6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history - We Are The Mighty
Articles

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

The Coast Guard, unlike the other military branches, is a law enforcement agency — meaning that it gets wrapped up in all sorts of operations that the Department of Defense generally is barred from by law.


One of the operations commonly undertaken by the Coast Guard is catching drug smugglers and their illicit cargos, and the Coast Guard gives special attention to the lucrative cocaine trade which has given them some of the largest maritime drug busts in history.

Here, in order of size, are six of the largest:

(All dollar values are converted to 2017 values.)

1. 43,000 pounds cocaine

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Members of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crew stand next to approximately 26.5 tons of cocaine Dec. 15, 2016 aboard the cutter at Port Everglades Cruiseport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Woodall)

In March 2007, the Coast Guard Cutters Hamilton and Sherman stopped and investigated the Panamanian container ship Gatun and found two containers filled with 43,000 pounds of cocaine which had an estimated wholesale value of $350 million and a potential street value of $880 million.

2. 26,931 pounds cocaine

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Cocaine sits inside a hidden compartment on a vessel found by a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment. (Photo: courtesy US Coast Guard)

A U.S. Customs Service plane spotted the fishing trawler Svesda Maru sailing around without functioning fishing equipment in April 2001 and the Customs Service obviously found that suspicious. When a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment arrived, it had to search for five days before they found the secret space below the fishing hold.

In that space, they found 26,931 pounds of cocaine.

3. 24,000 pounds/$143 million

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
A Coast Guard law enforcement detachment searches a vessel suspected of piracy. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson)

A Coast Guard boarding team serving onboard a Navy cruiser was sent to investigate a suspected smuggling ship in 1995 and set the then world record for largest maritime drug seizure ever.

In two waste oil tanks they found over 12 tons of cocaine worth the equivalent of $230 million today.

4. 18,000 pounds/$200 million

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
A U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft prepares to drop supplies aboard the national security cutter USCGC Bertholf in the Arctic Ocean Sept. 14, 2012, during a patrol in support of Arctic Shield 2012. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Timothy Tamargo)

A surveillance aircraft flying off of Central America spotted a possible submarine in the water in 2015 and the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf went to find it.

Surprise: Homemade submarines are usually filled with drugs. This particular sub was filled with almost 18,000 pounds of cocaine, about $205 million worth.

5. 16,000 pounds of cocaine

Just a few months before the Bertholf captured the narco sub with 18,000 pounds of cocaine, the Stratton captured another submarine with an estimated 16,000 pounds of cocaine.

The Coast Guard never found out for certain how much cocaine was onboard because homemade submarines aren’t exactly seaworthy and the vessel sank after 12,000 pounds were offloaded. Congrats, whales.

6. 12,000 pounds

The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf made another 12,000-pound cocaine bust in March 2016 off the coast of Panama after spotting yet another submersible.

Had to feel like deja vu for the cutter.

Lists

8 post-9/11 heroes who should have received the Medal Of Honor — but didn’t

In the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been sixteen Medals of Honor conferred, but ask any military member and they’ll likely bring up some other heroes who deserved the nation’s highest award but didn’t receive it.


Whether it be the chaos of battle, lack of witnesses, or that they were not recommended for the Medal of Honor although they almost certainly should have been, some troops never got the recognition they really deserved.

As articles in The Washington Post and Army Times have pointed out, the standards for military awards are rather inconsistent. The muddled process of which actions earn the nation’s highest award has resulted in a generation of “forgotten heroes” in the War on Terror, as I wrote previously at Business Insider.

Here are seven of those heroes who arguably should have received the Medal of Honor.

1. Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesberger cleared part of an insurgent-filled house in Fallujah all by himself.

 

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Christopher Adlesperger

During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.

Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.

“Adlesperger was killing insurgents so they couldn’t make it up the roof,” said platoon corpsman Alonso Rogero, in his written statement of events. “The insurgents tried to run up the ladder well, but Pfc. Adlesperger kept shooting them and throwing grenades on top of them.”

From Defense.gov:

Finally, an assault vehicle broke through a wall on the main floor. Adlesperger rejoined his platoon and demanded to take point for the final attack on the entrenched machine gun. He entered the courtyard first, and eliminated the final enemy at close range. By the end of the battle, Adlesperger was credited with having killed at least 11 insurgents.

He died a month after his heroics in that Fallujah house, but Adlesperger was posthumously promoted to lance corporal and recommended for the Medal of Honor. The award recommendation from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines originated with 1st Lt. Dong Yi and moved up the chain of command, with concurrence from Adlesperger’s battalion commander, regimental commander, and division commander.

Two years later, when his recommendation reached the MEF Commander, Lt. Gen. John Sattler, it was downgraded to the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award. His award recommendation did not include any comments or reasons as to why. He was awarded the Navy Cross on April 13, 2007.

2. Army Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard led a 12-man team of soldiers against an overwhelming enemy force. Three hours later, more than 265 insurgents would be dead.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Photo: Army.mil

After receiving a call for support from Iraqi Army soldiers being attacked by insurgents on Jan. 28, 2007, a small team of soldiers with Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard — believing the enemy strength was only around 15 to 20 militants — went out to help them.

As they neared the beleaguered Iraqis, an AH-64 Apache helicopter providing air cover crashed. “When I saw the Apache go down, it immediately changed everything,” Ballard, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Military Transition Team 0810, told Army Public Affairs. “Everything was focused on that crash site; nothing else mattered. That’s where we had to go and that’s what we did.”

Once they got to the crash site, the soldiers quickly realized the insurgent force was much larger than 20. The vehicle of Ballard’s commander started getting slammed by machine-gun and RPG fire and a major firefight broke out.

“We began engaging, and continued engaging. There were 265 bodies reported at the end, but I can tell you, there was more than that,” Ballard told Army Public Affairs. “Everything we shot was targets and collectively, we burned up about 11,000 rounds of machine gun ammo, M4 ammo, M203 grenade launcher ammo and 10 air strikes.”

The team of 12 soldiers had apparently fought nearly 1,000 insurgents, according to Ballard. The entire team received the Army Commendation Medal and two others received the Bronze Star. Ballard was awarded the Silver Star.

3. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez kept calling in crucial air strikes on enemy positions, even after he was shot in the chest and believed he would die in minutes.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Photo: US Air Force

As the lone combat controller assigned to an Army Special Forces team, Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez brought critical skills of directing accurate air strikes on enemy positions in past battles. On Oct. 5, 2009 while on a mission to find a high-value target in Afghanistan, those skills would be put to the test again — this time while he was seriously wounded.

The team was ambushed, and after a fellow soldier’s weapon had jammed, Gutierrez began firing at enemy fighters until he was struck in the upper chest. The enemy bullet just missed his heart, collapsed his lung and he began to cough up blood, according to Fox News.

“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez later told Fox News. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”

Ignoring his injuries and refusing to take off his body armor, Gutierrez remained calm and stayed on the radio to call in gun runs. Enemy fighters were lined up on a wall just 30 feet from him at one point in the battle, but the staff sergeant called in three A-10 strikes at “danger close” range to take them out.

As Robert Johnson wrote at Business Insider:

The A-10 pilot talking to him on the ground said he had no idea Gutierrez was wounded, that his voice was calm the whole time, and only realized the man was injured when his team moved to the medical landing zone.

“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin said. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.”

After losing nearly half his blood, Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battlefield after four hours of fighting. He received the Air Force Cross for his heroism in 2011.

4. Marine Cpl. Brady Gustafson kept directing heavy fire on insurgents despite an RPG partially amputating his leg.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson, a machine gunner with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, stands in from of the battalion at perfect parade rest, despite the amputation of his right leg below the knee. Gustafson received the Navy Cross and a meritorious promotion to corporal during a ceremony March 27 at Lance Cpl. Torrey Grey Field. Photo: Pfc. Michael T. Gams/USMC

On July 21, 2008 while manning the turret atop an MRAP in Afghanistan, Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson continued to engage enemy fighters despite a devastating wound to his right leg.

Ambushed from multiple directions with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns, Gustafson’s vehicle took a hit from an RPG that partially severed his leg and knocked his driver unconscious, according to The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe.

“I looked down, and a lot of my right leg wasn’t there,” he told Time Magazine. “I could see muscle and bone, and I was bleeding pretty hard.” Still, he remained calm and unleashed hell from his machine-gun.

The North-Shore Journal has more:

Despite his injuries, Gustafson remained vigilant on his M240B machine gun, locating and accurately firing on several insurgent positions, some as close as 20 meters from the vehicle.

He remained in the turret, reloading twice and firing over 600 rounds, while Lance Cpl. Cody Comstock, an Anderson, Ind. native, applied a tourniquet to his leg.

Gustafson was recommended for the Silver Star and ended up receiving the Navy Cross in 2009. But his battalion commander, Col. Richard Hall, later told The Marine Times that he regretted not putting him up for the nation’s highest award.

“When you consider that his leg is taken off, his driver is unconscious and he’s shouting to his driver to get him out of the kill zone. Meanwhile, he’s maintaining the presence of mind to keep returning fire on the enemy and to try to suppress them overwhelming that four-vehicle convoy, or patrol,” Hall told the paper. “The vehicle behind them was stuck, and Gustafson reloads no less than two times and wakes up his driver, tells him to push the burning vehicle behind them out of the kill zone, all while bleeding out and refusing medical aid for his severed leg.”

5. Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe pulled six soldiers from a burning Bradley fighting vehicle even though he was drenched in fuel.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

Following a devastating improvised explosive device strike under his Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Daliaya, Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005, Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe managed to escape from the burning vehicle, out of his spot in the gunner’s hatch.

Then he went back in under enemy fire to save his fellow soldiers three times, all while he was drenched in fuel.

From The Los Angeles Times:

Cashe rescued six badly burned soldiers while under enemy small-arms fire. His own uniform caught fire, engulfing him in flames. Even with second- and-third degree burns over three-fourths of his body, Cashe continue to pull soldiers out of a vehicle set ablaze when a roadside bomb ruptured a fuel tank.

“I told him, ‘Don’t go over there playing a hero. You learn how to duck and come home,”‘ his sister, Kasinal Cashe White told the Orlando Sentinel. “He said, ‘I’m doing the job I was trained to do. I have to take care of my boys.”‘

Cashe held on until Nov. 8, when he succumbed to his wounds at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. According to his sister Kasinal, who spoke with the Los Angeles Times, his first words when he was able to speak at the hospital were “how are my boys?”

The full extent of Cashe’s heroism became muddled in the chaos of war, and the soldiers he rescued were unable to provide details since they were hospitalized with severe wounds, The Times reported. He was recommended for, and posthumously received the Silver Star for his incredible bravery.

But many have advocated for Cashe to receive the nation’s highest award, including his former battalion commander.

“You don’t often find truly selfless sacrifice where someone put his soldiers’ welfare before his own,” Brig. Gen. Gary Brito told The Los Angeles Times. “Sgt. Cashe was horribly wounded and continued to fight to save his men.”

6. After being ambushed, 1st Lt. Brian Chontosh ordered his driver towards an enemy trench-line. Then he cleared much of it himself using his own weapons — and the enemy’s.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

As a platoon leader in the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 25, 2003, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh was ambushed and couldn’t escape the kill zone. So he ordered his driver to move right into the Iraqi trench-line as the turret gunner laid down fire with the .50 cal.

Corey Adwar writes at Task Purpose:

It was the first major firefight of the war for the anti-armor platoon Chontosh led, belonging to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Moments after the ambush began, Iraqi troops had already hit two vehicles with machine-gun, rocket-propelled grenade, and mortar fire, killing one soldier and severely wounding another.

Once his Humvee reached the enemy position, “Tosh” (as he calls himself) got out of the vehicle and jumped into the trench, mowing down enemy soldiers with his rifle until he ran out of ammo.

“I shot my pistol dry twice,” then grabbed an AK off a dead Iraqi, shot every bullet in it, picked up another AK and emptied it, too. “It’s just crazy,” he recalled to Phil Zabriskie for his book “The Kill Switch.”

When it was all over, Chontosh had cleared 200 meters of the enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others. He had used up all of his rifle and pistol ammo, along with two enemy AK-47s, and an RPG.

He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, but he didn’t want to take all the credit, and instead commended the Marines with him that day for saving his life.

“They saved my life, multiple times that day, during the ambush,” Chontosh told Stars and Stripes. “That’s all them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be the lieutenant who would be reported as … a case of what not to do.”

7. Despite heavy enemy fire, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman ran into a house multiple times to save Marines who were trapped inside.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Retired Gen. James Mattis is presented the Freedom Award by Marine veteran Jeremiah Workman at the No Greater Sacrifice 2014 Freedom Award Family Day, Washington D.C., September 13, 2014. The Freedom Award is awarded to a service member who gives in selfless service to their nation. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Karnath/Released)

On Dec. 23, 2004, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman was leading one squad of Marines while his friend Sgt. Jarrett Kraft had another. Searching houses in Fallujah, Kraft took the left side of the street while Workman took the right.

On the third house they entered that day, Kraft’s squad came under heavy fire on the second floor. Workman immediately rallied his squad to rescue his fellow Marines.

“I was scared,” Workman told The Washington Post. “I really was … when you get caught in a situation like that, it’s a real man check. For two seconds, you have to look in that invisible mirror that’s not there and look at yourself and question yourself as a man. And say, ‘Okay, I’m a corporal in the Marine Corps and I have guys that are looking up to me for leadership. What am I going to do?’ … So I grabbed everybody in the house and we come running.”

The Marine Times has more:

Dreading the worst, Workman organized his squad to enter the building. A corporal at the time, he and his Marines faced a maelstrom of small-arms fire and grenades. Three times, he sprinted up a stairwell under fire to fight the insurgents and help the pinned down Marines, who eventually escaped through the roof. At times, the Marines were close enough to see the insurgents’ faces amid the smoke and flashes of gunfire.

Two Marines — Cpl. Raleigh Smith and Lance Cpl. James Phillips, both 21 — were mortally wounded in the house, while several others were hurt but survived. Lance Cpl. Eric Hillenburg, 21, was killed nearby, cut down by enemy sniper fire as he and his fire team raced to the house to help. Workman sustained multiple shrapnel wounds from grenade explosions, but escaped without being seriously hurt.

Workman and his fellow squad leader Kraft were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions that day. Workman’s citation credited him with the “elimination of 24 insurgents.”

“I accepted this medal for three guys who didn’t make it back,” Workman told The Post. “So it’s really theirs.”

8. Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel while shielding another Marine from a grenade blast.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

On Nov. 13, 2004 while serving in Fallujah as the company first sergeant for Weapons Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Brad Kasal joined up with a squad entering a house to rescue Marines inside.

Soon after he found a wounded Marine inside, Kasal and another Marine were both severely wounded in the legs by enemy fire. Then the insurgents threw grenades at them. The bleeding first sergeant rolled on top of the wounded Marine with him and absorbed the shrapnel.

Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel and was shot seven times inside the “House of Hell.” He lost roughly 60 percent of his blood, according to an article in VFW Magazine.

“When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention. Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they continued to clear the structure,” reads his citation. He was awarded the Navy Cross.

As Kasal was carried out of the house by two of his Marines — covered in blood and still clutching his pistol — Lucian Reed captured the scene, in what was perhaps one of the most iconic photographs to come out of the Battle of Fallujah.

NOW: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who did receive the Medal of Honor

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Royal Navy burnt an American city to the ground

In 1775, the Royal Navy sent a fleet to Falmouth, Maine, the site of modern-day Portland, and rained heated shells down on it for eight hours, burning nearly the entire town to the ground — but also pouring tinder onto the burgeoning flames of American rebellion.

The idea was to cow the rebels into submission, but it was basically a Revolutionary Pearl Harbor.


An American ship resists a British boarding party during the War of 1812. Naval engagements like this were common in the Revolutionary War as American raiding parties stole British ships or British forces tried to enforce tax laws against American merchants.

(U.S. Coast Guard archives)

The struggle leading up to the burning of Falmouth began with the rebels and smugglers in the colonies blowing off British taxes. A 26-ship fleet was sent to back up the revenue collectors, but they had over 1,000 miles of coastline to patrol, and their efforts were largely unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. George Washington and his 16,000-man army had the 6,000 British troops under Lt. Gen. Thomas Gage pinned up near Boston. The British were getting frustrated as rebel colonialists repeatedly embarrassed one of the most powerful militaries in the world.

Amidst all this tension and simmering violence, rebels in Falmouth captured multiple British merchant ships as well as the commander of one of the ships of that 26-ship fleet sent against them, Lt. Henry Mowat, in May, 1775. He was held for ransom for a few days, but returned to his ship after town leaders pressured the rebel leader.

So, when the British senior command sent orders to the fleet to conduct whatever operations were necessary to quell the rebellion, Vice Adm. Samuel Graves ordered the elimination of whatever rebellious sea port towns that the Royal Navy could reach. Multiple towns were selected, including ones where residents had kidnapped or killed British officers.

Mowat returned to the town of Falmouth with four ships sporting over 20 cannons and ordered the town to evacuate before he destroyed it. The town petitioned for mercy, and Mowat conceded to delay the attack as long as all arms and powder, including artillery and gun carriages, were turned over and the residents swore an oath of loyalty.

Falmouth quietly turned over a few muskets, but then everyone just evacuated quietly. No one was giving an oath to the Mad King. At 9 a.m. on October 18, Mowat ordered the final evacuation. At sometime before 10 a.m., he ordered the flotilla to open fire, even though people were still visibly making their way out of town.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

Heated shot was a great weapon in the age of wooden ships and buildings. Cannon crews would get their ammo from ovens where the shots were heated for hours, allowing them to stay red hot even when skipping across the water and flying through the air.

(Thomas Luny)

For the next eight hours, the ships heated cannonballs in their ovens, got them red hot, and sent them into the wooden buildings of the town. Whenever a neighborhood of the town failed to catch fire, the ships landed marines and had them get the job done up close.

A group of armed town residents attempted to put out some of the flames, and the winds were on their side, but the construction of the town made it nearly impossible. The town consisted of hundreds of wooden buildings, most of them packed tightly together. Fire spread from building to building, slowly but steadily.

The armed firefighters fought a group of Marines and sailors in the early afternoon. Two British service members were wounded, but they successfully set the defended buildings on fire.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

An illustration of the burning of Falmouth.

(Library of Congress)

In the end, over 400 buildings were destroyed, many of them homes or places of business. 1,000 people were left homeless and destitute.

Colonial leaders, even many of those formerly loyal to the crown, were pissed. State legislatures and the provincial congress ordered aid, mostly corn and other foodstuffs, sent to the families now forced to weather the Maine cold without shelter.

“In a word,” one reverend wrote, “about three quarters of the town was consumed and between two and three hundred families who twenty four hours before enjoyed in tranquility their commodious habitations, were now in many instances destitute of a hut for themselves and families; and as a tedious winter was approaching they had before them a most gloomy and distressing prospect.”
6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

Revenue Cutter Service personnel prepare to defend their wreck against British attack during the War of 1812. In 1776, many seaport towns had built quick defenses like these to prevent themselves suffering the fate of Falmouth, Maine.

(Coast Guard archives)

The political backlash against the attack was real and immediate. Damage was estimated at 50,000 British pounds — converted to modern U.S. dollars, that’s nearly million. Royal subjects in Britain were outraged and those living in America were livid.

Even France, which was closely watching the progress of the rebellion in their rival’s colonies, was shocked.

Graves, the admiral who ordered attacks on sea ports, was relieved of command and Mowat’s career stalled for years afterward.

But the greatest consequences came when former residents of Falmouth, their family members, and other outraged colonial citizens began turning up for duty in colonial militias. Other seaport towns immediately beefed up their defenses, making an attempt against another town nearly impossible to conduct without losses.

By the start of 1776, it was clear that the American rebellion had grown from an effort by an angry minority to throw off a perceived yoke to a growing revolution that would eventually hamstring the British Empire.

Falmouth, for its part, eventually re-built and re-grew into modern Portland, Maine. This was actually the third time the town had to re-build after a major fire, and it would happen a fourth time in the 1800s. The town seal now features a phoenix, for obvious reasons.

Articles

This is how SECDEF Mattis plans to prevent a major US war

If you want to avoid war, prepare for it. That’s what Secretary of Defense James Mattis argued before Congress on June 12 while trying to secure new defense spending in the upcoming budget.


The head of the Pentagon and former Marine Corps general did not hold back when describing the need for stable and sufficient defense spending in his written statement for the House Committee on Armed Services.

Mattis referenced Henry Kissinger in his statement, quoting the former secretary of state as saying: we are “faced with two problems: first, how to reduce regional chaos; second, how to create a coherent world order based on agreed-upon principles that are necessary for the operation of the entire system.”

Mattis noted that Kissinger’s generation learned they must prevent “hostile states” from achieving dominance.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
SECDEF James Mattis. Photo courtesy of the DoD.

“And they understood that while there is no way to guarantee peace, the surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one,” said Mattis.

In order to achieve that goal, Mattis said President Donald Trump has requested a $639.1 billion “topline” for the fiscal year 2018 budget, $64.6 billion of which will go towards Overseas Contingency Operations.

The budget request is $52 billion over the cap placed by the National Defense Budget Control Act, passed and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011.

The Fiscal Year 2018 budget has five priorities: “restoring and improving warfighter readiness, increasing capacity and lethality, reforming how the Department does business, keeping faith with Service members and their families, and supporting Overseas Contingency Operations.”

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Readiness has been a major priority for the armed forces. Military leaders have warned that each of their respective services are suffering from readiness shortfalls, mostly due to a lack of funding. The Army is low on manpower, the Navy is struggling to maintain ships and aircraft, the Marine Corps is undermanned, under-trained and poorly equipped, and the Air Force is small and aging, the vice Joint Chiefs of Staff warned the committee in February.

Mattis noted that sustained warfare abroad has contributed to the readiness problem. Combined with a lack of funding, the forces have been stretched to their limits.

“I am keenly aware members of this committee understand the responsibility each of us has to ensuring our military is ready to fight today and in the future,” said Mattis’s statement. “I need your help to inform your fellow members of Congress about the reality facing our military — and the need for Congress as a whole to pass a budget on time.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Articles

Here’s how trigger-pullers train for tactical strength

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
U.S. Army Staff Sergeants Brian Weaver, left, from Philadelphia, and Matt Leahart, from O’Fallon, Mo., use exercise equipment in a room that has been converted into the gym on Combat Outpost Munoz, Paktika province, Afghanistan.


When we think about all the elements of fitness, it is not difficult to realize that strength training is a critical component to all candidates, students, and active members in any tactical profession. But how is Tactical Strength different from other strength-training programs for athletics?

Special Ops, military, police, firefighters, and first responder and emergency service personnel are the tactical professionals I deal with on a daily basis. The common denominator of these professionals who do their job at the highest level is STRENGTH. Tactical strength allows the athlete to potentially prevent injury, increase power, speed, and agility. But strength is also the initial phase of building muscle stamina. For instance, to get your first pullup requires strength. The strength exercise to get your 20th pullup requires a muscle stamina / endurance exercise, with strength as a starting point. Taking your strength foundation and evolving it into a muscle stamina and work capacity is the main difference between typical one-rep maximum (1RM) strength used in athletic training and tactical strength.

A tactical strength program should be geared to increasing work capacity, durability, and protect against injury, but not create world record lifts. You can have an advanced level of strength and still be good at running, swimming, rucking, or whatever cardio vascular endurance event your job requires.

Tactical Strength is the element of fitness that allows the tactical athlete to grab, carry, push, pull, or lift heavy pieces of equipment or people when needed. There are more elements of fitness required for the tactical athlete, such as endurance, muscle stamina, speed, agility, mobility, flexibility, and power.

However, unlike an athlete that specializes in a particular sport, the tactical athlete has to be good at ALL OF THE ABOVE elements of fitness. For the regular athlete, depending on your sport and the level of competition, you have to only be great in one to two elements of fitness.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Flickr

Tactical strength is very similar to athletic strength. As with athletics, there are several types of strength that are required of the tactical athlete. A foundation in strength training means you have strong muscles, bones, and connective tissues of the core and extremities, as well as grip strength. Being strong and having a foundation of strength is critical to ALL of your other abilities. This does not mean you have to bench press or dead lift a truck, but being strong will assist in your ability to make power when you need it most. The most basic way to measure strength is to record the amount of weight lifted in one repetition. However, this program will focus more on the three to five repetition range for strength. While 1RM weight lifts are fun, the goal of this program is not to build competitive powerlifters, but strong tactical athletes.

Cardio vascular endurance can compete with maximum strength in many athletics, but the tactical athlete must remember that this is not a specific sport. There is never a need to ONLY specialize in a single element of fitness like strength, endurance, or speed/agility. You have to diversify to get good at all the elements of fitness (as discussed in previous article on fitness weaknesses), which may mean you do not beat your previous 1RM of a 400 pound bench or a 600 pound dead lift that you did in college. THIS ISN’T COLLEGE OR A SPORT! It is your job, and it could be your life or a team mate’s life if you lack any of the fitness elements. Neglecting too many of the elements by specializing in just one or two can be detrimental to your abilities to do your job at a high level.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Army Spc. David Helton, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, puts more weight on the barbell at Combat Outpost Apache in Wardak province, Afghanistan. | DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

How to build strength

Building strength is similar for the athlete and those in tactical professions, in that the progresses are typically linear with relatively lower repetition sets and longer rest periods. Adding mass (muscle) is one of the benefits, but there are many ways to progress each week with added strength. Take any lift (bench press, dead lifts, power clean, squats, weighted pullups, etc.) and try some classic and favorite GO-TO strength building plans, such as the following:

Drop sets: To do drop sets, change it up between sets by either decreasing reps while increasing weight, or decreasing weight with increasing reps. For strength, I like to do a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or a 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 with increasing weight for each of the five reps shown. You can also build up close to your one rep max and then, quickly and with little rest, drop the weight in regular 10 to 25 pound intervals after maximum effort at each weight. Do this until only the bar remains. However, this is more of a strength / muscle stamina lifting drill that is great for building work capacity.

Other Drop Sets / Double Drop Sets: Doing each weight twice before increasing the weight / decreasing the reps is another way to push max strength to new limits. The 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1 is such a set / rep scheme that works great as you push nearer to you 1RM effort.

5 x 5: You cannot go wrong with this classic strength set / rep routine. Choose a weight that is about 75 to 80 percent of your 1RM effort lift. Do 5 repetitions of that lift. Rest a few minutes and repeat for 5 sets.

Two-Pops: Another favorite is multiple sets of 2 repetitions. Increase the weight each set, starting with a light warmup set. Start to add weight, but only doing 2 reps per set. Increase weight each set and keep doing 2 reps until you can no longer achieve 2 reps. That 1 rep that you last recorded can be a 1RM for you if you take your time and rest for a few minutes in between lifting in the 2 reps sets.

Typically, these strength cycles can last 4 to 8 weeks and can go up to 12 weeks. Some like to only do lifts for a particular body part once a week. I prefer doing upper body lifts 2 to 3 times a week and full body / leg movements done 2 to 3 times a week. This type of frequency goes well with building work capacity needed for the tactical profession.

Do not forget that even though you are back in muscle-head mode, you cannot forget other elements. Yes, that means cardio as well. For our group, we arrange our strength training during a no run / non-impact cardio cycle, and it works nicely for proper gains in all lifts. However, we keep our cardio up with swimming, rucking, and other non-impact machines like rowers, bikes, and elliptical machines, mainly using speed intervals for the workouts.

In Tactical Fitness, you have to not only focus on a few components of fitness, but have a diverse program so you can remain good at all elements that may be important to your profession. Components like endurance, muscle stamina, flexibility / mobility, and even agility should not be neglected when the focus is purely on strength and power.

What are some of your GO-TO strength-building routines (set / rep schemes)?

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com’s Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

Articles

That time Colin Powell saved crash victims by tearing burning metal with his bare hands

In 1968, then-Maj. Colin Powell was a Ranger assigned to the Army’s 23rd Infantry Division. It was his second tour in Vietnam.


Just five years earlier, he was one of the American advisors to South Vietnam’s fledgling army. While on a foot patrol in Viet Cong-held areas in 1963, the 25-year-old Powell was wounded by a VC booby trap.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Powell in Vietnam (photo via Academy of Achievement)

He stepped on a punji stick, which the VC laced with buffalo dung. The excrement created an infection that made it difficult for him to walk.

“The Special Forces medics cut my boot off, and they could see my foot was purple by then,” Powell said in an interview with the Academy of Achievement. “The spike had gone all the way through, from the bottom to the top, and then come right back out, totally infecting the wound as it made the wound.”

That ended his time in combat. Powell was reassigned to the 1st Army of the Republic of Vietnam division headquarters for the rest of that tour.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
(Academy of Achievement photo)

On his second tour in Vietnam, he was again behind a desk as the assistant Chief of Staff for the Americal Division (as the 23rd was known). Though a staff officer, when you’re a man of destiny like Colin Powell, the action comes to you.

On November 16, 1968, the helicopter transporting Maj. Powell along with the 23rd ID commander crashed.

Powell, injured but clear of the wreckage, ran back to the burning helicopter several times to rescue comrades. Though the helicopter was in danger of exploding, he continued to attempt the rescue.

When he found one passenger trapped under the mass of twisted, burning fuselage, Powell tore away the burning metal with his bare hands.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

Powell was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his actions that day. He managed to rescue every passenger from the downed helicopter.

During his deployments to Vietnam, he also earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

Articles

This top secret World War II drone mission killed JFK’s older brother

Operation Aphrodite was a top-secret attempt by the Army and Navy to turn old airplanes into suicide drones during World War II. B-17s and B-24s that were past their service life would be packed with several tons of Torpex, an explosive with twice the power of TNT, and then piloted into heavily-fortified targets.


The planes would take off under control of a pilot and flight engineers before they bailed out. The drones would then be remotely piloted to targets in Nazi Germany via a “mother-plane,” a specially outfitted bomber with remote control of the drone. The hope was that the concentrated mass of explosives would be successful in cracking bunkers and other defenses that survived standard bombing runs.

The program ran from August 1944 to January 1945 but was a massive failure: More Allied service members were killed than Germans and more damage was done to England than to Germany.

One of the pilots killed in the operation was the older brother of future-President John F. Kennedy.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Rabit

Navy Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy had completed his quota of missions months before, but he and his crew had stayed in theater to support the D-Day invasions and the beginning of the advance across Europe. They served primarily in anti-submarine patrols. By the end of July 1944, Kennedy’s crew was headed stateside.

Kennedy again volunteered to stay and joined Operation Aphrodite where he was assigned to fly drones to 10,000 feet before bailing and allowing the mother-plane to take over.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
A BQ-8 takes off. Photo: US Army Air Force

Kennedy and Lt. Wilford J. Willy flew a BQ-8, the designation for the converted B-24s, on August 12, 1944. Kennedy and Willy never made it to their bailout point. The cause of the mishap was never discovered, but the explosives on the Liberator detonated prematurely, killing both pilots and destroying the plane instantly.

Kennedy was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and the Air Medal.

The failed missions of Operation Aphrodite would continue until the following January when the program was indefinitely suspended and never restarted.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why it’s illegal to use weather modification in warfare

Despite how ridiculous some rules and laws may seem, they only have to exist because someone actually did something so ridiculous. That’s why it’s still legal to rain death from above, just as long as that death isn’t actual rain. In this case, the United States is the perpetrator, seeding the clouds in Vietnam to keep the North Vietnamese from infiltrating the South.


6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

“This weather is crazy, as if it’s happening to us on purpose!”

The idea is actually a pretty great one. Instead of bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail into submission, they would simply render it unusable. With Operation Popeye, the United States Air Force seeded the clouds over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in an effort to make the Vietnamese monsoon season last longer, keep the trail muddy and treacherous, and prevent the North from moving men and material into South Vietnam.

From Thailand, the United States used C-130 and F-4C aircraft armed with lead iodide and silver iodide to spread into clouds above the trail. The chemicals condensed the water in those clouds, forming precipitation in the form of rain. They wanted to stop up the dirt roads used by enemy trucks and men, cause landslides, wash out river crossings, and keep the roads impassable.

The 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron contributed to the 2,602 cloud seeding missions flown during Popeye.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

That’s a lot of rain.

“I never even imagined that’s what that group was doing,” recalls Brian Heckman, a former Air Force pilot, “until we got over there and showed up for the briefing and then they told us what the project was all about. We just went around looking for clouds to seed.”

And so Popeye continued with gusto, even though Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had no knowledge of the program and even testified to the “fact” that there were no such programs in Vietnam before Congress. The public didn’t find out about the program until the release of The Pentagon Papers, published by the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971. That’s how the Environmental Modification Convention came to pass in 1977.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

Chemtrails were still totally legal.

Its full name was actually the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, restricting “widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury.” It basically says that any manipulation of weather (aka “environmental modification”) as a means of destruction in wartime is strictly prohibited.

The United States was an early signatory to this agreement.

Articles

These are the 9 general officers who have earned five stars

Even though the five-star general rank essentially died in 1981 with Omar Bradley, the idea of a five-star general rising above all others to command so much of the American and allied militaries is remarkably heroic.


The five-star general officer was born in WWII because American generals and admirals were often placed above allied officers of a higher rank. Someone elevated to that position could never retire and was considered an active-duty officer for the rest of their life.

That’s a lot of trust. The list of the 9 officers we deemed worthy of the honor rightly reads like a “who’s who” of U.S. military history.

1. Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
How many WWII-era Admirals were issued that hat?

Leahy was the first officer to make the rank. He was the senior officer in the U.S. Navy and the senior-most officer in the U.S. military. He retired in 1939 but was recalled to active duty as the Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt and then Truman until 1949. During the latter years of his career, he reported only to the President.

2. General of the Army George Marshall

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Gen. Marshall looks like he’s already sick of your shit.

George Marshall was a major planner of the U.S. Army’s training for World War I and one of Gen. John J. Pershing’s aides-de-camp. He would need those planning skills when World War II broke out, as he oversaw the expansion of the U.S. Armed Forces and the coordination of U.S. efforts in the European Theater. After the war it was Marshall who helped rebuild Western Europe with an economic plan that came to be named after the man himself.

3. Fleet Admiral Ernest King

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

King was the Commander in Chief of U.S. Naval Forces (the U.S. now only uses the term “Commander-In-Chief” to refer to the President) and the Chief of Naval Operations. Though he never commanded a ship or fleet during a war, as the Navy representative of the Joint Chiefs, he helped plan and coordinate Naval Operations during WWII.

4. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

MacArthur graduated from West Point in 1903, fought in the occupation of Veracruz, World War I, and resisted the Japanese invasion of the Philippines for six months during WWII. MacArthur, despite having to retreat to Australia, oversaw the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific and accepted their surrender less than four years later.

He would also orchestrate the occupation and rehabilitation of Japan, and the American counterattack during the early months of the Korean War.

5. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Even though he looks sad, Chester Nimitz will f***ing kill you.

Nimitz was the Navy’s leading authority on submarine warfare at the outbreak of World War II.  He would rise to be Commander-in-Chief of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and eventually take control of all U.S. forces in the Pacific Theater. He served the Navy on Active Duty in an unofficial capacity until his death in 1966.

6. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
“Hitler! Macho Man Dwight Eisenhower coming for youuuuuu OHHHHH YEAHHHHHHH.”

Ike never saw combat as a soldier, but his planning skills were essential as Supreme Allied Commander of all allied expeditionary forces in Europe during World War II. He planned and executed the invasion of North Africa in 1943, and of course the D-Day invasion of France in 1944. After the war, Eisenhower was the first Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and was elected President in 1952.

7. General of the Army and Air Force Henry H. Arnold

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

“Hap” Arnold is the only officer ever to hold two five-star ranks in multiple branches and is the only person to ever to be General of the Air Force.

Before WWII, Arnold was the Chief of the Air Corps and became commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces when war broke out. He was one of the first military pilots ever, being trained by the freaking Wright Brothers themselves.

If Billy Mitchell is the Father of the Air Force, Hap Arnold helped raise it — he took a small organization and turned it into the world’s largest and most powerful air force during the WWII years.

8. Fleet Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
That is one salty sailor.

“Bull” Halsey started World War II harassing Japanese fleet movements in the Pacific in his flagship, the Enterprise. He was later made commander of all U.S. forces in the South Pacific and commander of the Navy’s third fleet. Halsey earned his status after the war ended but took the Navy on a goodwill cruise of friendly countries

9. General of the Army Omar Bradley

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

As mentioned, Omar Bradley was the last surviving five-star general, dying in 1981. He fought alongside the U.S. Army’s greatest all under the command of Dwight Eisenhower. He excelled during the D-Day landings and subsequent European campaigns. He eventually commanded 1.3 million fighting men as they invaded fortress Europe — the largest assembly of U.S. troops under a single commander.

* General of the Armies of the United States John J. Pershing

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

Pershing was promoted to this rank and title in 1919, though no official rank insignia existed at the time. It was made by Congress to recognize his role in the American entry into World War I in Europe.

* Admiral of the Navy George Dewey

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

Dewey received the title “Admiral of the Navy” by act of Congress in 1903. Admiral Dewey’s service during the Spanish-American War made him a national hero and celebrity.

* General of the Armies of the United States George Washington

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

President Gerald Ford promoted Washington to this rank and title — essentially a six-star general — in 1976 to always ensure Washington would be the senior-most officer of any group.

Articles

This is the all-Jewish force who took it to the Nazis in North Africa

The French military doesn’t get a lot of love these days; their crushing defeat and capitulation in 1940 still colors the way the world sees the armed forces of France. It’s a completely undeserved reputation, however. The French are much better at fighting wars than you might think.


6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
The Free French Foreign Legionnaires assault a Nazi position.

One part of this is the French Foreign Legion and its cadre of criminals, strongmen, war junkies, and other badasses who decided to get a clean slate by joining the Legion. In World War II, the Legion was just a capable as it is today — and they capitulated to no one. In 1942, they were joined by a group of Jewish soldiers who decided they had enough of the anti-Semitism in Europe.

And they were going to prove their mettle.

Related: This is why the French are better at war than you think

In 1940, the British created 15 divisions of some 30,0000 Jewish soldiers from the Mandate of Palestine. Within two years, the Jewish troops were sent to fight in North Africa, where the Nazi Afrika Korps routed the Allies time and again.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
The Jewish Brigade in formation. (Imperial War Museum)

At a small oasis in Libya, guarding an old Turkish fort, the Free French Foreign Legion begin to reinforce their position. The fort, called Bir Hakeim, was a sort of last stand for the Allies. If Field Marshal Erwin Rommel could punch his army through the French position, he could take the vital port city of Tobruk. Near the end of the Legionnaires’ lines was a place called Bir-el Hamat.

This is where the Jewish fighters of WWII would make their presence felt.

They were a small group of 400 minelayers sent by the British and led by Maj. Félix Liebmann to reinforce the French position. They had no heavy weapons and were generally poorly armed and equipped. Rommel’s men targeted the Jewish position as the weakest point and sent a truce flag over to demand the Jewish surrender. When they refused, the Nazis hit the Jewish defenders with everything they had.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Jewish Brigade troops in infantry training.

The combined German-Italian force was trying to get around the Free French line to surround and destroy the remaining French, advance on Tobruk, and destroy the British 8th Army.

Unable to radio the French a few miles up the road, the Jewish fighters held their position using molotov cocktails on the tanks that didn’t get destroyed in the minefield. For eight days — low on water, ammunition, and supplies — the Jewish troops withstood relentless, constant bombardment and fought the Afrika Korps to a standstill.

On the last day, the French and Jewish forces got the word to retreat. They held off the Nazis long enough for the British 8th Army to retreat — and they did, in the middle of the night. Three-fourths of the unit were killed or wounded at Bir-el Hamat and they marched 60 some miles all the way to Gasr el-Abid.

When they arrived, they folded up their flag, a gold Star of David on a blue and white striped background — a precursor to the modern-day state of Israel’s flag. Observing the men folding their colors, French Foreign Legion commander General Marie-Pierre Koenig demanded why they stopped flying their flag. Under the British, Maj. Liebmann explained, they were not allowed to fly their own colors.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Flag of the Jewish Brigade Group.

Koenig had the flag attached to his jeep, next to the Free French flag, at equal stature.

The British 8th Army was able to to defeat the Afrika Korps at el-Alamein the very next month, in a pivotal battle that kept the Axis from advancing into Egypt and capturing the Suez Canal. By 1944, the Jewish Brigade (as they came to be called) was formed to take the fight to the Nazis in Italy.

Articles

Former Marine Corps captain is new Navy Secretary nominee

President Donald Trump says he’s found a new candidate for the civilian post of Navy secretary.

His name is Richard Spencer, and he’s a former financial industry executive. Spencer is also a former Marine Corps captain.


The White House says Spencer most recently was managing partner of Fall Creek Management, a privately held management consulting company in Wyoming. Spencer also was vice chairman and chief financial officer for Intercontinental Exchange Inc., a financial market company, and president of Crossroads Group, a venture capital firm that was bought by Lehman Brothers in 2003.

Trump’s first choice for Navy secretary, businessman Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration in February. Bilden cited privacy concerns and the difficulty of separating from his business interests.

The Senate must approve of Spencer’s nomination.

Articles

This female vet tells the story of amazing women in Ranger training

Rebecca Murga is an Army Public Affairs Officer with a passion for storytelling. Since she was commission through ROTC in 2004, documenting the stories of soldiers has become the foundation of her service.


6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

“I became a 25 Alpha [signal officer] but at the time I didn’t realize officers don’t do the things enlisted folks do,” Murga says. “But I happened to be in a unit that didn’t have a lot of video support and they really wanted their story told, so I covered all the communications systems and all the networks in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The experience of meeting soldiers in the field and relaying their lives to viewers changed her career forever.

“I got to meet a lot of soldiers, and I think that’s where I really started to fall in love with telling these stories,” Murga recalls. “I would talk to these people on the ground. They all came from different places and had unique individual stories. I think documenting these stories is important.”

After her time in active duty, she continued serving as a contractor in the CENTCOM theater, deploying in 2011 attached to Combined Forces Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. She supported Navy SEALs and Special Forces and other SOF units doing village stabilization and cultural support. That year was the first time women were embedded with special operators in teams called Cultural Support Teams.

“Ask any Marine that was in Helmand,” Murga says. “When you can’t search a woman because of cultural sensitivities, it becomes a security problem. When you have a woman with you who can pull an Afghan woman from the field to be searched, that’s incredibly important.”

She deployed at a time when the combat exclusion rule for women was still in place. Women were not supposed to be embedded with these combat units, but the operational needs made it necessary.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

Murga is now an award-winning filmmaker who has produced work for Fox, ABC, and CBS. Last year, she was one of ten selected for the American Film Institute Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women.

“The military actually gave me the courage to pursue something that I love,” she says. “It’s a struggle. It’s definitely not something that you go in to naively. You can only choose it if you absolutely love it.”

Murga’s latest work is Earning the Tab, a three-part digital series about Maj. Lisa Jaster, the third woman to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School.

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

The need for women in forward-deployed combat zones despite the rules against it, coupled with requests from those units, made Murga wonder why the controversy surrounds women graduating from Ranger school.

“It’s a leadership school,” Murga says. “It trains you how to deal with high stress combat situations. A lot of people that go to Ranger school don’t necessarily go to the 75th Ranger Regiment. They’ll get fielded out. Until this past year no women have been allowed to go to leadership schools like that. It goes to how well trained you want your force.”

Graduating from Ranger School does not automatically earn a spot in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 75th has its own requirements and initiation processes. Murga’s point is especially important, however, because the Army’s plan to integrate women into combat functions starts with putting female officers in combat leadership positions.

“There’s talk about how they expected less from these folks and they weren’t allowed to go to certain schools,” Murga says. “But you can’t send people out to war and limit the amount of training you give. I’m talking about offering training that was not given to women.”

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
Maj. Lisa A. Jaster carries a fellow soldier during the Darby Queen obstacle course at the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. (U.S. Army photo)

Maj. Jaster is a 37-year-old Army Reserve officer and engineer. She is a West Point graduate, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and she was not eager to be a part of Murga’s series.

“I had to convince her,” Murga says. “It took a lot of convincing. She knew there would be backlash like ‘Oh, you only did this to be famous and you only did this because you wanted a TV show,’ but it’s historic. I suggested we just video tape her around her house, five days before and then you have it and if nothing ever comes of it, then nothing ever comes of it.”

Murga did not film Jaster in training at Fort Benning. Ranger training is closed to external media. The Ranger training footage in Earning the Tab was shot by the U.S. Army’s own combat camera troops. Murga interviewed Jaster before and after the training, with the idea of documenting it because of its historical importance. Murga was just as interested as any one else in the rumors surround Jaster: Did she really earn it? Did the Army lower the standard? Why did she want to go through something so rigorous?

“I wanted to know why this mother of two, who loves fitness, who loves spending time with her family, why she wanted to do this,” Murga recalls. “She gave me the same answer most men I talk to gave me which is ‘I wanted to just prove to myself and see if I can do it.'”

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Lt. Col. Allan Jaster, right, pins the Ranger tab on his wife, U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Lisa Jaster, after she became the third woman to graduate from the U.S. Army’s elite Ranger School, Oct. 16, 2015, in Fort Benning, Ga. She joins just two other women, Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, in gaining a coveted Ranger tab. (U.S. Army Reserve)

Though she did her best to strip away the politics, Murga still found the same polarization over women in Ranger training, even among her friends.

“The tricky part for me as a filmmaker was to try to tell this story in a way that was just storytelling,” she says. “It really wasn’t taking up a side or political position. It wasn’t examining the idea of women in combat, it was looking at this one school with this one woman and her experience there.”

 

Watch Earning the Tab Part I and Part II at We Are The Mighty.

 

Articles

America’s oldest living veteran is asking for your help

The oldest living veteran in the United States is asking for America’s help.


Army veteran Richard Overton is now in need of 24-hour home care that the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t provide. So his family started a GoFundMe campaign late last month to cover the cost of in-home care, which is being provided by Senior Helpers.

“Though my cousin is still sharp as a tack at 110-years-old, it’s been getting harder and harder for him to care for himself,” Volma Overton said in a statement. “It eases my mind to know he will have 24/7 care while living in the home he built for himself over 70 years ago.”

Related: DoD extends online military exchange shopping privileges to veterans

Overton gained notoriety back in 2013 after he told a reporter about his key to staying active and remaining in good health: Whiskey and cigars.

“He drives and walks without a cane. During a television interview in March, he told a reporter that he doesn’t take medicine, smokes cigars every day and takes whiskey in his morning coffee,” The Houston Chronicle wrote. “The key to living to his age, he said, is simply ‘staying out of trouble.'”

“I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it,” Overton told Fox News. “Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.”

6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history
January 3: Medal of Honor recipient retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry walks onto the field of the Alamodome in San Antonio with World War II veteran Richard Overton in San Antonio. Petry, awarded the Medal of Honor last year for efforts in Afghanistan, and Overton, the oldest living World War II veteran at 108 years old, delivered the game ball at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. | US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton

In addition to his somewhat unorthodox habits, Overton said he stayed busy throughout the day by trimming trees and helping with horses, while noting that he never watches television, according to Fox.

Born May 11, 1906, he is believed to be the oldest living veteran in the US. He served in the South Pacific during World War II before selling furniture in Austin after discharge, and later worked in the state Treasurer’s Office.

As the campaign page notes, Overton has earned a number of accolades since he first hit the headlines. He met with President Obama in 2013, and in the years since, has appeared as the guest of honor at sporting events and been featured as “America’s Oldest Cigar Smoker” in Cigar Aficionado magazine.

You can check out the GoFundMe campaign page here.