In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.
Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.
Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?
We, of course, choose Animal Mother.
Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.
Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…
“Ain’t war hell?”
He was the guest of honor.
So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!
Less than 900 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients are serving in the military, and the Pentagon has no idea what will happen to them.
President Donald Trump officially declared an end Sept. 5 to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program initiated by the Obama administration to allow illegals to remain and work in the country without fear of deportation, but what that rollback means for the military is still up in the air. The program’s protections will begin being phased out in six months, but DACA recipients whose permits expire before March 2018 can renew for another two-year period.
For now, the Pentagon is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to find out what this policy change will mean for DACA recipients currently in the military. Out of 800,000 DACA recipients, the Pentagon said that less than 900 are currently serving in the military.
“There are less than 900 individuals currently serving in the military, or have signed contracts to serve, who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival authorization,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “These individuals are part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Pilot Program. The Department of Defense is coordinating with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security regarding any impact a change in policy may have for DACA recipients. The Department defers to our colleagues at DHS on questions related to immigration, naturalization, or citizenship.”
Those with DACA status have been allowed to enlist in the military since 2014 through the MAVNI program.
A total of 10,400 immigrants who have made it through MAVNI have received US citizenship, but MAVNI has been put on hold as of last year.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post published Sept. 4, former Obama administration Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that if DACA ends, soldiers who are part of the program could be deported immediately. Panetta argued that GOP Sen. John McCain should allow the bipartisan Dream Act to be added to the annual defense bill, which would give illegal aliens a pathway to citizenship.
“Thousands of our post-9/11 veterans carry the invisible burden of post-traumatic stress, and there is an overwhelming need to expand the available treatment options,” DeSantis said in a statement. “The VA should use every tool at their disposal to support and treat our veterans, including the specialized care offered by service dogs.”
The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act is a five-year, $10 million program to give post-9/11 veterans with a service dog and veterinary health insurance. The veteran must have been treated for PTSD and have completed an established evidence-based treatment. They must remain significantly symptomatic, rating a 3 or 4 on the PTSD scale.
Service dogs are known to be effective in treating veterans with anxiety disorders, physical pain, and other limitations. The animals are proven to give new life and independence to recovering veterans.
The early days of November bring more than just chilly weather and the beginning of a winter-long food and football hibernation cycle. That’s what Thanksgiving is for.
Come the 10th and 11th – the Marine Corps birthday and Veterans Day respectively – military towns and American Legion Halls all over the country begin shaking with the booming voice of Marines past and present, singing the Marines’ Hymn, a song about the Halls of Montezuma and the Shores of Tripoli.
If you’re a Marine, you definitely know what these are. If you’ve served in the military at some point, you’ve probably been able to pick up what they mean. But for a lot of civilians, military culture and tradition can be a black hole of knowledge – unless one of their history teachers was a Marine, there’s no reason for them to know this.
Can you imagine Marine Corps grade school?
The Halls of Montezuma
No, the Marines did not fight Aztec warriors. They were around 300 or so years too late for that.
The reference is to Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire…which also happens to be modern-day Mexico City. In 1847, the U.S. and Mexico were engaged in a bit of a war and it wasn’t going well for the Mexicans. The Americans were in the middle of capturing the Mexican capital. But Mexico under dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna wasn’t going down easily – neither were its people.
To break the fighting spirits of the Mexican troops while capturing the city itself, Gen. Winfield Scott determined that he would have to capture Chapultepec Castle, a military academy on the heights overlooking the city. The hill leading up to the castle was a 200-foot slope ending in a 12-foot wall, designed to keep enemy troops from doing exactly what the Marines were about to do.
After the Americans made it through volley after volley of artillery and gunfire, the Mexican Army was waiting for them. They engaged in a good old-fashioned fistfight.
They then scaled the castle walls and entered the inside of the castle – known as the Halls of Montezuma. They raised the American flag and by the time Gen. Scott entered the castle, the streets were guarded by U.S. Marines.
The Marines captured the fortress in an hour, with a loss of 90 percent of the Marines’ officer and NCO corps. Legend has it the NCOs and officers added scarlet stripes to their pants to commemorate their lost brothers here. Today these are referred to as “blood stripes” to remember the Marine blood shed in Mexico City.
The Shores of Tripoli
Why do the Marines sing about the Shores of Tripoli when those particular shores have been pretty unfriendly to Americans for much of the time most active Marines have been alive? Because, like Chapultepec, this battle happened early on in Marine Corps history.
The wars with the Barbary pirates were an epic and underreported time in American history. The Marines got one of their first heroes when Lt. Presley O’Bannon and his contingent of Marines accompanied a force of Arab allies under U.S. agent William Eaton marched 500 miles overland to attack the city of Derne.
It was after the march that O’Bannon and the Marines, along with Eaton and his Greek and Arab mercenaries, captured the city against a much larger force. The Tripolitans sent reinforcements, but by the time they arrived, the city had already fallen. When that force tried to retake the city, U.S. Navy vessels and captured Tripolitan guns manned by Marines repelled the attack.
The capture of Derne forced the leaders in Tripoli to make peace with the Americans, stop raiding American shipping, and free American slaves. The Marines say Lt. O’Bannon was presented with an elaborate Mamluk-style sword by the Ottoman representative, which is now the model for those carried by Marine Corps officers.
The Bad Batch seems primed to follow a structure that’s worked well in plenty of TV shows and movies, in everything from The Great Escape to Captain Planet to the Avengers films. It will revolve around “the unique and experimental clones” of Clone Force 99, a group of clone soldiers genetically distinct from the rest of the Clone Army. Basically, this isn’t the Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan show you were promised, but instead a spin-off from the existing (and complicated) animated Star Wars shows that have been running for over a decade.
All four members of the Bad Batch have a “desirable mutation” that makes them formidable soldiers. Crosshair has enhanced eyesight, Wrecker is strong, Tech is intelligent, and Clone Sergeant Hunter, the leader of the crew, has enhanced sensory abilities.
The Bad Batch was first introduced in the final season of The Clone Wars, so it’s appropriate that Dave Filoni — a director, writer, animator, and producer on that series — will executive produce the spin-off. Filoni is a key figure in Disney’s Star Wars plans, doing animation for The Force Awakens and four other animated Star Wars series. He also directed, wrote, and executive produced episodes of The Mandalorian.
All in all, this is good news for parents whose kids are still mourning the loss of The Clone Wars, as the creative talent and choice of subject matter for The Bad Batch makes it seem as though the new series will preserve what made the old one great. That said, it is kind of bad news for parents who wanted a little bit more of a strong female lead, Ahsoka Tano, or, you know, a new Star Wars show that wasn’t a cartoon.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch will come to Disney+ in 2021.
And, luckily, The Mandalorian Season 2 will still hit Disney+ sometime in late 2020.
One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.
Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.
He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
Duel at the cathedral
It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.
Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.
As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”
Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.
“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.
American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.
“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”
“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”
One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.
Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.
Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.
The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.
Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.
(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)
“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”
Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.
Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”
“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”
Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.
World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”
But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”
Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.
“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.
She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.
Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee)
History in the making
For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.
“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”
Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.
Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.
But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.
That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.
“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.
This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.
World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.
To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.
With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.
They don’t even put Charms in MREs anymore. Because if everyone is just going to chuck the candy out the Humvee window, that’s just a gross waste of high-fructose corn syrup.
Those who aren’t new to the service and have ever deployed with Marines probably saw the same scene at some point. Hungry Marines pour into their MREs and take out their favorite parts and toss the rest into the MRE box (a process known as ratf*cking). Let’s face it, some MRE parts are definitely better than others.
No matter what an individual’s tastes were, one item was always discarded: the Charms candy. The reason for that was a mixture of superstition and because the younger guys knew someone would slap the candy out of their hands or out of their mouths for the cardinal sin of even opening the wrapper.
The simplest answer is that Marines grow up in the Corps learning that Charms are just plain bad luck. Whether it was learned from saltier Marines or experienced firsthand, those things might as well be pure evil.
Eating Charms is like begging for the world’s largest thunderstorm to rain down on you and your platoon – even in the desert. Or they might set off a roadside bomb. Some think you’ll get mortared just for opening an MRE with Charms in it – unless you bury it.
Some troops have been known to donate them to the more persistent local children – at high velocity. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Grant Okubo)
The luck varied as much as the flavors did. As Sgt. Kenneth Wilson told Agence France-Presse just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a lemon-flavored Charm could cause a vehicle breakdown. The green ones were the ones that brought the rain. Raspberry meant certain death.
The opening ceremony of the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games began with the traditional procession of service-member athletes representing their countries. The national anthem for each country was played marking the international participation of the games, but when U.S. Army Maj. Luis Avila, a wounded warrior, sang the Star-Spangled Banner, you had a sense these games were going to be special.
Jon Stewart, a comedian, was once again the master of ceremonies to officially open the games. He mixed humor with a compassion and seriousness about wounded warriors that seems to resonate with service members and families.
“Thank you very much for coming out to the Warrior Games,” Stewart said. “We have had a tremendous day or two of competition. The athletes are finding out what it is like to be in a city that was built inside of a humidifier.”
“We are here to celebrate these unbelievable athletes from all of the branches (of military service),” Stewart continued. “These are men and women that refuse to allow themselves to be defined by their worst day, but define themselves by their reaction to that day and the resilience, and the perseverance, and the dedication, and the camaraderie, and the family you are going to witness this week.”
Jon Stewart at the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games.
(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Stewart stated the athletes have gone through a lot to get to the games, but no one gets there by themselves.
“The families and the caregivers so often work as hard as the athletes to get them prepared and to get them going and to be there,” Stewart said.
Kenneth Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fisher House, plays a huge role in helping the families. Fisher acknowledged the work with wounded warriors that Jon Stewart continues to do as an advocate for service members in and out of uniform, and focused on family support.
“I have had the great honor of meeting so many of this nation’s wounded people and never a day goes by when I am not inspired by you; amazed by what you have accomplished and humbled by the unconditional support given to you by your families, your friends, your spouses, your children; by all those who love you the most.”
Approximately 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans will participate in 13 athletic competitions over 10 days as U.S. Special Operations Command hosts the 2019 DoD Warrior Games.
(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
Former President George W. Bush and U.S. Senator Rick Scott, Florida, sent videotaped messages to the athletes, wishing them well during the competition. Congresswoman Kathy Castor noted the fantastic job U.S Special Operations Command has done hosting this year’s Warrior Games.
Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist had an opportunity to watch the U.S. Army wheelchair basketball team practice earlier in the day.
“Coach Rodney Williams has those three-time defending champions looking pretty good,” Norquist noted. “They got (retired) Spc. Brent Garlic who was part of last year’s team, and (retired) Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine, who is the defending Warrior Games Ultimate Champion.”
Norquist welcomed and thanked all the international participants at this year’s competition, and alluded to the qualification to participate in the games.
“To compete in the Warrior Games, it is not enough to be strong; it is not enough to be fast. In the Warrior Games, there is a level of resolve; a unique ability to embrace and overcome adversity and that is the price of admission. Just to get to this event, it requires unbelievable grit and resilience.”
Air Force athletes enter the arena for the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Fla., June 22, 2019.
(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Tim Kane, father of Army Sgt. Tanner Kane, said, once his son got involved with adaptive reconditioning sports, he found a purpose to get up and out in the mornings.
“Tanner didn’t speak for two years and then he connected with other Soldiers, it all changed. Tanner realized his former state was wasting away at his spirit and this program was here to help and aid other Soldiers on their progress to healing.”
Tiffany Weasner, wife of retired Army Sgt. Johnathan Weasner said, “I know what this program has done for my husband Jonathan and our family. To look around this arena and see the joy on other families faces, I can only imagine what adaptive reconditioning has done for other families; it’s a blessing.”
The Air Force has enough people from other branches making fun of it. Airmen don’t need to be the subject of ridicule for things they don’t deserve. The facts people can use to poke fun at the Air Force are so plentiful, why go through all that extra effort to make stuff up? Just because it seems like something the Air Force would do doesn’t make it real.
The chocolate fountain inside a DFAC in Iraq? Yes, that existed. I can say I saw it with my own eyes. To be fair, there was one in the Army chow hall on Camp Victory, too, but I’ll let the Air Force take the heat for it. Dining facilities with made-to-order omelets and a salad bar? The Air Force has that, too. And yes, it was not too long ago the Air Force did its annual PT test on a stationary bike.
There’s no need perpetuate myths about airmen. Forget, for a moment, that Air Force “barracks” are nicer than most Holiday Inns (no, airmen do not get swimming pools… not at their living quarters, anyway) and help us debunk these continuously repeated myths that are both untrue or unjustly attributed to the Air Force.
1. The Stress Card Myth.
This has been debunked on We Are The Mighty before, but it’s important enough to reiterate here. For anyone joining the military, no, you will not be issued a Basic Training “Stress Card” that allows you to take a “break” from training if your nerves get a little frayed. The Air Force is still very much a military branch and, while it might have the “easiest” time in Basic Military Training, you will still get yelled at, still do PT ad nauseam, and it will all be very stressful.
That’s the point.
If anything, BMT is only getting more difficult as time goes on. Where it was once a six-and-a-half week course, it’s now eight weeks. Now that airmen spend more time in joint-service operations — and thus become “battlefield airmen” — it’s important that they be able to handle themselves under stress, which can often mean under fire.
Besides, it was the Navy who had the closest thing to a Stress Card.
The Air Force’s enlisted troops are mostly happy with rendering a sharp salute to our officers as they taxi out on their way to the wild blue yonder, the battlefield the Air Force controls with unrelenting hostility toward would-be interlopers both on the ground and in the air.
But there are many Air Force specialties that have nothing to do with simply letting others go into combat while waiting on the flight line. The Air Force’s battlefield airmen aren’t limited to conventional forces, like Security Forces Phoenix Ravens, the airmen who protect aircraft on the ground in a hostile environment. USAF Combat Controllers, TACPs, Weather Technicians, and Combat Rescue Officers will all deploy anywhere in the world with the best special operators from any branch. And when the sh*t hits the fan, you will be happy to know that Air Force Pararescue Jumpers are on their way to bail you out.
This one is mainly for civilians. Anyone who’s met the average junior enlisted airman will be happy to know that flying a plane, especially for the United States Air Force, is not something you can just sign up to do. As a matter of fact, it’s incredibly difficult to get behind the stick of any Air Force aircraft anywhere.
That includes training aircraft.
The closest enlisted airmen will get to being in the cockpit’s hotseat aboard a USAF aircraft is either in a simulator or stealing one off the flightline. And before you scoff at the last part, it happens a lot more than anyone might expect.
I hate to debunk this one because it saves me so much stress and hassle whenever a bunch of veterans are at the bar comparing the size of their brains based on branch of service. Eventually, someone pats the airman on the back and says, “Hey! At least you’re the smartest branch!”
This myth transcends every branch and era. Inevitably, some Facebook commenter, veteran or civilian, will remark on how the Air Force is the smartest without actually reading this article and the myth will perpetuate itself. While the Air Force handles a lot of high-tech equipment and research laboratories, the people who handle that aren’t taking the ASVAB. And if they were, they would probably ace it for any branch they were going into.
Sure, the Air Force works on satellites, the Navy works on nuclear reactors, the Army operates geospatial imaging systems, and the Marines have to at least know enough to pick up Air Force women at the bar. The actual branch that is the most difficult to get into is – wait for it – the Coast Guard.
The military divides enlisted candidates into three tiers, with the top tier being those with a high school diploma and tier two being recruits with a GED. The Air Force recruits 99 percent tier one candidates, but the Coast Guard won’t even look at anything other than tier one unless they’ve been in the military before. If you prefer to judge by using minimum ASVAB score, the lowest the Air Force will go is 36, while the Coast Guard’s minimum is a solid 40.
The Coast Guard is also the smallest branch of the military, but has no trouble recruiting new Coasties. This means they’d rather send you down the street to the Army than let a substandard Coast Guardsman slip through the cracks. Meanwhile, in the Air Force, they say, “there’s a waiver for everything.”
Sgt. Samantha Alexander, Distribution Management Office freight noncommissioned officer in charge aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal on Nov. 13, 2019, for saving the life of a local teenager April 25, 2019.
She was driving home with her daughter and as she turned into her neighborhood the car ahead of her slammed on the breaks and swerved, hitting two boys on their bicycles.
Alexander pulled safely off the road, and began to approach the scene. As she was getting closer, she noticed that the woman who had hit the two boys was standing over them screaming frantically, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!” Another gentleman ran to attend to one of the boys, so Alexander helped the other.
“While I started talking to the (boy), I asked him his name, how old he was and I told him who I was. He said he had just got released from high school, and they were riding their bikes home.”
Three Marines receive The Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal Nov. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aidan Parker)
As she talked to the boy, she examined his body for trauma.
“I noticed that he had blood on his pants and they were torn. I (moved) the sweatpants, and could see bone and fatty tissue. I pulled off my belt and I tied it as far above the laceration as possible.”
Alexander kept telling the boy to brace for the pain, but due to the traumatic leg injury he couldn’t feel his leg.
“Once I got it tightened down as much as I could, I locked it in place and sat there talking to him.”
Despite seeing tunnel vision, and having spiked adrenaline, Alexander remained calm for the boy until emergency services arrived.
Shortly after EMS arrived, the boys were taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital where the 15-year-old was immediately medevacked to Savannah. The doctors confirmed that it was an arterial bleed, and Alexander’s quick reaction to stop the bleeding saved his life.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
If you had told David Robinson when he entered the Naval Academy that he would become one of the all-time greats in professional basketball, he probably would have rolled his eyes at you and laughed. But, by the time Robinson’s NBA career was over, that’s exactly what happened. With his dominant 7’1 stature and unprecedented agility for a center, Robinson earned a sure-fire ticket to the Hall of Fame.
Robinson became a two-time NBA champion, NBA MVP, 10-time All-Star, and led the league in scoring, rebounds and blocks several times. He also was a three-time Olympian, winning the gold medal twice, most famously as a member of the 1992 USA Basketball team. The team would go down as the best basketball team of all time, forever remembered as the Dream Team.
But the future NBA legend didn’t start playing basketball until his senior year of high school. Born to a career Navy man, Robinson spent his childhood moving around until his father’s retirement. Finally, the family settled in Virginia. By this time, Robinson was a great athlete and pretty tall for his age. He excelled at many sports, but when he tried basketball in junior high, it didn’t go well despite his 5’9 frame at such a young age. By the time he was a senior in high school, he had blossomed to 6’6 and decided to try again.
It turned out he was pretty decent. He was the star player on the team and was named an all-district player. But that wasn’t enough to get much attention from college scouts, so while he was a late bloomer in basketball, it looked like it wouldn’t lead anywhere.
Robinson likely didn’t mind and had his sights set on a better prize. He had worked really hard on his academics and wanted to fulfill his dream of being a Naval Officer. He applied and was accepted into the United States Naval Academy in 1983 with hopes he would become a career officer. Robinson was recruited to play basketball there by Coach Paul Evans. Evans had seen Robinson and figured he would be a great back up to the team he had steadily built over the years.
After his acceptance, however, Robinson had a small growth spurt. He grew to 6’7 and that put him over the maximum height for the Academy. But the Navy quickly granted a waiver as he wasn’t even the biggest player on the team and figured he wouldn’t grow anymore.
They were wrong.
His freshman year, Robinson played as a backup but then had the mother of all growth spurts between his first and second year, taking him from 6’7 to 7’0. While growing, he kept his lithe athleticism, which turned him from a backup winger to a very versatile center. His sophomore year, he became one of the most dominant centers in college basketball and a true national star.
At the same time, he was drawing attention from the media and NBA scouts, and questions started to arise as to whether or not an NBA team would draft him in two years. He was a Midshipman and had a five-year commitment to the Navy after graduating. Robinson wanted to honor that commitment and had said he had no problem serving out his commitment as that is what he knowingly signed up for.
But it turned out that awesome growth spurt that gave birth to his basketball superstardom also was about to limit his Naval Career.
Robinson already had a waiver to get into the Navy at 6’7, but now being a seven-footer, he was not allowed to be an unrestricted line officer. He would never command a ship and would be relegated to shore duty because of his height.
In the meantime, the Academy was getting significant media attention and scouts were trying to get as much information about Robinson as possible. He would be eligible for the draft in two years, but would a team have to wait five more years to see him play? Would any team want to draft a player in 1987 and have the only uniform he would wear until 1992 be a military uniform?
The Navy itself looked at Robinson’s situation as well and realized the predicament. Yes, he signed up for a five-year commitment, but at the time, he was still eligible to be an unrestricted line officer. But now that that plan was scrapped, they also realized that Robinson could have another growth spurt and be disqualified from the Navy in general. Could they really benefit by having a Naval Academy Midshipman not be a first-round draft pick?
At the time this was happening, the Navy had some great PR. They had another graduate, Napoleon McCallum, who was drafted by a USFL team and would spend his weekend playing for the Raiders and then the Rams. They were also about to benefit from a movie that was about to come out about Naval Aviators that featured a young star named Tom Cruise, awesome action sequences and an amazing soundtrack.
Being in his sophomore year, Robinson could have selected to leave the Academy, transfer to another school, sit out a year and play a final year putting him in the league in 1988. Would he really wait until 1992? Would he want to pursue the Navy that would restrict him from advancing in rank while missing out on millions of dollars?
The Navy didn’t want to lose Robinson and decided to take steps to keep him at the Academy and have him serve while still protecting his future basketball career.
The discussion went all the way up to Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, who figured in the best interest of the Navy, Robinson would serve as a Naval Reserve Officer. After graduating, he would serve two years on active duty and then be allowed to go play basketball. During those two years, however, Robinson would be allowed to play in international competitions. (The Navy wanted Robinson on the 1988 Olympic team.)
Robinson agreed and played the next two years at the Academy, taking the Midshipmen to the Elite 8 one year. He became the dominant center in basketball his senior year and was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. Robinson spent two years stationed at Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, in Georgia. He worked as an engineering officer, worked out relentlessly to keep his basketball skills honed and ended up making that Olympic team. (In an ironic twist, that U.S. team lost which partly spurned officials to create an Olympic team with NBA stars in 1992. This would become the legendary Dream Team Robinson was a part of). Robinson was also the de facto poster boy for Navy recruitment as they took the opportunity to plaster his image on every promotional asset they could.
Robinson joined the Spurs in 1989 and never looked back. He was a legend at center, won gold in Barcelona with the Dream Team and won two NBA titles. He also was a devoted philanthropist and man of faith; so much so that in 2003 the NBA gave recipients of its Community Assist award the David Robinson plaque.
Robinson started the Carver Academy in 2001, which helps inner-city kids reach new heights in education. In 2012, it became a public charter school with Robinson doing the lion share of donating and fundraising while taking an active day-to-day role in the school’s operations.
It’s amazing to think how a growth spurt could change someone’s life so much and impact millions of others as well.
When the FBI investigates economic espionage, “time and time again, they keep leading back to China,” Wray said.
China has long been accused of taking steps to target intellectual property and trade secrets from small startups to major companies.
“The reality is that the Chinese have turned more and more to more creative avenues using non-traditional collectors,” Wray said during a Senate hearing in February 2018.
In 2017, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property published a report saying China violated intellectual property rights more than any other country, and that it was at least partially responsible for a $600 billion hit to the US economy.
One method China employed in the past was to acquire US-based companies. In 2016, one of the lead suppliers of military aircraft for China, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), scooped up a small and unprofitable aerospace company based in California.
“What China is doing with AVIC is making sure they have access to technologies that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Tang Energy CEO Patrick Jenevein said in Forbes. That practice is fairly common in business, but China’s involvement earns additional scrutiny.
China’s activities do not appear to be limited to economic espionage. China has somehow acquired defense industry designs, such as a type of thermonuclear warhead engineered for submarine missiles.
When her duty day is over, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen often wonders if she did enough to help identify fallen service members.
As the noncommissioned officer in charge of the morgue at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is tasked to account for more than 82,000 Americans missing from past conflicts, she analyzes human remains and personal effects in hopes to close a cold case.
“At the end of the day, I have to be able to look in the mirror and say I’ve done my best,” she said. “And when I get up in the morning, I say I’m going to do better, because these families have been waiting years and years.”
Owens is one of about 100 service members and civilians who work at the agency’s laboratories here and at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Each year, the labs identify the remains of around 200 Americans that are then reunited with families.
On Aug. 1, more than 50 cases containing remains believed to be those of American service members were provided to DPAA by North Korea.
The remains are now undergoing further analysis and identification at the labs.
The painstaking work, which can take months to years to complete, is Owen’s passion. Whenever a positive identification comes in, she said, it is as if the service member’s name is given back.
An honor guard provided by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command conducts an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018. Carry teams will move 55 flag-draped transfer cases, containing what are believed to be the remains of American service members lost in the Korean War, to the DPAA laboratory at JBPH-H for identification.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)
‘These Are All Heroes’
“What drives me the most is that these are heroes,” she said, looking across a lab holding hundreds of unknown remains. “These are all heroes [who] have a name and a family.”
Each year, DPAA conducts up to 80 investigation and recovery team missions throughout the world to pinpoint last known locations of missing Americans and to attempt to excavate their remains.
“The work is complex, the work is difficult, and it takes that dedication, that passion … to be able to perform this solemn obligation that we make to the nation and to the families,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.
The joint agency, which employs many service members and veterans, has agreements with nearly 50 nations that assist in its missions, he added.
Most of the missing fell at World War II battle sites in the Pacific region. There are also almost 7,700 service members unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.
DPAA teams were allowed to conduct missions in North Korea from 1996 to 2005, but operations were halted as diplomatic relations deteriorated in the region. Agency officials hope these missions could soon start up again.
Before he became the agency’s lab director, John Byrd had the opportunity to help recover Americans who fought in North Korea at the Battle of Unsan. The 1950 battle pitted Chinese forces against American and South Korean troops.
When remains are identified by his staff it is always a testament to good field and lab work that solved the decades-old case, Byrd said.
“It’s extremely gratifying,” he said, “and it kind of keeps you grounded where you know why you’re here and why you’re doing this work.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen, a morgue noncommissioned officer for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, examines a personal effect that may have belonged to a fallen service member in a laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 12, 2018.
(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
A majority of DPAA cases involve some type of DNA testing. Samples are taken from the remains and sent to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in Delaware.
To help this process, family members who have a missing loved one are encouraged to provide a DNA sample that will serve as a comparison.
If no reference samples are on file, a battalion of professional genealogists working for service casualty offices will try to locate family members.
Many times their starting point is the service member’s home address from the 1940s, if they served in World War II. This makes it extremely difficult to track down a living family member as the years pass on.
“It’s one of the greatest challenges of all. How do you find close family members of a missing serviceman from 1944?” Byrd asked. “It’s not easy. Some [cases] we run into dead-ends and we can’t find anybody.”
The Defense Department has kept dental records of troops dating back to World War I that can be used to help in the identification process.
In 2005, the agency also discovered another method that has proved successful. Many troops who served in early conflicts had to get chest X-rays as part of a tuberculosis screening when they first signed up.
Like the dental records, these radiographs were stored in a warehouse by the DoD. DPAA later obtained thousands of copies of them. Lab personnel use them as a comparison tool, since the shape of each person’s chest is different.
“The process of comparing this induction chest x-ray to an x-ray we take from the remains is analogous to doing fingerprint comparison,” Byrd said. “It’s a very similar kind of mindset that you take when you look at the two side-by-side; you’re looking for commonalities and differences.”
When a service member is identified, family members often come to the lab so they can participate in escorting the remains back home, he said. For those who work at the lab, those family member visits make the months or years of work seem worthwhile.
“When you have a family member come in and the staff who actually worked on the case get to meet them, they get to see the tangible results of their hard work,” Byrd said. “It’s definitely a boost to their morale.”
Members of the 647th Force Support Squadron search and recovery team tag and mark simulated remains during the search and recovery team’s training event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 27, 2017. The search and recovery team is tasked with recovering human remains from accident sites.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)
In the Field
Before that sort of closure can start for families, recovery teams spend weeks at a time doing the grunt work of excavating sites.
Army Capt. Brandon Lucas, who serves as a team leader, recalled his team digging nearly 20 feet into the ground in Laos in search of an F-4 Phantom fighter pilot who vanished during the Vietnam War.
While no remains were found on that mission, they were still able to confidently close the site and shift efforts elsewhere.
Then there was another mission in Slovenia, where the tail gunner of a bomber aircraft from World War II went missing.
When his plane crashed, the gunner was the only one in his aircrew killed. Residents later buried him next to a church.
As Lucas’ team arrived at the site, the townspeople still knew about the crash and the gunner. Residents regularly visited his team, often bringing Lucas and the others food and drinks. An elderly woman even told him that for decades she would clean the grave site once a week.
When his team recovered the remains, a somber tone spread through the community.
“A lot of them actually shed tears when we found the remains,” Lucas said. “It was special to them and it was special to me.”
The poignant moment, along with others he has experienced during missions, galvanized the meaning of the mission for him.
“I’m potentially bringing back a fallen comrade,” Lucas said. “I would want to know that if it was me lost out there somebody is trying to recover me and give my family closure.”
Recovery missions also extend out into the sea, where many service members have disappeared as a result of aircraft crashes or ships sunk.
While she served as commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Army Maj. Gen. Susan A. Davidson was an advocate for her unit to support the solemn mission.
The unit regularly supplies DPAA with highly-trained Army divers from the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, who often work on the sea floor with no visibility and use a suction hose to remove loose sediment from recovery sites.
On a barge, team members then sift through the sediment for the remains or personal effects of those missing.
When divers returned to Hawaii, she encouraged them to share their experiences and what they got out of the mission with others in the unit.
“They come back a different person and they have a different respect for our Army and for what we do,” Davidson said.
Back at the lab, Owen and others strive to identity those heroes who have been found.
“I feel that I am part of something so much bigger that I can contribute to,” she said.