17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

In an interview with PBS News Hour’s Judy Woodruff, retired Adm. Bill McRaven, the former SEAL who oversaw the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound as the head of Joint Special Operations Command, told Woodruff that there’s only thing a SEAL recruit has to do during their grueling training: “Not quit.”

“So, the one thing that defines everybody that goes through SEAL training is that they didn’t ring the bell, as we say,” McRaven said. “They didn’t quit. And that’s really what you’re trying to find in the young SEAL students, because, in the course of your career, you’re going to be cold, wet, miserable. You’re going to kind of fail often as a result of bad missions, bad training.”

McRaven started out his Navy career as a SEAL, rising through the ranks until he was charged with overseeing the entire special forces community as the commander of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

While tenacity is an essential part of being a great SEAL, there’s a lot of training that goes into being a part of the Navy’s most elite fighting squad.


17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

A U.S. Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land) candidate navigates a suspended cargo net at a Naval Special Warfare elevated obstacle course, May 11. SEAL candidates use the obstacle course in preparation for attending the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) course.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Les Long)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

2. Candidates learn the ropes at Naval Special Warfare orientation, which lasts three weeks and orients trainees to what lies ahead at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.

“During Orientation, officers and enlisted candidates become familiar with the obstacle course, practice swimming and learn the values of teamwork and perseverance. Candidates must show humility and integrity as instructors begin the process of selecting the candidates that demonstrate the proper character and passion for excellence,” according to the SEALs and Surface Warfare Combatant Craft website.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lynn F. Andrews)

3. SEAL candidates start the Surf Passage, one of the most well known parts of SEAL training.

Surf Passage is a notoriously challenging part of BUD/S training, as Business Insider previously reported. During orientation, SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen candidates, usually divided into teams of six or seven, carry their boats above their heads down the beach toward the ocean. They must take their boats waist-deep into the water before they can get in, and paddle out toward breaking waves, which can be three to five feet high — or larger.

Sometimes boats flip over, scattering crew and gear in what’s called a “yard sale.” But if teams successfully make it out past the breakers, they get to ride the waves back to shore.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

4. You’re basically guaranteed to get sandy at BUD/S or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, which lasts 24 weeks.

BUD/S training takes place at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California.

Before prospective SEALs even enter training, they must take a physical exam, as well as a test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), one called the Computerized-Special Operations Resilience Test (C-SORT), and a physical screening test consisting of a 500-yard swim, push-ups, pull-ups, curl-ups, and a 1.5-mile run.

The ASVAB assesses a candidate’s ability to learn, while the C-SORT determines his maturity and mental toughness, according to the Navy SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman (SWCC) website.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Push-ups are another part of life for SEAL trainees.

Potential SEALs must be able to do at least 50 push-ups in two minutes to even qualify for BUD/S.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

6. SEALS have to be able to do pull-ups — lots of them.

The minimum number of pull-ups to be considered for BUD/S? At least 10 in two minutes.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL students wade ashore on San Clemente Island.

(U.S. Navy photo by Kyle Gahlau)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

10. It’s important to stay hydrated during training, which is designed to push candidates to their breaking points.

BUD/S has an attrition rate of between 73% and 75%, the Navy told NPR in 2017.

“So, while it is important to be physically fit when you go through training, you find out very quickly that your background, your social status, your color, your orientation, none of that matters,” according to McRaven, who recently wrote the memoir, “Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations.”

“The only thing that matters is that you go in with this purpose in mind and this — the thought that you are just not going to quit, no matter what happens.”

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd class Megan Anuci)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo/Petty Officer 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

SEAL Team seven members jump from an MC-130J Commando II during Emerald Warrior/Trident at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., January 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erin Piazza)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

SEAL Qualification Training students endure a long hike after finishing their second day of close quarters combat instruction.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Menzie)

16. SEAL recruits participate in a land training exercise during the Seal Qualification Training, a 26-week course after BUD/S.

Recruits also receive weapons training, medical training, and demolitions training during SQT. They also learn how to operate in cold weather.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

(U.S. Navy photo)

17. After 24 grueling weeks in BUD/S, SEAL candidates receive their SEAL Qualification Training diploma.

After receiving the SQT diploma, SEALS are assigned to their SEAL team to prepare for deployment.

Enlisted and officers must complete SQT and be designated as SEALs to earn the coveted Trident insignia worn on a SEAL’s uniform.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military commissaries limit meat purchases amid supply chain worries

Citing supply chain strains and anticipated shortages as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the agency that manages military commissaries says some stores will start limiting how much fresh meat customers can purchase.

Starting May 1, commissaries within the 50 states and in Puerto Rico will limit purchases of fresh beef, poultry and pork, the Defense Commissary Agency announced Thursday evening. For fresh beef, pork, chicken and turkey, customers will be limited to purchasing two items per visit, according to the announcement.


“There may be some shortages of fresh protein products in the coming weeks,” Robert Bianchi, a retired Navy rear admiral and the Defense Department’s special assistant for commissary operations, said in a statement. “Enacting this policy now will help ensure that all of our customers have an opportunity to purchase these products on an equitable basis.”

Military commissaries, located on military bases around the world, operate on a nonprofit basis and offer food items at cost. Considered a military benefit, they are open to active-duty troops, dependents, retirees and some other special veteran categories.

Individual stores will have the ability to increase or decrease limits based on their inventory, DeCA officials added in the release. Some commissaries have already been posting quantity limits on high-demand items, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

The move to limit meat purchases is a troubling one that comes on the heels of an announcement from Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat-processing companies in the nation, that it was being forced to close down plants due to the virus. Eventually, the company warned, the closures would lead to shortages in stores.

“The food supply chain is breaking,” company chairman John Tyson said in a full-page ad that appeared in the New York Times April 26.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order ordering Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to “take all appropriate action under that section to ensure that meat and poultry processors continue operations,” calling the plants “critical infrastructure for the nation.

To that end, the administration will purchase billion in excess dairy, produce and meat “to be distributed in order to assist Americans in need as well as producers with lost markets,” the White House said in an announcement accompanying the order.

In DeCA’s Thursday announcement, Bianchi said the supply chain for commissaries overseas remained strong.

“In addition, we continue to prioritize quantities for our overseas shipments, so we should be able to support the demand,” he said. “If we experience any unexpected major hiccups in the pipeline, we will look at expanding shopping limits to other locations.”

The release noted that purchase limits were also intended to head off the phenomenon of panic buying, which has led to bare shelves in supermarkets all over the country. As demand spiked, DeCA issued a March 14 directive allowing store managers to implement shopping limits as they saw fit to maintain stock availability. That directive remains in effect.

“We know this is a potentially stressful time for all concerned,” Bianchi said. “But together we will meet these challenges and support our service members and their families throughout the duration of this crisis wherever necessary.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Exclusive interview with ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ author

Morgan Lerette, a former Army intelligence officer who spent 18 months in Iraq, writes about his experience as a Blackwater operative with countless missions in his new book, ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq.’ His memoir recounts what it is like to be a modern-day Ronin in the sands of Iraq. At a time when U.S. civilian employers discriminated against hiring veterans, he ventured with Blackwater at the age of 23 at the recommendation of a friend. This was the start of a road bathed in prostitutes, gold, blood and the ruthlessness required to be successful in clandestine operations. Yet, balancing weight retains one’s humanity.

“Blackwater was a real turning point in my life, much more than my stints in the military,” said Lerette, now 40. “I wanted to write about the people, my brothers and how we survived.”

Morgan Lerette, author of Welcome to Blackwater

We Are The Mighty, with the support of Onward Press and United States Veterans Artists Alliance, bring you this exclusive interview with a warrior who lived the dream most combat Military Occupational Specialties dream of: to be set loose upon the enemies of the west and give no quarter – for money.

WATM: Politicians constantly debate the morality of hiring contractors to protect our interests abroad, regardless that the practice of hiring mercenaries is as old as war itself. How has Blackwater impacted the evolution of warfare? 

I think [people] really have to understand the paradigm of where Blackwater came in. The ground combat ended, and the interim government was created in Iraq. As soon as that interim government was created and we gave them sovereignty, it went from a Department of Defense mission to a Department of State mission. 

They didn’t have the power to protect their own diplomats as they were running around all over Iraq. So that’s really where Blackwater came in. The war was not planned well as it was. What compounded it was that Blackwater came in and were told they had diplomatic immunity and the rules of engagement were different than the other soldiers. It opened up this gray space where we could operate autonomously. 

There was no check and balance in place. 

No grownup supervision of what we were doing, when we were doing it, or how we were doing it. I think that’s really when it went bad. If you don’t have the government agency that you are contracted by in the vehicles with you – there is no way for them to supervise. I don’t put the blame on Blackwater entirely or the State Department entirely. They both failed to make sure that people were doing the right thing at the right time. 

Lerette aims a firearm over a humvee

WATM: Your book is brutally honest about a different kind of deployment than is usually experienced overseas. How did you forge a bond between you and your peers to become brothers?

It is very similar to what you go through in the military. You go in there with a number of people you recently met, who you would not normally come into contact with, and are tasked with protecting an individual and each other. You can’t trust that the Iraqis are going to welcome you with open arms. You can’t expect that the State Department people are going to be able to help you out. You have to trust and count on that person sitting next to you with their body armor and rifle. 

The bonding was very similar [in that aspect]. Where it was dissimilar is when you come home from a contract there is no support system. As a unit in the Army or the Air Force, you leave as a unit and come back as a unit. You go to your base and it’s comfortable. 

As a contractor it’s really just you.

Your new buddies, people whom you would literally die for and would die for you, are scattered across the nation. It makes it hard to keep that camaraderie, so people start chasing those contracts. They go back for the camaraderie and adrenaline of war. Whereas in the military they tell you when to go. 

WATM: Some corporations have propaganda that they will hire veterans but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, they do not. How has this barrier for veterans to assimilate into the civilian world affected recruitment to companies like Blackwater?

It definitely helped. When I got into Blackwater in 2004 you had a number of special operations soldiers that have trained for years and years and they never really got to do their job. [For example] you had a guy who trained for [a job] for three years and at the end of it they say ‘okay, that was great, but I still want to [keep doing it.’] That’s where a lot of these guys were: special operations, SEALs, Rangers, Recon Marines and they didn’t get to go to war like they were trained for. 

This was their chance to extend that service – to get their war. 

Blackwater definitely took advantage that there were people who haven’t seen combat but were trained for it. Even to this day, since I came out with the book ‘Welcome to Blackwater,’ people say to me, ‘Well, how do I join?’

Those companies are saying, ‘This is your chance at war, Iraq has dwindled down to 2,500 troops and Afghanistan the same way. They get there and they sit as a gate guard and they’re frustrated because they really think this is their chance. It’s just not the way it was back then and you don’t have the option of finding that fortune like you used to. 

WATM: Current and former members of the military have this idea that Private Military Contracting is the final frontier of combat. Would you encourage or discourage their pursuit of fortune?

Yeah, so, the money dried up a number of years ago. It’s definitely not paying what it did when I was with Blackwater in 2004-05. Not only has the money dried up but so have the missions. It used to be a lot of escorting diplomats around combat zones. Now, the majority of jobs are within site security. 

Gate guard, tower guard.

Whereas we were making around $210,000 a year, if you’re a gate guard in Kuwait, you’re going to make around $60,000 a year. I would not encourage anyone to go to the final frontier because the final frontier is no longer available. 

Lerette with kids in Iraq
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

WATM: Onward Press is an avenue for warriors to give up the sword and pick up the pen. What was your experience working with them on ‘Welcome to Blackwater’?

Onward press is specifically looking for people who have been in the military community, such as spouses, who want to get their story told and be able to tell that story well. Every veteran has an amazing story and being able to put that on paper, get it done, put it on Amazon and be able to purchase it – it takes professionals to do that. 

So, Onward Press bridged that gap for me.

They were able to say ‘yes, you do have a good story, you have a good voice, but here’s how you should be able to frame it. Here’s how you get started, here’s where you need to add stuff, here’s where you need to take out stuff. In order to make sure the story was entertaining, and it flowed and people would actually be interested in it.

It’s an awesome organization but writing your experience is very cathartic. Even if I don’t become a bestseller, it’s almost a way for me to give my story over to paper. It took some of the burden I have carried with me throughout my almost three years in Iraq. To be able to give that over to something else, for that reason, it is very, very cathartic. 

WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers and the military community? 

There is honor in service. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people that don’t have college degrees that do the same thing as me. I’m not unique or special. What I was, was willing to reach out. I couldn’t get to where I needed to go. That goes all the way back to reaching out to figure out my G.I. Bill, to figure out the VA, to getting my book about Blackwater to a publisher and get published. 

Whether you’ve spent three to 30 years in the military, set that pride aside and ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help there is no way I could have published Welcome to Blackwater. 

A lot of these stories about soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines would be lost if we can’t get them documented. 

So, reach out. Heck, reach out to me. Go to my website www.welcometoblackwater.com and shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you. I’m always willing to help. 

‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ is available now on Amazon. 

About Onward Press

Onward Press is the publishing imprint of the United States Veterans Artists Alliance, Inc., a 501-c-3 educational non-profit.  www.usvaa.org

Our mission is to publish well-written, compelling books by military veterans, spouses, military brats, and other family members. Also, people who served in other agencies overseas and their family members.

We are interested in great stories well-told, and are not limited to military, veteran or government-service topics. We publish literary novels, non-fiction, memoirs, mystery, true crime, suspense-thrillers, to name just a few.

All books are available as e -books, trade paperbacks, hardcover and audio.  We pay royalties to our authors and provide editorial guidance and engaging cover art.Onward Press is open for submissions.  Please see Submission Guidelines.

Learn more about Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem, here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time engineers at China Lake MacGyvered a laser-guided missile

Laser-guided bombs had proven to be a winner during the Vietnam War. There was just one minor problem: Their range was relatively short. This was actually a big deal for pilots, who had to deal with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns trying to shoot them down.

Some geeks at the Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, though, had a thought. They took a typical GBU-16 Paveway II laser guided-bomb, which was centered on the Mk 83 1,000-pound general purpose bomb. Now, a 1,000-pound bomb might seem small compared to the 2,000-pound bombs many planes carry today, but in World War II, the 1,000-pound bomb was good enough to sink carriers.


But what these geeks did was add a rocket motor from the AGM-45 Shrike, an anti-radar missile used to shut down enemy air defenses, to the back of the Paveway. The result was a weapon that gave the A-6 Intruder one heck of a punch. It certainly worked out better for Navy pilots than that JATO rocket did for a Chevy Impala driver who may or may not have existed.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

The Skipper’s primary component is, for all intents and purposes, a GBU-16 laser-guided bomb. Engineers at China Lake stuck a Shrike’s rocket motor on the back, and got a weapon that could hit a target 14 nautical miles away.

(US Navy photo)

The missile took some time to win over the brass, but they eventually gave it a designation – the AGM-123 – and a name: Skipper. Over 2,500 were purchased. The Skipper got its name because of the way the guidance fins on the Paveway worked: They tended to make very sharp turns, so it would appear like the missile was skipping like a stone across a pond.

The Skipper was primarily intended to take out enemy ships from beyond the range of their defenses. They had their moment in the sun during Operation Preying Mantis, the American retaliation in the wake of the mining of the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

The Iranian frigate Sahand was on the receiving end of two Skippers and a bunch of other weapons during Operation Preying Mantis.

(US Navy photo)

Four Skippers were used against the Iranian frigate Sahand, which was eventually sunk. The Skipper also saw some action during Operation Desert Storm. It had an effective range of almost 14 nautical miles, although its rocket could propel it up to 30 nautical miles. The real limitation came not from its improvised nature, but from the range of laser designators currently in service.

The Skipper was retired in the post-Cold War drawdowns of the 1990s, which also claimed the plane that wielded it most of the time, the A-6 Intruder. Still, for a while, it gave the Navy a very powerful and precise punch.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 stories you (probably) didn’t know about war correspondent Ernie Pyle

Ernest Taylor Pyle was born on Aug. 3, 1900, at the turn of the 20th century. The famed war correspondent and columnist was better known as “Ernie” and had the reputation as the voice of the American servicemen during World War II. He chronicled the blitz in London and the individual heroism of Londoners, the roles of Vichy French officials in North Africa and their corroboration with the Nazis, and the allied invasions of both Italy and Normandy. One of his most heart wrenching pieces, “The Death of Captain Waskow,” revealed the emotional grief of soldiers when one of their men was killed in combat.

His refreshing writing style informed the general public back home and provided a rare look at the happenings of America’s sons, husbands, and fathers serving overseas.


Pyle’s birthday is now recognized as National Ernie Pyle Day. The day celebrates his wartime columns, his Pulitzer Prize for reporting, and the memory of his legacy, one that ended too soon. On April 18, 1945, Pyle was shot and killed by a Japanese soldier on the island of Ie Shima while he was covering the war in the Pacific. While there is plenty known about Pyle’s exploits from his famous dispatches, here are four lesser known stories of Ernie Pyle’s historic legacy that are worth mentioning on his day of remembrance.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

Before Pyle was well known during World War II, his name was synonymous with the aviation world. Though he had a student pilot’s permit, Pyle never got a license. Photo courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Before The Fame

Before Ernie Pyle became a war correspondent during World War II, it could be argued that he had already seen much of what the human experience had to offer from his travels around the globe. He suffered from restlessness, a common affliction for many in his chosen profession. The farm boy from Indiana had a curiosity in service, so he enlisted in the US Naval Reserves during World War I. However, that didn’t get him overseas, which left a burden and lingering question about the adventure waiting for him.

After leaving Indiana University, Pyle cut his teeth as an aviation reporter for the Washington Daily News under the helm of the Scripps Howard newspaper entity. His yarns received many compliments, including one by none other than aviator Amelia Earhart.

“Not to know Ernie Pyle,” she said, “is to admit that you yourself are unknown in aviation.”

“I’ve covered 200,000 miles and been on five of the six continents and crossed both oceans and delved into every country in the Western Hemisphere and written upward of 1,500,000 words in that, daily column,” Pyle wrote in July 1941. “I’ve gone down the Yukon River on a stem-wheeler, and lived with the lepers in Hawaii, and petted llamas in the high Andes, and reveled in the strange lazy beauties of Rio.”

His “Great Experience” halted when his quest of service took him to all three theaters of operations during World War II.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

Men of the 133rd Field Artillery Battalion enjoy Cokes on the front, March 17, 1944. Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The ,000 Coca Cola Bottle

Coca-Cola was a prized beverage amongst American GI’s serving overseas in Europe during World War II. Pfc. Frederick Williams, a soldier from a field artillery brigade with prior service along the Italian front had returned home. He decided to send two bottles of Coke to his old unit, many of whom hadn’t seen a carbonated beverage for more than a year. The soldiers decided to split one of the Cokes and donate the other in a raffle to raise money for adoption efforts for the children whose fathers were killed in the brigade.

The Cokes were advertised in the brigade’s mimeographed newspaper for 25 cents a piece, and before the week was over the raffle had raised more than id=”listicle-2646905372″,000. Another soldier had received a second bottle of Coke and added the prize to the key. Three weeks passed and the total cash prize climbed to ,000.

“That one Coke was equivalent to the value of 80,000 bottles back home,” Pyle wrote in astonishment as he covered the event. Coke added an additional ,000 to the value and, despite the noble cause, Nazi propagandists used the opportunity to broadcast through the airwaves lies suggesting individual soldiers payed ,000 for one bottle of Coca-Cola.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

In peacetime they are nickel-plated and shiny. In wartime they are black with a rough finish. A display at the National World War II Museum shows one of Pyle’s Zippo lighters donated during the war. Photo courtesy of the National World War II Museum.

Ernie’s Zippo Lighters

Readers from the United States and abroad were glued to the words Pyle strung together, including George Blaisdell, the president of Zippo Manufacturing Company. Braisdell sent a letter and 50 Zippo lighters personally addressed to Pyle to hand out to his servicemen friends.

“They’ll burn in the wind, and pilots say they are the only kind that will light at extreme altitudes,” Pyle once wrote. “Why, they’re so popular I had three stolen from me in one year.”

Pyle was an avid smoker, and through the habit he bonded with soldiers over a cigarette. “My own lighter was a beauty, with my name on one side and a little American flag on the other,” Pyle said. “I began smoking twice as much as usual just because I enjoyed lighting the thing.”

Conversations and insights happened while having a smoke that may not have occurred while sitting in a foxhole or over a meal of “C-rations” or in a bunk aboard a navy ship. Pyle’s ability to connect with pilots, infantrymen, medics, and even animals helped his writings convey a sense of identity and commonality to his readership.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

Ernie Pyle visits Leathernecks of the 3rd Marine Division, where, along with talking to the veterans of the fight on Bougainville and Guam, he observed the famous Marine Corps war dogs for the first time on Jan. 24, 1945. Shown here talking to “Jeep,” a scout and security patrol Doberman pinscher. Photo by TSgt. J. Mundell, courtesy of the National Archives.

Pyle and the War Dogs

Marines serving in the Pacific theater often named their military working dogs after terms familiar with the US military. Jeep, a black-and-brown Doberman pinscher, was utilized by Marines from the 3rd Marine Division. Pyle learned all about their war dog program, which consisted of 60 dogs, 90 handlers, 10 NCO observers, two K-9 medics, and three kennel supervisors. Jeep’s job as a scout and security patrolman helped the Marines locate sniper positions, search caves and pillboxes, alerted signs of potential ambushes, and ran messages to unit commanders.

Sergeant, another war dog that impacted Pyle and the Marines, was killed after he had been wounded by shrapnel from an air raid. The Marines specifically trained their dogs to run into foxholes when they heard the aircraft, but a lucky shot by the enemy resulted in Sergeant having to be put down.

“It is not belittling the men who died,” Pyle wrote of the tragedy, “to say that Sergeant’s death shares a big place in the grief of those who were left.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of May 5

Memes call! Find your favorites, share them with your buddies, or don’t. We’re not your supervisor.


1. A training video on “Abdominal Circumference” may actually help some units (via Air Force Memes Humor).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
And Troy McClure videos would be a huge upgrade from all these Powerpoints.

2. Being outside a firefight without your rifle is worse than being in a firefight with it (Weapons of Meme Destruction).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Feels like death, and might be worse.

3. Allow the E4 to teach you a little about the military (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Starting with: Never go back to the unit right away.

4. Back blast area clear!

(via Team Non-Rec)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Gonna be hard to explain this to the homeowner’s association the next morning.

5. It’s always embarrassing to remember that next generation’s history books will include this generation’s actions (via Decelerate Your Life).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
At least you can write some of the histories ahead of time.

6. Will pay to see “You’re Welcome” parody with Coast Guard swimmers (via Coast Guard Memes).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
The Coast Guard used this exact same pun two years ago while talking about teaching rescue swimmers to swim.

7. Senior enlisted problems:

(via Terminal Lance)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Decisions, decisions. Sorry, junior Marines.

8. Some NCO better fix that little guy’s gig line (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Can’t tell if the label in the top right corner is from the past or future …

9. Last guy to switch from BDUs is definitely the first guy to crack a beer (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Love the shades.

10. Your recruiter lied to you (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Better volunteer for some cool-guy schools and get into some high-speed units.

11. Kinda hard to take the new guy on a welcome-to-the-unit bender if someone has to make him a fake ID first (via Military World).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Highly recommend ordering the apple juice so at least no one else in the bar can tell.

12. It’s all about composite risk management (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Dirt raking is dangerous.

13. Remember all those grinning, proud faces when all the boots got their new uniforms?

(via Decelerate Your Life)

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Of course, those uniforms get pretty salty before the end of the contract.

Articles

Chinese naval engineers claim they’ve developed a super quiet sub to track US ships

China is planning to install new propulsion technology on its newest classes of submarines, making them much harder for American sonar systems to detect and track.


According to a Chinese media report, Beijing is developing pump-jet propulsion for its subs. The system has been widely used on American and British submarines since it offers much more noise reduction than conventional submarine propellers.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) enters Apra Harbor for a scheduled port visit. The Virginia-class submarines use pump-jet propulsion systems. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corwin Colbert/Released)

One of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s top engineers, Rear Adm. Ma Weiming, told China Central Television that the Chinese propulsion technology “is now way ahead of the United States, which has also been developing similar technology.”

Ma is said to be held in very high regard by navy brass. At one point, a photo posted on social media showed the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy holding an umbrella over Ma’s head, a sure sign his expertise is revered in Beijing.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
A 1993 photo of a Chinese Han-class submarine. These vessels were very noisy, and thus, easy to track. (US Navy photo)

The Chinese are reportedly slated to introduce the technology on some of their Type 095 submarines, known to NATO as the Sui-class, as well as the Type 096 class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Type 095 displaces about 7,900 tons, and is armed with a number of 21-inch torpedo tubes, and the ability to fire land-attack cruise missiles and YJ-83 anti-ship missiles.

China’s current nuclear submarine fleet includes a mix of Type 091 Han-class and Type 093 Shang-class attack submarines and Type 092 Xia-class and Type 094 Jin-class attach submarines. The Han-class submarines were particularly noted for their noisiness while operating, while the Shang-class submarines are considered to be comparable to the Soviet-era Victor III-class vessels.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s confirmed: North Korea has a hydrogen bomb

The bomb North Korea tested earlier this month was a hydrogen bomb, according to the US military.


North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3, detonating a suspected staged thermonuclear device. In the aftermath, Pyongyang claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb for its new Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, which can strike parts, if not most, of the continental US.

The seismic data indicates the bomb was significantly larger than anything the North has tested before. The blast was so powerful that it literally moved mountains.

Where as the bomb tested last September had an explosive yield of roughly 15 kilotons, the most recent test had an explosive yield potentially in excess of 300 kilotons.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

“The size of the weapon shows that there clearly was a secondary explosion,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, said Sept. 14 afternoon before being pulled away to deal with the latest North Korean missile test, according to Defense News.

“I saw the event, I saw the indications that came from that event,” he told reporters. “I saw the size, I saw the reports. and therefore, to me, I am assuming it was a hydrogen bomb.”

“The change from the original atomic bomb to the hydrogen bomb for the United States changed our entire deterrent relationship with the Soviet Union,” Hyten explained. “It changes the entire relationship because of the sheer destruction and damage you can use, you can create with a weapon that size.”

“That has the capability to destroy a city,” he stated.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s 8 potential targets in Syria await destruction

As President Donald Trump has cryptically hinted at looming action on Syria, a new report says he may have nailed down eight potential locations to strike.

Citing an unnamed source, CNBC reported on April 12, 2018, that the US had selected eight possible targets in Syria, including two airfields, a research facility, and a chemical weapons facility.


Such a strike would amount to punitive action against Syria for what the US and its allies consider a blatant use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. But it would still carry the risk of sparking a war with Russia.

Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider that though Syria’s chemical weapons facilities lay under the umbrella of Russia’s air defenses, they were not actually close enough that a strike on the facilities would endanger Russian troops.

Russia has threatened to use its air defenses against US missile strikes, and Russian officials have threatened to counterattack if US missiles fly over Syria, potentially by attacking US Navy ships or submarines.

Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, told Business Insider that Russia had flown aircraft specializing in anti-submarine warfare to Syria. Russia has also moved its warships out of a naval base in Syria out of concern for their safety after Trump threatened strikes.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Russia operates out of airfields in Syria, but it’s unclear whether the US would target those. Syria has moved most of its jets to bases with Russian protection for fear of a strike, the CNBC report said.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated on April 11, 2018, that the US wasn’t afraid to target Russian assets in a strike on Syria. But a Russian newspaper reported that the US had been coordinating with Russia to avoid hitting its troops and would provide a list of targets before a strike to avoid escalating conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, urged the US on April 12, 2018, to avoid military action, saying the “immediate priority is to avert the danger of war.”

Asked whether he was referring to a war between the US and Russia, Nebenzia said: “We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw messages that are coming from Washington — they were very bellicose. They know we are there. I wish there was dialect through the proper channels on this to avert any dangerous developments.”

He added: “The danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria because our military are there … So the situation is very dangerous.”

Trump is trying to punish Syria, not start World War 3

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Several experts have told Business Insider that despite Russia’s tough talk, Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want a war with the US.

“Putin is not interested in a shooting war with the West,” Gorenburg said.

Gorenburg said that because a war could escalate into a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia, and because “the Russian conventional forces just aren’t as strong as the US forces,” such a fight “would not be a good outcome for Russia.

So far, Trump has played coy about the timing of a strike on Syria.

“We’re looking very, very seriously, very closely at that whole situation, and we’ll see what happens, folks,” he said April 12, 2018, adding that a strike could happen “fairly soon.”Meanwhile, France and the UK have been openly considering participating in a strike and sending forces to the region.

The US, with or without allies, has enough military presence across the Middle East to crush Russian forces in Syria — but a direct attack on Russian forces carries a risk of escalating a conflict into nuclear war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military Influencer Conference joins up with Honor2Lead for one of a kind virtual event – NOW LIVE

This year, the Military Influencer Conference (MIC) has partnered with Honor2Lead to create a one-of-a-kind virtual seminar. The live event will be broadcast from Atlanta, Georgia, on November 10th from 10 am to 8 pm. Participate virtually with a Virtual Pass and be a part of thousands who come together to honor and celebrate America’s veterans. 

Honor2Lead brings together the top minds and leaders in the fields of business, military and academia to ignite conversations about ethics and values. This event will deliver actionable insights from members of the military community to help forge relationships that lead to powerful collaborations. This global online event is sure to positively impact the military community like never before.

Still not sure if you should attend? Take a look at this list of just a few of the speakers presenting at the event. 

Daymond John, star of ABC’s Shark Tank and founder of the $6 billion fashion brand FUBU, John believes that life is a series of mentors. During the virtual event, he will speak about his entrepreneurial journey and the lessons he’s learned. 

Lacey Evans doesn’t let barriers stop her from doing everything she wants to do. The former Marine, WWE Superstar, wife, and mother consistently proves that no matter where you come from, success is possible.

Actor Alexander Ludwig, star of Vikings, uses his influence and celebrity status to help showcase the untold stories of American veterans. During the Honor2Lead summit, he’ll give insights into the Recon film premier and discuss how he helps give back to the military community. 

Vincent “Rocco” Vargas, decorated combat veteran Army Ranger and actor on the FX series Mayans MC, will talk about his true calling: lifting up his fellow veterans. His presentation will explore how the military community can serve veterans. 

Phyllis Newhouse, Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year and retired senior non-commissioned officer, is a cybersecurity pioneer. She’s the first woman ever to win an Ernst & Young EOY award in technology. Newhouse will share her top 11 leadership principles and discuss how everyone can capitalize on their innate leadership skills. 

Team Rubicon CEO Jake Wood frequently speaks about social issues and organizational culture topics and has appeared on every major network and cable news program. His presentation will examine what it takes to have courage in a crisis. 

After serving as an F-15 fighter pilot in the Air Force, Jim Murphy founded Afterburner, Inc., a global leader in training and consulting. Murphy has a unique mix of leadership skills and is the author of seven books. His panel will detail what he’s learned about team and couple alignment. 

Christina “Thumper” Hopper, the first female African American fighter pilot to fly into war, will present how to sustain a passion for leadership. In 2000, only 50 fighter pilots in the Air Force were female, and only two were African-American. Of those two, Hopper was the first to fly into war. Currently, she has flown more than 50 combat missions. She trains, instructs, and mentors the next generation of fighter and bomber pilots. 

In 2016, Army veteran Cortez Riggs founded MIC during his last year of active duty. He believed that there needed to be a place within the military community for entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders. Founded as an annual conference, MIC has quickly grown into a powerful community of people who believe in the importance of mentorship, actively work to inspire one another, and are always seeking new ways to collaborate. Honor2Lead is only available on LeaderPass, a virtual event platform for exclusive world-class content. LeaderPass will deliver the Honor2Lead content live and on-demand through any digital device. When you register for the seminar, you’ll get access to your LeaderPass account. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin made a huge power play at Trump’s expense

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not invent being late, but he may have perfected it as a power play and means of communication, as US President Donald Trump most likely found out on July 16, 2018, before the pair’s summit in Helsinki.

Putin kept Trump waiting in a guest house for nearly one hour past his planned departure time, Politico’s Annie Karni reported from Helsinki. Putin took off from Russia and landed in nearby Helsinki at 1 p.m., just 10 minutes before the summit was scheduled to start.


While Trump’s tour of Europe has had its share of blown deadlines, skipped meetings, and late arrivals — including, notably, keeping Queen Elizabeth II waiting in a viral video — he’s no match for Putin’s tardiness.

Jonathan Eyal, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that “certainly for Putin, it is part of a power play” to keep Trump waiting.

“There is no question that it’s a political message,” Eyal added.

Putin once made German Chancellor Angela Merkel wait for four hours, and he usually keeps the president or prime minister of Ukraine waiting for three hours, Eyal said.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL

Russian President Vladimir Putin arriving in Finland.

“Putin seems to have a very healthy respect for monarchs,” Eyal said. “The British queen, he was only late for her for 14 minutes. The king of Spain he only kept waiting for 20 minutes.”

He added: “On the whole, it’s a sort of graduated thing that indicates more or less how seriously he takes you or how pleased he is with you.”

In fact, Putin is so consistently late that making someone wait only an hour is a form of praise, Eyal said.

“I think that this is a backhanded compliment,” he said. “Usually he could go two or three hours. The only person that was exempt from the delay was the pope.”

For Trump, who also tends to go by his own schedule, Putin may have bested him by showing up even later.

“There must have been some calculation from both sides about how much they keep each other waiting,” Eyal said.

For Trump, showing up a little late is “quite clever footwork,” according to Eyal, but “this time he might have met his match.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The SEAL who shot bin Laden rained on Trump’s military parade

Robert O’Neill, the former U.S. Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has weighed in on President Donald Trump’s idea to have a military parade — and he’s not happy.


“A military parade is third world bulls—,” O’Neill tweeted. “We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation.”

Trump has instructed the Pentagon to draw up plans for a parade, but the content, location, and timing of such an event have not been announced.

O’Neill joins a chorus of U.S. military veterans expressing opposition to the idea of a parade, and of U.S. pundits who have pointed to Trump’s desire for a parade in likening him to a dictator.

Also read: How a US military parade will compare to China’s or Russia’s

In later tweets, O’Neill acknowledged that the U.S. has previously held military parades. And in a reply to another Twitter user, he asserted that Russia and France — which regularly hold them — were third-world countries because unlike the U.S., they couldn’t take over the world.

Historically, “Third World” refers to countries that aligned with neither the West nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The term has since taken on a broader meaning to describe economically developing nations.

17 gripping images show what it really takes to be a Navy SEAL
Blue countries are First World, or aligned with the U.S. and NATO. Red countries are Second World, or Soviet Union-aligned. Green countries are Third World, aligned with neither. (Vorziblix via Wikimedia Commons)

In another tweet, O’Neill made clear his idea of a military parade befitting the U.S.: the so-called Thunder Run, the U.S. military’s 2003 attack on Baghdad that quickly took the city.

Further reading: These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

On a recent warm fall afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina, Stacy Pearsall struggled to wind herself down from the daily bustle of ranch life. Flustered from her regular stream of chores and nursing a broken hand for which she recently underwent surgery, the retired Air Force combat photographer fumbled briefly with her phone as she settled into a video-chat interview with Coffee or Die Magazine

Constant motion is Pearsall’s preferred state of being. A few weeks before she was trampled by one of the rare Brabant draft horses she cares for, another horse kicked her in the head; fortunately, she was wearing a helmet. Even after multiple combat deployments left her with a traumatic brain injury and significant spine and nerve damage, she’s never quite figured out how to listen to her body, slow down, and generally behave like a person with actual physical limitations. 

“She’s about as stubborn as one of her donkeys,” says Pearsall’s husband, retired Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, with a chuckle.  

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Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall documents combat operations with the 1st Cavalry Division, 12th Infantry Regiment, in Khalis, Iraq, on Feb. 21, 2007. Photo by Andy Dunaway.

Pearsall’s unflinching resolve is a characteristic she habituated early in her career as she fought to earn her place among the military’s best photojournalists at the Air Force’s elite 1st Combat Camera Squadron, where she carved out a legacy of extraordinary, trailblazing service as one of the best shooters in the Department of Defense. 

“I spent my entire career trying to tough everything out,” Pearsall says. “I never wanted to be the one who reflected badly on women. I always had this attitude that I wouldn’t let people in and let people know how bad things were.” 

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Pearsall in Iraq in 2007. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

After spending her first four years on active duty processing photos from U-2 surveillance aircraft, Pearsall, whose family’s tradition of military service can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, applied for a spot at 1st Combat Camera, where she says “somebody typically had to die or retire” for a spot to open up. When a former supervisor was assigned to the unit, he encouraged Pearsall to apply, and after a rigorous screening process, she was accepted and joined the unit in 2002.  

“I actually wasn’t a very good photographer back then, but I was a hard worker,” Pearsall says. “There was absolutely a ‘good old boys’ climate, so all I could do was earn respect through my work.”  

Pearsall’s husband served at the squadron from 2002 to 2010. 

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Pearsall and Dunaway on active duty in 2009. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

“We supported a lot of tier 1 missions and taskings that were only open to men,” Dunaway says. “Some men at the time definitely viewed women as not necessary or less capable.”  

Pearsall says she lost count of how many times she was told she couldn’t do an assignment because the unit wanted a man. But as she navigated an often overtly misogynistic culture, she was also exposed to the best training and equipment the military had to offer and a pool of incredibly talented and experienced photographers — many of whom rewarded her determination and work ethic with invaluable mentorship.  

“Stacy was always out on assignment or looking for something to photograph,” Dunaway says. “She was always out experimenting with the camera, working to get better, and people noticed that.”  

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Pearsall hired a National Guard soldier in this photo from a commercial photo shoot for a body armor company. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall’s work ethic earned her a combat deployment to Iraq in late 2003, and the photos she made during her first Iraq tour earned her top honors in the National Press Photographer Association’s 2003 Military Photographer of the Year (MILPHOG) competition, making her the second woman to ever win the prestigious title.  

Pearsall was exposed to combat action several times, including an incident in which the HMMWV she was riding in hit a bomb. Her service during that deployment earned Pearsall an Air Force Commendation Medal for valor while documenting combat operations. 

“I don’t know why anyone earns a medal for that,” Pearsall says, looking down uncomfortably for a moment and processing. “I think it was for continuing to document even when shit went sideways — for doing my job. I look back and think how ludicrous it is to get a medal for doing your job.” 

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US Air Force medical personnel transfer a wounded soldier, who was just struck by an improvised explosive device, from an ambulance to a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 22, 2003. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After returning from Iraq, she earned the privilege of attending the Pentagon’s Military Photojournalism program at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2004. The yearlong course of study at one of the country’s best journalism schools is the Department of Defense’s most advanced photography course. Only a handful of Air Force members are selected annually, and the service gives its graduates the special designation of “PJ,” or photojournalist.    

Dunaway says it was a rare feat for a squadron member to win MILPHOG without first attending the MPJ program, and after excelling at Syracuse, Pearsall was afforded more opportunities to prove herself among her peers. 

She ultimately deployed to 41 countries, supporting humanitarian relief missions, special operations forces, combat, and other operations. Her images were used by the president, secretary of defense, and Joint Chiefs of Staff to make informed decisions about military operations.

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Casablanca, Morocco, June 10, 2010. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2007, Pearsall was again named Military Photographer of the Year, making her the first and only woman in American history to win the title twice. Her portfolio consisted mostly of images from her second Iraq deployment, and Pearsall also took home top honors in numerous individual categories of the competition, including Combat Photography, Portrait, Pictorial, and Photo Story.  

But just as Pearsall appeared to be hitting her professional stride, beneath the surface, she was beginning to break. She had suffered another improvised explosive device blast in Iraq and lived through a bloody ambush during which she was knocked off her feet while rushing to aid a gravely wounded soldier. Her neck slammed into the edge of an ICV Stryker ramp, aggravating the cervical spine trauma she suffered on her first combat deployment. With adrenaline surging through her, Pearsall jumped up and dragged the wounded soldier out of the street and into the Stryker before pinching closed a severed artery in his neck until a medic arrived.

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US and Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conduct a cordon and search for insurgents and weapons caches in Chubinait, Iraq, on Feb. 3, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Recalling the ambush, she suddenly stops and goes quiet for several moments. She turns away from the camera, trying to suppress the anguished feelings that always flood back when she tells the story. Gathering herself after several moments, she says, “I just try not to live in that moment too much.”

In 2011, Pearsall shared the whole story on the PBS NewsHour. 

It’s not just the trauma of that day’s violence and death that haunts Pearsall. It was, after all, just one of the many intense combat actions she lived through and documented on that deployment, earning a Bronze Star in the process. The thing that seems to pain Pearsall most about the ambush is that she pinpoints the injury she suffered that day as “the beginning of the end” of her military career. 

“I got banged up a lot on that deployment,” she says. “But I had always operated under the ideology that if I wasn’t missing a limb and I could see and had a pulse, I should just keep working.”

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Members of the US Army, Military Transition Team, and Iraqi army, 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conducted a three-day raid during Operation Brown Hawk in Tahrir, Iraq, on Feb. 27, 2007. The purpose of Operation Brown Hawk was to eliminate Tahrir as an operating base for improvised explosive device building cells and key leaders of the al-Qaeda forces in Iraq. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Soon after suffering the neck trauma, she started having bad side effects from nerve damage. She often found it difficult to hold her camera or other objects as neurological tremors would sometimes involuntarily release her grip on items. The bomb blast from Pearsall’s first deployment had ruptured her eardrum, and the vertigo she suffered from inner-ear damage worsened after the ambush in 2007.  

After a friend convinced Pearsall to seek medical treatment in Iraq, a doctor hooked her up to an electrical stimulation device, hoping to alleviate some of her pain. 

When the current contracted the muscles in her neck, Pearsall fell backward, nearly passing out from the jolt of excruciating pain. After ordering and reviewing X-rays for Pearsall, the doctor explained the severity of her condition:  

“He’s like, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, Sgt. Pearsall, but you’ve got to go to Balad [Air Base] today. The chopper leaves in four hours. Go pack your shit.’” 

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As the sky turns ominous, Army Sgt. Kyle Ellison searches the roof of a local’s house for weapons during an assault against anti-Iraqi forces in Buhriz, Iraq, on April 11, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall expected to get a CAT scan and return within 24 hours. Instead, doctors told her she had a cervical spine trauma and wearing a Kevlar helmet and body armor every day was no longer an option without treatment and recovery.  

“They wanted to send me to Germany for surgery right away,” she says. “And I was like, ‘No, not doing that.’”

Pearsall never returned to combat. She was sent back to Charleston for long-term nonsurgical treatment. Ultimately, she had to endure a soul-crushing process that required her to go before a medical review board. 

“I remember when I was going through that,” Pearsall recalls, “I had an officer in my unit look me in the eye and say, ‘You weren’t wounded.’ The whole process was awful, and after going through all of that, I thought about suicide. It was not a good place to be.” 

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US Air Force Security Forces at Lackland Air Force Base. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After she was medically retired, Pearsall found herself making frequent trips to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. As she carried a head full of bad memories, remorse, and shame to her appointments, she felt alienated and isolated by the constant assumptions by male veterans and staff that she was a dependent rather than a combat veteran. 

“In our society, a lot of people, especially older veterans, still don’t associate women with being military veterans,” Dunaway says. “They look at women as a support function, or as being married to a service member.” 

Pearsall says at the VA hospital, she was frequently asked if she was bringing her father or husband for a doctor’s appointment. On one especially irritating occasion, the Red Cross was passing out cookies and sodas, and when Pearsall reached for some, her hand was slapped away. The cookies were for veterans only, they told her.

“That really made me resentful and bitter,” she says. “I thought everyone was prejudiced against me.”

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Retired Army Maj. Ron DeMello served in the infantry and Special Forces from 1957 to 1978. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2008, Pearsall was waiting to see a neurologist at the hospital when an Army veteran from World War II named Mickey Dorsey sat down next to her and changed her life forever.

“I could see him staring at me, and I was getting really pissed,” she says. “When I turned and asked if there was something I could do for him, I found out he was a volunteer at the VA, and he could see that I was struggling and was just looking to help me.”

Pearsall says as she and Dorsey forged a friendship, he inspired her to find a new purpose — another way to serve. She says she set out to honor and thank other veterans with “the only gift I had worth giving, my photography.” 

She started bringing her camera to appointments and making portraits of some of the veterans she’d meet. After doctors told her she shouldn’t carry anything more than 5 pounds or stand for long periods, she started bringing a backdrop and lights — stubborn and determined as ever. 

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Jewish-American veteran Benjamin D. Cooper served as a combat medic for three years in World War II. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

The Veterans Portrait Project was born. 

That first year Pearsall photographed 100 veterans, and 88 of the portraits were curated for a permanent exhibition in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Hall of Heroes. 

“Suddenly I found myself enjoying what I was doing, and it gave me a sense of purpose,” she says. “It showed me that I could serve outside of a uniform — that I could serve my fellow veterans by helping to challenge people’s perceptions and educate the general public and even the veteran community about who veterans are.” 

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Retired Marine Lt. Col. James Sfayer, left, served as an infantry and recon officer from 1972 to 1994 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Retired Maj. Henry “Duke” Boswell, right, is a World War II and Korean War veteran. He successfully completed combat jumps into Sicily, Italy; Normandy; and Holland. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

She set a goal to photograph veterans at other VA facilities and in the nearby area. Soon she was holding exhibitions — some permanent and some pop-up — all over the country. She would curate a number of portraits and invite political leaders, local business owners, and community members to engage in a dialogue with the veterans she photographed. 

Since taking her first portrait in late 2008, Pearsall has traveled coast to coast with the VPP, covering 82 cities in all 50 states. She has documented more than 8,500 veterans in more than 189 engagements. Each veteran receives a complimentary, high-resolution portrait that they can share with friends and family. Their portraits and stories are also included in national printed exhibitions, showcased in video productions, and shared via social media, ensuring their contributions to American military history are never lost.

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Retired Army Col. Sharon A. Singleton, left, served as a nurse from 1985 to 2010 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Philip George, a Mohawk Native American, served as an Army infantryman from 2009 to 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan twice. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Pearsall’s portraits are displayed at the National Veterans Memorial Museum in Columbus, Ohio, the Pentagon, the Military Service Memorial for America at Arlington National Cemetery, and myriad locations all over the country. 

‘They’re everywhere,” she says proudly.

Pearsall says the VPP collection represents the more than 22 million military veterans in the United States. 

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Army 1st Sgt. Willie S. Grimes, left, served from 1995 to 2012 and deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. Service dog Daisy sits with her veteran, former Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bobby” Henline, also known as the “Well Done Comedian.” Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

“They’re young and old, male and female. They come from all walks of life and have varied religious beliefs, levels of education and racial ethnicity,” she says on the VPP website. “What unites them all is their service. It’s a bond that cannot be broken, and I’m proud to be one of them.”

Pearsall says she remains passionately devoted to teaching photography and supporting photographers of every skill level. From 2009 to 2013, she owned and operated the Charleston Center for Photography, a photography education institution and studio. She is a Nikon Ambassador, an educator, military consultant, public speaker, veteran advocate, and author of two books — Shooter: Combat from Behind the Camera and A Photojournalist’s Field Guide: In the Trenches with Combat Photographer Stacy Pearsall. She also produces her own podcast and will soon produce a TV show for PBS.  

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Marilyn “Mickey” Cogswell, left, enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 alongside a few high school girlfriends and served one enlistment in the early 1950s. Retired Army 1st Sgt. Eugene D. Smith enlisted in 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War and retired in 1992. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Dunaway says his wife’s work sustains and fulfills her, but most people don’t see that it takes a lot out of her, too. As Pearsall points out, “The hard part for me is I have constant reminders in my pictures.”

“Every time she does a speech or engagement, it brings her PTSD back,” Dunaway says. “But Charlie helps with that.”

Charlie is Pearsall’s service dog. He helps her deal with everything from seizures to post-traumatic stress, hearing and mobility support, and nightmare interruptions.

“Every day is a conscious decision to be present,” Pearsall says. “The emotional stuff that you carry with you — it’s not something you ever get over. It’s just something you learn to carry and how heavy you allow that burden to be.” 

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Pearsall with service dog Charlie. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

With that, Pearsall looks at her watch, and as the interview winds down, she worries aloud that her sincerity and vulnerability might come off “bitter and ugly.” She stresses that her military experience was “incredible on so many levels,” and that she would do it all over again if given the choice. 

“I think the military has come a long way,” she says. “The fact that combat arms and special operations roles are now open to women is pretty extraordinary. More women are filling important leadership roles at even the highest levels of the Air Force, and that’s incredible too. So I look at all of that progress, and I am honored to have been part of the growth and to have had the opportunity to experience and to document the history that unfolded while I was in the service.”

And with that, Stacy Pearsall gets back to work. 

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.