This is more or less the Army’s summer intern program, where young future officers get hands-on experience as a kind of “third lieutenant,” under the tutelage of a commissioned officer for three or four weeks. This gives cadets going into their final years of pre-commissioning training the opportunity to experience life in an active duty unit. Specifically, it allows them to try their hands at officership, and to get a feel for the kinds of officer/NCO relationships that are essential to the success of our Army.
CTLT happens in all kinds of units, both in the US and OCONUS. As far as I know, there are no CTLT positions in combat zones. But short of that, cadets can end up in just about anywhere. While CTLT is a useful and important mentorship and developmental activity, many units see CTLT as a drag, and dealing with cadets as a hassle. Sometimes cadets are relegated to less-meaningful duties, or endure some modicum of hazing as part of the experience.
I was recently in a conversation with a senior noncommissioned officer in an elite US Army unit, when the subject of CTLT came up. I wondered how he, as a senior NCO in a highly specialized unit, felt about having cadets around. I asked if he gave the cadets in his unit a hard time as part of their CTLT experience.
“No, I always salute them and treat them as officers, and I make sure everyone else does too,” he replied in total sincerity. Somewhat surprised by this, and thinking back to my own experiences in CTLT, I asked why he felt that way.
“Because according to the Army, they outrank me, sir.”
I was floored. Everyone knows that the lowest Army private outranks the highest cadet… right? I mean, that certainly seemed to be the case at Airborne School back in the day.
The NCO referred me to AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, which makes it pretty clear that West Point cadets do, in fact, outrank Army NCOs. This regulation shows that cadets rank after commissioned and warrant officers, but before NCOs. Very interesting. I learned something that day. You’re right, Sergeant, a West Point cadet DOES outrank you. Technically.
OK, fine. That’s what the reg says, but how does that work in practice?
But having learned this, it made me wonder when this would actually matter in any meaningful way. Outside of authorized developmental training events such as CTLT, no NCO is going to allow a cadet to swoop in and take charge of his platoon, squad, or section. So when would a cadet actually “be” in charge?
AR 600-20 again provides the answer:
AR 600-20, Section 2:
2-8. Death, disability, retirement, reassignment, or absence of the commander
a. Commander of Army element.
(1) If a commander of an Army element, other than a commander of a headquarters and headquarters element, dies, becomes disabled, retires, is reassigned, or is temporarily absent, the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier will assume command.
(2) If the commander of a headquarters and headquarters element dies, becomes disabled, retires, is reassigned, or is temporarily absent, the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier of the particular headquarters and headquarters element who performs duties within the element will assume command. For example, if a division headquarters and headquarters company commander is temporarily absent, the executive officer as the senior regularly assigned Army Soldier who performs duties within the headquarters company would assume command and not the division commander.
(3) Senior regularly assigned Army Soldier refers (in order of priority) to officers, WOs, cadets, NCOs, specialists, or privates present for duty unless they are ineligible under paragraphs 2-15 or 2-16. They assume command until relieved by proper authority except as provided in 2-8c. Assumption of command under these conditions is announced per paragraph 2-5. However, the announcement will indicate assumption as acting commander unless designated as permanent by the proper authority. It is not necessary to rescind the announcement designating an acting commander to assume duties of the commander “during the temporary absence of the regularly assigned commander” if the announcement gives the time element involved. A rescinding announcement is required if the temporary assumption of command is for an indefinite period.
Of course, there is another reason to treat West Point and ROTC cadets with respect: they are not going to be cadets forever. The best way to train cadets to be officers that their soldiers will look up to and their NCOs will respect is to treat them the way you want them to act. While it might be fun to haze the new “margarine bar” (he hasn’t even worked his way up to “butter bar” yet), is that really the impression you want him taking with you when he gets commissioned and reports to his first unit?
So yes, a West Point cadet DOES outrank a sergeant. Or a sergeant major for that matter. But only a complete cadidiot would get his or her cadet rank confused with an NCO’s authority and influence.
The GI Film Festival just announced its complete lineup for the 10th annual event, running May 21 – 29, 2016 in Washington, D.C. and Fairfax, VA.
“This is the most power-packed and diverse lineup of movies we have featured over our ten-year history,” says GI Film Festival President Brandon Millett. “This festival will confront every challenge facing our nation’s military veterans and their families, showcasing some of the most incredible stories of heroism you have ever seen. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat, covering your eyes. Come to GIFF X and you’ll experience every single conceivable human emotion. It will be unforgettable.”
Hailed by Bloomberg News as “Sundance for the Troops,” the GI Film Festival’s mission is to preserve the stories of military veterans through film, television and dynamic live special events. Since 2007, the GIFF has spearheaded the lead-up to Memorial Day in our nation’s capital by offering the country’s most expansive view of military themes on film. Including, for the first time this year, on Sunday night May 22, a special event honoring women in the military including a short film showcase and panel discussion.
Kicking off this year’s 10th -anniversary festival will be world-renowned actor Gary Sinise, a supporter of GIFF since year one. Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band will play a concert featuring favorite cover tunes at the Howard Theater on Saturday, May 21.
“The GI Film Festival has become the ‘go-to’ place for military-themed movies,” Sinese said. “Anyone and everyone with a military-themed film will end up at the GI Film Festival, or at least trying to get in.”
Also highlighting the festival will be a 30th -anniversary screening of the military classic “Top Gun,” with a scheduled appearance from actor Val Kilmer, on Wednesday, May 25 at Angelika Film Center in Fairfax, VA, followed by an 80’s after party.
On Thursday, May 26, GIFF will host an advance screening of the new film X:MEN: Apocalypse, for Wounded Warriors, including a special message from Director Bryan Singer.
Friday night, May 27, will see the world premiere of the zombie action comedy Range 15, starring William Shatner, Sean Astin, and Danny Trejo, followed by an after party. This year’s nine-day program boasts a dynamic lineup of 75-plus films.
In addition, GIFF will offer interactive QAs with filmmakers and on-screen talent, embassy soirees, live music, stand-up comedy, star-studded red carpets, and awards ceremonies, all honoring and lending a voice to the veteran community.
Marine Corps veteran Imran Yousuf was working as a bouncer at Pulse nightclub in Orlando when he heard a rapid-fire series of gunshots crack across the venue.
“You could just tell it was a high caliber,” Yousuf told CBS. He saw the patrons were frozen in fear and that no one was moving to open a nearby door.
“There was only one choice — either we all stay there and we all die, or I could take the chance,” Yousuf said, “and I jumped over to open that latch and we got everyone that we can out of there.”
Orlando law enforcement officials credit Yousuf with saving about 70 lives with his unflinching action. “I wish I could’ve saved more,” he told CBS. “There’s a lot of people that are dead.”
Yousuf’s six-year stint as an electrical systems tech included a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 according to records. His last command was the 3rd Marine Logistics Group in Okinawa, Japan. He left active duty at the rank of sergeant.
Yousuf posted the following message on his Facebook page:
There are a lot of people naming me a hero and as a former Marine and Afghan veteran. I honestly believe I reacted by instinct. I have lost a few of my friends that night which I am just finding out about right now and while it might seem that my actions are heroic I decided that the others around me needed to be saved as well and so I just reacted.
We need to show our love and profound efforts to the families and friends who have lost someone and help them cope with what happened and turn our efforts to those who truly need it. Once again I sincerely thank everyone and bless all those who are recovering and trying to make sense of it all.
Being in the military requires you to quickly adapt to a very strict code of conduct. The military lifestyle prevents laziness and forces you to maintain a consistent, proper appearance. When troops leave the service, however, their good habits tend to fly out the window.
Now, that’s not to say that all veterans will lose every good habit they’ve picked up while serving. But there are a few routines that’ll instantly be broken simply because there aren’t any repercussions for dropping them.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe you’re that Major Payne type of veteran. If so, good job. Meanwhile, my happy ass is staying in bed until the sun rises.
We’re also probably not going to make our beds with hospital corners any more, either.
(Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)
Waking up early is an annoying, but useful, habit
The very first morning after receiving their DD-214, nearly every veteran laugh as they hit the snooze button on an alarm they forgot to turn off. For the first time in a long time, a troop can sleep in until the sun rises on a weekday — and you can be damn sure that they will.
When they start attending college or get a new job, veterans no longer see the point in waking up at 0430 just to stand in the cold and run at 0530. If class starts at 0900, they won’t be out of bed until at least 0815 (after hitting snooze a few times).
Finding time after work to go to the gym is, ironically, too much effort.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores)
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with waking up early. The morning is the perfect time to go for a run — but most veterans are going to be catching up on the sleep they didn’t get while in service. Plus, the reason many so many troops can stay up all night drinking and not feel the pain come time for morning PT is that their bodies are constantly working. It’s a good habit to have.
The moment life slows down and you’re not running every day, you’ll start to feel those knees get sore. Which just adds on to the growing pile of excuses to not work out.
Don’t you miss all that effort we used to put into shaving every single day? Yeah, me neither.
(Photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)
Shaving every day, haircuts every week…one of the most annoying good habits
If troops show up to morning formation with even the slightest bit of fuzz on their face or hair touching their ears, they will feel the wrath of the NCOs.
When you get out, you’ll almost be expected to grow an operator beard and let your hair grow. Others skip shaving their chin and instead shave their head bald to achieve that that Kratos-in-the-new-God-of-War look.
“Hurry up and wait” becomes “slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)
15 minutes prior
If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re 14 minutes early, you’re still late. If you’re 25 minutes early, you’ll be asked why you weren’t there 5 minutes ago. It’s actually astonishing how much troops get done while still managing to arrive 30 minutes early to everything.
Vets will still keep up a “15 minute prior” rule for major events, but don’t expect them to be everywhere early anymore. This habit is one we don’t really miss.
Civilians also don’t get that when you knifehand them, you’re telling them off. They think you’re just emoting with your hands.
(Photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)
Suppressing opinions is a hard habit to break
Not too many troops share their true opinions on things while serving. It’s usually just a copy-and-paste answer of, “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” This is partly because the military is constantly moving and no one really cares about your opinion on certain things.
The moment a veteran gets into a conversation and civilians think they’re an expect on a given subject, they’ll shout their opinion from the mountaintops. This is so prevalent that you’ll hear, “as a veteran, I think…” in even the most mundane conversations, like the merits of the newest Star Wars film.
Except with our weapons. Veterans will never half-ass cleaning weapons.
(Photo by Airman Eugene Oliver)
Putting in extra effort
Perfection is key in the military. From day one, troops are told to take pride in every action they perform. In many cases, this tendency bleeds into the civilian world because veterans still have that eye for minor details.
However, that intense attention to detail starts to fade over time, especially for minor tasks. They could try their hardest and they could spend time mastering something, but that 110% turns into a “meh, good enough” after a while.
In the military, everyone looks out for one another. In the civilian world, it’s just too funny to watch others fall on their face.
(Photo by Alan R. Quevy)
Sympathy toward coworkers
A platoon really is as close as a family. If one person is in pain, everyone is in pain until we all make it better. No matter what the problem is, your squadmate is right there as a shoulder to lean on.
Civilians who never served, on the other hand, have a much lower tolerance for bad days. If one of your comrades got their heart broken because Jodie came into the picture, fellow troops will be the first to grab shovels for them. If one of your civilian coworkers breaks down because someone brought non-vegan coffee creamer into the office, vets will simply laugh at their weakness.
In the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been sixteen Medals of Honor conferred, but ask any military member and they’ll likely bring up some other heroes who deserved the nation’s highest award but didn’t receive it.
Whether it be the chaos of battle, lack of witnesses, or that they were not recommended for the Medal of Honor although they almost certainly should have been, some troops never got the recognition they really deserved.
As articles in The Washington Post and Army Times have pointed out, the standards for military awards are rather inconsistent. The muddled process of which actions earn the nation’s highest award has resulted in a generation of “forgotten heroes” in the War on Terror, as I wrote previously at Business Insider.
Here are seven of those heroes who arguably should have received the Medal of Honor.
1. Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesberger cleared part of an insurgent-filled house in Fallujah all by himself.
During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.
Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.
“Adlesperger was killing insurgents so they couldn’t make it up the roof,” said platoon corpsman Alonso Rogero, in his written statement of events. “The insurgents tried to run up the ladder well, but Pfc. Adlesperger kept shooting them and throwing grenades on top of them.”
Finally, an assault vehicle broke through a wall on the main floor. Adlesperger rejoined his platoon and demanded to take point for the final attack on the entrenched machine gun. He entered the courtyard first, and eliminated the final enemy at close range. By the end of the battle, Adlesperger was credited with having killed at least 11 insurgents.
He died a month after his heroics in that Fallujah house, but Adlesperger was posthumously promoted to lance corporal and recommended for the Medal of Honor. The award recommendation from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines originated with 1st Lt. Dong Yi and moved up the chain of command, with concurrence from Adlesperger’s battalion commander, regimental commander, and division commander.
Two years later, when his recommendation reached the MEF Commander, Lt. Gen. John Sattler, it was downgraded to the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award. His award recommendation did not include any comments or reasons as to why. He was awarded the Navy Cross on April 13, 2007.
2. Army Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard led a 12-man team of soldiers against an overwhelming enemy force. Three hours later, more than 265 insurgents would be dead.
After receiving a call for support from Iraqi Army soldiers being attacked by insurgents on Jan. 28, 2007, a small team of soldiers with Master Sgt. Thomas Ballard — believing the enemy strength was only around 15 to 20 militants — went out to help them.
As they neared the beleaguered Iraqis, an AH-64 Apache helicopter providing air cover crashed. “When I saw the Apache go down, it immediately changed everything,” Ballard, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Military Transition Team 0810, told Army Public Affairs. “Everything was focused on that crash site; nothing else mattered. That’s where we had to go and that’s what we did.”
Once they got to the crash site, the soldiers quickly realized the insurgent force was much larger than 20. The vehicle of Ballard’s commander started getting slammed by machine-gun and RPG fire and a major firefight broke out.
“We began engaging, and continued engaging. There were 265 bodies reported at the end, but I can tell you, there was more than that,” Ballard told Army Public Affairs. “Everything we shot was targets and collectively, we burned up about 11,000 rounds of machine gun ammo, M4 ammo, M203 grenade launcher ammo and 10 air strikes.”
The team of 12 soldiers had apparently fought nearly 1,000 insurgents, according to Ballard. The entire team received the Army Commendation Medal and two others received the Bronze Star. Ballard was awarded the Silver Star.
3. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez kept calling in crucial air strikes on enemy positions, even after he was shot in the chest and believed he would die in minutes.
As the lone combat controller assigned to an Army Special Forces team, Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez brought critical skills of directing accurate air strikes on enemy positions in past battles. On Oct. 5, 2009 while on a mission to find a high-value target in Afghanistan, those skills would be put to the test again — this time while he was seriously wounded.
The team was ambushed, and after a fellow soldier’s weapon had jammed, Gutierrez began firing at enemy fighters until he was struck in the upper chest. The enemy bullet just missed his heart, collapsed his lung and he began to cough up blood, according to Fox News.
“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez later told Fox News. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”
Ignoring his injuries and refusing to take off his body armor, Gutierrez remained calm and stayed on the radio to call in gun runs. Enemy fighters were lined up on a wall just 30 feet from him at one point in the battle, but the staff sergeant called in three A-10 strikes at “danger close” range to take them out.
The A-10 pilot talking to him on the ground said he had no idea Gutierrez was wounded, that his voice was calm the whole time, and only realized the man was injured when his team moved to the medical landing zone.
“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin said. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.”
After losing nearly half his blood, Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battlefield after four hours of fighting. He received the Air Force Cross for his heroism in 2011.
4. Marine Cpl. Brady Gustafson kept directing heavy fire on insurgents despite an RPG partially amputating his leg.
On July 21, 2008 while manning the turret atop an MRAP in Afghanistan, Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson continued to engage enemy fighters despite a devastating wound to his right leg.
Ambushed from multiple directions with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns, Gustafson’s vehicle took a hit from an RPG that partially severed his leg and knocked his driver unconscious, according to The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe.
“I looked down, and a lot of my right leg wasn’t there,” he told Time Magazine. “I could see muscle and bone, and I was bleeding pretty hard.” Still, he remained calm and unleashed hell from his machine-gun.
Despite his injuries, Gustafson remained vigilant on his M240B machine gun, locating and accurately firing on several insurgent positions, some as close as 20 meters from the vehicle.
He remained in the turret, reloading twice and firing over 600 rounds, while Lance Cpl. Cody Comstock, an Anderson, Ind. native, applied a tourniquet to his leg.
Gustafson was recommended for the Silver Star and ended up receiving the Navy Cross in 2009. But his battalion commander, Col. Richard Hall, later told The Marine Times that he regretted not putting him up for the nation’s highest award.
“When you consider that his leg is taken off, his driver is unconscious and he’s shouting to his driver to get him out of the kill zone. Meanwhile, he’s maintaining the presence of mind to keep returning fire on the enemy and to try to suppress them overwhelming that four-vehicle convoy, or patrol,” Hall told the paper. “The vehicle behind them was stuck, and Gustafson reloads no less than two times and wakes up his driver, tells him to push the burning vehicle behind them out of the kill zone, all while bleeding out and refusing medical aid for his severed leg.”
5. Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe pulled six soldiers from a burning Bradley fighting vehicle even though he was drenched in fuel.
Following a devastating improvised explosive device strike under his Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Daliaya, Iraq on Oct. 17, 2005, Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe managed to escape from the burning vehicle, out of his spot in the gunner’s hatch.
Then he went back in under enemy fire to save his fellow soldiers three times, all while he was drenched in fuel.
Cashe rescued six badly burned soldiers while under enemy small-arms fire. His own uniform caught fire, engulfing him in flames. Even with second- and-third degree burns over three-fourths of his body, Cashe continue to pull soldiers out of a vehicle set ablaze when a roadside bomb ruptured a fuel tank.
“I told him, ‘Don’t go over there playing a hero. You learn how to duck and come home,”‘ his sister, Kasinal Cashe White told the Orlando Sentinel. “He said, ‘I’m doing the job I was trained to do. I have to take care of my boys.”‘
Cashe held on until Nov. 8, when he succumbed to his wounds at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. According to his sister Kasinal, who spoke with the Los Angeles Times, his first words when he was able to speak at the hospital were “how are my boys?”
The full extent of Cashe’s heroism became muddled in the chaos of war, and the soldiers he rescued were unable to provide details since they were hospitalized with severe wounds, The Times reported. He was recommended for, and posthumously received the Silver Star for his incredible bravery.
But many have advocated for Cashe to receive the nation’s highest award, including his former battalion commander.
“You don’t often find truly selfless sacrifice where someone put his soldiers’ welfare before his own,” Brig. Gen. Gary Brito told The Los Angeles Times. “Sgt. Cashe was horribly wounded and continued to fight to save his men.”
6. After being ambushed, 1st Lt. Brian Chontosh ordered his driver towards an enemy trench-line. Then he cleared much of it himself using his own weapons — and the enemy’s.
As a platoon leader in the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 25, 2003, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh was ambushed and couldn’t escape the kill zone. So he ordered his driver to move right into the Iraqi trench-line as the turret gunner laid down fire with the .50 cal.
It was the first major firefight of the war for the anti-armor platoon Chontosh led, belonging to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Moments after the ambush began, Iraqi troops had already hit two vehicles with machine-gun, rocket-propelled grenade, and mortar fire, killing one soldier and severely wounding another.
Once his Humvee reached the enemy position, “Tosh” (as he calls himself) got out of the vehicle and jumped into the trench, mowing down enemy soldiers with his rifle until he ran out of ammo.
“I shot my pistol dry twice,” then grabbed an AK off a dead Iraqi, shot every bullet in it, picked up another AK and emptied it, too. “It’s just crazy,” he recalled to Phil Zabriskie for his book “The Kill Switch.”
When it was all over, Chontosh had cleared 200 meters of the enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others. He had used up all of his rifle and pistol ammo, along with two enemy AK-47s, and an RPG.
He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, but he didn’t want to take all the credit, and instead commended the Marines with him that day for saving his life.
“They saved my life, multiple times that day, during the ambush,” Chontosh told Stars and Stripes. “That’s all them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be the lieutenant who would be reported as … a case of what not to do.”
7. Despite heavy enemy fire, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman ran into a house multiple times to save Marines who were trapped inside.
On Dec. 23, 2004, Cpl. Jeremiah Workman was leading one squad of Marines while his friend Sgt. Jarrett Kraft had another. Searching houses in Fallujah, Kraft took the left side of the street while Workman took the right.
On the third house they entered that day, Kraft’s squad came under heavy fire on the second floor. Workman immediately rallied his squad to rescue his fellow Marines.
“I was scared,” Workman told The Washington Post. “I really was … when you get caught in a situation like that, it’s a real man check. For two seconds, you have to look in that invisible mirror that’s not there and look at yourself and question yourself as a man. And say, ‘Okay, I’m a corporal in the Marine Corps and I have guys that are looking up to me for leadership. What am I going to do?’ … So I grabbed everybody in the house and we come running.”
Dreading the worst, Workman organized his squad to enter the building. A corporal at the time, he and his Marines faced a maelstrom of small-arms fire and grenades. Three times, he sprinted up a stairwell under fire to fight the insurgents and help the pinned down Marines, who eventually escaped through the roof. At times, the Marines were close enough to see the insurgents’ faces amid the smoke and flashes of gunfire.
Two Marines — Cpl. Raleigh Smith and Lance Cpl. James Phillips, both 21 — were mortally wounded in the house, while several others were hurt but survived. Lance Cpl. Eric Hillenburg, 21, was killed nearby, cut down by enemy sniper fire as he and his fire team raced to the house to help. Workman sustained multiple shrapnel wounds from grenade explosions, but escaped without being seriously hurt.
Workman and his fellow squad leader Kraft were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions that day. Workman’s citation credited him with the “elimination of 24 insurgents.”
“I accepted this medal for three guys who didn’t make it back,” Workman told The Post. “So it’s really theirs.”
8. Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel while shielding another Marine from a grenade blast.
On Nov. 13, 2004 while serving in Fallujah as the company first sergeant for Weapons Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Brad Kasal joined up with a squad entering a house to rescue Marines inside.
Soon after he found a wounded Marine inside, Kasal and another Marine were both severely wounded in the legs by enemy fire. Then the insurgents threw grenades at them. The bleeding first sergeant rolled on top of the wounded Marine with him and absorbed the shrapnel.
Kasal took 43 pieces of shrapnel and was shot seven times inside the “House of Hell.” He lost roughly 60 percent of his blood, according to an article in VFW Magazine.
“When First Sergeant Kasal was offered medical attention and extraction, he refused until the other Marines were given medical attention. Although severely wounded himself, he shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they continued to clear the structure,” reads his citation. He was awarded the Navy Cross.
As Kasal was carried out of the house by two of his Marines — covered in blood and still clutching his pistol — Lucian Reed captured the scene, in what was perhaps one of the most iconic photographs to come out of the Battle of Fallujah.
Thanks to George Aldrich and his team of NASA sniffers, astronauts can breathe a little bit easier. Aldrich is a chemical specialist or “chief sniffer” at the White Sands Test Facility’s Molecular Desorption and Analysis Laboratory in New Mexico. His job is to smell items before they can be flown in the space shuttle.
Aldrich explained that smells change in space and that once astronauts are up there, they’re stuck with whatever smells are onboard with them. In space, astronauts aren’t able to open the window for extra ventilation, Aldrich said. He also said that it is important not to introduce substances that will change the delicate balance of the climate of the International Space Station and the space shuttle.
More than being merely unpleasant, smells in space can indicate a health threat. Even objects that give off no odor can emit dangerous chemicals by a process called off-gassing. If an object’s off-gassing has toxic effects, it can be a matter of life and death.
“Smell is brought out by confined spaces and heat,” said Aldrich, “yet astronauts have no way of escaping a smell if it becomes pervasive. If that smell comes from dangerous compounds, it’s a serious health threat.”
It is Aldrich’s job to use his sense of smell to ensure the olfactory comfort, as well as the safety, of astronauts on orbit.
When he was just 18 years old, Aldrich began working at White Sand’s fire department and was asked to be on the department’s Odor Panel. Aldrich explained that one of the requirements to get a job as a sniffer is a lack of any allergies or respiratory problems. “If you have a lot of allergies, your nasal passages are already irritated and cannot be used,” he said.
NASA calibrates and certifies its sniffers’ noses every four months using a “10-bottle test” in which seven of the bottles have odors and three of them are blanks. The seven scents must be categorized as musky, floral, ethereal, camphoraceous, minty, pungent or putrid.
According to the NASAexplores Web site, Aldrich’s team tests nearly all items that astronauts would encounter during their flight — including fabric, toothpaste, circuit boards, makeup and even the ink on their checklists.
First, the items are tested for toxicity. They are placed into individually sealed containers and then into an oven, which is heated to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) for three days to speed up the off-gassing process. The gases are then extracted and tested to determine whether they are toxic or carcinogenic. If the gases are deemed safe, the items then undergo odor testing.
Aldrich and four other team members smell the items and rank them on a scale of zero to four, ranging from non-detectable (zero), to barely detectable, easily detectable, objectionable and offensive (four). Aldrich refers to level four as “get-me-out-of-here.” Because the sense of smell can vary from person to person, sniffers give each object its own ratings, from which an average is obtained. If an item rates more than a 2.4 on the scale, it fails the test and is not allowed on the flight. Some items that have failed are camera film, felt-tipped markers, mascara and certain types of stuffed animals. Aldrich has done 765 of these “smell missions” to date.
NASA could use dogs or “electronic noses” for this testing, but as Aldrich pointed out, the Agency would rather use human sniffers because they serve as a screening test for the also-human astronauts. The human testers can more accurately identify smells that will offend the human crewmembers than an electronic nose could.
As a result of his career, Aldrich has had some uncommon opportunities. He has served as a judge four times at the Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Competition. He has also appeared on television a number of times, including appearances on two game shows.
While others may chuckle at his unusual occupation, Aldrich said he believes in its value.
“I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was important,” he said.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
Quick: Name all the things you miss about active duty. (If you still are active duty, then list all the things that make your life bearable as well as all the things you most hate.) Well, Mat Best and Jarred Taylor want to take you on a quick nostalgia trip through those memories of PT belts, buddies marrying strippers, and policing brass at the range.
You might remember Mat Best from his T-shirt company. Or the coffee company. Or that epic rap battle. Now, he’s dropped a new, soulful music video about how much veterans find themselves missing even the crappy parts of active duty, from the hot portajohn sessions to the mortar attacks to the PT belts. Turn it up loud in whatever cubicle you’re in.
Their new single Can’t Believe We Miss This is all about, well, the things you can’t believe you miss after getting that coveted DD-214. A quick note before you hit play: It’s not safe for younger viewers and only safe for work if your boss is super cool. There’s not nudity or anything, but they both use some words picked up in the barracks.
Oh, and there are a few direct references to how crappy civilian jobs with suit and ties can be, so your boss might not like that either.
But, yeah, the song is like sitting in an ’80s bar sipping drinks with buddies from your old unit, swapping stories about funny stuff like getting stuck on base after someone lost their NVGs and the serious, painful stuff like dudes who got blown up by mortars and IEDs.
And if you think Mat Best and Jarred Taylor skimped on production, then you’ve never seen their epic rap battle. So, yes, there are plenty of drone shots, weapons, and big military hardware like the HMMWV, aka humveee. It’s got more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams marathon and more explosions than Michael Bay’s house on Fourth of July.
And speaking of Independence Day, they dropped the video just in time for you to annoy the crap out of your family and friends with it wherever you’re partying. If you really want to do that but might not have good YouTube access, you can also watch the video on Facebook or buy it on iTunes.
Hackers screened for their good intentions found 138 “vulnerabilities” in the Defense Department’s cyber defenses in a “bug bounty” awards program that will end up saving the Pentagon money, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday.
Under the “Hack The Pentagon” program, the first ever conducted by the federal government, more than 1,400 “white hat” hackers were vetted and invited to challenge the Pentagon’s defenses to compete for cash awards.
Of the 1,400 who entered, about 250 submitted reports on vulnerability and 138 of those “were determined to be legitimate, unique and eligible for bounty,” Carter said at a Pentagon news conference.
The lessons learned from the “Hack The Pentagon” challenge, an initiative of the Defense Digital Services started by Carter, came at a fraction of the cost of bringing in an outside firm to conduct an audit of the Pentagon’s cyber-security, he said.
The awards going out total $150,000 while a full-blown cyber audit would have cost at least $1 million, he said. In addition, “we’ve fixed all those vulnerabilities,” Carter said.
No federal agency had ever offered a bug bounty, he noted.
“Through this pilot we found a cost-effective way to supplement and support what our dedicated people do every day,” Carter said.
“It’s lot better than either hiring somebody to do that for you or finding out the hard way,” he said. “What we didn’t fully appreciate before this pilot was how many white-hat hackers there are.”
Carter said the Pentagon had plans to encourage defense contractors to submit their programs and products for independent security reviews and bug bounty programs before they deliver them to the government.
Citizens of the United States of America tend go mildly wild when they celebrate the fourth of July. It was on that day, in 1776, when the Continental Congress adopted the Deceleration of Independence, severing our nation from the British Empire.
Most people commemorate this fateful moment with a nice, wholesome family gathering. Dads work the barbecue while telling awful puns and moms try to make sure the kids don’t hurt each other with sparklers. The evening’s merriment is capped off by watching the fireworks explode over the nearby lake.
Now, we’re not here to tell you that you’re doing things wrong — if you’re into that mundane, picturesque lifestyle, more power to you — but we are here to tell you that veterans like to go big. Real big.
Independence Day is what binds the veteran community. We may argue and bicker over little things, but each and every one of us loves this country and its people. In demonstrating that love, we tend to go a little overboard when partying on what is, essentially, America’s birthday.
Just like the good ol’ days!
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Miguel A. Rosales)
Going to the range
Veterans and firearms go together like alcohol and bad decisions. When veterans get a free day off work, they might visit the firing range. When they get a day off for the 4th, they’ll be there for sure — you know, for America.
In this case, “firing range” is a pretty vague term. It could mean a closed-off, handgun-only range, a range out in the middle of nowhere that allows you to legally fire off a fully automatic, or, if you happen to be in the middle of bumf*ck nowhere, your backyard. Regardless of how we do it, it’s our little way of supporting the Constitution — through celebrating the 2nd Amendment.
Who doesn’t love watching 50 cannons go off?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Coulter)
Visiting military installations for the “Salute to the Union”
Every year, on the fourth of July, military installations hold a ceremony at noon where they fire off one gun for every state in the Union. Some of the veterans who once participated in those ceremonies come back many years down the road to see it again.
“You can eat all of that, right?”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)
Hosting massive barbecues
Burgers sizzling on the grill is the unofficial smell of the holiday. You can’t go anywhere in America without sniffing out some hot dogs, steaks, and whatever else the veteran is cooking.
The only downside is that veterans tend to go a little overboard on what they think is the “right amount of food” for everyone. Veterans prepare for the event that everyone’s going to eat a dozen burgers. Deep down, we know that’s not going to happen, but what if…
There are no safety briefs in the civilian world, but there probably should be…
Sobriety is entirely optional on Independence Day. From the moment they wake up until they eventually pass out from taking too many shots in the hot summer sun, veterans spend the entire day drinking .
Of course, they should always err on the side of responsibility and remember all of the safety briefs they got when they were in. They’ve got the basics down, like “don’t drink and drive,” but they might forget some of the niche briefs, like “don’t get drunk and decide to shoot bottle rockets out of a metal pipe like a friggin’ rocket launcher” — so that’s probably still game.
But, you know, any of the veteran-owned t-shirt company shirts are open game!
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)
Wearing unapologetically American clothes
It’s America’s birthday, so dress for the occasion. American flag hats, tank tops, underwear, you name it. Today, everything is red, white, and blue.
Technically, such articles of clothing are discouraged by the Flag Code, but it’s an expression of patriotism — and the First Amendment allows you to express yourself like that.
No 4th of July is complete without driving 110 down the freeway blasting “Free Bird.”
(Photo by Jon Callas)
Blasting American musicians
As much as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Iron Maiden all kick ass, let’s reserve this day for America and American rock stars, baby!
Any party celebrating American independence should have a playlist featuring plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Aerosmith.
If you’re doing it right, the neighbors should confuse your backyard for the show put on by the city.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)
So many fireworks…
Veterans refuse to be outdone by the neighbors down the road who think their puny little display of patriotism is the best way to celebrate America. If that veteran also happens to be an old-school artilleryman or mortarman, you’re about to see something special…
If you see one of our brothers or sisters with one of these signs, you can just ask them and let them know when you’re doing the fireworks. Just don’t be an asshole about it.
(WLKY News Louisville)
Chosing to avoid fireworks
Every year on social media, we see photos of signs placed in front of veterans’ homes politely asking neighbors to not set off fireworks get picked apart by the veteran community. You know what? A veteran choosing to spend America’s birthday exactly how they want to is veteran as f*ck, too.
Can’t stand large crowds of people and the traffic? Stay in. That’s veteran as f*ck.
Don’t want to be in a public place when loud explosions go off? You don’t have to be.
This is a day to celebrate America’s freedom. If you’ve raised your hand, there’s no way anyone can take your veteran status from you. Independence Day is about celebrating freedom. You celebrate it however you feel necessary.
The Marine Corps infantry is a place where a boots’ dreams go to die. A fresh private first class or lance corporal might arrive at the Fleet Marine Force with loads of ambition only to have it ripped to shreds as the stark realization that they might never reach the rank of Corporal sinks in.
Today, we offer advice for lower-enlisted Infantry Marines on how to succeed in everyday tasks — the rank will come soon enough.
Keep in mind the following 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry:
6. Get a haircut.
Yes, we know this one is difficult when you’re out of range of the barber for weeks at a time, but when you finally can get a haircut, get something respectable that won’t result in an ass-chewing from your platoon sergeant.
5. Keep a clean uniform for garrison.
Higher-ups will preach until the day of their retirement that there is no such thing as “field cammies,” but grunts know otherwise — have a uniform set aside for when you’re in the rear that is always clean.
Likewise, make sure that the uniforms you have for the field and deployments are as clean and pristine as possible, but don’t worry about keeping them that way.
4. Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
This is one of the 7 Marine Corps leadership principles, but it applies to all areas Marine infantry. Know your faults and always work towards improving them.
3. Train in your off-time.
This one goes with point #4. Once you recognize your deficiencies, train in your off-time to fix them. If you’re not the strongest grunt, go to the gym. If you’re feeling underread, pick up a book.
2. Stay humble.
Just as you should never stop learning your trade, never see yourself as the best. Don’t believe you’re done improving because you’re not — and you never will be. Even after you’ve been praised and earned awards, maintain some humility. Be confident, but don’t be arrogant.
Wherever there is conflict or injustice, there is an opportunity for humor. At its best, laughter is a release of stress and anxiety and, as we all know, serving in the armed forces is wrought with both.
Like a modern-day jester (with less ridiculous clothing and much more topical ribbing), Maximilian Uriarte has created an outlet through which junior enlisted feel understood.
Terminal Lance is the vehicle Uriarte utilizes to bring some reflection and a smile to those who would otherwise have no publication to relate to, and this is why we love him for it.
The comic has always taken the perspective of a lower enlisted Marine, despite commenting big-picture subjects ranging from military gender equality and presidential elections to issues as simple as how horrible it is to have porta-john water splash up and make contact.
Throughout, Uriarte maintains the point of view of a young enlisted reacting to the world around him, it just so happens to also be the point of view of the largest demographic in service.
4. Terminal Lance is relatable.
Uriarte creates relatable comics by highlighting the nuances of life in the Corps and giving an honest look to our generation of service members’ attitudes. Abe, Terminal Lance‘s central character, is a lower-middle-class kid who joined the USMC with the starry-eyed hope of any kid raised on eighties war movies.
Abe becomes disenfranchised by years of letdowns and a seemingly endless river of bullshit crashing down on his head, which, coincidentally, mirrors some of the same feelings this writer had as a young Lance Corporal.
Most veterans, if asked, will tell you about how painful their experience as an enlisted person was. However, they’ll probably have a smile on their face as they recount the comical details.
The feeling that the Marine Corps can ruin anything — including the very things that attracted these young people to enlist in the first place — is prevalent in Terminal Lance. There is humor in pain and Maximilian Uriarte is the unofficial voice of a whole generation of junior enlisted Marines.
Maximilian Uriarte is a credible source. A former infantry Marine, Uriarte clearly uses his personal experience with hazing, false motivation, mandatory fun, “voluntold-isms,” and the profound ignorance of boots to craft an undeniably accurate look at the reality of serving in the Corps.
Maximilian Uriarte was a “0351” Assaultman stationed in Hawaii. Assaultman is an MOS infamous for having very high cutting scores, creating a situation where very experienced and competent Marines are surpassed in rank by peers simply because of the competitiveness of their job.
Situations like this are the genesis for the term, ‘Terminal Lance” and inform Uriarte’s perspective in his comics. After serving four years, experiencing multiple combat deployments, and being honorably discharged from the USMC in May of 2010, Uriarte started pursuing a career in animating and storyboarding. We enjoy the fruits of his labor to this day.
The New York Times posted a fascinating story Thursday about the mysterious sculpture called “Kryptos” in the courtyard at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and one short sentence really highlights barriers that existed between the intelligence agencies prior to Sep. 11, 2001.
Created by sculptor James Sanborn, Kryptos features four encoded messages that have baffled many for years. As a dedicated fan base has grown around the sculpture in trying to figure out the hidden message, three of the four had been decoded by 1999.
But in an interesting aside, journalist John Scwartz notes: “In fact, cryptographers at the National Security Agency cracked those messages in 1993, but kept the triumph to themselves.”
As a piece of artwork, the sculpture’s messages have nothing top secret within. Decoding it is really just a fun exercise for enthusiasts, but the fact NSA wouldn’t even tell their intelligence colleagues at CIA they had the answer for six years is rather telling.
In the sad postscript to the 9/11 attacks, it was found that a wall existed between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and there was even separation between the different spy agencies themselves. As we now know, this compartmentalization of information was one of the major reasons Al Qaeda terrorists were successful in their attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“We no longer operate largely on the principle of compartmentalization, that is, sharing information based on ‘need to know.’ We now start from the imperative of ‘responsibility to share,’ in order to collaborate with and better support our intelligence consumers—from the White House to the foxhole,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
Earlier this month, cadets arrived at West Point for “R day” or reception day, though social distancing and mask policy prompted by COVID-19 made this tradition look different than times past. Dwight Eisenhower, the school’s most famous alum, went through his own R-day in 1911. Even though the general and, later, president, will forever be associated with the Academy, a closer review of the history shows Eisenhower and West Point weren’t a perfect match. Here are five facts about Dwight Eisenhower’s time at West Point you might not know.
1. West Point wasn’t Eisenhower’s first choice.
It’s true. The academy that features a statue of Eisenhower, a leadership development program named for him and a theatre named after him, wasn’t Eisenhower’s first choice. Eisenhower initially preferred the Naval Academy. That makes sense because when Eisenhower was evaluating schools in 1910-1911, the U.S. demonstrated its military power through the Navy. Alas, Eisenhower, 20 at the time of his application, was too old for the Naval Academy, so he gave West Point a try. After some effort, Eisenhower was accepted, and he arrived at West Point on July 14, 1911.
2. Eisenhower was forced to join the “awkward squad” in his first weeks at West Point.
When students arrive at West Point, they are called plebes and hazing quickly begins. Upperclassmen at West Point initiate new students into the Army culture through rigorous physical and emotional tests known as the “beast barracks,” which involve a great deal of drilling. Having grown up in a rough-and-tumble farming town in Kansas, Eisenhower had no problem with the physical end of the ordeal. But he just could not catch onto the marching tempo and was forced to join similarly challenged plebes in the “awkward squad” until he could get the timing right.
3. Eisenhower didn’t like the hazing at West Point.
Eisenhower didn’t enjoy the beast barracks and did all he could to undermine the system of hazing. Years later he described the cadet instructors as “obnoxious and pestiferous.” Later in his plebe year, Eisenhower and a fellow cadet broke a minor rule. As punishment, an upperclassman ordered them to report in “full-dress coat.” Eisenhower took the order literally and showed up sans pants, an act of defiance that drove his tormenter mad. Years later Eisenhower savored how that upperclassman let out “the cry of a cougar.” Eisenhower recalled later in life that when he was an upperclassman, he shamed a cadet over a job the young man had held. After that incident, Eisenhower resolved to no longer harass plebes. Eisenhower was no bully.
4. Eisenhower broke the rules at West Point — a lot.
Eisenhower constantly broke the rules and regulations at West Point. The list of his demerits runs nearly 10 pages. Biographer Carlo D’Este writes that Eisenhower “seemed to relish every opportunity to outwit an instructor or upperclassman.” Eisenhower’s willful disregard for the rules pertaining to dancing, for example, brought him to the attention of the commandant. Eisenhower ignored an order not to, in his words, “whirl” a professor’s daughter during a dance. His willfulness led the commandant to demote him, confine him to barracks and order him to walk 22 laps.
5. Eisenhower was almost denied a commission at the end of his schooling at West Point.
Academics at West Point in the early 20th century did not encourage independent thinking. Instead, lessons involved what Michael E. Haskew called “mind-numbing rote memorization.” That approach led Eisenhower to devote his energies to football, a sport he had played in high school. Two weeks after competing against the legendary, Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe, Eisenhower suffered a major knee injury. That injury and others almost led an Army doctor to recommend that the future general be allowed to graduate but not receive a commission.
Eisenhower said he was fine with that and thought about a life in Argentina. When the doctor suggested he be commissioned in the Coast Artillery, Eisenhower objected, so West Point officials eventually settled on a commission in the infantry. Eisenhower graduated in 1915 and was deployed to the Mexican border, one of the least sought-after deployments in that era. In his first few years, Eisenhower’s requests to see combat in World War I were repeatedly denied, and he was pressured to coach football. Only through dogged persistence was he able to build a career for himself outside the confines of stateside training.
The class that graduated in 1915 would be referred to as the “Class the Stars Fell On.” (Wikimedia Commons)
Ultimately, the best parts of college for Eisenhower were the lessons he learned about leadership and the friends he made among his classmates. Those classmates, collectively known as the “class the stars fell on,” eventually rose high in the ranks and formed a cadre of allies Eisenhower would call upon later. Eisenhower sharpened his skills as a leader and realized that humiliating people did not motivate them. The obligations of service – duty, honor, country – so ingrained over those West Point years inspired Eisenhower throughout his military career, highlighted by his command of the D-Day invasion, and a political career that concluded with two terms as President of the United States.