The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Several soldiers and a Navy SEAL testified Oct. 25 about the risky, all-out efforts to find Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier’s 2009 disappearance in Afghanistan. Troops and commanders went without sleep. Shirts and socks disintegrated on soldiers during weeks-long patrols. And several service members were seriously wounded — including the Navy commando whose career was ended by AK-47 fire.


The testimony came at a sentencing hearing for Bergdahl, who walked away from a remote post in Afghanistan and was held by Taliban allies for five years. He pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy last week and faces a maximum of life in prison.

Related: This Navy SEAL describes being wounded in search for Bergdahl

The wounded SEAL, retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch, said his team’s helicopters came under fire as they landed in an area near the Pakistan border where they had information on Bergdahl’s possible whereabouts. He said the mission in the days after Bergdahl disappeared was hastily planned, and their only objective was the Bergdahl search.

A military dog leading them through a field located two enemy fighters that the team had seen at a distance. Hatch said the fighters sprayed AK-47 bullets at them, killing the dog. He was hit in the leg.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Former Navy SEAL James Hatch. Photo from Facebook.

“I screamed a lot. It hurt really bad … I thought I was dead,” said Hatch, who entered the courtroom with a limp and a service dog.

Hatch said he believes he would have died if a comrade hadn’t quickly applied a tourniquet. Hatch has subsequently had 18 surgeries.

Also Read: Why alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl doesn’t want a jury trial

He was largely stoic and spoke in measured tones except for several times when he talked about the slain military dog, Remco. Hatch said the dog helped protect his team by locating enemy fighters after the SEALs lost sight of them.

As the hearing got underway, the Army judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance, said he was still considering a motion by the defense to dismiss the case. The defense has argued that President Donald Trump’s comments about Bergdahl prevent him from having a fair sentencing hearing.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
President Donald Trump speaks to US service members and their families. Prior to his election victory, Trump made several harsh statements about Bergdahl. USMC photo by Sgt. Samuel Guerra.

Other soldiers who testified described an exhausting and dangerous around-the-clock effort to find the soldier in the weeks after his disappearance.

Army Col. Clinton Baker, who commanded Bergdahl’s battalion at the time, said one unit on patrol for nearly 40 days straight had their clothing start to disintegrate on their bodies.

“We had to fly socks and T-shirts to them because they had literally just rotted off them,” he said. “We were all doing the best we could.”

Evan Buetow, who served as a sergeant in Bergdahl’s platoon, said he was among three soldiers who were left behind for 10 days to guard the outpost that Bergdahl walked away from near the Afghan town of Mest. The rest of the platoon embarked on a frantic search in the nearby areas.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Observation post Mest-Malak, where Bergdahl was stationed before leaving his post. Photo from Reddit user OnlyBoweKnows.

Sitting in a fortified bunker, Buetow and another soldier suffered stomach flu-like symptoms while trying to stay awake and be vigilant.

“Every single day I think about it,” he said of the heat and ever-present dung beetles. “It was miserable.”

Buetow, who rejoined his platoon on subsequent search missions, broke down in tears when a prosecutor asked him why the guard duty and searches were important.

“I mean, my guy was gone,” he said before reaching for a tissue.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Bowe Bergdahl watches as one of his captors displays his identity tag in this still from a Taliban-released video.

Several more days of testimony are expected.

Prosecutors made no deal to cap Bergdahl’s punishment, so the judge has wide leeway to consider their words in deciding Bergdahl’s sentence.

Related: This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty

The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, has said he was caged by his captors, kept in darkness, and beaten, and tried to escape more than a dozen times before President Barack Obama brought Bergdahl home in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Nance said Oct. 23 that he would be fair and hasn’t been influenced by Trump, but that he does have concerns that the president’s comments are affecting public perceptions.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
USAF Photo by Donna L. Burnett

While campaigning for president, Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a traitor and suggested that he be shot or thrown from a plane without a parachute. Nance ruled in February that those comments didn’t constitute unlawful command influence, noting that Trump was a civilian candidate for president at the time. The defense argued that Trump revived his campaign comments the day of Bergdahl’s plea hearing, by saying at a news conference that he thinks people are aware of what he said before.

Also Oct. 25, the defense said they plan to present evidence that Bergdahl’s mental health should be a mitigating factor in his sentence. He washed out of the Coast Guard after panic attack-like symptoms before enlisting in 2008 in the Army. In July 2015, after his return from captivity, Army evaluators concluded that Bergdahl suffered from schizotypal personality disorder when he left his post in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Green Beret’s kid wrote a book on coping with deployments

When his father deploys, 9-year-old Davidson considers himself “man of the house” — it’s a role he’s filled eight times.

Davidson’s father, Dave Whetstone — the surname is a pseudonym for security reasons — is a Green Beret currently on his tenth deployment. Dave has deployed nearly every year of Davidson’s life, and each time, Davidson “puts on a brave face,” he said.

To help other military families also be brave, the father and son duo recently published a children’s book, “Brave for my Family,” written by Davidson and illustrated by Dave, with some proceeds going to military charities.


The book was released on Veteran’s Day under pen names to protect their identities, and recounts the family’s experience with one of Dave’s deployments after a life-threatening battlefield injury, recovery, and Dave’s return to war — all through Davidson’s eyes.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

“Brave For My Family”

While deployed, Dave tries to stay in touch with his family, he said. In the past, he’s recorded videos of himself — reading bedtime stories, praying, etc. — for his wife, Elizabeth, to replay for their children.

“While Americans are grateful for the sacrifices service members make for our country, it’s the sacrifices they don’t see that are the hardest,” Dave wrote in an email.

Story behind the story

While deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013 — four days shy of Christmas — Dave was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

During the explosion, shrapnel pierced the Green Beret’s face and tore through the right side of his body. It missed his carotid artery by a few millimeters.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Whetstones were with family over the holidays and carried on with their lives, unaware the patriarch of their family was fighting for his.

After the blast, the Special Forces officer suffered life-threatening injuries. He was triaged on the battlefield, and subsequently airlifted to Germany and briefly hospitalized there.

From Germany, Dave returned to the United States and underwent multiple surgeries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he eventually stayed for three-weeks.

Once the Whetstones received the terrible news, they also flew to Washington, D.C., and were reunited with their soldier on Christmas, Davidson said.

Davidson — who was 3 years old at the time — writes about this moment in the book.

“My mom cried, and I was pretty scared my dad was going to die,” he wrote.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

In the book, Dave’s illustration depicts this moment, too. The wounded soldier is in the hospital — he’s battered, with multiple wounds and bandages — but embraced his son.

To this day, the illustration is hard for Elizabeth to see without reliving the memory, she said, because the artwork looks so real.

Also on Christmas day that year, Dave and his family were greeted by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The former VP, who visited wounded troops and their families at the hospital, invited the Whetstones to his home for lunch — an offer they took him up on the following year.

As he recovered, Dave learned his close friend — while also deployed in Afghanistan — was killed in combat. Although he was on convalescent leave, Dave requested special permission to return to Afghanistan and complete his deployment.

The blast claimed the peripheral vision from his right eye, and left parts of the shrapnel lodged in his body. However, Dave doesn’t believe the scars of war are the most painful thing a soldier can experience.

“I have been wounded in combat, I have lost close friends,” Dave wrote. “But, for me some of the toughest pills to swallow are not being there for first words, first steps, first Christmases, first birthdays, and all of the moments that I’ll never see again. The hardest thing is watching my kids grow up in pictures.”

Father and son share their story

Years later — during the summer before Davidson started school — the father and son duo started the foundation for their book. Together, they decided to produce something “that could help kids not be scared if their parents deploy,” Davidson said.

“I know what it’s like to have your dad deployed to a scary place,” Davidson added.

For nearly two years, and in-between deployments, the pair would spend the Sunday afternoons they had, usually after church, being creative together, Elizabeth said.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

“Creating the book was therapeutic for them both,” she added.

For Dave, drawing is a way to organize his thoughts, and a passion that dates back to childhood, he said.

“Illustrating Davidson’s story gave me a strong motivation to create meaningful representation of our family’s sacrifice and courage,” Dave wrote. “It also allowed me to spend time recalling and appreciating the details of our family’s experience, and come to terms with some things.”

Part of the proceeds from the book will go toward charities like the Green Beret Foundation and help support military families and wounded warriors.

“I can’t express how proud I am of my family, and how immeasurably blessed I am to have each of them in my life,” Dave wrote. “I am so proud of Davidson for writing this book. But, if I’m being honest, this is only a snapshot of his talents and passion as a good young man.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 20 years of PCS, milspouse navigates ‘staying put’

I’ve developed an itch.

No, not like that time in college.

The itch to pull up stakes, un-circle the wagons and head West…or East…or…ok you get it.

It’s time to move again. PCS.

It’s a familiar feeling to most military spouses. Birds have an innate sense when it’s time to migrate, and I think military families develop something like that. Every few years it’s time to fly.

It starts as a faint tingling on the back of your neck. Then you see dust bunnies frolicking on top of the refrigerator and decide to ignore them because you’re moving soon, so who cares? Those little freaks start to get it on everywhere — under the bed, the couch, that weird piece that was your grandfather’s that you feel compelled to keep, but have no real place for.


You say to yourself “Go on, spawn away, little humping dust bunnies. Soon a moving van will magically appear and nice men wearing low-slung pants will lift off your illicit hideaways and expose your obscene way of life…along with their butt-cracks.”

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

You download the assignment lists from the BUPERS website and fantasize about the possibilities. You prowl through Zillow, drooling over granite countertops and in-ground pools, and measure the distance to the nearest Target (i.e. bar). When your spouse walks in, you slap the laptop shut like a teenager caught in the act, knowing you’ll be chastised for getting your hopes up too early about one duty station or another.

You start challenging yourself to cook with nothing, but the ingredients in the pantry (coconut milk and chickpea casserole is surprisingly tasty — said no one ever). You stop going to the stock-up sales at the commissary. You secretly purge bags of old clothes and toys from your kids’ rooms while they’re at school and then fake concern over the missing items.

“What?? You can’t find that t-shirt with the torn sleeve and the kool-aid stain that you outgrew two summers ago? Oh no!! Wherever could it be?!” Parenthood Fakery should be an Oscar category…

It’s that time again for our family. We’ve been in China Lake, CA for nearly three years and are scheduled to PCS this summer. Our days wandering in the desert are supposed to be over. I came, I bloomed where I was planted, and now it’s time to go find a new adventure.

Actually, I shriveled up like a California raisin and could plant corn in the furrows that have developed on my forehead.

Regardless — it’s time to go.

Except it’s not.

We’ve been extended.

For an indeterminate amount of time.

What the hell am I supposed to do now?

I find myself more upset about this than I should be. It’s not that I don’t like China Lake. We’ve had a good tour here and I’ll have fond memories and lasting friendships.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

(Photo by Arnel Hasanovic)

It’s that I feel like something is wrong. The routine is off.

Have I become addicted to moving? After nearly 20 years married to the Navy, it’s become part of my DNA.

Neither my husband nor I had ever moved until we left home for college. And once we started regularly relocating, I started to crave the fresh feeling that comes with it. The removal of baggage, so to speak. The cleaning out of cobwebs — mostly from beneath my furniture, but also from the corners of my mind. A wanderlust that says “this place was fine, but what’s around the next corner?”

One would think that I would have resisted such a nomadic life, having never experienced it as a child. But then again, perhaps if I had gotten to escape my surroundings as a kid I wouldn’t have pretended to be a popular cheerleader named Anastasia on my 8th grade trip to Washington DC. Even then I was desperate for reinvention…

And moving every few years gives me that fresh start. I find it very freeing. If I’m not satisfied with my surroundings, I know it’s only temporary. I don’t have the heavy burden of forever (well, I suppose in theory, marriage is forever, but a few more years of stumbling over boots left in the floor will probably take care of that…)

Now I find myself sitting here with the realization that not only am I not moving…but I don’t know when I will. And now I have to reinvent myself right where I am.

But forget about me having to stop obsessing over the future and concentrate on the present. There’s something way more concerning about staying put.

The only fate that is FAR WORSE than having to move.

Now I have to clean my damn house.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Every sports team needs their very own cartoony mascot to get the fans going. Sure, it’s a goofy tradition, but it gets the people cheering and those cheers spur the players on to victory, so no one ever questions it. Military academies are no different.

The Air Force Academy sports the high-flying falcon because it’s the apex predator across much of America’s sky. West Point is represented by the mule because it’s a hardy beast of burden that has carried the Army’s gear into many wars. The Naval Academy, in what seems like a lapse of logic, decided long ago that the best representation of the Navy and Marine Corps’ spirit is a goat.

The use of a goat as their mascot began in 1893 with El Cid the Goat, named after the famed Castilian general. Eventually, they settled on the name “Bill” because, you know, billy goats… And it just gets weirder from there.


The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

From 1847 to 1851, the Naval Academy used a cat as their mascot, which we can presume would’ve hated being paraded in front of large crowds.

(National Archives)

In the Navy’s defense, goats actually served a purpose on Navy vessels back in the days of fully rigged ships. Unlike most livestock that required specialized food, a goat can eat just about any kind of scraps, which is handy on a long voyage. And, once it fulfilled its purpose as a walking garbage disposal, as grim as it sounds, it provided the cooks with a fresh source of meat.

Yet, when the U.S. Naval Academy was founded in 1845, then-Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft chose his favorite animal to be the official mascot of his newly established military academy: the monkey. This didn’t last long because the logo was actually of a gorilla and, as most people know, gorilla’s aren’t monkeys. The next idea was a cat (which actually have a place in Naval history), then a bulldog (before the times of Chesty Puller), and then a carrier pigeon.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Ever since, sailors have enjoyed a long tradition of giving their goats the clever name of ‘Bill.’

​(U.S. Navy Historical Center)

There are two different versions of the story of how the Navy finally got the goat.

The first of those version is simple: The previously mentioned El Cid the Goat appeared at the 1893 Army-Navy football game and its presence, supposedly, helped carry the team to victory. The Navy continued to bounce back and forth between mascots until officially sticking with the goat in 1904. Said goat was re-branded as “Bill,” named after the Commandant of Midshipmen, Commander Colby M. Chester’s pet goat, and the rest is history.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

The biggest takeaway from the legend is the difference between becoming a legend and getting a Captain’s Mast is whether or not you can attribute a Navy victory over West Point on your actions.

(U.S. Navy photo by Joaquin Murietta)

The other version is steeped in legend — and is entirely bizarre. As the story goes, a ship’s beloved pet goat had met its untimely end. Two ensigns were tasked with heading ashore to bring the goat to a taxidermist so that its legacy could live on. The ensigns got lost on their way to the taxidermist, as most butter bars do, and wound up at the Army-Navy game.

The legend never specifies who, exactly, came up with this brilliant idea, but one of them apparently thought, “you know what? f*ck it” and wore the goat’s skin like a cape. During halftime, one ensign ran across the sidelines (because sporting arena security wasn’t a thing then) donning the goat skin and was met with thunderous applause.

Instead of reprimanding the two idiots for clearly doing the exact opposite of what their captain had asked of them, the Naval Academy rolled with it and attributed their victory over the Army to the goat.

This version is kind of suspect because El Cid the Goat was at the fourth game so the goat-skin midshipman would have had to been at one of the three games prior. The first and third games were held at West Point (which is clearly far away from any wandering ensigns) and second Army/Navy game was a victory for Army. But hey! It’s all in good fun.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 30

Yes, 2016 was horrible. Luckily, there are these 13 funny military memes to help you transition to the new year.


1. Chief doesn’t care about your skulls (via Maintainer Humor).

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Actually, he probably does. Just not your feelings.

2. If you wanted to go home, you should have volunteered more during the year (via Air Force Memes Humor).

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Now, you’re on the watch list for New Year’s Eve.

ALSO SEE: US Air Force pilots donned Santa hats during Christmas Day airstrike on ISIS

3. This is why troops go through the soldier readiness center (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Actually, his men were brought down by lice.

4. “How can we make sure people know to leave the door closed?”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

5. “First question: Can I opt out?”

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

6. Ugh. don’t remind me (via The Salty Soldier).

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
But hey, only three more Christmas block leaves until ETS.

7. They only care if they’re liable (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Once you’re gone, you’re gone.

8. The M88 can fix whatever you did wrong (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Well, it can pull your mistakes out of the desert anyway.

9. Why not both?

(via Shit my LPO says)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Just make sure to do plenty of stuff both right and wrong, so they have lots of learning opportunities.

10. If Santa keeps groping the dude’s shoulders like that, he might need the penicillin (via Military World).

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

11. At least he’s got that Air Force mustache (via Maintainer Humor).

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Hey, it’s an important Air Force tradition.

12. When your sidearm weighs 40 pounds and has an anger problem:

(via Military World)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
The left dog looks super bored with the whole procedure. “He never lets me fire the rifle.”

13. Jet fuel doesn’t melt steel beams, but chemtrail boxes might (via Maintainer Humor)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Knowing our luck, they would make the paratroops sit on the boxes, even when they leak.

Special bonus meme 1:

(via U.S Army W.T.F! moments)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Special bonus meme 2:

(via The Salty Soldier)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking care of people is key to success on battlefield

Gen. James McConville smiled as he reminisced of when he was chosen to lead the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), before he became its longest-serving commander.

It was the same week in 2011 he commissioned his eldest son into the Army after he graduated as an ROTC cadet from Boston College.

But perhaps the most proud was his father, a former enlisted sailor who had served in the Korean War and then spent nearly 50 years working at the Boston Gear factory.

At the ceremony, his father, Joe, was asked by a local newspaper how he felt about his family’s generations of military service.


Sixty years ago, he told the reporter, he was a junior seaman on a ship. And today, his son was about to command a famed Army division and his grandson was now a second lieutenant.

“‘What a great country this is,'” McConville recalled his father saying. “I don’t think I could have said it better.”

McConville, who was sworn in as the Army’s 40th chief of staff on Aug. 9, 2019, said he credits his father for inspiring him to join the military.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

(Photo by Spc. Markus Bowling))

After high school, McConville left Quincy, a suburb of Boston, and attended the U.S. Military Academy, where he graduated in 1981. Since then his 38-year career has been marked with milestones and key assignments.

McConville has led multiple units in combat before most recently serving as the 36th vice chief of staff under Gen. Mark Milley, who will be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also oversaw the Army’s G-1 (personnel) and legislative liaison offices.

The idea of serving the country was sparked by his father, who, now nearing 90 years old, still passionately shares stories of his time in the military.

“I was always amazed that a man who I had tremendous respect for, who had tremendous character, just really loved his time serving in the Navy,” the general said.

Currently with three children and a son-in-law in the Army, McConville and his wife, Maria, a former Army officer herself, are continuing the family business.

People first

The sense of family for McConville, though, extends beyond bloodlines.

As a father and a leader, McConville understands the importance of taking care of every person in the Army, which he calls the country’s most respected institution.

“People are the Army,” he said of soldiers, civilians and family members. “They are our greatest strength, our most important weapon system.”

Fine-tuning that weapon system means, for instance, providing soldiers with the best leadership, training and equipment through ongoing modernization efforts.

As the vice chief, McConville and current acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy supervised the development of Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams.

Designed to tackle modernization priorities, the CFTs revamped how the Army procures new equipment. The teams allow soldiers to work directly with acquisition and requirements experts at the start of projects, resulting in equipment being delivered faster to units.

Modernization efforts are also changing how soldiers will fight under the new concept of multi-domain operations.

“When I talk about modernization, there are some that think it is just new equipment,” he said. “But, to me, it is much more than that.”

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

The family of Gen. James McConville poses for a photo during a promotion ceremony in honor of his son, Capt. Ryan McConville, in his office at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., May 2, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

He believes a new talent management system, which is still being developed, will help soldiers advance in their careers.

As the Army pivots from counterinsurgency missions to great power competition against near-peer rivals, the system could better locate and recognize soldiers with certain skillsets the service needs to win.

“If we get them in the right place at the right time,” he said, “we’ll have even a better Army than we have right now.”

The talent of Army civilians, which he says are the “institutional backbone of everything we do,” should also be managed to ensure they grow in their positions, too.

As for family members, he said they deserve good housing, health care, childcare and spousal employment opportunities.

“If we provide a good quality of life for our families, they will stay with their soldiers,” he said.

Winning matters

All of these efforts combine into a two-pronged goal for McConville — an Army that is ready to fight now while at the same time being modernized for the future fight.

“Winning matters,” he said. “When we send the United States Army somewhere, we don’t go to participate, we don’t go to try hard. We go to win. That is extremely important because there’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”

Readiness, he said, is built by cohesive teams of soldiers that are highly trained, disciplined and fit and can win on the battlefield.

“We’re a contact sport,” he said. “They need to make sure that they can meet the physical and mental demands.”

To help this effort, a six-event readiness assessment, called the Army Combat Fitness Test, is set to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been around since 1980.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Gen. James McConville, the Army vice chief of staff, swears in recruits during a break in the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The new strenuous fitness test, which is gender- and age-neutral, was developed to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks and reduce injuries. It is expected to be the Army’s fitness test of record by October 2020.

Soldiers also need to sharpen their characteristic traits that make them more resilient in the face of adversity, he said.

Throughout his career, especially in combat, McConville said he learned that staying calm under pressure was the best way to handle stress and encourage others to complete the mission.

In turn, being around soldiers in times of peace or war kept McConville motivated when hectic days seem to never end.

“Every single day I get to serve in the company of heroes,” he said. “There are some people who look for their heroes at sporting events … or movie theaters, but my heroes are soldiers.

“My heroes are soldiers because I have seen them do extraordinary things in very difficult situations,” he added. “I’m just incredibly proud to serve with them.”

And given his new role overseeing the entire Army, he is now ultimately responsible for every single one of those “heroes.”

“I know having three kids who serve in the military that their parents have sent their most important possession to the United States Army,” he said, “and they expect us, in fact they demand, that we take care of them.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is a monument of a man

I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).


Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.

It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.

Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.

As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.

Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?

DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”

What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?

DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.

Special? How so?

DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.

Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?

DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.

Kosovo? What was that like?

DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.

Do you have a family history of military service?

DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.

Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?

DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.

So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?

DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?

DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.

Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…

DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.

A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?

DB: Yeah, November 10th [2004] was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.

And you were a squad leader at this point?

DB: Yeah.

How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?

DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.

Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?

DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.

You did much more than support.

DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.

And then your soldiers get trapped inside?

DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?

DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.

And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?

DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.

And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?

DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”

With the enemy still in the house?

DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”

That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.

DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.

Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?

DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.

Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?

DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.

What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?

DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.

And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?

DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?

DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.

You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?

DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.

One last question. Do you still smoke?

DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.

Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?

DB: No, you got it.

Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Army plans to ditch its transport fleet

The legend about the Army having more boats than the Navy hasn’t been true since World War II, but the Army’s fleet of about 130 ships support combat and logistical operations around the world, especially in inhospitable or underdeveloped environments.

According to several reports, the Army plans to scuttle much of its boat fleet and reassign the soldiers manning them.


At least 18 of the Army’s more than 30 landing craft utility — versatile, 174-foot-long workhorses capable of carrying 500 tons of cargo — will be sold or transferred, and eight Army Reserve watercraft units that train soldiers and maintain dozens of watercraft are to be closed, as first reported by maritime website gCaptain.

An Army memo obtained by gCaptain said the goal was to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau [Army Watercraft Systems] capabilities and/or supporting structure.”

Plans to ditch the aging fleet come amid warnings about the US military’s lack of transport capacity and as the Pentagon’s focus shifts to a potential fight against a more sophisticated adversary, like Russia or China.

Below, you can see what the Army’s large but relatively unknown fleet does and why it may not be doing it much longer.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

US Army Logistics Support Vessel-5, Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross, capable of carrying up to 2,000 tons of cargo, arrives at a port in the Persian Gulf for the Iron Union 17-4 exercise in the United Arab Emirates, Sept. 10, 2017.

(US Army photo Staff Sgt. Jennifer Milnes)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

As of November 2018, the Army’s fleet includes eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanized Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.

Source: The War Zone

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for the construction of 36 modern landing craft, the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light).

Source: Defense News

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

Army watercraft “expand commanders’ movement and maneuver options in support of unified land operations,” the service says. Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbors, beaches, and contested or degraded ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.

Source: US Army

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Waves crash over US Army Vessel Churubusco on the Persian Gulf, during training exercise Operation Spartan Mariner, Jan. 9, 2013.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Johnston)

“When higher echelons receive something like redeployment orders, they will not be restricted in their ability to just travel by land or air. They will also understand the Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed,” Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.

Source: US Army

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) approaches a slip at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

Despite what the Army’s watercraft bring to the fight, the service thinks it can do without them. In June 2018, Army Secretary Mark Esper ordered the divestment of “all watercraft systems” in preparation for the service’s 2020 budget. At that time, Esper said the Army had found billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

“The Army is assessing its watercraft program to improve readiness, modernize the force and reallocate resources,” Army spokeswoman Cheryle Rivas told Stars and Stripes.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

The Army would be ditching its boats at a record pace. Most units picked for deactivation are identified two to five years in advance.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

The Military Sealift Command Vessel Gem State transfers a container to the US Army watercraft Logistics Support Vessel 5 (LSV-5) Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross during an in-stream cargo transfer exercise in the Persian Gulf, June 13, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Bratt)

“What makes this situation different than other in-activations is the short notification, the number of units and positions identified, and the unique equipment and capability being in-activated,” according to notes accompanying a PowerPoint presentation dated January 8, obtained by Stars and Stripes.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The deactivations and unit closures laid out in the slides would affect at least 746 positions. Recruitment and training of Army mariners would also be put on hold until a final decision is made about the service’s watercraft. Decisions about what, where, and how to cut are still being made.

Source: Stars and Stripes, Army Times

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The Army Reserve oversees much of the service’s marine force, managing about one-quarter of the fleet. The memo seen by gCaptain said soldiers now in the maritime field would be “assessed into units where they can best serve the needs of the Army Reserve while also being gainfully employed.”

Some of the boats currently managed by the Reserve component could be reassigned to the active-duty forces. Others could be decommissioned, stripped of military markings, and sold off.

Source: Stars and Stripes, gCaptain

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Staff Sgt. Yohannes Page, a watercraft operator, makes an adjustment on a sensor on a component of the Harbormaster Command and Control Center at Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story, May 15, 2017.

(US Army Reserve photo by 1st Sgt. Angele Ringo)

At the end of 2018, the Army’s logistics staff told Congress that declining sealift capacity — exacerbated the aging of transport vessels — could create “unacceptable risk in force projection” within five years if the Navy doesn’t take action.

Source: Defense News

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

US Army Spc. Kayla Pfertsh fires an M2 machine gun at an inflatable target known as a killer tomato during a sea-based gunnery range aboard Logistics Support Vessel 5, Jan. 24, 2017

(US Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Bratt)

“The Army’s ability to project military power influences adversaries’ risk calculations,” the Army G-4 document said, according to Defense News, which described it as “reflect[ing] the Army’s growing impatience with the Navy’s efforts to recapitalize its surge sealift ships.”

Source: Defense News

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Watercraft operator Sgt. Rebecca Sheriff fires at a target in the Pacific Ocean during a waterborne range aboard Logistics Support Vehicle-2, about 40 miles south of Pearl Harbor, Oct. 4, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Silvers)

But even if the sealift fleet were fully stocked and trained, many of its ships, which are tasked with transporting gear for the Army and Marine Corps, can’t unload in underdeveloped or contested ports and waterways, particularly areas where enemies could attack or project force.

Source: Army Times

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

US Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a Logistics Support Vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.

(US Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“My fear is the Army doesn’t understand what we have or what we’re getting rid of,” Michael Carr, a retired Army Reserve mariner and author of the gCaptain report, told Stars and Stripes. “I am concerned the Army will have to respond to something in Southeast Asia or South America, somewhere with hostile shores or underdeveloped ports, and we will need this capability and we won’t have it.”

Source: Army Times

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

MIGHTY MONEY

How to make $1 million with your military pay

Getting your first paycheck on active duty is awesome — because getting paid is the best. But most of us don’t know what to do with that money. Buy a Camaro? Stuff it in a mattress? Maybe…but what about turning it into a million dollars?

It might sound too good to be true, but it actually isn’t. Let’s talk about a simple financial product for beginning investors: the Roth IRA.


The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

First: Some good news for service members. America’s new tax plan combined with a military pay raise is giving troops a nice little bump in their wallets.

Pay grades E-1 to E-6 are now in a new, lower Federal tax bracket.

This could be add up to 00 a year in savings — and that’s before you start making those deductions, so your newfound wealth might even be higher.

PLUS you got a pay raise of up to 00 so that’s an extra two grand a year right off the bat. Baller.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

But before that wad of cash burns a hole in your pocket, consider the smart way to spend this money – money you won’t even miss. The Roth IRA is one easy way to do it — and it could make you a millionaire.

You can take that post-tax income and make non-taxable money while you sleep. This is literally the least you can do for retirement — and again, it’s super easy.

With a Roth IRA, you contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA) after taxes (meaning there is no tax benefit) BUT you are not taxed when you withdraw the funds. And those funds are going to growwwwww.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

That’s an investment of 8.33 per month.

Nerd Wallet

So if you max out your Roth IRA from age 18 to 65, you’ll be taxed against the 0,000 you invest…but you’ll retire with id=”listicle-2626415708″.5 million that you can withdraw tax-free.

Here’s how it works.

The Roth IRA is an account that holds your investments — you can select the investment options and risk strategies yourself or seek advice from the brokerage entity you’re investing with.

Each year, you can max out the yearly contributions the government allows, which in 2018 is ,500 (It’s ,500 if you’re over the age of 50, but for now, we’re just going to do the math for the fifty-five hundred dollar bracket).

So you select your investment options, probably with higher risk if you’re younger, and set up an automatic contribution of 8 per month.

Do this from age 18 to 65….

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

…with a decent compounded interest rate of… say …. 6 percent (the market actually did 8.3 percent in the last ten years but just to be safe…)

…and you will make 1.59 million dollars over your lifetime.

The most important thing to remember when investing is compound interest.

Investing consistently over time means you are increasing the amount invested AND earning interest on what you’ve invested AND earning interest on your interest.

This is why it’s critical to start early and be consistent. Even a small amount invested over time can yield greater results than a large amount invested later with no time to grow.

So if you’re getting a later start, don’t panic. If you begin at age 30 and max out your Roth IRA until age 65, you can still end up with 0,000 at retirement — and again, that’s just with a 6% rate of return, which is a conservative estimate based on lower-risk options.

The bottom line is to start as early as you can and be disciplined about it.

Spending 8 per month to max out your Roth IRA might seem like a lot when you’re an E-1 earning about 00 a month — but remember, that income is discretionary. The military has benefits like BAH and health insurance — it’s got the big stuff covered, so be wise with how you budget the rest of your income.

And again, if you set up automatic payments, you won’t even miss that money.

I know you want to buy video games and an 80-inch big screen for the barracks…but resist that urge and set yourself up to be a ballin’ millionaire later.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film

In 2017, two vets went into an active war zone to document testimonies from survivors of the Yazidi genocide begun by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in August 2014.


They were lucky to get out alive.

According to the United Nations, “ISIL committed the crime of genocide by seeking to destroy the Yazidis through killings, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, forcible displacement, the transfer of children, and measures intended to prohibit the birth of Yazidi children.”

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
Director Andrew Kabbe in the white cowboy hat center. Two American actors sitting on the rock: J. Teddy Garces (left) and Josh Drennen (right)

Navy diver Andrew Kabbe and Air Force pararescueman David Shumock were in the Kurdish region of Iraq working in refugee camps when they were approached by a Yazidi tribal council.

The Yazidi people were desperate to tell their story and they were funding a feature film that depicted the early events of the genocide.

They needed help.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
A testament to the tension in the area, the crew carried food and weapons at all times. (Photo by: J Teddy Garces)

After careful deliberation — and a few false starts — Kabbe and Shumock committed to the project.

Kabbe decided to write and direct the film, while security fell unto Shumock, who had been in the region during the events of 2014 and not only had experience fighting ISIL, but had strong Peshmerga connections that would allow the crew to shoot in what was functionally a red zone.

“Without him we would have been lost,” Kabbe told We Are The Mighty.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony
David Shumock keeps a watchful eye on set. (Photo by J. Teddy Garces)

Much of the crew consisted of Yazidi volunteers who had been forced to live in refugee camps, as well as Christians, Jews, Atheists, and Muslims. They came from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, the US, England and even Poland. There were three main languages on the set: Kurdish, Farsi and English. Arabic was spoken as well. Two translators were required to communicate to the entire crew.

But the growing need to tell the story of what the Yazidi people continue to endure took over.

And now the film is near completion, but the crew needs help to complete it. Check out their page to learn more about the project and how you can make a tax-deductible contribution to their efforts.


Humor

8 useful habits veterans form in the military

When you’re in the military, every bit of civilian life is broken out of you. When a veteran returns to civilian life, there are plenty of habits that get dropped like a bag of bricks. Slowly, we learn to sleep in a bit more and not get upset if someone in our new office has a bit of stubble. Some habits, however, aren’t turned off because of how much of an edge it gives us over civilians.


8. Calling people “sir” or “ma’am”

Respect is a two-way street. Start a conversation with someone with respect and they’ll look at you better for it.

 

Even if it hurts our soul, we’ll still use “sir” and “ma’am.” (Image via GIPHY)

7. Scheduling and being 15 minutes early

Every hour of every day is planned. Routes are checked well beforehand to see how long it’ll take to get somewhere and departure times are planned accordingly. Even with the planning, veterans still make it there before the given time, just in case.

Admittedly, it’s a pain when nobody else gets it and we have to find something to occupy our time while we wait.

Eh. We’ll find something else to do. (Image via GIPHY)

6. Preplanning every detail (with backups)

When veterans arrive, we have a game plan — with an alternate plan, and a contingency plan, and an emergency plan…

In that one-in-a-hundred time where we don’t have a plan, our “winging it” skills are on point.

The typical “Plan D” is to say, “f*ck it” and leave. (Image via GIPHY)

5. Eating fast

While we all need food to survive, it just takes too much damn time to consume it. Veterans cut the fat and use that extra fifteen minutes each meal to wait in front of wherever we’re going next.

This doesn’t stop when a veteran gets out of service. Take speed eating and eliminate the need to stay fit and you quickly get an idea why some vets get fat.

Every vet during their first week at Fort Couch. (Image via GIPHY)

4. Driving aggressively

We drive recklessly and safe at the same time. We’ll swerve in and out of traffic like it’s nothing and yet our driving records are spotless.

Some people might view this as us “driving like assholes.” We call it “I didn’t like that cardboard box / White Toyota Helix on the side of the road.”

That’s basically the reason why we always drive in the middle of the road. (Image via GIPHY)

3. Not complaining about weather

Ever hear a veteran complain that it’s too cold, too hot, too wet, or too snowy? Hell no.

Whatever the weather, at least we’re not enduring it in the field.

PCSing to nearly every base on the planet does that to you. (Image via GIPHY)

2. Using more accurate terminology

The English language is fascinating. While most civilians make up some onomatopoeia and call it a “thingy,” troops and veterans will usually default to whatever we called it in the service.

A bathroom is a “latrine” or “head” because you’re not going in there to bathe. If something is “ate-up” or a “charlie foxtrot,” we can point out how much of a clusterf*ck something is without letting everyone know someone’s a dumbsh*t.

Vet-specific terms are mostly insults though, which leads us to… (Image via GIPHY)

1. Pointing out peoples’ flaws in a polite and effective manner

In the military, troops need to be able to tell the person who outranks them by a mile that something’s wrong.

Troops can tell a General — in a polite way — that their boot is untied. Troops can also tell a Private that they’re a friggin’ idiot for showing up to PT formation only 9 minutes early.

We’re quick to point out the flaws. (Image via GIPHY)

*Bonus* Morning workout routine

Many vets still work out. The rest either embrace Fort Couch or lie about it — but we know the truth.

No one’s judging. (Image via GIPHY)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy weapons station full of WWII ammunition bunkers to become new homes

San Francisco’s housing shortage has gotten so dire that developers are increasingly eyeing old military sites.

For the last several years, the development company Lennar has been building a 12,000-home community at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the former site of a top-secret nuclear-testing facility operated by the US Navy. Across the bay, Lennar is also participating in a joint venture to add 8,000 residential units to Treasure Island, another former Naval base.


Now the company has set its sights on a naval weapons station in Concord, a city less than an hour from San Francisco. The land is scattered with dozens of empty bunkers that once housed World War II munitions, but Lennar wants to turn it into a full-fledged community with 13,000 homes.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

2006 aerial view of the former San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point.

The plans call for many of the bunkers to get torn down, but a few could be transformed into pop-up cafés or beer halls.

The idea is just a proposal for now, but here’s what the community could look like when it’s finished.

The Concord Naval Weapons Station spans 12,800 acres, but developers plan to renovate less than one-fifth of that land.

More than 7,600 acres are currently occupied by the US Army. Another 2,500 acres have been set aside for a regional park. Lennar intends to use around 2,300 acres for its planned community.

“In terms of the Bay Area, this is certainly one of the largest contiguous pieces of land that is available for this kind of planning,” Craig Hartman, the project’s lead architect, told Business Insider. Hartman’s firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, was hired by Lennar to create an architectural vision for the site.

The station is technically just north of Concord, but developers hope the new community would be an extension of the city.

Developers want to build a hiking trail that connects the community to Concord. Hartman said it would be the first time the two areas were physically linked since the Navy occupied the site.

But developers also don’t want to alter the land too much.

“It still has this beautiful rolling form of typography,” Hartman said. “That is a really, really important part of the history of the site.”

Most of the bunkers would need to get removed to make way for new development, but a few could be converted into neighborhood hangouts, like bars or cafés.

“Our intention is to examine them and, to the extent that some of them could be used, that will be the goal,” Hartman said. “We certainly would not be trying to save all of them.”

Developers already know that the structures are sturdy and that no more weapons are stored inside.

“They’re designed to actually withstand major blasts,” Hartman said.

But the bunkers will have to be inspected to see if they’re waterproof.

Once the structures are torn down, the concrete could be repurposed and used to build new roads.

The bunkers sit along 150 miles of defunct railroad tracks. Steel from these tracks could help finance some of the project.

The City of Concord has estimated that the steel from the dilapidated railroad could be sold for .1 million.

The tracks were built by the Navy, but they’re no longer operational.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

(Wikimedia Commons)

They were the site of a notable anti-war incident: In 1987, an Air Force veteran sat in the middle of the railroad to protest the United States’ participation in a war in Nicaragua. The train ran into him going 17 miles an hour, fracturing his skull and slicing both his legs. In solidarity, a group of anti-war protesters dismantled some of tracks.

The new community could have 13,000 homes, including apartments and single-family units.

A quarter of the residences would be affordably priced, according to the plan; that means the prices would be set so that lower-income families, veterans, teachers, and senior residents would spend less than 30% of their total income on housing.

The prices of the remaining units would range in order to cater to multiple income levels, Hartman said.

“This will not solve the Bay Area’s problems by a long shot, but the density and the mixture of housing is important,” he added.

Hartman expects that most of the residents who move in would be relatively young.

The development could also include a new sports complex and public schools.

The developers’ plan sets aside more than 6 million square feet for commercial space, including offices and retail stores. Another 2.3 million square feet would be for an academic campus that might eventually house a university or research and development center.

Separately, developers plan to build six public schools — or as many as the local school district requires.

Pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes would run through the community like a spine.

The neighborhood could also feature shuttles and buses that connect residents to a BART station (the Bay Area’s main public transportation system). Residents also have the option to walk to the North Concord BART station, which would be less than a quarter mile away from some of the development’s offices, shops, and homes.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

(FivePoint Holdings)

“You could live in this place and, if you wish, not even own a car,” Hartman said.

But there are some environmental concerns to address before any residents could move in.

The naval station is a Superfund site — a label given to hazardous waste sites that pose a risk to human health or the environment.

In 1944, a load of munitions exploded at the station as the weapons were being loaded onto a cargo vessel. The Navy has been working to clean up the land since 1983, when it identified around 1,200 acres that had been contaminated. The soil at the site contains chromium, a radioactive isotope, and the groundwater contains industrial chemicals like trichloroethene and tetrachloroethylene.

The Environmental Protection Agency says the land doesn’t present a risk to human health, but levels of contamination in the groundwater still aren’t considered safe. Last year, Concord’s former mayor, Edi Birsan, said the land was “not suitable for public habitation.”

The city plans to work with the Navy to make the site suitable for human occupants and get it off the Superfund list.

Construction could begin next year, but the entire project would likely take up to 35 years to complete.

Concord’s city council still needs to vote on the development plan, but the city already has a roadmap for how to move forward: Nearby sites like Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point were also cleared for development despite a legacy of Navy weapons tests in those areas.

If the new Concord community follows in their footsteps, it could soon offer new homes and a refurbished set of bunkers.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 ways Navy SEALs overcome sleep deprivation

Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep habits harm our health, our relationships, and even our jobs. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, then it’s time to get back to the basics — military style.

Special operators, who are sent on the US military’s most dangerous assignments, must sleep when they can and often face extreme sleep deprivation to complete their missions. Whether you’re a new parent, have a stressful job, or are dealing with a difficult situation, there’s a lot you can learn from these elite operators.


To get a sense of how to sleep like a champ in the worst situations, we pored over sleep techniques for special operators and interviewed a former Navy SEAL who trains pro athletes, firefighters, and police tactical teams on how they maximize their performance.

“There’s not a harder job out there than being a mom or dad, working or stay at home,” said Adam La Reau, who spent 12 years as a Navy SEAL and is a cofounder of O2X Human Performance, a company that trains and advises groups from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Boston Fire Department. “There’s definitely a sleep debt that could occur over time.”

Small tweaks to your routine — what La Reau called “1% changes” in a March 19, 2019 phone interview — will make a huge difference to your sleep.

These are the basics of sleep boot camp. Know these before you nod off.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

An airman catches some zzz’s on a C-17 Globemaster flight.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Have a presleep game plan.

“It’s like a warm-up routine you do for a work out,” La Reau said. He then ticked off a list of do-nots: eat within two hours before bed, stare at bright lights, or start playing “Fortnite.”

During this time, La Reau suggests activities that will calm your nerves, maybe reading, meditation, listening to music, or dimming the lights.

Definitely: turn off your electronics.

TV watchers, e-tablet readers, “Fortnight” gamers — “They’re getting crushed with light,” La Reau, whose O2X team includes a half-dozen sleep scientists. “And that’s just going to disrupt their circadian rhythm, it’s going to trick your body into thinking it’s day and your body should be up.”

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

La Reau recommends writing a daily list to help you mentally prepare for the next day.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Put together a list or a reminder of what you need to do the next day.

We all have a lot going on, especially new parents. La Reau says you need to tackle that head-on.

In the hours before bed, put together a list or reminder of what you need to do the next day.

“Every time I go home, I have a list of what I need to do the next day … I feel like I’m prepared when I wake up in the morning,” La Reau said. “I know exactly what I’m going to do, and I sleep better at night for it.”

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Aerobic exercise boosts the amount of rejuvenating deep sleep you receive, according to researchers at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Exercise is important, but do it well before bedtime.

Obviously. These are Navy SEALs.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

The Navy SEALs’ Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is notoriously exhausting.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep when you can.

One military sleep manual advises special operators to use the lulls in combat to nap. “Uninterrupted sleep for as little as 10 minutes may partially recover alertness,” the Naval Health Research Center report said.

A nap can boost your energy but don’t zonk out too close to your bedtime, La Reau said.

“Naps are really helpful, and any sleep is better than no sleep at all,” La Reau said. “When the baby takes a nap, that could be a good time for you to take a nap.”

Just think of it as a lull in combat.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Set yourself up for nighttime right.

(US Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

Get a high-quality mattress, black-out shades, and a white-noise machine.

“The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleeping and relaxation and recovery, it’s not to be used as an accessory or a work station,” La Reau said.

He suggests black-out shades, a white-noise machine, and a quality mattress.

“Sleeping on a high-quality mattress is the best investment you’ll ever make,” he said.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Light from devices such as your phone can delay the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates when you’re tired.

(Photo illustration by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

Put away that phone. Seriously.

It’s not just because of that blue light, either. It’s about stress. You want to use the two hours before bed to relax and unwind — not get yourself worried.

“If you’re going to check your email and you realize you have 10 emails — that doesn’t help you be very settled at night,” La Reau said.

The troops who searched for Bergdahl deliver heartfelt testimony

Recognize when you’re exhausted and ask others to help you.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep can be a team sport.

An exhausted parent needs to recognize it and call in reinforcements: friends, family, or their partner.

“I think there’s opportunities to have those open and honest conversations,” La Reau said. “Be like, ‘You know, I’ve got a huge meeting tomorrow, I’m on a long period of travel, I’ve got a lot going on,’ or someone’s just completely exhausted.”

“‘Let me take care of all issues that come up with the kids tonight.'”

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

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