How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

As Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley made her way through mountainous terrain in the midst of a scorching Georgia summer in 2018, she admittedly struggled, carrying more than 50 pounds of gear during a patrol exercise.

Tired and physically drained, her body had withstood nearly a month of training in the Army’s most challenging training school. She had already suffered a fracture in her back in an earlier phase and suffered other physical ailments.

But then she looked to her left and right and saw her fellow Ranger School teammates, many of whom she outranked.

“I know that I have to keep going,” said Kelley, the first enlisted female graduate of the Army Ranger School at Fort Benning. “Because if I quit, or if I show any signs of weakness, they’re going to quit.”


In the middle of 21 grueling training days in northeast Georgia, Kelley knew if she could weather the mountain phase of the Army’s Ranger School, she and her teammates would reach a new pinnacle, a critical rite of passage for Ranger students. The electronic warfare specialist spent 21 days in the mountains which includes four days of mountaineering, five days of survival techniques training and a nine-day field training exercise. She had already been recycled in the school’s first phase and didn’t want to relive that experience.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley marches in formation during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

“It’s not about you at that moment,” Kelley said. “It’s about the people around you. You don’t realize in that moment how many people look up to you until you complete it. Everybody has those trying periods because those mountains are really rough.”

Her graduation from Ranger School paved the way for her current assignment as an electronic warfare specialist with the Third Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Since 2016, more than 1,200 female soldiers have entered combat career fields, including field artillery, armor and infantry.

Kelley said the Ranger training pushed her to meet the same standards as her male counterparts. She finished the 16-mile ruck march in under three hours.

“You literally go through the same thing,” Kelley said. “It’s not any different … You do the same thing that they do. That’s the greatest thing about Ranger School: there’s one set standard, across the board.”

Taking the easy road has never been how Kelley has lived her life. As a teenager she competed as a centerfielder on boy’s baseball teams. She also was on her high school’s track team. Growing up in the small rural community of Easley, South Carolina, she had few mentors as a teen.

“I just wanted to be somebody,” Kelley said. “And I also want to be someone that others can look up to. I didn’t have that growing up. We don’t all come from a silver spoon background; some of us have to fight for things.”

She joined the Army on a whim in 2011, considering joining the service only six months prior to enlisting. She admired the Army’s rigid discipline and high standards.

“Better opportunities,” was one reason Kelley said she joined the Army. “I wanted to get out of where I was.”

Kelley wanted to reach even higher. The 30-year-old wanted to one day become sergeant major of the Army and let her supervisors know that it wasn’t some pipe dream. After an Iraq deployment with the 1st Armored Division, Kelley’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mike Vandy, told her that attending Ranger School would help chart her path to success.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

A family member places the Army Ranger tab on Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley’s uniform.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

“When I went to Ranger School, I didn’t go so I could be the first (enlisted female),” Kelley said. “I went so that I could be sergeant major of the Army. And I want to be competitive with my peers.”

After Kelley decided to apply for Ranger School, she spent five months physically preparing herself and studying while deployed. Her roommate in Iraq, former Staff Sgt. Mychal Loria, said Kelley would work 12-hour shifts, workout twice a day and still found time for study. At the same time, she helped mentor other soldiers.

“She just exemplified the perfect NCO; always there for her soldiers,” Loria said.

Kelley praised former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey for helping create more opportunities for women in combat career fields. Since the first two female graduates — Capt. Kristen Griest and then-1st Lt. Shaye Haver — completed Ranger training in 2015, more than 30 female soldiers have earned their Ranger tab. Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first African American woman to graduate from the course earlier this year.

Kelley said has begun preparation for a six-month deployment to an undisclosed location. The South Carolina native said she looks forward to using many of the skills she learned during her time training to be an Army Ranger.

The eight-year Army vet said the Third Special Forces group has fostered a welcome environment for unit members, offering a wealth of training opportunities to help advance her career, including electronics and intelligence courses.

Kelley offered some advice for soldiers who may be considering Ranger School or other certifications to advance their careers.

“Soldiers need to understand that sometimes things you had planned change,” she said. “So just be open-minded to new things and don’t be scared to go after things that seem impossible. Because nothing’s impossible if somebody’s done it before you.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Army tests laser that shoots down drones

During a recent Army exercise, a prototype laser shot down so many drones that its operator started losing count. “I took down, I want to say, twelve?” Staff Sgt. Eric Davis told reporters. “It was extremely effective.”


The Army has made air defense an urgent priority, especially against drones. Once icons of American technological supremacy, unmanned aircraft have proliferated to adversaries around the world. The Islamic State uses them for ad hoc bombing attacks; the Russian army to spot Ukrainian units for artillery barrages.

So last month’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment threw 14 different types of drones against a slate of counter-UAS technologies, from a .50 caliber machine gun loaded with special drone-killing rounds, to acoustic sensors that listened for incoming drones, to jammers mounted on rugged, air-droppable Polaris 4x4s.

But the laser was the star.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger
The Army wants to arm the versatile Stryker combat vehicle with high-energy lasers to defeat a variety of threats — including drones. (Photo: US Army)

“We had a lot of fun with the Stryker vehicle this time,” said John Haithcock, the civilian director of the Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill, which hosts the exercise. The Stryker is a moderately armored eight-wheel-drive vehicle, lighter than an M1 tank or M2 Bradley but much heavier and more robust than a Humvee or MRAP, and its boxy hull has proved adaptable to a host of variants.

Earlier MFIX exercises had tested a counter-drone Stryker, with radar and optical sensors to detect drones, plus jammers to scramble drones’ datalinks, causing them to lose contact with their operators and even crash. Two prototypes of this CMIC vehicle (Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability) are now in Europe with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit on the cutting edge of testing new technology to counter the Russians.

But there’s still space and electrical power to spare on the CMIC Stryker, so for April’s MFIX the Army added the 5 kilowatt laser, derived from the Boeing-General Dynamics MEHEL 2-kw prototype. For November’s MFIX, they plan to double the power, 10 kilowatts, which will let it kill drones faster — since the beam delivers more energy per second — and further away. If November’s tests go equally well, Haithcock said, the 10 kw laser Stryker will graduate to an Army-led Joint Warfighting Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will test it in all-out mock battle.

Not that the MFIX exercise was easy: Soldiers operating the laser Stryker had to contend with real drones and simulated artillery barrages. Just managing the Stryker’s complex capabilities — laser, radar, jammers, sensors — was challenging. In fact, a big part of the experiment was assessing whether the soldiers’ suffered “task saturation,” a polite way of saying “overloaded.”

“The crew on the Stryker had never worked together….We didn’t know each other,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “(But) all the systems were pretty easy to use, and after 15-20 minutes, I was able to program all the different types of equipment.”

Once the shooting started, he managed to multi-task, Davis said: “I was able to troubleshoot the radar while I was using the laser.” The artillerymen manning the laser Stryker were even able to continue acting as forward observers, spotting targets for artillery attack, at the same time they defended the force against incoming drones.

A Stryker-mounted 10 kw laser should be far more maneuverable and survivable on the front lines than the Army’s early experiment, a 10 kw weapon on an unarmored heavy truck. (The truck’s still in play as a platform for a 60 kw long-range laser to kill artillery rockets). But a Stryker is too much hardware for the Army’s light infantry brigades, which mostly move on foot with a smattering of Humvees and other offroad vehicles.

For those forces, this MFIX experimented with splitting the CMIC kit of sensors and jammers across two Polaris MRZR 4x4s. The Army also tested a heavy-duty jammer called the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), currently mounted on a cargo pallet in the back of a medium truck but potentially Polaris-transportable as well. No word whether they can make a laser that compact — at least, not yet.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mrs. Missouri 2019 is an Army spouse

Chelsea George of Waynesville, or more recently known as Mrs. Missouri, is a fan of adventures.

Her husband, Capt. Tony George, currently serves at Fort Leonard Wood. He is the same way, she said, and with being part of a military family, she’s had quite the journey.

“My family, we’re currently on a quest to see all 50 states,” she said. “Every time we got orders somewhere, we were excited about the adventure.”

Her family first moved to the area for six months in 2013 during her husband’s Captains Career Course.

She said adjusting to the difference in regional lifestyle was difficult, but social connections made the transition easier.


“I think it’s really important to get plugged in with different groups, whether it’s volunteering or joining a club, because it can be kind of slow at first,” she said.

Out of her desire to integrate into the surrounding community, she was introduced to the Mrs. Missouri pageant, which she would win six years later after several back-to-back moves and returning to Fort Leonard Wood.

Chelsea George

www.youtube.com

“It was a really good way to meet friends when I moved to a different state,” she said. “That was what initially got me into it, but it (also) gave (me) a platform to speak about things that are important to (me).”

Her platform was a choice riddled with emotions from years past, she said. To Chelsea George, there are few more important causes than skin cancer prevention.

“Ten years ago this year, I had my uncle Jamie pass away from melanoma,” she said.

He was 42 years old.

“It was five months from the day he was diagnosed to the day he died,” she added. “He had a big part in raising me.”

Because of her single mother’s working hours and pursuing a doctorate, she said, she spent several nights a week at her uncle’s house.

“He was this big, huge 6-foot 7-inch police officer in an area that was kind of rough, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, where I lived,” she said. “To me, (he) was my hero, and nothing could touch him. (He) couldn’t be defeated.”

“Then, to see this terrible disease take him so quickly, it’s definitely something that really molded me and changed me going into adulthood,” Chelsea George said.

She was 19 years old.

“The phrase ‘grief is a process’ is definitely not a lie,” she said. “For a long time, I really couldn’t even talk about it without being super emotional.”

George was previously a licensed cosmetologist, and even though she wasn’t vocal about her platform yet, she volunteered to assist cancer patients who wanted to “look good (and) feel better.”

“Women who have cancer (would) come in and get a makeover,” she said. “You (would) teach them how to deal with things like losing eyebrows, how to apply makeup to cover that, how to pick a wig that’s best for (them).”

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

Chelsea George.

“It wasn’t melanoma-specific, because I knew I wanted to help (all) people with cancer, but I wasn’t ready to talk about my uncle Jamie and his story,” she added.

George would later graduate with a degree in exercise science and begin working at the Missouri University of Science and Technology Wellness Department. This education, coupled with a natural maturing in the grief process, she said, allowed her to open up about her hero.

“I finally got to the point where I could talk to people about it,” she said. “Working in the field of prevention specifically kind of led me to realize, ‘I can take what I know about prevention work and put it toward this thing that’s super important to me, and hopefully make the smallest bit of difference.'”

Bringing light to melanoma prevention and education carried her to the competition where she would ultimately be crowned Mrs. Missouri.

Even on stage, she said, it’s still a sensitive subject.

“I think there were 5 judges, and I cried with 4 of them,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s still hard to talk about, but it’s important to talk about. Knowing how important the message is, (even) if I stumble over my words, that’s okay, as long as the message gets out.”

The next year will prove to be a significant one for George as she advocates for her cause, celebrates her 10th wedding anniversary and competes for Mrs. United States in Las Vegas in August 2019.

“She worked so hard not only for the pageant but she’s worked on her education, getting her bachelor’s degree and working on her master’s degree, she’s holding down a full-time job and parenting two kids,” Tony George said. “I’m proud of her for all the work she’s done.”

The last Mrs. Missouri contestant to win the title of Mrs. United States was Aquillia Vang in 2012, a Waynesville resident at the time, and military spouse, whose husband, Maj. Neng Vang, was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 in Japan is still losing dogfights to F-15s

The most expensive weapons system in history, the US’s F-35 Lightning II, is still sometimes losing to the 1970s F-15 in dogfights during training scenarios in Japan.

US Air Force F-15 pilot Capt. Brock McGehee, when asked by Defense News if the F-35s at Kadena Air Force base in Japan still sometimes lost to the Cold War-era fighters, said “I mean, sometimes.”


The F-35 has long been plagued by reports of that it can’t dogfight as well as older, much cheaper jets, despite being in development for nearly two decades and claiming to revolutionize air combat.

In 2015, War is Boring published a report from a test pilot that said the F-35 couldn’t turn or climb fast enough to keep up with older jets, and F-16s lugging heavy fuel tanks under wing still routinely trounced it.

But a lot has changed since 2015. The F-35 has had its software upgraded and the tactics refined.

Why the Cold War jets can still pull a win out — for now

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke previously told Business Insider that the older jets benefited from decades of development and training, whereby new pilots today have established best practices. As the F-35 is still in its early days, Berke said the best is yet to come.

In 2017, the F-35 dominated older jets with a ratio of 15 kills to one death.

“The biggest limitation for the F-35 is that pilots are not familiar with how to fly it. They try to fly the F-35 like their old airplane,” Berke said.

But the pilots at Kadena dogfighting against F-15s may be a cut above, according to Berke, who said that because they have never flown a legacy jet before, they won’t bring the bad habits with them, and will instead learn how to fly the F-35 like the unique plane it is. “They’re going to be your best, most effective tacticians,” Berke said.

F-35s at a major disadvantage to any legacy jet in a dogfight

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger
(U.S. Air Force photo)

“The F-35 cannot out dogfight a Typhoon (or a Su-35), never in a million years,” Justin Bronk, a combat aircraft expert at the Royal United Services Institute, previously told Business Insider.

The reason why, according to Bronk and other experts on the F-35, is that the F-35 just isn’t a dogfighter. The F-35’s stealth design put heavy demands on the shape of the aircraft, which restricted it in some dimensions. As a result, it’s not the most dynamic jet the US could have possibly built, but it doesn’t have to be.

Instead, the F-35 relies on stealth. F-35s, employed correctly in battle, would score most of their kills with long range missiles fired from beyond visual range.

“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth,” civilian F-16 pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote in 2016 after training on F-35 simulators.

A Top Gun pilot says dogfighting is dead anyway

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger
(Photo courtesy of Dave Berke)

Berke, an alumnus of the US Navy’s famous Top Gun school, echoed Alpert’s assessment, but warned that the common perception of dogfighting was “way off,” and something US jets haven’t done in 40 years. Berke disagreed with Bronk’s “never in a million years” assertion, but maintained that the dogfighting issue was basically irrelevant.

The bottom line is that in training, all jets lose “sometimes.” That the F-35 can hold its own and beat a jet refined over four decades to excel exclusively at air-to-air combat — when the F-35 has been designed to fight, bomb, spy, and sneak — shows its tremendous range and potential.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Watch a West Point athlete destroy the indoor obstacle course test

In under two minutes, Cadet Trevaun Turner made history at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The track and field athlete ran the Indoor Obstacle Course Test, a full-body functional fitness test given to all cadets throughout the year – and they must pass.

Cadets pass the IOCT with a minimum time of 3:30 for men and 5:29 for women. But according to the Twitter account for the USMA’s Commandant of Cadets, one cadet not only passed, but set an almost unbeatable record.


Since 1944, West Pointers have been running the IOCT, and the test itself hasn’t changed much since 1948. Cadets are as excited to take the test as they are to watch other cadets traverse it. They can take the test multiple times to try and score better and better times. Anyone scoring under 2:38 for men and 3:35 for women is authorized to wear a special badge on their PT uniform. Needless to say, Trevaun Turner will get that badge.

On Nov. 20, 2019, Turner ran the 11-part obstacle course, completing a low crawl under barrier, tire footwork, a two-handed vault, an eight-foot horizontal shelf, a horizontal bar navigation, the hanging tire, a balance beam, eight-foot vertical wall, a 20-foot horizontal ladder, a 16-foot vertical rope, and a 350 meter sprint (first carrying a six-pound medicine ball for 120 meters, then a baton for the second 120 meters, and running empty-handed for the remaining 110 meters. He did it all in an incredible 1:54.

The previous record of cadets passing the IOCT was held by then-Cadet Joshua Bassette in 2014, with a time of 2:01, beating the previous cadet record by one second. Bassette hoped to beat his own record by getting his time under two minutes. He never did, and he graduated in 2016. The previous all-time record for the fitness test was held by Capt. Austin Wilson, a physical education instructor at the U.S. Military Academy, whose score of 1:59 stood for years. Until now.

Trevaun Turner ran the IOCT during his plebe year at the academy, earning a time of 1:59, almost beating the all-time record. Cadet Madaline Kenyon broke the female IOCT record in 2017, a record held strong since Tanya Cheek set the record in 1989. Kenyon broke it with an incredible 2:26. As for Trevaun Turner, Navy better hope he doesn’t start playing football.

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6 wild facts about the deadly creator of SEAL Team Six

These days, Richard Marcinko is a business instructor, author, and motivational speaker. In his earlier years, “Demo Dick” was the United States’ premier counterterrorism operator. Marcinko enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1958 and eventually worked his way up to the rank of commander, graduated with degrees in international relations and political science, and earned 34 medals and citations, including a Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and four Bronze Stars. But that’s just his military resume.

Even among the ranks of American special operators, Marcinko, his record, and his reputation are all exceptional — and it’s easy to see why. At 77, he is still training business executives as well as U.S. and foreign hostage rescue teams. He even worked as a consultant on the FOX television show 24. His memoir, Rogue Warrior, is a New York Times bestseller.

“I’m good at war,” Marcinko once told People Magazine. “Even in Vietnam, the system kept me from hunting and killing as many of the enemy as I would have liked.”


1. North Vietnam had a bounty on his head

As a platoon leader in Vietnam, Marcinko and his SEALs were so successful, the North Vietnamese Army took notice. His assault on Ilo Ilo Island was called the most successful SEAL operation in the Mekong Delta. During his second tour, Marcinko and SEAL Team Two teamed up with Army Special Forces during the Tet Offensive at Chau Doc. The SEALs rescued hospital personnel caught in the crossfire as an all-out urban brawl raged around them.

Because of Marcinko’s daring and success, the NVA placed a 50,000 piastre bounty on his head, payable to anyone who could prove they killed the SEAL leader. Obviously, they never paid out that bounty.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger
(US Navy)

2. He was rejected by the Marine Corps

Marcinko joined the military at 18 but, surprisingly (to some), he didn’t first opt to join the Navy. His first stop was the Marine Corps, who rejected him outright because he did not graduate from high school. So Marcinko, who would leave as a Commander, enlisted in the Navy. He later became an officer after graduating from the Navy’s postgraduate school, earning his commission in 1965.

3. He designed the Navy’s counterterrorism operation

You know you’ve made it when they make a video game about your life story.

After the tragic failure of Operation Eagle Claw, the U.S. attempt to free hostages being held by students in Iran, the U.S. Navy and its special operations structure decided that they needed an overhaul. Marcinko was one of those who helped design the new system. His answer was the creation of SEAL Team Six.

4. He numbered his SEAL Team “Six” to fool the Russians

When he was creating the newest SEAL Team, the United States and Soviet Union were locked in the Cold War — and spies were everywhere. Not trusting that anyone would keep the creation of his new unit a secret, he numbered it SEAL Team Six in order fool the KGB into believing there were three more SEAL Teams they didn’t know about.

5. His job was to infiltrate bases — American bases

The Navy needed to know where their operational sensitivities were — where they were weakest. Even in the areas where security was thought tightest, the Navy was desperate to know if they could be infiltrated. So, Vice Admiral James Lyons tasked Marcinko to create another unit.

Marcinko created Naval Security Coordination Team OP-06D, also known as Red Cell, a unit of 13 men. Twelve came from SEAL Team Six and the other from Marine Force Recon. They were to break into secure areas, nuclear submarines, Navy ships, and even Air Force One. Red Cell was able to infiltrate and leave without any notice. The reason? Military personnel on duty were replaced by civilian contractor security guards.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger
Just like the A-Team, except real. And Marcinko is in command. And he’s the only one. And he killed a lot more people. (NBC Universal Television)

 

6. He spent 15 months in jail

Toward the end of his career, he was embroiled in what the Navy termed a “kickback scandal,” alleging that Marcinko conspired with an Arizona arms dealer to receive $100,000 for securing a government contract for hand grenades. Marcinko maintained that this charge was the result of a witch hunt, blowback for exposing so many vulnerabilities and embarrassing the Navy’s highest ranking officers. He served 15 months of a 21-month sentence.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What to do when your ship pulls in to Rota, Spain

Naval Station Rota, Spain (NAVSTA Rota) is a beautiful Navy base located in Southern Spain. Called “the Gateway to the Mediterranean,” the port sits on the Atlantic Coast, but is only a few hours from Gibraltar, Mallorca, and other Mediterranean destinations. It’s a small base, with the main buildings all within a mile of the port. There are busses to take you from port to the NEX shopping Center, and from there, you can walk or grab a taxi to the destinations below.

There’s plenty to do on base, off base, and in the surrounding towns, so keep reading and make your libbo plans before the ship pulls into port!


Top 7 things to do in Rota, Spain

1. Get essentials from the NEX. When ships pull into port, they can almost double the on-base population. This means longer lines for everything and a shortage of supplies at the NEX and Commissary. If you need to stock up on cigarettes, razors, snacks, or other essentials, then go here directly from the ship. That way, you’ll avoid the empty shelves at the end of the weekend.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

2. Check out MWR tours. Rota is an active base with a small number of permanent personnel stationed there, but a large number of troops come through on ships — some of who remain for a deployment. The base MWR office plans weekly activities. You can find them listed in the Vamos magazine, on their website, or by calling 727-1517 (on base). MWR plans bus rides to local towns, flamenco shows, and castle visits. They handle the transportation and the local guide, so you can just relax and take in the sights.

3. Sign up for Outdoor Rec. Whether you want to rent a bike or SCUBA gear, go on a rock climbing excursion, find local hiking trails, or ride quads in Tarifa, the Outdoor Rec Center is the place to begin. They can fill you in on group activities (listed in the Vamos magazine) or help you plan your own adventure.

4. Visit the Liberty Center: If you need a place to relax or get Internet access, the Liberty Center has a lounge, TVs, computers, and pool tables to enjoy. They also host regular events for single service members, like movie and bowling nights, sports competitions, or trips to local restaurants.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

5. If you don’t have a car, walk through Rota: You can easily walk out the Rota gate and downhill through the town. There’s a Welcome Center to your left just as you walk out the gate where you can grab a map or ask questions. Visit the town hall (a 13th century castle), a medieval church, the beach paseo (boardwalk), and have lunch at any of the restaurants near the water.

6. Go golfing. The base has a nice golf course with low rates for service members. They host regular tournaments and events, or you can rent clubs and play a round on your own. If golf isn’t your thing, round up some friends to enjoy the Foot-Golf course, which is set up to play with a soccer ball.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

7. Enjoy Spanish food. While Spanish food is not at all like Mexican food (it’s much more mild and based on fresh, Mediterranean ingredients), it is refreshing and delicious. To eat, try paella (rice and seafood), tortilla (an egg and potato dish), gazpacho (cold tomato soup), or any fresh seafood. To drink, don’t miss out on sangria (chilled wine with fruit) or a cerveza (beer).

If you have a car:

You can rent a car on base at the airport, or off base, just outside the Rota gate. You just need ID and a valid American driver’s license to reserve a vehicle. It will be more cost-effective if you team up to rent with some friends. Rental cars are typically stick shift, so make sure someone in the group can drive manual. Having a car will give you access to the town of El Puerto (just a few miles outside the base Puerto gate) and any other towns in Southern Spain that are within your liberty limits.

Here are some of the most popular:

1. Spend a day in Cadiz. This city just 40 minutes from Rota has a great history museum, church, and amazing seafood. It’s a gorgeous city with plenty of parks and unique architecture, and it holds the honor or being one of Europe’s longest continuously-inhabited cities — 2,000 years of constant development and counting!

2. Drive to Seville. Over an hour North of Rota is the royal city of Sevilla, once the port where all the New World gold passed through. The medieval cathedral and alcazar (castle) are both gorgeous and worth the visit. This is also a great location to purchase colorful Spanish pottery.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

3. Go to Gibraltar for a day. You’ll need a passport to visit Gibraltar because it is not part of Spain! The town actually belongs to England as an overseas territory. The residents there speak English, eat fish and chips, and have occasional parades of British soldiers. After enjoying lunch at one of the pubs around the main square, take the tour up the Rock to see the monkeys and the Pillar of Hercules.

​4.See Roman ruins. The Roman town of Baelo Claudia has been excavated and partially restored, near the Spanish city of Bolonia. A quick day trip will let you walk through the ancient avenues, see the amphitheater, and marvel at the pillars of the public forum. This seaside port was once a bustling Roman town, and on a clear day you can see the coast of Africa. There are other places to see Roman ruins in Spain (statues in the history museums of Cadiz or Seville, aqueducts in Segovia, the theater in Merida), but Baelo Claudia is the closest day-trip to Rota.​​

Things NOT to do in Rota, Spain:

1. Avoid the forbidden clubs. Your libbo safety brief will probably include a list of establishments not to visit within the town of Rota. There are a few bars and clubs that are off-limits to service members. These establishments are on the list either because of illegal substances, or because they have experienced too many service member-related fights inside. Steer clear. Shore Patrol knows these locations and will check them regularly.

2. Don’t go to Morocco: Although the African city of Tangiers is just a ferry ride away from the Spanish town of Tarifa, service members are generally restricted from traveling to Africa. Not only would you need a passport, but you also need written permission from your CO because of occasional political unrest in Morocco.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ghost stories as told by your platoon sergeant

Bonfires in the military are rare — and almost no one tells ghost stories over them. But if you ever do find yourself on the receiving end of such tales, you’ll notice that, just like many ghost stories, they’re filled with all sorts of morality lessons — it’s just that the military’s morality lessons are a little different than everyone else’s. And when the platoon sergeant tells them, they’re always pretty bloody and seem to be directed at one soldier in particular.


How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

He was such a promising soldier before the incident… Before the curse…

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Meyer)

1. The AG who flagged the commander. Twice.  

It was an honest mistake, a lapse of judgement in the shoothouse. The assistant gunner had to take over for the gunner, and he shifted the gun’s weight at the wrong time and angle, pointing it up at the catwalks — and the commander — by accident. The platoon leader reached out his hand for a second, saw that it was done, and decided to wait for the AAR to address it. But then the AG rolled his shoulders again to settle the strap, pointing it at the commander again.

What happened next was epic. The platoon sergeant launched himself across the room, tackling the AG. The commander started screaming profanities. The platoon leader started doing pushups even though no one was yelling at him. But it was the eastern European military observer who did it. He mumbled something under his breath — a gypsy curse.

The AG took his smoking like a man, but he didn’t know the real punishment would come that night. He awoke to sharp pains throughout his abdomen and looked down to find three 5.56mm holes in his stomach. Now, he’s normal and fine during the day, but at night, he wanders as the ghost of live-fire exercises past. Eternally.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

When in large formations, always remember to shut up and color.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

2. The specialist who dimed out the platoon sergeant

Specialist Snuffy was an ambitious soldier — a real Army values kind of guy — but he took it too far. The platoon sergeant tried to provide some top cover to a soldier in trouble during a horseshoe formation, but Snuffy was kind enough to rat out the original soldier and the platoon sergeant for protecting him.

The rest of the platoon didn’t take it kindly, saying that Snuffy should’ve let the platoon sergeant handle it internally. So when Snuffy first started hearing the whispers in the barracks, he assumed it was just the platoon talking about him. But then he heard the whispers in the latrine. And on patrol. And while cleaning his weapon in a closed barracks room.

He slowly lost sleep, instead just tossing and turning to the unrelenting noises. When he was able to drift off, he was haunted by the visions of wrathful ghosts who declared him a blue falcon and buddyf*cker. It wore away at his metal foundation until he was finally chaptered out for insanity. It’s said that the voices are still out there, waiting for someone to screw over their own platoon once again.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

Talk back to first sergeant, and you will do pushups until you die, and then your ghost will do the rest of them.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Selvage)

3. The team leader who actually talked back to the first sergeant

Corporal John was smart and talented, but also prideful and mouthy. He led a brilliant flanking movement during an exercise, keeping he and his men low and well-hidden in an unmapped gully until they were right on top of the OPFOR’s automatic weapons. But then he made a mistake, allowing his team to get bunched up right as a grenade simulator was thrown his way.

First sergeant took him to task for the mistake, and John pointed out that most other team leaders wouldn’t have seen or used the gully as effectively. He did push-ups for hours, yelling “You can’t smoke a rock, first sergeant!” the whole time. But first sergeant could smoke rocks.

The pain in John’s muscles should’ve gone away after a few days. He was an infantryman. But instead, it grew, hotter and more painful every day. On day three, it grew into open flames that would melt their way through his skin and burst out in jets near his joints. Then, his pectorals erupted in fire. The medics threw all the saline and Motrin they had at him, but nothing worked.

Slowly, the flesh burned away, leaving a fiery wraith in its wake. It now wanders the training areas, warning other team leaders of the dangers of mouthing off.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

Keep. Your. Eyes. Open.

(Photo by Senior Airman Gina Reyes)

4. The private who fell asleep in the guard tower

He was just like one of you. Barely studying his skill book. Rarely practicing for the board. But that’s you expect from privates — just a good reason for their leadership to encourage them. But then, he was up in the guard tower during the unit’s JRTC rotation. He had stayed up playing video games the whole night before his shift and, by the time the sun was going back down, he was completely wiped.

He fought his eyes falling, but a thick bank of fog that rolled in caressed him to sleep. As he drifted off, he felt the light tickle of skeletal fingers around his neck. He thought briefly of the rumors of undead that wandered the Louisiana swamps.

Despite the threat to him and his buddies, he dropped into the lands of dreams. He was found the next morning with his eyes bulging from his head and thick, finger-shaped bruises on his throat. It’s a tragic reminder to keep your stupid, tiny little eyes wide open.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

Not sure how he got so many negligent discharges with an empty magazine, but just go with it. It’s hard to find photos to illustrate ghost stories.

(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Terry Wong)

5. The King of Negligent Discharges

It’s said that he whimpers as he walks. He was once like one of you, a strong, upstanding killer. But then we were doing “Ready, up!” drills and this moron kept pulling the trigger while he was still raising his weapon. Somehow, no amount of yelling got him to stop doing it. The impact points of his rounds kept creeping closer and closer to his feet until his platoon sergeant finally grabbed him and threw him, physically, off the range.

But the disease was in his bones by that point. He started accidentally pulling the trigger on patrols while at the low ready, and then again on a ruck march. They stopped giving him live ammo. Then they stopped giving him blanks. Then he was only allowed to carry a rubber ducky rifle, and then finally he was only allowed to carry an actual rubber duck.

Somehow, even with the rubber duck, he had negligent discharges, sharp squeaks that would split the air on patrol. But one day it wasn’t a squeak — it was the sharp crack of a rifle instead. He had shot himself in the foot with a rubber duck, a seemingly impossible feat.

He’s a gardener now, always careful to point his tools away from himself, because he never knows when the next one will go off.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The ‘Raptors’ are elite Chinese police arresting protesters in Hong Kong

On the front lines of the unrest in Hong Kong are the Raptors, an elite subdivision of the Hong Kong Police Force. Their official name is the Special Tactical Squad, but that moniker doesn’t really cover everything the Raptors do, from crowd control and riot control to clearing roadblocks and infiltrating disruptive groups. The STS was created in the midst of chaos and will be there whenever Hong Kong descends back into it.


How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

The Special Tactical Squad was formed in 2014 in the middle of the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, a civil unrest that was a response to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress’ efforts to undermine the democratic system in Hong Kong. The police response to the 100,000 protestors that flooded the city’s streets was underwhelming. They had no apparatus in place to handle such protests. The Raptors were created to contain the widespread protests and were deployed in 2016 during the “Fishball Revolution” and are again deployed on the streets.

Every time the Chinese government tries to impose its will on the city of Hong Kong, its people crowd the streets in massive protests, and the Raptors are called in. The latest protests see upwards of a million people protesting in the streets in 2019.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

Around the Police Tactical Unit, which the Special Tactical Squad is a part of, they’re called the “Removal Team,” as they’re usually tasked with removing debris and clearing roadblocks, as well as removing unruly protesters. For the last, the local media call them “The Professional Removal Team.” When the Hong Kong police are overwhelmed, the Raptors special training and gear are able to work over crowds in sizes that regular police forces just couldn’t manage. Now they’re doing much more than responding to civil unrest – they’re actively preventing it.

People close to the organized protests say Raptors officers went undercover in protest groups to undermine the most radical protesters. On Aug. 12, Raptors arrested 15 organizers in a carefully coordinated decoy operation to remove the most violent of rioters. The Raptors are now being comprised of counterterrorism officers, which probably explains the shift in tactics on the ground. Protestors with a violent past can now be arrested in secret.

The Raptors would usually have just done battle with those protesters. Times sure have changed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 powerful upgrades Bradley Fighting Vehicles could get in 2018

The Army is working on a future Bradley Fighting Vehicle variant possibly armed with lasers, counter-drone missiles, active protection systems, vastly improved targeting sights, and increased on-board power to accommodate next-generation weapons and technologies.


Also designed to be lighter weight, more mobile, and much better protected, the emerging Bradley A5 lethality upgrade is already underway — as the Army works vigorously to ensure it is fully prepared if it is called upon to engage in major mechanized, force-on-force land war against a technically advanced near-peer rival.

As the Army pursues a more advanced A5, engineered to succeed the current upgraded A4, it is integrating 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared sensors for Commanders and Gunners sights, spot trackers for dismounted soldiers to identify targets and an upgraded chassis with increased underbelly protections, and a new ammunition storage configuration, Col. James, Schirmer Project Manager Armored Fighting Vehicles, said earlier this Fall at AUSA.

Read More: The Army’s ‘Hard Kill’ tank defenses are a high-tech upgrade

BAE Systems, maker of the Bradley, told Warrior the platform’s modernization effort is designed in three specific stages. The first stage in the modernization process was the Bradley Track Suspension to address suspension upgrades, BAE statements said. The subsequent Bradley A4 Engineering Change Proposal, soon to enter production, improves mobility and increases electrical power generation. More on-board power can bring the technical means to greatly support advanced electronics, command and control systems, computing power, sensors, networks, and even electronic warfare technologies.

Maj. Gen. David Bassett, former Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems, described the upgrades in terms of A3 and A4 focusing upon the Bradley from the turret ring down — leading the A5 effort to more heavily modernize Bradley systems from the turret up. This includes weapons sights, guns, optics, next-generation signals intelligence, and even early iterations of artificial intelligence, and increased computer automation.

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger
Bradley Fighting Vehicles from Company A, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, get loaded on 805th Transportation Detachment, Logistics Support Vessel 8, U.S. Army Vessel, Maj Gen. Robert Smalls at Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, March 25, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William E. Henry, 38th Sustainment Brigade)

During several previous interviews with Warrior, Bassett has explained that computer-enabled autonomous drones will likely be operated by nearby armored combat vehicles, using fast emerging iterations of artificial intelligence. These unmanned systems, operated by human crews performing command and control from nearby vehicles, could carry ammunition, conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy defenses or even fire weapons – all while allowing manned crews to remain at a safer stand-off distance. At one point, Bassett told Warrior that, in the future, virtually all armored vehicles will have an ability to be tele-operated, if necessary.

Also, while Army Bradley developers did not specifically say they planned to arm Bradleys with laser weapons, such innovation is well within the realm of the possible. Working with industry, the Army has already shot down drone targets with Stryker-fired laser weapons, and the service currently has several laser weapons programs at various stages of development. This includes ground-fired Forward Operating Base protection laser weapons as well as vehicle-mounted lasers. A key focus for this effort, which involves a move to engineer a much stronger 100-kilowatt vehicle-fired laser, is heavily reliant upon an ability to integrate substantial amounts of mobile electrical power into armored vehicles.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why self-care is the best gift of 2020

Guess what? In just a few short weeks, you’ll have officially survived 2020. Congratulations! No, really. Congrats. Give yourself a pat on the back, or maybe a bear hug, because just making it through this year in (mostly) one piece is something to be proud of. 

When 2020 commenced, I was fired up. I had big plans. Within months, my plans looked like they had been shoved through a wood chipper. Planning anything at all felt impossible. Who knew what grenade 2020 would throw next? Stuck in my house, I felt incredibly alone. Yet, I wasn’t. There were millions of others in the same boat. 

Now, it’s been a full year since the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re all still in the middle of the ocean. Whether you’re adapting to working from home, figuring out distance learning, or struggling with unemployment, 2020 has probably found a way to make your life harder. 

Some of us are in sturdier boats than others, but at the end of the day we’re all just trying to stay afloat. And that’s okay. 

Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just plain depressed is all too common this year. If you’re worried it’s just you, take a look at these sobering statistics. In June, 40% of U.S. adults said they were struggling with mental health or substance use, while 18.1% are coping with an anxiety disorder. 

Mental health in children has worsened as well; 9.7% of U.S. children have been diagnosed with severe major depression. Among those between the ages of 10 and 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Not cancer, not heart disease. Suicide. Veterans are also vulnerable; since 2008, the average number of veteran suicides hasn’t dropped below 17 a day

These ugly numbers send a powerful message: Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s an essential service. 

If you’re one of the millions of people who struggled to stay positive this year, this message is for you. Feeling burnt out isn’t a sign of weakness, and when you are burnt out, it’s OKAY to take a break. 

This holiday season, don’t worry about what other people want. Focus about what you and your family need. 

Seriously. Be kind to yourself. If you put on more holiday pounds than usual, give yourself a break. It’s okay. If you don’t have it in you to plan your annual family photoshoot and send out cards, forget about it. Gather everyone on the couch, hold up your TP and hand sanitizer, and say cheese. If you don’t have time to meticulously wrap presents, shove em’ in a gift bag with some tissue paper. Done. Don’t grind yourself into the ground. 

Expectations from family members can also take a toll. 

Hosting a Christmas party is now a topic of controversy, and families are divided. Some feel it’s irresponsible. Others feel it’s non-negotiable. The solution? Again, do what’s best for you. The people who love you should respect your choice, and if they don’t, they’re not worth your time anyway. This is a live and let live kind of year. 

Self-care comes in many shapes and forms. Do what makes you feel good, whether it’s going for a long walk, taking up a new hobby, or panic baking. If you want to dance like no one is watching, go for it. Literally, no one is watching. 

Click here for more ideas on self-care during this crazy and complicated year, and be patient with yourself and those around you. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs or symptoms of depression or anxiety, don’t tough it out. 

For mental health support, contact your doctor. For immediate help, call SAMHSA’s hotline or visit the VA’s support page for round the clock phone and chat support. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

World leaders unite in honor of D-Day 75th

Western leaders have joined Queen Elizabeth II in southern England to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest military landing operation in history that speeded up the end of World War II.

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among leaders of 16 countries attending the June 5, 2019 ceremony in the port city of Portsmouth, one of the key embarkation points on D-Day.

As the leaders paid tribute to the “sacrifice” of those who died in the 1944 operation on the French coast of Normandy before more than 300 veterans, Russia’s Foreign Ministry argued that the landings did not have a “decisive” influence on the outcome of the war.


Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings five years ago, was not invited to the events in Portsmouth.

The Soviet Union was not involved in the D-Day landings but was instrumental in defeating Nazi Germany.

Watch live: Trump attends ceremony to commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day

www.youtube.com

More than 150,000 Allied troops set off from Portsmouth and the surrounding area on June 6, 1944, to begin the air, sea, and land attack on Normandy that ultimately led to the liberation of Western Europe from the Nazis.

The invasion, code-named Operation Overlord, was commanded by U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower. It remains the largest amphibious assault in history and involved almost 7,000 ships and landing craft along an 80-kilometer stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

Thousands were killed on both sides.

In Portsmouth, Queen Elizabeth paid tribute to the “heroism, courage, and sacrifice” of those who died in the landings, while Trump, who was on the last day of his three-day state visit to Britain, said D-Day “may have been the greatest battle ever.”

The commemoration was attended by leaders from every country that fought on D-Day, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, and Slovakia.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova offered a tribute to those who died on the Western Front and said the Allies’ contribution to the victory was “clear.”

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

“It should of course not be exaggerated,” she added, noting the Soviet Union’s “titanic efforts, without which this victory simply would not have happened.”

Zakharova continued, telling reporters that the landings in Normandy “did not have a decisive impact” on the outcome of the war.

“It had already been predetermined as a result of the Red Army’s victories, she added, citing the battles of Stalingrad in 1942 and Kursk in 1943.

Russia has accused the West in the past of failing to acknowledge the Soviet Union’s contribution to the 1945 victory over the Nazis and the human losses — estimated at 26 million deaths — it suffered during the conflict.

The countries represented at the Portsmouth commemorations agreed a proclamation pledging to “ensure that the unimaginable horror of these years is never repeated” and commit to working together to “resolve international tensions peacefully.”

Further memorial services are planned in Britain and France on June 6, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Daphne explain her journey from model to Marine

Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works, and Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” Augie cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran story from his or her time in uniform.


Daphne Bye’s memory is from her father’s traditional Peruvian Ceviche, which he made for her every time she came home. Daphne was brought up on the flavors of South America and would always crave the Ceviche, homemade by her family, especially when away from home for extended periods of time. Here’s the recipe that chef August cooked together for Daphne:

Peruvian Ceviche w/ Uni and Yucca Crisp

Inspired by Daphne’s Dad’s Traditional Peruvian Ceviche

Ingredients

*all chopped ingredients should be roughly same bite-size.

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil (good quality)

2 Cups Canola Oil (for frying)

5-8 Limes (juiced)

2 Lbs Striped Bass (or other firm white fish – chopped)

1 Large Jalapeño (seeded, stemmed and chopped)

5 Garlic Cloves (chopped)

3 Roma Tomatoes (chopped)

1 Small Red Onion (chopped)

1/4 Cup Cilantro (chopped)

2 Ears of White Corn

4 Tbs Uni (sea urchin – for topping)

1 Large Yucca

Prepare

Boil Corn in 2 quarts of salted water for 15 minutes or until they are halfway cooked. Remove,

cool and slice kernels off cob, one side at a time. Put kernels aside.

Add corn to fish, jalapeño, garlic, tomato, onion and cilantro. Top with salt and pepper, lime

juice and olive oil.

Let sit in refrigerator overnight.

When ready to serve, heat Canola oil in small, heavy bottom pan or Wok to 350°. Meanwhile,

peel and slice Yucca with a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin you can just slice uniform

slim slices of the Yucca carefully with a sharp knife. They should be the thickness of thin

potato chips.

When oil is at temp, fry Yucca chips in small batches pulling out when they turn golden brown.

Drain on paper towel.

To serve, place 2-3 spoonfuls of the Ceviche in a bowl, top with the Uni and Yucca chip.

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