Although the United States and Britain have had their share of disputes early on in American history, today the two countries are the closest of friends.
In case you were living under a rock, British troops fought alongside US in the global war on terror. That means while our service members are overseas, there’s a solid chance they will encounter members of the British army on a joint mission.
That being said, the British have some popular slang terms that we Americans don’t use but probably should know.
Everyone knows the Air Force has some cushy accommodations and, as a result, they often get flack from the other branches. It’s pretty obvious that most of these jokes stem from pure envy. Let’s face it, the Air Force is the youngest of all the branches and they get the best that Mom and Dad have to offer, even on deployments.
That’s what we call an Air Force MRE.
(Photo by Master Sergeant Christian Amezcua)
Surf and turf Fridays
In 2018, every Friday at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, the dining facility served surf and turf. It might not be the best quality steak or lobster, but who else gets steak and lobster on deployments!? Between steak and lobster dinners, the daily dishes are pretty up to par, taste-wise. There’s definitely no carrot pound cake or chili mac being served in this chow hall. Okay, I lied — there is chili mac, but it doesn’t resemble that sh*t found in MREs.
Everyone knows WiFi is essential to an Airman’s way of life.
Photo by Chad Garland of Stars and Stripes)
Free WiFi in work areas
You heard that right: free WiFi in the work areas is the norm for Airmen in Afghanistan. There’s WiFi provided by certain companies in sleeping quarters, but personnel pay upwards of .00 per month for access. To save some of that deployment bankroll, many Airmen spend a portion of their days off in or near their workplace to mooch off that sacred WiFi signal.
Is this why they call it the Chair Force?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joe Yanik)
It’s okay, laugh it up — but I bet forward operating bases’ don’t provide a makeshift movie theater with recliners where you can watch newly released films every Saturday and Sunday night. An Airman can watch a new movie that’s currently out in theaters every single weekend of their deployment if they choose to do so. Services also provides free, all-you-can-eat popcorn!
Running can be fun, right?
(U.S. Air Force)
5K fun runs
There are 5K fun runs almost every month, held on the main boulevard at Bagram Air Base. You can choose to run in formation, run in your flack vest and helmet, or even walk! It’s all about getting that exercise in and making the days a little less monotonous. All that Netflix binging on work WiFi can get tiresome. Woe is us.
Above, Kandahar Air Base Afghanistan where you can find a T.G.I. Fridays and KFC.
A taste of home
Tired of dining-facility surf and turf and instant coffee? Go to the on-base Green Beans Coffee, get a Chai Latte, and, while you’re at it, stop by Pizza Hut next door and order a pepperoni pie. Sure, the pepperoni doesn’t taste like pepperoni and kind of smells like fish, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? If you want to pick up some new headphones or something to read while you sip on that Chai, the Bagram BX is stocked with all the amenities you’d find at home.
This post originally published on WATM in 2018. But we still feel the same way about the cushiness of Air Force Deployments.
If you’re like me, your answer to the inevitable question, “So, where are you from?” has to be answered in list form. Of course, the next question is always, “Oh, so you’re an Army brat?”
To which I answer, “Marine brat, actually.”
While this question used to fill me with dread, as I’ve gotten older I have come to embrace my time as a Marine brat. So, as a celebration of my childhood, I present to you the top 10 best things about being the daughter of a Marine.
1. Government officials are nicer to you
When I was in college, I went on a ski trip to Canada and forgot to bring my passport. When we tried to cross back into the U.S., the border agent gave me the side eye and started lecturing me about increased security.
Then we had this conversation:
Border Agent: Where were you born?
Me: Camp Pendleton, California.
Border Agent: (visibly becomes friendlier) Oh! Do you have a parent in the Marines?
Me: Yep! My dad’s a Marine.
Border Agent: Ah, that’s great. Well, just don’t forget your passport next time.
Boom. Thanks dad for keeping me from getting trapped in Canada forever.
2. You have a sword in your house
Sure lots of people have baseball bats or knives or guns in their houses, but not many have a sword. In high school, my dad’s dress blues sword hung on the wall in the den where it could strike fear into the hearts of boys while lending our house a sense of medieval charm.
3. Your dad scares your boyfriends
Which leads me to number 3. Now, I pride myself as being an independent, strong woman who doesn’t buy into that puritanical, patriarchal protection nonsense.
That being said, I can’t say it isn’t fun when my dad puts guys just the tiniest bit on edge. My high school boyfriend once told me that my dad was funny, friendly, and just a little bit terrifying. Heck, my best friend from college is still nervous around him.
4. You’ve seen “Full Metal Jacket” 627 times
Not the whole movie, just the first 20 minutes or so while your dad tells you about how realistic it is, how hard boot camp was, and how he broke his all of his leg bones during the first 5 minutes of boot camp but still made it to the end, damnit***
*I don’t know if this qualifies as a “best” thing or just “a” thing.
**He has clarified that he only had a stress fracture in his foot and it was the last week of boot camp. But still.
5. You are always on time
To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is out of the question.
Military time isn’t just converting 1500 hours to 3:00 PM. It also means knowing you should really be there at 2:45.
6. You get really good at meeting people
Awkward small talk and continuously having the answer the same questions over and over again? Bring it on!
I’ve met at least 76 new people every year since I was born. Ok, I don’t actually have an exact figure, but from the time I was a wee one, I’ve been comfortable with being suddenly dropped into a completely unfamiliar group of people. When my friends fretted about going away to a college where they wouldn’t know anyone, I was happily filling out applications for colleges all over the country.
Moving has also made me great at 1) joining clubs 2) first dates 3) teaching college students.
7 . You don’t get overly attached to houses or places
In my family, we got into the habit of making “pros” lists when we moved somewhere new so we didn’t just focus on what we missed about the old place. This habit has forced me to look at the bright side of any location in which I find myself. I’m also great at packing and unpacking, and I won’t ever have to go through the existential crisis of my parents selling my childhood home, because I don’t have one!
The downside of not having a childhood home to return to is that I get overly attached to my stuff. “How can you expect me to throw away any of the birthday cards I’ve ever received. THIS IS ALL I HAVE”
8. But you get to live in awesome places
By the time I was 5, I’d already lived in Southern California, Japan, and Maryland.
Maybe you wouldn’t call Maryland awesome (but, crabcakes!), but every new place changes you for the better and becomes a part of you.
My family left Japan with a love of sushi, an amazing chopstick holder collection, and a life-long family friendship. My parents kept in such good touch with a Japanese family we met while we lived overseas that their son came to live with us when he was in high school, and this summer my parents are going to his wedding in Turkey.
As an added bonus, you eventually know people in so many cities, that you can go on vacation virtually anywhere in the United States without having to pay for a hotel.
9. You become very close to your family
Throughout my life, I’ve had several friends refer to my family as “The Waltons.” When my mom was 25, she was living on a military base in Japan with a toddler, a baby, and a husband who was gone for months at a time. We quickly came to rely on each other for support and companionship.
10. And even though you have to loan him to the Corps for long stretches of time, you know that your dad is, first and foremost, there for you
Who are the best commandos in the Western Hemisphere? Throw Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Rangers, Marine Force Recon, the Marine Special Operations Command, or even Air Force Special Tactics airmen into a ring and find out. Sort of.
Which is kind of what happens during an annual competition called Fuerzas Commandos. It’s been held 13 times. In 2017, Honduras took the trophy from Colombia, an eight-time winner of the 11-day event.
So, what, exactly goes down at these commando Olympics?
First, there is an opening ceremony during which the trophy is returned to an officer of the host nation.
This year, 20 countries (Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Uruguay) competed, sending over 700 commandos.
Participants take part in both an Assault Team Competition and a Sniper Team Competition.
The Assault Team Competition features a number of challenges. One is a physical fitness test.
There is a “confidence course” and an obstacle course is run as well.
Close-quarters combat skills are tested and there is a rucksack march.
Don’t forget the aquatic events or the hostage rescue events.
The Sniper Team Competition features marksmanship.
A Mexican soldier looks over his ghillie suit before the beginning of a stalk-and-shoot event July 20, 2017 during Fuerzas Comando in Ñu Guazú, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tonya Deardorf)
Then there is concealment.
They also have a physical fitness test and there’s a mobility event.
This year, Honduras won the title, Colombia finished second, and the USA took third place. Next year, Panama will host Fuerzes Commandos. Will Honduras defend their title, will the Colombians make it nine out of fourteen, or will there be a surprise winner?
Sometimes you just feel a little under the weather and are looking for that extra day off. Everyone experiences it and you’re no different. But hey, take if from a “doc” who’s heard every excuse in the book. Here are some surefire ways to get yourself that 24-hour “Sick in Quarters” chit that says “no duty for me, and I’m going home.”
Here’s a few ways you can get sent home as sick in quarters — on your own terms.
1. Food Poisoning
Sounds bad right? Because it is bad.
Telling the medical personnel you ate sushi the night before (even if you didn’t) and you’ve been vomiting ever since is gold. Don’t forget to tell them you’re unable to hold down water.
They may conduct a “water challenge” which is when they monitor you to see if you can hold down a glass of water. They won’t tell you what they’re doing because they’re camouflaging the test. Spit it up onto the floor, or into a trash can, never in he sink. You want them to see the evidence.
Since there’s no real medical test for this, it’ll probably get labeled in your medical record as a case of gastroenteritis, which is a fancy word for stomach ache.
2. More Than 5 Days
Five days is typically the baseline where doctors believe your aliments may be bacteriological instead of viral — even without a fever. This is a huge tally in your win column. Once the medical professionals begin talking about giving you antibiotics, which they rarely do, hold the smile back when they put you on a five day Z-pak instead of a cold pack.
Letting you go back on duty and risk getting others sick makes more work for them. So away you go!
3. A History of…
Doctors have to be detectives ruling out the worst possible medical condition first, but they only know what you tell them.
Be careful of what you say and how you say it, you could be looking at a full day in medical getting blood work and x-rays. Your chances of going home early could be over.
4. Cough During Auscultation
Auscultation is the act of listening to sounds your heart, lungs, and other organs make using a stethoscope to diagnosis pulmonary and cardiac conditions. Here’s a common trick. Deliver a nice wet cough when the doctor puts the diaphragm of the stethoscope on your back and tells you to take a breath deep in. Timing is key. Deep breathes tend to trigger coughing.
Also note that you should dramatically clear your throat when left alone in the patient’s room. The medical staff can totally hear you from outside.
5. Have A Battle Buddy
You’re feeling so ill you can’t make it to medical alone. That’s a shame. Having a witness to testify on your behalf how sick you are is an incredible asset to have. Just remember, you now own him or her big time.
6. No partying for you
Now that you’ve got your SIQ chit. Get out of there and go home before the doc changes his mind.
Some quick words of advice. People are haters, and the military community is small. You get caught at the bar, mall, or strip club on your newly earned day off, you could be in a world of hurt as your new assigned place of duty is now where ever you call home.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team deputes their 2017 routine during the 81st Training Group drill down at the Levitow Training Support Facility drill pad March 10, 2017, on Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The team comes to Keesler every year for five weeks to develop a new routine that they will use throughout the year.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, takes off March 10, 2017, at Andersen AFB, Guam. The B-1B’s are deployed to Andersen as part of U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence operations. This forward deployed presence demonstrates continuing U.S. commitment to stability and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Most importantly, these bomber rotations provide Pacific Air Forces and USPACOM commanders an extended deterrence capability.
U.S. Army Spc. Vincent Ventarola, assigned to Cobra Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, pulls the lanyard on a M777 Howitzer during Exercise Dynamic Front II at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 9, 2017. Dynamic Front is an artillery operability exercise and focuses on developing solutions within the theater level fires system by executing multi-echelon fires and testing interoperability at the tactical level. It includes nearly 1,400 participants from nine NATO nations.
Two CH-47 Chinook helicopters from 12th Combat Aviation Brigade conduct environmental qualifications and sling-load training with M777 howitzers, Jan. 18, 2017, outside Grafenwoehr, Germany. Aircrews practice flying in whiteout conditions areas with heavy snow fall and wind.
EAST CHINA SEA (March 16, 2017) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Jesse Harris, assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), braces himself as an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262, takes off during an air assault exercise. Bonhomme Richard is on a routine patrol operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance warfighting readiness and posture forward as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.
SUEZ CANAL (March 10, 2017) Sailors gather on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) to view the Friendship Bridge as the ship transits the Suez Canal. George H.W. Bush and its carrier strike group are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryce Meeker, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, scouts out the terrain during Exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017. Forest Light is designed to maintain readiness of Japan Ground Self-Defense and deployed U.S. Marine Corps forces to ensure an effective and rapid response to any contingency in the region.
The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs during the Battle Color Ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, March 2, 2017. The ceremony was held to celebrate Marine Corps history using music, marching and precision drill.
Coast Guard and NOAA responders confer during whale disentanglement operations off Maui March 11, 2017. The services received a report of an entangled humpback whale off Maui prompting a two-day response to remove a large electrical cable from the mouth of the whale.
The crew of a Coast Guard MH-65 rescue helicopter rescued overdue kayaker Josh Kaufman (center) during the morning of March 17, 2017, after being stranded on the uninhabited island of Desecheo, approximately 13 nautical miles off Rincon, Puerto Rico. Kaufman, 25, a resident of Fla. was visiting his family in Puerto Rico, when he was reported being overdue to the Coast Guard from a kayak trip in Rincon March 16, 2017.
In America, when you go without wearing any underwear, we jokingly call it “going commando.” If you’ve ever deployed to a joint military base and you’ve worked alongside Royal Marines, then you understand the term better than most — you’ve probably received an uncalled-for eyeful when these troops wake up for the work day. That’s because they tend to sleep in just their birthday suits.
But it’s not for comfort’s sake — it’s hygienically sound.
It’s no secret that, when the mission calls for it, military personnel sometimes have to live in tight berthing areas. Because of this close-quarter living, illnesses and bacteria can quickly spread from person to person.
Most service members are taught to shower before they go to bed. After all, you want to remain as clean as possible throughout the night. But when we sleep, we naturally sweat from our pores. Meanwhile, our microscopic skin cells die and flake off. You might not know it, but you leave behind an imprint of skin and sweat wherever you lay — it’s actually pretty nasty.
Royal Marines tend to sleep naked so they don’t hold all the juices and skin flakes emitted from their bodies in the clothes they’ll later wear.
U.S. troops are taught to sleep in a t-shirt and undies or some type of pajamas. Sure, this might contribute to the ever-growing pile of dirty laundry, but at least it’s easier to go to the restroom at 0300 — which is located on the other side of the FOB.
It happens every time the Olympics come on. Americans gather to cheer on our athletes in every event because they represent our country. Every now and then — especially when it comes watching Olympics shooting — you hear the same, misguided phrase: “That’s it? I can do that!” Sure, 50 meters with a .22 seems easy enough considering the amount of range time your average infantryman spends shooting at the 300-meter target, but there’s a lot more to it.
Luckily for those cocky soldiers, there’s a program through the MWR that’ll give you a chance to prove you can do it, too: the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. In order to even be considered, a soldier must be in good standing, have completed Advanced Individual Training or the Basic Officer Leader Course, be applying for an Olympic sport, and must reach a high enough national ranking to justify their application. The WCAP is not a developmental program. You have to already be a world-class athlete to even be considered.
Since the program was established in 1948, over 600 soldiers have represented our nation at the Olympics as athletes and coaches and have earned over 140 medals. Much of the training is done at Fort Carson, Colorado. Once there, soldiers can expect to train day-in and day-out for their given event. If you’re chosen, this doesn’t mean you neglect your soldierly duties. Though the training is rigorous, it’s still extracurricular.
For marksmen interested in shooting events, there’s also the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit out of Fort Benning. Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller has represented the United States of America in every Summer Olympics since 2000, earned the Gold Medal in 2008, and still holds the Olympic record for double trap. Even after his appearance at the 2012 London Olympics, Eller deployed to Afghanistan, where he taught marksmanship to both American troops and the Afghan National Army.
To learn more about the qualifications for each individual event, check out the link here.
Those suffering from injuries will do and try just about anything to relieve pain. With musculoskeletal injuries being a top health problem for the U.S. Armed Forces, it’s time to prioritize better treatments and solutions.
A recent report by Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences found that 3/4 of medically non-deployable service members are sidelined due to musculoskeletal injuries, and 68,000 service members fall into that category each year. Studies suggest that non-combat musculoskeletal injuries could account for nearly 60% of soldiers’ limited duty days and 65% of soldiers who cannot deploy for medical reasons.
Throughout my five years working with the military, currently with units from every branch, including Special Operations Command and the Reserve Component, the most common musculoskeletal injuries I see our service members suffer from are lower back pain and lower leg issues, with the former being at the top of the list for the warfighter. Lower leg issues are a close second, with those injuries ranging from shin splints and stress reactions to stress fractures.
These two injuries are the most common across the force, but each branch exhibits certain types more than others. For example, the Air Force tends to suffer from lower back injuries because Airmen are sitting in cramped areas for an extended period. Additionally, they are at an increased risk for spinal injuries, neck, and back. The neck becomes an issue because jets are faster and helmets have more tech, making them heavier. Confined spaces, faster jets, and heavier helmets make a great recipe for spinal injuries.
However, the Army is the best example of lower leg injuries because they tend to cover the most mileage on rugged terrain over long distances.
Although these two branches stand out for certain types of injuries, nearly every service member will suffer from some musculoskeletal injury during their career and seek the best solution for recovery and pain relief.
Whether information is found on the internet or received from a doctor, it is typically seen as the magic cure by the patient seeking help.
While there are certainly good doctors and sound advice online, each injury and individual require specific, personalized treatment. As an expert in using Force Plate Machine Learning™ (FPML™) to identify, prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries, I encourage military leaders to seek out programs that focus on the individual warfighter’s health and fitness needs. Solutions like FPML™ will allow for early identification of musculoskeletal weakness and help create individualized training programs to prevent future injury.
Practices that utilize evidence-based, individualized solutions are best for preventing injuries and correctly training the body but understanding that this technology is not yet widely used by the Service, I will share some generic at-home remedies for common service member injuries, as well as dispel myths about well-known treatments.
The easiest way to make an injured area feel better is to stimulate or contract the opposite area. For example, if suffering from back pain, a solution can be working your abdominals with exercises like the plank. This is because the human body has antagonistic relaxation – meaning when one muscle group fires, the other is inhibited. Therefore, activating the abdominal muscles will, in turn, relax the back muscles and provide relief.
The quick and easy treatment used by traditional doctors reluctant to adopt more complex solutions is RICE. We’ve all heard it: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Sure, ice is great as an anesthetic (a numbing agent) for short-term pain relief immediately after injury. It will hide the pain and help with performance for about 5-60 minutes post-injury. But after that, ice and RICE will significantly prolong the healing process.
Both RICE and ibuprofen (Advil) actually delay the healing process and can be harmful to the body’s recovery. Many doctors still prescribe the nifty acronym because it’s easy to remember for the physician who is still operating in the 1980s.
RICE exemplifies the power of simplification and reinforces the idea that people will try just about anything – opioids, RICE, or over-the-counter painkillers when in pain.
In reality, movement is the best medicine, with data-driven, individualized movement plans being effective solutions that can help reduce chronic pain and injuries.
Dr. Phil Wagner is a physician, strength & conditioning coach, and expert on using force plates and machine learning to prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries. He is the founder and CEO of Sparta Science.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Timothy Moore
We all know them quite well considering we screamed them from the top of our lungs while wearing full PT gear and running through our respective bases.
We’re talking about our beloved military cadences.
The same ones that sound incredibly catchy but are used to keep service member tactfully in line during a run formation. Sometimes they’re even hilarious and surprisingly helpful for morale.
After we collected our DD-214s, we practically sprinted off base with every intention of never looking back, but once you hear one of those motivating songs, the military mindset kicks in, taking you right back in time to the good ol’ days of group PT.
The Air Force family tree has many branches and one branch, representing the service’s Gold Star families, has leaves that glow consistently with the rest.
Gold Star families are survivors of military service members who lost their lives during armed hostilities, including deployments in support of military operations against an enemy or during an international terrorist attack.
The Air Force’s Gold Star program provides enhanced support and outreach for the lifetime of each survivor, or until the survivor no longer needs or desires the services. The program is designed to let families know the Air Force cares for them and will continue to embrace them as part of the Air Force family.
“Our primary purpose is to continue recognizing and honoring the sacrifice these families and their loved ones made in the service of our nation,” said Vera Carson, Air Force Families Forever program manager at the Air Force Personnel Center. “Gold Star families fall under the Air Force Families Forever program, which ensures all families of our fallen Airmen are never forgotten.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein directed the provision of additional lifelong support to Gold Star families in April 2017. Gold Star family members, such as parents, adult children, and siblings, are now being offered the opportunity to receive a Gold Star identification card, which authorizes access to Air Force bases in the continental US, Alaska, and Hawaii. For additional information, contact your Air Force Families Forever representative at the local airman and family readiness center.
By allowing these families unescorted access to Air Force installations, they can visit their loved one’s gravesite, attend memorials and base-wide events, and stop by the local airman and family readiness center for immediate and long-term compassionate support.
“General Goldfein and his wife, Dawn, want to ensure our Gold Star families remain a part of the Air Force family, and this special ID card is helping us make that happen,” said Carla Diamond , Air Force Gold Star and Surviving Family Member representative. “We are reaching out to surviving family members, establishing contact, and ensuring that their needs are met.”
One resource for survivors is the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. This program provides emotional support and healing to anyone grieving the death of a military loved one. The staff provides military survivor seminars, Good Grief Camps for young survivors, peer mentors, and resources relating to grief and trauma.
Taking care of each Airman’s family is vital to ensuring an Airman is prepared and mission ready.
“Supporting family members is critical in making sure our Airmen are resilient and ready to meet their mission objectives and serve our nation daily,” said Randy Tillery, Airmen and Family Care director. “The Gold Star program reminds our surviving family members they are still an important part of the greater Air Force family.”
Gold Star families are not new. The term traces back to World War I when Americans would fly a flag with a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces. The star became gold if the family lost a loved one in the war. Along with the US flag, these family members now receive a lapel pin with a gold star resting on a purple background.
Since 1936, the last Sunday of September is observed as Gold Star Mothers’ and Families’ Day. Air Force officials are now planning events to commemorate the special day.
About a dozen young men and women are gathered at a shopping center, lining up outside Marine Corps Recruiting Sub-Station here, to prepare for the challenges of recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.
Some recruits are more prepared than others. Some still have ground to cover and goals to obtain, but 17-year-old Demetri E. Ramos has covered more ground than his peers.
Over the past three years he lost about 90 pounds to be eligible to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. He started his journey at 260 pounds and now weighs 170 pounds.
His stepfather, Robert Haag, challenged him during his freshman year to turn his life around. Haag noticed his stepson would spend many hours every day playing video games in the basement of his house. Haag approached Ramos and challenged him to earn his place on “the wall.”
“There is a big wall in our house that you have to earn your way [onto],” Haag said. On this wall are photos of six current and former Marines.
Setting a Goal
“My stepfather told me if I go from 260 pounds to 180 pounds, he would buy me an Xbox One,” said Ramos, a Severna Park High School native. At first, Ramos was hesitant about the large amount of weight he would have to lose.
But, he said, after eating healthier and spending long hours in the gym with his stepbrother he accomplished his goal.
After graduating high school this past spring, Ramos’ stepbrother and stepfather, who are both Marines, went with him to visit the local Marine Corps Recruiting Station, a trip that would change his life forever.
Ramos added he always looked up to and admired the Marines in his family because of their character and values they learned.
“To see the dedication he had before talking to [us] was incredible,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Irwin, the commander of the Glen Burnie Marine recruiting office. “You can definitely see the commitment he had to make himself eligible for enlistment, and to take the initial steps of becoming a United States Marine.”
“It wasn’t fun being incapable of doing things because of my weight, or being out of shape and not progressing,” Ramos said. “My motivation initially started with these restrictions and it grew more and more when I continued to lose weight and wanted to continue to make myself better as a person.”
Ramos is scheduled to attend recruit training at the end of this year, and according to Irwin, “he is pumped and ready to go.”
“If you never have confidence in yourself, you’re not going to go anywhere,” he said.
You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.
That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.
This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.
The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.
During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.
Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.
It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.
And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.