Plastic surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center successfully transplanted a new ear on a Soldier who lost her left ear due to a single-vehicle accident.
The total ear reconstruction, the first of its kind in the Army, involved harvesting cartilage from the Soldier’s ribs to carve a new ear out of the cartilage, which was then placed under the skin of the forearm to allow the ear to grow.
“The whole goal is by the time she’s done with all this, it looks good, it’s sensate, and in five years if somebody doesn’t know her they won’t notice,” said Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, WBAMC. “As a young active-duty Soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get.”
The revolutionary surgery has been over a year in the making for Clarksdale, Mississippi native, Pvt. Shamika Burrage, a supply clerk with 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
In 2016, while returning to Fort Bliss, Texas, after visiting family in Mississippi, a tire blowout changed Burrage’s life in an instant.
“I was coming back from leave and we were around Odessa, Texas,” said Burrage, who was traveling with her cousin. “We were driving and my front tire blew, which sent the car off road and I hit the brake. I remember looking at my cousin who was in the passenger seat, I looked back at the road as I hit the brakes. I just remember the first flip and that was it.”
The vehicle skidded for 700 feet before flipping several times and ejecting the Soldier. Burrage’s cousin, who was eight months pregnant at the time, managed to only suffer minor injuries while Burrage herself suffered head injuries, compression fractures in the spine, road rash and the total loss of her left ear.
“I was on the ground, I just looked up and (her cousin) was right there. Then I remember people walking up to us, asking if we were okay and then I blacked out,” said Burrage, whose next memory was waking up in a hospital.
She was later told by doctors that if she would not have received medical attention for 30 more minutes, she would have bled to death. After several months of rehabilitation, Burrage began to seek counseling due to emotions caused by the accident and its effects on her appearance.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with the way I looked so the provider referred me to plastic surgery,” said Burrage.
“She was 19 and healthy and had her whole life ahead of her,” said Johnson. “Why should she have to deal with having an artificial ear for the rest of her life?”
When explained her options for reconstruction, Burrage was shocked and initially resistant to go through with the total ear reconstruction.
“I didn’t want to do (the reconstruction) but gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that it could be a good thing. I was going to go with the prosthetic, to avoid more scarring but I wanted a real ear,” said Burrage, who is now 21. “I was just scared at first but wanted to see what he could do.”
In order to avoid any more visible scarring, Johnson selected prelaminated forearm free flap, which involved placing the autologous cartilage into the patient’s forearm to allow for neovascularization, or the formation of new blood vessels. This technique will allow Burrage to have feeling in her ear once the rehabilitation process is complete.
“(The ear) will have fresh arteries fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she’ll be able to feel it,” said Johnson.
In addition to the transplant, epidermis from the forearm, while attached to the ear, will cover up scar tissue in the area immediately around Burrage’s left jawline.
“I didn’t lose any hearing and (Johnson) opened the canal back up,” said Burrage, whose left ear canal had closed up due to the severity of the trauma.
“The whole field of plastic surgery has its roots in battlefield trauma,” said Johnson. “Every major advance in plastic surgery has happened with war. This was trauma related.”
With only two more surgeries left, Burrage states she is feeling more optimistic and excited to finish the reconstruction.
“It’s been a long process for everything, but I’m back,” said Burrage.
NATO, as we know it today, is a de facto bulwark against Russian (née Soviet) expansionism into Western Europe and potentially elsewhere. It must have come as a complete surprise when France, Great Britain, and the United States all received letters of intent from the Soviet Foreign Ministry about joining the alliance.
Originally a political alliance in Western Europe when it was formed in 1949, NATO became a solid military alliance as well when the Korean War made the idea of Communist expansion by force all too real. The same year the Soviets detonated their first nuclear weapon, the West formed an alliance to neutralize that threat. But before the Soviet-dominated countries of Eastern Europe formed the Eastern Bloc in 1955, Russia made an attempt to join NATO.
Guess who’s coming to dinner.
Longtime Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin finally died in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev was the new communist sheriff in town. So in 1954, when Soviets sent the letters of intent to NATO members, there was a renewed spirit of easing tensions. The Soviets reasoned that the aggressive nature of the NATO alliance would be much less dangerous to world peace if their former anti-Hitler ally were allowed to be a member.
Forgot about An-dre.
But in order to join the alliance, the Soviet Union would have to allow NATO to dictate its military planning and allow the basic tenets of democratic freedoms to bloom in all areas under its control. The debate about potentially allowing Russia to join reminded the member states that the alliance was formed to address threats to world peace when the UN couldn’t — usually because of Russia’s veto power on the Security Council.
Allowing the Russians to have a say in NATO affairs would neutralize NATO the way they neutralized the UN Security Council.
Can’t blame them for trying.
NATO told the Russians exactly that when the alliance rejected Russia’s application for membership, urging it and other Soviet satellites to allow the UN to do its job in keeping the world secure. It was not an unexpected response for the USSR.
“Most likely, the organizers of the North Atlantic bloc will react negatively to this step of the Soviet government and will advance many different objections. In that event the governments of the three powers will have exposed themselves, once again, as the organizers of a military bloc against other states and it would strengthen the position of social forces conducting a struggle against the formation of the European Defense Community,” Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov wrote.
Nine days later, Russia and those satellites formed the Warsaw Pact, its Eastern Bloc counter-alliance. Europe was officially split for the next 40-plus years.
Marine Corps drill instructor and Hollywood actor R. Lee Ermey was robbed of an Oscar for his legendary portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic “Full Metal Jacket” and snubbed by the Academy’s Oscar “memoriam” montage.
But while the Academy may not have thought his contribution worth recognition, we know the Gunny knew a thing or two we should all remember about military service.
Ermey had a long career. As well as his iconic role in “Full Metal Jacket,” where he improvised most of his dialog, and that long run on “Mail Call,” he played iconic roles as the police captain in “Se7en,” the voice of Sarge in the “Toy Story” movies, the mayor in “Mississippi Burning” and a chilling serial rapist in a 2010 episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”
Ermey also had a wicked sense of humor, one that allowed him to play the over-the-top movie director Titus Scroad in the cult TV series “Action” and the lead kidnapper in the “Run Ronnie Run,” the bizarre comedy from “Mr. Show With Bob and David” guys Bob Odenkirk and David Cross.
He left us on April 15, 2018, and he’s now at rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
So what did his TV and movie appearances teach us about service? Here are nine great examples.
1. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
In his “Full Metal Jacket” rants, Gunny Hartman tells his recruits that their Marine Corps training had permanently changed them. They’re no longer mere men: They’ve become Marines.
“Today, you people are no longer maggots. Today, you are Marines. You’re part of a brotherhood. From now on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother. Most of you will go to Vietnam. Some of you will not come back. But always remember this: Marines die. That’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever and that means you live forever.”
2. You gotta break someone before you build them up.
Few civilians understand the bonds of trust required for a military unit to function and even fewer can grasp the process that goes into tearing down the idea of the individual so a person can be truly absorbed into the group. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman can help you with that.
“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that that day, you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fucking beings! You are nothing but unorganized grab-ass-tic pieces of amphibian shit! Because I am hard, you will not like me! But the more you hate me, the more you will learn! I am hard, but I am fair! There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops, or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not packed the gear to serve in my beloved corps. Do you maggots understand that?”
Gunny Hartman may have been talking about Pablo Picasso’s 1939 portrait of Dora Maar.
3. Modern art is not good art.
Hidden in Gunny Hartman’s psychological tear down are some important observations about other parts of our world. He’s also an art critic.
“You’re so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece!”
Truthfully, Gunny Hartman’s material is closer to Don Rickles than Steve Martin but Steve’s the one who said, “Comedy is not pretty.”
4. Comedy is not pretty.
He’s a talented insult comic.
“Well I’ve got a joke for you, I’m going to tear you a new a–hole.”
Ask yourself: “Is my toilet clean enough that I could invite the mother of Our Savior to use my bathroom?”
5. A clean toilet is a holy toilet.
He’s concerned that our religious icons have a good bathroom experience.
“I want that head so sanitary and squared away that the Virgin Mary herself would be proud to go in there and take a dump.”
What’s YOUR major malfunction?
6. A great catchphrase works in any situation.
Ask anyone who grew-up in a household where dad always asked “What’s your major malfunction?” Every Single Time they did something he didn’t like.
7. The Heart is the Deadliest Weapon.
He even operates on multiple levels. He may SAY a Marine is the deadliest weapon but listen closely: The threat really comes from a Marine’s cold, cold heart.
“The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle. It is your killer instinct which must be harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills. If your killer instincts are not clean and strong, you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill. You will become dead Marines. And then you will be in a world of s***. Because Marines are not allowed to die without permission. Do you maggots understand?”
8. Everyone Needs Mail.
Ermey did his part on his long-running History Channel series to educate a generation of Americans who knew nothing about the military. He also reminded everyone that communication is critical for men and women who are serving their country. If you want to remember Ermey, write a letter, send an email or make a phone call in honor of his service.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
From the point of view of an airman who (in the right town) could be mistaken for a Coastie while wearing my dress blues, I have to say: Marine Dress uniforms have no equal. I totally get why people join the Marines just for the dress blues.
After a few years in the military and a few years in military-oriented media, I thought I had seen every uniform there was. That’s when I saw this guy:
This was surprising to me because I continually make fun of the movie Basic for depicting Samuel L. Jackson’s Army character wearing a cape. But I wasn’t the only one who was perplexed by this. In 2016, a Quora user asked Marines what that cape was.
For those not in the know, the Marines in the top photo are “pretty much wearing the same mess dress uniform” and the cape is a somewhat antiquated, but still on the books, accessory: the Boat Cloak.
Boat Cloaks are a made-to-order item that can cost upward of $1,000 at the NEX/MCX. One former Master Gunnery Sergeant recalled seeing one worn by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 at a Marine Corps ball. The Master Guns described the look as “magnificent.”
It’s difficult to find exact regulations for the Boat Cloak, but it looks like there are different versions for the Senior NCOs and Officers. As of 1937, it was still a required item for officers.
The 83rd Infantry Division, nicknamed Thunderbolt, first entered combat in Normandy in late June 1944. Generally fighting as part of Patton’s Third Army, they were involved in major combat across Northern France and Europe.
Their first action was as a part of Operation Cobra to breakout of the Normandy hedgerows. They then fought against stiff resistance until they finally entered Germany.
This is where the 83rd would come to notoriety as the “Rag-tag Circus.”
Once American forces crossed the Rhine in March 1945, it became an all-out sprint for Berlin with the fast-moving Armored Divisions of the 12th Army Group leading the way.
But the 83rd was a light division with very little in the way of organic transportation assets.
According to the After Action Report of the 329th Infantry Regiment, the Rag-tag Circus was born of necessity when the regiment’s ten non-organic trucks were detached for other duties. As the battalion commanders protested, word came down from the division commander, “utilize to the fullest extent the captured German transportation they had in their possession.”
The 83rd took the idea and ran with it.
Any German vehicle they could get their hands on got a coat of OD green paint and some white stars and was pressed into service.
They commandeered all manner of vehicles: trucks, staff cars, motorcycles, buses, German tanks, and even a Messerschmitt BF 109 was confiscated and piloted by a member of the division.
These commandeered vehicles complemented the already-taxed vehicles the 83rd had. Pushing the limits of reason, tanks carried more than 30 troops on top while jeeps, with and without trailers, were carrying more than a dozen.
Men were packed on so tight that the assistant division commander quipped, “it looked like the men were sprayed on the tanks.”
But this motley crew of vehicles and men that made up the Rag-tag Circus wasn’t the only amazing thing about the 83rd Infantry Division’s drive across Germany.
The Rag-tag Circus had the Germans on the run and was moving at a blistering pace. Pockets of German resistance were quickly overcome and the division moved on.
Oftentimes, division headquarters would displace forward as much as five times per day. The grunts on the ground almost never stopped.
They moved so fast that the lead elements of regiments were often moving out of the other side of a town before the Germans had even had a chance to retreat.
This led to some rather comical instances.
As the Rag-tag Circus sped east through yet another town, an erratic driver entered their column. The vehicle was just another German staff car like so many others in the convoy and since speed was the order of the day, it might not have otherwise drawn much attention. But the erratic driving and continual horn-honking alerted some of the GIs. PFC David Webster took a closer look as the car sped by his vehicle and noticed there was something different about this German car – it still had Germans in it. In fact, sitting in the rear was a Wehrmacht General who was oblivious to the fact that the column he was speeding through was actually American — not German. The GIs stepped on the gas and blocked the path of the Germans, leading to the capture of a German general by almost sheer luck.
In another instance, the Rag-tag Circus was simply travelling so fast that they overtook a column of German vehicles attempting to retreat to the east. This time, the 83rd bagged themselves a German Colonel to go with their prized General.
But those weren’t the only prisoners the 83rd took. In their fourteen day, 280-mile dash across Germany from the Rhine to the Elbe, they captured some 12,000 German POWs and 72 German towns. They also liberated over 75,000 Allied POWs from German camps and liberated a number of concentration camps as well.
The Rag-tag Circus was also the first unit to cross the Elbe River on April 13, 1945, securing a bridgehead after engineers built a treadway bridge across the river.
Despite Berlin being less than 50 miles away and German resistance virtual nonexistent, the 83rd was told to hold their position.
Although they were known as the Rag-tag Circus during their courageous run up to the Elbe, the division sought a more appropriate name to commemorate the achievement. The men of the division settled on “Thunderbolt,” which became the official division nickname.
The Elbe would end up being the closest the Americans would get to Berlin before the war ended and on April 25, 1945, elements of the 65th Infantry Division linked up with Russians advancing from the east.
Despite its heroic and record-breaking efforts, the 83rd was denied a Presidential Unit Citation. After occupation duty in German, the 83rd returned to the United States in March 1946 and was inactivated the following month.
Your crusty ol’ Sergeant Major was partially right when he said that you’ll have a hard time out in the civilian world. Sure, it’s amazing to forget what 0500 is after setting your alarm clock to “8 am” and the overtime pay is nice, but everything would be a lot better if you didn’t have to deal with so many civilians.
Not all of them are bad, though. There are plenty of civilians who could have fit right into any squad if their career had taken a different turn, but there are plenty others that will always irk veterans.
If they were troops, you could yell at them until you’re blue in the face or make them do push-ups until you get tired, but, sadly, that kind of behavior only nets you weird looks. So, we think it’s best just to avoid interacting with the following low-lives.
If only civilians wet themselves at the sight of a knife-hand. Then things would get moving again.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)
The biggest hurdle you’ll face is the utter lack of f*cks given about professionalism and the need to get things done right the first time. Your “until mission complete” mentality is entirely at odds with the folks who get paid by the hour regardless.
In some civilian jobs, there isn’t any real incentive to go that extra mile. Those who slack off still get paid on time. If you try to cover for their laziness, you’ll end up doing double work for none of the extra pay. It’s a trap.
The “relax, it was just a joke” doesn’t seem to fly with civilian bosses.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The jokers that can’t take a joke
Troops and veterans have a wicked sense of humor. In one moment, we’re prim and proper — professional enough to show off to your grandmother. In the next, we open our mouths and tell rotten jokes that’d make grandma blush.
That’s entirely how we show our love for one another — by belittling every bit of someone and expecting them to do the same in return. But civilians can’t throw shade like veterans can. You make a tiny, seemingly innocent remark, like how their hairline is so jacked up that they should just cut their loses and shave it bald and suddenly, you find yourself dealing with HR.
“Oh, you went on a camping trip and didn’t have electricity for a night? That’s cute.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)
Being in the military, you know exactly where you stack up against another person professionally. Your rank is right there on your chest, collar, or sleeve. If it’s the same, you go to time in grade or service. If those are similar, you move to your medals, awards, and so on. Respect is earned and rewarded accordingly.
Most people in the civilian world are so caught up with trying to make themselves look better that they’ll confuse what they’ve done with where they stand comparatively. The fact that some dude’s dad just bought a new yacht doesn’t mean jack sh*t if you’re both sitting in same-sized cubicles. Nothing outside of work should matter during work but, apparently, the one-upper thinks it does.
Back in the day, you’d learn real quick why that’s a dumb idea. Ask anyone who’s ever been the reason for a 4-day weekend recall formation.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)
The glory seeker
“One team, one fight” is the mantra of the military. If one person fails, everyone fails. If one person succeeds, everyone succeeds. We’re all in the same foxhole, wearing the same shade of green, fighting for the same flag. Being a team player isn’t something that comes naturally for some folks.
The drive for personal success outweighs the need to get things done for these guys. They’ll beg, borrow, steal, or lie to anyone if it means they can get that raise and they’ll never look down to see every shoulder they’re standing on. To make things worse, they’re also the same type that believes that the world revolves around them and they’re owed the right to do whatever misdeeds they commit onto others.
Just smile, nod, and mess with them.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Heather Atherton)
The armchair political commentator
Troops come from all backgrounds and make up a fairly balanced slice of the American population. Personal identity, race, religion, sex, orientation, political affiliation, and whatever else — none of that matters while you’re on duty and trying to complete the mission. Those kind of talks are best kept for when you’re out of uniform and can realistically not have duty on your mind.
Yet, in the minds of these civilians, veterans are often seen as some sort of subject matter expert for all things military. I couldn’t tell you what the other company in my battalion was doing while I was still in the Army and yet people will press you on whether it was a just idea to implement sanctions on wherever.
These are probably the same guys to say to you because you’re a vet “I would have joined, but…”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)
The “excuses, excuses, excuses” guy
If you mess up in the military, you take it on the chin like an adult and you drive on. You’re late? Own up to your mistake or be honest about why you’re late. You may get reprimanded, but no one really cares after that. Just get back to the mission.
There is no magical excuse that will immediately absolve anyone of any of their shortcomings — but goddamn will these as*holes try to find it. Problem with me? It was the other guy. Problem with my performance? Must have been a computer problem. You get the point. These types will always let you down and never seek to improve themselves because they’ll honestly believe their own BS.
The Taliban have killed 15 police in two separate attacks on checkpoints in the east and south of the country, officials said Oct. 30.
Arif Noori, spokesman for the governor of the eastern Ghazni province, said an attack on a checkpoint there killed nine police and wounded four others. He said seven insurgents were killed and five others were wounded in the battle, which lasted more than an hour.
Late Oct. 29, the Taliban attacked another checkpoint in the southern Zabul province, igniting clashes in which six police and eight insurgents were killed. Amir Jan Alokozai, a district administrative chief, said another eight police and 12 insurgents were wounded.
The Taliban claimed both attacks. The insurgents have launched a wave of attacks across the country against security forces this month that has killed more than 200 people.
In a third attack, in the northern Baghlan province, a sticky bomb attached to a military vehicle went off in a market, wounding 13 civilians, according to Zabihullah Shuja, spokesman for the provincial police chief. No one claimed the attack, which took place in the provincial capital, Puli Khomri.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States led a coalition of forces to invade Afghanistan. The mission, known officially as Operation Enduring Freedom, was intended to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist organization that had masterminded the 9/11 attacks and to topple the Taliban regime that had sheltered Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda within its fundamentalist stronghold. The Taliban had held most of Afghanistan in thrall since 1996, imposing its extreme version of Islam on the populace and perpetrating a well-documented list of human rights abuses.
The invasion began on Oct. 7, 2001 with air strikes against Taliban defensive positions and al-Qaeda training grounds in Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad. Most of the Taliban’s outdated surface-to-air missiles, radar, and command units were destroyed on the first pass, along with its modest fleet of MIG-21 and Su-22 fighters. Having crippled the Taliban defensive response, the Coalition Forces Command gave the Afghan Northern Alliance the go-ahead to begin a ground invasion, with U.S.-led coalition forces providing air and ground support.
The groundwork for large-scale military action in Afghanistan had been laid in secret in the weeks following 9/11 by a small CIA liaison team codenamed ‘Jawbreaker.’ The team had staged covertly in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, in order to coordinate with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. During the same period, President George W. Bush formally demanded that the Taliban relinquish bin Laden to the U.S. for prosecution and destroy al-Qaeda bases, brooking no discussion nor negotiation of terms.
They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.
By November 12th, the Taliban was routed in Kabul. Three weeks later, Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold, was captured, driving Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar into hiding and the remaining al-Qaeda forces into the mountains of the Tora Bora region. Skirmishes continued between al-Qaeda and anti-Taliban indigenous forces, as U.S. Special Forces teams worked to locate the mountain caves into which al-Qaeda leadership had retreated. However, by the time the caves were captured, Osama bin Laden had escaped into neighboring Pakistan. He would remain at large until 2011, when he was finally apprehended and killed by SEAL Team 6.
In the vacuum of governance left by the expelled Taliban, a grand council of Afghan tribal leaders was assembled under the leadership of Hamid Karzai. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the U.N. Security Council to handle security in the region. Karzai was elected President in 2004 in Afghanistan’s first ever democratic elections. But even as Afghanistan began to take its first wobbly steps as a young democratic nation, the Taliban was regrouping on the Pakistan border. Soon they launched a wide-ranging insurgency, conducting guerilla-style attacks on Afghan Security Forces and targeting members of the new administration. Despite the continued intervention of U.S. military might in the region, the insurgency continues.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said his administration was considering a request for a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland.
Trump made the comments in Washington on Sept. 18, 2018, before a meeting at the White House with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
“Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland, and certainly it’s something we’ll discuss,” Trump said, adding that “we’re looking at it very seriously.”
Poland has requested the deployment several times and has offered up to billion in funding for a base. U.S. forces currently serve in Poland as part of NATO’s back-to-back rotation program.
President Donald J. Trump and President Andrzej Duda.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Poland has said a permanent U.S. presence is needed to counter Russian military activity in the region.
Russia has objected to the proposal, saying it views NATO expansion toward the east as a threat to stability in Europe.
Featured image: President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump with Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, and Mrs. Kornhauser-Duda.
When you cross over as an NCO in the Air Force and you slap that crisp Staff Sergeant rank on your arms, it might be easy to think you just garnered a new set of rights and privileges.
Unfortunately, the rights and privileges are few and far between. Inevitably, the newly-acquired responsibility weighs on fresh NCOs, causing them to cut corners and develop unsuccessful habits.
1. Not completing your professional military education
The Air Force requires each of its NCOs to complete PME according to their rank and skill level. These courses are usually held in other locations rather than at home base. NCOs also get book-length volumes to study at home. Up until recently, PME wasn’t so much a factor in an NCO’s career. Now, if an NCO hasn’t completed the required PME course for their rank, they will not promote. Did you read that? Will not promote.
This means that a staff sergeant who doesn’t complete their PME will never become a tech and might even be subject to discharge. Air Force NCOs are moving along with the times but there are still many who fight the change and remain perpetual staffs or techs until they retire. Nobody wants to be 20 years in and retire at E-5. Get your PME done!
2. Not completing their CCAF degree
Okay, the Air Force didn’t say being an NCO would be easy – heck, they’re making you go to college. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does stop many airmen from promoting to the next rank. The Community College of the Air Force is relatively new and accepts all previous credit from prior institutions to transfer into the degree.
It’s pretty easy to get a CCAF degree because the majority of all the credits are calculated from tech school training. Typically, the only credits NCOs are missing are college-level math and English. However, most NCOs are entirely deterred by this and choose not to obtain the last couple of credits needed to complete the degree. Without a CCAF degree, kiss your chances of becoming a Master Sergeant (E-7) goodbye.
3. Thinking that you’re not expendable
You might think an extra stripe opens the door to being treated better, but think again. Remember that phrase, “sh*t always rolls downhill?” Well, you’re only a quarter of the way up the hill now instead of all the way at the bottom. Some newly-promoted NCOs think they are finally afforded some glory because they’re allowed to delegate to those under them.
Wrong. Air Force NCOs quickly learn they are still in the pecking order for meaningless cleaning details and bi*ch work. Plus, there are many more staffs where you came from, buddy. Leadership won’t think twice about demoting someone on a high horse. Before anyone knows it, you become the stereotypical, bitter NCO who sits in the corner, hating the world — unless you can change your frame of mind.
4. Just skimming by PT standards every six months
The Air Force PT test is fairly easy and is based on a point system. A mile and a half run, waist measurement, push-ups, and sit-ups are all a part of the test. If you pull a 90-point (or above) cumulative score, then you don’t have to take the fitness test again for a year. If the score is lower than 90, then the test has to be taken again in six months.
What this means for Air Force NCOs is a tendency to procrastinate. NCOs are meant to set standards for the subordinates under them, but when the PFT is so easy it requires minimal preparation, setting standards usually goes out the window. When it comes down to it, there’s really no excuse for not getting a 90-point score on the Air Force PFT.
In contrast, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 is 6,995.
Suicide is a threat to our nation’s service members — and in U.S. Army Paratrooper and creator Jordan Martinez’s words, “Now, more than ever, we must tell stories about their experiences and remind others how important it is to never give up on the battle at home.”
His passion for this topic is what inspired the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate student to create The Gatekeeper, a psychological thriller that accurately, artistically, and authentically highlights the real struggles veterans face with PTSD and suicide.
This ain’t no ordinary student film:
‘The Gatekeeper’ cast and crew filming on location at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.
The Gatekeeper will be the first film in USC history to use motion capture technology for pre-visualization. Martinez has invested state of the art technology and equipment, incredible production locations, and professional cast and crew for this film, including Navy veteran and Stranger Things actress Jennifer Marshall and Christopher Loverro, an Army veteran and the founder of non-profit Warriors for Peace Theater.
Martinez is a combat veteran who saw first-hand the psychological effects war has on returning service members — and decided to do something about it.
Or you can contribute to their Indiegogo campaign, which will directly pay for authentic looking military grade equipment, wardrobe, weaponry, and locations, as well as daily expenses for the crew. Student films rarely yield a return on the financial investment of the students who create them, so supporting a campaign like this will go directly to helping a veteran tell a critical military story — the first of many, unless I’ve read Martinez’s tenacity, vision, and drive wrong.
April 27, 2018’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in was planned down to every last footstep.
The two countries even did a joint rehearsal of their two leaders meeting, shaking hands, and walking around the grounds of the Demilitarized Zone using stand-ins to make sure every second was calibrated as best as possible for the world’s cameras.
But for a moment, Kim went completely off script.
After shaking hands with Moon and stepping across the border line into South Korea, Kim invited Moon to step back into North Korea with him.
The South Korean president’s residence, The Blue House, confirmed the moment was “unscheduled.” According to a spokesman, Moon asked Kim, “When do I get to visit the North,” to which Kim replied “Why don’t you just come over to the North side now?”
The sudden invite didn’t appear to worry Moon, who was seen laughing and talking with Kim, before the two paused for a handshake on the North Korean side.
At another point, Kim appeared to go off script again joking about the famous cold noodles he had brought in from Pyongyang, which is “far.”
“I suppose I shouldn’t say ‘far’ now,” he seemed to quickly backtrack.
But the two moments, however light-hearted, will probably be taken very seriously by the US intelligence community.
Kim is an incredibly secretive leader — he even travels with his own toilet to prevent his health being analyzed through his excrements — which means intelligence officials rely on any and all clues to understand how he thinks and operates.
Intelligence officials told Reuters that experts will closely watch the inter-Korean summit and analyze what Kim says as well as his body language.
The current profile of Kim focuses on his tendencies for ruthlessness as well as rationality. But inviting Moon on a surprise visit to the North could also hint at a tendency for spontaneity.
This could pose a problem for the Trump administration’s strategy for meeting with Kim.
It was a dynamic, often turbulent, year around the military community. 2015 saw domestic terrorism, growing aggression from former Cold War adversaries, and the Pentagon dealing with unprecedented budgetary and cultural challenges. Here are WATM’s picks for the top 15 stories of the year:
1. The “American Sniper” controversy
The Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic from real-life American sniper Chris Kyle divided the U.S. like a red Starbucks cup. The film earned a whopping $100 million during its opening weekend, but inconsistencies from the book and the depictions of certain onscreen combat actions (like taking aim at a child in Iraq, for example) sparked a few anti-war tweets from actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Michael Moore. The movie also caused a backlash about how much of a hero Kyle really was, bringing into question whether the all of the events Kyle wrote about really happened.
As much as military experts lauded the film for “getting it right” in terms of technical detail and overall atmospherics (including the challenges of reintegration) “American Sniper” also exposed that the civilian-military divide is alive and well.
2. Troops deployed to fight Ebola outbreak return from West Africa
In 2014, President Obama ordered 2,800 U.S. troops and Department of Defense personnel to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the hardest hit, with more than 22,000 reported cases and more than 8,000 confirmed deaths from the virus. U.S. troops were vital to the mission to contain the victims and maintain the quarantines. In February 2015, all but 100 of those troops deployed returned home, not a single one infected by the virus.
“Military engineers oversaw the building of new Ebola Treatment Units; military logisticians directed the deployment of life-saving resources from across the globe; and military doctors supported the brave men and women who treated patients every day,” said Rajiv Shah, then-head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
3. Bowe Bergdahl faces general court martial
The Army, for more than a year, deliberated on just how to deal with the aftermath of the Bowe Bergdahl incident. Though it is clear Bergdahl walked away from his post during his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held until his release in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014, the Army stated its belief that there is no evidence Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct while held captive by the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The matter was sent before a four-star general to review the facts for a possible court martial.
In March, the Army charged Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” Sgt. Bergdahl’s story is now the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, featuring interviews with those for Bergdahl’s unit, as well as his Taliban captors.
4. Donald Trump blasts Sen. John McCain’s service record
Trump was speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July when moderator Frank Luntz asked the Presidential candidate about an incident where McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “the crazies.” Luntz referred to the Arizona Senator as a “war hero.”
“He’s a war hero because he was captured… I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump replied and then told the audience that McCain “graduated last in his class at Annapolis (Naval Academy).” After the event, Trump released a statement:
“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans… I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”
The statement was condemned by the Republican Party, other GOP hopefuls, and much of the American media. Sen. McCain did not immediately comment. McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, spent the next six years being beaten and tortured as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joeshortly after Trump’s remarks, but did not demand an apology.
“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to.”
“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain added. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes.”
5. Marines who lowered the American Flag in Havana raise it again
In January 1961, three U.S. Marines in Havana, Cuba lowered the U.S. embassy flag for the last time. The day before, President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after a coup brought dictator Fidel Castro to power. Castro ordered all but 11 U.S. diplomats to leave Cuba.
6. U.S. troops Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos prevent terror attacks on a Paris train
In August 2015, a heavily armed Moroccan national was set to shoot up a Paris-bound train, killing as many people as possible. As he exited the bathroom, two Frenchmen attempted to wrest the would-be shooter’s AKM rifle away. One was shot through the neck, the other fell to the floor. At that point three Americans — a civilian named Anthony Sadler, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos — jumped the gunman. Stone put the man in a choke hold, taking repeated stab wounds from a box cutter, while Skarlatos took the attacker’s rifle, beating him in the head until the man lost consciousness.
As others restrained the attacker, Stone (who is an Air Force medic) tended to the wounds of the first passenger, pushing his finger on the neck artery to stop the bleeding. All survived. Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were named Knights of the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande. Sadler received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal (the highest non-combat award). And Stone was awarded the Airman’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Stone also received a STEP promotion to staff sergeant after his regular promotion to senior airman.
7. First female soldiers earn Ranger Tabs
The two female officers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, became the first women to complete the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia amid the ongoing debate about the roles of women fighting in combat. Griest is a military police officer and Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were among 19 women who started the course. A third woman graduated in October.
8. Russia enters the Syrian Civil War
In September, Russian military aircraft carried out the country’s first airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained his forces were attacking ISIS positions, but there were many reports of Russian forces attacking anti-regime positions. Russia’s support for Syria goes back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s support for Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad who ruled Syria for almost 30 years before his death in 2000. The issue was made even more complicated after Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft for violating Turkish airspace.
9. Marine Corps publishes a study about gender-integrated units
The Marine Corps released a summary of results in September 2015 based on a nine-month study of gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. The study also claimed that all-male units were faster, stronger, had less body fat, and were more accurate with every standard individual weapon like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.
The study’s summary did note the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”
10. Training “Moderate” Syrian rebels falls apart
The first round of American-trained “moderate” Syrian fighters made their way into Syria in September 2015. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage. Later the same month, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.
The U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels was a disaster. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, reported of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. The CENTCOM spokesman went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015. The Obama Administration nixed the plan to train rebels by October 9th.
11. Congress saves A-10 from the Air Force
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the only aircraft built specifically for a close-air support mission. The signature feature is its 30mm gatling gun, the GAU-8 Avenger. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (the BRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), has been music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so that the plane has earned the nickname of “the grunt in the air.” The Air Force wanted to retire the slow-moving but stout plane to make room in their budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says is “designed for the whole battlespace.” But critics claim the F-35 ill-suited for the close air support mission.
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.
12. President Obama extended U.S. military’s Afghan mission into 2017
They won’t have a direct combat role, but U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017. When President Obama leaves office in 2017, 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban and a growing ISIS threat will keep the U.S. forces busy as they work to keep the Afghan government in power.
The Obama Administration announced the extension in October. The War in Afghanistan is almost 15 years old and claimed the lives of 2,230 service members and cost more than $1 trillion. The new yearly plan costs upwards of $15 billion per year.
13. ISIS and China hack DoD computers, stealing troops’ personal data
In mid-October, a native of Kosovo was detained in Malaysia and alleged to be the hacker who had forced his way into the U.S. government software that held the personal information of U.S. troops and federal workers. The Kosovar, said to have ties to ISIS, stole data belonging to 1,300 people and gave it to the terror group’s hacking division.
One month prior, Chinese hackers forced their way into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, and stole 5.6 million fingerprints, which, in turn, affected the compromised the records of 21.5 million Federal employees and applicants. The personal data also potentially contained information about intelligence agents posted overseas. The data included the employees’ biographical forms used when applying for sensitive or classified jobs.
14. All Combat Jobs are opened to women
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders gave the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st, including infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.
Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force and Navy since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015. The defense secretary’s rationale was simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.
15. U.S. deploys special forces ground troops to fight ISIS
In a departure from the U.S. military’s policy of providing air support and “advisors” to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter authorized the deployment of additional special operations forces in Iraq to conduct raids to free hostages, capture Daesh leaders, and gather intelligence.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. deployed 3,300 troops to Iraq in training and advisory capacities, as well as support for air operations. The new standing force will be based in Iraq but conduct operations in Iraq and in Syria. The total special force could number up in the hundreds. In October, U.S. special forces and Iraqi troops conducted a raid on an ISIS compound to free 70 Iraqi prisoners, resulting in the first U.S. castualty in the war against ISIS.