Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy - We Are The Mighty
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Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy

This April, sitting in front of their respective work emails, Joe and Jenn McAuliffe were pronounced man and wife. In separate states, distant Army bases and during work hours, their life as a married couple began.

This was possible due to a Montana regulation that allows for double-proxy weddings – where neither party has to be present in order to be married. Both are represented by fill-ins. This was a plan they put into place due to the ongoing saga that is COVID-19.

After their Memorial Day weekend wedding plans had been pushed to the right, and with no clear feasible date in mind, the pair decided to make their own path.

“I said, ‘What if we get married on paper, because if something happens to one of us – we’re not married – the other couldn’t get leave [and travel];” Joe, who works in TRADOC, said.

He added that, while five states allow for marriage by proxy, only one allows for a double-proxy union. So it was decided: they would file in Montana, choose their anniversary date and time, and continue the day as usual.

“We were both literally at work in our offices. We got an email that said, ‘Congratulations you’re married,’” Jenn, working in INSCOM said.

The wedding came three years after the couple first emailed – a nod to their future – as upcoming classmates in the Army Sergeant Major Academy. Each was searching for roommates among their respective peers, and they, along with others, moved under a single roof.

Months into the school the pair started dating, then after two years as an item, they became engaged.  

It was happenstance, they said. Not expecting to meet “the one,” both McAuliffes were caught off guard.

“I actually think we were very fortunate in the amount of time that we were able to spend together, even with him deploying,” Jenn said. Citing quick flights and four-day weekends, the couple averaged a visit together every six weeks, except for Joe’s stint overseas.

After years of long-distance dating, they were married. Joe popped the question after returning stateside.

But with the pandemic in play, their time together became nonexistent – they didn’t see each other for six months. After rendezvousing over President’s Day weekend in 2020, they wouldn’t meet again in person until they were legally wed.

With military travel regulations and restrictions at their respective bases, visits were simply not an option.

In fact, the reason they ended up getting multiple visits together, once bases allowed, was due to Jenn’s shoulder surgeries. Joe traveled there for her treatments and she was able to travel with him to recover.

“Our recent time together, it’s kind of funny, it was from convalescent leave,” she said.

All-in-all, however, the McAuliffes are dedicated to making their union joyful, even if they got a non-traditional start. Eventually, that will mean a shared home with acreage and distant from big cities. But for now, it means traveling when their jobs allow and sharing their best moments through smiles and playful banter. Jenn, from her rented house that she shares with a roommate. And Joe, from his stationary camper slot, with Jenn’s rescue dog, Roxy.

The rest? They’ll figure it out as they go. With the last two-plus decades planned for them, there’s time to plan. Joe, who’s coming up on his 27th year in the Army, says he always knew he wanted to join the military.

“Once I hit year 11 I said, ‘Ok I’m staying in,’” he said, also citing his daughters as reasons for finding success.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy

Lauren, 24 and daughter, Izabella, 6, top left. Shania, 23, top right, Katelynn, 21 bottom left, and Roxy, 11.

Meanwhile, Jenn just hit 25 years of service, giving credit to her father for serving as her inspiration. However, it was never a life goal to stay in until retirement.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in for any longer but I did,” she said. “Something that Joe and I talk about, we were meant to go to the academy and meet each other, that’s why I stayed in.”

“Not necessarily for the Army or aspirations to be a Sergeant Major, but I was meant to meet Joe at the academy.”

Articles

A female Airman pushes back against USAF sexual harassment training

Last week, the John Q. Public blog published an open letter written by a female Airman under the nom de plume ‘Kayce M. Hagen,’ who recently attended her annual mandatory Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) training.


A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing.

She was disgusted at the idea of the female Airman being at once a victim and the catalyst for unit degradation, for being both untouchable and a target, and for being empowered but fragile.

“I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right?,” she writes. “Of course I am, you made me that way.”

She saw the training as taking the respect she might earn and instead forcing her male counterparts to see her as an object of their potential destruction.

“You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim,” Hagan wrote. “I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore.”

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy

 

Obviously very strong words, whether one agrees or not, but perhaps worth consideration. This is her letter verbatim:

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me.

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way.

You are the reason I room alone when I deploy. You are the reason that wives are terrified that their husbands are cheating on them when they leave, and I leave with them. When I walk into a room and people are laughing and having a good time, you are the reason they take one look at me and either stop talking or leave. They’re afraid. They’re afraid of me, and it’s because of you. They are afraid that with all of this “power” I have, I can destroy them. They will never respect me or the power and the authority I have as a person, or the power I have as an Airman, because I am nothing more than a victim. That I as a victim, somehow I control their fate. With one sentence, I can destroy the rest of their lives.

“He sexually assaulted me.”

I say enough. He didn’t assault me, you did; and I say enough is enough. If you want to help me, you need to stop calling me a victim. If you want to save me, you need to help me to be equal in the eyes of the people I work with. If you want to change a culture, you need to lessen the gap between men and women, not widen it. Women don’t need their own set of rules: physical training scores, buildings, rooms, raters, sponsors, deployment buddies. When I can only deploy with another woman ‘buddy’ you are telling me and the people around me that I can’t take care of myself. When you forbid me from going into my male friends room to play X-Box on a deployment with the other people on my shift, you isolate me. When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

NOW: First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

OR: ‘You’re really pretty for being in the Army’

Articles

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

The future Baseball Hall of Fame first baseman and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson was a young lieutenant facing court-martial in August 1944 for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, while training as a tanker.


The segregation situation at Camp Hood was arguably one of the worst for black service members in the country. The civilian buses contracted to work the routes onto and off of post were fully segregated as were nearly all of the base facilities. While there for training, Robinson had fairly regular confrontations with other officers over racial issues on the base.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson was attached to a tank unit after finishing Officer Candidate School and Cavalry School. (Photo: LOOK Magazine/Public Domain)

Robinson was assigned to a black armored unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, as a second lieutenant. He was one of the few black officers in a unit with mostly white leadership.

On July 6, 1944, near the end of a two-year training pipeline, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus.

Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. While waiting for the MPs and again at the camp’s provost marshall office, Robinson was called “nigger” by both civilians and military personnel whom he outranked.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Tank crews from the 761st Tank Battalion await orders to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany, April 25, 1945. Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson served with the battalion during its training period but accepted a medical separation after a racially-charged court martial. (Photo: National Archives)

Angry from his treatment and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.

Camp Hood commanders ordered the 761st to begin court-martial proceedings, but battalion commander Lt. Col. Paul L. Bates refused to sign the order. Unfortunately for Robinson, paperwork was already going through to transfer him to the 758th due to medical issues. When the transfer went through, his court martial began almost immediately.

The prosecution did not charge Robinson for his actions on the bus, but they did charge him for disrespecting a military police captain and for disobeying an order from the same captain.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
In the days leading up to his court martial, 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson asked a trusted friend whether he should speak to the press. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)

His trial opened on Aug. 2 and ran for 17 days. Bates testified that Robinson was an outstanding officer. Bates even told the military panel that Robinson was traveling on the bus on July 6 at his request. Robinson had reported to a civilian hospital for a medical evaluation to see if he could ship out to Europe with the 761st.

Meanwhile Robinson’s defense attorney, Capt. William A. Cline, managed to highlight inconsistencies in the prosecution’s witness testimonies and prove that Robinson’s actions only took place after he was repeatedly disrespected by lower-ranking soldiers.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Gunner Cpl. Carlton Chapman of the 761st Tank Battalion poses in his M4 Sherman tank near Nancy, France, Nov. 5, 1944.  (Photo: National Archives)

Cline even called into question whether the MP captain had properly ordered Robinson to remain in the office and got the captain to admit on the stand that he was unsure whether he had actually issued the order or simply meant to.

The defense won its case and Robinson was freed. Rather than fight to rejoin the 761st or train with the 758th, he decided to accept the Army’s assessment that he should be medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle that sometimes caused the joint to seize up.

During the court martial, the 761st shipped out for New Jersey en route to Europe. It would become a legend in the final year of the war, earning 11 silver stars, a Medal of Honor, and the Presidential Unit Citation in 183 days of continuous fighting.

Articles

Watch the Navy blow up some of its obsolete ships

When most ships are decommissioned, they eventually will head to the scrapyard. Mostly, their fate is to become razor blades.


Others become artificial reefs, providing a tourist attraction for divers and a home for fish. But some vessels escape these fates for a more noble end: They are sunk as targets.

And that’s not new.

Back in the early 1920s, the United States used old battleships as targets to test how well air-dropped bombs could sink ships. In fact, since the end of World War II, ships have been sunk as targets – often to test how well current or new weapons work, or to provide crews with training that is quite realistic in using their anti-surface warfare systems.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy

The 1946 Operation Crossroads was perhaps one of the most dramatic examples. In two tests, the Navy detonated atomic bombs amongst a fleet of obsolete ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato, the German cruiser Prinz Eugen, and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3). A total of 14 ships sank outright, while the Prinz Eugen sank five months later.

Perhaps the largest ship to be sunk as a target was the aircraft carrier USS America (CV 66). This ship displaced almost 85,000 tons when fully loaded, and had a 31-year career, including service in the Vietnam War, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and Desert Storm.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy

On May 14, 2005, the America was sunk after the testing by controlled scuttling, which included remote systems monitoring the effects of underwater explosions that took place over four weeks.

The video below shows the sinking of a pair of Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and a Newport-class landing ship. Often smaller systems will be used before they unleash the really powerful missiles – and last, but not least, the torpedoes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPT0isrCIUE
Articles

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

 


Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
(Photo: Molly Potter)

“Every kid has a dream to be an astronaut,” Air Force veteran Molly Potter said. “But by college, these dreams become less and less important for most. That was not so for me.”

Potter attended Embry-Riddle to major in Space Physics and Space Engineering. While there she tried to start a military career in Army ROTC, but soon found it was not for her. Many of her friends were in Air Force ROTC. She liked the mentality and decided it was the best way to get to where she wanted to be.

“I was a 13-Week Wonder,” Potter says. “I loved it and a quickly did my best to be come a stellar officer.”

She and her then-husband were “poster airmen” at Eglin Air Force Base. He was an AC-130 navigator who deployed all the time; she was a weapons specialist, awarded Company Grade Officer of the Year in her first year. By the time she was promoted to first lieutenant, she had caught SOCOM’s eye.

Going from her desk job to deploying to Southwest Asia with the US Special Operations Command was far from Potter’s comfort zone.

“They gave me a gun and a backpack and basically told me to go,” Potter recalls. “I was essentially a one-person band out there with the Army and Marines. I didn’t realize what I was experiencing.”

And she experienced a lot, even for a munitions specialist.

“Afghanistan was the place I felt most respected on all levels,” Potter says. “The men in JSOC and SOCOM were utmost professionals. They only cared that I did my job, and they needed me to save their asses on occasion. I had the same respect they had for me.”

One night, as the sun went down, a rocket attack knocked Potter out. A cement barrier saved her life, protecting her from the frag.

Like many veterans of recent conflicts, the blast caused her traumatic brain injury.  Little was known then about the effects of blasts on the brain, and she was sent home without a diagnosis.

After her deployment, she was assigned as a flight test engineer with test pilots, the next step in her path to becoming what she wanted since childhood. She attempted to numb herself from the emotional turmoil.

Her role was quick-turnaround acquisitions for special operations missions. Watching the munitions she procured from the airplanes or from monitors and how they killed combatants on the ground, even seeing what she calls ‘the Faces of Death,’ coupled with seeing her own life flash before her eyes changed the way she saw her role in the war. Her whole life was dedicated to becoming an astronaut, but here she was engineering ways to make killing more efficient.

“They were supposed to be getting this star officer,” Potter remembers. “Instead, they got a struggling officer, fresh from Afghanistan, who wasn’t sleeping or eating, and whose marriage was falling apart.” She refused to take leave yet struggled with this difficult program, full of the world’s best pilots.

Her memory started to fade, and she couldn’t even get through a day’s work. It hit her one day when she was driving home from after flying military aircraft on military orders, but suddenly couldn’t remember how to get home.

“I realized then I needed help,” Potter says. “But I didn’t want to lose my clearance, my career. But my commanding officers started to notice there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t really there.” It all came crashing down in 2013, when a motorcyclist ran into her car in Las Vegas and Potter suffered a total mental breakdown. Her leadership realized what was happening.

“I was lucky my command realized I had a problem,” Potter says. “Instead of disciplining me, they told me ‘the Air Force broke you and the Air Force is going to put you back together.'” Recovery soon became her full time job.

“I was a high suicide risk,” Potter admits. “Therapy was very tough for me. Halfway through, I started to stall. I was having nightmares. Even with my mom there, things were not going well. I was suppressing all this awful shit and having horrible nightmares. That’s when I got Bella.”

Bella is Potter’s “100 percent American Mutt.” When Potter experienced intense Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and refused to leave the house, it was Bella who forced her to go outside. She had to be walked, after all. Bella also had to be fed, watered, petted, and cleaned. She became Molly Potter’s reason to get out of bed, to get out of the house.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Molly with Bella. (Photo: Molly Potter)

“She slowly started bringing my life back,” Potter says. “I started realizing she was waking me up in the middle of the night when I was having nightmares. She prevented my panic attacks and my night terrors. I started progressing with my therapy and becoming myself again.” Bella’s effect on Potter was so strong, her therapist suggested she train Bella as a service dog, and that’s exactly what she did.

In the meantime, the Air Force began to wonder what to do with Potter. She did lose her clearance and could no longer fly, but she didn’t have disciplinary issues, so her command wanted to work with her to help her find a new Air Force role or help her transition to the civilian world.

In her preparation to leave the service, she started to work at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center at Nellis Air Force Base, to help troubled Airmen and families or help those who were also transitioning. Bella would come with her, to keep her calm and bring her back in case of a panic attack or breakdown. The families visiting the AFRC loved her, but not everyone was a fan of Bella in the workplace.

“I got a lot of pushback for this service dog,” Potter says. “There was no regulation for service dogs and uniformed personnel.”

A potentially troubling situation took a turn for the best one evening, as Potter brought Bella to an Air Force Association Symposium in Washington, DC. She happened to run into Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh and then-Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning.

She told the senior leaders how great her therapy was and how the Air Force PTSD therapy helped her. Then she told them about her concern for regulations regarding service dogs and that one should be written. They both agreed. Now active duty Airmen and Soldiers on PTSD therapy can use working dogs to help them cope as an accepted practice.

“Bella saved my life,” Potter says. “She changed the tide of my therapy and gave me the confidence to be Captain Potter again.”

The CSAF and the SECAF gave their full support and attention to this issue and Potter now uses her story with Bella as a way to help promote getting help while in the military.

“It’s not the only way, but it was my way,” Potter remarked. “I was anorexic, divorced, and suicidal. Five month changed my life. I had horrible experience in Afghanistan, but by the time I left the military, I was happy, sleeping and had a support network to start a new life.”

Potter now lives and works in Austin, Texas. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Air Force Association and works to match service dogs to other veterans facing the struggles she once faced.

“I still think women on the battlefields is a positive thing,” she said. “War isn’t in the trenches anymore and women bring a more creative, sometimes necessary softer tone to the fight. In the future, critical thinking could be crucial to winning and I think women in these roles bring new solutions to the problems surrounding war.”

Lists

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Two F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, fly over Europe on March 20, 2015. The aircraft participate in a training sortie with the Estonian air force.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Senior Airman Christine Griffiths/US Air Force

Leaving a trail of dust in its wake, an MC-130J Commando II takes off April 2, 2015, at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. The aircraft’s crew demonstrated its capability to take off, land and perform airdrops in remote areas during a joint exercise.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi/US Air Force

NAVY

More than 630 Sailors, Marines and civilians aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) from a teal ribbon and spell out “ESX ARG” to show support for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: US Navy

Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Keron King signals the pilots of an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter attached to the Vipers of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48 during preflight preparations aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68).

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt/US Navy

ARMY

A Trooper assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, fires a mortar from a mortar tube mounted onto a Stryker Combat Vehicle during the unit’s platoon live-fire exercise at Smardan Training Area, Romania, Apr. 8, 2015. The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate unit capabilities to Romanian military counterparts during live-fire training in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve-South.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Sgt. William A. Tanner/US Army

Infantrymen, assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment, provide security during an #OperationAtlanticResolve-South live-fire exercise at Smardan Training Area, Romania, April 6, 2015.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Sgt. William A. Tanner

MARINE CORPS

U.S. Marines attending the infantry officer course prepare to conduct a fast rope exercise during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) on Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., March 27, 2015. WTI is a seven-week event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves/US Marine Corps

A U.S. Marine with Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, completes a pre-inspection before operating the M1A1 Abrams tank during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) aboard Camp Pendleton, California, March 28, 2015. Marines with BLT 3/1 trained for combined arms operations in restricted terrain in preparation for their deployment this spring.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos/US Marine Corps

COAST GUARD

Marine Safety Security Team Honolulu conduct flight ops with crews from Air Station Barber’s Point to ensure U.S. Coast Guard Hawaii Pacific remain Semper Paratus.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Errik Gordon/US Coast Guard

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C. S. Lewis

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: US Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

NOW: 9 tips for ‘skating’ in the Navy

AND: 62 glaring technical errors in ‘The Hurt Locker’

OR: Hurry up and watch ‘Predator’ in under 3 minutes:

Intel

Marine vet/comedian Rob Riggle uses his star power to showcase veterans’ strengths

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy


Popular comedic actor and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rob Riggle volunteered his time to star in a new public service announcement to help showcase the strengths of military veterans.

The PSA titled “What to Wear” is the third in a series created by Easter Seals Dixon Center, a non-profit changing the conversation about veterans and military families to highlight their potential and create life-changing opportunities.

The majority of the PSA’s production team were made up of veterans, including actor and Air Force veteran Brice Williams, who co-stars with Riggle, and director Jim Fabio, who currently serves as an Air Force Combat Camera Officer (all three are pictured above). Fabio was selected out of more than 50 directors — all military veterans — and was mentored by Hollywood producer-writer Judd Apatow during the process.

Learn more about how the project came together by reading Col. David Sutherland’s post on the Easter Seals Blog 

Or watch all three PSA’s on the campaign’s website

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76Gt1MYpmyw

Articles

21 photos showing the awesomeness of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon

The Silent Drill Platoon symbolizes the consummate professionalism and extreme discipline the United States Marine Corps is known for.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. AaronJames Vinculado


Stationed at the legendary Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., it is a 24-man rifle platoon that tours the country showcasing their precision drill and rifle movements in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators a year.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Cpl. Dengrier Baez

A highly selective unit, Marines are individually interviewed and picked from the Schools of Infantry at Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune.

 

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Pfc. Richardo Davila

Once selected, each Marine will be assigned to the platoon for two years while more experienced members can audition to become one of two rifle inspectors.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe

The drill master, along with the rifle inspectors, are responsible for passing on the traditions, training, and mastery.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Pfc. Crystal Druery

If you are ever fortunate to witness a live performance, their synchronized movements and individual expert rifle handling skills will leave you in awe.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Cpl. Tia Dufour

These photos capture moments during their precision performances that show off how awesome they really are.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Cpl. Octavia Davis

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Reina Barnett

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rodion Zabolotniy

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Cpl. Dengrier Baez

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samantha Draughon

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Oscar L Olive IV

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Sgt. Chris Stone

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Oscar L Olive IV

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samantha Draughon

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Cpl. Carolyn Pichardo

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Cpl. Sarah Fiocco

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jacqueline Smith

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alejandro Sierras

BONUS: Now watch one of their performances…

NOW: 7 things ‘Hollywood’ Marines will always remember

OR: 5 problems infantry Marines will understand

Articles

An elite French flying team will hit the skies over the Air Force Academy

A French air force flying team will roar over the Air Force Academy on April 19 to celebrate the nations’ bonds built in the sky during World War I.


Patrouille de France, that nation’s equivalent of the Air Force Thunderbirds, will arrive over the academy about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 19, for a brief air show. It’s a big flying team with eight Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, a twin-engined light attack fighter that’s known for its nimbleness.

“I think folks in Colorado Springs will get a great miniature airshow,” said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, an Air Force Academy spokesman.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
The Patrouille de France flying over Paris during Bastille Day 2015. (Photo by wiki user XtoF)

This year marks the centennial of formal U.S. involvement in World War I, with America declaring war on the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German monarchy on April 6, 1917.

The first Americans to reach the aerial battlefields of France, though, were American airmen of the French air force’s Lafayette Escadrille, a fighter unit with American pilots that was established a year before the United States entered the war.

America’s first flying aces came from the small French unit, including Maj. Gervais Lufberry, who was credited with downing 16 planes before he was killed over Francein 1918.

The relationship built over the trenches between French and American pilots is still celebrated at the Air Force Academy today.

Herritage said the school has a French officer on the faculty and French exchange cadets on the campus. One of the pilots on the French flying team, Maj. Nicolas Lieumont, was an exchange student at the Colorado Springs school.

“We feel lucky to have them stop in Colorado Springs,” Herritage said. “It marks our nation’s longstanding relationship with France.”

The academy is inviting locals to get a better view of the French team. Visitors are welcome at the academy on April 19 and can watch the show from a viewing area near the Cadet chapel.

Intel

Watch a soldier return from Afghanistan to surprise a total stranger

We’ve all seen the military homecoming videos, with a service member returning from overseas to surprise their loved ones.


But what happens when a soldier comes home and surprises a total stranger? Well, not to worry, because the satirical website ClickHole has you covered.

“I think he’s going to be very surprised, because he has no idea that I’m finally back from Afghanistan,” says “Sgt. Luke Brundage,” in the video produced by the one-year-old offshoot of The Onion.

With the look and feel of many familiar homecoming videos, the video hilariously illustrates a very awkward meeting, if something like this ever did occur. Interestingly enough, the actor who portrays Brundage is a Marine veteran, according to The Marine Times.

And while it does have some technical errors (using “soldier” instead of Marine, for instance), it’s still funny as hell. And the actor, Jonah Saesan, had little to do with pointing those out.

“A few people want to focus on the detail,” Saesan told The Times. “I don’t think they understand how little I had to do with the creative process.”

Now watch the video:

NOW: The hilarious ‘Awesome Sh-t my Drill Sergeant Said’ is now in book form

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Here are 5 times bombers beat fighters in aerial combat

When bombers take on fighters without help, five letters tend to describe their end status: T, O, A, S, T. That’s what people tend to think. But that doesn’t always happen. Maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s skill… but there are times when bomber crews accomplished the mission and came back to base, while the fighter jocks (if they were lucky) wondered WTF happened as they rode down in a parachute.


Here are a few times the lumbering beasts bested their fast moving adversaries.

1. May 8, 1942: SBD vs. Zekes

During the Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States deployed Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers in an effort to supplement the combat air patrol of Grumman F4F Wildcats. The plan was for the Wildcats to take on the Mitsubishi A6M Zeke and Aichi D3A Val dive bombers, while the SBDs took on the Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo bombers.

Like all plans, it’s didn’t survive first contact. The Zekes got at the SBDs, and a number of the American dive-bombers were shot down. One SBD pilot, Stanley Vejtasa, managed to kill three Zekes – two with the pair of .50-caliber machine guns in the nose of his plane, and the third by using his SBD to slice off the wing of the enemy fighter.

Vejtasa later flew Wildcats, got a seven kills in one day at the Battle of Santa Cruz, and ended up becoming a test pilot after World War II.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
A SBD Dauntless doing what it does best: Dropping bombs. (US Navy photo)

2. June 16, 1943: Old 666 vs. Zekes

On a reconnaissance mission around Bougainville, prior to the Allied campaign up the Solomon Islands, a B-17E Flying Fortress made a daring solo run to gather photo intel on enemy strength. Named “Old 666,” and under the command of Capt. Jay Zeamer, the bomber got the photos, then was jumped by as many as 17 Zekes.

After a 45-minute engagement that saw at least three Zeros fall, and six of the nine men aboard Old 666 hit by enemy fire, the Zekes gave up. Zeamer and 2nd Lt. Joe Sarnoski both received the Medal of Honor (Sarnoski posthumously), while the other crewmen received Distinguished Service Crosses.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy

3. Spads vs. MiG-17

The A-1 Skyraider was a solid naval strike plane in the Korean War, even carrying out one of America’s last torpedo attacks (albeit on a dam) during that conflict. That said, while Skyraiders could drop just about anything on the enemy, they also had four 20mm cannon that could do bad things to a plane in front of them. One Marine Corps Skyraider even shot down a Po-2 transport plane during the Korean conflict.

But in the Vietnam War, Skyraiders covering rescue missions shot down MiG-17s on two occasions, according to TheAviationist.com. Both times, these strike planes were covering downed pilots. On June 20, 1965, two A-1s shared a MiG-17 kill. On Oct, 9, MiG-17s jumped a flight of Skyraiders, and were really on the wrong end of the fight – the Skyraiders had one confirmed kill, one probable, and heavily damaged a third.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
An A-1 Skyraider in 1966, when four planes assigned to USS Intrepid shot down at least one MiG-17. (US Navy photo)

4. April 19, 1967: F-105 vs. MiG-17

Invented during the Vietnam War, the F-105G Wild Weasel took on the surface-to-air missile sites that were taking a heavy toll on American planes. The F-105 was more of a bomber – and a good one. But it also had a M61 Vulcan and over a thousand rounds of ammo. Joe Baugher notes that the F-105s shot down at least 27 MiGs during the Vietnam War, many using that gun.

On April 19, 1967, Leo Thorsness and Harold Johnson claimed at least one of those MiG-17s while covering efforts to rescue fellow Air Force personnel whose plane had been shot down. Thorsness received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the engagement, which lasted for nearly an hour.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
A MiG-17 is shot down by an F-105D on Jun. 3, 1967 over Vietnam. (Photo: US Air Force)

5. Jan. 17, 1991: EF-111 vs. Mirage F-1

On the opening night of Operation Desert Storm, an EF-111 Raven (often called the “Spark Vark”) was carrying out a jamming mission when an Iraqi Mirage F-1 tried to shoot it down. The Spark Vark’s crew, Capts. James Denton and Brett Brandon, took the fight where the Varks excelled: a terrain-following, high-speed chase.

The Iraqi Mirage pilot made the mistake of trying to follow them, and flew into the ground. It was the first air-to-air kill of the 1991 conflict.

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
General Dynamics EF-111A Raven at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Articles

New report shows vets more civic-minded than non-vets

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy
VA Secretary Robert McDonald listens as Got Your 6 Managing Director Chris Marvin explains the findings of the 2015 Veterans Health Index at the National Press Club.


The veteran community has always shared a general sense of the positive elements of what they brought to their communities as a result of their experiences in uniform, and now a new report has quantified the value of them.

The 2015 Veterans Civic Health Index, created by Got Your Six and a handful of other veteran-focused organizations, was released to the public today at an event at The National Press Club featuring Secretary Robert A. McDonald of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D – Hawaii). Key findings include the following:

  • Veteran volunteers serve an average of 160 hours annually – 25 percent more than non-veteran volunteers.
  • Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to attend community meetings, fix neighborhood problems, and fill community leadership roles.
  • 7 percent of veterans are involved in civic groups compared to just 5.8 percent of non-vets.
  • 48 percent of veteran always vote in elections – 16 percent more than non-veterans.
  • 62.5 percent of veterans trust their neighbors compared to 55.1 percent of non-veterans.

The report defines “civic health” as “a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems” and goes on to say that it impacts local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, among other benefits that strengthen communities.

VA Secretary McDonald wasn’t surprised by the report’s positive findings and attributes the results to veterans’ sense of respect for others over themselves.

“Deep down we all feel a sense of inadequacy which we deal with by associating with others we respect,” he said. “And among veterans there’s always someone who commands more respect than ourselves. If you’re a clerk it’s the infantryman. If you’re an infantryman, it’s the combat veteran. If you’re a combat veteran, it’s the wounded warrior. And if you’re a wounded warrior, it’s the fallen soldier.”

Got Your 6 officials said they released this study as part of their ongoing effort to combat common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America’s returning servicemen and women.

“The civilian population has a misconception that veterans are ‘broken,’ disconnected, and unable to cope with civilian life,” Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin said. “The reality is much more complex.”

The public perceives that veterans are unemployed, homeless, and undereducated, but the report claims that over the past eight years, veterans have consistently earned more than their non-veteran counterparts, that veterans only comprise 8.6 percent of the current homeless population, and that veterans who participate in the GI Bill program complete their degree programs at a similar rate to the general population’s traditional postsecondary student.

“As a combat wounded veteran I’ve experience many different reactions to my service,” Marvin said. “The ones that rub me the wrong way are ones that focus on my deficits or treat me like a charity case. The ones that resonate the most are the ones that challenge me.”

An infographic of the entire report can be seen here.

Now: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015

And: 11 quotes that show the awesomeness of Gen. George Patton 

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The incredible story of Maj. Jim Capers, a Marine hero still fighting for the Medal of Honor

Heroism

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy


Maj. Jim Capers fought valiantly in Vietnam, was severely wounded, and literally became a recruiting poster Marine.

But for more than 40 years, Capers and his supporters have been fighting for an award they believe he was wrongfully denied: The Medal of Honor.

“He was always the last man on the chopper,” former Sgt. Ron Yerman told Marine public affairs in 2010. “I was the second to last man. I’d get aboard and I’d nod. If I didn’t nod, he’d know that all the men weren’t there, and we wouldn’t leave.”

Now Capers’ case is receiving more attention after the publication of the story “The Hero Who Never Was” by former Marine journalist Ethan Rocke in Maxim Magazine. In the story and accompanying video, Rocke gives an excellent account of a Marine who took part in some of the most secretive and dangerous missions of the Vietnam war.

From Maxim:

Within minutes, the dog alerted again, and Capers noticed three NVA soldiers just a few feet away. He opened up on full automatic, dropping all three in a single stroke. Capers’ M16 jammed, but Team Broadminded had already initiated its well-rehearsed contact drill, unleashing a barrage of grenades and bullets as the enemy platoon scrambled. Capers, struggling to unjam his rifle, saw two more NVA soldiers emerge, full tilt in a desperate counterattack. He drew his 9 mm and gunned them down. Then he ordered his men to finish off what remained of the enemy platoon. When the battle was over, at least 20 NVA soldiers lay dead, their corpses obscured beneath a haze of gunpowder and smoke. From the surrounding vegetation, the screams of the wounded rang out.

On the chopper back to Khe Sanh, the team was subdued. “There was no backslapping,” Capers recalls. “For us, death and killing had become business as usual.” They’d be back in the jungle in just a few days.

That was just one story among many. Team Broadminded engaged in numerous combat engagements throughout its time in Vietnam, culminating in the vicious fight that would ultimately earn Capers the Silver Star.

On April 3, 1967 near Phu Lac, a large enemy force ambushed Capers’ nine-man patrol with claymore mines and small arms. They were immediately pinned down, and every member was wounded — including Capers, who took more than a dozen pieces of shrapnel to his abdomen and legs.

“Despite his wounds, Capers directed his team to lay down suppressive fire to gain fire superiority and set up a hasty defense,” reads a Marine Corps news release. “He called for mortar and artillery strikes against the enemy, directed the treatment of the wounded and called for the team’s evacuation, ensuring all his men made it out alive.”

Read more of Capers’ incredible story at Maxim

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