Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time - We Are The Mighty
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Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Robert O’Neill ate a last meal with his children and then hugged them goodbye — “most likely forever,” he privately thought.


Even his wife didn’t know where he was going.

On May 2, 2011, two helicopters touched down, one crash-landing, under the cover of darkness within an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The 23-strong team entered a house and crept up the stairs.

A SEAL in front of O’Neill went along a hallway to provide cover, he recalled. When O’Neill entered the bedroom, he saw a man — bearded, tall, and gaunt — standing there.

“I knew it was him immediately,” he said. “He was taller than I imagined.”

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Osama bin Laden (left). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

O’Neill, a senior chief petty officer in the US Navy SEALs, aimed his rifle and fired twice, he said, hitting the 6-foot-5 figure in the head both times. Osama Bin Laden collapsed. O’Neill shot him again.

Despite his training, which taught him to immediately start gathering intel, O’Neill said he was momentarily dazed by the magnitude of what he had just done.

He snapped out of it when a colleague said, “You just killed Osama bin Laden.”

On July 26, the retired SEAL, in the midst of a lecture series to publicize his memoir, “The Operator,” will come to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to speak about his life and how his experiences can translate to the lives of others.

And, for the first time ever, the gear he wore the night he hunted down bin Laden — boots, helmet, bullet-proof vest, all in desert-camouflage — is on public display, until the end of July.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Navy SEALs in desert camouflage. (U.S. Navy photo)

“This will probably be our biggest event of the year,” said Joe Lopez, spokesman for the non-profit Nixon Foundation.

How did the Nixon pull off the coup before any other museum?

“They asked,” O’Neill, 41, said this week. “They asked, and I said, ‘Why not?'”

Hours after the raid, when then-President Barack Obama announced from the White House that Special Forces had killed bin Laden and that “his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” Americans erupted in celebration.

The details of the mission were classified. Retaliation, if members of SEAL Team 6 became known, was possible. Secrecy was paramount.

The initial excitement he felt over firing the kill shots, he said, eventually waned as his name spread through the military community and Washington, D.C.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Robert O’Neill. (Photo from Facebook.)

“The secret was poorly kept,” O’Neill said. “And my name got leaked.”

So in November 2014, O’Neill fully came out and said he indeed was the shooter.

Some fellow SEALs were irked at O’Neill’s position under the spotlight. Several, anonymously, have accused him of breaking the military code by seeking glory or even lying about being the one who killed bin Laden.

Related: 7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The US government won’t confirm the shooter’s identity.

“I don’t really care,” O’Neill said. “I was with the team. The tactics got me to the spot. I just fired the shots. There’s no doubt it was me.”

“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” came out in April. The book, O’Neill said, is about success — how “a guy from Butte, Montana, who didn’t know how to swim, became a Navy SEAL.”

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Navy SEALs train. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

And how that guy, who had never envisioned a career in the military, spent 16 years in uniform because of a breakup with a girlfriend.

“I wanted to leave town so I signed up for the Navy,” he said. “That’s part of the book. Don’t just sit there and sulk. Do something.”

O’Neill went on 400-plus missions, including the 2009 rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and the 2005 mission to save fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Those rescues were turned into Tom Hanks’ film, “Captain Phillips,” and Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s “Lone Survivor.”

“When I discuss my missions,” the former special operator said about his appearances, “I tell them why we were good at the missions, how we worked as a team, and how and why we developed these traits.”

O’Neill, a Virginia native, has yet to visit the Nixon Library. But when approached, he quickly agreed.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“This is huge for us,” Lopez said. “We also thought it would be cool to have something he wore that night on display.”

Officials thought a boot would be good. Or maybe a glove. Perhaps, if lucky, his helmet.

Minus a T-shirt donated to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Nixon got to borrow everything.

“My uniform was at my dad’s house,” he said. “So I had it shipped there.”

O’Neill’s gear is mounted on a mannequin inside a glass case, flanked by American flags with a video nearby explaining his non-profit, Your Grateful Nation, which helps veterans, particularly those from the Special Forces, prepare for second careers.

The case is next to the front entrance in the lobby, opposite a wall-length portrait of the 37th president.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl

“He’s a hero,” said retired Air Force Maj. Terry Scheschy, of Riverside County, who fought in the Vietnam War and, last week, visited the Nixon Library. “To me, this provides a lot of value to the museum.”

Betty Kuo, 42, of Manhattan Beach, came to the Nixon with her family, including her two young children and their cousins. As she was buying tickets, the children saw the SEAL uniform and sprinted toward it.

Kuo joined them.

“It’s good to teach them that we’re safe, but we can’t take that for granted,” she said. “The military keeps us safe.”

Going into the mission, O’Neill certainly didn’t feel safe himself — he had doubts that his team would escape without harm.

“I thought the mission was one-way,” he said. “That’s why everyone was so excited after the mission. We all got out.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time the Air Force went inverted over a Russian bomber

Last week, we published a blurry shot of a U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom flying inverted during an intercept mission on a Russian Tu-95 Bear. The photograph went viral and reached Robert M. Sihler, the author of the shot, who was so kind to provide some interesting details about the image that brought to mind one of the most famous scenes in Top Gun movie.


“Although I don’t remember the exact date, the mission occurred in either late 1973 or early 1974.  The F-4C belonged to the 57th FIS at Keflavik NAS.  The mission was a standard intercept of a “Bear” by two F-4s after the alert crews were activated,” Bob wrote in an email to The Aviationist.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
In June 1973, the F-4s replaced the F-102s at Keflavik. (All images: R. Sihler)

I was a Navigator, or in the F-4, a Weapons System Officer. I entered the USAF in Oct 1969. On active duty, I spent a couple of years at Norton AFB, CA in C-141s. From there, I trained in the F-4 and spent one year at Keflavik, Iceland. Following that, I went back to C-141s at Charleston AFB, SC from 1974 to 1977. I left active duty and spent the next 14 years in C-130s at Andrews AFB, MD and Martinsburg ANGB, WV. I retired as a Lt Col in Dec 1991. The assignments to Iceland were generally either one or two years. I elected to do one year without my family accompanying me there. Others chose to bring their families for two years.

Dealing with the close encounters with the Tu-95s:

“At that time, we probably averaged two intercepts of “Bears” per week. They were the only aircraft we saw while I was there. Generally, the intercepts occurred on Fridays and Sundays, at the “Bears” flew from Murmansk to Cuba on training and, we guessed, “fun” missions. Generally, we did these barrel rolls at the request of the Soviet crewmembers. They gave us hand signals to let us know they wanted us to do it.  They photographed us as well.  The Cold War was winding down and the attitudes on both sides had improved,” Sihler explains.

When asked whether the barrel roll was difficult or unsafe maneuver, Bob has no doubts: “Not really!  The Soviets, at the time, gave us hand signals asking us to “perform” for them. The rolls were not dangerous at all.”

The famous shot of the inverted flying F-4 Phantom (the aircraft was actually ending a barrel roll):

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

An F-4C from 57th FIS escorts a Tu-95 intercepted near Iceland in the early 1970s:

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

The same 57th FIS F-4C that performed the barrel roll around the Tu-95 depicted during the same intercept mission:

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

A Tu-95 as seen from a Phantom’s cockpit:

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

A big thank you to Robert Sihler for answering our questions and providing the photographs you can find in this article.

MIGHTY TRENDING

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: 30 Years of Service

Thirty years is a long time to stick it out in any career, let alone one where a person is routinely put into harm’s way over and over again. But that’s exactly what retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Victor Wright did. Wright served our country for thirty years, first as a Sailor and then later as a Soldier. Wright’s decade’s long career offers him a prestige that many never receive. He’s served in every conflict since the Vietnam War.  

For those in the military, it’s often difficult to find a path. We want adventure but we also want stability. OCONUS moves are a way to see the world but they take us far from home. It’s even more difficult to find that balance with high op-tempos and jobs that take all our energy.

But none of that stopped retired Army Sgt. First Class Victor Wright. Instead of getting bogged down with the details, his thirty-year career kept him pushing forward. Wright didn’t let the challenges of work-life balance stop him from achieving his goals.

A Legend in the Making

Victor Wright enlisted in 1974 because he wanted to see the world. He served on the USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Wright deployed to Vietnam shortly after enlisted. During his three decades of service, Wright earned twenty-four awards.

Whereas some might use their accomplishments as an opportunity to brag, Wright remains honest and unassuming. Wright insists he’s not a legend or a hero, despite the fact that his campaign rack might say otherwise. Instead, he maintains he’s just “enjoyed his life” exploring the world.

The humble sixty-two year-old Victor Wright retired on August 21, 2018. After his retirement, Wright began working as an Apache Helicopter Mechanic and Instructor. In true Army fashion, he’s always looking for a way to give back – a by-product of his 30 years of service, no doubt.

Under his instruction, new service members not only learn new vocabulary and how to employ technology, but how to live a life fulfilled and well-travelled.

Wright remains optimistic regarding the future of the Army. “I’m coming off the wall, and I’m glad there are others that are still willing to stand.

As one of the last retiring Vietnam War veterans, we can only hope that Wright’s dedicated service and commitment to America continue to inspire future generations of warfighters.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 misconceptions boots have about an upcoming deployment

Any troop in today’s military will eventually, inevitably be deployed. Even before the announcement of the new, “deploy or get out” policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find an E-6 or above who doesn’t have a bit of time in the desert under their belt.

Everyone else is simply waiting for their time to come — and those in wait always have a few questions about their upcoming deployment. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to describe. You could be a commo guy in a signal unit, constantly dealing with threats up at your retrans site. Conversely, you could be an infantryman who spent years at the rifle range only to stay at a major base and train local forces on how to use their weapons. The fact is, you never know what it’ll actually be like until you’re there — and this is true regardless of rank, position, branch, or unit.

That being said, there are a few universal truths that stretch the spectrum of military service, for POGs, grunts, and special operators alike — and those truths are in direct conflict with what boots have on their mind.


Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

On the bright side, that usually means PT is on your own schedule — but that doesn’t mean you can slack off. You’re probably still going to have to take regular PT tests.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ed Galo)

“I’ll have plenty of downtime”

Deployments seem like the perfect time to try and knock out some online college courses so you can get a leg up on your peers and have an easier time finding a job after your service — oh man, you are mistaken.

Your work schedule will shift from the standard of PT in the morning, work call during the day, and time off at night to something that looks more like work 24/7 with maybe a single day off. Sure, you’ll have a few hours here and there between missions, but those will usually get eaten up by catching up on sleep or relaxing with the squad.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Just imagine all the dumb crap that would fill these tents if people had access to wasting their money while deployed.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marie Cassetty)

“I’ll have so much money when I get back”

On paper, a deployment seems like the perfect way to get out of debt. You’re gone for somewhere between nine to eighteen months, you’ll have nothing to blow your money on, and you’ll get better pay — tax free. This could be just what you need to crawl out of debt. The operative words here are “could be.”

If you’ve got a family back home, that money is being spent on responsibilities. If you’ve got preexisting debt, that money you’re accumulating is going toward paying people back. You’ll be making more than you’re used to back stateside and you’re less likely to waste it on stupid crap, — that is if you can avoid blowing it all in one reckless weekend like so many have before you.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Also, with deployments shrinking down to nine months, units aren’t going to be required to give their troops RR, so… there’s that…

(U.S. Air Force)

“I’ll get R&R when I want to”

All the calculating in the world can’t help you outrun the reach of the Big Green Weenie. There’s no scheduled block leave when it comes to RR. If your deployment is around twelve months, you’re lucky if you’re able to take it somewhere near the mid-point.

Your unit must remain operational, however, and it can’t do that if everyone is gone — so they’re not sending everyone home at the half-way point. Your leave is more than likely going to fall somewhere between three and nine months in. Troops who are expecting the birth of kids get top priority, but it’s a free-for-all after that.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Do not get this twisted. Troops are still in harm’s way every day. The likelihood of an outright firefight, however, has dropped.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sean A. Foley)

“I’ll get that Combat Action Badge (or equivalent) soon”

If there’s one prized medal within the military, it’s the one that comes after a troop has experienced combat first-hand. There’s an undeniable badassery that comes with the badge, ribbon, medal, etc., but they aren’t just handed out like candy anymore.

These days, fewer and fewer troops are seeing direct combat as America’s responsibilities in the War on Terror shift to more advisory roles with local militaries. Armed conflicts still occur in the Middle East, definitely, but the numbers are shrinking with each passing year. Even if your unit is one of the few that goes outside the FOB, you’ll likely not see combat right away.

Which leads us directly into the next myth about deployments…

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

The “hearts and minds” part of counter-insurgency truly is a better strategy for the overall well-being of the region. The sooner you adapt, the better time you’ll have outside the wire.

(DoD photo by 1st Lt. Becky Bort)

“My sole mission is to fight the bad guy”

From the moment you enter basic training, you’re fed one purpose. You’re being groomed to become the biggest, baddest motherf*cker Uncle Sam has ever seen. You will shoot, move, and communicate better than anyone else ever has. For the most part, however, that’s just not going to be the case.

If you do manage to get into a unit that will send you outside the wire, 98 percent of what you do are called “atmosphericals.” Basically, this means your unit rides through an area of operations, watching to see if anything goes down, being a show of force to both the civilians who need American aid and any potential threats watching from afar.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Case in point: There is a very specific reason I personally stopped mocking the French forces…

(ISAF photo by MC1 Michael E. Wagoner)

“My foreign counterparts are held to the same standards as me”

American troops are given very strict instruction on how to be professional and courteous while turning an area of operations “less hostile.” Our foreign counterparts do not have the same level of regimented training. Other NATO nations could be treating war like it’s a nine-to-five while the local military’s training curriculum probably doesn’t even cover “minor” things, like properly using a weapon.

But this misconception swings both ways. You might also be surprised to learn that certain allies don’t mess around — and train their “standard” infantry more like special operations.

Articles

Here’s why the F-35 could thrive in the South China Sea

As tensions mount in the troubled waters of the South China Sea, US might is considered crucial, and a weapon considered well suited for the region is almost ready for deployment: the F-35 Lightning II.


“It will absolutely thrive in that environment,” retired Air Force Col. John “JV” Venable told Business Insider.

At a cool $100 million per jet, Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” aircraft is America’s priciest weapons system, and its development has become one of the most challenged programs in the history of the Department of Defense.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
An F-35C Lightning II on USS George Washington during F-35C Development Test III. | Lockheed Martin

Since its inception, in 2001, the F-35 has experienced setbacks that include faulty ejection seats, software delays, and helmet display issues.

In July 2015, after cost overruns, design modifications, and serious testing, the Marine Corps became the first of the sister-service branches to declare the tri-service fighter ready for war.

A year and change later, the Air Force also declared their version of the fifth generation jet initial operational capability (IOC). Currently the US Navy variant, the F-35C, is slated to reach IOC by February 2019.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
An F-35C Lightning II comes in for a landing on USS George Washington during F-35C Development Test III. | Lockheed Martin

“Having three different types of fighters working for you in that environment [South China Sea] is also an extraordinary advantage,” Venable, a fighter pilot and former commander of the celebrated Air Force Thunderbirds, told Business Insider.

With rival territorial claims by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, and China, the South China Sea — rich in natural resources and crisscrossed by shipping routes — is one of the most militarized areas on the planet.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Overlapping claims in the South China Sea | Voice of America

Currently the US, with the world’s largest navy, dominates the region; however, that is poised to change as Beijing dramatically expands its naval capabilities.

“At some point, China is likely to, in effect, be able to deny the US Navy unimpeded access to parts of the South China Sea,” Robert Kaplan, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and author of  “Asia’s Cauldron,” wrote.

“The withdrawal of even one US aircraft carrier strike group from the Western Pacific is a game changer.”

According to Venable, the F-35, designed to marry stealth and avionics, would thrive in the armed camp that has become the South China Sea.

“The Chinese would be right to fear the United States Air Force, United States Navy, and the United States Marine Corps armed with those jets.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Questions have emerged about the managerial ability of White House physician Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, President Donald’s Trump pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal government’s second-largest agency.

If confirmed, Jackson would replace David Shulkin as the secretary of veterans affairs. Trump announced his decision to fire Shulkin on March 28, 2018.


Though Jackson has an impressive resume as a career naval officer who served as an emergency trauma doctor in Iraq, as well as a White House physician for the 12 years, he seems to lack any management experience.

Considering the VA has 360,000 employees and a $186 billion annual budget, that has some people worried.

“It’s great that he served in Iraq and he’s our generation. But it doesn’t appear that he’s had assignments that suggest he could take on the magnitude of this job, and this makes Jackson a ­surprising pick,” Paul Reckhorn, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Washington Post.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Admiral Ronny L. Jackson

Shulkin had managed several hospitals before, including some that were part of the VA, and almost all of his predecessors were either high ranking managers in the private sector, or military leaders.

Senior White House officials told the Washington Post that Jackson “was taken aback by his nomination,” and was reportedly hesitant to take the position. One official described an “informal interview” process, without the traditional Cabinet-level vetting.

The White House had reportedly planned to announce that Shulkin would leave on March 28, 2018, with an interim director to run the department until a permanent head could be found. Trump apparently changed that plan when he tweeted that Jackson was his pick to lead the VA.

Virtually nothing at all is known about Jackson’s views on the issues that currently face the VA, like Trump’s views on privatization of elements of the VA.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
David Shulkin
Photo by James Lucas

“We are doing our homework on Dr. Jackson,” Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Johnny Isakson, told the Washington Post.

“His name was never floated around,” Maddox said, “so we are doing our due diligence.”

It is unclear if Democrats will support Jackson’s nomination. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both of her legs when the helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down, released a statement saying that she would “carefully review” his qualifications.

“The next VA Secretary must be able to protect the department from becoming consumed by partisan politics,” Duckworth said.

“I hope Dr. Jackson is someone who is willing and able to do that by continuing the important tradition of VA Secretaries working in a bipartisan manner.”

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

The Thunderbirds Delta formation flies by One World Trade Center during a photo chase mission in New York City May 22, 2015.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: Senior Airman Jason Couillard/USAF

Capt. Nicholas Eberling, a solo pilot for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, maneuvers his F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft to close in on the refueling boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: Capt. Zach Anderson/USAF

NAVY:

The USS Constitution (America’s oldest warship) may be in drydock for the next few years, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still “virtually” tour her on Google Maps.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: USN

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sunliners of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 launches from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during an air-power demonstration.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: USN

ARMY:

A soldier, assigned to 3rd BCT, 101st ABN DIV (AASLT) and deployed as part of Train Advise Assist Command-East fires an M4 carbine rifle during a partnered live fire range with soldiers from the Polish Land Forces at Tactical Base Gamberi, Afghanistan.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: Capt. Charlie Emmons/US Army

Four containerized delivery system bundles parachute from an United States Air Force C-130 Hercules during a joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training mission, in Kosovo.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: Sgt. Melissa Parrish/US Army

MARINE CORPS:

USS WASP, At sea – Two F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters complete vertical landings aboard the USS Wasp during the opening day of the first session of operational testing.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/USMC

 

Louisburg, N.C – U.S. Marines assigned to Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit , conduct a high altitude low opening jump during category 3 sustainment training in Louisburg, N.C.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: Lance Cpl. Andre dakis/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guard Cutter Kathleen Moore sits side-by-side with the HMCS Glace Bay prior to the beginning of theU.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) exercise, which brings together units from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, The National Guard, U.S. Navy and others to train Caribbean partners and strengthen maritime partnerships.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: USCG

Get underway this week with Coast Guard Cutter Active and learn about their recent participation in Exercise Trident Fury alongside the U.S. Navy and Royal Canadian Navy as they take over!

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo: USCG

NOW: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

AND: More military photos

OR: Watch the top 10 militaries around the world :

Articles

5 tips for coming up with a good nickname for your fellow troops

Nicknames and the military are a tradition as old as war itself. Many military legends have nicknames such as General “Mad Dog” Mattis because of his fearlessness. Others such as Lt. General Lewis “Chesty” Puller had his nickname because of his posture and large chest. Nicknames can be cool or they can be aggravating to the bestowed. Regardless, they’re a tradition that isn’t going anywhere. So, one may as well come up with good ones. Here are some tips for coming up with good nicknames for your fellow troops.

They can’t like it

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Story time: When I was a junior Marine and hit the fleet, one of my seniors was sitting around waiting for our turn to shoot on the range. He said “We need to give you a nickname,” and in true Marine Corps fashion, everyone threw in their two cents. “Mexi-Cano” (I’m not Mexican) and some variations of the first part of my last name were tossed around. They didn’t quite fit.

Then he simply asked how to say “The Kid” in Spanish. I replied, “Niño” without thinking, and I could see it click on everyone’s face.

No, please, not that one.

“That’s the one. Niño.” I hated it at first and they could tell, which is why it stuck. I knew if they knew how much it really bothered me it would definitely be my name for my entire career. Everyone liked it but me, so, there was nothing I could do. I was the “Niño.”

Fast forward two deployments and a workup later, I was the Niño no more. New unit, new me. It was bittersweet because I knew I finally shook it off but the ones who called me that were no longer around. Some got out, some others passed away. Once in a blue moon, I’ll talk to my old platoon and I’ll hear my old moniker. In hindsight, I ended up liking it because it was like being called “Billy the Kid,” the most famous outlaw to have lived.

Not “Alphabet”

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Some people have long last names. Although the pronunciation may be simple, some people just can’t deal. At some point when someone reaches E6, they just stop trying. The nickname ‘Alphabet’ is one that is thrown out there for those with a long last name. When dealing with a large list of people, let’s say the rifle range, you are bound to run into many people’s last names that will be hard to say. So, steer clear from this one because it will get confusing and no one is going to respond to it anyway.

We had a troop named Rzonca, pretty simple to say. However, for reasons unbeknownst to me, E6s and above couldn’t say it. He was nicknamed ‘Bazooka’ instead. Which turned out to be a cool name since he also had an M203 grenade launcher on his issued weapon. Anything is better than calling someone “alphabet.”

Shorten their name with a twist

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Marzbanian, my former machine gunner on my first deployment, ended up with nickname “Mars.” The letter Z must be SNCO repellent because they would always pull some sort of nickname for people with one. Then there was Humphreys who had “Hump” or “J Hump.” Shortening a troop’s name is the quick get of jail card because everyone will know who you’re talking about. It’s not much but it’s a good place holder until you come up with something else.

They can be built upon

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

That’s not a free pass to start calling people NJP-able nicknames. Part of the joke with mine is that I am short and Latino, thus “el Niño.” It’s right on the line without crossing it. It’s racial without being racist, it’s fun to say, and most importantly, it pissed me off. To be on the safe side, avoid race-based names. Peacetime is a lot more politically correct than during the Surge. Once on post duty in Afghanistan, the Corporal of the Guard was looking for someone and asked for specifics on the radio. “Second tent on the left when you’re looking at the generators. His rack is five Niños up on the right hand side.” Apparently, I had also become a unit of measurement. It also became an inside joke for our platoon — until the lieutenant used it… and killed it.

Lieutenants are not in on the joke

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Nicknames are for the guys, not the leadership. That is until that leader has earned everyone’s trust. It just sounds weird to have superiors and subordinates referring to each other by their nicknames when they’re not even on a first name basis yet. It’s a two way street, and no matter what direction the traffic is going, it’s going to sound unprofessional.

A year a half later, we had a new lieutenant who, as is usually the case for a butter bar, was disliked. He called me by my nickname once and everybody gave him a “Dude… no,” look. I didn’t know it at the moment, but it really touched a nerve with a lot people. When I asked why it bothered them more than it did me, my friends and seniors replied, “He’s not one of us. Only we f*** with us.” If you want to kill a nickname have your leadership use it. It’s a like a boomer saying “woke.” Gross.

Feature image:  U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class China M. Shock

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Tragic accident takes young Marine’s life at Camp Pendleton

A U.S. Marine was killed in a freak accident on August 4 after a tree fell on him during physical training at his California base.


Lance Cpl. Cody Haley, 20, was working out in a wooded area at Camp Pendleton with members of his unit when the incident took place. While on a run, the Marines tried to move a log they were unaware was holding up a dead tree, which fell on top of Haley and killed him, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert Knapp

A native of Hardin, Iowa, Haley had deployed in 2016 with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He was awarded the National Defense Service medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service medal, and the Sea Service Deployment ribbon, the Marine Corps said.

“We are heartbroken at the tragic loss of a member of the Marine Corps family, and we will do all we can to comfort the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased,”  the Corps said in a news release to the Marine Times.

The incident is under investigation, according to CBS 8.

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Pentagon identifies Navy SEAL killed in Fleet Week parachute accident

A Navy SEAL who fell to his death when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River has been identified as a 27-year-old Colorado man.


The accident that killed Remington J. Peters occurred Sunday at Liberty State Park, a large New Jersey park across from Manhattan where people catch ferries to see the Statue of Liberty.

Peters, whose identity was revealed late Monday, was a member of an elite Navy parachute team called the Leap Frogs. He was a role model who will be “painfully missed,” his family said in a statement released by the U.S. Navy.

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“He was an angel on earth and role model to all,” the statement said. “We couldn’t have been more proud of him. He lived life to the fullest and taught us to do the same.”

The cause of the parachute malfunction that killed Peters is under investigation.

Peters was among four parachutists who drifted down from two helicopters. The Navy said he was pulled from the water by the U.S. Coast Guard. His parachute landed in a parking lot.

The Navy Region Mid-Atlantic commander, Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, asked for prayers “for the Navy SEAL community.”

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World War II veteran reuniting with his girlfriend after 70 years

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time
Image: gofundme


Norwood Thomas was a young American soldier during WWII when he met Joyce Morris in England. In the chaos of the war, they lost touch. But the story doesn’t end there.

Thomas, now living in Virginia Beach, and Morris, now living in Australia, found each other online and had their first date in 70 years over Skype.

“They laughed like teenagers,” The Virginian-Pilot reported. “At the end of their two-hour video reunion, [Thomas] told [Morris], his wartime girlfriend, that he’d love to reunite in person someday – said he wanted to give her “a little squeeze” after more than 70 years apart.”

After The Virginian-Pilot broke the Skype story two months ago, a gofundme page was created. It quickly raised more than $7,500 from more than 300 people to reunite the two. The page’s creator froze donations after Air New Zealand, who’s a big supporter of this love story, waived the ticket fee. Instead, the money will be used to cover additional travel expenses during Thomas’s trip next month.

Looks like they’ll be having that happily ever after, after all.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dObrivREne8

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These 11 photos show how the military is helping those caught in Hurricane Harvey’s devastation

Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas as a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 miles per hour. Over four feet of rain has been dumped on the Gulf Coast of Texas, and Houston is flooded — and it may be as bad as Katrina.


Thousands are trapped in the area, prompting a massive rescue effort, including support from the “Cajun Navy.” National Guard and Coast Guard units from as far away as San Diego, California, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are assisting.

Below are some of the photos showing the rescue efforts by the National Guard, which has been, as you might imagine, very busy.

This is what they are dealing with: An aerial view shows severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron prepare to deploy from the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Aug. 27 for Texas, where they will assist with rescue and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The Airmen are specialists in swift-water and confined-space rescue. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

 

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

U.S. Air Force 41st Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawks take-off, Aug. 26 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The 23d Wing launched HC-130J Combat King IIs, HH-60G Pave Hawks, aircrew and other support personnel to preposition aircraft and airmen, if tasked to support Hurricane Harvey relief operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

In this aerial view, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hovers over the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Texas National Guardsmen drive military vehicles down flooded streets while searching for stranded residents impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Texas National Guardsmen work with emergency responders in assisting residents affected by Hurricane Harvey flooding during search and rescue operations near Victoria, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)

 

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Texas National Guard soldiers aid a citizen in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD)

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

A Texas National Guardsman carries a resident from her home during flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Texas National Guard soldiers assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 27. (National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

A Texas Task Force responder helps hoist a stranded resident to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during search and rescue near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo)

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

A Texas National Guardsman shakes hands with a resident after assisting his family during Hurricane Harvey flooding in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27. (Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West)

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

 

To donate $10 to the American Red Cross, text REDCROSS to 90999. The donation will be reflected in your next cell phone bill. You can also donate by going to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for a list of national charities assisting those whose lives have been altered by Hurricane Harvey.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This country music star is excited to be playing for the military

Country music superstar Chris Young has released two platinum albums, been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and has nine number 1 hits. He’s on his Raised On Country Tour right now, and he took some time to talk about what it’s like to visit with Navy working dogs, to see so many vets and service members on his tour after his sister’s time in the Marines, and to have a tour sponsor in USAA that can help him get in touch with more military audiences.


Young picked the cities for the tour for the standard reasons, but he’s gotten to enjoy some little perks and experiences at military stops. Like when, two weeks ago, he got to hang out with dog handlers at Naval Base San Diego.

“There are so many markets where we’re going to go that are pretty large military markets as far as bases,” he said, “and, you know, we’re able to do the things like we did in San Diego on the naval base the other day.”

“We knew there were going to be a bunch of partnership opportunities like that [with USAA] and I just have a big love and respect for the military,” he said. “So anytime you get a tour sponsor where you know, everything already lines up on its own, it’s a pretty incredible thing.”

He isn’t new to the military experience, though. Young’s sister was a West Coast Marine who worked on helicopters. And she married another Marine. Seeing his sibling’s sacrifices deepened his respect for the military.

“I remember that I would see, first-hand, about the amount of time that people are going out. She and I have always been really, really, really close and so when you go months at a time, sometimes, without being able to see somebody because their travel versus what you’re doing to travel and anything else I think you understand it in a different way I guess.”

It’s his sister’s and his brother-in-law’s military service that he thinks of when he’s performing “The Dashboard,” a song about two brothers when one is sent to war and leaves his truck behind. For anyone who hasn’t heard it, we won’t give away the ending, but it’s not the ending made typical by “Riding with Private Malone.”

Young didn’t write “The Dashboard,” but he connected with it when he heard it.

Chris Young – Raised on Country (Official Video)

www.youtube.com

“That song, buddy of mine Monty Criswell wrote it, and I just thought it was so different from the way I had heard other songs written even along the same line, topically, just the way he handled that song and made it something really, really special and anytime that I’ve played I always use the chance to reference my sister because obviously, she’s a Marine so I get a chance to nod to her and my brother-in-law when I sing that song and I always make sure to say something about them.”

For Young, who has gotten a kick out of playing for troops since he was at bases like Fort Bliss before his first record contract, it’s nice to get back in front of them. But as his fame has grown and technology has advanced, he’s found better ways of recognizing vets and service members in huge venues.

A partner company makes these “armbands where we’ve been able to ask people prior to the show, we go, ‘Hey have you or has anyone in your family served?’ And then we can actually light up their armbands for a song and kind of call them out say thank you that way … which is pretty cool.”

For Young, that made USAA agreeing to come as tour sponsor perfect. He already loved the military and liked to take time during shows to raise them up, so having a sponsor whose customer base is almost exclusively military families let everything sync up.

“I’m already totally all in on and any chance that I get to say thank you in multiple different ways to military, that’s something that’s been important to me my entire career. [Partnering with USAA] is just going to be awesome. It’s just going to work so I think it’s one of things that just happened.”

And that partnership has already helped Chris Young take part in multiple events. He played a small concert for military and family members at the NFL Draft back in April and then got to visit the working dogs at San Diego this August. (If you watch the NFL Draft video, you might recognize WATM’s own Augie Dannehl who helped host.)

If you’re interested in seeing when Chris is coming to your town, check out his tour calendar here.

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