Traveling about half the time of the year as a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy heavily relies on his wife to take care of their toddler and home.
“The whole reason why I’m here is the support that my wife is able to provide,” he said Feb. 4, 2019, before a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor some of the Army’s best recruiters.
Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, McCoy is one of two warrant officer recruiters who handle the western region from Colorado to as far as South Korea.
While he may rack up some frequent flyer miles during his travels, he also gets numerous soldiers to stay in the Army or troops in other branches to join it.
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, McCoy had 150 individuals continue their careers as warrant officers in the Army — about one-third of all warrant officers boarded during that time.
Army Secretary Mark T. Esper honored McCoy and 12 other recruiters for their efforts this past quarter.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Vice Chief of Staff James McConville recognize Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb 4., 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
“Readiness remains the Army’s top priority. Don’t doubt that. And you can’t achieve readiness without the right people,” Esper said. “It’s our recruiters serving across the country who are finding our nation’s best and brightest to join our ranks.”
Accessions are also now a crucial priority after Esper recently directed the Army’s recruiting efforts to modernize and give recruiters the resources they need to connect with qualified applicants.
Improvements to marketing and a larger presence in 22 target U.S. cities are also underway to bring greater awareness to the opportunities found within the Army.
Before the ceremony, Esper said he spoke to the group of recruiters and listened to their challenges and how they overcame them.
“The key to success is simple,” he said they told him. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, it takes honesty and transparency. That’s what America’s youth are looking for in a recruiter. That’s what their parents, their pastors, their counselors expect of us.”
Born and raised in Guam, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Lujan works as a recruiter in Hagatna at the same station where he chose to enlist in the Army about 15 years ago.
Lujan, an aviation operations specialist, was able to sign up 19 recruits this past quarter.
“I’m able to relate to them and let them know that there’s more out there and that the Army is a stepping stone to help you get there,” he said.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, right, speaks during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb. 4, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
He also strives to be a positive member of his community. He often volunteers to help his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, joins in cleanups of the coastline, and helped collect ,000 worth of items as part of relief efforts for Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Guam in September.
“We’re just not there to recruit and bring people in,” he said. “We actually give back anytime that we can get.”
About 10,000 recruiters are spread out over 1,400 locations around the world, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command.
“These recruiters here stand in the trenches everyday as the face of the Army,” Muth told the audience. “Their accomplishments this past quarter is a testament to their professionalism, dedication and laser focus on the mission.”
Being a recruiter still remains a difficult task to ensure the Army fills its ranks with quality applicants.
Only 29 percent of today’s youth are able to meet the minimum requirements to join the service, Esper said, and only 4 percent of them have the propensity to serve.
On top of that, the service is up against the greatest economy in decades, he said.
“This is a challenge that we must overcome,” Esper said. “We have no other choice. Failure is not an option.”
But that task should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few, he said, adding all soldiers need to educate people on the opportunities the service offers.
“Recruiting is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Army’s mission, not just ours. We are all recruiters.”
North Korea demanded $2 million from the US for medical care provided to Otto Warmbier, a US college student who was detained in Pyongyang, where the young man slipped into a mysterious coma from which he would never awake, the Washington Post’s Anna Fifield reports.
North Korea required the US to agree to paying the $2 million before releasing Warmbier, according to The Post, but the bill went unpaid immediately after Warmbier’s return.
North Korea sentenced Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor in the country’s notorious prison camps that harbor thousands of political prisoners. His alleged crime was trying to take a poster from a hotel. North Korea deemed this a “hostile act against the state.”
He was released in the summer of 2017 after several rounds of negotiations with the North Koreans. When Joseph Yun, the State Department’s go-to guy on North Korea at that time, and Michael Flueckiger, a doctor, arrived in the North Korean capital, they were surprised to find that negotiations were far from over as Warmbier lay unresponsive in a North Korean intensive care unit.
“I didn’t realize what a negotiation it was going to be to secure his release,” Flueckiger reportedly said, explaining that the North Koreans expected him to write a report on the care Warmbier had received. While the doctor dealt with that issue, Yun was being handed a million medical bill.
North Korea billed US million for care of Otto Warmbier
Yun called then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who called President Donald Trump. Yun was instructed to sign off on the bill, two sources told The Post.
Warmbier’s family celebrated the boy’s return, but that joy was short lived. Warmbier died shortly after returning, as doctors saw no way to save him.
North Korea claimed Warmbier contracted botulism and went into a coma after taking a pill to help him sleep, despite reports that he was tortured. At the time, doctors examining Warmbier found no evidence of physical abuse. Flueckiger reported that the Warmbier had received “really good care,” an observation the Warmbier family disputes.
“Would I have lied to get him out of there? Maybe I would have. But I didn’t have to answer that question,” he revealed.
The president previously tweeted that Otto “was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
Later, Trump would take Kim’s word for it that he had no knowledge of anything bad happening to Warmbier. This prompted a firey rebuke from the Warmbiers.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Otto’s parents, sued North Korea over their son’s untimely death. A US judge ruled in their favor, stressing that it was appropriate to punish North Korea for the “torture, hostage taking and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
At 100, Jack Eaton is the oldest living, oldest known sentinel of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His and other sentinels’ names are there on plaques, commemorating their service. Sentinels, all volunteers, are members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard.”
Life in the Army for Eaton began when he left coal country in southeastern Pennsylvania to enlist in 1937 at age 18. Stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he said, he fired expert with his rifle and was very competitive in military training and other activities, and that got him selected for the job. Sentinels are also usually tall, and Eaton’s height also helped. At 6-feet, he was considered tall at the time.
Eaton spoke during a tour of the Pentagon, where he met with Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and others.
Army Capt. Harold Earls, right, commander of the Tomb Guard, presents World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, with a signed photo and challenge coin from the Tomb Guard.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)
Earlier in the day, he also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, after arriving on an Honor Flight from Burton, Michigan, where he now lives.
While at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Eaton said he was struck by the elaborate, precision movements of the sentinels, although he remembers it being similar during his time there, with knife-edge creases on the soldiers’ uniforms. He recalls the snap and pop sounds of doing the manual of arms with his rifle.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.
(Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan C. Overbay)
One thing that has changed since Eaton’s days as a sentinel is that the changing of the guard ceremony is now every hour instead of every two hours. Eaton said he was told that the change was made so more visitors could view the ceremony, and he said that’s a good thing for the public to see.
Eaton picked up rank quickly and eventually became corporal of the guard, responsible for ensuring that the changing of the guard and other activities went smoothly.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, left, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, speak to new recruits in the Tomb Quarters at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.
(Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
Eaton’s enlistment expired in 1940, and he went to work for Hudson Motor Car Company. His work there was short-lived, however, because the United States entered World War II after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Eager to get into the war, Eaton returned to Fort Belvoir. His old unit had disbanded, but his old company commander was still there and remembered him. He got Eaton into welding school in Washington, where he trained daily on the use of oxy acetylene and various forms of electric welding. The training soon paid off, he said.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, points to his name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)
Eaton was assigned a truck full of welding gear and mechanical tools and parts, as well as a full-time mechanic. In 1942, just months after the war started, Eaton, his mechanic and the truck were shipped off to England, where they went from airfield to airfield repairing heavy equipment such as bulldozers, graders and cranes used to build runways.
It was a lot of work, he said, because many new runways were being built. This required a lot of heavy equipment, which frequently broke down.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, is greeted by Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.
(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
As the war progressed, Eaton, his truck and his partner were transferred to France, and eventually to Germany. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of technician fourth grade.
After the war ended in 1945, Eaton said, he went back to Hudson to work, but only for a short time, because he found a better job in the window replacement industry.
After a while, he said, he decided he could make a lot more money starting up his own window business, and he did so after purchasing a 2,100-square-foot factory and showroom. His business was such a success that he was able to retire at the ripe young age of 55.
Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, Arlington National Cemetery and Army National Military Cemeteries, World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan walk at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.
(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
Eaton said he’s impressed with the service members he meets today. As for advice to give them on how to succeed, he offered: “Accept responsibility, don’t shirk your duty, honor your oath, be proud of what you do and try to do better each time.” He also said that healthy competition with other soldiers will do much toward self-improvement.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, point to Eaton’s name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.
(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
As for his secret to living to be 100 and walking around the Pentagon at a fast pace without a wheelchair, Eaton credited the genes of his mother, who lived to be 100. He also said he quit smoking in his early 30s, drinks moderately — or not at all for long periods of time — eats right and gets up every morning to do rigorous exercises.
Eaton said he’s lived a full and happy life and was blessed to have the chance to serve his country and contribute to society afterward.
For the defenders of a remote outpost in Afghanistan’s Nurestan Province, Oct. 3. 2009 was “A Day for Heroes.” Combat Outpost (COP) Keating was relentlessly attacked by 400 Taliban fighters and protected by 53 soldiers from Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
For 12 hours, Bravo Troop fought to keep the enemy from overrunning the base. The bloody fighting cost both sides dearly.
In the end, an estimated 200 Taliban fighters died trying to destroy the base. In all, eight American soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded. The defenders of COP Keating were awarded 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals for valor, 3 Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars for valor, 7 Silver Stars, and 2 Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos and 1st Lt. Andrew Bundermann’s Silver Stars were later upgraded to Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Clinton “Clint” Romesha and Spc.Ty Carter received the Medal of Honor for their actions that day.
The battle is the subject of the new movie, The Outpost, directed by Rod Lurie and starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones and Orlando Bloom, now in theaters and on demand. The film is based on CNN correspondent Jake Tapper’s book about the Battle of Kamdesh, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.”
COP Keating was not a place the soldiers should have been in the first place. Their limited reach and manpower turned their counterinsurgency mission into a constant need to defend the base itself, according to the Army’s after-action report on the battle.
To make matters worse, defending that base was a nightmare. Positioned at “the bottom of a bowl,” it was surrounded by high mountains, ceding the high ground to the enemy. It made the base an “attractive target,” according to reports. The Taliban attacked COP Keating 47 times during the soldiers’ five-month deployment there.
Combat Outpost Keating from up high
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Brad Larson)
But they weren’t just randomly attacking the COP. Taliban fighters were probing the base, gathering information on key areas, and learning the soldiers’ defensive tactics in preparation for a larger strike.
Worse still, there was not much help that could come to their rescue in case of an attack. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets were being used in the search for a missing soldier elsewhere. Other forces that could have been used to reinforce the defenders or speed up the closure of the base were being used on a mission for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The soldiers soon became accustomed to the probing attacks.
Until the morning of Oct. 3, 2009, when the base became a Taliban shooting gallery.
Just before 6 a.m. local time, the soldiers woke up to a high volume of fire coming from the surrounding hills. Using the information from their probing attacks, Taliban fighters overran Keating’s 60mm and 120mm mortar support and began to hit COP Keating in force, taking the Army by surprise.
Incoming attacks from the surrounding mountains laid a punishing fire on the base and its defenders, the Taliban were closing in and the Army was losing ground. Soldiers defending the base withdrew into a tighter perimeter and began to call down close-air support from Air Force aircraft and AH-64 Apache helicopters, often inside the base’s original perimeter.
Things looked bleak, but there was still a lot of daylight left.
(Screen Media/’The Outpost’ Film)
By the afternoon, the Bravo Troop was angry and ready to hit back. Inside the TOC, the soldiers listened to the din of battle; explosions, bullet hits, and near-constant shouting from outside. According to Mark Seavey’s account of the battle for the American Legion, Staff Sgt. Clinton “Clint” Romesha suddenly spoke:
“‘Ro’ said in a very stern and demanding voice – just as there was a moment of odd but haunting silence – ‘I’ll tell you what we are going to do. We are going to take this f***ing COP back!'”
After enduring hours of withering fire and fighting off the invaders, the Army began to turn the tide. A quick-reaction force landed three kilometers to relieve the defenders of COP Keating. Even if the base was secured, they still had to focus on bringing the fight to the enemy outside of the valley using air support to neutralize Taliban positions in the nearby hills and villages, including a local police station.
The Taliban lost half of their attacking force and sustained scores of wounded. The base was still in American hands, but it was more clear than ever that it was in an unsustainable situation. Soon after the fight for COP Keating, the base was abandoned and destroyed by American aircraft to keep it from the enemy.
The soldiers from Bravo Troop displayed incredible heroism and valor in the face of an enemy onslaught that could have totally wiped them out and destroyed the base. Every medal citation from the Battle of Kamdesh reads like a Homeric epic.
To learn more about the Battle of Kamdesh or the story behind COP Keating, check out Jake Tapper’s exhaustively detailed book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, and catch the new movie, The Outpost, in theaters and on demand now!
Captain Lawrence Dickson was just 24 when his red-tailed P-51 Mustang fighter was downed in 1944. He was an African-American fighter pilot, trained at the Army’s famed Tuskegee Army Airfield. Of the more than 1,000 black pilots trained at Tuskegee’s segregated flying school, Dickson was one of 27 to go missing in action over Nazi-occupied Europe. Presumed dead, his remains went missing for more than 70 years.
Dickson was leading an escort for a photo reconnaissance mission that day, taking off from an Allied airfield in Italy, bound for Prague. But Dickson’s plane began to have engine trouble. No sooner did the pilot radio his squadron about the issue did his wingman report Dickson clearing the canopy of his fighter to bail out, according to the Washington Post. He made the jump at 26,000 feet.
No wreckage or parachute evidence was ever found.
Before taking off for the last time on Dec. 23, 1944, Lawrence Dickson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Since it was his 68th mission, he was just two shy of getting to go back to the U.S. for leave from the war. Considering the war in Europe would end less than six months later, he very likely would have survived.
In August, 2017, a team of researchers in the Austrian Alps came across the wreckage of a P-51 Mustang and some human remains. They contacted the U.S. Army. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency analyst Joshua Frank found a crash site similar to Dickson’s listed in captured Nazi downed aircraft records. The DoD agency tested the DNA of the body found at the site against those of his now-75-year-old daughter, Marla Andrews.
Lawrence E. Dickson (second left), pictured in 1942 with other airmen at Tuskegee Army Army Air Field.
It was a match.
Sadly, Dickson’s wife Phyllis did not live to the see his remains repatriated to the United States. All she was ever told was that his body was nonrecoverable in 1949. But his daughter Marla still decorates her home with photos of her heroic father, his training certificates, and his medal citations.
She also keeps the letter from her father’s wingman, written 50 years after the war’s end.
“The act of writing to you so many years after … brings to me a sadness. And yet I hope it will bring you a moment of peaceful remembrance of a loving father whom you lost.”
His team spotted by insurgents and forced to take cover in an abandoned compound, Marine sniper Joshua Moore went against his instinct when two grenades landed next to him, throwing one of them back at the enemy and holding off insurgent fire until help could arrive.
Moore, at the time a Lance Corporal, was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.
Moore was part of a scout sniper platoon during a mission in Marjah, Afghanistan, in March 2011, when insurgents targeted his team.
The Marines fell back to a nearby compound, but enemy machine gun rounds soon sliced through the air, wounding two of them. After taking cover, Moore felt two objects hit him in the back. When he turned he saw two grenades lying in the sand.
He reached down, grabbed the first grenade, and threw it back out the window where it detonated just a moment later. He went for the second but noticed it was covered in rust and was likely a dud.
The young sniper would later say that he was, “scared out of my mind, but I knew we had to do everything possible to get everyone home.” Despite the brush with death and under the continuing threat of incoming fire, Moore crawled from the building and held off the enemy until a quick reaction force arrived.
He went to the north where the enemy attack was heaviest and began aiding the wounded and returning fire. He used an M4 with an attached M203 grenade launcher to suppress fighters where he could find them.
The arrival of a quick reaction force and another sniper platoon allowed the Marines to finally gain fire superiority, evacuate the wounded and fall back to their patrol base.
Moore was meritoriously promoted to corporal less than two months after the battle and was awarded the Navy Cross in Nov. 2013.
“It’s an honor to receive an award like the Navy Cross. But to be honest, I was just doing my job,” Moore said after the ceremony.
Since then, Moore has been promoted to sergeant and assigned as an instructor at the scout sniper basic course. He told Stars and Stripes that he often shares the story of the engagement with his students, but that he avoids talking about his medal.
Marvel officially announced its massive upcoming slate that will kick off phase 4 of the MCU starting with “The Black Widow” solo movie coming to theaters May 1, 2020. Black Widow finally getting her own movie should come as no surprise, as the superspy is one of the OG Avengers and is played by Scarlett Johansson, one of the biggest actresses in the world.
However, there is one big potential problem: Black Widow is, for lack of a better word, dead, as she sacrificed herself to help the other Avengers get a hold of the Soul Stone. Obviously, this means that “The Black Widow” will be an origin story set in the past but it also begs the question: could “Black Widow” being the first movie in phase 4 mean that the MCU is finally ready to embrace the multiverse?
Confused? Well, it’s possible that “The Black Widow” could just be a standalone origin film but given the interconnectivity of the MCU, that feels unlikely. “Captain Marvel,” the last movie before “Endgame,” took place in the 90s but it still managed to connect itself to the larger narrative (“Captain America” did the same thing). This makes it feel highly unlikely that “Black Widow” will be a stand-alone story that marks the end of Johansson’s time with Marvel, especially considering the fact that it has been chosen as the movie to start the post-Iron Man and Captain America era of the MCU.
This is where the multiverse comes into play because it could potentially allow the titular secret agent to find her way back into the story while also finally opening up the MCU to other universes. The MCU has been hinting at the multiverse theory for a long time, most recently via Mysterio in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” but so far, it has only dipped its toes into the complex tapestry of parallel realities.
The multiverse theory makes even more sense when you look down the rest of the phase 4 schedule, as a lot of the upcoming shows and movies seem to suggest the possibility of alternative universes, as they are packed with dead members of the MCU. Loki, who died in “Infinity War,” will be getting his own show in 2021, while Vision, who was murdered by Thanos, is set to have a major role in “WandaVision,” another show set to air on Disney+.
Is Marvel just getting really into prequels? Maybe (although Vision and Wanda don’t meet until Ultron so that doesn’t really make sense) but how would that explain “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” At this point, Marvel is basically winking at comic book fans with its seeming embrace of the multiverse.
So when “Black Widow” hits theaters next year, don’t be surprised if its a badass espionage flick that also sets the foundation of the Avengers diving deep into the wonderfully weird world of the multiverse. This would open it up to infinite possibilities, including rebooting storylines and bringing back characters who are currently dead.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
WATM’s Ryan Curtis hits the streets with stunt driver Jim Wilkey, a Vietnam War vet whose Hollywood credits include “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” “Rush Hour,” “Inception,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy.’ Jim’s experience in the Navy working with a wide range of equipment gave him the knowledge to get started as a stuntman and stunt driver.
Follow along as Jim (bravely) lets Ryan get behind the wheel and try his hand at the stunt course.
Master Fitness Training instructors work tirelessly to coach soldiers from across the Army in developing new ways to prepare them for combat, while in the process, helping increase readiness and lowering profiles up to 40%, says the fitness school NCOIC.
Wanting to better understand the effectiveness of the fitness program, Master Sgt. Joseph Komes, U.S. Army Physical Fitness School noncommissioned officer in charge, used a roster based on thousands of soldiers, all previously certified at the school, and sent a questionnaire to understand the school’s effectiveness.
Shortly after, the responses started pouring in.
“What I started seeing was that trainers were increasing their unit readiness,” he said. “The way I measured unit readiness was only by PT scores and profile rates, because, I’m just one guy in an office trying to figure out if what we’re doing is working.”
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)
Komes also determined individual units, armed with certified fitness trainers, decreased their profile rates by close to 40%. However, Komes added, “I don’t know if those individuals were on a two-week profile and they just ended up falling off during the training program or what.”
That said, the responses were useful and answered his question. In addition, it gave fitness instructors at the school a better understanding of how worthwhile their program is, and with the Army Combat Fitness Test in its second phase of implementation, the timing couldn’t be better, he said.
Scheduled to be the test of record in October 2020, the ACFT is the Army’s largest physical fitness overhaul in nearly four decades. Like physical readiness training, something the instructors are experts in, the ACFT is part of a larger “reset” to build a more combat-ready force.
To meet the demands of the six-event ACFT, instructors from the school have already certified thousands of soldiers from around the Army to develop physical programs to bring back to their units. In addition, the selected soldiers are trained on a variety of skills vital to the ACFT, including how to set up the testing field, as well as supervising and grading the test.
According to Komes, in the past, physical training programs “lost touch” with combat readiness. Regarding PT, soldiers were forced to “run four days out of the week and ruck on the fifth,” which led to injuries and an overall decrease in a soldier’s lethality.
Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers conduct a sunrise run during annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 11, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. William Carraway)
He added, “That’s just the way PT was always done, and it’s our job is to help soldiers sit down and strategically assess their mission, and prevent injuries from happening. [They should think] Okay, I have a training event nine weeks from now — where we’re going to enter a building and clear room — how do we physically, and safely prepare for this?”
That’s where the master fitness trainer comes in, he said.
“These days, we have better knowledge to increase overall unit performance during a deployment,” he said. “[Master Fitness Training instructors] are doing their best to implement that [knowledge] and shape the future for the Army.”
When fitness instructors certify trainers, they’re thinking of each individual soldier and the unique needs required to be successful — even at that basic level, he said.
“We’re looking at them as individuals and not just as just a big mass,” Komes said. “I think with the ACFT around the corner, it seems like that’s the mindset that’s important, because every person has their own requirements.”
Komes added, it’s vital for trainers to know their soldiers and know what they need to be successful on the ACFT.
“Our trainers understand that we have to physically prepare individuals to complete the Army’s mission,” he added. “It’s very humbling for us to give soldiers, from all three components of the Army, the tools to succeed because the folks who leave here go back to those individual soldiers.”
“Everyone is different,” he said. “Some soldiers could be attached to National Guard units, and implementing a PT program once a month is challenging, or they could be military police and work odd shifts.”
Being able to “crack the code and see the challenges from different perspectives” is a daily task the trainers and instructors grapple with, he said, adding, that “having a fitness trainer all the way down to the platoon level” would be ideal. However, the trainers who leave the fitness school only reach the company level, for active duty.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We already know each individual is different, but each individual platoon is different, too,” he said. “Each platoon is training for a different goal.”
That’s also where certified master fitness trainers come in, he added. “Certified trainers are able to go to their units with a wealth of knowledge, and look at essential task list and identify the most daunting task and develop a physical fitness program based on those tasks to increase the overall performance.”
When Komes first arrived at the fitness school in 2012, the ACFT wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind. Today, it seems to be everyone’s first thought, he said.
This change leaves the instructors with a large responsibility on their backs — to ensure the force is ready. But, it’s a responsibility they carry with pride, he said.
“When we conduct MFT training, we ensure each certified trainer has a plan for their unit,” he said, adding thousands of certified trainers are among the force already.
“They’re out there, they’re already in units, and hopefully commanders understand what they bring to the fight,” Komes said.
For soldiers uneasy with the ACFT, Komes recommends they reach out to their local master fitness trainer, or identify who it is through their chain of command.
The Master Fitness Training Course is broken into two phases — a self-paced, 60-hour online phase and a two-week, 76-hour in-residence phase. The curriculum covers everything from exercise science, PT program design, leadership, physical fitness assessment and unit physical readiness programs, aligned with current Army doctrine and regulations.
After graduating from the course, soldiers are equipped to advise units on physical readiness issues and monitor unit and individual physical readiness programs.
Days after the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford sailed out of a “challenging” post-shakedown work period that was extended three months because of maintenance problems, the dry dock holding the second Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, was flooded, launching the carrier three months early.
The Kennedy’s builders and crew have gotten a boost from the Ford, according to the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Todd Marzano.
“We are definitely benefiting from being the second aircraft carrier in the class,” Marzano told Business Insider last week. “We’re leveraging their lessons learned, which has helped not only from the construction side but from our sailor training.”
Capt. Todd Marzano, the Kennedy’s commanding officer.
(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)
A graduate of Naval Fighter Weapons School, or Top Gun, Marzano has gone to sea aboard Kitty Hawk-, Nimitz-, and Ford-class carriers, serving as a fighter squadron commander as well as executive officer and commanding officer of the carrier itself.
At a ceremony in May, Marzano recalled driving past the Ford as construction began in late 2015 and thinking that “some lucky captain” would get to be its first skipper. In a mast-stepping ceremony after that speech, he put his first set of gold aviator’s wings under the 650-ton island as it was lowered onto the flight deck.
That “signified my commitment as the CO of the ship to ensure … that I’m going make sure that the crew is ready to do their job and operate the ship when we take it out to sea,” Marzano said. “So it meant a lot to me. This is definitely a pinnacle tour in my career.”
(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)
Marzano assumed command of the Kennedy, designated CVN-79, on October 1, at a ceremony attended by the carrier’s first 43 sailors, who were handpicked for the assignment.
“We officially stood up the command on October 1, and as of today we have just over 150 crew members on board, and that number just continues to grow daily,” Marzano said on Nov. 19, 2019. “The current focus since they’ve shown up is to create a solid foundation, which means getting our programs, our procedures established. We’re also focusing on a lot of training and, most importantly, developing a healthy culture throughout all levels of the command.”
Marzano added that “some of the sailors on the Ford have now been transferred over to our ship, so we can benefit from their knowledge … gained on their tour.”
The Ford-class carriers — the Ford, the Kennedy, the Enterprise, and the unnamed CVN-81 — are or will be equipped with new technology the Navy believes will keep them effective for decades to come. The Ford’s first sailors, with months or even years of hands-on experience with that tech, were creating “basically instructions on how to operate this ship with its systems and its new design,” as one sailor put it.
“Now we’re going to benefit from that, and they can help train our new sailors,” Marzano said.
The island of the Kennedy is placed on the flight deck during a mast-stepping ceremony in Newport News, Virginia, on May 29, 2019.
In addition to changing or excluding some features, the Navy and the carrier’s builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, have made changes to the Kennedy’s build strategy to control costs and stay on schedule.
The Ford was being built as it was being designed, according to Mike Butler, Huntington Ingalls’ program manager for the Kennedy. But the Kennedy had a complete model, saving time.
“Every piece of pipe, every cable, every other piece of equipment was loaded in a three-dimensional product model, and that gave us the ability, for example, [to do] hole cuts, where you have a bulkhead or a deck and you have to cut a hole in it for a pipe to go through or an electrical cable,” Butler told Business Insider on Nov. 29, 2019.
On Nimitz-class carriers, “prior to the product model,” Butler said, “we probably cut 75% of those holes on ship once we ran the pipe and saw where it went through the bulkhead.”
There was “much less” cutting on ship on the Ford because of the product model, Butler said. But on the Kennedy, “with the complete product model, I virtually cut 100% of all of those hole cuts in the ship.”
“While the shop was still fabricating the deck plates and bulkhead panels, they could go in and robotically locate and cut all of those holes in those structural members while it was still in the shop environment, which is a big deal because there are probably close to 100,000 holes that go through decks and bulkheads that have to be cut,” Butler added.
The upper bow unit of the Kennedy is fitted to the primary structure of the ship on July 10, 2019.
The design and planning documents for the Kennedy were updated as work continued on the Ford. But the biggest change was in how the second Ford-class carrier was actually put together, Butler said.
About 1,100 structural boxes are built to assemble the carrier, each outfitted with components like wiring. Those boxes are put together into larger sections called super lifts, which are outfitted further. The carrier is then assembled from those super lifts — “sort of like a Lego build,” Butler said.
On the Kennedy, “particularly early in the program, we did a lot more outfitting,” Butler said. “We built larger boxes in our steel fabrication division. We brought those to our final assembly plant. We built larger super lifts than we did on [the Ford] in some areas, and we put more outfitting in a lot of those super lifts, particularly early in the program.
“So we ended up with less lifts into the dock and many cases of larger super lifts that had more outfitting … which drives your cost down as well,” Butler added.
“We’re definitely aggressively seeking the lessons learned and then applying them to the Kennedy, and we’re already seeing benefits of that. Construction progress has gone much more efficiently,” Marzano said. “So both on the construction and the level-of-knowledge side for the sailors, that’s paying off. Being the second in class is definitely easier in that regard for sure.”
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer on Jan. 17, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)
The Ford’s marquee features have been among the most troublesome, particularly the advanced weapons elevators, drawing congressional scrutiny and the ire of former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who excoriated Huntington Ingalls, saying last month that the shipbuilder had “no idea” what it was doing.
Those electromagnetically powered elevators are supposed to carry more ordnance faster — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute over Nimitz-class elevators’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute — from storage magazines deep in the hull. But just four of the Ford’s 11 elevators have been certified and turned over to the crew.
Those new elevators have new electrical and mechanical technology and are “a lot more complex than traditional weapons elevators,” with “a lot tighter tolerances because of that,” Butler said.
Work on the Kennedy’s elevators was delayed to incorporate lessons from the Ford, Butler added.
“A lot of the areas where they’ve had issues that they’ve had to resolve we’ve been able to hold back, get those issues resolved, change the design, change the work documents,” Butler said. “That allows us now to go in and do that work the first time with those lessons learned already.”
Sailors review safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator in the Ford’s weapons department on Jan. 16, 2019.
Those pauses didn’t affect work on the hull and parts of the ship exposed to seawater, allowing it to be launched ahead of schedule in October 2019, Butler said.
In addition to being ahead of schedule, the Kennedy was also 5% more complete than the Ford at the time of its launch, according to James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisitions chief.
Like Marzano’s crew, Butler’s team has also benefitted from an influx of personnel from the Ford.
Butler said that “working through all those different technical issues” on the Ford, they had “developed a set of industry experts at the shipyard, and our design, manufacturing, construction, and testing of those elevators.”
“Now that expert team is beginning to migrate to my ship, bringing those people and those lessons learned, working with my team,” Butler added, “so that we’ve got people on the deck plate who’ve been through these elevators, helping us modify our build plan to improve that process.”
Butler declined to comment on Spencer’s criticisms, saying he was “laser-focused” the Kennedy.
“Morale is great. We know we’ve worked through a lot of the first-in-class problems,” Butler added. “We are building this ship cheaper; we’re building the ship faster. And to us that is showing that first-of-class-to-second-of-class improvement is exactly what we thought it would be.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Taliban shadow governor who had planned and executed improvised explosive device attacks on Marines and Afghan soldiers for well over a decade was killed in a precision airstrike just days before Christmas, Marines in Afghanistan told Military.com.
Task Force Southwest, the 300-Marine element that deployed to Helmand province as an advisory force for the Afghan National Defense Forces in April, does most of its work from inside the wire, supporting the local troops who patrol and launch ground attacks. But this recent strike on local Taliban mastermind Qari Fida Mohammad illustrates the impact Marines continue to have on the active fight.
Mohammad, longtime shadow governor of the restive Helmand district of Marjah, was killed Dec. 20, task force spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz said.
Standing inside the unit’s operations center, where 11 large flat screens featured detailed live drone footage from around Helmand province, Capt. Brian Hubert explained how the strike happened.
“Through the work of the intelligence sections as well as the operations in here, and coordination with the Afghans as well, we were able to conduct a strike on him a few days ago,” said Hubert, battle captain for Task Force Southwest. “Basically, we’re very familiar with the battlespace now. So when we see the leaders we know are important there, we can kind of do a bead on them.”
The unit started tracking Mohammad with its eyes in the sky. When he was well positioned as a target, the Marines called in two Air ForceF-16 Fighting Falcons to execute the strike.
“He was in a vehicle traveling with deputies, bodyguards, and a cousin of his, who was also a sub-commander,” Hubert said. “We took the shot successfully, and [he was] dead on the spot, which was huge.”
Mohammad, who was based in the Taliban hotbed of Marjah, but operated throughout Helmand province, had been well-known to the Marines for years.
Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, told Military.com he had known about Mohammad in 2010, when he deployed to Helmand for active combat operations.
“We’re still not really fully aware of the exact ramifications of taking him out,” Reid said. “It was a pretty big takedown, so we’re pretty happy about it. He was behind a lot of attacks against Marines back in the day–really high profile attacks.”
Hubert said the task force was now tracking the impact of Mohammad’s elimination. Ahead of the strike, he said, Marines had watched via drone footage as local civilians took to their homes, fearful of being blamed and facing violent reprisal if any attack were launched on the shadow governor. Now, he said, newly leaderless Taliban fighters in southern Marjah are acting disorganized and confused, without orders to carry out.
“Supposedly, [Mohammad] also had a lot of intimidation where he killed full families; he was absolutely just a Mafia-style Taliban leader in that area,” Hubert said, adding that he regularly demanded ‘taxes’ from local civilians by force. “Taking him out … hopefully provides the residents of Marjah and the southern end a little bit of a ‘hey, maybe it’s a turn.'”
For the Marines, Marjah is a region full of history. It’s the site of some of the service’s most hard-fought battles in Helmand. Some 50 American troops died in the 2010 joint siege on Marjah, known as Operation Moshtarak. When Marines departed Afghanistan in 2014, Marjah was considered relatively stable; but by 2016 it had fallen back under Taliban control.
Marines are now working to empower Afghan troops from the local 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army to hold the line. When the small task force arrived, the provincial capital city of Lashkar Gah was on the verge of being overtaken by the Taliban, Marines said. Now, with support from the Task Force, the soldiers have restored stability to the town and are beginning to move offensively against the Taliban.
In a shura with Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller on Dec. 23, Helmand provincial governor Hayatullah Hayat said Afghan troops continue to take daily casualties in the fight.
But task force personnel continue to exact a daily toll against the Taliban as well. On a December visit to the operations center, a dark plume of smoke rose from a road on one of the screens — evidence of a precision strike carried out only minutes before.
From the screens, Hubert said, Marines had watched a pair of Taliban fighters carrying weapons dig a hole in a road south of the Marjah district center, intending to emplace IEDs ahead of a trip Afghan National Security Forces intended to make to the center.
Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucanos were in the air at the time, and Marines reached out and shared what they were seeing, offering them the opportunity to take out the fighters.
“They couldn’t quite get it, so we stepped in,” Hubert said. “We took the shot with F-16s and killed the two enemy. So now, they’re free to move toward the Marjah district center unimpeded by any kind of enemy contact right now.”
The process of identifying targets and executing strikes is a collaborative one, Hubert explained. Often the Marines will share what they’re seeing and make recommendations to the Afghan troops about how to respond, but leave the decision-making to them. The Afghan troops also play a significant role in the intelligence-gathering: in addition to ground reports, they maintain their own ScanEagle drone, its footage featured on one of the screens at the operations center.
As one target smoldered on the screen, Marines were tracking another: two men traveling up a road, south of friendly forces, one carrying a weapon on his back, concealed by clothing.
“We can see [the weapon] by the shape and size of what it looks like, then we’ll see him take it out,” Hubert explained.
In the course of several hours that morning, the Marines would coordinate the elimination of a half-dozen Taliban fighters.
The recent strike against Mohammad, and the daily strikes on Taliban targets, illustrate the intensity of the fight the Marines are still waging, albeit from a greater distance than they were during active combat in support of Operation Enduring Freedom four years ago.
“I know we want to bring in governance, and I know we want institutional fixes. But right now, this is a fight,” said Reid, the task force deputy commander. “And as Marines, when we’re fighting, we’re going to kill the enemy, and we’re going to kill as many as we can.”
Finding good leadership in the military can be difficult. Writing strong interesting characters for movies that audiences respect is a completely separate challenge. But after watching these iconic war films, we’d wager that most ground troops wouldn’t mind serving alongside these screen legends.
So here’s our list of enlisted leaders we’d follow into battle.
1. Gunny Highway (Heartbreak Ridge)
Played by Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, this career Senior NCO took a bunch of misfits and turned them in hard-charging Reconnaissance Marines in just a few short movie hours. That’s badass and tough to pull off.
“Be advised that I’m mean, nasty, and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round through a flea’s ass at 200 meters” — Gunny Highway. (Source: WB/Screenshot)
2. Sgt. 1st Class Horvath (Saving Private Ryan)
Played by veteran actor Tom Sizemore, this loyal sergeant to his CO just wanted to keep the men in line, fight hard and finish the mission.
Horvath didn’t get the respect he deserved in the film, but we know… we know. (Source: Dream Works/Screenshot)
3. Sgt. Elias (Platoon)
Played by long time actor Willem Dafoe, this seasoned soldier is the voice of his lower enlisted troops and brings a human element to an inhumane world.
4. Sgt. Eversmann (Black Hawk Down)
Played by Josh Hartnett, this newly assigned chalk leader is put to the ultimate test as he spearheads into the legendary Somalia raid and thinks of his men over himself. That’s leadership.
5. Don Collier (Fury)
Played by Brad Pitt and known in the film as “War Daddy,” he strives to keep his men alive and kill as many Germans in the process while not allowing his men see his softer side during the grueling tank battles of WWII.
6. Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley (We Were Soldiers)
Played by Sam Elliott, this hardcore infantryman isn’t into coddling his men but cares about their health and the importance of taking the fight to the enemy.
7. Michael (The Deer Hunter)
Played by award-winning actor Robert De Niro, no emotional expense was spared when he brought to life this character who suffered great torment to keep his men from going insane while being held captive in a POW camp.
8. Gunny Hartman (Full Metal Jacket)
Played by R. Lee Ermy (retired Marine), Hartman took the audience by storm as he brutally trained his recruits to prepare for the dangers they’d soon face heading off to Vietnam.
When re-entering the United States, it’s necessary for every traveler to go through U.S. customs first. And it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re coming from – even if you came from the Moon. That’s what the three members of the Apollo 11 crew found out when NASA declared its moon rock and moon dust samples it brought back to Earth.
The Apollo 11 customs declaration.
The idea of going through customs makes one think of carrying luggage through a conveyor, meeting with an immigration official who stares at your passport and asks you where you went on your travels. That, of course, is not what happened to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or even Michael Collins after they safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. They were too busy being hailed as heroes for living in space for eight days, spending 21 hours on the Moon, and then coming home.
Besides, if you look at their customs declaration, it appears there’s no airport code for “Sea of Tranquility” or “Kennedy Space Center.” And “Saturn V Rocket” is definitely not on the list of possible aircraft you can take from anywhere to anywhere – unless you’re Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or Michael Collins.
Don’t forget to sign for your cargo, you bums.
The funny part about the Apollo 11 customs declaration is that the form lists the departure area as simply “moon.”
In all likelihood, this is a pencil-whipped form, done because it’s supposed to be done and because United States airspace ends after a dozen or so miles above the Earth’s surface, and the Apollo team definitely went 238,900 miles away.