Military working dogs are among the world’s most elite four legged warriors. Serving side by side with U.S. troops since World War II these brave animals have saved thousands of lives and earned their stripes by performing as critical military assets. But before they ever patrol a base or go on a combat mission they must meet the very high standards of military dogs.
These are 11 steps to turning a puppy into a badass military working dog:
1. Breeding Procurement
The Department of Defense acquires puppies from breeders overseas as well as in the United States, but many now come from DoD’s own military working dog breeding program at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. Established in 1998, the DoD’s state of the art whelping facility has dedicated “puppy development specialists” who take care of them until they are about 8-10 weeks old.
2. Fostering Program
If you live within two hours of Lackland and meet certain requirements you could qualify to foster a future K9 hero. The foster program allows the dogs to have a normal puppyhood by being exposed to different environments and become socially sound. Volunteer foster families take great pride in raising the puppies, like the one pictured above. See if you qualify to foster a puppy by clicking here.
3. Selection Evaluation
The dog will return to Lackland when he or she is around 7 months old and go through puppy training. In the same way civilians must be screened by military recruiters to see if they are a fit for the armed services, the puppies are evaluated to see if they display the attributes needed of military working dogs. If they don’t get selected to move on they may still qualify to be used at another agency or they will be adopted out.
4. Dog Training School
The few dogs selected go to Dog Training School, the military working dog boot camp. The dog trainers at DTS are experienced handlers from all military branches, and for many it’s a dream job to get assigned there. The entire mission of DTS is to train and certify dogs in the fundamentals of being an MWD. Each dog is different but typically they will be at DTS anywhere from 4 – 7 months. The head trainers will then assess the dog’s ability in detection and patrol work. Even here dogs can fail and wash out of the program. Some wash outs become training dogs for brand new handlers going through basic handlers course. The dogs who pass earn the coveted title of military working dog — but they are still not mission-ready.
5. Base assignment
Each newly-minted MWD will get orders to a kennels at a U.S. military base around the world. Normally, a MWD will work his or her entire career at one base.
6. Handler assigned
Every kennel in the military has a kennel master in charge of all operations of the unit. Once a new MWD arrives the kennel master will assign a handler. Now the MWD has finally been partnered with their first MWD handler, and the real training begins.
7. Obedience Training
Simply because a handler and MWD are assigned to each other does not mean they can function as a team yet by any means. The dog needs to learn to trust and respect the handler, and that starts with obedience training — the foundation of all good MWD teams. Handlers give basic obedience commands followed by lots of praise, and the team starts to create trust, mutual respect, and an overall bond.
8. Patrol Training
MWD’s have an innate drive to pursue (and bite) bad guys. Once a dog team has established a foundation of trust, allowing the MWD to do patrol training helps strengthen that trust while also creating in the MWD a sense of protection over the handler, and it keeps the MWD’s morale high.
9. Detection Training
While a few MWD’s won’t be certified in patrol, every MWD must be certified in detection as it is the primary mission of an MWD team. A dog’s nose can detect up to 10,000 – 100,000 times better than a human’s, they just need guidance on how to properly maximize their gifted olfactory skills. While each MWD is trained to detect either explosives or narcotics by the time they graduate DTS, handlers must train with them to learn each dog’s specific behavior when they pick up a scent.
10. Train, Train, Train
Every single day dog teams must train. Whether it’s patrol work, detection, or simple obedience they must develop an unbreakable bond in which they fully trust one another with their lives. In order for a dog team to work efficiently they must both be good, not one or the other. In the same way an infantryman must know his weapon inside and out and maintain it every single day, a handler must train, groom, and know everything about his or her MWD. Once the kennel master feels confident the team can work effectively together, an official MWD team certification is scheduled.
11. Dog team certification
To be certified as an official MWD team and granted authority to operate as one, the kennel master puts together a real-life detection training scenario that involves all of the odors the MWD is trained to detect. The commanding officer of the unit must be present and personally witness the MWD team successfully locate every odor. Once complete, they become an official military working dog team. And any handler will tell you that handling a military working dog is not only a tremendous responsibility but also a lifetime honor.
One of the most challenging parts of deployment for many soldiers is being away from friends and family. Soldiers and family members alike often lean on others who share a similar experience during long periods apart.
But one family in the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team is sharing an experience here to make deployment just a little bit easier.
Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, both assigned to Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed to Kuwait recently from Fort Hood, Texas, for nine months in support of U.S. Army Central.
Wolfe, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, began her Army career as an enlisted lab technician 24 years ago.
“I had two sisters who were in the Army,” she said. “I followed them in. In a family of nine, we couldn’t afford college, so I had to do something to be able to get some kind of college education, and that was the way.”
As far back as she can remember, she said, she wanted to be a nurse. “It’s just something I wanted to get into to help people,” she added.
That aspiration propelled her through her career, taking advantage of educational opportunities in an effort to make her dream a reality. “I tried to get into the nursing program,” she said. “When I was a lab tech instructor in San Antonio, I put in my packet three times for the nursing program.”
After 17 years of enlisted service and multiple attempts, the frustrated sergeant first class decided to try something different.
“So I put in a packet to the [physician assistant] program, got picked up the first time, so I figured that was my calling, and I’ve been doing that since 2009,” she said.
Meanwhile, Wolfe was raising a family. Her son, Kameron Wideman, was born in 1996 at her first duty station in Fort Lewis, Washington. Brought up in a devoted military household, it was no surprise when he enlisted in the Army, Wolfe said.
“I was good in school, but I didn’t take it seriously enough, but the Army was always my fallback plan,” said Wideman, a behavioral health technician. “I initially wanted to join just so I could help people. That’s why I got into the medical field.”
Meanwhile, Wolfe and Wideman are tending to the physical and mental well-being of the soldiers deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Wolfe said that while her focus is on her job and taking care of the soldiers, the mom in her can’t help but feel some of the same concerns stateside parents feel about having a child deployed.
“As a mother, you still have that deep-down concern of ‘What if something happens to my baby? What am I going to do?'” she said. “But I can’t let him see that, because I need him to focus on his job and what I need him to do, and that’s to provide mental health, which is something that is very much needed in this day and age.”
Wideman said he enjoys having his mother right down the road. “I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m blessed to have her with me.”
Although Wideman has served only two years in the Army, he is no stranger to the deployment experience from a family member’s perspective. His mother, father, and stepfather all serve on active duty.
“All three of my parents have deployed at some point,” he said. “It was tough as a little kid saying goodbye to your parents. When you’re little, you tend to have a big imagination. You’re thinking, ‘Oh no! I’m probably never going to see my parents again,’ because you’re little, and you’re in your own head about it.”
But the experience of being the kid who was left behind didn’t prepare him to actually be deployed himself, he said.
“I still didn’t really know what deployment was,” he said. “It was like this random place that my parents were going to for like a year and then coming back. I didn’t really know how to picture where they were.”
Thankfully, he said, he had a source close to home to answer his questions.
“I had the normal questions like, ‘How are we going to be living?” and me being a millennial, ‘Is there going to be Internet?’ and things like that,” he said.
Wolfe and her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Wolfe, a company first sergeant at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, help mentor Wideman through his Army career with advice and guidance.
Drive, Motivation, Discipline
Echoes of the same drive, motivation, dedication and discipline that exemplify Wolfe’s career path are evident in Wideman’s.
“We cross paths every now and then,” she said. “I don’t see him all the time. I let Kameron be Kameron. We are passionate about the military. This is our Army. My husband is a first sergeant, and I used to be an E-7 before I switched over, so that leadership is instilled in both of us, and that comes out in the way we raise our kids — the leadership, the discipline, the morale, the ethics, everything. This is the way you’re supposed to live.”
Wolfe said she often finds herself giving the same advice to her soldiers that she gives to her son.
“Get all you can out of the military, because it’s going to get all it can out of you, and that was my insight coming up,” Wolfe said.
“I don’t know how many colleges I went to, because I needed classes. I went to school all the time, and I was just taking advantage of the opportunities that were out there. That’s what I tell all my soldiers coming up in the military. You have to take advantage of it. No one’s going to give it to you. You have to go and get it.”
The British battleship HMS Rodney stands out just by looking at her photo.
She and her sister ship, HMS Nelson, had a unique design — their entire main battery forward of their superstructure.
The Rodney took part in the bombardment of the Normandy beaches during the initial stages of Operation Overlord, capping off a wartime career that also included taking on the German battleship Bismarck.
It was during the final battle with the Bismarck that HMS Rodney would achieve a unique distinction among battleships — as the only one to torpedo another battleship. How did this come about? In fact, torpedoes seem like an odd thing to put on a battleship, especially as MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Nelson-class battleships had nine 16-inch guns.
But HMS Rodney was equipped with two 24.5-inch torpedo tubes with a number of reloads.
These torpedoes could pack quite a punch. According to NavWeaps.com, they carried 743 pounds of TNT and could travel at a top speed of 35 knots and a maximum range of 20,000 yards. In other words, it could ruin just about any warship’s day.
That can be very useful for a ship in combat.
Why? Because sometimes, battleships fought at close quarters. For instance, the Battle of Tsushima Strait was fought at very close range, according to WeaponsandWarfare.com. In that case, a torpedo would have a good chance of scoring a hit.
Even if the torpedoes were fired at a longer range, an opponent would have to dodge them, and that might allow for a tactical advantage because even though battleships are tough, their captains don’t want to take a torpedo hit if they can help it.
The Nelson-class batt;eships in front of HMS Revenge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
On May 27, 1941, when the Brits caught up to the Bismarck the Rodney closed in, firing numerous broadsides at the Bismarck. According to a report by an American observer, at one point, the commander of the Home Fleet, Sir John Tovey, ordered the Rodney to fire her torpedoes if possible. About 2.5 hours later, one of the Rodney’s torpedoes scored a hit on the German battleship.
Ultimately, the Bismarck would be sunk by torpedoes from the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire. The Rodney would go on to serve in the Royal Navy until she was scrapped in 1949. But she always holds the distinction of being the only battleship to torpedo another battleship.
Women led armies and nations, won battles, and fought wars to their very end. From Boudica’s repeated victories over Roman legions and Joan of Arc’s relief of Orléans to Mary Walker joining Sherman’s March to the Sea, women have a military legacy as old and storied as any. Here are a few modern women who stood up when the call came.
1. Margarita Neri – Mexico
Neri was a soldadera, a female soldier of the Mexican Revolution who traveled alongside the men. Most of the soldaderas only traveled with their husbands and didn’t fight, instead tending to the needs of their husbands. Margarita Neri was not one of these women.
She commanded more than 1,000 women in 1910 as her unit swept through Tabasco and Chiapas looting, burning, and killing. These were not unusual events in such a war, except this group’s commander was a woman who carried a bloody machete and vowed to decapitate longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz.
After a while, her bloody reputation would come to precede her. The ruthless nature of that reputation prompted the governor of Guerrero to smuggle himself out of town once he heard she was approaching.
After the war ended, the soldaderas returned to their homes without recognition of their contributions or pensions for the veterans. Many died homeless and destitute.
2. Marie Marvingt – France
If ever there were a Jane Of All Trades, it was Marie Marvingt. Raised in the Lorraine area of France, she was a champion shooter, athlete, and aviation pioneer. She is the godmother of aeromedical evacuation, developing the concept of air ambulances before World War I.
When World War I broke out, she disguised herself as a man and served as a front line soldier in France. After being discovered and sent home, she was requested by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to join an Italian mountain regiment in the Southern Alps.
In 1915, she became the first female combat pilot ever when she began flying bombing missions on German bases and in German-held territory. The interwar years saw her working as a journalist and war correspondent. While in Morocco, she invented a metal ski method for landing airplanes on sand.
During WWII, she formed a nurses parachute unit, who would drop nurses into combat zones when weather wouldn’t permit air ambulances to land. When France fell, she became a member of the Maquis – the core of the French Resistance.
3. Sabiha Gökçen – Turkey
Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot, and some believe she was the first female combat pilot, though that claim is disputed. What isn’t disputed is her childhood as one of eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey.
As such, she was able to learn to fly in Russia. Though she was not able to attend the Turkish War College, Kemal, as her patron, ensured she received an education in combat operations anyway at the Turkish Military Aviation Academy.
Gökçen later wrote “Atatürk tested her by asking her to press a gun against her head and pull the trigger” and “she did not flinch.” It was this unflinching devotion which put her in the Easter regions of the country. She provided close air support to Turkish troops suppressing what would come to be called the Dersim Rebellion. Gökçen personally bombed the home of the insurgent leader, killing him and many of his lieutenants.
She would spend much of her career training pilots as an officer in the Turkish Air Force.
4. Lyudmila Pavlichenko – Soviet Union (Ukraine)
Hell hath no fury like a Ukrainian woman scorned by Nazis. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, a senior at Kiev University volunteered to join the Red Army infantry, declined being placed as a nurse, and opted to be a sniper instead, despite the staggering 75 percent loss rate for female snipers.
In her audition to be a sniper, she had to target two Romanians aiding Germans on a hill near the front. After she picked the two off, she was accepted, but did not tally the Romanians into her final kill count because “they were test shots.”
By the end of 1942, Pavilchenko had 309 confirmed kills, including 36 counter-sniper wins. She was wounded four times, including shrapnel wounds to the face. She was so successful, the Germans tried to bribe her with chocolate and a commission to defect and join the German army. When that didn’t work, they threatened to tear her to 309 pieces.
She wasn’t afraid. Pavilchenko was elated to know the Germans were keeping track. On a tour in the US to foster public opinion for the allies opening a second European front, Pavilchenko described her feelings on her daily life as a sniper as “uncomplicated,” remarking: “dead Germans are harmless.”
Compared to previous American conflicts U.S. military medicine drastically reduced the number deaths due to injury during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that success doesn’t mean the profession is done innovating. Here are eight ways military medicine is trying to improve the ability to save lives:
1. Wound-stabilizing foam that reduces bleeding
Bleeding out is still the number one killer on the battlefield, according to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research. So, DARPA has worked multiple programs to treat this major killer in combat.
One program success is ClotFoam. The foam works by seeking out damaged tissue, especially cut tissue fibers, and binding to it. It forms a scaffold that the body’s natural clotting agents can then latch to as they would with a cotton bandage. Different formulations of ClotFoam have been tested with the best reducing blood loss in mice by 66 percent when compared to a control group. DARPA is now looking to test delivery mechanisms for ClotFoam.
The Army wants systems that can be mounted inside vehicles and hooked up to existing radios, allowing patient information to go directly to the doctor who will receive them at the hospital. The doctor will also be able to call to the medic, advising on treatment while the patient is evacuated off the battlefield. This could allow for better care for patients en route to the hospital as well as a smoother handoff between the medic and the doctor. Prototypes have already been tested.
3. A chair that monitors vitals
Of course, beaming the information from patients to doctors with telemedicine is great, but currently it would require a medic to speak or type the information into a computer. The Army is looking to take that task off medics’ hands by adapting the LifeBed into a chair for military air and ground ambulances. The chair would track patients’ respiratory and heart rates and alert a medic if they showed signs of trouble. The medic would be able to spend less time checking on already stable soldiers and more time treating new patients as they evacuate casualties.
4. Active bandages that reduce scaring and improve recovery
Navy researchers are looking at bandages that would actively assist in the recovery process. The bandages would contain antibiotics, growth factors, and other agents to reduce scar tissue formation, recovery time, and the chance of infection.
5. Reducing pressure ulcers
Pressure ulcers, more often known as bed sores, develop when skin is under pressure or rubbed for an extended period of time. Patients immobilized for transport will likely develop pressure ulcers if restrained against a hard surface like a backboard. The Army is beginning a study to see how to mitigate the infliction.
Service members evacuated from combat are commonly at risk for spinal damage, and so are often immobilized for transport. Understanding pressure ulcer formation will allow the military to reduce the number of ulcers that form and cut down on the resulting infections and discomfort.
6. Better treatments following shock from blood loss
The exact problem valproic acid therapy treats is kind of complicated, so bear with this very dumbed down explanation. There is a stage of treatment following major blood loss where the return of normal blood pressure leads to major medical complications. Tissue that has been starved of blood and oxygen can quickly inflame and release toxins when blood flow is restored. Currently, this is mitigated by the timing of how blood and other fluids are returned to the body.
The significance of new vaccines is obvious. New vaccines allow humans to be made resistant to more potential killers. The Army currently has three new vaccines in its sights, one each for malaria, norovirus, and dengue.
Following brain trauma or damage to the skull, some patients have to have a portion of skull removed and later replaced by an implant made of titanium or polymers. Currently, these implants are prone to infection.
The Navy is looking to reduce the number of infections after implantation by developing new surface materials that have different textures and nano particle coatings that release chemicals to prevent infection. This would reduce the number of follow-up surgeries a patient would need and lower recovery time.
When Poto Liefi awoke on September 11, 2001 he wasn’t thinking about being a soldier or going to war. He was a 38-year-old commercial artist working in Los Angeles, and he had just helped launch a new Sketchers shoe campaign for Target.
Poto was good at what he did and enjoyed the work.
After Poto pivoted from fine arts to commercial arts – a few years out of art school – he went from working on clothing and backpack lines to designing shoes.
“I learned how to create a product line,” he said. “And I also learned where my work fit relative to the entire product line.”
He followed his work for Sketchers with a line of hiking boots that, in turn, turned into Taos footwear, a women’s shoe company.
Then the World Trade Center towers fell, and the Pentagon was hit.
He decided to join the Army. Most of his colleagues in the designer world thought he was crazy. Even his recruiter – after visiting his expansive glass office – asked why he was leaving a comfortable world behind.
“I wasn’t satisfied with work anymore,” Poto said. “I had the news going all the time, and I felt a sense of responsibility to do something.”
The maximum age for recruits had just been upped from 34 to 42 when Poto showed up to Fort Jackson for basic training as a 38 year-old recruit. “I lucked out big time,” he said.
After boot camp he was given a 25M Multimedia Illustrator designation. “At first I thought it was stupid to get paid peanuts for the same job I was doing on the outside,” he said. “But after I did the research I saw there was a lot more to it.”
Poto was assigned to 304th Psychological Operations Company, and in 2008 he deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. He immediately put his skills to work on posters, billboards, and web content.
“I was surprised at what we were able to do with the proper messaging,” he said. “We actually had campaigns, branding the Iraqi Security Forces. We were getting a good, consistent message on the streets, and getting locals to rally around an ideology.”
He returned to the U.S. at the end of 2008. Less than a year and a half later he was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan with the 344th Psychological Operations Company.
“Just as I’d sold Iraq to the Iraqis I had to sell Afghanistan to Afghans.”
Part of the time Poto worked with the Australian Army based in Uruzgan, and there he realized they needed to deviate from the standard Army playbook to be effective.
“We had to take our military goggles off,” he said. “We weren’t the only media outlet the locals were exposed to.”
But in spite of the challenges Poto believes they accomplished their mission. He sums up his experience at war with a simple thought: “Pride shows.”
He returned home in March of 2011, a 43-year-old corporal ready to transition back to the civilian workforce. But it was anything but a smooth process. Reintegration was tough in spite of his pre-military work experience, a circumstance he blames on his age and the stigma of post traumatic stress. It took him three years to find a full-time job.
He finally landed a job as a supply chain manager at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona, California.
Poto’s transition advice to veterans following him back to the civilian side is straightforward: “Never feel entitled,” he said. “Be thankful, be respectful, and be real still.”
At the same time he held fast to his creative side. One day he took the image of a soldier who’d fallen in Iraq – PFC Corrina Lau – and superimposed it into a classic war poster. The result was powerful and immediate.
“I got very emotional reactions from the first people I showed the artwork to,” Poto said. “They said things like, ‘This is alive.'”
Poto did similar artwork for the families of other fallen warriors, and the response compelled him to brand the effort “Freedom’s On Me.”
“Freedom’s On Me is a way to keep the legacies of these service members alive,” Poto explains. “These are people that were in the military, not a bunch of robots.”
Comedy greats Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby, Drew Carey, and Rob Riggle all started their working lives in the military, and all of them have credited their service for giving them unique perspectives that shaped their routines or approaches to roles they played. And now a new generation of veterans are finding success in comedy.
Here are 15 veterans currently making names for themselves on stages and elsewhere around the country:
1. Julia Lillis
Julia is a Naval Academy graduate who has had great success as a stand up comedian and writer. She has appeared on E! and MTV and is a recurring guest on the Dennis Miller show. Julia has also done multiple tours entertaining the troops overseas.
2. James Connolly
James is a veteran of Desert Storm and Harvard graduate. He has appeared on VH1, HBO, Comedy Central, and is one of the most played comedians on Sirius XM. In addition, he has done multiple tours entertaining the troops and holds an annual “Cocktails and Camouflage” comedy show that raises money for veterans organizations.
3. Jose Sarduy
Jose is currently an aviator in the Air Force reserves. He’s made a big impact with comedy festivals, has toured overseas with the GI’s of Comedy, and currently co-hosts NUVOtv’s “Stand up and Deliver.”
Jon is a veteran of the Army infantry and founder of Operation Comedy, recruiting some of the biggest comedians in the industry to give free shows to veterans at signature venues like the Improv in Hollywood.
6. Justin Wood
An Army veteran turned stand up comic, Justin has performed at major venues throughout Los Angeles, toured with the GI’s of Comedy, and founded “Comics that Care” recruiting comedians to perform for homeless veterans. He recently made a viral satire video of him committing “stolen valor” (posted above).
7. Benari Poulten
Benari is currently a Master Sergeant in the Army Reserve and a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As a comic he has toured with the GI’s of Comedy and was hired this year as a writer on “The Nightly Show” with Larry Wilmore.
8. Shawn Halpin
After serving in the Marine Corps infantry, Halpin has had success as a comedian opening for Pauley Shore, Tom Green, and as a regular at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood. He has entertained the troops performing with Operation Comedy, GI’s of Comedy, and Comics on Duty.
9. PJ Walsh
After serving in the Navy, Walsh has shared the stage with many comedy greats including Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. He has performed for troops in several countries including Iraq and Afghanistan and is committed to raising funds for veteran organizations.
10. Jody Fuller
Fuller currently serves as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve with three tours overseas. His performance highlights include a opening gig in front of comedy great Jeff Foxworthy.
11. Will C
Will C served in the Marine Corps, Army, and the Air Force. He has had great success as a comedian touring across the country and has appeared in numerous television roles. He founded The Veterans of Comedy, a group that tours nationally to entertain active duty military and veterans.
12. Tom Irwin
A U.S. Army veteran, Tom’s success as a comedian includes an invitation to perform at The White House. He has done multiple tours overseas entertaining troops and created a “25 Days in Iraq” show about his tour in Iraq.
13. Erik Knowles
Knowles is a Marine Corps veteran turned stand up who was a finalist at the California Comedy Festival and The World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas. He has worked with Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis and also tours with The Veterans of Comedy.
14. Katie Robinson
Katie is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns where she worked as a chem-bio-radiation officer. Known as “Comedy Katie” she is a regular at The World FamousComedy Store in Hollywood and won critical acclaim at MiniFest: Los Angeles.
They had just completed a punishing land navigation course up in the mountains east of San Diego during heavy snowfall. They lost another four students from cold casualties and poor navigation skills that had resulted in them getting lost in the snowy mountains after dusk. Now the 28 students were headed out to “The Rock” at San Clemente island 80 miles off the coast of California.
On the Rock, they would learn basic marksmanship skills, weapons cleaning and breakdown, how to build electric and standard demolition charges, small unit tactics, and then do all that in and out of the water. It was basically pre-school for what was coming when they would graduate and go on to the three months of SEAL tactical training and then onto more core training in their SEAL platoons.
Everything got tougher on the Rock. The class worked with bare minimum sleep, three-four hours a night, and was expected to be sharp on the firing line and demolition range.
Everyone was fired up and they could taste graduation: it was so close but so far away.
The students were mentally tough, their minds were honed razor-sharp like a blade. They could take almost anything at this point. And the instructors knew that they had essentially created Godzillas in the closet who were banging to be let out.
Olga and JJ were the top shooters in the class. It didn’t matter what weapon system, be it the HK.45, M4, or M60, they were deadly accurate, much to the surprise of their class.
The first time Olga felt the rumble of the big M60 in her hands she was hooked, like a heroin addict after shooting up dope for the first time, she couldn’t get enough. “I’m in love with this fucking machine gun,” she’d said to herself.
But she, JJ, and the rest of the class would face one of their biggest challenges in the weeks to come.
Every day, every minute, was a test for them. They were pushed harder and harder. The instructors knew they had to mold them into hardened steel because life in the Teams was harder.
“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.”
Olga also loved this small remote California island off the coast of San Diego, a shame that she had to share it with the wannabe environmentalists that were more interested in sucking off the Navy and justifying their existence than they were about protecting local species.
When Olga stepped off the plane she could smell the musty odor of kelp and sea salt in the air. Looking down the declining slope off the runway she could see the dark shaded blue of the Pacific Ocean and the tip of the SEAL training base, the obstacle course, and the rifle range with smoke coming from the demo range.
The north side of the Rock and the northwest harbor was owned by Naval Special Warfare. It housed the BUD/S camp and the advanced training camp where the SEAL Teams rotated in and out. The SEALs had a demolition range, a 1,000-yard rifle, and pistol range just north of the runway, and the rough Pacific to play in. Northwest harbor was also home to a small seal lion habitat which attracted the “man in the grey suit,” as the instructors liked to remind the students. Sharks… and big ones.
To the south, there was a small town that housed mostly a few air traffic controllers, support personnel, and some Navy contractors. It had the island’s main pier, a chow hall, a small store, and “The Salty Crab”, a local restaurant and bar.
The main road ran down the center of the island, winding up and down small hills. The backside of the island to the south had incredibly jagged cliffs which the SEALs used to practice climbing, large surf operations, and rugged beach entries.
It was not for the faint of heart. San Clemente “The Rock,” 80-0miles off the California coastline was the perfect place for SEALs to train.
San Clemente was also used by the pilot community that practiced bombing runs on the south side of the island and landings and approaches on the main runway. The SEALs had the run of the island which was mostly barren with the exception of small shrubbery, cactus, and the island fox which was still hanging on despite the best efforts of the environmentalists to “fix” the delicate ecosystem. Their fixes turned into one fuck up after another.
Olga overheard the instructors talking at lunch one day about how the Navy-contracted environmentalists had decided that the snowy plover bird needed more food supply so they started hauling in mice. Soon the mice had overtaken the island and were threatening the local human population because they carried a strain of Hantavirus called “Sin Nombre.”
The “Envirotards” brought in cats by the boatload and soon the cats had taken over, eaten most of the mice, and the snowy plover’s food supply. Then contractors were brought to the island to hunt and shoot the cats at night with big spotlights.
The whole thing was a fucking mess.
Olga believed in protecting the environment. She had heard the nightmare stories from her grandmother about the nuclear meltdown of Cherynobl and how it destroyed so many lives. But, she agreed with the instructors who mentioned they should have just shot the environmentalists if they really wanted to solve the problem.
The town was off-limits to the students. Just as well for Olga who was a huge cat lover and would have loved to punch one of the envirotards in the nose. It was better if she stayed on her side of the island, she thought.
Today she was excited because the class was shooting for expert pistol and rifle qualification. Olga was sure she’d have no problem but that didn’t make her less nervous.
The pistol qualification was first. She shot the Sig Sauer P226 9mm and scored near perfect.
Next was the M4 rifle qual. This was a little more challenging because the wind howled on the north end of the island and sometimes the air that blew up from the ocean swirled around the jagged rocks and found its way up to the range in gusts. All this meant that even at 200 yards it could affect the bullet a few inches even if the shooter was holding perfect iron sight focus.
Olga timed the gusts. At the bottom of her exhalations, she unloaded the full magazine.
She felt good about the rifle test.
She and Ty were the top shooters in the class and she felt compelled to remind her classmates that evening at chow, how most of the top snipers in combat were women so there should be no surprise.
“You’re insane but I like your kind of insane Olga,” said Wedge at the dining hall.
A few of their classmates were outside on the cold metal tables nicknamed “Seaport Village.” The real Seaport Village was along the bay’s edge in downtown San Diego and had shops and outdoor restaurants. Her classmates didn’t meet the minimum pull-up requirements to eat dry or had cheated with half-empty water canteens. Now they had to do 20 dead hang pull-ups with full kit, any less and it was a trip down to the beach.
She liked Wedge because he led by example. So few leaders do this, Olga thought.
They were so close to graduation but it seemed so far away on this crazy rock off the California coast.
Bryan Sperry left college football at Kansas State to serve in World War II. At 19, he was an infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, Sperry returned to the game. He played football in England for a short period before making it back to the states and playing for Kansas University. He and the KU team went on to play in the 1948 Orange Bowl and only lost one game, the Orange Bowl, that whole season.
On April 25, KU held an alumni scrimmage with players from the 1948 team and Sperry, 70 years after his last KU appearance, scored an over 30-yard touchdown. The video of the touchdown is below. For the full story, check out the article in the Kansas City Star.
Creative endeavors can be quite helpful for wounded warriors, and Marine veteran Shane Kohfield is a prime example.
Kohfield, a former Marine infantry machine-gunner, deployed twice to Iraq and now suffers from post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury. But his wounds didn’t hold him back. One day, he thought: “I am going to become a painter.”
And paint, he did. Though he has only painted for about 8 months, Kohfield has already sold a few of his works, for anywhere from $500 to $2500. “I started doing this for something to do and then I felt the raw emotion,” he told KGW-Portland.
Kohfield uses an interesting method to create his abstract paintings, first spray painting across his canvas and then using a spatula to blend the colors. His technique developed out of necessity, since his trembling hand prevented him from using a normal paint brush, according to KGW-Portland.
WATM asked Kohfield some questions about his artwork and how it has helped him cope with his injuries. Here is what he said (lightly edited for clarity):
We Are The Mighty: How did you get into art? What inspired you to start painting?
Shane Kohfield: I had just gone through a horrible divorce and at the same time I had my second TBI (back in the states, while on duty). I got into woodworking because my dad had sent me some tools for Christmas one year. My start with painting honestly came from a completely impulsive move on my part because I was driving home from school one day and this thought literally went through my head, as I say again, literally as follows “I am going to become a painter.”
I went to the arts and crafts store and bought all the supplies that I thought I needed and I went home and painted my first painting and less than a week later I sold it for nearly $2,000. Less than three weeks after starting painting, my paintings were being sold in an art gallery. I have only been painting for 8 months but what I have done since then is much cooler than that.
I am actually actively helping people with my art as well as actively helping veterans. Painting has changed my life and even though I could sell my paintings easily for thousands, I never sell a painting at a price people can’t honestly afford. Even if it means I only sell it to them at the cost of painting it.
WATM: How has art helped you cope with your injuries?
SK: Art gives me a way to express myself in ways I haven’t been able to before. I have written poetry once or twice and people have told me my poems have brought them to tears. I certainly never expected to hear that about my paintings but I have now it’s truly an amazing feeling.
I know my story is an impossible one but I have gotten enough news coverage for you to believe it’s true, and I believe all people — especially veterans — have their own version of painting. They all have this hidden talent they never knew existed but they refuse to take the chance to try something new, to expect to suck at something but give it 100 percent like you are going to be God’s gift to whatever you are about to attempt.
There are people who always have that attitude at things in life but they refuse to see what they can’t do because they fool themselves. If you can be honest and see what you can’t do, it allows you to move onto something you can do. I tried many different types of art before I found one that I was truly good at.
WATM: Would you recommend art therapy to other wounded warriors?
SK: I would not recommend art to veterans. It’s a thing with therapists: They recommend this, and they recommend that, and all of us have gone to them and they really haven’t helped us much.
What I truly recommend is to ignore what others think, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, emotionally, mentally, physically or financially — including yourself — and do what makes you happy. Find something that makes you complete, and at the end of the day, something that leaves you thinking about what you just did and not what you did in the past or what you saw in the past.
It doesn’t matter if its theater or squatting 400lbs, if its something you can take pride in again, something that gives you purpose again, and it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else then isn’t it worth pursuing regardless of what other people would think?
You don’t need art to cope. You need pride in what you currently do. You need a purpose and you need a work ethic to make it happen.
By lucky coincidence, two U.S. special forces operational detachments, each with approximately 13 men, were training in Nepal when the 7.8-magnitude quake hit on April 25. Both teams switched from training to actual operations. The first, training on Mt. Everest, began rendering medical aid and providing humanitarian assistance. The other, which had been training in the jungle near the capital, began coordinating medical response to the mass casualty event. Both teams are working closely with Nepalese forces.
See the full article at SOFREP.com where, in addition to the hard news, a former special forces team member gives a breakdown of what each team member would likely be responsible for in the coming days.
A new short film created by the U.S. Air Force has been nominated for an Emmy Award.
Produced by Airman Magazine, the two-minute video captures the harrowing challenges airmen face during SERE training. “The Perfect Edge” compares the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program that airmen undergo to the process of forging a survival knife, and the parallel is visually striking.
It features real footage of participants engaging in the intense wilderness survival and physical training exercises at SERE, along with narration by Senior Airman Joseph Collett, an instructor at the school.