They took about three minutes on average to complete the study and were paid .43 for their responses.

While widely used for studies, MTurk has been criticized within the last two years for taking advantage of rural workers, and there’s been skepticism about whether robots or people are filling out the surveys.

— Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New website gives military exclusive travel discounts

Military personnel, retirees and their family members now have access to an exclusive discount travel website managed by Priceline.

American Forces Travel is a full-service travel booking site, offering hotel, flight, car rental and cruise deals as well as bundled or package deals that Priceline spokesman Devon Nagle said can save travelers an average of $240 per person.

The site, which is available to active-duty military, National Guard members, Reservists, retirees and family members, as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and civilian Defense Department employees, officially went live Jan. 22, 2019, after having been beta-tested on several military bases.


According to Nagle, the site offers discounts that have been negotiated specifically for military personnel, including hotel deals up to 60 percent off and cruise deals up to 80 percent off. Roughly 1.2 million hotels can be booked through the site, as well as the most popular flight and car rental brands, he said.

Brett Keller, Priceline chief executive officer, said that the company was thrilled to be selected by the DoD to “bring the site to life.”

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

(Flickr photo by LoadedAaron)

“American Forces Travel was developed for a simple reason. The people who support the United States of America through military service have earned access to the world’s most exclusive travel deals,” Keller said.

A recent review of the site by Military.com found hotel deals in San Diego ranging from to off prices found on non-military travel websites, and car rental discounts ranging from to off per day for a minivan, SUV or convertible.

A non-stop round trip airline fare from the Washington, D.C., area to San Diego for a weekend in February 2019 was available for 3 on Alaska Airlines, while the same flight was advertised as 4 other travel websites. Still, non-stop flights for the same weekend on United could be purchased for significantly less on another website — between 0 to 0 less.

Advantages to booking air travel through American Forces Travel include reduced fees for reservation changes and all flights being cancellable within 24 hours, according to the site. For cars, benefits include free cancellation on post-paid cars and larger discounts for prepaid rates.

Each AmericanForcesTravel.com transaction also will generate a commission that will go to the military services’ Morale, Welfare and Recreation and quality-of-life programs.

Nagle described the new site as a “labor of love for Priceline.”

“Members of the military are a unique community and deserve the opportunity to access great deals when they take vacations. With American Forces Travel, they can search for deals 24 hours a day,” he said.

Users can access the site by inputting their last name, date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number when prompted. The DoD then verifies the information, and future travelers are ready to shop.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

(Flickr photo by m01229)

Nagle said Priceline does not capture or retain any of the verification data that is provided.

In addition to Defense Department service members, National Guard and Reserve and civilian employees, Coast Guard men and women and their families also can use the site.

Military members have had access to travel deals through base ticket and tour offices, as well as lodging through the Armed Forces Vacation Club, a no-fee membership group that offers week-long stays at resorts, apartments, condominiums and homes — usually timeshare destinations — in more than 100 countries on a space-available basis for about 0 a week.

Armed Forces Vacation Club is managed by Wyndham Worldwide.

According to Nagle, Priceline was chosen to run AmericanForcesTravel.com by a competitive bidding process. Company executives said they — and the Defense Department — see their website as a way to thank the military community.

“Until now, leisure travel was typically handled by travel agents on military bases. The DoD chose to create a new online platform that was modern, fast and widely accessible and to populate the site with the broadest and deepest collection of travel deals,” the Priceline release states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

We’ve heard them all a thousand times. Your roommate heard from a guy in another unit who swears up and down that when his cousin went through basic training, his roommate had been doing funny stuff with ether. Did his friend’s cousin really see the Etherbunny? It’s probably just one more military urban legend that just won’t die – along with these other myths that have been hanging around since Elvis was in the Army.


Be more skeptical, troops.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Fred Rogers, Slayer of Bodies. Supposedly.

Your favorite old TV star was in Vietnam.

What is it about Vietnam that makes us want our favorite TV personalities from yesteryear to not only have served there, but to also be the badass, stonefaced kind of killer that would make Colonel Kurtz proud? According to military myth, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was either a Navy SEAL in Vietnam or a Marine Scout Sniper. Jerry Mathers, who played the title role on Leave It To Beaver, allegedly fought and died there.

Neither of those things happened but someone, somewhere is splicing Forrest Gump Vietnam footage into the latest Tom Hanks film about Mr. Rogers.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Rich people aren’t allowed in the military.

“They” used to always say that a winning lottery ticket was also a one-way ticket to civilian life. And people who were millionaires weren’t allowed in the service at all. While it may seem likely that a high-net worth individual would be less likely to need his or her military career and be less prone to discipline, the opposite has often proven to be true — just look at Jimmy Stewart, Pat Tillman, and other wealthy individuals who preferred to serve. And while winning the lottery doesn’t mean you have to leave the military, winning millions will give the branches pause and you could leave if you want to. Every branch has provisions for separations when parting ways is in the military’s best interest – the way it happened to Seaman John Burdette in 2014.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

“Just making sure you reported for duty.”

Only sons are exempt from the draft.

Sorry, Private Ryan, but if World War III breaks out, there’s still a good chance you’re getting called up for the invasion of China. This is an old rumor that is based in some sort of fact. The truth is that sole surviving sons are exempt from the military draft. This is because of a couple of Private Ryan-like moments. The Sullivan Brothers, five real brothers, were killed when the USS Juneau was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in World War II. The story of Fritz Niland, whose three brothers were killed within days of each other, is the basis for Saving Private Ryan.

So if you’re the only child, I’d still register for Selective Service. If you have a few brothers, you should all hope to register.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

“But aim for their backpacks.”

The .50-cal is illegal – but here’s how to get around it.

The story goes that the Geneva Convention outlaws the use of a .50-caliber machine gun in combat, so American infantrymen are trained for “off-label uses.” The legend says that you just can’t use the weapon against people but equipment is still fair game, so the Corps/Army teaches grunts to say they were firing at belt buckles or vehicles or anything else that might be near. Another variation of this legend is that the .50-cal round can still kill people if it flies close to their bodies, so that’s the goal. Neither are true.

What weapons are actually banned by international agreements are chemical weapons, certain incendiary weapons, and cluster munitions, to name a few. The United States keeps stockpiles of all of these. Even if the M2 were illegal, do you think the U.S. would give it up, let alone train troops to use it wrong?

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

According to lore, one of these airmen is supposed to eat the bullet hidden in this flagpole.

The base flagpole is carrying some specific stuff.

According to lore, the ball at the top of the base flagpole – known as a “truck” – has very specific items in it, with very specific instructions. It is said the truck either contains a razor, a match, and a bullet or those three items plus a grain of rice and a penny. These are all to be used in case the base is overrun by the enemy.

So there are a few things wrong with this premise. The first is that a U.S. base built in the 1950s-1980s is going to be overrun. The second is that all that fits inside a truck. The third is that any American troops fighting for control of their base are going to stop, fight their way back to the flag, and go through these instructions:

After taking down the flag, troops first have to get the truck from the tops of the pole. Then, the razor will be used to strip the flag, the match will be used to give the flag a flag’s retirement, and the bullet is said to be used for either an accelerant for burning the flag or for the troop to use on him or her self. Bonus: the rice is for strength and the penny is supposed to blind the enemy. Does this sound stupid? Because it is. This sounds like gung-ho BS that someone with a fifth-grader’s imagination came up with.

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Not for oral use. Seriously.

Medics used to kick your mouth shut if you were killed in combat.

Old-timey dogtags (like the ones from World War II, pictured above) had notches on them, which of course led troops to speculate about the purpose of the notch on the tags. Like most things that came to mind for those old troops, the situation got real dark, real fast. The legend says if a soldier was killed in combat, the medic was supposed to use that notch to align the tag using the teeth in the deceased’s mouth, then kick the dead man’s mouth shut with Charlie Brown-level effort so the tag would be embedded and the dead would be identified.

That idea would have led to a lot more head trauma on World War II KIA, wouldn’t it? One would have to imagine a better way to maintain identifiers than defiling a corpse. The notch’s real purpose was much more mundane. They were used to keep the dog tag aligned on the embossing machine used to imprint the tags.