Every Monday morning in the United States Army, companies gather around their battalion motor pool to conduct maintenance on their vehicles. On paper, the NCOs have the drivers of each and every vehicle perform a PMCS, or preventive maintenance checks and services, to find any deficiencies in their Humvee or LMTV. In reality, the lower-enlisted often just pop open the hood, check to see if it has windshield-wiper fluid, and sit inside to “test” the air conditioning.
Not to rat anyone out or anything — because basically everyone with the rank of specialist does it — but there’s a legitimate reason the chain of command keeps it on the schedule each week, and it’s not to kill time until the gut truck arrives.
It’s then on the mechanics to handle the serious problems. And trust me, mechanics are rarely sitting on their asses waiting for new vehicles to fix. They’ve got a lot of actual issues to worry about.
The biggest reason why the troops need to conduct a PMCS is to help the mechanics in the unit determine which vehicles need repairs. A platoon of mechanics can’t honestly be expected to monitor and address each and every fault across a 200-plus vehicle motor pool. Sharing the responsibility among all troops in the battalion means that more attention can be given to the problems that need them.
If there is a deficiency found within a vehicle, then it can be brought to the mechanics. If it’s something simple, like low fluid levels, the mechanics can just give the troops the tools they need to handle the minor things.
If it’s leaking, well, at least let the mechanic know before you make a made dash for the gut truck.
(Meme via Vet Humor)
Say a vehicle does eventually break down (which it will — thank the lowest bidder), the mechanics are the ones taking the ass-chewing. Sure, whoever was assigned that vehicle may catch a little crap, but the the mechanic is also taking their lashing — all because someone else skimmed through the checklist and said it was “fine.” So, if you don’t want to blue falcon your fellow soldier, do your part.
Having a vehicle deadline is terrible — but having a vehicle break down in the middle of the road is much worse. If you want to be certain that the vehicle is operational, you should probably give it a test drive around the motor pool to check the engine and brakes. If you can’t take it out for a spin, there are a number of major issues that you can see just by opening the hood and kicking the tires.
Even if you’re strongly opposed to putting in extra effort, the two costliest defects can be found just by looking around the vehicle. If you’re going to sham, at least check to see if there are any fluids leaking or if the tires are filled.
The first modern American hot dog and its iconic bun all started with a pushcart on Coney Island in 1867. Charles Feltman, a German baker, was just looking for a way to avoid the cost of plates and cutlery but his ingenuity would pave the way for the classic American frankfurter.
Feltman’s — a veteran owned and operated company — has a strong connection to the history of New York. Michael Quinn, Feltman’s of Coney Island owner, lost his brother Jimmy, who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He understands loss — both the kind of loss when a loved one is ripped away and the kind a community shares when rocked by tragedy.
It’s the kind of loss Americans — and people all across the world — are feeling now.
Feltman’s of Coney Island Memorial Day Video Tribute
The words from the video ring true. “Every night at 7 in New York City and beyond, Americans have been banging on pots from their porches, applauding through windows, and screaming from rooftops in appreciation of our essential workers. We haven’t felt such appreciation, such unity, such loss since firefighters raised an American flag over Ground Zero.”
Feltman’s is keeping patriotism alive by supporting the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors with proceeds from all online sales. TAPS is a nonprofit Veterans Service Organization that provides comfort and resources to all those grieving the death of a military loved one.
They’re also rallying the troops to honor the collective loss felt by Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. In their Memorial Day 2020 video, Feltman’s and TAPS connect the loss felt by Gold Star Families to the grief caused by COVID-19.
Michael Quinn (Feltman’s of Coney Island)
“Some of us made it home and some of us didn’t. We lost brothers we shared blood with and lost brothers we spilled blood with. On good days, we remember our brothers with a smile and on bad days it’s hard to not feel alone.”
During a time when the medical field is struggling to treat patients infected with the deadly and evolving threat, it’s hard for Americans to find information they can trust. In the video, however, we are reminded of what remains true and important: the virus is deadly and it is our essential workers who are on the front lines.
“This Memorial Day weekend, we will remember our brothers. We will remember our friends. But we will also remember the 70,000 families who lost loved ones to COVID-19. While we pray the worst days are behind us, we know as Gold Star Families, the hardest days are still ahead for them.”
From the graves of fallen service members to masked nurses in hospitals to images of Americans enduring at home, the video reminds us all to come together — just as we did after 9/11.
“This Memorial Day, we’ll enjoy spending time with our families and friends safely, but at 7 p.m., we will go out on our porches, we will peer out our windows, we will bang on our pots and pans, we’ll applaud, we’ll scream from the rooftops for all of these families to hear, and to collectively send a message: You are not alone.”
Four crashed aircrew members scatter into knee-high desert brush searching for a spot to blend-in with the environment. There’s nothing but a dying, desolate landscape as far as the eye can see. And yet, they need to disappear. These aircrew are being hunted.
Rustling through the brush downwind of the pilots is a man and his dog.
The duo presses on with the hunt, despite being at a disadvantage. The dog puts his nose to the air and takes in short, quick breaths, but an unrelenting mist keeps the aircrew’s scents from being carried by the wind. They traverse miles of mud and brush, stopping every-so-often to stare out into the seemingly endless tan and brown canvas laid out before them.
No matter how this ordeal ends, both sides will be better for it.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 336th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, acting as opposition forces, hunt down pilots to enhance the combat readiness of both parties during a search and rescue operation as part of a Gunfighter Flag exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex, Idaho.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, gives Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, a water break while acting as opposition forces to hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019, at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
Gunfighter Flag concentrates on preparing airmen to be ready to overcome obstacles that may appear in a deployed environment. Padilla plays a unique role in that preparation.
“When we are at the range, scouting for pilots, we are not only testing the survival skills of our pilots, but also honing the capabilities and teamwork between MWDs and their trainers,” Padilla said.
To effectively enhance readiness this training has to be exactly like the real deal.
“Finding a way to simulate stress is important,” said Staff Sgt. David H. Chorpening, 366th Operation Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of survival, evasion, resistance, escape operations.
Screams riddled with anguish and anxiety filled the air as each aircrew member suffered a bite from Alf.
U.S. Air Force Alf, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, acts as opposition forces and hunts down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
The aircrew was protected by a bite-suit, but the stress they experienced was almost tangible, and not easily forgotten.
Incorporating stress into these scenarios helps ingrain the survival process and procedures into the minds of airmen to ensure they will be able to act on it in the field, Chorpening said.
Padilla and Alf bring a dose of stressful realism to the exercise through Alf’s vicious bite and undying loyalty that, consequently, often inflicts fear into whoever they pursue.
However, to be frightening is one thing, to be ready for deployment is another. That requires MWDs to be well-trained, obedient and skilled. Developing that in a MWD, like Alf, takes time and dedicated trainers.
Padilla said that there is a process of building rapport with new dogs, solidifying their commands, and exposing them to realistic situations like bite-work and detection that has to take place before they are cleared for deployment.
Ultimately, MWDs are tested in exercises like scouting for aircrew members in a vast environment with endless hiding places. This serves as a great preparation tool for MWDs and their trainers.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, act as opposition forces and hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
As an MWD and its trainer work together, they understand each other better and are able to work cohesively, Padilla said. “On a scout, the dog leads the way, but we are a team,” Padilla said. “Alf’s senses are a lot better than a human’s. Alf will often see, hear or smell a potential target before I do. Then I am able to decipher whether or not it is what we are looking for or if we should move on.”
It is a rigorous journey to become a MWD but in the end they are able to save lives in real-world situations and through readiness exercises like Gunfighter Flag.
“This training is so beneficial for trainers and their dogs to gain the experience of realistic training,” Padilla said. “What is even better is the dualistic nature of the exercise that enables pilots to improve their survival and evasion tactics simultaneously.”
The search and rescue exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex may be a single piece of Gunfighter Flag, but is vital nonetheless because of the life saving potential it holds. Padilla and Alf continue to diligently work towards enhancing the readiness of themselves and the aircrew they hunt.
Former jack-of-all trades Marine Reservist Lance Cpl. David Roach spent six years learning infantry tactics, machine gunnery, bulk fuels, and heavy equipment while serving in the Marine Corps from 2002-2008.
Throughout his security career, he’s gone from a mall cop and security guard to being in charge of security personnel for hospitals, airports, and companies. Currently, he’s a global security manager focused on crisis management, disaster monitoring and open source intelligence.
He also worked with the Coast Guard, doing search and rescue missions and anti-drug interdiction out of Monterrey Bay, California. He used all of his experience for material for his books.
“In security, I’ve been shot at. I’ve had people try to stab me. I’ve gotten into lots of fights and take downs,” Roach said. “I hate going into crowded places. I’m definitely a person who enjoys being out in the wilderness.”
He also used the military family experience of his wife, Amanda, to add to the realism behind the fantasy of his characters in his five-novel Vikings series called Marauder.
“I come from a Marine family,” Amanda said. They’ve been married 11 years. “My grandmother and grandfather actually met in the Marines. She was Marine in the 1950’s. She was tough as nails. My brother and cousins are also Marines.”
Former Marine Lance Cpl. David Roach, writer of the Marauder series, uses his real-world Marine Corps and security training for his characters, as well as the experiences of his friends and family who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(Photo by Shannon Collins)
Roach said he researched the history of Vikings, Scandinavian culture and the realities of their lives during that time period.
“I try to keep it as realistic as possible and then throw in the monsters and the Gods. That’s when it gets fun and exciting,” he said smiling. “But everything else, I try to keep as realistic and close to real life as possible so that the readers can relate.”
He said his books reflect his military experience because he doesn’t shy away from dark humor, cursing or the brutality of war. “These are not kids’ tales. They’re brutal. I’m always trying to find the historical curse words, the slang they would’ve used at the time. This is what it was like during that time. That was what real life was like,” he said. “I started going to re-enactment battles as well,” Roach said. “I got to get into a shield wall. I saw how easy it is for a shield to splinter or for weapons to bend or how quickly things could go wrong if you get flanked or if someone is careless.”
For Roach’s Civil War book, When the Drums Stop, he wrote in the footsteps of his ancestor, a low-ranking Union soldier. He drove cross-country and visited the National Civil War Museum and stopped at battlefields for inspiration.
Roach said that anyone in the military who even has an inkling of becoming a writer, whether it be for a novel or for a website should just start doing it.
“Don’t wait for somebody’s permission. Don’t wait for a publication or publisher to tell you you’re good enough because most of them will say, ‘No’ because they want to make sure you’re a sure thing before they even spend a dollar on you,” he said. “Just do it. As I take up more virtual book space, more people are finding me. More people are starting to pay attention.”
Roach started with self-publishing his first few novels but a positive review from a professor of Norse archaeology, he picked up a publisher.
“Just like with the military, if you work hard at it and have that perseverance, eventually it’s going to pan out for you,” he said.
In the modern era, the M-16 style rifle chambered in 5.56x45mm has become ubiquitous in imagery of the U.S. military, but that wasn’t always the case. America’s adoption of the 5.56mm round and the service rifle that fires it both came about as recently as the 1960s, as the U.S. and its allies set about looking for a more reliable, accurate, and lighter general issue weapon and cartridge.
Back in the early 1950s, the fledgling North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) set about looking for a single rifle cartridge that could be adopted throughout the alliance, making it easier and cheaper to procure and distribute ammunition force-wide and adding a much needed bit of interoperability to the widely diverse military forces within the group. Despite some concerns about recoil, the 7.62x51mm NATO round was adopted in 1954, thanks largely to America’s belief that it was the best choice available.
The 7.62x51mm cartridge (which is more similar to the .308 than the 7.62x39mm rounds used in Soviet AKs) actually remains in use today thanks to its stopping power and effective range, but it wasn’t long before even the 7.62’s biggest champions in the U.S. began to recognize its shortcomings. These rounds were powerful and accurate, but they were also heavy, expensive, and created a great deal of recoil as compared to the service rifles and cartridges of the modern era.
As early as 1957, early development began on a new, small caliber, high velocity round and rifle platform. These new cartridges would be based on the much smaller and lighter .22 caliber round, but despite the smaller projectile, U.S. specifications also required that it maintained supersonic speed beyond 500 yards and could penetrate a standard-issue ballistic helmet at that same distance. What the U.S. military asked for wasn’t possible with existing cartridges, so plans for new ammo and a new rifle were quickly drawn up.
In order to make a smaller round offer up the punch the U.S. military needed, Remington converted their .222 round into the .222 Special. This new round was designed specifically to withstand the amount of pressure required to make the new projectile meet the performance standards established by the Pentagon. The longer case of the .222 Special also made it better suited for magazine feeding for semi-automatic weapons. Eventually, the .222 Special was redubbed .223 Remington — a name AR-15 owners may recognize as among the two calibers of rounds your rifle can fire.
That led to yet another new round, which FN based off of Remington’s .223 caliber design, that was dubbed the 5.56x45mm NATO. This new round exceeded the Defense Department’s requirements for muzzle velocity and range, and fired exceedingly well from Armalite designed rifles. Early tests showed increases in rifleman accuracy as well as decreases in weapon malfunctions when compared to the M1 Garand, with many experts contending at the time that the new rifle was superior to the M14, despite still having a few issues that needed to be worked out.
Armalite (which is where the “A” in AR-15 is derived) had scaled down their 7.62 chambered AR-10 to produce the new AR-15, which was capable of firing the new .223 rounds and later, the 5.56mm rounds. It also met all the other standard requirements for a new service rifle, like the ability to select between semi-automatic and fully-automatic modes of fire and 20 round magazine capacity. The combination of Armalite rifle and 5.56 ammunition was a match made in heaven, and branches started procuring the rifles in the 1960s. The 5.56 NATO round, however, wouldn’t go on to be adopted as the standard for the alliance until 1980.
Ultimately, the decision to shift from 7.62x51mm ammunition to 5.56x45mm came down to simple arithmetic. The smaller rounds weighed less, allowing troops to carry more ammunition into the fight. They also created less recoil, making it easier to level the weapon back onto the target between rounds and making automatic fire easier to manage. Tests showed that troops equipped with smaller 5.56mm rounds could engage targets more efficiently and effectively than those firing larger, heavier bullets.
As they say in Marine Corps rifle teams, the goal is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy — and the 5.56mm NATO round made troops better at doing precisely that.
Have you ever had one of those lightbulb moments that flips your perspective upside down? I had one of those exactly five years ago while training to be a copilot on the mighty CH-53E at MCAS New River, NC. I still remember talking to my dad on the phone after the oncoming duty-stander reported late at night and turned over the watch with me. “I don’t care if the market crashes!” I proclaimed into the phone.
That was a powerful statement to say out loud and it felt especially good saying it to my dad, who was very conservative financially. Our family lived like royalty when my family lived in Ukraine for the better part of two decades, but coming back to the United States created all sorts of financial turmoil.
Of course, the somewhat hot-headed remark begged the question, “Well, why the hell don’t you?”
”Because we’ve been thinking about real estate investing all wrong,” I continued. “We shouldn’t rely on an unpredictable market to control our return on investment. I don’t care about appreciation anymore, I care about monthly income, or cash flow. From now on, we are going to look for properties that put money in our pockets every dang month.
You could almost hear the audible click over the phone line. A light bulb had just gone off.
The phone conversation continued for another hour or so before we finally hung up and decided to talk about real estate some more the next day.
Let me take a quick step back and make sure we are all on the same page here. The epiphany moment I had five years ago – I was so passionately trying to pass on to my dad over the phone – was simple, yet incredibly powerful. What I realized was what my family valued more even than a large heap of cash in my savings account was a consistent stream of income. To put it bluntly, I wanted to create streams of mini pensions through multiple rental properties to pay for all our regular expenses and then some. I wanted this because I wanted to be financially free.
Why did I ever think that buying a house and waiting for it to appreciate was the right way to invest? If that was the case, another 2008 real estate crash would surely ruin everything.
Realizing there was a different way to invest in real estate was almost nauseating because of how mad it made me for not understanding or learning about it earlier in life. My next thought was, “Why doesn’t EVERY eligible service member use their VA Loan then?” After all, as long as the rent was high enough to cover the mortgage, a dependable property manager, reasonable maintenance expenses, some reserves and still have some cash to spare (read: cash flow), this should be a no brainer. Right?!
Maybe it is because a lot of veterans are really turned off by the thought of a VA Loan — they think it’s a huge liability or just a boring thing to talk about, but nine times out of 10 it typically boils down to access to education and trusted professionals to help someone get their foot in the door. The reality is, it’s not just a few veterans . . . There are millions of veterans who have yet to use this incredible wealth-building benefit. In the military, we get used to working in fire teams and squads and it just makes sense for us to want a trusted team of Real Estate agents and Lenders that are all investment-minded and have a military background to work with. The secret weapon that a lot of these investment-minded agents and lenders have, is the understanding of what to look for when it comes to Military House Hacking (check this book out to learn more) and how to run the numbers quickly and efficiently when trying to filter out the homes with no future cashflow potential. Remember, the objective isn’t potential appreciation (that’s just a cherry on top!). The objective is to create a stream of income when it’s time to rent out your home.
About a year after that phone call with my dad, I partnered on my first rental home and first apartment complex. My life and the lives of my parents and siblings had changed forever. We were on track to create financial freedom and legacy wealth for generations to come WITHOUT worrying about the market crashing down on us. Sure, everything has its risks, but there was a particular comfort that came with the more education I immersed myself into. It seemed as though real estate was more transparent and without the smoke and mirrors. Still, it was a lot of information and not necessarily easy, but it felt so real and doable that I knew I was hooked for life. It was around that time, that I decided I had to start sharing these principles and little-known strategies with other military members and their families.
(Above: Lieutenant George Cairns Winning the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Pagoda Hill, Burma, 13 March 1944 by David John Rowlands)
George Albert Cairns fought World War II in Asia for three years before the night of Mar. 16, 1944. This is the night he would lose an arm in a fight that would ultimately cost him his life.
He was a British officer, a lieutenant overseeing a joint British-Indian special operation reconnaissance force. The chindits, as they were called, were experts in long-range recon patrols and raiding operations in the Japanese-held jungles of southern Asia. On the night in question, he and his fellow chindit troops were operating in a region controlled by neither side when they ran into a Japanese contingent of troops. Suddenly, the hills came alive with a small arms exchange.
The British allies had unknowingly dug in right next to a fortified Japanese position.
Cairns’ commanding officer, Brigadier General Michael Calvert, later wrote a couple of books about their time in the Burmese jungles. He describes a pagoda, sitting on top of a nearby hill. Both sides made for the structure, no bigger than two tennis courts. On the hill before the pagoda, Japanese and British troops shot each other, threw grenades into the group, and fought each other with both fixed bayonets and hand-to-hand.
Brigadier Calvert described the scene as a carnage-filled hackfest, like ancient battles fought on open ground, except now with columns from the South Staffordshire Regiment and 3/6 Gurkha Rifles fighting Japanese infantry.
Though Calvert led the attack, he saw Lt. Cairns engage a Japanese officer, who cut his arm off with his sword. Cairns killed the Japanese officer and picked up the dead man’s sword. He then began to slice his way through the Japanese forces.
One eyewitness description has Cairns and the Japanese officer on the ground, choking each other. That’s when the witness says Cairns found his bayonet and stabbed the enemy officer repeatedly before getting up and leading his men to take the hill.
The Japanese broke eventually, with 42 Japanese killed and a number of wounded. Lieutenant Cairns himself died the next morning.
With three living witnesses, Cairns was recommended for the Victoria Cross, the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor. Unfortunately, that recommendation was lost when the general carrying it was shot down. Cairns was awarded the medal eventually. In 1949, King George VI awarded the VC to Cairns posthumously.
The sniper is more than an expert marksman and being a sniper is about more than one good shot. Snipers are highly-trained in stealth movement, allowing them to slowly infiltrate enemy positions and observe their movements. Taking out a high-ranking official is just one of the benefits of a sniper team.
Once behind enemy lines, they provide crucial intelligence information and reconnaissance on enemy movements not to mention the size, strength and equipment of the enemy.
The lethality of the sniper can provide overwatch for regular forces on the ground and strike fear into the heart of an enemy encampment. When a sniper does take that well-placed shot, it can change history. These are the 5 best snipers in modern history:
5. Unknown Canadian Special Forces Sniper
No one knows the name of this Canadian sniper because he’s still out there, giving terrorists a reason to consider giving up on terrorism altogether – lest they get a bullet they won’t even see coming.
This special operator from the great north took down a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan from more than two miles away. Using a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle from an elevated position, he fired the shot from nearly twice as far as the weapon’s maximum range. In 10 seconds, it was all over.
To make that shot takes more than crosshairs. The sniper’s spotter was likely using a telescope to make its target. The sniper then has to account for gauge wind speeds, distances, terrain, heat and even the curvature of the earth to hit its mark.
4. Red Army Capt. Vasily Zaytsev
It’s one thing to be a successful sniper when the world around you is quiet. It’s a whole other beast to do it in the stadium of death that was the World War II siege of Stalingrad. Vasily Zaytsev grew up in the Russian wilderness, learning to shoot by necessity, hunting food for his family.
It was just as necessary when he was transferred from the Russian Navy into the Red Army following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, a gig he volunteered for. He took down 255 Nazis at Stalingrad, creating a new method for snipers in fixed areas, called the “sixes.” He was briefly wounded but returned to the front eventually ending the war in Germany with around 400 total kills – often using a standard issue rifle.
3. Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle
“The Deadliest Sniper in U.S. Military History,” this Navy SEAL’s exploits were known to both the Marines he protected as well as the enemy. The Marines called him “The Legend.” Insurgents called him “The Devil.” They also put an ,000 bounty on his head.
Kyle learned to shoot from the tender age of 8 years old, and joined the Naval Special Warfare Command in 2001. He would do a total of four tours in Iraq, racking up so many confirmed and unconfirmed kills even he lost track of them all. To Kyle, however, it was all to protect his Marines. And the Marines loved him for it.
2. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock
Moving on from “The Legend” to a legend even among other snipers, comes Gunny Hathcock. Hell hath no fury like Carlos Hathcock when the lives of his fellow Americans are on the line.
“If I didn’t get the enemy, they were going to kill the kids over there,” he once said.
His exploits in Vietnam are each worth a Hollywood blockbuster, from the time he low-crawled for miles to take out a North Vietnamese general, to his showdown with “The Apache,” a female sniper who tortured American GIs to make Hathcock come out and fight.
He did. He called the shot that killed The Apache, “The best shot I ever made.”
1. Finnish Army 2nd Lt. Simo Häyhä
No sniper’s record can compare to that of Lt. Simo Häyhä. When the USSR invaded Finland in 1939, Häyhä set out to kill as many Red Army soldiers as possible. It earned him the nickname “White Death” and a record that still stands.
The final tally on that promise turned out to be a lot: 505 kills in fewer than 100 days. That means the old farmer from Rautajävi killed at least five people a day on average, all with just the iron sights on his rifle.
Every countersniper the Russians sent to kill the White Death never returned. Even when the Red Army tried to use artillery to kill him, they weren’t successful. One Russian marksman got lucky enough to hit Häyhä in his left cheek with an explosive bullet, but the old man stood up with half his face blown off and killed his would-be assassin. He lived to the ripe old age of 96.
Sailors who have long pushed for Navy leaders to come up with a better way to measure abdominal strength will finally get their way.
Sit-ups will be axed from the Navy’s physical readiness test starting in 2020, the service’s top officer announced on May 29, 2019. Sailors can expect planks and rowing tests to replace the event on the annual assessment.
“We’re going to eliminate the sit-ups,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a video message announcing the changes. “Those have been shown to do more harm than good. They’re not a really good test of your core strength.”
Instead, Richardson said, the Navy will be replacing the sit-ups with a plank. Details about how that might affect scoring or how long sailors might need to hold the straight, bridge-like position were not immediately announced.
Commands with rowing machines will also be adding a rowing event to the PRT, Richardson said.
“You can choose to get onto a rowing machine to do your cardio if that’s what you prefer to do,” he said.
The changes were driven by feedback from the fleet, Richardson said in the Facebook message, and have been tested and evaluated. The changes are another way, he said, the Navy is moving toward getting “best-ever performance every single day.”
Last year, the Marine Corps began allowing those with medical conditions preventing them from completing the run on their fitness test to opt for a 5,000-meter rowing test instead. Those Marines can still earn full points on their physical fitness test if they complete the event in the allotted time.
Navy leaders will release more information about the new PRT rules soon, Richardson said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
By the time the physical training session finished in the late afternoon, another five followed.
One day into the first week of Engineer Diver Phase I course, a class of 12 has dwindled to two: the first, a soldier who had already passed the course two years ago. He left the Army and worked his way back. The other: a soldier who struggled swimming the endurance laps necessary to be a deep-sea diver but passed other aspects of the course, including the classroom lessons and physical training exercises.
The cuts come swiftly. Some quit out of their own accord. Others simply did not meet the rigid standards of the course. The Army designed it this way; to weed out the weak-minded, weak-willed and those unable to remain calm during extended hours underwater. In maritime conditions, Army divers must be prepared to act in seconds; they must react to sudden changes in currents, waves and the elements.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Holdner pours water on students as they attempt to complete flutter kicks. The water simulates the sensations of drowning. The exercise tests students’ ability to perform under extreme duress.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
More than 90 percent of students won’t advance past the school’s first phase at Fort Leonard Wood. Among those who didn’t make the first week: recruits who had years of competitive swimming experience and former high school athletes.
The instructors know oceans, rivers and lakes can be a brutally cold, unforgiving places.
They attempt to make the course as unforgiving. At Davidson Fitness Center’s 25-meter pool, divers face two crucial initiation tests. Holdner said the majority of students don’t make it past these two exercises.
The first, students must swim the width of the pool in a single breath — underwater. Then the new recruits jump off a high dive board, surface, and swim to the far side of the pool and back and tread water for 40 minutes.
Pfc. Nolan Hurrish, right, emerges from the pool with other students during an Army engineer diving training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
During the first half, students keep their heads out of water while using their hands and feet. During the second 20 minutes, they perform the “dead man’s float” — a survival technique where soldiers bend at the waist facing the water with arms out while holding their breath, simulating a floating corpse. When they need to breathe, they collapse arms and legs at the same time to raise their head above the water before dipping their faces back in the water.
In the second test, soldiers must swim 500 yards in 12 minutes and 30 seconds using breast stroke or side stroke, then do 50 pushups, 50 curl ups and six pullups. Finally, they must run a mile and a half in 12:30 or less.
As students attempt each exercise, they face the possibility of being dropped from the course and being reclassified into another career field.
“Every single time I’ve got to drop somebody,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Bailey, the lead instructor. “I feel bad because I know that they got into something that they knew nothing about. Because we’re a small field, very few people know that we exist.”
Students spend up to three and a half hours per day in the water, but also spend time in the classroom, learning about diving physics and how to maintain their equipment.
Dive instructors put students through a series of rites of passage, and ultimately test whether students can remain calm in situations that often cause heightened panic. The first such test came on the third day of training.
In addition to remaining calm underwater and developing breathing skills, diving school students must maintain rigid physical fitness standards.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
Test of Wills
A soldier’s exasperating screams echoed in the swimming complex as he struggled to retrieve his equipment at the bottom of the pool. Instructors removed the diver’s mask, fins and air regulator and tossed them into the deep end of the pool. When the course began earlier that week, he lagged behind classmates during endurance laps.
Now at 1:30 p.m., the weather conditions in central Missouri hovered at around 95 degrees.
Inside the swimming complex the heat and humidity make the poolside area feel like a pressure cooker, not making the training any easier. During the test, instructors rip off pieces of the students’ scuba gear. soldiers must descend 14 feet and retrieve the gear in a single breath.
Holdner and Bailey bobbed at the surface, shouting instructions. They slapped water into the faces of the two remaining students in an attempt to simulate the unpredictable sway of an ocean current.
Pfc. Stephen Olinger dons swimming fins before a training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in July 2018.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
Here both instructors attempted to escalate the stress level to a fever pitch. Their screams, combined with the splashing water, simulate what instructors call a “rough sea state.” On missions, a diver’s rig might fail and they would no longer be able to breathe. Or divers may get bumped by an obstruction, falling debris, marine life or land they didn’t see. The current can also knock their air regulator off their suit.
When faced with the possibility of drowning, the diving instructors said water fills a swimmer’s nostrils, invoking feelings of nausea and sometimes vomiting. It can cause extreme panic, breaking down even the best of athletes and the most confident swimmers.
“We say water is the great equalizer,” Bailey said. “We have plenty of people that come here that are great physical specimens … They can do everything on land … But then, you put them in the water and guess what? They fall apart. They become two different people.”
Water can create extreme panic causing soldiers to lose their bearing, forcibly shoving fellow swimmers out of the way in order to reach for the shore. The violence of the water currents can push some soldiers to the edge.
“If you’re not comfortable,” Bailey said. “Water will bring out the worst in people.”
Bailey, a soldier with a neatly-combed crew cut and a stocky, fit build, teaches the class with a cool demeanor. He barks instruction with stern authority, but minutes later will crack a joke to put the students at ease.
Army divers must be able to communicate with the crew above before going on a deep-sea dive. Though they must operate underwater with little instruction, a deep-sea diver will have the only view of the operation.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
An experienced veteran diver of 13 years, he tested his mettle at sea on a diverse array of maritime missions across the globe. He faced one of his most difficult challenges during a deployment to Iraq along a river. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device had damaged a bridge and infantry units needed engineer divers to perform reconnaissance underwater.
At the river’s center in the shadow of the bridge, Bailey, then a young soldier, entered the water. He and another diver descended nearly 40 feet into the river’s depths. Almost immediately after he entered the river’s pitch black waters, disaster struck.
“As soon as I hit that water, I lost my grip,” Bailey said. “The current took me and immediately just threw me back.”
As he felt the pull to the bottom, the river broke his helmet’s seal. Cold water rushed into his head gear. His suit remained attached to an umbilical air supply cord, restricting his movement. He waited for a teammate to pull him back to shore while calming his nerves in the face of extreme conditions.
“I couldn’t swim to the shore,” he said. “I wasn’t moving. The only way I was getting out of there is if I was getting pulled out. And now my helmet was flooded. So what would have happened if I had panicked or I was not able to remain calm?”
Soldiers must face the fear of drowning and their own mortality on each mission. And each time, Divers must tame their emotions or lives will be at stake. In the worst conditions, soldiers will operate with limited visibility while carrying up to 80 pounds of underwater gear.
“I’ve been in situations where I’m using my hands as my eyes,” Holdner said. “One little mistake can be an injury for you. It’s not an environment that’s going to go easy on you.”
Holdner, a youthful-looking staff sergeant with slicked back dark hair who sports a cascade of tattoos on his right arm, graduated from the course in 2010. He entered with a larger class — 96. Only six made the cut and advanced to Phase II. Holdner said the mental hurdles the course poses can be the most difficult to overcome.
Even the second-time student looked visibly rattled as the two jockeyed for position before descending below. Athletically built with a wide upper body, the student easily passed the physical fitness tests and he seemed likely to survive to the next phase in Panama City, Florida.
Then the unexpected happened.
Inexplicably, he swam to the poolside and signaled to the instructors he wanted to drop out. He decided he had enough.
One student remained.
The private’s panicked expression reflected his extreme duress. Of the 12 students who attempted the course, he was the only remaining soldier. The shortest student in the class, this soldier struggled to finish the swimming endurance drills earlier in the week. But he persevered to make it to the third day.
But his chances have dimmed.
As the private spent more time bobbing his head above the surface, he lost valuable time that could have been spent underwater searching for equipment.
An instructor then blew his whistle. The soldier didn’t make the cut.
Slowly, the soldier swam toward the pool’s edge. Still breathing heavily, he gingerly exited the pool and walked toward his gear. He must now wait for the Army to reclassify him into a new career field.
About 12 to 20 students begin each class. Only 1 to 3 normally graduate. Sometimes, as with the July 2018 students, none make it.
Although instructors must cut the majority of the students, they don’t take each decision lightly. Often before they pull recruits from the course, they have counseling sessions. They sit down with each student and explain why they cannot advance to the next phase.
Often, emotions spill.
“They’re in tears,” Bailey said. “This is something that they’ve wanted to do for a long time or this is something that they’ve told their family about and everyone is rooting for them and they don’t want to disappoint their family.”
Bailey said recruiters and drill sergeants often don’t have accurate accounts of engineer diver training. Soldiers then arrive at Fort Leonard Wood with misconceptions about the realities of training.
Navy instructors check Soldiers’ scuba equipment. Equipment management and maintenance is critical for diver safety, instructors said.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
Two Phase I diving school graduates joined the class of students who trained here in the July heat. Instead of sporting the black Army shirts with gold letters, they donned white shirts and brown swimming trunks to distinguish themselves from the current class. They continued to train with incoming classes to keep their skills fresh as they waited for Phase II in Panama City.
Pvts. 1st Class Stephen Olinger and Nolan Hurrish are only months into their Army careers.
Olinger, a bright-eyed recruit who was raised partially overseas, carries a swagger and self-confidence as he approaches each exercise. He graduated in March. Hurrish, a soft-spoken but diligent recruit from Wisconsin, has quietly passed each test. They don’t know if they will survive the next six months at Panama City. But they remain optimistic that in less than 16 weeks they will join the fewer than 150 Army divers worldwide.
“I have an attitude like ‘this is it,” Olinger said. “This is what I came here to do. If I fail out, I fail out. But I’m going to give it everything.”
The world’s five oceans, where many of the 12 dozen or so Army divers throughout the world must perform, can be ruthless.
The sea is an unpredictable, faceless adversary unlike any other soldiers face in the battlefield, and no less deadly.
Students will get their first taste of that adversary off the shores of the Florida Panhandle in Phase II of the diving school.
(Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on the Army’s engineer diver training. For part two, click here.)
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul T. “PJ” Johnson is right up there with the best pilots to have ever flown the A-10. While serving as a captain during Operation Desert Storm, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue mission of a downed Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot deep behind enemy lines.
Capt. Johnson was en route from another mission when he received the call to search for the F-14 crew that had been shot down the night before. During the next six hours, he lead the search through three aerial refuelings, one attack on a possible SCUD missile site, and three hours of going deeper into enemy territory than any A-10 had ever flown. When he finally spotted the survivor, an enemy vehicle was heading in his direction, which Johnson proceeded to destroy, thus securing the target.
The mission was successful and a first for the A-10. A few days later, Johnson’s skills were on full display when he was hit by an enemy missile while trying to take out a radar site. The explosion left a gaping hole on his right wing, which disabled one of the hydraulic systems. Still, he managed to fly back to safety.
This video shows how Johnson pulled through his “high pucker factor” experience, which he credits to a “wing and a prayer.”
Gen. Johnson received his commission in 1985 from Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base. He’s a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours on the A-10 and served as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C.; the 354th Operations Group, Eielson AFB, Alaska; the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. He’s retiring on July 01, 2016, according to his Air Force profile.
Medics and corpsman can be trained in a variety of ways. They can operate on troops in cut suits, a fake abdomen and torso filled with simulated organs. They can practice on medical dummies. They can even work in hospitals on real civilian patients. But one of the most realistic training programs for medics is the most controversial, operating on live animals intentionally injured for training.
PETA has been fighting against this training practice for years. The program is referred to by a few names with “live tissue training” being one of the most popular. In live tissue trauma training, or LTTT, animals are given surgical levels of anesthesia before an instructor inflicts trauma on them — everything from broken bones to puncture wounds. In the most intense classes, the animals may be shot or burned.
The medic or corpsman then has to save the animal’s life. As they do so, the instructor can continue injuring the “patient,” forcing the student to continuously decide what to treat first and how to save the animal. LTTT can go on for hours while the animal sleeps.
Then, when the training is complete, the animal is euthanized without ever re-gaining consciousness.
Live tissue training has been restricted for many training programs and legislation has been re-introduced to halt LTTT within the next five years. PETA and others who protest the training method point to the cruelty of killing and injuring animals for the purposes of training.
The program has plenty of advocates in Special operations. Jim Hanson, a former Special Forces soldier, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Times in 2010 supporting the practice by saying it is the only training that provides “the visceral reaction each medic must face when a life is in danger.”
Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who was killed in the Benghazi, Libya attack in 2012, once wrote an opinion piece supporting animal training that said, “You can simulate performing a surgical crycothyrotomy on a mannequin a dozen times, but until you’ve cut through living tissue on a creature whose life is depending on your timely and successful procedure to survive, you’ve never really done it.”
In this video, medics operate on a goat while training on surgical procedures. Surgical live tissue training has been discontinued, and monkeys were no longer used for chemical casualty management training starting in 2012. In 2017, it was announced that LTTT would be drastically scaled back in favor of more humane methods.