Ah yeah, ladies and gentlemen. Veteran’s Day weekend is upon us! You know what that means! It’s time for some long ass safety briefs, plans you made weeks out that you’re going to sleep through on Saturday, Sunday drinking if you’re a Marine or Sunday drinking if you’re just bored, and an entire day of free pancakes/Chipotle burritos/chicken wings!
I know this is usually our plan every year but this year is special. I know, some of you might know but it’s also the 100th anniversary of Veteran’s Day this weekend. And I think that’s kind of a cool milestone.
So take that time to celebrate. You earned it! Just, for the love of Uncle Sam, don’t do anything stupid this weekend. Save that for a regular pay-day weekend. Anyways, here are some memes.
Every year, Wreaths Across America works to ensure that every one of the nearly 250,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery has a wreath on it for Christmas. This year, though, they are very short, and whether they succeed is very much in doubt.
According to a report by the Washington Examiner, this year the group is almost 120,000 wreaths short of being able to accomplish its mission. That means nearly half the graves at the cemetery where two presidents (John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft), 367 recipients of the Medal of Honor, Thomas G. Lanphier Jr. (the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Isoroku Yamamoto), Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee, the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and General of the Armies John J. Pershing would not be decorated.
“Last year at this time we were still short, but not by quite as many. I think a lot of people drive by the cemetery in December and see all those wreaths and unfortunately people still believe that the government does that like they do the flags on Memorial Day,” Wayne Hanson, the chairman of the board for Wreaths Across America told the Examiner.
The origins of Wreaths Across America go back to 1992, when 5,000 surplus wreaths were donated to decorate headstones at Arlington. The ceremony continued until taking off in 2002. In 2007, the organization was recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)3.
According to the organization’s website, in 2015 over 168 companies delivered over 300 truckloads of wreaths to be placed on the graves of veterans.
It took Marine Corps veteran Tim Conner more than a year of training and waiting, but it paid off. He was finally able to take home his new (exoskeleton) legs.
Conner has used a wheelchair since 2010. An accident left him with a spinal cord injury, and he is the first veteran at Tampa Bay VA Medical Center to be issued an exoskeleton for home use. The robotic exoskeleton, made by ReWalk, provides powered hip and knee motion that lets Conner stand upright and walk.
Before being issued his own exoskeleton, Conner underwent four months of training, then took a test model home for four months as a trial run. He then had to wait several more months for delivery. He was so excited about getting it that he mistakenly arrived a week early to pick it up.
“They said, “You’re here early, it’s the thirtieth,'” Conner said with a laugh. “I was like, that’s not today. I looked at my phone and said, ‘Oh my God, I’m excited, what can I say.'”
For Conner, the most significant advantage of the exoskeleton is being able to stand and walk again. Which, in turn, motivates him to stay healthy.
Tim Conner and the team that helped him walk again. From left, Chief of Staff Dr. Colleen Jakey, Cassandra Hogan, Kathryn Fitzgerald, Brittany Durant, and Spinal Cord Injury Service Chief Dr. Kevin White.
“I’m not 3-and-a-half, 4 feet tall anymore. I’m back to 5-8,” Conner said. “Not only can I stand up and look eye-to-eye to everybody. I’m not always kinking my neck looking up at life. It’s been able to allow me to stay motivated, to stay healthy, because you have to be healthy to even do the study for this program. That is going to keep me motivated to stay healthy and live longer than what could be expected for the average person in my situation.”
The exoskeleton is an expensive piece of equipment, with some versions costing as much as 0,000. According to Dr. Kevin White, chief of the Tampa Bay VA spinal cord injury service, that is why the hospital has been conducting research on the units.
“We wanted to know that the patient when they get it, they’re actually going to utilize it in the community,” said White. “If they’re showing that benefit, the VA has made a commitment to make sure that any veteran who needs it and qualifies, whether it’s a spinal cord injury and even stroke. That they have that opportunity, and we provide it free of charge.”
Walking in the exoskeleton is like “a mixture between Robocop, Ironman, and Forrest Gump,” said Conner. “It is pretty cool, especially when you’re walking and people are like, ‘Oh my God, look at this guy. He’s a robot.’ But I can’t imagine walking without it, so it’s just a normal way of walking. It feels the same way it did if I didn’t have a spinal cord injury.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Every one who’s ever work the uniform loves that military discount. No matter how hard you try to deny it or blow off a small discount, that extra ten percent ain’t bad. In California, that’s like not paying sales tax. While we all love them and appreciate them when it happens, many of us don’t really go looking for them. Let’s be real: shopping purely for military discounts can be a lot of work. Now you can find everything you’ll ever need discounted in one place.
And what’s more, your shopping spree will go toward helping your fellow veterans.
Then you can keep your savings in one place.
GovX has access to the products and brands everyone loves, not just veterans. From outdoor gear by The North Face to Ray-Ban accessories, this site covers most anything you can think of wanting or needing for work or play. Like the A-10 being a tough plane designed around a giant gun, GovX is a retailer designed around providing amazing discounts to military, veterans, and first responders.
The site is like the exclusive Costco for the military-veteran and uniformed community. A membership with GovX provides access to discounts on brands like 5.11 Tactical, Propper, Vortex Optical, Under Armour, and – amazingly – Yeti.
If you’re unfamiliar with this miracle brand, I suggest you head to the Google posthaste.
But wait. That’s not what really makes GovX stand out. The real power of this site is that every month, the company selects a new nonprofit organization who does work related to first responders, military members, veterans, and their families and donates a portion of its revenues to the chosen groups. This is what GovX calls “Mission: Giveback.”
Previous Mission: Giveback recipients include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Firefighter Aid, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Semper Fi Fund, Team Rubicon, The Pat Tillman Foundation, and the Green Beret Foundation.
In 2019, GovX is supporting the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together entrepreneurs and veterans from all walks of life to share knowledge, build one another up, and help mentor each other through the rigors of starting their own businesses. Learn more about it by visiting the website and look for a Military Influencer Conference near you.
Now feel free to splurge on those yoga shorts you were iffy about buying – and feel good about doing something for your brothers and sisters in arms.
A recent report from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier stationed in the Persian Gulf and supporting the US-led fight against ISIS contained a startling realization — US pilots are fighting in an insanely complicated space that puts them in danger.
“When it first started, ISIS was just steamrolling across Iraq and Syria and there wasn’t really much resistance going on … There weren’t a whole lot of places you could go where there was no ISIS presence about three years ago,” Lt. Joe Anderson, an F/A-18F pilot aboard the Roosevelt, told the US Naval Institute.
But in 2018, the US-led coalition against ISIS has all but crushed the terror army. Now, the US troops in Syria, and their backups aboard the Roosevelt, have moved on to other objectives.
“Now where we’re at, there’s not as much going on … Mostly they’ve been whittled down to just isolated pockets within Iraq and Syria,” Anderson said.
As the fight against ISIS dwindles down, the US has turned its attention to denying Iran influence within Syria and a land bridge to arm Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, as well as denying Syrian President Bashar Assad access to the country’s rich eastern oilfields.
US Navy pilots now spend much of their time “doing on-call [close-air support] and doing more defending the US and coalition forces on the ground in the area, and specifically Syrian Defense Forces who are in the mix doing their thing,” Anderson said.
That means the US is defending a group of Syrian rebels with embedded US ground troops in one of the most complex fights in history. The US supports the SDF and Kurdish forces in Syria’s north, but Turkey, a NATO ally, launched a military campaign against the Kurds. The US’s SDF allies oppose Syria’s government, but Russia and Iran back them.
US pilots fly the same skies as Iranian, Turkish, Syrian, and Russian aircraft, and they’re only allies with the Turks.
Crazy-complicated skies put the US at risk
Anderson’s commander, Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, told USNI that “the threat picture in Syria is just crazy.”
“How many different countries can you cram in one different place, where they all have a different little bit of an agenda? And you put a tactical pilot up there and he or she has to employ ordnance or make defensive counter-air decisions with multiple people – Russians, Syrians, Turks, ISIS, United States,” Koehler said.
As a result of the multi-faceted geopolitical complexity, US pilots are now in much more danger than a regular combat mission, according to retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke.
“Now the pilots in the airplanes are under stress and using ordnance now have to do interpretations of human behavior and derive the intention of a potential adversary, or at least someone who’s not there for the same reasons,” Berke told Business Insider.
In normal situations, like over Iraq or Afghanistan, US pilots fly with coalition partners and against enemy aircraft, but the divergent agendas in Syria mean aircraft with potentially bad aircraft can square right up to the US without tripping any alarms.
Berke emphasized that the difference in each country’s agenda made the coordination and combat fraught with difficulty.
If an armed Turkish jet was speeding towards Kurdish forces with US troops embedded, how should a US pilot respond? US pilots and air controllers train endlessly on how to fight, but drawing the line between what constitutes aggression or self-defense is a different matter.
This could start a war
“If you misinterpret what someone does, you can create a massive problem, you can start a war,” Berke said. “I can’t think of a more complex place for there to be or a greater level of risk.”
As a result, US pilots are somewhat bound to deescalation, and may be tolerating higher levels of aggression from adversaries or non-allies in the skies above Syria. No US pilot wants to make headlines for kicking off an international incident by downing a Russian jet, or failing to defend US forces in a very murky situation.
“The less you know what’s going on, the more likely you’re going to make a bad decision that you’re not aware,” Berke said. “The fact that it hasn’t escalated beyond what it is now is a testament to the professionalism of the US military, it could have gone sideways any number of times.”
If you’re about to join the Air Force any time soon, there’s a good chance your work is going to involve maintaining aircraft. If you’re lucky, you’ll get assigned to the F-22 Raptor. Even with the rise of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, there is no better air dominance fighter in the world. Unlike the F-35, however, if one of the F-22’s Pratt & Whitney engines fail and you don’t have the tools to fix it, you can just head out to Home Depot and get what you need.
Air Superiority: You can do it, we can help.
The F-35 steals headlines in terms of the latest whiz-bang technology when it comes to stealth, visibility, and even the giant helmets worn by F-35 pilots. But the F-35 cannot substitute what the Raptor brings to the fight. The F-35 has an aerodynamic performance similar to flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It can’t fly as high or as fast. What it brings is firepower – and a lot of it. It was designed to be an air-to-ground fighter.
Meanwhile, the F-22 Raptor is the quiet professional in the world of air superiority fighters. It has a smaller radar cross-section than the F-35 (the size of a marble versus the size of a golf ball) and is probably the most lethal air combat aircraft in the world, even considering the fifth-generation fighters produced by great power adversaries like China and Russia. But the area where it’s even more superior isn’t in the air, it’s on the ground.
We’re talking about maintenance and repairs.
The F-22 gets repaired like a normal plane while the F-35 is happy it doesn’t catch fire before take off. Small victories.
The F-22 Raptor is one of the Air Force’s most reliable planes. Roughly half the time a Raptor spends being repaired is just to fix Low Observable (LO) stealth coatings that get damaged when ground crews open her up for things like routine maintenance. Lockheed-Martin is currently working on a way to reduce the damage to the stealth coating for this. What is really impressive about the F-22 is how easy it is for a trained ground crew to repair her engines.
Lockheed-Martin designed the F-22 with two F-119 Pratt Whitney engines. These sturdy but powerful thrust monsters were designed to be maintained on the flightline using only six common tools available at any commercial hardware store – Not something you’d expect from one of the world’s most advanced air superiority fighters, but it came from what used to be a common principle in the military: simplicity.
And yet, I still wouldn’t trust the Army with this.
The Pratt Whitney engines used in the F-22 Raptor deliver 22 percent more thrust while using almost half of the parts used in the previous Pratt Whitney designs while making the F-22 the most maneuverable fighter ever flown by any military anywhere and allowing for supercruise speeds of almost two times the speed of sound. Everything about this engine has been expertly engineered, from the titanium alloys to the ceramic coating used on certain parts to absorb radar signals.
Now new airmen can be sent to Home Depot to pick up the tools to fix this marvel of engineering – along with the usual buckets of prop wash.
Iraqi Prime Minister Hadir Al-Abadi declared military victory over the Islamic State in Iraq on November 21, just hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of Syria.
ISIS’s last Iraqi town of Rawa fell on November 17, and Abadi only awaits the clearing of a patch of desert along Iraq’s border with Syria to declare final victory. Iran posted pictures of one its most famous military leaders in a Syrian border town, indicating Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of the country.
Combine, the two statements from the two leaders amount to long-awaited news: ISIS’s territory in Iraq and Syria is gone; the terror group has been defeated.
Iraqi, Kurdish, Syrian, Iranian, Afghani, Lebanese, and scores of other fighters gave their lives over more than three years since ISIS declared its caliphate, or sovereign territory, to be ruled under a brutal interpretation of Islam in the summer of 2014.
The rise and fall of ISIS
Initially, ISIS swept up large swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria with a surprising military prowess and a potent brand of Sunni extremism, but on Tuesday those nations officially reclaimed their territory.
The US and 67 other nations from around the world formed a coalition to train, equip, and provide air support for the regional forces that confronted ISIS, mostly in Iraq. The US also supported Syrian forces fighting to defeat ISIS. Russia stepped in in late 2015 to provide air support for the Syrian government and allied Iranian militias, mainly backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels threatening his rule, but also targeting some ISIS territory.
At its height, ISIS launched international terror attacks in Paris, London, Brussels, and across Asia. But its capability for carrying out such attacks has been hamstrung by the relentless assault on its home territory.
In the span of just three years, ISIS went from attracting thousands of foreign fighters to its anti-Western cause and plotting devastating terror attacks all over the world, to surrendering en masse in their own territory.
Threat from ISIS remains
But ISIS still controls territory in as many as a dozen other nations, as Libya, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and much of Africa battle their own ISIS cells or ISIS-linked terror groups.
The threat of ISIS remains far from over. Beside the many ISIS cells around the world — as well as ISIS’ continued online presence — fighters from the terror group spread around the region and have threatened to return.
In the late days of the US-backed assault on Raqqa, ISIS’ Syrian capital, forces partnered with the US allowed thousands of ISIS fighters to flee the city with weapons and ammunition. The fighters, many of them foreign-born, swore to smuggle themselves across borders and commit terror attacks around the world.
Meanwhile, neither Iraq or Syria can count themselves as whole even with the territory reclaimed. In Iraq, the Kurdish minority in the country’s northeast voted to break away from Iraq. In Syria, the six-year long civil war continues with only a shaky vision of an end in sight.
Additionally, the preoccupation of the Syrian military with fighting its civil war in the western part of the country left a vacuum for Iranian forces to move in and fight ISIS in the east. It’s likely an ISIS-free Syria will feature more Iranian influence, which will unsettle Tehran’s regional rivals in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
It’s a known fact that Marines are territorial by nature and do not play well with other branches while in garrison. It stems from our culture. Even though other branches have more funding and better promotion mobility, our intensity on an individual and unit level cannot be matched.
This intensity means Marines will always choose to save face over admitting they’re hurting, tired, or sick to anyone — with one exception: the Navy Corpsman, often affectionately known as “Doc.”
No other MOS in any branch will ever earn the amount of unwavering loyalty shown to the corpsman by a ferocious pack of Devil Dogs. Not many can understand our way of life because, simply, they weren’t there. No one else was there — nobody except our corpsman.
When they’re not in formation, they get a pass, which is fine — but they’re often gone without explanation. Here’s what they’d tell you:
“You don’t want to distract me while I’m practicing this, Staff sergeant.”
They’re honing their craft
The Marine Corps does not have medics, but as a department of the Navy, the Navy sends us those who have the cajones to enter the fires of combat. They’re usually the only medical caregiver on deployments and will perform a wide range of duties, from preventing diseases to rendering urgent emergency treatment on the battlefield. They will utilize their weapon to protect the life of the patient under their care. Badasses.
Their chief may have some training planned for them or they may be fulfilling a class required by the Navy. It is not uncommon to hear that chief himself was in Iraq or Afghanistan at the outset of the conflict and is sharing his wisdom with the next generation. Whatever Navy sorcery is going on in the Battalion Aid Station that demands Sick Call to be canceled must be important. By all means, carry on.
Those who do not qualify for Marine Regs will be issued standard utility uniforms instead.
They’re embracing our beloved Corps
According to Article 6501, personnel serving with Marine Corps, officer and enlisted Navy personnel may wear Marine Corps service and utility uniforms, including insignia, following the Marine Corps uniform regulations. If, after a series of tests and inspections, one qualifies to wear Marine Regs (regulation), they will be issued service and dress uniforms at no cost to the service member including all accessories.
The corpsman must also abide by Marine Corps grooming standards. They are required to maintain both Navy and Marine uniforms while attached to the Fleet Marine Force until they return to a Naval unit once again. No one is going to have a problem with Doc missing formation because he’s adopting our customs and traditions.
“First Platoon used crayon on these forms… again…”
They could be attacking endless waves of paperwork
Behind every light-duty chit is a mountain of paperwork we’ll never have to deal with. Unfortunately for the corpsmen, they have to process, file, and report everything. They don’t only have to keep up to date with Navy readiness training but Marine Corps readiness as well.
If something is beyond the medical capabilities of the BAS, a troop will be sent to the Navy Hospital for advanced treatment. They will also have to explain — in writing why they made their recommendation. When you have thousands of Marines under your care, the administrative element of medicine piles up.
Corpsmen have inherited not only our sense of humor, but also our prowess to avoid stupid games when possible. Several have witnessed a Doc pop smoke before their very eyes in a masterful display of ‘not my pasture, not my bullsh*t,’ inspiring envy and respect.
Corpsmen have done what few people have been able to do: become accepted by Marines as one of their own. Loyalty to a platoon goes both ways, and if anybody messes with a corpsman, they’re going face injuries that will warrant that same corpsman’s medical expertise.
Swelling, redness around the wound, and nausea are just a few of the symptoms of getting bit by a freakin’ snake. There are two types of venom that affect humans in different, deadly ways.
The first is called hemotoxic venom, which is common among vipers. This type of toxin is incredibly painful and destroys human tissue quickly. The second type is called neurotoxic venom, which is found in both cobras and coral snakes. This agent paralyzes muscles and slows down breathing rates.
There are a lot of dumb urban myths out there about how to treat a snake bite, like sucking out the poison or applying a tourniquet to the affected limb. If you want to make a full recovery, take some tips from the experts.
Don’t freak out
We know getting bit by a snake can be quite traumatizing, but the challenge is to not allow your heart rate to increase. The faster your heart beats, the quicker the potentially dangerous venom can spread throughout your body. So keep as calm as possible.
This also means you don’t want to rush to get as the hyperactivity will only elevate your heart rate.
Wash the area with soap and water
Washing the area right afterward will help kill off the majority of the bacteria and other organisms that were in the snake’s mouth before the bite occurred. Let’s face it, snakes don’t go to the dentist too often.
However, don’t submerge the wound in water or apply ice. Hand washing will cleanse the wound enough, and ice won’t tissue swelling caused by the venom.
The mighty King Cobra snake.
(Photo by Dr. Anand Titus and Geeta N Pereira)
Take a photo of the snake
Don’t ever try catching the snake for identification purposes. Since we live in the modern world where technology is basically everywhere, pull out your camera phone and snap a photo. This will help the medical professionals understand what type of anti-venom you’ll need if that situation takes a negative turn.
Many snakes run-ins are harmless as most species aren’t venomous, but have anticoagulant properties within the snake’s saliva which can cause further bleeding.
Seek medical attention
Although seeking medical quickly is vital, we don’t run to find the help you need that will just increase your heart rate. However, some bite victims have wanted days before getting the care they needed and suffer nasty tissue damage as a result.
Check out Tech Insider‘s video below to find out what to do after suffering a snake bite.
On Friday, August 7, National Purple Heart Day will be observed. Around the country, states, counties, and cities will pause to recognize the service and sacrifice of their citizens. Observed since 2014, National Purple Heart Day is a time for Americans to pause and remember the bravery, courage and sacrifice of the service members who risk their lives for our freedoms.
Here are some things you need to know about the Purple Heart and how this solemn day is observed throughout the country.
Purple Heart Trail
The Purple Heart Trail was established in 1992 by the Military Order of Purple Hearts. It aims to be a symbolic honorary system of roads, highways and other monuments that give tribute to the service members who have been awarded the Purple Heart medals. Currently, there are designated sections in 45 states as well as in Guam. Additionally, many cities and towns around the country choose to become Purple Heart cities/towns to honor the veterans and service members from the area.
On August 7, gatherings around the country, states, counties and cities will pause in recognition of the sacrifice and service of veterans. Here are more things you need to know about the Purple Heart:
Generally, Major League Baseball teams pay homage to their local Purple Heart recipients during pre-game events and then again during the 7th inning. Because of current conditions, it’s unclear whether or not MLB will continue that tradition.
At local VFWs, American Legions, and other veteran organizations, remembrance meetings will be held for fallen heroes. Special events usually take place to thank active-duty personnel, veterans, and Purple Heart recipients.
The Purple Heart medal is presented to military personnel who have either been wounded in action or killed as a result of enemy action. Since the award was created in 1782, more than 1.8 million Purple Heart medals have been presented.
The Purple Heart has been around for a long, long time.
It’s the oldest military award still presented to service members. The predecessor to the Purple Heart, the Fidelity Medallion, was created in 1780 by the Continental Congress – but it was only awarded to three soldiers that year. Then, two years later, President George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit.
The Badge of Military Merit is considered the first US military decoration and the Purple Heart predecessor.
Washington designed the Badge of Military Merit in the form of a purple heart. He determined that it be given to soldiers who displayed “unusual gallantry in battle,” and “extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way.” Then, the award was primarily forgotten for roughly two hundred years. It wasn’t until the bicentennial of Washington’s birth that Gen. MacArthur made an effort to revive the medal. It was still used to commemorate bravery, but that criteria changed in WWII when it became a way to recognize combat injuries and deaths.
This honor can be awarded to officers and enlisted personnel
The Purple Heart is one of the first awards in military history given to enlisted soldiers, NCOs and officers. Service members of any rank are eligible to receive a Purple Heart.
There is no official record for every Purple Heart medal awarded to American service members.
During the Revolutionary War, there were just 3 Purple Hearts awarded, roughly 320,000 during WWI, and 1 million Purple Hearts presented during WWII. The Korean War awarded 118,600 medals, the Vietnam War 351,000 Purple Hearts, and the Persian Gulf War, which lasted 209 days, awarded 607 Purple Hearts.
The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been ongoing since 2001, and to date, 12,500 Purple Hearts have been awarded.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart
Those who are awarded a Purple Heart can join MOPH, an organization that was formed in 1932. It’s the only veteran service organization composed of only “combat” veterans. Currently, there are about 45,000 MOPH members. Find out more about the organization here.
Though Purple Heart Day isn’t an officially recognized holiday, it’s still an important one for our military community. In this time of social distancing, it might not be possible to visit military organizations or museums. Instead, use #PurpleHeartDay to post on social media, hold socially-distant events, and take a few moments of silence to remember those who have paid the price for American freedoms.
A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird opted to depart early and land after apparently hitting a bird following May 30, 2019’s Air Force Academy graduation flyover, according to the team spokesman.
“The Thunderbirds Delta [formation] safely executed the flyover, when [Thunderbird No. 3] experienced a possible birdstrike,” Maj. Ray Geoffroy, spokesman for the demonstration team, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, he returned to the base and landed without incident prior to the aerial demonstration portion of today’s performance.”
The team typically returns after the flyover to perform an aerobatic demonstration for the event, Geoffroy said. The Thunderbirds fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
“The rest of the team safely completed the demonstration [and] all aircraft are now back at Peterson Air Force Base, [Colorado], safe and sound,” he said.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly the Delta formation May 28, 2014, over Falcon Stadium during the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)
The Air Force is investigating May 30, 2019’s episode. It’s not the first time the Thunderbirds have experienced a mishap while performing at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony.
After the academy’s 2016 graduation event, attended by then-President Barack Obama, Maj. Alex Turner, pilot for the No. 6 jet, crashed in a nearby field in Colorado Springs. Turner was headed back to Peterson but felt that something wasn’t right.
“What was that that I just felt there, with my hand?” Turner said he asked at the time of the mishap. Turner sat down with Military.com in 2017 to recall the event.
The Thunderbirds perform May 25, 2011, after a graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)
The official investigation later found that an accidental throttle rotation led to a malfunction and subsequent engine stall, causing Turner’s jet to crash.
Since 1995, the Air Force has recorded 105,586 wildlife strikes that damaged aircraft, according to data recently reported by Air Force Times.
There are no soldiers in the United States Army that are as dedicated to their mission as the sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s a grueling position that demands an extreme attention to detail in order to honor not only the unknown soldiers but all who have fallen.
The sentinels follow a strict routine at all hours of the day, regardless of the weather or situation. Good days, bad days, hot days, snowy days, before crowds, on silent nights, in a pleasant breeze, or mid-hurricane — no matter the environment, these sentinels must perform.
Their level of dedication has not gone unnoticed by the American public. While the sentinels have rightly earned every bit of admiration, such widespread recognition doesn’t come without a handful of misconceptions.
Usually, the “newmen” get night shifts when minor missteps aren’t noticed by a crowd.
Guards get the Tomb Guard Identification Badge immediately
There is a difference between being a soldier who guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and being a sentinel. Soldiers in training may guard the tomb and perform their duties just as a sentinel, but only a sentinel may wear the badge.
To become a sentinel, you must go through rigorous training and an incredibly difficult series of tests. These sentinels are only allowed two minor uniform infractions — anything major and you’re out. They must memorize a 17-page pamphlet and rewrite it with proper punctuation and make fewer than 10 mistakes. They must then perform on the mat, facing a 200-point inspection — only two minor infractions are permitted.
Even the sergeant of the guard is tested before stepping on the mat.
Sentinels have reached perfection
Every step must be precise. Every turn must be precise. They must maintain a precise measure of time throughout. Everything they do must be as close to perfection as possible. If you think they’ve set the bar impossibly high, then you’re right.
The extreme standards required of the sentinels are put in place to prevent them from getting complacent. The expectations on these troops are so high that they can never be reached. This way, the guards and sentinels never feel like they’ve mastered their trade and they must always strive to improve — even if they’re at 99.99% perfection.
Those other major incidents, however, are not for the following two reasons.
(Photo by Pfc. Gabriel Silva)
Sentinels can wear their badge forever
Once you’ve graduated from Airborne School, you can keep your wings forever. Once you’ve graduated Ranger School, you can wear your tab forever. Unlike many badges and identifiers in the Army, sentinels can have their badge revoked for improper personal conduct.
Even if a former sentinel has long since retired, if they commit a felony, receive a DUI, or are convicted of any other major crime, their name is stricken from the record and they lose their badge.
Even when they’ve become sentinels, they still don’t have time to drink. Maybe when they retire.
(Photo by Pfc. Gabriel Silva)
Sentinels are never allowed to drink
Some time ago, a spam email made the rounds that was filled with a lot of truth but also some nonsense about the sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In that forwarded email, it stated that the sentinels must never have a drop of alcohol for the rest of their life. This rumor holds about as much weight as the Nigerian Prince asking for your mother’s maiden name.
As long as they are not a guard going through training (they don’t have time to drink anyway) and they are of age, they are free to enjoy alcohol — as long as they are off-duty and they have a designated driver or taxi ready.
A third “can’t for life” myth from that email is watching TV. But I think you get the point…
Sentinels are not allowed to curse
This one’s similar to the “no alcohol” rumor. We’re sorry to dispel the illusion, but sentinels are absolutely allowed to use profanity in their everyday speech if they’re off-duty.
That being said, sentinels are not permitted to curse while on the mat. Then again, they can’t really do anything other than guard the tomb while they’re on the mat.
They’re still your highly-trained, highly-precise soldier who can probably eyeball 1/64th of an inch.
Sentinels live under the tomb
The silliest of all rumors states that the guards and sentinels live underneath the tomb so they can always remain on call. The truth is that they live in a regular barracks at Fort Myer, which is right next to Arlington, or off-post with their families.
There are living quarters under the steps of the amphitheater, but those are mostly used as a staging area for inbound and outbound guards/sentinels to prepare their uniforms.
U.S. Army veteran Joshua Griffin trained with Rangers and Green Berets and saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during his 13 years of military service. Then he decided to become an officer, join ROTC, and play college football.
The Staff Sergeant is now the oldest player in the country on a major college football team.
The 33-year-old walk-on is in his second season at Colorado State University and he credits his military service with much of his success.
Army Veteran Becomes Oldest College Football Player | NBC Nightly News
Tom Ehlers, CSU’s director of football ops, was impressed with Griffin from the start.
First of all, Griffin cold-called Ehlers in person. At 5’10” and 208 lbs, Griffin certainly looked the part.
More than that, Ehlers quickly realized that “Griffin’s military background could be useful on a young football team in need of leadership.” The problem was that Griffin didn’t have any footage of himself playing — or even the SAT or ACT scores needed to qualify for college attendance.
Still, he was persistent — another skill courtesy of the United States Army. He was finally invited to the walk-on tryouts.
The term walk-on is used to describe an athlete who earns a place on the team without being recruited or, in the case of college football, awarded an athletic scholarship.
Griffin drilled alone in the weeks before tryouts after watching the team practice.
“I would study what the coaches had them doing during individuals and then after practice I would go to these fields right here and I would do exactly what they would do,” he told ESPN.
He was one of three who made the team.
Griffin was attached to the 10th Special Forces and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment while on active duty. His wartime experiences included 2½ years of service overseas — and he still carries unseen scars with him, including hypervigilance and trouble sleeping.
But he carries the brotherhood with him, too. The players, most of whom are a decade younger than Griffin, look up to him — a fact noticed by the coaching staff, who made him one of ten accountability leaders for the team.
“He’s a great example of what soldiers are like out there,” said Lt. Col. Troy Thomas, the professor of military science who runs CSU’s Army ROTC program.”…When you support people through their goals, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. We’ve been able to support Josh while he gets an education and plays athletics. I suspect great things for him in the future.”