Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet's life - We Are The Mighty
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Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.


Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”

Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.

“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”

Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.

“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”

Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.

“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”

On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.

“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”

It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.

“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”

Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.

“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”

It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.

“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”

CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.

The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.

“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.

Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”

Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).

“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”

Now: Artist takes his craft to war and back again

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Here’s how to make it to the CrossFit Games while on active duty

Think you can hack competing as a top CrossFit athlete while on active duty? Former Navy SEAL and top CrossFit athlete Josh Bridges thinks so, too.


Bridges, who while a member of SEAL Team 3 placed second in the 2011 worldwide CrossFit championship, known as the Games, told Military.com that given enough motivation, dedication and a friendly command, an active duty athlete could have what it takes.

“As long you had the right command who was willing to be like ‘yeah, we’ll let you train’ – as long as you’re doing your job and getting all that stuff done, why not?” Bridges told Military.com during a recent interview. “I think it’s doable.”

Since 2011 when he first competed while on active duty, Games-level CrossFit competition has shifted from a field of athletes who hold full time jobs outside of the sport, to athletes who train fulltime. That change, Bridges said, would undoubtedly make it harder for an active duty service member today to make it than it was for him in 2011.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
DoD photo by Sgt. Ruth Pagan.

Still, he said “If you really want to be a competitive athlete and be in the military at the same time, it’s doable. You’re going to have to put in long hours, and when your friends and buddies are going out to the bars on the weekends, you’re not going to be able to. … There’s going to be some sacrifices you’re going to have to be willing to make.”

To make the Games while on active duty he said he had to get permission from his Chief to miss some training. He also had to sacrifice a lot of time at home.

Also read: This former NFL player started a gym to help wounded warriors

“It was tough,” he said. “There were definitely days where I’d be out doing land warfare drills in 105 degree temperatures, and then on a one or two hour break in the middle of the day, I’d have to go into the gym and train. You definitely had to set your priorities right and just be like ‘this is what I have to do if I want to go to the Games. It is what it is.'”

Competing at Games level and successfully training as a SEAL share some of the same skills, Bridges said, in that sometimes you have to just “shut your brain off” about the physical demands.

“In CrossFit, at the Games, you’re going to be asked to do workouts that you’ve never done and movements that you’ve never practiced,” he said. “Being a SEAL is the same way – you almost have to shut your brain off and stop thinking. …You definitely have to be 110 percent into it.”

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ross

Bridges, 34, finished first this year in CrossFit’s California regional Games qualifier and will compete in the Games in Madison, Wisconsin August 3 to 6. Bridges left the Navy in 2015 as an E-6, and spent the last three years of his active duty time in a training command as a master training specialist while rehabbing from knee surgery for a torn ACL, PCL and MCL sustained during deployment.

Anyone familiar with CrossFit knows that thanks to the sport’s focus on movements that rely heavily on knee strength and mobility, including heavy barbell and odd weight work, getting back into competition shape after a major knee injury is no small feat. But Bridges said he keeps the fire burning by focusing on his goals.

“It’s not easy, for sure, to sit there and go into the gym day in and day out and grind, and grind and grind,” he said. “When I went to start competing I had a goal to win the Games. I fell just short. After the injury I was like ‘hey, you can have same goes, it’s just really going to be hard. … I’m a little hard-headed sometimes, that once I have that goal, I’m going to make it happen no matter what.”
Articles

This is what you need to know about Hawaii’s ancient special forces

Hawaii has a very different history than the rest of the United States. The islands’ native culture thrives in its memory, perhaps because that “destiny” didn’t manifest itself in Hawaii like it did in the lower 48.


Related: This martial art was originally developed to beat up Nazis

It’s a tribute to Hawaiians’ strong links to the past that so much is known about the islands’ ancient culture. But Hawaiians weren’t always a unified people. Each island had its own chief who vied for power among the others.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Hawaiian Koa Warriors fighting using the Lua art.

To attack a rival’s island, a chief couldn’t just get 50,000 guys on chariots to roll over to their territory like rulers could in the ancient Middle East. Wars required amphibious operations and small unit combat.

Enter the Koa Warriors.

The Koa were the elite among the regular armies. They fought with Lua, the Hawaiian martial art, and went into combat barely clothed. Their main tactic involved using less-skilled fighters to shoot projectile weapons on an enemy. And when the enemy infantry closed in, the Koa would pummel them into submission.

Beat that, Ohio.

They used a variety of weapons, from the oars they rowed with shark-tooth edges, to knuckle dusters, daggers, and garrottes.

Learn more in the video:

American Heroes Channel

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The Philippine military has wiped out an ISIS training camp

ISIS-linked militants in the Southern Philippines have conducted a series of violent clashes with government forces, killing at least 7 soldiers but suffering the loss of over a dozen fighters.


Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Philippine Marines train on automatic weapons in classes from the US Marine Corps. Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerome S. Tayborn

The militants come from at least three separate groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS. One of the smaller groups launched an attack on a small army outpost on Mindinao, an island in the southern Philippines. The Philippine Army repelled the attack and then countered, killing 12 militants but losing six of their own soldiers.

The counterattack was aimed at an ISIS training camp. ISIS flags have been flying at camps on Mindinao for months, but it’s not clear if these are new camps or just new flags.

In fighting with other ISIS-aligned groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Philippine Forces lost another soldier but killed an unknown number of militants.

The group Abu Sayyaf was routed in Dec. 2015 when 300 Philippine soldiers with artillery and air support attacked the main camps and killed their leader, Najib Hussein. But, they’ve continued to attack government positions throughout the south.

“[Islamic State] influence is growing stronger and it is expanding,” Rodolfo Mendoza, a senior analyst at the Manila-based Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research told AFP.

Despite Philippine forces finding ISIS flags, bandanas, and other items on the battlefield, other experts assert that the Philippine groups’ allegiance to ISIS is just a ploy for the Islamic State’s money and weapons.

“It really has nothing to do with ideology,” Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College, told reporters. “This is all about resources.”

The groups involved in the worst of the fighting have existed for years longer than ISIS, and their violence has been going on for years.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Interview: U.S. lung-disease expert on coronavirus symptoms, treatment, prevention

Ognjen Gajic, a lung expert and critical care specialist at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota, was interviewed by Ajla Obradovic, a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, about the coronavirus and the disease’s symptoms and treatment.


RFE/RL: How fast does a person’s health worsen after becoming infected? It seems that patients diagnosed with the coronavirus die rather quickly but recover more slowly compared to other diseases? Or is that an incorrect impression?

Ognjen Gajic: Critical illness [in people with the coronavirus] occurs on average after seven days of mild symptoms. From the moment one starts experiencing shortness of breath, [a patient’s condition can worsen] rapidly, sometimes within a few hours, and then intensive monitoring in a hospital intensive care unit is critical.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

RFE/RL: How are COVID-19 patients treated? Is there a standard procedure?

Gajic: Most patients have mild symptoms and there is no specific treatment thus far other than controlling the symptoms — paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) for fever, weakness, and the like. Untested forms of treatment can be dangerous due to side effects and should not be used until research shows they are efficient.

I deal with the treatment of the critically ill, so I can say more about [those patients]. In many of them, the [COVID-19] disease progresses to severe bilateral pneumonia characterized by shortness of breath and hypoxia (that means oxygen deprivation in body tissue).

These patients should be immediately taken to the hospital for oxygen treatment and their condition should be constantly monitored so it is possible to respond in time [to these problems] with intense respiratory support, including respirators. Sophisticated intensive care with control and support of all organs is successful in about 50 percent of the most severely ill cases, although some patients may be on a respirator for several weeks before recovering or dying.

So far there is no proven specific treatment [for COVID-19] and untested experimental drugs should not be prescribed without the proper research [being conducted]. We are working with colleagues around the world on a day-to-day basis on research projects for new treatments and prevention.

RFE/RL: Is there any data so far on the underlying diseases that are, in some way, more pernicious in combination with the coronavirus?

Gajic: Rather than specific diseases, more important is [someone’s] physiological condition as far as their lungs and [general fitness]; elderly patients who are not fit and those with severe forms of chronic lung or heart disease have little reserve and little chance of successfully enduring intensive respiratory treatment.

RFE/RL: How much more infectious is the coronavirus than other communicable diseases and what is the best way for people to protect themselves? In the Czech Republic, for example, they require everyone to wear masks in public, while the World Health Organization has not cited this as essential for people who are not infected. Can you give some specific tips on protection?

Gajic: Masks should be left to health-care professionals. A thorough hand washing with soap and water is by far the most important tip and, at this point, isolation from all but essential contacts — especially groups — must be respected. Also, before coming to a health-care facility, first make contact by phone, since it is safer to stay home for home treatment if one is showing mild symptoms.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Mayo Clinic

RFE/RL: I understand you worked with your colleagues from Wuhan. What is it that other countries can learn from them and apply in their response to the pandemic?

Gajic: Several colleagues from Wuhan hospitals have been at the Mayo Clinic in recent years and we have been doing joint research. At the beginning of the epidemic in Wuhan, we sent support in terms of treatment guidelines and [medical] staff protection. Now they are helping us. After some initial setbacks, our colleagues in Wuhan, with rigorous isolation measures, adequate equipment, and training, were able to prevent their health-care professionals from becoming sick despite working with critically ill patients.

RFE/RL: The latest information shows that the United States now has the largest number of infected people. Did the U.S. response to the epidemic come too late?

Gajic: I’m not an epidemiologist so I can’t comment on that. When it comes to the critically ill, U.S. hospitals provide fantastic care in these difficult conditions.

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

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The soldier who was conscripted to fight for the Soviets, the Japanese, and the Germans in World War II

A lot of things happened on D-Day- the largest seaborne invasion in history took place; James “Scotty” Doohan from Star Trek fame was shot six times by his fellow countrymen; and Mad Jack Churchill stormed the beach with a sword and a bow.


Another unusual thing that occurred was the capture of what initially was assumed to be a Japanese soldier in a German uniform by American paratroopers.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Wikipedia

As it turns out, this soldier was neither Japanese nor German and was in fact a young Korean man who, through a bizarre series of incidents, had been conscripted to fight for the Soviets, the Japanese and the Germans during WW2. This is the story of Yang Kyoungjong.

Little is known about Yang’s life prior to his service in WW2 other than that he was a native Korean who happened to be living in Japanese controlled Manchuria at the start of WW2. Due to this, Yang found himself conscripted against his will in 1938 and forced to serve in the Kwantung Army at just 18 years old.

After basic training, Yang was sent to take part in what has since become known as the Battles of Khalkha Gol, along the borders of Manchuria.

These battles were mostly fought between the Kwantung Army and a combined force consisting of Mongolian and Soviet troops (the two countries were allies at the time) around the Khalkha River, which the Japanese insisted fell within the borders of Manchuria, despite claims to the contrary from Mongolia.

During one particularly heated battle, Yang was captured by the Soviets in 1939 and sent to a labor camp. If the Soviet Union hadn’t suffered intense casualties fighting Nazi Germany on the Eastern front in the latter half of the war, this is probably where Yang would have stayed for the duration of WW2.

But as its pool of able bodied men had been severely depleted by extensive engagements against the Nazis, Soviet military officials made the decision in 1942 to replenish their fighting force by “drafting” thousands of POWs. Among the soldiers drafted was Yang who was once again forcibly made to join the fight in WW2- this time under the Soviet Flag.

Yang’s service with the Soviets lasted about a year, during which time he took place in numerous engagements along the Eastern Front, most notably the Third Battle of Kharkov. It was in this battle that he found himself once again a prisoner of war for yet another nation.

The Germans were apparently unconcerned with how a Korean had come to end up fighting in Ukraine for the Soviets and simply took him prisoner along with hundreds of other soldiers. Again, the interesting part about Yang’s story would likely have ended here if the Nazis weren’t in the habit of allowing prisoners they didn’t execute to “volunteer” to serve with the Wehrmacht following their capture.

As a result of this practise, Yang was conscripted to fight in a German Ostbataillone (literally: East Battalion) in the 709 Infanterie-Division of the Wehrmacht.

For the curious, Ostbataillones were small battalions of men comprised of “volunteers” from the numerous regions of Europe Nazi Germany controlled. These were folded into larger units of German soldiers to serve as shock troops and backup to more experienced Wehrmacht battalions.

After being conscripted to fight for the Third Reich, Yang was sent to help defend the Cotentin peninsula in France shortly before D-Day. When D-Day arrived and Allied troops successfully stormed the beaches, Yang was among a handful of soldiers captured by the United States’ 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Initially it was reported by Lieutenant Robert Brewer of the 506th that they’d captured “four Asians in German uniform”. While this was technically true, the 506th mistakenly believed the four men (Yang included) were Japanese. In reality, three of the men hailed from Turkestan while Yang, as already noted, was of Korean heritage.

Unable to communicate with Yang due to him not being fluent in either English or German, Yang was sent to yet another POW camp, this time in Britain, where he mercifully remained until the end of the war.

When WW2 ended, Yang chose not to return home, but instead immigrated to the United States where once again his story becomes hazy. The only thing we can find for sure about Yang’s life after WW2 is that he eventually ended up settling in Cook County, Illinois where he quietly passed away in 1992.

Very unfortunately for those of us who like all the little details of a story, such as Yang’s thoughts on his experiences in WW2 and how he got through it all, after the war, Yang never talked publicly about his WW2 misadventure. In fact, according to a December of 2002 article on Yang that appeared in Weekly Korea, he didn’t even discuss

it with his three children, leaving us to wonder.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

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


AIR FORCE:

An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., March 4, 2016. Multiple aircraft within Air Combat Command conducted joint aerial training that showcased tactical air and ground maneuvers as well as weapons capabilities.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia

A CV-22 Osprey deploys a tactical air control party onto the ground of Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Mar. 4, 2016. Multiple aircraft within Air Combat Command conducted joint combat rescue and aerial training that showcased tactical air and ground maneuvers as well as weapons capabilities.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 3rd BCT, 101st ABN DIV (AASLT), conduct air assault operations during a field training exercise at U.S. Army Fort Campbell, Ky., March 14, 2016. The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Soldiers partnered with UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopter crews from 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division to prepare for their upcoming rotation to JRTC and Fort Polk, La.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado

A soldier, assigned to 25th Infantry Division, fires a M2 machine gun during an exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, March 13, 2016.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
US Army photo

Soldiers assigned to the Louisiana National Guard, use a bridge erection boat to assist residents impacted by recent flooding near Ponchatoula, La., March 13, 2016

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Army photo courtesy of The National Guard

NAVY:

EAST SEA (March 16, 2016) Forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) conducts fueling operations with guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67). Bonhomme Richard is the flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and is participating in Exercise Ssang Yong 2016. SY16 is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward-deployed forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeanette Mullinax

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 10, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrols the eastern Pacific Ocean. Lassen is currently underway in support of Operation Martillo, a joint operation with the U.S. Coast Guard and partner nations within the 4th Fleet area of responsibility.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 13, 2016) The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) fires its MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun during a weapons training exercise. San Jacinto is currently underway preparing for a future deployment.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines with Golf Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Republic of Korea Marines assigned to Bravo Battery, 11th Battalion, 1st ROK Division, conduct artillery fire missions at Sanseori, South Korea, as part of Exercise Ssang Yong 16, March 15, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army forces in order to strengthen interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena

A U.S. Navy Corpsman assigned to Field Medical Training Battalion East (FMTB-E), checks on members of his squad during a final exercise (FINEX) at Camp Johnson, N.C., March 1, 2016. FINEX is a culminating event at FMTB-E which transitions Sailors into the Fleet Marine Force.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Oliver Blair, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 3d Marines – “The Lava Dogs” reads during exercise Ssang Yong 16 in South Korea, March 7, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward deployed U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations – from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Marine Corps photos by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Sean M. Evans

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopters stand ready at Air Station Elizabeth City Wednesday, March 10, 2016. Air Station Elizabeth City helicopter crews were at Kill Devil Hills to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Coast Guard’s aviation program with formation flights and a classic painting scheme.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist David Lau

Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews fly flight formations at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Wednesday, March 10, 2016. Air Station Elizabeth City helicopter crews were at Kill Devil Hills to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Coast Guard’s aviation program with formation flights and a classic painting scheme.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Auxiliarist David Lau)

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos this week

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


NAVY

Sailors spell out #USA with the American flag on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in honor of the nation’s upcoming Independence Day weekend.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jackie Hart/USN

Sailors run after chocks and chaining an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) on the flight deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Mass Communications 3rd Class David A. Cox/USN

MARINE CORPS

Marines assigned to Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to conduct a high altitude high opening (HAHO) jump from a CH-53 Super Stallion during category 3 sustainment training in Louisburg, North Carolina.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Cpl. Andre Dakis/USMC

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, watch the sunset as the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima sails through the Suez Canal.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Lance Cpl. Austin A. Lewis/USMC

AIR FORCE

An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron increases altitude shortly after takeoff at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich/USAF

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Armament Flight perform an inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon 20mm Gatlin gun at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/USAF

ARMY

Soldiers, assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo, help load a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter onto a United States Air Force C-17 at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, for transport to Fort Bragg, N.C.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jessica Condit/US Army

A Soldier, assigned to 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, conducts explosives-detection and bite training with his working dog, Andy, on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: CW2 Ryan Boas/US Army

Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conduct a patrol during Exercise Marne Focus at Fort Stewart, Ga.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Sgt. Joshua Laidacker/US Army

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR WATCH: ‘America Ninja Warrior’ made a course inspired by Navy SEAL training:

Articles

Red Army Choir wiped out in tragic Black Sea plane crash

The Christmas Day crash of a Tupelov Tu-154 off the coast of Sochi, a Black Sea resort town in Russia, killed all 92 people on board. Among the dead are 60 members of the Red Army Choir.


The Red Army Choir had a viral moment when they sang backup to a cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” done by the Leningrad Cowboys. One Youtube video is below:

The choir members killed were part of the Alexandrov Ensemble, according to a CNN report. The choir was slated to perform for Russian military personnel at the Khmeimim air base in Syria.

According to the choir’s iTunes page, the group took first place at the Paris International Exposition in 1937, and features a male chorus, with dancers and an orchestra.

The impact of this crash on Russia could be compared to the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash that killed rock-and-roll artists Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, or the loss of band leader Glenn Miller in unexplained circumstances while en route to Europe on Dec, 15, 1944.

A 2009 photo of the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo from Wikiemdia Commons) A 2009 photo of the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo from Wikiemdia Commons)

In a statement on Facebook, the director of the MVD’s Red Army Choir, Gen. Victor Eliseev, said, “Today we are in the shock of the catastrophe in which our colleges of the Alexandrov Choirs and Dances disappeared. Not only were they our colleagues, but a very important military art company, and I am shocked to learn of the disappearance of their leader, my fellow student and friend General Valery Khalilov, with whom we studied and professed together at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. It is a terrible loss for Russian music and art.”

“All members of the Red Army Chorus MVD of the Russian National Guard join me in expressing their friendship to the families of the members of the Alexandrov Ensemble and the families of all the victims of this tragedy and to address our feelings to them more affectionate in this dramatic moment,” Eliseev added.

 

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How to get a defense industry job without a clearance

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
A Navy contractor explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel. Gonzalo Bastidas, from Navy Munitions Command CONUS West Division, Unit Seal Beach, explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel at the Standard Missile shop at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. The missile shop visit is part of a familiarization tour for members of the International Standard Missile Users Group. The Standard is the Navy’s primary area air defense missile and is also used by many allied navies around the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Eli J. Medellin)


The defense industry is not only filled with upwardly mobile careers, but it is teeming with demand for candidates. To top it off, these employers really want veterans and tend to offer excellent financial packages for truly interesting and vital jobs.

The catch is, well, almost all these jobs require candidates to have a current clearance in order to be considered. Do you have one? Maybe you already do and you’re already game, or maybe you have one but it’s not a high enough clearance to fit into the typical defense industry position.

If you aren’t the proud owner of a clearance, don’t despair: It’s an uphill hike but still possible if you are willing to consider some options. If you are, you’re in luck … you may just be the right person to land one of these defense jobs that don’t require a clearance.

How, you ask?

With a little bit of fairy dust … and a plan.

Every industry needs support and planning. Behind all those defense industry jobs and workers is a cadre of specialists working to ensure the whole thing runs. Even if your end goal is to work within the cleared field, these positions can provide a gateway to get you where you want to go.

Contracts:

Someone has to identify, write and present contract bids for defense contractors to obtain government work. If the military needs a new set of aircraft, they go shopping among company bids with an eye on cost and potential effectiveness of the company on delivering quality equipment on time.

Recruitment:

With successful contract bids come the need for skilled employees who can live up to the company’s promises. Many defense industry employers maintain a lively team of recruiters, recruitment coordinators and administrative staff to hire and maintain an effective and talented resource of employees.

Human Resources:

Once that team is constructed, a staff dedicated to managing hiring packages, medical, dental and education benefits, as well as employee pay, is vital to make the operation work smoothly.

Maybe you aren’t interested in support jobs and would rather work within the cleared sector of the defense industry. There are still a couple avenues you can pursue. You can apply for defense jobs that do require a clearance, but you don’t necessarily need to currently hold one.

Here’s some options:

Apply to Directly:

Government agencies are less hamstringed by the need to have a preexisting clearance for potential personnel and are more likely to hire the right fit despite clearance status. The process for this is usually quite long, so have a plan in place while you work through the federal hiring process.

Note: Keep an eye on the political atmosphere, since agencies are affected by any federal hiring freezes.

Education Programs:

Many government agencies and some defense contractors have programs that provide direct connections to educational institutions and in-demand fields of study. If you were already interested in mathematics, for example, you may find an agency program that mentors student mathematicians with an eye for post-graduation hire. These programs target majors that are in high demand.

So, yes! It is possible to work in the defense industry. Fairy dust helps, but if you know the jobs that don’t require a clearance, you can snag yourself an opportunity. Support the greater defense community or work toward clearance sponsorship by getting your education and employment set up in one fell swoop.

You got this.

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Tyler Perry just bought this old Army base

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo: Courtesy Fort McPherson


Georgia’s Fort McPherson, the historic Army base that operated in suburban Atlanta from 1885–2011, has been sold to filmmaker Tyler Perry, who plans to redevelop the facility as movie studio.

Perry will control 330 of the facility’s 448 acres and has plans to build up to 16 soundstages. His $30 million purchase includes the post’s former golf course, key office buildings and the fort’s historic parade grounds and officers’ quarters.

A civilian agency has been tasked with redeveloping 144 acres of land not included in Perry’s purchase. Those plans could include rehabbing the fort’s historic village in the northeast quadrant of the post and turning it into neighborhood retail and restaurants.

Tyler Perry has become a major player in Georgia’s growing film industry and the new studio will house his company’s 350 employees.

Before its establishment as an Army base in 1885, the land was used as a Confederate base during the Civil War and later as a post for Federal troops occupying Atlanta during Reconstruction.

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The Army needs to keep soldiers so badly, it’s offering $90K bonuses

Struggling to expand its ranks, the Army will triple the amount of bonuses it’s paying this year to more than $380 million, including new incentives to woo reluctant soldiers to re-enlist, officials told The Associated Press.


Some soldiers could get $90,000 up front by committing to another four or more years, as the Army seeks to reverse some of the downsizing that occurred under the Obama administration after years of growth spurred by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The enlistment campaign was driven by Congress’ decision late last year to beef up the size of the Army, echoing the spirit if not quite the extent of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to significantly increase military staffing and firepower.

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US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

Last fall, Trump unveiled a plan that would enlarge the Army to 540,000 soldiers. Army leaders back the general idea, but say more men and women must be accompanied by funding for the equipment, training, and support for them.

Under the current plan, the active duty Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers, taking it to 476,000 in total by October. The National Guard and the Army Reserve will see a smaller expansion.

To meet the mandate, the Army must find 6,000 new soldiers, convince 9,000 current soldiers to stay on, and add 1,000 officers.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, said in an interview at his office in Fort Bragg, N.C. “I’m not going to kid you. It’s been difficult because a lot of these kids had plans and their families had plans.”

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Gen. Robert Abrams. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill

In just the last two weeks, the Army has paid out more than $26 million in bonuses.

The biggest hurdle, according to senior Army leaders, is convincing thousands of enlistees who are only months away from leaving the service to sign up for several more years. Many have been planning their exits and have turned down multiple entreaties to stay.

“The top line message is that the Army is hiring,” said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, who recently became the service’s head of Human Resources Command.

Evans said the Army was expanding “responsibly with a focus on quality,” insisting there will be no relaxation of standards.

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US Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

It is a clear reference to last decade, when the Army eased recruitment rules to meet combat demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. At their peak, more than 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq and about 100,000 were in Afghanistan. To achieve those force levels, the Army gave more people waivers to enlist, including those with criminal or drug use records.

The Army vows it won’t do that again, focusing instead on getting soldiers to re-enlist. Money is the key.

The Army’s $550 billion base budget, approved by Congress last month, will provide money for the financial incentives. The latest round of increased bonuses, which became effective less than two weeks ago, are good for at least the next month.

Cyber posts, cryptologists, or other intelligence or high tech jobs with certain language skills are particularly rewarded. They can get between $50,000 and $90,000 by agreeing to serve another three to five years. Army special forces can also qualify for top level incentives. But more routine jobs — such as some lower level infantry posts — may get nothing, or just a couple of thousand dollars.

The new bonuses have triggered a spike in re-enlistments, said Mst. Sgt. Mark Thompson, who works with Army retention policies, saying there have been more than 2,200 since May 24.

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(Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Charlie Emmons)

The Army is about three-quarters of the way to its goal for re-enlistments. But meeting the ultimate target is difficult because the remaining pool of soldiers is comprised of people who “have said no for a long time,” Thompson said.

Normally, he said, about a third of eligible soldiers re-enlist each year. This year, the goal requires nearly three-quarters signing on for more years.

In some cases, the personal touch can help.

Across Fort Bragg from Abrams’ office, deep in the woods, soldiers from an 82nd Airborne Division unit are conducting a live fire exercise. While evaluating the troops, Col. Greg Beaudoin, commander of 3rd Brigade, also is doing his part to meet the re-enlistment objective.

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Photo courtesy of US Army

“I don’t think he knows what he wants to do yet in life,” Beaudoin said of a soldier on his staff that he urged to re-enlist. “So I told him, ‘Here is an opportunity. Just extend for a year until you figure it out. The army is offering you an opportunity. Take your time to figure out what you want to do.'”

Beaudoin said he thinks up to a fifth of his soldiers may stay on, crediting the bonuses for making the choice more attractive.

But the clock is ticking.

“Time is our biggest challenge,” Evans said.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

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


AIR FORCE:

Airmen from the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load a missile-guided bomb into an F-35A Lightning II at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 16, 2015. Flightline munitions load training allows crews to practice in a realistic work environment.

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Photo by Senior Airman Andrea Posey/USAF

Staff Sgt. Christopher Rector, a 459th Airlift Squadron special missions aviator, keeps his eyes on the water off the coast of Tokyo Oct. 28, 2015. The crew delivered simulated medical supplies to Miakejima Island, showcasing Yokota’s ability to augment the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s disaster relief efforts.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker/USAF

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, act as opposing forces during react-to-contact training, part of Exercise Combined Resolve V at U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 29, 2015.

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Photo by Sgt. Brian Chaney/US Army

U.S. Army officer candidates, from the Minnesota National Guard Officer Candidate School, conduct a 10-mile ruck march at Camp Ripley, Minn., Oct. 25, 2015.

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey/US Army

NAVY:

STRAIT OF MAGELLAN (Nov. 1, 2015) Sailors take photos on the flight deck as aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) transits the Strait of Magellan. Washington is deployed as a part of Southern Seas 2015.

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Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bryan Mai/USN

MAYPORT, Fla. (Nov. 3, 2015) The Chinese Jiangkai II-class frigate Yiyang (FFG 548) pulls into Naval Station Mayport. USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) will host China’s People’s Liberation Army-Navy [PLA(N)] for a routine port visit to Mayport, Fla.

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Photo by Lt. Stephanie Turo/USN

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. (Oct. 31, 2015) Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Trevor Thompson presents the Star-Spangled Banner during a demonstration at The Great Georgia Air Show. The Navy Parachute Team is based in San Diego and performs aerial parachute demonstrations around the nation in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting.

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Photo by James Woods/USN

MARINE CORPS:

Trinity Marines fire the BGM-71 missile during exercise Lava Viper, one of the staples of their pre-deployment training, at Range 20 aboard Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Oct. 24, 2015. Lava Viper provides the Hawaii-based Marines with an opportunity to conduct various movements, live-fire and tactical training.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo by Lance Cpl. Harley Thomas/USMC

A Light Armored Vehicle attached to 4th Marine Division, sits on the horizon during exercise Trident Juncture 2015 in Almería, Spain, Oct. 30, 2015. The exercise provided an opportunity for Reserve Marines to gain experience within their military occupational specialty and demonstrates their readiness in conjunction with other foreign nationals.

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life
Photo by Cpl Gabrielle Quire/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Ready, aim, fire! Crewmembers aboard Coast Guard Cutter Halibut remain proficient by conducting annual 50-caliber machine gun training off the coast of California.

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Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson/USCG

Surf’s up! Take a ride through the surf all week as U.S. Coast Guard Station Quillayute River, one of 20 USCG surf stations, hosts our official Instagram account:http://instagram.com/uscg

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Photo by USCG

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