A top U.S. Army Futures Command leader told Congress recently that the service will field its new, binocular-style night-vision goggles, one year after the previously announced fielding date.
“In six months, we will be putting in the hands of soldiers a night-vision goggle that is 5X,” said Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, describing the improvement of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-B over the night-vision gear soldiers currently carry.
The new ENVG-B — which features a dual-tube technology that equips soldiers with infrared and thermal capability — is scheduled to go to an armored brigade combat team in October before the unit leaves for a rotation to South Korea, Army modernization officials told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee on April 16, 2019.
The Army first announced in February 2018 that it had funded the ENVG effort in the fiscal 2019 budget to give infantry and other close-combat soldiers greater depth perception than the current monocular-styled ENVGs and AN/PVS-14s.
Richardson did not mention that the proposed ENVG-B fielding had been delayed by a year.
Military.com reached out to Army Futures Command for an explanation of the delay but did not receive a response by press time.
Richardson praised the new ENVG-B’s ability to project the soldier’s sight reticle in front of the firing eye, day or night — a feature that has vastly improved marksmanship, he said.
“I have used the goggle. I have shot with the goggle, and it is better than anything I have experienced in my Army career,” he said.
Subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said most civilians think that the Army’s night-vision goggles are the “size and probably the weight of a quarter, maybe a silver dollar.”
“Could you explain to us the difference of weight and shape of this next generation of night-vision goggles versus what our troops have been using?” he asked.
Richardson said the new ENVG-B is “lighter than the goggles that we have today, even though it is dual-tubed versus monocular.”
(U.S. Army photo)
Currently, most soldiers still use the AN/PVS-14. The Army began fielding the first generation of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle in 2009. The ENVG technology consists of a traditional infrared image intensifier, similar to the PVS-14, and a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display.
IVAS is meant to replace the service’s Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a high-tech digital system designed to let soldiers view their weapon sight reticle and other key tactical information through a pair of protective glasses, rather than goggles.
“You are able to train and rehearse that mission with a set of glasses,” Richardson said. “The tubes have gone away; it’s embedded in the glasses, which will significantly reduce the weight of where we are going.
“We believe in the next two years we will put the IVAS system on soldiers, beginning in the fourth quarter of 2022,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Necessity is the mother of invention — and war is often the catalyst. Sure, we can look at all of the obvious military advancements that trickled down to the civilian sector, like fixed-winged aircraft, GPS, the microwave, and the can opener, but it’s a little-known fact that a lot of contemporary American foods also got their start on the battlefield.
The doughnut, one of the most American deserts known to man, got its start when troops needed a tactical desert to get their minds off the horrors of WWI.
Looks just like the line at your local Krispy Kreme — some things never change.
During WWI, the Salvation Army actually deployed overseas with the troops, offering a wide variety of support for the troops. This support ranged from preparing home-cooked meals to sending money back home to sewing their uniforms when needed. The organization was entirely independent from the Armed Forces, but they followed units around the battlefield — oftentimes going to the front lines with them.
Two women assigned to assist the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, Ensign Helen Purviance and Ensign Margaret Sheldon, endured the hellish environment of Monte-sur-Soux, France, just as the soldiers did. It rained for thirty days and supplies were running thin. They needed to come up with something — anything — to boost the abysmal morale.
They searched the countryside for ingredients and came back with eggs, milk, yeast, sugar, and a bit of vanilla. Perfect ingredients to make a cake, but that wouldn’t be enough for all the troops. They made some dough, used a wine bottle to work it, and cooked the cake batter on a frying pan in some grease. They served it up — and the soldiers loved it.
Soldiers would gather from all around when they smelled the doughnuts being cooked. It was said that the lines were so long that troops would miss duty or formation because they just wanted a single doughnut. One soldier eventually asked Ensign Purvaince, “can’t you make a doughnut with a hole in it?” She obliged this request by cutting the middle of the doughnut out with an empty condensed milk can and used the rest of the batter for other doughnuts.
Doughnuts quickly spread across the U.S. front and other Salvation Army officers started making them for the troops in their care. It didn’t take long for the women making the sweets to be given the nickname of “doughnut girls” or “doughnut lassies” — despite the numerous other ways in which they aided troops.
So, when National Doughnut Day rolls around on the first Friday of June, know that it’s about more than the glazed treat you used to cheat on your diet this morning. It’s a day in honor of the women who served on the front-lines with the troops, preparing tasty treats in hopes of cheering them up.
To learn more about Doughnut Girls or real meaning behind National Doughnut Day, check out the video below.
The US is officially withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia due to alleged violations of the 1987 pact by Moscow, the Trump administration said Feb. 1, 2019
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the withdrawal after a series of tense conversations with the Russians failed to save the agreement, which dates from the closing years of the Cold War.
“Countries must be held accountable when they break the rules,” Pompeo said at the Department of State. “Russia has jeopardized the United States’ security interests. We can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Mark Taylor)
In a statement, the White House said that Russia has, for too long, “violated the [INF Treaty] with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.”
The weapon at the heart of the dispute is the Novator 9M729, which NATO refers to as SSC-8. The US argues that the missile, which US intelligence believes has been deployed to hold most of Europe at risk, violates the range restrictions of the INF Treaty.
“These new missiles are hard to detect, they are mobile, they are nuclear capable,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said recently. “They can reach European cities and they reduce the warning time.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
In a statement on the decision to withdraw, NATO allies said they “fully support” the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw.
“The United States has fully adhered to the INF Treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions,” the White House said in its statement, “We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other.”
In the same statement, President Donald Trump said the US will “move forward with developing our own military response” to alleged violations of the pact by Russia. Moscow has insisted it will take steps to counter whatever Washington pursues, signaling the start of a new arms race.
While the administration remains focused on Russia rhetorically, the move is believed to be a response to China’s growing arsenal of intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
One example is the DF-26, which China claims could be used to sink a US aircraft carrier or strike US bases in the Pacific.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
This time we asked Air Force veteran Julio Medina, who’s the founder of Morale Patch Armory, why these moto patches endure in popular military culture – even when a command may not fully appreciate them.
“Morale patches are a simplistic form of art that most people can relate to in some way or another,” Medina says. “Whether it’s humorous or something that will make you embrace your inner patriot, morale patches send strong messages.”
The Latin in the patch above means “not worth a rat’s ass.” During the Vietnam War, troopers who ferreted out Viet Cong insurgents hidden in complex subterranean hideouts became known as “Tunnel Rats.” These brave servicemen had to dodge human enemies, animals (like bats), and potentially deadly gasses — not to mention VC booby traps. The story alone makes for a great patch.
The DICASS (Directional Command Activated Sonobuoy System) sends submariners range and bearing data via and FM frequency.
Medina also talked about the elements of a good morale patch.
“Relevance, clean design, and a clear message are key factors in a successful morale patch drop,” he says. “There are some amazingly talented artists out there, but unless you have the ability to get relevant eyes on the patch, it will start collecting dust no matter how good it is.”
“Military active duty, veterans, and law enforcement are the largest consumer base,” Medina says. “There are quite a few airsoft players in that bunch, too. I’m sure none of these groups come as a surprise. There are so many different styles of patches out there.”
The patch above is for the USAF’s 509 Operations Group, which pilots the B-2A Spirit stealth bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The chicken is a reference to an old Twilight Zone episode where aliens start to eat people. Most of you will probably get the Simpsons reference better.
Medina believes the enduring popularity of morale patches comes from how they poke fun at the mundane or at high-stress situations. The common denominator is the camaraderie built from shared experiences – the tension and hard times that troops go through as a cohesive unit.
“Military members of all branches deal with common military-related stressors day in and day out that the average individual may not even experience in a lifetime,” Medina says.
“Morale patches are key to lightening the mood by making things funny … making you feel like a proud American, just the way you felt when you graduated basic training and became a part of something bigger than yourself,” Medina explained.
Morale patches have always been an interest for Medina. As a former enlisted Air Force Security Forces airman, Medina kept his own collection of quirky patches since 2007.
“I kept seeing really creative patches being made and sold by hobbyists,” Medina recalls. “As opposed to the few mainstream brands in the industry that sell mass quantities of a single design.”
That’s how Medina started his own patch business. His passion for the industry combined with his appreciation of the humor and artistry led him to establish Morale Patch Armory.
“I once heard ‘Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ ” Medina says. “Since the inception of Morale Patch Armory, every day has been fun and exciting even through the toughest challenges.”
On Feb. 28, 2015, Staff Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez stepped out of her apartment on an early Saturday morning in Charleston, South Carolina. The humidity was low, making a good day for a motorcycle ride. As she went back into her apartment to swap her car keys for motorcycle keys, she didn’t know it was the first step toward a life-changing moment.
Lopez’s four older siblings served in the US military in different branches. She looked up to them, eventually joining the US Air Force. She served for seven years as a crew chief on C-17s. Lopez’s parents immigrated to the US illegally, and she felt that she owed her country for the new opportunities afforded to her. Joining the military was her way of saying thank you.
As Lopez was coming around a corner of the road on her motorcycle, an armadillo was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her motorcycle and the armadillo collided causing her to crash into the curb, ejecting her from the bike and directly into a tree. She remembers bear hugging a tree and her leg kicking her in the face, breaking the motorcycle helmet visor. She fell to the ground and a plume of dust erupted. She never lost consciousness.
Lopez was dazed but immediately started thinking about how to survive. She tried to do blood sweeps, but her arms wouldn’t move. She saw that her leg was positioned at an unnatural angle and thought, “Well, that sucks. I probably need to put a tourniquet or something on that.” No matter how she looked at it, she wasn’t able to self-administer aid due to the extent of her injuries.
Her lung was punctured by a broken rib, she had several broken bones, an amputated (above the knee) right leg, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen, and many other internal and external injuries. Lopez was losing blood fast, and every breath felt like a million stab wounds, but she maintained a goal.
Sebastiana with her family after her accident. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
“So I kind of looked up at the sky, and I’m like, there’s nothing I can do about this except for — keep breathing,” Lopez said.
She focused on each breath, counting in her head while she held her breath to minimize the pain. Then panic crept into her mind: It was a Saturday morning, people were up partying the night before, and it’s unlikely anyone will be awake to find her. Lopez stayed calm but couldn’t help thinking that this might be the end.
“I was pretty happy with the life I had already lived — even though it was very short, 24 years old at the time,” Lopez said. She accomplished what she had always wanted to do, giving back to her country by joining the Air Force. As she settled into being okay with the fact that she was dying, a car drove past.
She said that the first thought that popped into her head was, “That’s a stupid-looking car.” Then she realized that the person driving that car might be her ticket out of there. Luckily, her motorcycle had come to a stop up the road. The bystander saw it and immediately threw his vehicle into reverse. He found Lopez lying next to the tree, and the fear on his face was evident. He panicked, and the first thing he asked her was, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”
Side by side (right photo showing initial recovery, left showing extensive recovery) comparison showing just how much Sebastiana has recovered since her crash. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
The ambulance arrived, and even though Lopez couldn’t see him, she recognized the voice of one of the responders. He was an Air Force reserve pilot she had flown with during an operation in Malaysia when they were designated as a backup C-17 for the president while he toured that area of the world. Hearing a familiar voice, especially someone she knew from the military, immediately put her mind at ease. I might make it through this, she thought.
Despite the massive amount of blood loss, Lopez can recall up until the point when the hospital staff wheeled her into the OR. Her heart stopped not long after her arrival at the hospital, but they managed to get her back. She woke up a month later surrounded by her family, and she felt like she might have been in purgatory. A priest was close by and had been waiting to give Lopez her last rites in coordination with her Catholic beliefs.
“They knew telling me the news that, hey, you don’t have a leg anymore, was going to just tear me apart,” Lopez said. “To be quite honest, it didn’t. At least initially because I was just happy to wake up. It didn’t really hit me until a few months later that life was going to get pretty shitty and pretty hard, especially when I lost my hand function in both hands.”
Shortly after waking up from the coma, Lopez sustained a stroke and lost her speech. Her family added a degree of frustration when they unknowingly talked slowly and loudly to her, thinking she had lost the ability to process information as well. This was one more blow, but it didn’t shake Lopez — it was just another speed bump.
“I was like, Motherfuckers, I understand what y’all are saying — I just can’t verbalize my answer or write it even,” she said, adding that she felt trapped, much like when she was lying on the ground after her crash.
Lopez loves sports, and the driving force to compete again kept her internal fire blazing. As she completed her speech therapy and regained the ability to speak, she started to feel better about herself. Her first steps with her prosthetic leg brought even more confidence.
Even while Lopez completed speech therapy and physical rehabilitation, another battle loomed under the surface. One of the first movements she had to do was rolling from side to side, and whenever she did, the incision from her abdominal surgery would start bleeding. The hospital staff was growing concerned and asked her if she wanted to stop.
“I was like, ‘Hell no, I need to start moving!'” she said.
She recovered to an extent while staying at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital. She described it as similar to a scene out of Kill Bill when Uma Thurman’s character wills herself out of paralysis by saying, “Wiggle your big toe.”
Sebastiana competing in the Invictus Games. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
Lopez aggressively pursued her exercises while running a consistent temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. From rolling side to side to putting on her socks by herself, she was making progress. But then she started losing energy again and didn’t feel well. Her recovery was coming along, but she lost function in her right arm. She was scheduled to be transferred to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a higher level of physical rehabilitation.
Her new doctors ran tests and found out that Lopez was septic, which is a widespread, serious infection within the body that can have lethal consequences. She was transferred directly into the ICU.
Once recovered, Walter Reed brought on even harder rehabilitation training — and the results were even better. Lopez worked hard and rep after rep moved closer to her goal of competing again.
She spent hours every day sending signals to her hands and any other part of her body that wouldn’t readily move with her internal instructions. She eventually regained some command over the movement of her fingers.
Sebastiana Lopez Arellano powers a hand cycle during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. May 9, 2016. DoD News photo by EJ Hersom, courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
After her incident, the Air Force enrolled Lopez in what’s called the Casualty Care Program and the Recovery Care Program. She was assigned a Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC). Lopez transferred to outpatient physical rehab, and one day while she was working on different exercises, her RCC walked up to her. She asked Lopez what she thought about doing an adaptive sports camp.
“No, I’m not ready. I’m still rehabbing my hand — I want to be able to wipe my butt first before I go compete or learn a sport,” Lopez responded. Her RCC told her a white lie: “You’re still in the US Air Force, you kind of have to.”
Lopez later found out that wasn’t the case, but she felt that the RCC knew she needed a little push. The RCC signed up Lopez, unbeknownst to her, for a beginner’s adaptive sports camp through the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.
What her RCC said was a beginners camp was actually the tryouts for the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Games team. Lopez found out once she arrived at the “camp,” but with her no-quit spirit, she persevered and made it onto the team.
Within a year of her accident, Lopez competed in the Wounded Warrior Games and earned five gold medals for two-hand cycling races, shot put, discus, and sitting volleyball.
“The funny thing about the 2016 Warrior Games, I broke my arm the first day we got there,” she said, laughing. “So I competed the entire week with a broken arm.”
From that first Warrior Games to her most recent competition performance in the 2019 Team USA Parapan American Games, Lopez has achieved her goal of competing again — and then some. In addition to the medals from the 2016 Warrior Games, she went on to medal over 19 times in different events over the course of the next few years, and she even established a world record in discus.
Lopez has defied the physical disabilities that the armadillo caused that fateful Saturday morning in February 2015.
“I might still pursue [Team USA] in the future, between school and everything else — I’m kind of looking into starting a family soon, and I want to focus on that,” Lopez said. “I’m not saying that’s the end of the world for me. I probably will try to pursue it, but maybe 2024 for me.”
One week after D-Day, Germany began launching a new, secret weapon at London. The distinctive roar of V-1 flying bombs would slowly fill the air and then suddenly cut out, followed shortly by the massive explosion as a warhead went off. Dozens would fall in the first week, and the Royal Air Force had to scramble to stop them.
This led some pilots to, after expending all of their ammunition, take more drastic measures to stop the bombs: flying wingtip to wingtip until they either crashed or tipped the bomb off course.
The V-1s had pulsejet engines, and prop-driven planes couldn’t keep up with them. But, if a pilot flew to high altitude and then dove toward a passing V-1, the speed from the descent would allow them to keep up.
The first intercept took place on June 15, 1944, the third day of V-1 attacks. A Mosquito pilot was able to shoot one down with his guns, and others soon followed.
But the pilots had limited ammunition, and it was tough to hit the fast-flying V-1s. And each bomb could kill multiple Londoners if it wasn’t intercepted.
A Spitfire nudges a V-1 missile off course during World War II.
But this had obvious risks. If the pilot accidentally bumped the V-1, they could crash into the ground alongside the bomb. A soft bump was obviously no big deal. It would just help the pilot tip the bomb over. But a harder strike was essentially a midair crash, likely clipping or breaking the pilot’s own wingtip.
Despite the risks, the work of pilots and gunners on the ground saved London from much of the devastation. 1,000 of the bombs were shot down or nudged off course in flight. And, the bombs were famously inaccurate, which was lucky for Britain. Of the approximately 10,000 flying bombs fired at the city, around 7,000 missed, 1,000 were shot down, and about 2,000 actually hit the city and other targets.
Eventually, this would result in about 6,000 fatalities and 16,000 other casualties.
In October 1944, Allied troops captured the V-1 sites targeting London and were able to stop the threat there. Unfortunately, that was right as the Germans got the V-2 program up and running, The faster, rocket-powered V-2s were essentially unstoppable with anything but radar-controlled guns.
An American JB-2 Loon based on the German V-1 missile.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
After the war, Allied powers experimented with the weapons and some, including America, made their own knockoffs. Some were shot down as flying targets for pilots, but others were held in arsenals in case they were needed against enemy forces. Eventually, the invention of modern cruise missiles made the V-1s and V-2s obsolete.
Ask around — every veteran pilot has a few stories involving close calls. Some of these terrifying near-misses happen in combat and others during peacetime. Chuck Yeager, however, has the displeasure of experiencing both. In fact, his closest call had nothing to do with the enemy.
Back in the 1950s and ’60s, the United States Air Force was testing a number of planes, always trying to reach for the higher and faster. One such plane was the NF-104A Starfighter, a modification of the baseline F-104 that had a short career with the United States Air Force, but saw decades of service with other countries.
A West German F-104 Starfighter. In 1962, this plane crashed with three others, killing four pilots (one of them American).
The purpose of the NF-104A was to test reaction control systems for use in space (since conventional control surfaces need air to function). The F-104 was a great choice for this test. As a high-performance fighter, it could reach a top speed of 1,320 miles per hour, had a maximum range of over 1,000 miles, and maintained the ability to carry two tons of weapons. However, it also proved to be very difficult to fly, earning the nickname “Widowmaker” among the West-German Luftwaffe.
To reach the altitudes required for such a test, engineers paired a rocket with 6,000 pounds of thrust with the J79 engine (the same engine used by the F-4 Phantom). The NF-104A was able to reach altitudes as high as 12,000 feet. It was called the Aerospace Trainer.
A NF-104 Starfighter lights off its rockets to zoom to altitudes of as much as 120,000 feet.
Lockheed modified three F-104As taken from the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for the Aerospace Trainer program. Two of the three NF-104s crashed. Yeager’s was the first among them and perhaps the most dramatic. His NF-104A, delivered less than six week prior to the nearly fatal flight, went into a flat spin. Yeager fought the plane as it fell almost 10,000 feet before he ejected. He suffered burns, but lived to eventually command a fighter wing in Vietnam.
Learn more about the plane that nearly killed one of the most famous pilots in history in the video below!
Nearly 15 years after the Marine Corps created its own special operations command, the service is now consolidating the command by moving all its operators to North Carolina.
About 900 Marines, sailors and civilians with the California-based 1st Marine Raider Battalion and its support unit will relocate to Camp Lejeune by the end of 2022. The move, which was announced on Wednesday, will help Marine Corps Special Operations Command become more efficient, officials said in a statement.
The consolidation “will allow MARSOC to gain back almost 2,000 man-days per year,” according to the statement. Those days are otherwise spent on permanent change of station moves and temporary assignment duty requirements.
The move will also allow MARSOC to reform as it shifts its efforts and funding toward preparation for fighting a great-power competition, as laid out in the National Defense Strategy and commandant’s planning guidance, Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo, MARSOC’s commander, said on Wednesday.
“MARSOC has been pursuing numerous lines of effort to increase performance, efficiencies, and capabilities … to build a more lethal force and reform the department for greater performance and affordability,” he said in a statement. “One line of effort is the consolidation of all Marine Special Operations Forces to the East Coast.”
Marine Corps Times reported on Wednesday that Marine officials estimate the move will save the command million over a five-year period.
Officials said having all its Raiders on one coast will also improve readiness and deployment-to-dwell time.
“MARSOC will be better positioned to [provide] greater stability and increased quality of life to Marine Raiders and their families,” the statement says.
Members of 1st Marine Raider Battalion and 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion have been based at Camp Pendleton since MARSOC was activated in 2006. Moving the units’ personnel and equipment to Camp Lejeune will occur in three phases.
The phases will be timed to minimize disruptions to Marines and their families, MARSOC officials said in the statement announcing the plan. Personnel and families will begin the cross-country moves during the traditional PCS cycle beginning in the summer of 2021.
Those moves are timed to allow families to complete PCS orders between academic school years.
The command is working with community plans and school liaison officers on the East Coast to determine the effects the relocations will have on school districts and the local community in and around Camp Lejeune. Base leaders will work with schools in the area “to anticipate and plan for increases in student population and to ensure that all students will be accommodated effetely and receive a quality education,” officials said.
There’s an unspoken creed within the military-veteran community: no veteran should ever be buried alone.
The U.S. military is a system designed to break its members of the individuality that defines Americans to create members of single team — a unit. This bond endures as veterans transition out of the service. It’s one of the defining characteristics of veteran life.
Nowhere else in life is this more true than in death. For those without family buried in Arlington Cemetery, the Arlington Ladies will make sure they aren’t alone. But Iowa-born Vietnam veteran Stanley Stoltz wasn’t going to Arlington and had no known family. Then, his obituary went viral.
Stoltz was 73 when he died on Nov. 18, 2018 in Bennington, Nebraska. His obituary in the Omaha World-Herald said that he had no family. Although he worked in Bennington, he spent the end of his life around medical caregivers. While it was eventually revealed that Stoltz had a brother and an ex-wife, hundreds of people who never knew the deceased came out to pay their last respects.
Unfortunately, Stoltz didn’t get to see the outpouring of respect and appreciation for his service that he and so many other Vietnam veterans sorely lacked upon returning home from the war.
“No vet deserves to die alone,” attendee Dick Harrington told WOWT-TV, the Omaha NBC affiliate. “We looked around and said, ‘Here’s his family.’ It’s true. Veterans. We’re all family. That’s just the way we roll.”
Despite the frigid Nebraska weather, hundreds of people who never knew Stanley Stoltz — including many who have never met a Vietnam veteran or a veteran of any war — flooded Bennington to ensure he received the send off worthy of his service to their country.
The cemetery estimated that upwards of 2,000 people came to the funeral. The services were even delayed so stragglers to the event wouldn’t miss a moment. Traffic was backed up, bumper-to-bumper along Interstate 80 to give a final salute to a passing veteran.
As Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley made her way through mountainous terrain in the midst of a scorching Georgia summer in 2018, she admittedly struggled, carrying more than 50 pounds of gear during a patrol exercise.
Tired and physically drained, her body had withstood nearly a month of training in the Army’s most challenging training school. She had already suffered a fracture in her back in an earlier phase and suffered other physical ailments.
But then she looked to her left and right and saw her fellow Ranger School teammates, many of whom she outranked.
“I know that I have to keep going,” said Kelley, the first enlisted female graduate of the Army Ranger School at Fort Benning. “Because if I quit, or if I show any signs of weakness, they’re going to quit.”
In the middle of 21 grueling training days in northeast Georgia, Kelley knew if she could weather the mountain phase of the Army’s Ranger School, she and her teammates would reach a new pinnacle, a critical rite of passage for Ranger students. The electronic warfare specialist spent 21 days in the mountains which includes four days of mountaineering, five days of survival techniques training and a nine-day field training exercise. She had already been recycled in the school’s first phase and didn’t want to relive that experience.
Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley marches in formation during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018.
(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)
“It’s not about you at that moment,” Kelley said. “It’s about the people around you. You don’t realize in that moment how many people look up to you until you complete it. Everybody has those trying periods because those mountains are really rough.”
Her graduation from Ranger School paved the way for her current assignment as an electronic warfare specialist with the Third Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Since 2016, more than 1,200 female soldiers have entered combat career fields, including field artillery, armor and infantry.
Kelley said the Ranger training pushed her to meet the same standards as her male counterparts. She finished the 16-mile ruck march in under three hours.
“You literally go through the same thing,” Kelley said. “It’s not any different … You do the same thing that they do. That’s the greatest thing about Ranger School: there’s one set standard, across the board.”
Taking the easy road has never been how Kelley has lived her life. As a teenager she competed as a centerfielder on boy’s baseball teams. She also was on her high school’s track team. Growing up in the small rural community of Easley, South Carolina, she had few mentors as a teen.
“I just wanted to be somebody,” Kelley said. “And I also want to be someone that others can look up to. I didn’t have that growing up. We don’t all come from a silver spoon background; some of us have to fight for things.”
She joined the Army on a whim in 2011, considering joining the service only six months prior to enlisting. She admired the Army’s rigid discipline and high standards.
“Better opportunities,” was one reason Kelley said she joined the Army. “I wanted to get out of where I was.”
Kelley wanted to reach even higher. The 30-year-old wanted to one day become sergeant major of the Army and let her supervisors know that it wasn’t some pipe dream. After an Iraq deployment with the 1st Armored Division, Kelley’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mike Vandy, told her that attending Ranger School would help chart her path to success.
A family member places the Army Ranger tab on Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley’s uniform.
(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)
“When I went to Ranger School, I didn’t go so I could be the first (enlisted female),” Kelley said. “I went so that I could be sergeant major of the Army. And I want to be competitive with my peers.”
After Kelley decided to apply for Ranger School, she spent five months physically preparing herself and studying while deployed. Her roommate in Iraq, former Staff Sgt. Mychal Loria, said Kelley would work 12-hour shifts, workout twice a day and still found time for study. At the same time, she helped mentor other soldiers.
“She just exemplified the perfect NCO; always there for her soldiers,” Loria said.
Kelley praised former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey for helping create more opportunities for women in combat career fields. Since the first two female graduates — Capt. Kristen Griest and then-1st Lt. Shaye Haver — completed Ranger training in 2015, more than 30 female soldiers have earned their Ranger tab. Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first African American woman to graduate from the course earlier this year.
Kelley said has begun preparation for a six-month deployment to an undisclosed location. The South Carolina native said she looks forward to using many of the skills she learned during her time training to be an Army Ranger.
The eight-year Army vet said the Third Special Forces group has fostered a welcome environment for unit members, offering a wealth of training opportunities to help advance her career, including electronics and intelligence courses.
Kelley offered some advice for soldiers who may be considering Ranger School or other certifications to advance their careers.
“Soldiers need to understand that sometimes things you had planned change,” she said. “So just be open-minded to new things and don’t be scared to go after things that seem impossible. Because nothing’s impossible if somebody’s done it before you.”
This is the last in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We featured all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along. This is a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other. When it comes to downrange operations, we put the rivalry behind us. When the ops-tempo isn’t as hectic, that’s when the rivalry resurfaces. That’s what the Hater’s Guide is for.
We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Coast Guard, how they should actually be hating on the Coast Guard, and why to really love the Coast Guard.
The nickname “Silent Service” may have been claimed by submariners, but the Coast Guard is a close second. Serving without glory or even sometimes a mention, it is only fair that they get the last installment of “The Hater’s Guide.”
The easiest ways to make fun of the Coast Guard
Puddle Pirates, Shallow Water Sailors, no matter what way you slice it, it’s pretty easy to come up with a nickname or two for the sailors who rarely venture into the deep, open ocean.
Not being part of the Department of Defense has always been a primary reason for the Coast Guard’s weird place in military culture. After falling under the Departments of the Treasury, Transportation, and even a brief stint with the Navy, we finally settled into our current place with the Department of Homeland Security, making us the armed services’ version of that kid who has been to five high schools in four years. To make matters worse, when most people think of the Department of Homeland Security, they picture the TSA, not the Coast Guard, and that’s not an association that anyone wants.
They are at attention.
While the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) gets hate for blending a sailor into the water, the Coast Guard’s uncomfortable and less-than-useful Operational Dress Uniform, or ODU, manages to be even worse than the NWU. Luckily, there are units in the Coast Guard, such as Port Security Units (PSUs) that wear the Navy’s Type III uniform just to look tacticool.
When people start making fun of us and we run out of comebacks, we just kind of throw the “Search and Rescue” card and hope it sticks.
Why to actually hate the Coast Guard
You’re out on the water, having a good time and enjoying a beer or two, and suddenly the blue lights come on and the Coast Guard wants to board your vessel. Before you know it, you’re racking up fines for anything from not having enough lifejackets to drinking behind the wheel of your boat. While they’re just doing part of their job as America’s water cops, no one likes the cops shutting down their party.
Most of the movies made about the Coast Guard have just been flat-out awful, and caused a lot of grief. The Soviet escort vessel in The Hunt for Red October is actually an active Coast Guard vessel that someone allowed to be repainted. The incident reportedly almost got several officers kicked out of the Coast Guard. No one can forget The Guardian with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, which is the Coast Guard’s version of Top Gun, except without the volleyball scene or any likable characters. For generations past, Onionhead ruined Andy Griffith’s already floundering career.
There is no real “bad” duty station in the Coast Guard. Sure, there’s Alaska, one of the most beautiful states in the union. There’s also all the picturesque port cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, like Charleston, Miami, Tampa, San Juan, Honolulu, and San Diego. If there’s a place where people buy vacation homes, you bet there’s a Coast Guard station there.
We’re smarter, and we know it. To join the Coast Guard, you need a higher ASVAB AFQT score to join than you do with any other branch. While the minimum requirements for all the branches change with the needs of the service, a score of a 30-40 will get a prospective recruit into any of the other services, the Coast Guard expects a minimum of 40-50 from their applicants. Even with this, the wait list for Coast Guard boot camp is regularly six to nine months long, and even after boot camp, it can be two years before an E-2 or E-3 ever sees their “A” school.
Why you should love the Coast Guard
While reindeer have become a staple in the culture of wintertime America, there would have been no reindeer – and possibly no Alaska – if it weren’t for the Coast Guard. After a failed attempt by the Army to create order in Alaska, the Revenue Cutter Service was tasked with keeping the territory in line. Over the course of the next 100 years, they would save natives and settlers alike from death by starvation and illness. From Capt. “Hell Roaring” Michael Healy, who brought reindeer to Alaska from Siberia to save starving natives, to the crew of the Cutter Unalga who set up an orphanage for children left parentless by the Spanish Influenza, the Coast Guard has always had the best interest of the people in mind. With a commitment that persists to the modern day, the Coast Guard is closely tied to Alaska, its people, its industry, and its unpredictable weather.
After the American Revolution ended, the U.S. Navy was disbanded. From 1790 through 1801, while also acting as the only source of revenue generation for the nation, the U.S. Revenue-Marine was the only naval force that the fledgling nation had to protect them from terrors of the seas like as the Barbary pirates until proper frigates could be commissioned.
Even the Marine Corps needs heroes. On September 28, 1942, Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro saved the lives of nearly 500 Marines at Guadalcanal by using his Higgins boat as a shield to protect the last men being evacuated from the beach. He was killed by enemy fire, but his last words were supposedly “Did they get off?”
One of the Marines that he saved that day was none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller. For his bravery, Munro posthumously became the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.
There are less than 43,000 active duty Coasties and 7,000 reservists. The yearly budget is less than $10.5 billion, which is man-for-man 60 percent less funding than the Navy. But every day, in every weather, the Coast Guard will be there to protect and defend the shores, rivers, and lakes of the U.S. Doing so much more than we should be able to with so much less, $3.9 billion worth of drugs are taken off the street every year. Thousands of lives and millions of dollars in maritime assets are saved. There are pilots to fly when there are no other pilots willing or able to. Though people may not remember that we’re part of the U.S. military, it doesn’t ever stop us from having pride in what we do.
The dreaded announcement came through the 1MC: River City. If being deployed in the middle of the ocean isn’t bad enough, try being deployed in the middle of the ocean with no comms.
The unfamiliar sound of a V-22 Osprey overpowered the sound of normal flight operations. The updates kept rolling through; starting from the flight deck down to the hangar bays, everything is secured. The rumors start to flow through the grapevine. You can hear the whispers and feel the electricity in the air. Nobody has any information, but everyone knows.
We got him.
A plane captain directs and oversees the landing and take-off of a V22 Osprey.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Katie Earley)
It was the only email that was fired off before comms were shut down. The surveillance screen of the flight deck runs 24/7 on all screens throughout the airwing, but today they were all blacked out. The only channel working was CNN. The feeling was odd. We didn’t know anything that was happening except for what we were watching live on TV. We were there, yet we knew nothing. Every sailor was glued to a screen, reading the ticker and waiting for the headlines.
The rumors were confirmed: We got Osama bin Laden and his body is on our ship. The entire ship erupted like Times Square at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Sailors man a mounted .50 caliber on the looking out.
Images taken from WikiCommons.
I ran down to the aft part of the ship and poked my head out of a hatch leading to the flight deck. There were two MAs standing guard that immediately turned me around and told me to get inside. Before I reversed course, I got a glimpse of two men dragging a body out of the helicopter.
The worst part about securing the hangar bay was that the chow hall was on the level beneath it — and the only access to it was through it. Starving, we sat around snacking on Snickers from a Costco pack my mom had mailed to me. When the next rotation shift came on and asked us what was happening, we jokingly told the new shift to line up down by the hangar bay because they were letting us hit bin Laden’s body with wiffle ball bats. I also told them to tell the MAs that they were there for the wiffle ball party and that Petty Officer Kim had sent them.
We weren’t hitting him with bats, but the next shift must have really asked about the wiffle party because a few minutes later, I was called into the ready room and getting chewed out by the chief’s mess about never taking anything seriously and being a bad example to the younger guys. My division chief was an inch away from my face, screaming. I could practically taste his lunch. I guess chow was only secured for E6 and below.
Sailors fire a .50-caliber machine gun during a pre-action calibration fire exercise aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67)
We were told, “officially,” that the body was prepared in accordance to the Muslim religion: wrapped in a white garb, buried on his right side, and oriented northeast to face Mecca. Off-record, we were told that they verified his DNA and they tossed him over the side.
Officially, no country would accept responsibility of the body, so it was laid to rest at sea. Unofficially, I think we didn’t want his burial site to become a martyr’s shrine.
Either way, the mighty back-to-back World War champions found the world’s foremost hide seek expert. If you can’t beat him, kill him.
* Editor’s Note: This article was updated to clarify that the sailors weren’t actually hitting Bin Laden’s body with bats. Petty Officer Kim jokingly said the line to the next shift.*
An infantryman works and trains hard to one day deploy their weapon system and score an accurate kill shot. For machine-gunners, scoring a precise kill from a distance is highly unlikely.
This isn’t because the shooter is incapable; that weapon system wasn’t designed to nail an enemy combatant square between the eyes but, rather, to take their head clean off.
However, some gunners still strive to make that perfect shot with their heavy-ass weapon.
2. The “Napoleon”
This one refers to the French military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, because of his height. This gunner gets looked at differently because of the contrast between their smaller body and the massive size of the M240 they’re holding.
However, they always manage to carry it and fire the weapon like a seasoned pro.
3. The “Screamer”
Machine-gunners are trained to whisper the words “die motherf*cker, die” while firing their weapon. In the time it takes to finish saying the words to themselves, they’ve shot roughly between four to six rounds. The “screamer” chooses to shout that sh*t out loud.
This repeated mantra is designed to prevent the gunner from overheating their barrel and causes them regularly adjust their fire for more accuracy.
4. The “Barrel-burner”
As previously stated, machine-gunners are trained to only discharge four to six rounds at a time to avoid overheating their barrels. The “barrel-burner” tends to forget the shooting cycle and fires more than intended — which can cause the barrel to warp.
5. The “Freeloader”
This gunner tends to ask other members of his squad to carry his extra ammo so that they can haul more Rip-Its. What’s hilarious about this type of gunner is the nice way they go about asking you.
It makes you feel good about yourself for helping out a brother.
If you’ve ever served in the infantry, you probably had one or two “Animal Mothers” in your company. Just like in the movie, Full Metal Jacket, he’s the trigger-happy badass who is more than thrilled to shoot into an enemy compound and then ask questions later.