A former first lieutenant with the 221st Signal Company in Vietnam, Paul Berkowitz, created a website to help former unit members connect. And one day, he was surprised to receive an audio tape from former member Rick Ekstrand. It was the audio portion of film shot on Hill 724 in Vietnam where a pitched battle followed a highly successful Vietnam ambush in November 1967.
During the Battle of Dak To, U.S. troops maneuvered against a series of hills covered with thick jungle vegetation, including Hill 724. In this footage from Nov. 7, two American companies attempted to maneuver on the hill and were ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army Regiment.
Alpha Company, the lead regiment, was pinned down and the two companies were outnumbered 10 to 1. Rockets, mortars, artillery, and machine gun fire rained down on the men as the camera operator narrated and filmed. Check out the amazing footage below from the American Heroes Channel:
When the Nazi forces captured French Gen. Henri Giraud in World War II, they knew they had to put him somewhere truly secure. So they took him to Konigstein Castle, a prison they were sure was completely inescapable. He broke out in two years. In broad daylight. Wearing a comical hat and glasses as a disguise. On Hitler’s birthday weekend.
Giraud was a popular general when World War II broke out. He was a hero of World War I for leading a bayonet charge against machine guns at the Battle of St. Quentin in Aug. 1914. He was wounded in the battle and left for dead before being captured by the Germans. It only took the severely wounded officer two months to escape that time, a feat he pulled off by acting like he was a laborer in a traveling circus.
Between the wars, he upped his notoriety factor by earning France’s Legion de Honneur in combat with Moroccan rebels and holding a series of high-profile military positions through the French empire.
In World War II, he fought the Nazis in a string of battles in an attempt to keep his country free. In May 1940, he led a reconnaissance patrol in Northeastern France and was captured at a machine gun nest after a heavy exchange with German artillery.
The Nazis knew they had a problem. Capturing a general is great, but then you have to hold him, and this general was famous for being a hero in two wars and had already escaped a German prison camp once. So they took him to Konigstein Castle, a prison with on a high hill that featured tall walls, few windows, and constant nighttime patrols. The Germans called it inescapable.
Konigstein Castle looms over the surrounding countryside. Photo: Creative Commons/Fritz-Gerald Schröder
In the castle, Giraud quickly began a long-term plan to escape. He learned German by convincing the prison to offer classes. Then he stole a map and began studying potential routes and pitfalls. He also figured out a method of communicating with his wife and others through coded messages that would get past the censors. For an entire year, he slowly built a rope out of twine.
The Germans had good reason to believe that Konigstein was inescapable. Between the high walls and the fact that the prison was built on a hill, Giraud would need to descend 150 feet of wall and cliff face before reaching the ground. The twine was to help with that.
Cyber personnel from the private and public sectors are America’s frontline of defense because critical infrastructure sectors, including water, healthcare, and elections, rely on a resilient cyber infrastructure, explained Rob Karas, associate director for Cyber Defense Education and Training from the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“America’s cybersecurity workforce is a strategic asset that protects the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life,” he said.
However, there is not enough talent in the field, both in the U.S. and around the world.
“Estimates place the global cybersecurity workforce shortage at approximately three million people worldwide, with roughly 500,000 job openings in the United States,” Karas said. “This global shortage means American organizations, whether in the private sector or in the federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial governments, compete with employers all over the world as well as with each other to find cybersecurity talent. … CISA sees the cybersecurity workforce shortage as a national security issue.”
Army Lt. Col. Julianna M. Rodriguez is a cyber warfare officer at Fort Gordon, Georgia. She is the offensive cyberspace operations division chief in the Army Cyber Command’s Technical Warfare Section.
Though she did not take a direct path to her current position, her preparation and adaptability enabled her to take advantage of opportunities for the evolving cyber field.
In high school, Rodriguez took advanced classes, focusing on math and science up to AP Calculus BC and AP Physics. After graduating, she attended the United States Military Academy, majoring in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Computer Systems Architecture.
In addition to earning a master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science through Columbia Engineering, she earned two technical certifications: Mirantis OpenStack Certification Professional Level and SaltStack Certified Engineer, and is preparing for the Army Cyber Developer Exam.
For Rodriguez, changing career fields was a process of discovering where she could best serve.
“I started in Air Defense Artillery because [in 2003] it was one of the few combat arms branches in which women officers could lead,” she said.
Rodriguez served in ADA units as a battalion intelligence officer and headquarters battery commander, eventually attending the MI Officer Advanced Course. She also deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division to Afghanistan and taught at the USMA before transferring into the cyber branch.
When advising others interested in cyber, Rodriguez gives feedback based on her experience.
“Our citizens can best serve when they use their innate skills and interests for our national good [and] improve daily in learning and practicing related skills. For those who have an interest in computing, information technology, and network communications, committing to engage that interest in service to our nation can meaningfully impact our nation’s security,” she said.
However, she cautioned how the field is not a good fit for those who like routine and clearly defined work. She also described the Army’s cyber branch as highly competitive, so if an individual wants to join, she recommends:
Obtain technical certifications like OSCP, OSCE, CISA, and CCNP
Do networking or security projects
Stay current on technology advances and policy impacts
Rodriguez adds specific backgrounds make a good fit for the field, including those with strong computer and IT skills.
“Soldiers from a variety of other branches and MOSes, including signal, aviation, and field artillery,” she said.
Because of the critical need for cyber talent, the Army created the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program. It is actively recruiting “software engineers, data scientists, DevOps engineers, hardware and radio frequency engineers, vulnerability researchers, and other computer-based professionals,” Rodriguez said. “I encourage anyone who has a deep interest in technology, a penchant for learning and change, and a commitment to our nation’s security to pursue a career in cyber with our military.”
For those interested in CISA cybersecurity education programs, check out:
CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service: DHS/CISA scholarship for bachelors, masters, and graduate cybersecurity degree programs in return for service in federal, state, local or tribal governments upon graduation
The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.
In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.
Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.
But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.
With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?
As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.
“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.
“That’s how we got to Dover.”
In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.
Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.
When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.
“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”
“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.
As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.
From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.
“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.
“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.
Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.
“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”
“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.
After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.
Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.
Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.
“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”
“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”
After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.
Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.
Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.
Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.
“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.
“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.
For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.
“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.
“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”
News that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attending the ceremony remembering the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack has drawn some interest.
Unfortunately, it also seems to have drawn some advice from White House Spokesman Josh Earnest directed toward veterans of the surprise bombardment.
During a recent press briefing, Earnest said that World War II veterans should “set aside their own personal bitterness” over the unprovoked attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that left 2,403 Americans dead and over a thousand wounded.
Japan has refused to apologize for the attack, which sank or damaged 19 American vessels, including eight battleships and destroyed or damaged over 300 aircraft.
“If I were a World War II veteran who was drafted by the United States military to go and fight for our country overseas in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, I might feel quite embittered. And I think it would be a perfectly natural and understandable human reaction to not be particularly satisfied with the words of the Japanese Prime Minister,” Earnest said during the Dec. 5 briefing.
“There may be some who feel personally embittered,” he added. “But I’m confident that many will set aside their own personal bitterness, not because they’re personally satisfied by the words of the Prime Minister, but because they recognize how important this moment is for the United States.”
Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbor, declaring his intent to “mourn the souls of the victims” of the attack. American forces shot down 29 Japanese planes, and sank five midget submarines and one submarine.
Fifteen Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the attack, while 51 received the Navy Cross, four received the Distinguished Service Cross, and 53 received the Silver Star.
It is estimated that 161,000 American military personnel were killed in action while fighting in the Pacific Theater. The war lasted for three years and nine months, with the end taking place when Japan signed surrender documents on board the USS Missouri (BB 63) on Sept. 2, 1945.
“The relationship between a military working dog and a military dog handler is about as close as a man and dog can become. You see this loyalty, a devotion unlike any other, and the protectiveness.” – Robert Crais
The United States military has utilized working dogs since the Revolutionary war. They were originally used as pack animals, carrying as much as forty pounds of supplies between units, including food, guns and ammo. Then during World War I, they were used for more innovative purposes, like killing rats in the trenches. However, it was during World War II that there was a surge in the use of military working dogs. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 working dogs throughout WWII. These specially trained dogs were used as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,300 military working dogs deployed worldwide today.
The military working dogs of today are utilized in many different missions and specialties. After intensive training, each dog is then assigned to a specific specialty based on their strengths and abilities. Once the military working dogs are assigned their specialty, they are shipped out to military installations worldwide.
A few of the possible specialties these dogs can be selected for are:
Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers with a growl, bark, or other alert when danger or strangers are nearby. These dogs are valuable assets, especially for working in the dark when attacks from the rear or from cover are the most likely. Sentry dogs are often used on patrols, as well as guarding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations.
Scout and patrol dogs are trained with the same skills that sentry dogs are. However, in addition, these dogs are trained to work in silence. Their job is to aid in the detection of ambushes, snipers, and other enemy forces. These particular dogs are somewhat elite among the military working dogs, because only dogs with both superior intelligence and a quiet disposition can be selected for this specialty. Scout and patrol dogs are generally sent out with their handlers to walk point during combat patrols, well ahead of the Infantry patrol.
Casualty dogs are trained in much the same way search and rescue dogs are. They are utilized to search for and report casualties in obscure areas, and casualties who are difficult for parties to locate. The time these dogs save in finding severely injured persons can often mean the difference between life and death.
With the current war on terrorism, explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or in a roadside location is a common threat. Explosive detection dogs are trained to alert their handlers to the scent of the chemicals that are commonly used in explosives. These dogs have such a superior sense of smell that it is nearly impossible to package explosives in a way that they cannot detect.
No matter what their specialty or their mission, the reality is these highly trained K9s are an invaluable part of today’s military. There has yet to be a technology created that can match the ability and heart that military working dogs sustain every day. These dogs are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, and it is only in recent years that there has been a movement to make sure they are given the appreciation and benefits they deserve. There is constant research going into the best ways to protect them in combat. And along with a push to make K9 Veterans Day an official holiday, there is also a movement to make sure these four-legged heroes are taken care of when their time in service comes to an end.
Being an infantry Marine stationed in Hawai’i is a blessing and a curse. If you get stationed out there, civilians will sarcastically tell you how hard your life is and fellow service members will glare at you with jealousy, but they don’t know the truth — not unless they read Terminal Lance, that is.
When you get orders to Hawai’i, you’ll probably feel excited right off the bat. If you grew up in the mainland United States and you’ve never visited, you’ve likely heard of it as a beautiful, tropical vacation spot. Once you get there, you’ll start to realize that, in some ways, it’s far from an island paradise.
So, to get you prepared, here are a few things you should know about being stationed out there:
Luckily, you’ll get compensated for the cost of living.
Everything is expensive
Mentally prepare yourself now for paying insane prices for things like milk or gasoline. If you’re a smoker, you might as well kick the habit now because you’ll be paying for every pack at the exchange on base. If you ever plan on leaving to explore the island, you’ll pay much more than that.
The facilities suck
Marine Corps Base Hawai’i is small and its size can likely be attributed to the fact that it was originally built to be a Marine Corps Air Station. Only after the fact was it then turned into a full-fledged base equipped to house with infantry battalions and artillery batteries. As you might imagine, there aren’t many options for shopping or entertainment on base.
You’ll become well acquainted with those humid jungles, don’t worry.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)
It’s always humid
Hawai’i is an island nation covered with a lush rain forest and surrounded by ocean. Not only is the heat intense, but the humidity is thick, making matters much worse. Not a day will go by where you won’t sweat — unless you spend the whole day in an air-conditioned building.
At least the sun will be gone for a bit of time.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil)
It’s always raining
Remember how it’s always humid? It’s because it constantly rains. If you’re infantry, you already know that rain is somehow magically, meteorologically attracted to where you are in the world so, don’t expect that to change at all in Hawai’i.
The locals hate you
A good amount of them, anyway. If they’re not a tattoo artist or business owner, they’ll probably have a disdain for you being a part of the United States military. Don’t take it personally and just ignore it because there’s no point in getting yourself into trouble when, at the end of the day, you’re not there by choice, anyway.
It won’t take long before you start to feel the claustrophobia.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Luke Kuennen)
You’re stuck on an island
Your ass belongs to the Corps, so you best believe you can’t leave that island chain without permission. You can’t really even leave O’ahu unless you do some paperwork, so get used to those islands feeling like a prison.
A single man earned the nickname “wilderness ninja” after he successfully evaded more than 1,000 uniformed police officers, helicopters, and vehicles in Pennsylvania – not unlike the character of John Rambo in the movie First Blood. Unlike Rambo, however, Eric Frein wasn’t just minding his own business. He’s a convicted terrorist and murderer who killed a state trooper and wounded another before he was apprehended.
Frein was a war re-enactor who loved the Balkan Conflict.
There’s no mistaken identity in this case. In 2017, Eric Frein was convicted of murdering a Pennsylvania state trooper while wounding another. He was sentenced to die in a decision that was upheld three times. Frein was an avid war re-enactor, self-taught survivalist, and expert marksman who had extensive firsthand knowledge of the Poconos, where he eluded law enforcement officers. He even managed to avoid being tracked with heat-sensitive cameras. The war gamer was driven by his beef with law enforcement, who called in every available agent to assist in the hunt.
U.S. Marshals, the ATF, FBI, and state and local police scoured county after county for the man they say spent years planning the murder of police officers as well as his escape into the forests and hills. Many survival specialists told the media that Rein seemed to be an expert-level survivalist who was likely hiding in caves and below dense underbrush to hide his movement.
U.S. Marshals injured Frein’s face during his apprehension.
But Frein was no genius. On Sept. 12, 2014, he opened up on the Pennsylvania State Troopers Barracks in Blooming Grove, Pa. with a .308-caliber rifle, killing Cpl. Byron Dickson III and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass. He was living in his parents’ home at this time and driving his parents’ Jeep. While speeding away from the scene, he lost control of the vehicle and drove it into a nearby swamp. He escaped and walked home, leaving his Social Security Card and shell casings from the incident inside the Jeep. It was discovered by a man walking his dog three days later.
By then, Frein was long gone.
The shooter escaped into the Poconos of Northern Pennsylvania for nearly two full months, evading capture, leaving booby traps and pipe bombs, and using the terrain to his advantage. He was almost caught on a few occasions, including a visit to his old high school. He managed to stay free until Oct. 30, 2014, when U.S. Marshals chased him down in a field near an abandoned airport.
Frein was arrested with the handcuffs of Byron Dickson, the officer he killed.
Eric Frein, of course, pled not guilty to all the charges slapped on him, including first-degree murder and attempted murder. It didn’t matter though, but after some legal wrangling, Frein was convicted of all charges, including two counts of weapons of mass destruction in April 2017. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection and awaits his sentence to this day.
After the North Koreans poured across the 38th Parallel in 1950, starting the Korean War, the United States rapidly responded. The 24th Infantry Division was ordered to quickly make their way to South Korea from Japan while American carriers began launching strikes to delay the Communist advance.
One of the first ground units to arrive was called Task Force Smith. According to official United States Army history, this unit eventually consisted of two under-strength companies of infantry, four 75mm recoilless rifles, four 4.2-inch mortars, half of a communications platoon, and a battery of six 105mm howitzers. Most importantly, this force would be the first “boots on the ground” to face the Communist hordes on the Korean peninsula.
Their mission was to delay the North Koreans, affording others the time to get spun up for combat.
As the unit moved toward battle, they were faced with all the signs that things might not go so well. American planes hit a number of supply dumps and installations controlled by friendly forces — one such incident killed over 200 South Korean troops. Meanwhile, some of the C-54 Skymasters carrying the unit had to return to Japan due to thick fog and being unable to locate airfields.
Soldiers assigned to Task Force Smith arrive in South Korea.
When they finally met North Korean troops, it was a disaster. The North Koreans, equipped with Soviet-built T-34 medium tanks, approached. At 8:16 AM on the morning of July 5, 1950, near the city of Osan, American ground troops opened fire on the Communist forces. The fight was short — it didn’t go well for the United States. Bazookas and recoilless rifle rounds did practically nothing to the T-34s.
North Korean T-34s blew through the positions held by the unprepared American soldiers.
The North Korean forces blew through the infantry and went at the artillery. By the time all was said and done, of the roughly 440 soldiers in Task Force Smith sent to South Korea, only 185 made it back to friendly lines the next morning (a few dozen others would make their way back over the next few days and weeks).
Today, Task Force Smith is remembered for their courage — and for the lessons learned from the Battle of Osan.
The experience of this brave but unprepared unit led to major changes, at least through the Cold War. The mantra became, “No More Task Force Smiths.”
In essence, the troops who fell that day are remembered by efforts to continually keep American troops ready for combat, ensuring that sacrifices made by those who came before them are not in vain.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Paul A. Yost, Jr., later a Commandant of the Coast Guard, was leading a group of 13 swift boats during the insertion of Navy Underwater Demolition Team-13 and some Vietnamese marines when his column came under attack from a Viet Cong ambush that managed to heavily damage multiple boats, kill American and Vietnamese troops, and isolate the last boat.
When Yost found out that his last boat was trapped in the kill zone and his other ships weren’t in shape to recover it, he took his command boat and one other back into the kill zone to rescue the sailors who were still under attack.
The other eight boats continued upriver. When they went to drop off their marines, a U.S. Marine major assigned as an advisor went to Yost and asked that the Vietnamese marines be dropped another mile upriver because the going was hard and no Viet Cong activity had been spotted. Yost agreed.
Just to be safe, Yost ordered the two Seawolf attack helicopters assigned to him be launched. They were based on a ship 15 minutes away, meaning they would arrive as the boats got to the more dangerous parts of the river.
But Yost’s superior, Navy Capt. Roy Hoffman, ordered the helicopters to sit tight, possibly to ensure that they wouldn’t run out of fuel before they were needed. Yost wasn’t told of the change.
Yost was in the second boat and ordered it to push through the kill zone, and the rest of the column followed.
The rear boat, PCF-43, was the slowest and needed maintenance, according to then-Lt. j.g. Virgil A. Erwin III — a boat commander during the operations. In addition to its maintenance issues, it was weighed down with 800 pounds of explosives, 10 UDTs, and all of their gear.
That boat was unable to keep up with the rest of the column as they pushed through the kill zone, and it was left as the sole target for a few fatal seconds during the ambush. The corpsman on board was hit with a rocket and killed just before another rocket struck the cabin, killing the boat commander and severely wounding the two others in the cabin.
The boat ran out of control and beached itself, hard, on a mudbank. It hit so hard that it slid most of the way out of the water, leaving the engine’s water intake above the waterline and making it impossible for the boat to propel itself back off.
As the engine overheated, the UDT members jumped from the boat and established a defensive perimeter behind it, using the wreck as cover from the Viet Cong fire coming from a mere 20 feet away.
The closest boat, PCF-38, attempted to assist PCF-43, but their steering gear was damaged and they were forced to head back upriver. Once they reached the lead perimeter, they alerted Yost to the state of PCF-43.
Yost took his craft, PCF-31, and the former lead boat, PCF-5, back downriver. Once they reached the ambush site, 5 and 31 began pouring .50-cal. rounds into the jungle and forced the Viet Cong fighters to take cover. As 5 kept the fire up, Yost and 31 pulled up to the stricken 43 and began evacuating the wounded and dead.
The two crafts escaped with 15 survivors and the bodies of the two men killed in action.
Just a few hours later, PCF-43 exploded. The most likely cause was that the engines, which typically were cooled by water flowing through the engine for propulsion, had overheated and set fire to the leaking fuel. The fuel ignited the explosives and the whole thing burned hot until the boat itself exploded.
The former Navy gunner’s mate and rescue swimmer is, in post-military life, a rider on the rise in the Western U.S. amateur motocross circuit. And the time it took her to try to teach Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis to stick one basic jump is, believe us, no reflection on her abilities.
Check out a side-by-side comparison, Ryan v. Jacqueline, leaping the same stretch of track.
As a teenager, Carrizosa had trouble staying on the straight and narrow after her family moved from California to Las Vegas, but she thrived in the Navy, excelling at physically demanding and traditionally male-dominated disciplines.
When things got rocky again after she left active duty, the same approach helped her. She found structure and purpose in highly skilled action sports, specifically motocross. Her advice?
“Establish something that makes you money, you know what I mean? But also keep your soul alive. You gotta follow your heart. I would say 85% heart, 15% brain.”
Jacqueline Carrizosa. WISE.
But it all proved a little too much for Curtis. The motocross badassery, the beauty, the sheer volume of withering sass. A day at the track with Carrizosa hit him right in the feels (understandable).
And so, completely biffing the ratio, he went 100% heart, 0% brains.
You don’t have to imagine how that went over. All you gotta do is watch as Curtis gets his motocross mojo crossed, in the video embedded at the top.
In October 2010, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines started clearing the Taliban insurgency from the Sangin District in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Once 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines handed over the area of observation to 3/5, things escalated quickly, making this campaign one of the bloodiest in American history.
Marines who headed out to clear the enemy-infested area were met by a dangerous environment and an extremely complicated IED threat — as a result, casualty rates climbed.
Eventually, the actions of the Marines of 3/5 were unofficially dubbed, “Bangin’ in Sangin.” The narrative that unfolded there was very close to that of a story set in the Wild West. Here’s why:
Marines of 3/5th Marine patrol through unpredictable, enemy terrain in Sangin, Afghanistan.
Paved roads were scarce
In most parts of the world, people drive on paved roads with designated lanes. Well, for British and American forces, the only option was to drive and patrol on roads made from loose gravel. The main roads in the district were described as nothing more than “wide trails.”
Since the majority of the Sangin population uses animals to haul their cargo, in the troops’ perspective, it was like jumping into a time machine and transporting back to the Old West.
The local cemeteries
How many Westerns have we seen where the cowboys, on horseback, encounter an eerie cemetery as they travel through uncharted land? Too often to count, right?
Well, Sangin was no different. Many of the graves were decorated with rocks and flags tied to wooden staves — just like the movies.
HM3 Mitchell Ingolia, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment conducts a security patrol through the dangerous area known as Sangin, Afghanistan.
(Photo by U.S. Marine Cpl. David Hernandez)
The nasty terrain
In many Westerns, the cowboys add days to their journeys because of some unmarked obstacle blocking their path, forcing them around.
In Sangin, the rough terrain provided for some unique challenges. Harsh conditions plus the fact that mud structures can be destroyed and rebuilt quickly made keeping maps current nearly impossible.
The locals lived in tribes
In the old days, Native Americans lived in settlements and did every they could to make ends meet while answering to the chief of the tribe. In Afghanistan, Marines commonly patrolled through similar villages — and the locals answered to their Islamic religious leader, known as the “Mullah.”
Though modern in many ways, social organization on the local level remains tribal.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jose Maldonado (left) and Cpl. Rocco Urso (right), both with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provide over watch security during an operation in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, on Oct. 7, 2010. The Marines conducted a two-day operation to clear insurgents from the Wishtan area.
(USMC photo by Cpl. David Hernandez)
The Marines lived like cowboys
When Marines left the wire for several days, they packed ammo, food, and their sleeping system. Since they didn’t know where they were going to be sleeping each night, Marines found rest in places most people couldn’t even imagine.
Troops on the ground spend a lot of time talking on the radio to a variety of commands and assets: planes and helicopters overhead, their headquarters, and artillery lines, and as they do, they use certain brevity codes and calls to make these communications fast and clear.
Here are 13 of the codes troops really love to hear when they’re outside the wire:
Ground controllers give an aircraft the go-ahead to drop bombs or fire other munitions on the ground with the word “Attack,” and the pilot replies with “attacking.” Troops love to hear this exchange because it means a fireworks show is about to start on the enemy’s position.
The official meaning of “bird” is a surface-to-air missile, but troops sometimes use it to mean a helicopter. Since helicopters bring missiles and supplies and evacuate wounded troops, this is always welcome.
3. Bomber/CAS/CCA callsigns
While these callsigns change depending on which air unit is providing them assistance, troops love to hear any callsign from a good bomber, close air support, or close combat air pilot. These are the guys who drop bombs and fire missiles.
4. “Cleared hot”/”Cleared to engage”
The ground controller has cleared an air asset to drop bombs or other munitions on their next pass.
5. “Danger close”
The term means that bombs, artillery, or other big booms are being fired in support of ground troops but that the weapons will fall near friendly forces.
While danger close missions are exciting to see in movies and troops are happy to receive the assistance, soldiers in the field usually have mixed feelings about “danger close” since an enemy that is nearly on top of them is about to die, but they’ll also be near the blast.
Service members on the ground don’t like needing a medical evacuation, but they love it when the “Dustoff” bird is en route and when it finally lands. It’ll take their wounded buddy off the battlefield and will typically replenish the medical supplies of their corpsman or medic, making everyone safer.
Fire control uses “Engage” to let operators of a weapons system know that they’ve been cleared to fire. This could open up the mortar section, gun line, or other firing unit to attack the enemy.
8. “Good effects on target”
A bomb or artillery rounds have struck the target and destroyed it, meaning something that needed to die has, in fact, died.
This is said by the ground controller or artillery observer to let a plane, artillery section, or other weapons platform know that it successfully dropped its munitions within a lethal distance of the target. If the target survived anyway, the ground controller may say “Repeat,” to get more rounds dropped or may give new firing directions instead.
It stands for “return to base” and troops love it because it means they get to head home and take their armor and packs off.
The artillery line uses “shot” to say that they’ve fired the rounds requested by the forward observer. The FO will reply with “shot out” and listen for the word “splash,” discussed below.
This is the unofficial term for a small resupply dropped from a plane or helicopter, typically in a body bag. Troops short on ammo, water, batteries, etc. will request them. Medical supplies aren’t generally included in a speedball since the helicopter can just kick a normal aid bag out the door.
The firing line tells an observer “splash” five seconds before a round is expected to hit the target. When the observer sees the detonation from the round, they reply with “splash out” to let the artillery unit know the round hit and exploded. The FO will then give the firing line adjustments needed to hit the target or confirm that the target was hit.