Recruit's suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp - We Are The Mighty
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Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, crawl through a simulated battlefield J on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. An incident there on March 18 that involved the death of a recruit is being investigated by NCIS. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink


The March 18 suicide of Muslim-American recruit Raheel Siddiqui days after he began boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, highlighted allegations of hazing and resulted in the firings of several senior officers and leaders at the depot.

But abuse and maltreatment of recruits did not begin or end with Siddiqui, Military.com has learned.

In all, three different investigations into training inside one Parris Island battalion reveal a culture of hazing and violence that did not end until one recruit’s family sent an anonymous letter to President Barack Obama in April.

The investigations also reveal that drill instructors within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion had a history of singling out recruits based on their ethnicity and religion, and that another Muslim recruit had been subjected to severe hazing in 2015 when a drill instructor repeatedly shoved him into a clothes dryer and turned it on, and forced him to shout “Allah Akbar” loud enough to wake other recruits.

That same drill instructor would become a supervisory drill instructor in Siddiqui’s unit, the investigation found, and his treatment of the recruit, including forcing him to complete “incentive training” and physically assaulting and slapping him immediately prior to his death, provided impetus for the suicide, investigators found.

Punitive action

In all, 20 drill instructors and senior leaders from Parris Island’s Recruit Training Regiment face punitive action or separation from the Marine Corps for participating in or enabling mistreatment of recruits. Several drill instructors at the heart of the abuse allegations are likely to face court-martial for their actions.

The contents of the three investigations have not been released publicly as the findings have yet to be endorsed by Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. But Marine officials discussed the contents of the investigations and the recommendations of the investigating officers in response to a public records request.

Marine officials said Thursday that the incidents of hazing and abuse were confined to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and not indicative of the culture within the Corps’ boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego.

“When America’s men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them. We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement. “Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically trained Marines.”

A lengthy investigation into the death of 20-year-old Siddiqui found the recruit had died by suicide, jumping from the third floor of the Company K recruit training barracks, slamming his chest against a railing at the bottom of the stairs.

Siddiqui had threatened to kill himself five days before, prior to the first full day of recruit training. He described a plan to jump out a squad bay window, investigators found, but later recanted and was allowed to remain in training.

Singled out

In the short time Siddiqui was at the unit, investigators found he was repeatedly referred to as a “terrorist,” presumably in reference to his Muslim background. One drill instructor also asked the recruit if he needed his turban, officials said.

Findings show recruits were routinely singled out on account of their backgrounds and ethnicity. Drill instructors referred to one recruit born in Russia as “the Russian” and “cosmonaut” and asked him if he was a communist spy, investigators found.

In Siddiqui’s unit, recruits were subjected to unauthorized incentive training, in which they would lift footlockers, day packs and other heavy items and clean the squad bay in uncomfortable positions using small scrub brushes for hours. Drill instructors would also push and shove recruits and use Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training as an opportunity to pit recruits against each other, sometimes in physically unfair matchups.

Drill instructors told investigators that a more experienced drill instructor taught subordinates they needed to “hate” recruits to be successful at training them.

On March 13, Siddiqui, who previously had received a clean mental health evaluation, expressed a desire to kill himself. He was interviewed at the scene and turned over the the depot’s mental health unit, where he recanted and expressed a wish to return to training.

He was given a clean bill of health, described as “highly motivated to continue training,” and returned to his unit with no follow-up requested, investigators found.

Drill instructors would tell investigators that recruits frequently express suicidal ideations as an excuse to get out of training, and thus no serious incident report was made about Siddiqui’s threat. While drill instructors were told to ease Siddiqui back into training, they were not made aware of his suicidal ideations.

The morning of Siddiqui’s death, the recruit presented drill instructors with a note asking to go to medical with a severely swollen throat. He claimed he had lost his voice and coughed up blood overnight and was in significant pain. In response, he was told to do “get-backs” — to sprint back-and-forth the nearly 150 feet between the entrance to the bathroom, the back of the squad bay and the front of the squad bay.

“I don’t care what’s wrong with you; you’re going to say something back to me,” a drill instructor yelled as Siddiqui began to cry.

Shortly after, the recruit dropped to the floor clutching his throat, though it’s not clear if he became unconscious or was feigning to deflect the drill instructor’s abuse.

In an effort to wake him, the drill instructor slapped Siddiqui on the face hard enough to echo through the squad bay. The recruit became alert, ran out of the squad bay, and vaulted over the stairwell railing, sustaining severe injuries in the fall.

Drill instructors called 911. Siddiqui would be taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Charleston, where he would receive blood transfusions and emergency surgery in an unsuccessful effort to save his life. He died just after 10 a.m.

The lawyer for the Siddiqui family, Nabih Ayad, did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the investigations’ findings.

Leaders relieved

In the wake of Siddiqui’s death, multiple leaders have been relieved for failing to prevent the culture of recruit abuse. On March 31, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon was fired in connection with the investigation of prior allegations of recruit mistreatment, including the hazing and assault of another, unnamed, Muslim recruit.

Notably, the Marine Corps’ investigations stopped short of finding that drill instructors’ hazing of Siddiqui and other recruits was motivated by racial bias. They did find evidence that some drill instructors made a practice of exploiting recruits’ ethnicities as a way to harass them.

On June 6, Parris Island officials announced that Recruit Training Regiment’s commander, Col. Paul Cucinotta, and its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Dabreau, had been relieved in connection with the Siddiqui investigation.

Fifteen drill instructors have been sidelined since April amid allegations of recruit hazing and maltreatment, and two captains may also face punishment for failing to properly supervise drill instructors.

Marine officials said it may be one to three months before disciplinary decisions are made, including possible charges filed, regarding these 20 Marines.

Officials with Marine Corps Training and Education Command have also set in motion a host of new policies designed to prevent future mistreatment of recruits, said Maj. Christian Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman.

These include increased officer presence and supervision of recruit training; mandatory suspension of personnel being investigated for recruit hazing or mistreatment; better visibility of investigations above the regiment level, changes to the drill instructor assignment process to prevent chain-of-command loyalty from affecting leadership; creation of a zero-tolerance policy for hazing among drill instructors; and a review of mental health processes and procedures for suicide prevention.

“We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui,” Neller said. “And we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

All hell broke loose after a Russian pilot died in Syria

Syrian rebels shot down a Russian jet on Feb. 3 and then killed the pilot on the ground, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, triggering a furious barrage of dozens of airstrikes that observers say hit hospitals and killed civilians.


Adding to a chaotic weekend in the country, Turkish forces poured into Syria on Feb. 4 to fight U.S.-backed Kurdish militias there, suffering their heaviest day of losses so far with a tank being destroyed and troops coming under attack.

Now in Idlib — a stronghold of rebel forces considered terrorists by Russia and Syria — reports of yet another episode of chlorine gas attacks have surfaced. Children are said to be among the victims.

In neighboring Afrin, Turkey targeted Kurdish forces that the U.S. had worked with to counter the Islamic State terrorist group.

Also Read: Mattis wants to punish Syria for using chemical weapons

Caught in the crossfire are civilians, who are likely to pay the price of a furious Russia, which looks to have picked up its bombing runs to levels unseen since the fall of 2016.

Babies on stretchers, hospitals on fire

On the morning of Feb. 5, social media was replete with horrific footage believed to be taken from the ground in Syria.

The White Helmets, a volunteer organization whose members regularly pull civilians out of the rubble from bombings, posted pictures of babies in stretchers being taken from a burning hospital.

Several videos show men being treated for attacks apparently from chemical weapons, which Syria and Russia have vigorously denied using.

Russia vowed to find out who shot down its plane and where they got the weapon, which is said to be a man-portable air-defense, or Manpad, missile. Russian lawmakers went as far as saying they had information that “Western countries” had provided the system.

Other Russian officials threatened to punish countries that may have provided the weapons to the Syrians who shot down their jet, a Su-25 attack plane.

Throughout the first six years of Syria’s bloody civil war, the U.S. considered providing Manpads to Syrian rebels as a means of defending themselves against Syria’s air force, which has been accused of bombing and gassing civilians.

But as the war progressed and more and more hardline Islamist elements became entwined with the more moderate Syrian rebels, the U.S. publicly declined to provide the rebels with such weapons, which can also be used to take out commercial aircraft. Over the weekend, the Pentagon denied providing Manpads to Syrian rebels.

A new phase in the Syrian war?

But now Manpads are believed to have made their mark in Syria, possibly provided by powers that wish to erode Syria’s or Russia’s airpower or possibly plundered from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces themselves.

A soldier from the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group that Turkey backs, was seen on video with a Russian-made Manpad in late January. In response to the highlighted threat from Manpads, Russia has ordered its jets to fly higher to avoid ground fire.

Also Read: The ‘Hell Cannon’ is the Free Syrian Army’s homemade howitzer

On top of the brewing conflict over the fate of the Kurds in Afrin, the U.S. has increasingly been discussing unverified reports of chemical-weapons attacks in Syria.

U.S. policy on the matter has dictated that if Syria uses chemical weapons on its own people, the U.S. will retaliate with force, as it did in April. So far, the Trump administration hasn’t shied away from implicating Russia in its prosecution of chemical-weapons violators in Syria. But any response now would come with Russia on edge and violence escalating between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Articles

Here’s what the people who fly and fix the F-35 have to say about history’s most expensive weapons system

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland — In a nondescript US military hangar, steps away from Air Force One, sits America’s priciest weapons system.


“The F-35 is a needed aircraft to get us to where we need to be for the future of warfare,” said US Air Force Maj. Will “D-Rail” Andreotta, the commander of the F-35A Lightning II Heritage Flight Team.

“What it’s giving to the pilots is everything I’m seeing on my screens added to that the helmet, the situational awareness, and the advanced avionics that we have on the aircraft is gonna allow us to fight wars in places that we have very limited capabilities in right now,” Andreotta told Business Insider.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, a US Air Force Warfare Center commander, walking to an F-35A Lightning II with Lt. Col. Matt Renbarger, a 58th Fighter Squadron commander, before his final qualification flight at Eglin Air Force Base. | US Air Force photo

In August, US Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command, declared initial combat capability of 15 Air Force F-35A jets — a significant breakthrough for the weapons program, which has been set back by design flaws, cost overruns, and technical challenges.

Also read: The F-35 just proved it can take Russian or Chinese airspace without firing a shot

“When you look at where the Air Force is headed, you look at coalition warfare and spend time in the Pacific, what this means to the interoperability, the ability to operate with others in the battle space and create the coalition warfare that we will always, always, fight with in the future, the centerpiece of that is gonna be the F-35,” Carlisle said at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber conference.

“The integration, the interoperability, the fusion warfare that this here plane brings to the fight … it changes the game.”

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
An F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft flying with its afterburner over Edwards Air Force Base on a night mission in 2013. | Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

The fifth-generation “jack of all trades” jet was developed in 2001 by Lockheed Martin to replace the aging aircraft in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

The fighter is equipped with radar-evading stealth, supersonic speed, and “the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history,” Jeff Babione, the head of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, said in a statement.

And for an enemy to engage an F-35 would be like jumping into a boxing ring to “fight an invisible Muhammad Ali,” as Gen. Tod Wolters, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe, told Business Insider.

In short, the F-35 gives pilots the ability to see but not be seen.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
An F-35B from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501), flies near its base a MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina. | Lockheed Martin

 

What’s more, Andreotta added, the F-35A is easy to fly.

“The F-35 is a very, very easy airplane to fly — that kinda sounds funny, but it really is … Things that were difficult and time-consuming and task-saturating in an F-16 have now become easy,” said Andreotta, a pilot in the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona who has 1,600 hours in an F-16.

“I can take information that I’m getting from the F-35 and push it out to other aircraft that don’t have the capabilities that I have. That’s huge. I would have killed for that when I was flying an F-16.”

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
Maj. Justin Robinson flying the 56th Operations Group flagship F-16 Fighting Falcon, escorting the first F-35 Lightning II to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona in 2014. | US Air Force photo

Unlike any other fielded fighter jet, the F-35 can share what it sees in the battle space with counterparts, which creates a “family of systems.”

“Fifth-generation technology, it’s no longer about a platform. It’s about a family of systems, and it’s about a network, and that’s what gives us an asymmetric advantage,” Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, said during a Pentagon briefing.

Elaborating on the advantages, US Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, the director of the F-35 integration office, said the aircraft was “one our adversaries should fear.”

“In terms of lethality and survivability, the aircraft is absolutely head and shoulders above our legacy fleet of fighters currently fielded,” said Pleus, an F-35A pilot and former command pilot with more than 2,300 flying hours.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
An F-35A performing a test flight on March 28, 2013. | Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Alongside Andreotta, US Air Force TSgt Robert James, also of the F-35A Lightning II Heritage Flight Team and a pilot in the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, offered some insight as a crew chief.

“Aircraft maintenance is aircraft maintenance, but with the F-35 there is an ease in maintenance,” James told Business Insider.

“What they did with the F-35, I feel, and again I do this every day, is that they thought about the maintainer as well as the pilot. They designed the aircraft in a way that the maintainer could do their job better,” James said.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
An F-35A Lightning II team parking the jet for the first time at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho on February 8. | US Air Force photo

And while the F-35 has become one of the most challenged programs in the history of the Department of Defense, US Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Program executive officer, said “the program itself is making progress.”

“Any development program is going to encounter issues,” Bogdan said. “If you’re building a development program and you don’t find anything wrong, then you didn’t do a good enough job building that program.”

He added: “So it’s not a surprise to me that on any given day that we encounter things wrong with this airplane. Now is the time to find those things and fix them. The perfect example is our insulation problem we have right now.

“The mark of a good program is not that you don’t have any problems but that you find things early. You fix them. You make the airplane better, the weapons system better, and you move on.”

Articles

Previously removed pages of 9-11 report show possible link between terrorists and Saudi government

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp


New documents released by the White House July 15 show both the FBI and CIA found substantial evidence that several of the 9/11 hijackers received assistance from officers with the Saudi Arabian intelligence service while preparing for their attacks on Washington and New York.

While the intelligence described in the documents leaves some doubt on how strong the link between the 19 terrorists and the Saudi government was, it is the first time since 2003 that information on any ties between al Qaida and Saudi Arabian intelligence connected to the 9/11 attacks has been made public.

“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with and received support or assistance from individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” the report says. “There is information … that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”

The newly-released documents are 28 pages from the so-called “9/11 Report” ordered by Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks that were removed from the final draft in an effort that some say was intended to shield one of America’s most important Middle East allies from embarrassment.

But pressure has been mounting on the Obama Administration to release the formerly classified pages by some in Congress and by attorneys for the families of 9/11 victims who are suing the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks.

The documents describe tactical help several of the attackers received from suspected Saudi intelligence operatives here in the U.S., including housing assistance, meetings with local imams and even one case where officials believed a Saudi operative was testing airline security during a flight to Washington, D.C.

“According to an FBI agent in Phoenix, the FBI suspects Mohammed al-Qudhaeen of being [REDACTED],” the report says. “Al-Qudhaeen was involved in a 1999 incident aboard an America West flight, which the FBI’s Phoenix office now suspects may have been a ‘dry run’ to test airline security.”

While the newly-released pages paint a detailed picture of how some suspected Saudi government officials and intelligence agents had ties to the al Qaida attackers and may have helped them plan and execute the attack, it’s unclear whether the effort was officially sanctioned by the Saudi royal family.

Congressional investigators “confirmed that the intelligence community also has information … indicating that individuals associated with the Saudi government in the United States may have other ties to al Qaida and other terrorist groups,” the report says. “Neither CIA nor FBI witnesses were able to identify definitively the extent of Saudi support for terrorist activity globally or within the United States and the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature.”

While not necessarily a “smoking gun,” the most damning evidence in the pages deals with Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan, alleged Saudi intelligence officers who provided direct assistance to “hijackers-to-be” Kahlid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi after they arrived in San Diego in 2000. Both men were financed by a Saudi company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and they used those funds to secure housing and other incidentals for the future hijackers.

Along with illustrating how protracted the terrorists’ 9/11 planning was — taking place over several years — this newly-released section of the report also shows that the FBI dropped the ball on several occasions, failing to share intelligence between headquarters and the San Diego field office and summarily ending an investigation into the suspicious funding of a mosque construction — an investigation that — in hindsight — may have allowed the FBI to stymie the chain of events that eventually led to the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Editor-in-chief Ward Carroll contributed to this report.

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This is what happens to the personal effects of fallen warriors

The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.


In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.

Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
Staff Sgt. Luis Quinones speaks to the media about inventory process April 14, 2011, at the new Joint Personal Effects Depot at Dover Air Force Base, Del. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.

With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?

The History

As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
Nelson Delgado, operations management specialist (right) and 1st Lt. Marcus Hull, summary court martial officer, both with the Joint Personal Effects Depot, review personal effects inventory paperwork in processing line number 3 June 29, 2012, at Dover Air Force Base. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.

“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.

“That’s how we got to Dover.”

In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
The JPED building on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Army photo by Tim Boyle.

Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.

The Process

When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.

“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”

“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
Nelson Delgado, Joint Personal Effects Depot operations management specialist, demonstrates operating one of two x-ray machines at the JPED located at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Oct. 24, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.

From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.

“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.

Also Read: How Marines honor their fallen heroes — on the battlefield and at home

“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.

Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
At the two-year anniversary of the creation of the Joint Personal Effects Depot at Dover Air Force Base, Del., the command continues to process fallen service members’ personal belongings with unparalleled dignity and respect. Pictured here, personnel from the JPED process the personal effects of someone who was killed in support of overseas contingency operations. Army photo by Tim Boyle.

“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”

“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.

The Presentation

After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.

Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
The entire process, from start to finish is done in one location to help eliminate items from becoming misplaced or cross contaminated with other service member’s personal items. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.

“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”

“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”

After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
Items that move through the JPED are carefully cleaned, packaged, and sent to the families who have lost a loved one. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

The Connection

Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.

Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.

Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.

“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp
Nelson Delgado, Joint Personal Effects Depot operations management specialist, stands in cage one at the JPED located at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Oct. 24, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.

For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.

“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.

“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy freaked out when it got rid of bell-bottom pants

Some uniform changes are welcome in the U.S. military (goodbye, ABUs!) and some are very much not. There are uniform features troops love because it actually makes their jobs easier. There are fabrics that are easier to wear, and there are styles that just became iconic over time. For instance, imagine if the Marine Corps suddenly changed their dress blues to an all-white uniform to match the Navy whites – there would be rioting from Lejeune to Pendleton.


That’s almost what happened when the Navy ditched the bell-bottoms on its dungarees.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp

That just does not look like a good work uniform.

The U.S. Navy had been sporting the flared cuffs on its work uniforms since 1817. The idea was that sailors who would be working on the topmost decks, who were presumably swabbing it or whatever sailors did up there back then, would want to roll their pants up to keep them from getting wet or dirty. Sailors were also able to get out of their uniforms faster in the event that they had to abandon ship for some reason.

When in the water, then-woolen pants even doubled as a life preserver. Now, that’s a utility uniform. In 1901, the fabric of the uniform was changed to denim, and the Navy’s dungarees were born. They still sported bell-bottom pants.

Recruit’s suicide sheds light on hazing at Marine boot camp

The Navy will still find ways to look absurd to the other branches, don’t you worry.

Bell-bottoms even appeared on the sailors’ dress uniform as far back as the early 19th century. The Navy got rid of the bell-bottom on its dungarees at the turn of the 21st Century, some 180 years later. In 1999, the Navy phased out the pants with flared 12-inch bottoms for a utility uniform that features straight-legged dark blue trousers. Sailors were not thrilled.

“They are trying too hard to make us look like the Coast Guard and the Air Force,” said Petty Officer Chad Heskett, a hospital corpsman on the frigate USS Crommelin. “It’s taking too much away from tradition. It will cost the Navy more to buy these new uniforms.”

By 2001, the bell-bottoms were gone.

Heskett wasn’t alone in his disdain for the new uniforms. The loss of “tradition” was echoed throughout the Navy, as is often the case with new uniforms. The Navy was adamant about the change, however, and the new utility uniforms were phased in on schedule. It turned out to be a good decision.

For tradition, the Navy will always have its crackerjacks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Afghanistan vet and victim of the Las Vegas shooting posted about firefights — months before his death

Christopher Roybal, one of the 59 people who died in the horrific shooting on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday night, posted a harrowing message on his Facebook account, months before his death.


The public Facebook post, dated July 18, began with the ominous question that many war-time veterans dread: “‘What’s it like being shot at?'”


“A question people ask because it’s something that less that 1% of our American population will ever experience,” Roybal’s post said. “Especially one on a daily basis. My response has always been the same, not one filled with a sense of pride or ego, but an answer filled with truth and genuine fear/anger.”

Based on photos, the 28-year-old US Navy veteran appeared to have served in Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the 25th Infantry Division, a US Army division that has seen heavy fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Roybal then goes on describing his first firefight and the lingering effects that appeared to resonate — long after his return home:

“Finishing up what was supposed to be a quick 4-hour foot patrol, I remember placing my hand on the [armored vehicle] and telling [“Bella”] how well she did. Hearing the most distinct sounds of a whip cracking and pinging of metal off of the vehicle I just had my hand resting on is something that most see in movies.

I remember that first day, not sure how to feel. It was never fear, to be honest, mass confusion. Sensory overload…followed by the most amount of natural adrenaline that could never be duplicated through a needle. I was excited, angry and manic. Ready to take on what became normal everyday life in the months to follow. Taking on the fight head on, grabbing the figurative “Bull by the horns”.

Unfortunately, as the fights continue and as they as increase in numbers and violence, that excitement fades and the anger is all that’s left. The anger stays, long after your friends have died, the lives you’ve taken are buried and your boots are placed neatly in a box in some storage unit. Still covered in the dirt you’ve refused to wash off for fear of forgetting the most raw emotions you as a human being will ever feel again.”

So far, his post has received nearly 900 likes.

“What’s it like to be shot at? It’s a nightmare no amount of drugs, no amount of therapy and no amount of drunk talks with your war veteran buddies will ever be able to escape,” Roybal’s post said. “Cheers boys.”


Roybal was at the country music festival celebrating his birthday with his mother, Debby Allen, when he was shot in the chest. The two were separated amid the chaos, according to KABC.

Although a fireman was present after Roybal was shot, he was unable to revive him due to the sustained rate of fire from the shooter, Allen said.

“He saw Christopher take his last breath,” Allen said.

“Today is the saddest day of my life,” Allen wrote in a Facebook post. “My son Christopher Roybal was murdered last night in Las Vegas. My heart is broken in a billion pieces.”

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The newest ‘Call of Duty’ game is returning to World War II

Every year, a new “Call of Duty” game comes out — it’s an annual franchise, like “Madden” and “FIFA,” except it’s a first-person shooter instead of a sports game.


2017 is no different, and this year’s “Call of Duty” is on the verge of being revealed. On Friday we found out one crucial detail about the unannounced game, demonstrated in this image:

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Activision

The new game is named, “Call of Duty: WWII.”

That’s important for a few good reasons, but one stands out: It means that the “Call of Duty” franchise is returning to a type of warfare it otherwise abandoned years ago. Aside from the setting, the time period means slower weaponry with less precision and fewer bullets — a notable change from the type of futuristic weaponry seen in recent “Call of Duty” games.

2016’s “Call of Duty” was set in space, in a near-future that leaned more sci-fi than gritty realism. You could literally run on the walls, and double-jump with rocket boots.

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Activision

The newest game in the “Call of Duty” franchise is being created by Sledgehammer Games, the same studio behind “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.” That’s also a good sign, as “Advanced Warfare” was an especially good entry in the annual franchise.

There’s no release date or game console specified in the information provided, but we’d guess that “Call of Duty: WWII” will arrive in November on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. And maybe Nintendo Switch? Maybe.

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Watch the trailer here:

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways to drink like a nearly-immortal American warrior

The life of Ernest Hemingway is something most men only ever get to daydream about. He was an ambulance driver, wounded in action. He was a war correspondent, covering the Spanish Civil War and World War II (the man landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day in the seventh wave), he led resistance fighters against the Nazis in Europe, and even hunted Nazi submarines in the Caribbean with his personal yacht.


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The machine gun in the photo above is for Nazis AND sharks

In your entire life, you’d be lucky to do one of the things Hemingway wrote about in his books. And one of the reasons his books are so good (among many) is because he wrote many of them from first-hand experience. He actually did a lot of the John-McClane, Die Hard-level stunts you can read about right now at your local library.

Think about it this way: His life was so epic that he won a Nobel Prize in Literature just for telling us the story.

Related: 10 ways Ernest Hemingway was a next-level American warrior

Two world wars, two plane crashes, and the KGB couldn’t do him in. In a strange way, it makes sense that only he could end his own incredible life. This summer (or winter. Or whatever), celebrate your own inner Hemingway by having a few of his favorite beverages while standing at a bar somewhere.

He definitely invented some of these drinks. And might have invented others. But we only know for sure that he enjoyed them all.

Remember, according to the bartender on Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, no drink should be in your hand longer than 30 minutes.

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Preferably served by the Florida Bar in Havana.

(Photo by Blake Stilwell)

1. The Daiquiri

It is necessary to start with the classic, because everyone knows the writer’s love for a daiquiri – it was as legendary then as it is today. His favorite bar in Havana even named a take on the classic cocktail after Hemingway but don’t be mistaken, that’s only an homage. The way the author really drank his cocktails is very different from what you might expect.

Nearly ever enduring cocktail recipe has its own epic origin story. The daiquiri is no different. Military and veteran readers might be interested to know the most prevalent is one of an Army officer putting the ingredients over ice in the Spanish-American War. But in truth, the original daiquiri cocktail is probably hundreds of years old. British sailors had been putting lime juice in rum for hundreds of years (hence the nickname, “limeys”).

A daiquiri is just rum, sugar, and lime juice, shaken in ice and served in a chilled glass.

  • 2 oz light rum
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 3⁄4 oz simple syrup

2. “Henmiway” Daiquiri

That’s not a typo, according to Philip Green’s “To Have and Have Another,” a masterfully-researched book about Hemingway and his favorite cocktails and the author’s drinking habits, that’s how this take on the classic daiquiri was written down by bartender and owner of Hemingway’s Floridita bar, Constantino Ribalaigua. Hemingway was such a regular at the bar by 1937 that Ribalaigua wanted to name a drink after him.

  • 2 oz white rum
  • Tsp grapefruit juice
  • Tsp maraschino liqueur
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
The version above is served up, while a tourist version, the Papa Doble, is served blended.
  • 2 1/2 oz white rum
  • Juice 1/2 grapefruit
  • 6 Tsp maraschino liqueur
  • Juice of 2 limes

But Papa Hemingway (as he was called) didn’t like sweet drinks. When he had a daiquiri at Floridita, he preferred them blended but with “double the rum and none of the sugar.” Essentially, Hemingway enjoyed four shots of rum with a splash of lime juice.

Drink one with a friend, repeat 16 times to be more like Ernest Hemingway.

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Be patient.

3. Dripped Absinthe

Absinthe is a liquor distilled with the legendary wormwood, once thought to give absinthe its purported hallucinogenic effects. Who knows, it might have really had those properties, but today’s absinthe isn’t the same kind taken by writers and artists of the 19th century; the level of wormwood they could cram into a bottle was much, much higher then. What you buy today would not be the same liquor Robert Jordan claimed could “cure everything” in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Absinthe is prepared in a way only absinthe can be — with ice water slowly dripped over a sugar cube, set above an absinthe spoon and dripped into the absinthe until it’s as sweet as you like. The popularity of absinthe cocktails is still prevalent in places like New Orleans, where the bartenders keep absinthe spoons handy. No one would have the patience to wait for an Old Fashioned made this way, but for absinthe, its well worth the effort.

If you’re looking for a wormwood trip, though, you may need to distill your own.

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Papa Hemingway didn’t garnish.

4. Hemingway’s Bloody Mary

There are a number of origin stories for the Bloody Mary — and one of them involves Ernest Hemingway not being allowed to drink. According to one of Hemingway’s favorite bartenders, the author’s “bloody wife” wouldn’t let him drink while he was under the care of doctors. In Colin Peter Field’s “Cocktails of the Ritz Paris,” Field says bartender Bernard “Bertin” Azimont, created a drink that didn’t look, taste, or smell like alcohol.

How the author would feel about bacon-flavored vodka, strips of bacon served in the drink, or any modern variation on the bloody, (involving bacon or otherwise) is anyone’s guess.

Hemingway’s only recipe is by the pitcher, because “any other amount would be worthless.”

  • 1 pint Russian vodka
  • 1 pint tomato juice
  • Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 oz of lime juice
  • Celery salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper

Garnish it however you want.

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Hemingway recovering from his wounds in a World War I hospital with a bottle of stuff that can “cure everything.” The afternoon would have to wait.

5. Death In The Afternoon

Want to drink absinthe, but don’t have the patience for the drip spoons? You aren’t alone. But you still need to figure out how to make the strong alcohol more palatable (go ahead and try to drink straight absinthe. We’ll wait.). Ready for a mixer?

Hemingway called on another one of his favorite beverages for this purpose: champagne. Hemingway loved champagne. You might love this cocktail, but you’ll want to be ready for what comes next. Champagne catches up with you. But that’s a worry for later.

After a few of these, you’ll be brave enough to do some bullfighting yourself (the subject of Hemingway’s book, “Death in the Afternoon.” But be warned, like most champagne cocktails, they go down smooth… but you might need that pitcher of Bloody Mary the next morning.

  • 1 1/2 shots of absinthe
  • 4 oz of champagne (give or take)

In a champagne glass, add enough champagne to the absinthe until it “attains the proper opalescent milkiness,” according to author Philip Greene’s book. But that “proper” was for Hemingway. You may want to adjust your blend accordingly.

6. El Definitivo

This drink is designed to knock you on your ass. Hemingway and his pal created it in Havana in 1942 to win baseball games.

No joke. During these games, essentially little league games, the kids would run the bases while the adults took turns at bat. It turns out Hemingway had a running rivalry with a few of the other parents. But he wasn’t about to get into a fistfight about it like some people might. He had a much better, more insidious plan.

In “To Have and Have Another,” author Philip Greene describes how Hemingway created “El Definitivo” to just destroy other little league parents. But he liked them, too (the drink, that is) — and was often sucked in under its spell with everyone else.

  • 1 shot of vodka
  • 1 shot of gin
  • 1 shot of tequila
  • 1 shot of rum
  • 1 shot of scotch
  • 2 1/2 oz tomato juice
  • 2 oz lime juice
Serve over ice in a tall, tall glass. Get a ride home from little league.
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The Pentagon is worried about the missile threat from these countries

The North Korean ballistic missile threat has been receiving significant attention in recent weeks, but missile threats are surging worldwide, a new Pentagon report suggests.


North Korea has made significant strides in developing its weapons program in recent months, successfully testing multiple new ballistic missile systems, but other countries, such as Iran, Russia, and China, are also rapidly advancing their missile capabilities. “Many countries view ballistic and cruise missile systems as cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” defense intelligence agencies said in a report viewed in advance by Bloomberg News.

“China continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” the Pentagon assessed.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles, has received much more attention as China pursues an extensive military modernization program putting greater emphasis on technological strength rather than manpower.

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The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

China tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile — the DF-5C — with 10 warheads in January, and there have been rumors that another developmental Chinese ICBM has already been deployed. China conducted its seventh successful test of the DF-41 with two inert warheads last spring. The Chinese armed forces are expected to substantially increase the number of warheads on the ICBMs capable of threatening the continental US over the next few years, the new Pentagon report suggests.

The Chinese military has also deployed new and improved DF-16s, highly-accurate, mobile medium-range ballistic missiles, to further threaten Taiwan. The precision missiles could also be used to target US bases located along the “first island chain.” At the same time, China can field DF-21D anti-ship missiles and the DF-26, which could be used against US forces in Guam, according to the Pentagon’s China Military Power report.

Russia, which has more deployed nuclear warheads than the US, is “expected to retain the largest force of strategic ballistic missiles outside the United States,” according to the new defense report.

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A Russian Topol M mobile nuclear missile. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Both China and Russia are also working to develop hypersonic glide vehicle technology. “HGVS are maneuverable vehicles that travel at hypersonic (greater than Mach 5) speed and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a typical ballistic missile,” defense agencies revealed.

High speed, maneuverability, and low-altitude flight make missile interception via missile defense systems significantly more difficult. Russia is believed to be moving closer to fielding a hypersonic cruise missile — the Zircon — that can threaten enemy ships. Some observers, however, suspect Chinese and Russian claims regarding their various achievements in this area are exaggerated.

Iran has extended the range and effectiveness of its mid-range Shabab-3, a weapon based on a North Korean model, and the Pentagon is under the impression that Iran, much like North Korea, ultimately intends to develop an ICBM.

“Tehran’s desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to field an ICBM. Progress in Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles (SLV) use inherently similar technologies,” the report explained.

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Photo from Tasnim News Agency.

Iran has also been working to advance its Fateh-110 missiles, which it tested in March. Iran launched missiles into Syria last week, firing off a mid-range weapon in combat for the first time in three decades.

Expert analysts have noted significant cooperation between Iran and North Korea in recent years.

North Korea has, this year alone, tested new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, experimenting with different fuels and engines. The North has also been testing new transporter erector launchers, which offer greater mobility and survivability. Similar developments are being seen in other countries.

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North Korean Missile. (Associated Press image via NewsEdge)

North Korea has repeatedly threatened that an ICBM test is not far off, and while the regime will most likely test a liquid-fueled ICBM, such as the KN-08 revealed a few years ago, the North has also presented two canister-launched ICBMs in military parades resembling two foreign missiles, specifically the Chinese DF-31 and the Russian Topol.

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The UK has ordered British special operators to stop ISIS in Libya

The UK’s Special Boat Service has deployed to Libya to stop ISIS fighters and supplies from crossing over with the waves of migrants entering the European Union.


The commander of NATO, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, has said that the movement of refugees from Libya into Europe is a security concern for the alliance since ISIS fighters can infiltrate the migrant flows.

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Screenshot: British Ministry of Defence. Crown Copyright

This year over 30,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean between Africa and Italy. SBS operators have been ordered to look out for suspected terrorists trying to enter Europe posing as migrants, according to the Daily Star Sunday

Currently, migrants from Libya, Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan pay nearly $1,500 to be smuggled to Europe on small boats. ISIS makes money off the smuggling operations and could conceal their fighters among the boat passengers.

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Screenshot: British Ministry of Defence. Crown Copyright

The SBS is perfect for disrupting the ISIS effort.  One of their skills is clandestine coastline reconnaissance of beaches and harbors. SBS operators are trained to conduct surveillance. From the coasts they can develop a list of smugglers and fighters, sink boats and ships, destroy warehouses and smugglers’ camps, and kill or capture key leaders.

The SBS was formed during World War II and is like the US Navy SEALs and has defended Britain since its founding in 1940. The SBS began as the Special Boat Section, a British Army commando unit tasked with amphibious operations. They operated in canoes launched from submarines, sabotaging infrastructure and destroying enemy ships. The modern SBS conducts both naval and ground operations and has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

MIGHTY FIT

This is how much exercise you need if you sit behind a desk all day

This isn’t going to come as a surprise to anyone, but people working desk jobs are too sedentary. In fact, 86 percent of the American working population sits down all day while at work. Combining all the hours we work with the amount of time we sit lounging at home and that number can increase beyond 12 hours each day.

But we’re not done doing the math yet. Figure in the total amount of sleep we get per night (an average of six to eight hours) and you’re looking at a pretty static lifestyle. As Americans, we’re in a state of rest for nearly 20 hours per day — give or take.

That’s a whole lot of resting, people!

We understand that some jobs require us to be in the office each day and sitting in front of our computers.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FlZfU9MnEJ4di0.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=94&h=d96977bab6308722903724c553d8533167fc60e7fb2ac2f155767f237d0c0ac4&size=980x&c=2463507236 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays.” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FlZfU9MnEJ4di0.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D94%26h%3Dd96977bab6308722903724c553d8533167fc60e7fb2ac2f155767f237d0c0ac4%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2463507236%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=””]

However, finding time to be as active as possible will earn you a solid path to a healthier lifestyle.

Sitting all day can contribute to some significant risk factors like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. No one wants to fall ill because of the all the stressors they encounter while at work. If this sounds like your current lifestyle, there is a way to counteract these future medical conditions — exercise.

But how much is enough? Well, keep reading.


Also Read: 4 health benefits of drinking the coffee in your MREs

According to Tech Insider, a massive study was reviewed that researched one million people around the world and scientists concluded that finding at least one hour per day of aerobic exercise reduced the chance of developing life-threatening ailments.

To prevent the harmful elements of sitting all day, it’s recommended to take breaks throughout the day to do some physical activity. This might mean waking up 30 minutes earlier for a brisk walk, biking to work, using the lunch hour to run in the park, or cut down on television time in the evening to lift weights. Even getting up and walking for a few minutes each hour will do wonders for your health.

Finding the necessary time for aerobic exercise has also been known to mitigate existing health problems. Luckily, gym professionals have developed easy-to-follow 7-minute exercise routines that require virtually no gym equipment and can fit anyone’s schedule if they’re willing to attempt the program.

The workout consists of 12 different exercises that you’ll do for 30 seconds each, with a rest period of 10 seconds before moving onto the next aerobic movement.

This program is specially designed for those people with crazy schedules who only have small windows available to get their heart rates increased.

Check out the Tech Insider video below for details on why exercise is important — especially if you’re sitting all day.