FORT HOOD, Texas — The nation is facing a blood donor shortage, and the Army is feeling the stress of this shortage still as we end National Blood Donor Month.
The Robertson Blood Center here is part of the Armed Services Blood Program. The center is experiencing difficulty in meeting the needs of combatant commanders and medical treatment facilities for blood donations.
Blood donor centers around the globe have been compounded due to decreased donation over the holiday season, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Cancellations of blood drives and decreased individual donor turnout has greatly affected the amount of blood product available for those in need.
“As the U.S. military’s official blood program, the Armed Services Blood Program always has a mission to stand ready for those on the front line and the home front,” Col. Audra Taylor, ASBP Division chief, said. “We know that blood donations are mission critical to readiness.”
Fort Hood’s RBC supplies blood donations not just locally, but also to the warfighter downrange. From the time they receive a donation, test and ship, they can supply downrange organizations with blood supplies within seven days. The RBC is also different from most local blood donation organizations. As one of the 20 ASBP centers worldwide, the RBC not only collects blood supply, it also conducts its own storage, testing, separating of blood components, transfusing, and shipping around the globe. They are governed by the FDA and support all active duty, retirees, and military families.
“Historically, right after the holidays, there’s a slump in donations,” Maj. Molly House, medical director for Carl R. Darnall Medical Center Blood Services and director of the Robertson Blood Center, said. “This year has obviously created a new set of challenges, and people are getting used to isolating themselves … but (getting donors) is more imperative this month then it has been in the past.”
House wants to assure potential donors that donating is safe and easy, and that all centers have taken steps to provide additional safety measures to the donation environment. These steps include temperature checks at the front door; the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment; social distance; and an increased placement of cleaning products and scheduling of equipment and building sanitations.
The ASBP is also collecting COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma.
“For those that tested positive for COVID-19, and have been free of symptoms for at least 14 days, they can come in for plasma donation” House said. “They do a small test to ensure they still have antibodies for COVID-19, and if so, the donation they make can be used as a therapeutic transfusion for those suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms.”
The overall mission, however, is simple: the need is now.
“Our goal as a life-saving industry is to always provide a safe and ample supply of blood products,” Taylor said. “The need is now. Make it a point to donate today to help us all stand ready.”
For more information, you can contact the Robertson Blood Center at 254-285-5808. House and Maj. Michele Allen, deputy lab manager for CRDAMC, will also be featured on Fort Hood’s Great Big Podcast, available for download today.
I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).
Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.
It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.
Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.
As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.
Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.
Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?
DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”
What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?
DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.
Special? How so?
DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.
Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?
DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.
Kosovo? What was that like?
DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.
Do you have a family history of military service?
DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.
Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?
DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.
So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?
DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”
Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?
DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.
Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…
DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.
A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?
DB: Yeah, November 10th  was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.
And you were a squad leader at this point?
How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?
DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.
Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?
DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.
You did much more than support.
DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.
And then your soldiers get trapped inside?
DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.
So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?
DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.
And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?
DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.
And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?
DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”
With the enemy still in the house?
DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”
That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.
DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.
Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?
DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.
Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?
DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.
What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?
DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.
And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?
DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.
You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?
DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.
You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?
DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.
One last question. Do you still smoke?
DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.
Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?
DB: No, you got it.
Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.
In August, 1995, a series of events occurred that would just seem implausible today. A Taliban MiG fighter intercepted a Russian Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD, forcing it to land at Kandahar International Airport in the middle of a nationwide Civil War. The crew and its passengers were taken prisoner by the Taliban. They were held for a year while the Russian government tried to negotiate their release with the help of a U.S. senator
The 1990s were a crazy time. Even with our post-9/11 goggles off, it seems inconceivable that any number of the above could happen – just try to imagine these crazy things:
A Taliban MiG fighter
Forcing a Russian plane to land
Russian government negotiating
A U.S. Senator helping Russia
It’s all true, of course. In 1994, the Taliban exploded out of Kandahar and, by the time of this incident, controlled much of the country south of Kabul. When the Airstan plane was flying over, the Taliban were still deadlocked against the Afghan government of the time, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.
It must have been an awkward ask for Rabbani, who spent years fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, only to ask them for weapons in trying to keep it away from other Afghans.
Even Jiffy Lube makes you keep the keys on the dashboard, guys.
The Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD was carrying a load of 30 tons of weapons from Albania bound for the legitimate Afghan government when it was intercepted by a Taliban MiG-21. It was an old fighter, even in the 1990s, but was still enough to bring down the Ilyushin II.
Upon landing, the crew of seven was taken into custody by the Taliban — but the story doesn’t end there. As negotiations between the Russians and the terrorist group began to stall, American Senator Hank Brown stepped in to facilitate the talks, not only buying the Russians time, but also the crew. It didn’t hurt that the Taliban wanted some of their people freed in exchange for their prisoners.
For over a year, the Russian aircrew prepared for their daring escape. Brown managed to get the Taliban to agree to let the Russian Airstan crew maintain their captured aircraft to ensure it was in working order when the time to take off finally came. Brown visited the crew and let them know they would be maintaining it.
But not only did the crew perform its routine maintenance, they also slowly but surely prepared it for their flight home. They finally got their big chance one day, just over a year after being captured. When half of the Taliban who regularly guarded them left the group to attend evening prayers, the crew tricked the others into leaving their weapons outside the plane.
They overpowered the remaining three guards and started the engines.
By the time the Taliban noticed the plane was getting ready for take off, it was already taxiing down the runway. They tried to block their takeoff using a fire truck, but to no avail, the Russians were airborne well ahead of the truck’s position on the runway. The Taliban missed catching the escaping Russians by a mere three to five seconds.
The crew had done the impossible and the Taliban were not able to scramble intercepting aircraft in time to catch them.
They left Taliban airspace as fast as possible and set course for the UAE. By the time they landed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was waiting by the phone to congratulate them. They made it home to Russia shortly after. The crew is said to celebrate their escape from the terrible event like a second birthday. The Taliban are brutal to prisoners, and the crew of the Airstan Ilyushin Il considered the entire country a prisoner of the terror group.
“My heart really goes out to these people. I’ve seen what a poverty-stricken and miserable standard of living they have. They’re still fighting because they’ve nothing left to lose,” a member of the crew told the BBC.
Their daring escape was the subject of a Russian film, Kandagar, in 2010.
After another week of keeping the barracks secure from enemy attack, Pokemon, and —most importantly—the staff duty NCO, you deserve some funny military memes. Here are 13 of the best that we could find:
1. Wait, you can get out of PT just because you’re already dead?
A U.S. military helicopter made an emergency landing Jan. 8 in Japan’s Okinawa islands, the second such incident in three days.
A Marine Corps AH-1 attack helicopter with two people aboard landed in a field at a waste disposal site in the town of Yomitan on Okinawa’s main island, according to Japanese media reports. No injuries were reported.
Photos showed an apparently intact helicopter parked in a grassy area.
The U.S. side told police that a warning light had indicated a problem with the aircraft, public broadcaster NHK said.
The Marines said in a statement that the helicopter had been repaired and would return to base as quickly as possible.
“We remain committed to both the safety of our neighbors in the communities in which we live and the safety of the Marines who fly on our aircraft,” it said.
A Marines Corps UH-1Y helicopter made an emergency landing on a beach in Okinawa on Jan. 6 because its rotor appeared to be spinning too fast. No one was injured, but military personnel could be seen removing a large part of the rotor the next day and carting it away.
The incidents are the latest in a series that have inflamed Okinawan opposition to the large U.S. military presence on the southern Japan island chain.
In separate incidents in December 2017, parts fell from U.S. military helicopters onto schools in Okinawa. One boy had minor injuries after an emergency escape window fell from a CH-53 transport helicopter into a school playground in Ginowan city. The school is next to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
According to a recent Better Business Bureau study, service members are more susceptible to fraud than average consumers. In fact, scammers using the name “Exchange Inc.” have been attempting to fool soldiers and airmen into thinking they are working with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, and boat engines.
“For years, scammers have used the Exchange’s trademarked logo and name without permission to purportedly sell vehicles in the United States,” said Steve Boyd, the Exchange’s loss prevention vice president. “Some military members have sent money thinking they’re dealing with the Exchange, only to receive nothing in return.”
Military exchanges do not have the authority to sell vehicles or represent private sellers in completing transactions in the continental United States. Scammers have left consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Department of Defense’s oldest and largest exchange service.
Scammers have left military consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service by using the name Exchange Inc. to dupe military consumers.
The scammers typically direct potential buyers to use multiple third-party gift cards to pay for purchases. Most recently, scammers required payment using Google Play gift cards. To verify any suspicious payment method requests, military shoppers can call Exchange Customer Service at 800-527-2345.
The Exchange operates solely on military installations and via ShopMyExchange.com. The Exchange does not act as a broker in private transactions and does not advertise in classified advertisement or resale websites.
Shoppers who believe that they may have been taken advantage of can file a complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
On Oct. 22, 2017, more than 30,000 people hit the pavement to run one of the largest marathons in the world. For 26.2 miles, runners tested their mental and physical fitness. A marathon forward was held for those deployed in the Middle East unable to run the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon in the nation’s capital. Among the people running the marathon were three Marines and a Sailor from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command.
According to a Greek fable the first marathon ran was more than 2,500 years ago when Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, Greece to announce the victory against the Persians. In 1896, the marathon was added to the Olympics and now more than 800 marathons are held worldwide each year, with one of the most popular being the Marine Corps Marathon. Today, runners compete in marathons for many different reasons.
“Setting a goal of a physical achievement, making a plan of how to reach that goal, then putting that goal into action is fulfilling in itself and makes for a great excuse to keep oneself active,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Cook, force surgeon, SPMAGTF-CR-CC.
The mobility officer for SPMAGTF-CR-CC, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Eaton, ran the Marine Corps Marathon because he wanted to inspire his Marines. He wanted to show them that every Marine should maintain a level of physical fitness to where they can wake up any day and run a physical fitness test.
Capt. Michael Nordin, the SPMAGTF-CR-CC adjutant, trained about two days a week for six weeks working up to the marathon.
“I’ve run a marathon every year since 2014 and didn’t want to miss a year. Half marathons and marathons are my hobby,” said Nordin. “There’s nothing like getting to mile 18-19 and hitting the wall and pushing yourself through and over it, discovering another part of you that you didn’t think you had a couple miles ago.”
Whether running it to be a good example for fellow Marines or running it as a hobby, the Marine Corps Marathon challenges each participant – and not everyone can say they ran it while deployed. It is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money, only the chance to demonstrate personal honor, courage and commitment. Despite the demands of deployment, runners with the SPMAGTF-CR-CC made the time to run the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon.
“I love to run marathons and what a great opportunity not just to run any marathon while deployed, but the ‘People’s Marathon,’ the Marine Corps Marathon,” said Cook.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed a bill ratifying a protocol to the 2015 agreement between Moscow and Damascus regulating the deployment of the Russian Air Force in Syria for 49 years.
The protocol signed by Russia and Syria in January 2017 regulates issues related to the deployment of the Russian Air Force on Syrian territory as well as related to Russia’s exercise of jurisdiction over its military movable and immovable assets on Syrian territory. It also covers the measures needed to maintain the operation efficiency of the Russia Air Force.
Under the protocol, the Russian Air Force are allowed to stay on Syrian territory for 49 years with an option of automatically extending that arrangement for 25-year periods after this term expires.
The document, published on the Russian official legal information website, particularly says that the Syrian government is handing over a plot of land in the Latakia province, where the Khmeimim Air Base is located, over to Russia for its free use.
The bill ratifying the protocol was signed by Putin on July 27, according to a Kremlin statement.
It was adopted by the Russian State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, on July 14 and approved by the Senate five days later.
The Russian Air Force was deployed to Syria on September 30, 2015, at the request of the Syrian government as part of the operation aimed at fighting terrorist groups. The group was stationed at the Khmeimim Air Base.
Most Russian troops initially deployed to Syria were withdrawn in March 2016 after Putin said that the objectives of the five-month anti-terrorist operation in Syria were “generally accomplished.” At that time, Russia said it would keep a military presence at the port of Tartus and at the Khmeimim airbase to monitor the situation in the region and observe the implementation of ceasefire agreements.
Jumping into freezing water is just part of the legacy of being a Navy SEAL. During World War II, the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Units were just a handful of guys equipped only with a pair of shorts, a knife, and maybe some explosives. But those amphibious roots are still close to the hearts of the Navy special warfare community — that’s why they still call themselves “Frogmen.”
Some 74 years ago, in the English Channel during the predawn hours of June 6, 1944, these Navy Combat Demolition Units braved the freezing waters — not to mention the thousands of Nazi guns pointed at the water’s edge.
They were trained for this.
They weren’t necessarily trained to be the secret first wave of invaders up against some of the most fortified positions in the world. No, instead they were trained to win against any and all odds or obstacles. These men were the precursor to modern day SEALs, moving to do their part on the beaches before the D-Day Landings.
That’s how SEAL training works to this day. Recruits are taught to overcome the things they think can’t be done. Now, in tribute to those few who landed at occupied France well before the rest of the Allies, 30 current and former Navy SEALs, as well as some “gritty” civilians, will recreate those NCDU landings.
Today’s SEAL reenactors will do a seven-mile swim to land at Normandy, where they’ll scale the cliffs of Omaha Beach to place a wreath in memorial. At that point, they’ll gear up with 44-pound rucks to do a 30-kilometer march to Saint-Lô.
Why? To raise awareness (and funds) for the Navy SEAL Heritage Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida — and the wide range of programs they offer to support family members of SEALs who fell in combat, doing things only the U.S. special operations community would ever dare.
“The greatest barrier to human performance is your own mind,” says Kaj Larsen, a Navy SEAL veteran who is also a seasoned journalist and television personality (among other things). “… what [BUD/S training] is really doing is putting guys into the [SEAL] community who aren’t going to quit in combat.” Larsen will be among the SEALs hitting the beach on D-Day 2018.
The goal is to keep the 2018 mission as close as possible to the original mission of the D-Day Frogmen.
The night before D-Day, an ad hoc team of underwater demolition sailors, along with Navy divers and Seabees, led by Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski, rigged the mine fields, obstacles, and other impediments set up by the Nazi defenders to explode so the main invasion force could make it to the beach.
It was 2 a.m. when the NCDU units slipped into the water, wearing little more than diver’s shorts and carrying satchels of explosives. The water temperature at that time of year peaks at just below 58 degrees Fahrenheit (for reference, water freezes at 32 degrees).
This is why today’s SEALs get that mental training: they need it.
Be sure to listen to this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast to find out more about “The Murph” workout (Larsen was a close friend of SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy for whom the exercise is named), to learn about a “Super Murph,” how SEALs are dealing with their fame in the wake of the Bin Laden Raid, and why veterans might be the future of American journalism.
You can also find out how to follow Kaj and his work, as well as what comes next for the veteran journalist.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
Six military parachute teams from around the world are training together with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights to sharpen their skills and share lessons learned.
About 80 parachutists have been dotting the sky each day with colorful parachutes identifying them as Army, Air Force, Navy or one of the international training partners from the British Army.
“They learn from us. We learn from them,” said Lt. Col. Ned Marsh, commander of the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army Parachute Team. “We establish joint and combined interoperability. That familiarity boosts safety among parachutists in preparation for shows thousands of feet about the ground.”
Amazing Helmet Cam Footage From The U.S. Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights”
Amazing Helmet Cam Footage From The U.S. Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights”
Joint training is a normal part of the Golden Knights’ annual certification cycle; however, in the past, each of the other teams have come separately for training. This is the first time all seven of these teams have come to train together at the same time. Throughout the week they are developing advanced skills and maximizing safety standards for combined military performances at show sites for the 2019 season.
In addition to the Golden Knights, the teams here for training include: the British Army’s Red Devils, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Black Daggers, the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs, the U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue, the U.S. Special Operations Command Para Commandos, and Fort Benning’s Silver Wings.
Talk about precision.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brandan Parra)
“It’s great to be over here and get some cross training,” said British Sgt. Maj. Dean Walton, who is one of 13 Red Devils who traveled to Homestead for the week. “Each team does things differently, and we can always improve. If we can improve and do things better and safer, it’s great to learn from each other how we can perform public displays.”
During the demonstration season, the Golden Knights perform with other U.S. and foreign military parachute teams at numerous events across the globe. Providing training for these teams is a key mission of the Army Parachute Team.
“There is no rivalry between the teams,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Hardy, USASOC paratrooper from the Black Daggers. “We all have good bases and we build off of that. If you look at the little targets on the drop zone, it’s a friendly rivalry to see who can land closest to the ‘X.'”
The Black Daggers use this training to perfect their demonstration team skills.
(Photo Credit: Lara HartmanPoirrier)
For the British Army’s Red Devils, the camaraderie is about much more than coming together to train each year. The team’s history with the Golden Knights dates back to the 1960s.
“When the Red Devils were originally formed, it was the Golden Knights that helped us get set up,” Walton said. “During the 1960s for an event, we actually jumped into Stonehenge with the Golden Knights.”
In June the Golden Knights will jump with the Red Devils for a demonstration in the United Kingdom. “Personally, the best part is getting to train with these guys,” Walton said. “They are exactly the same as us. Similar sense of humor, similar experiences, and it’s great to meet up once a year. We have some quite good friends on the teams.”
The Golden Knights, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, are one of U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s key outreach teams dedicated to creating awareness about the Army and educating the American public about the opportunities and benefits of service.
If you watch a movie and see troops lighting up a cigarette, you’ll probably notice that Zippo in their hand. Search-and-destroy missions in the Vietnam War were often referred to as “Zippo missions.” There’s simply no denying the fact that American troops have long had an intimate relationship with Zippos.
Troops are always searching for reliable gear as, oftentimes, the stuff we’re issued is absolute trash. That’s where Zippos come in. They’re reliable and compact, two criteria that “military-grade” items tend not to satisfy. But it’s not just that they work well — they’ve had a long history with troops.
Zippos during WWII were primarily used to light cigarettes. Vietnam, however, was another story.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The American Zippo Manufacturing Company was founded in the 1930s, but when World War II started, the company ceased all production for consumer markets altogether and instead manufactured lighters exclusively for troops being sent to war. Millions of them were carried by troops and, no matter what, they knew they could rely on their trusty, metal lighter to spark their cigarette during a long day of ass-kicking.
Some units who performed these Zippo missions were referred to as “Zippo Squads.”
Zippos took on a different function during the Vietnam War. Aside from reliably lighting cigarettes, they were used to light flamethrower tanks when the built-in, electrical igniter didn’t work. They were also used as mirrors to shave, to heat up popcorn, and the list goes on.
In fact, Zippos became synonymous with Vietnam War operations as troops would raze villages with lighters on seek-and-destroy missions. But Zippos weren’t just for burning things down — they actually became a kind of cultural timepiece.
Some of the best pieces of military history.
(Photo by Joe Haupt)
In Vietnam, troops began engraving designs onto the sides of the hardy, metal lighters as a way to pass the time. By looking at those engravings, we’ve been able to glean some insight into the mindset of troops from the era. It might have been just an idle habit at the time, but such historical artifacts are invaluable for future generations.
The practice of engraving Zippos is one that carries over to modern-day service members. It may not be as popular as it once was, but troops all over still use the iconic lighter to spark up cigarettes or even burn frayed paracord.
Regardless, one thing is for sure — Zippos remain one of the most iconic pieces of unofficial military gear.