Yes, they learn the basics in Boot Camp and Basic Training. Yes, they’ll acquire a general understanding of their MOS while in advanced training. But that’s just it — bare-minimum knowledge. Don’t expect those under your command to be experts in everything straight out the gate. After all, if someone doesn’t know or understand a specific task relevant to their career, there’s no one to blame but you. This is the idea behind “hip pocket training.”
Sometime throughout the day, an NCO should give a class on a specific topic. No PowerPoint slides copied from someone else, no reading from a book — the NCO should be the subject matter expert in whatever they’re teaching. If not, there’s no shame in asking someone else who is to “assist” in training.
7. Weapons familiarity
Every grunt and every POG should know how to properly use their weapon system, not just “pull this here, it goes bang, and that thing over there drops.” They should know every inch of their weapon. What every piece does and how it works with other pieces. Troops should know how to properly maintain it and what to do if a malfunction occurs. There’s plenty more you can do other than dime drills.
If you don’t know what a dime drill is: lay in the prone position with a rifle and have someone place either a washer or a dime at the end of the barrel. The objective it to practice pulling the trigger without jerking the weapon to the left or right, but steadily enough to keep a constant grouping of shots.
Just as there are countless classes you can host on weapons training, there are countless you can teach on medical. How to treat and dress combat injuries, how to respond to casualties of various weather conditions (hot weather, cold weather, etc.), and how to prepare a troop to properly hand off the injured to professionals — these are all life-saving skills. They don’t need to be field surgeons, but there’s no excuse for not knowing how to bring someone to proper care.
One such class could be on how to properly extract a casualty under fire. For maximum effect, train as you fight — in gear. Practice all means available, from over the shoulder carries to drags. If even the smallest person in your team can find suitable means of extracting the largest person, you’re golden.
While the average troop may not need to touch a radio, if the worst comes to worst, they’ll need to know. Troops who can properly use a radio and not talk on it like it’s a freaking cellphone are invaluable on the battlefield. Teach the basics of setting up a radio, proper etiquette while talking, and the common requests, like calling for fire or a nine-line MEDEVAC.
If the radio operator can’t get on the hand-mic or is injured, someone else will need to operate it. The Medical Evacuation will need to know the most important five things before they can set out. They are: The location of the injured, the frequency to reach the radio operator, the precedence and number of the injured, if any special equipment is needed, and number of patients who need a litter or can walk. The mnemonic device most commonly used to remember this is, “Low Flying Pilots Eat Nachos.”
The best part about wilderness survival training is that, by definition, it’s supposed to be about not having the proper tools. Whether you train the troop in how to survive outside in a desert or how to survive the backwoods of your military installation, these are tips that can also be applied off-duty when civilians ask to go camping.
A quick and easy skill to learn is how to build a debris hut. You could use a poncho, but you can make a basic structure with just three sturdy sticks as a base and some branches for insulation.
Above all, the troop must know the skills required by their specific MOS. But, as what everyone who has ever deployed can tell you, you’ll always do more. Even if you believe that you and your troops have the most cushioned position in the safest place, they should know their battle drills. Specifically, Battle Drill 2: react to contact.
BD2 is the breakdown of what you should do after an enemy engages you. Immediately — before they have time to think — troops should be able to identify what makes great cover from wherever the enemy is. It should be second nature that they should stack on a concrete wall and await the next orders. The rest of BD2 falls on the leader’s shoulders.
Continuing on the theme of “things you weren’t trained to do but do anyways,” we have: other people’s tasks. Your troops should be self-reliant to the point that they don’t need the people from the other platoon to hold their hands through everything. A great way to do this is to find another NCO from another section and make a deal. You help teach their troops this time, they help you teach next time.
This doesn’t have to be between the squad or platoon levels. If you have a buddy in another battalion or brigade who has a wildly different MOS from you, ask them to help break the monotony of daily training. Everyone has something to offer. Even if they’re grunts and you’re far from it, you can still pick up a few things here and there.
Troops need to know the shoulders of the giants upon which they stand. Every military installation has names of great troops, famous battles, and historic locations written on nearly every building and street. If you’re a 101st Airborne soldier stationed at Fort Campbell, you should be able to give details on the significance behind the name “Market Garden Road” whenever you run it in the morning.
Throughout history, women have played pivotal roles in the military. Women have served on the frontlines since the Revolutionary War – Margaret Corbin, famously defended Fort Washington in 1776 – but it wasn’t until 1901 that women were allowed to serve in the military in any official capacity.
“Albeit only in certain branches and typically in wartime,” Captain Veronica Bean, Public Affairs Officer for the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Drum, told We Are The Mighty. “Since then, we’ve seen major legislative and institutional changes, including the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, which allowed women to serve during peacetime and the Department of Defense’s 2013 decision to allow women to serve in combat roles.”
World War I was the first time the military opened to women on an official level by the Army.
Women were allowed to serve in the military when the need for manpower grew too large to ignore. “The country realized we needed all hands on deck to support the war,” Bean explained. “As women successfully completed their original duties, more and more jobs opened up to them. World War I served as a turning point where the nation saw how valuable women were to the war effort. It set the conditions for WAVES, WAACS and WASPS in World War II and generations of future service.”
Trailblazers from each branch include: Deborah Sampson, U.S. Army; Esther McGowin Blake, U.S. Air Force; Genevieve and Lucille Baker, U.S.Coast Guard; Loretta Walsh, U.S. Navy; Opha May Johnson, U.S. Marine Corps.
“The first women to serve in the armed forces enlisted in the Navy in 1917,” Bean shared. “While the women served stateside, they were afforded the same benefits and pay as their male counterparts. The military was one of the first institutions to offer equal pay between the sexes. This was a groundbreaking social change—remember, this was three years before the U.S. ratified the 19th amendment which grants women the right to vote.”
In January 2013, Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, lifted the ban on women in combat roles and gave the military two years to complete integration.
“Limiting the roles in which women could serve in the military effectively capped female career progression,” Bean said. “Take into consideration that the most senior strategic leaders – the chiefs of staff or combatant commanders for example – historically have combat arms backgrounds, which is why these positions were filled only by men until just a few years ago. The Department of Defense’s decision to allow women to serve in all capacities of the military freed women to also serve at all levels of leadership. As women progress up the ranks and fill these senior leader positions, we’re starting to have women, for the first time, impact decisions that ultimately affect the entire force.”
Today, women serve in all facets of the armed services.
“Gender diversity in the military makes us better, because it allows a myriad of experience and perspective to be included in the planning and decision-making process,” Bean explained. “More importantly, allowing women to serve in the same fashion as their male peers breaks down stereotypes about what women can and can not do both physically and professionally.”
Bean told We Are The Mighty that as a woman in the military, there are many women who currently serve or have served that inspire her.
“Army Gen (Ret.) Ann E. Dunwoody was the first woman in the military to achieve the rank of general. Needless to say, she was a trail blazer and an inspiration to all the women who have followed in her footsteps,” she said. “More recently, U.S. Army Reservist, LTC Lisa Jaster was the first female reservist to complete Ranger school -and the third of all components. I really admire her for her grit and tenacity, but especially because she took on that challenge – a school whose motto is “not for the faint or weak of heart” – at age 37 after having two children. The average trainee is 23. She’s a reminder that the only limits we have are the one we put on ourselves.”
Although the military has come a long way in equality, there is still work to be done.
“Being a female service member can be a lonely experience,” Bean said. “It’s quite common to sit through a series of meetings in which I am the only woman in the room. But despite this, or perhaps because of this, the bond which is shared between sisters-in-arms is stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced outside of the military. The mentorship and support that military women provide each other aren’t talked about enough.”
Looking toward the future of women in the armed forces, Bean is hopeful.
“Today’s military recognizes that our strength lies in our diversity, and our senior leaders are making significant changes to grooming standards, uniforms, and training programs in order to recruit and retain women,” she said. “I’m excited about what the future holds, and I hope more young women will consider joining the profession of arms.”
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.
Hey, want to make an extra $175,000? Well, if you’re a Navy fighter pilot and you’re willing to spend another five years in the service, that pile of cash can be yours! Now that we have the big-ass headline and the promise of a lot of moolah out of the way, let’s get down to the fine print.
According to a Navy release, the active-duty component is offering big cash in the form of Aviation Department Head Retention Bonuses and Aviation Command Retention Bonuses. The aim here is to keep talented, hardworking pilots on active duty. The Navy, essentially, is looking to avoid ending up in the same dire straits as the Air Force in terms of personnel shortages.
Here’s how the bonuses will work, according to NAVADMIN 065/18. The Aviation Department Head Retention Bonus is open to any aviator selected for promotion to lieutenant commander. Pilots have the option of signing a contract of either three years or five years. Those who sign five-year deals prior to ADHSB selection results going public can get a bonus of up to $35,000. Your best bet for getting the big money is to fly F/A-18C Hornets, F-35 Lightnings, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, or E-2C Hawkeyes. MH-53E Sea Dragon pilots, a minesweeping version of the CH-53E Super Stallion, are also eligible to for big bonuses.
Those who sign up for the Aviation Command Retention Bonus can get $100,000 over three years ($34,000 for the first year, $33,000 for the other two). Eligibility is limited to those officers who hold the rank of commander and who have been screened for becoming the commanding officer of an eligible operational, operational training, or special mission command. They agree to stay on for three years, which will include a tour after their squadron command. The obligation ends at the end of that post-command assignment or 22 years of active service, whichever comes later.
Aviation duty incentive pay (better known as flight pay) is also getting a boost, especially for those who are in administrative milestone billets. That only could net you a cool $1,000 in cash per month!
“I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” Article One of the Code of Conduct for members of the armed forces of the United States
Service members are prepared to die in the line of duty and unfortunately, especially during times of war, too many do make that ultimate sacrifice. It is a reality that the armed forces take very seriously — both on a personal level, as those left behind mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters in arms, and on a professional level, as the Department of Defense strives to provide comfort to the bereaved families.
One of the most important military duties is to provide a death notification to the deceased’s next of kin.
It is a duty that is carried out with the utmost respect, and, like anything else in the military, it is overseen with official guidance. Each branch has its own manual with specific procedures (the Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Program manual, for example, is 182 pages long — no stone is left unturned), but they are all serve the same purpose: to provide guidance about casualty reporting, notification, mortuary affairs, and military funeral honors, benefits, and entitlements assistance and all administrative requirements.
This video (a work of fiction, from Army Wives) does a decent job depicting a respectful death notification (though, unless the information was classified, the notification officer would have provided the next of kin — in this case, the deceased soldier’s mother— some details about the cause of death).
There are specific instructions for notifying the next of kin about injuries or even desertion, but this article will cover the procedure for death notifications. Each branch is different, but this is what they have in common:
Notification of death, duty status whereabouts unknown, or missing will be carried out in person to the primary next of kin and secondary next of kin. They will wear a formal uniform as stipulated by their branch guidelines (for the Marine Corps, it is the Service Alpha uniform; for the Air Force, it is the Service Dress; etc.).
The notification team is composed of a field grade officer of equal or higher grade than the member about whom they are making notification (for this article, we’ll use the term ‘notification officer’ but the duty title varies among branches), and at least one other person; if possible, the additional people should be a chaplain and medical personnel capable of delivering assistance to the next of kin. Notification should not be delayed in order to find the latter two, however.
A person with a close relationship to the deceased may be invited, as well as a public affairs representative if there are indications of a high level of media interest and the presence of media is likely.
Death notification should be accomplished within 8 hours of learning of the casualty incident, and between the hours of 0500-0000.
Respecting the next of kin’s dignity and privacy are very important. If they are not home or cannot be found, the notification team may discreetly attempt to locate them or await their return. If the team is still unable to locate the next of kin, the notification officer will contact their branch personnel department for instruction.
Upon arrival at the home of the next of kin, the notification officer will ask for permission to enter. It is recommended that the next of kin be seated prior to delivering the news.
Before the notification officer delivers the notification, they will verbally confirm the identity of the next of kin by asking for their full name. The notification officer will introduce himself and the team. The notification officer will then articulate — as naturally as possible — something close to the following:
“The Commandant of the Marine Corps has entrusted me to express his deep regret that your (relationship), John (died/was killed in action) in (place of incident (city/state or country) on (date). (State the circumstances.) The Commandant extends his deepest sympathy to you and your family in your loss.”
The notification team also verifies information about death gratuity, movement of the deceased, and other active duty service members in the family (who must be properly notified as well). The notification officer will arrange a second visit, usually 24 hours later, to discuss mortuary affairs and funeral honors.
The team watches for signs of medical distress, and usually stays with the next of kin until another adult can accompany them.
In military speak, the purpose of this program is to provide “prompt and accurate reporting, dignified and humane notification, and efficient, thorough, and compassionate assistance to the next of kin and/or those designated to receive benefits/entitlements.”
Adhering to guidelines can also help prevent confusion or, in a worst case scenario, legal issues. Formal procedures also help protect family from scams that take advantage of deployed service members (yes — that’s a thing, and it’s particularly atrocious).
The American flag, also lovingly known as “the Stars and Stripes” and “Old Glory,” is one of the most famous patriotic symbols in the world. Over the years, it’s been modified to reflect our country’s growth and waves triumphantly across our great nation. We associate our nation’s emblem with the freedom and democracy the US champions.
The flag has been raised on various battlefields throughout the world and many Americans hoist it outside of their homes as a badge of loyalty. But nothing lasts forever and, eventually, flags need to be removed from operational service. When an American flag can no longer be used, the symbol must be removed from service in a dignified way.
So, how do you properly dispose of our nation’s flag?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)
According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, first, the flag should be folded up in the customary manner. This means holding the flag waist-high and folding the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise over the field of stars. Then, folded again, keeping the blue stars facing up.
Next, triangularly fold the striped corner of the already-folded edge to meet the open side of the flag. Continue making triangular folds until you’ve covered the entire length of the flag. Once the flag is prepared, it’s to be placed in a fire. Any individuals in attendance must stand at the position of attention, salute the flag, and state the Pledge of Allegiance, which is to be followed by a period of silence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Cyr)
Once the flag is consumed by the flames, its ashes are to be buried.
Note: Please check with local fire codes before choosing your fire and bury sites.
The Marine Corps and Navy have a complicated relationship at sea. There is no shortage of inter-branch jokes at one another’s expense. Time old classics such as, ‘The Marine Corps is the men’s department of the Navy,’ (which is true) does not inspire loyalty while underway. The military branches are brothers in arms, and just like brothers in real life, they like to beat each other. That is, until the president issues the order to liberate a country or provide humanitarian aid. Life’s boring on ship. Naturally Marines and sailors will always find things to bicker about.
1. Waiting in line
An argument between Marines and sailors always breaks out at the head of the line, especially at chow time. The Marine Corps has early chow and late chow. The Navy does as well but they take it to another level. Instead of having a separate line for people on post or at work, and be civilized, they just cut in front of the line like heathens. This, of course, causes problems when one gets between a devil dog and his chow. By the end of the first month it is guaranteed that new rules will be set in place because of the culture clash.
2. E5 and below working parties
Every time there is a RAS, also known as a Resupply at Sea, the intercom will announce an E5 and below working party. The Navy promotes faster, thus, they will have more E5’s than the Marines stationed on board. However, a Marine infantry sergeant who has served multiple combat deployments is going to have a few choice words about doing bush league tasks like that. In the Navy, one doesn’t get respect until they become an E6.
3. Who drinks more
Marines do. This one is a given, Marines can out-drink any sailor in any hemisphere. It’s not even a contest. Also, Corpsman with the Fleet Marine Force count as one of us. So, although a Corpsman maybe out-drinks a Marine it doesn’t count because he’s cool.
4. The gym
The Navy’s version of a POG is a button pusher. The Marines aboard the ship need to weight train because it is part of their job to be in top physical shape. These are the guys who, if the president wants a country invaded in 24 hours, are landing on the beach. The sailor on social media all day in his office doesn’t need to be in the gym. Worst yet, they don’t know how to train correctly and get in the way. Eventually, the ship will have to divide the gym into blocks when one branch has access to it without the other. Marines won’t budge on this one: your ship, our gym, stay out.
5. Extra duties makes everyone extra petty
The ship also needs help with other duties in the kitchen, the ship store, security and watch on the command deck. Drafting Marines into these roles is a double-edged sword. If crew as a whole gets along things will be quiet and uneventful. That’s the exception, not the rule.
Every single one of these altercations will result in pettiness on both sides. The Navy engineers will turn off the air conditioning in the Marine berthing. The Marines running the ship store will give priority to their friends because the sailors cut in line at chow. If a port allows some adventure everyone will be scattered to the wind. If port is limited to a small area with beer, there is probably going to be a fist fight. When sh*t needs to get done, everyone will put their differences aside and accomplish the mission. When there is no clear mission, both branches will always clash underway. ‘Rah.
When deployed troops buy whatever they need, if they pay in cash, they won’t be given pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters as change. Instead, they’ll be given cardboard coins (colloquially called “pogs,” like the 90s toys). And, now, coin collectors are going crazy for them.
Depending on where in Iraq or Afghanistan troops are stationed, they may have easy access to an AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) store. Bigger airfields have larger stores that sell all an airman could want — meanwhile, outlying FOBs are just happy that their AAFES truck didn’t blow up this month.
Giving cardboard in return for cash isn’t some complex scheme to screw troops out of their 85 cents. Logistically speaking, transporting a bunch of quarters to and from a deployed area is, to put it bluntly, a heavy waste of time. While a pocket full of quarters may not seem like much, having to stock every single cash register would be a headache. So AAFES, the only commercial service available to troops, decided in November 2001 to forgo actual coins in favor of cardboard credit.
The AAFES coins aren’t legal tender. They are, essentially, gift certificates valid only at AAFES establishments. If troops can manage to hold on to their cardboard coin collection throughout a deployment, they can exchange the coins for actual money at any non-deployed AAFES customer service desk. Occasionally, AAFES runs promotions that gave double-value to troops returning their pogs — but troops who decline to cash in might be getting the best value in the end.
The weirdest thing about the AAFES pogs is the collectors’ community that has grown from it. Coin collectors everywhere have been going crazy for our AAFES pogs. On eBay, you can typically find a set of mint-condition paper coins going for ridiculous prices. Of course, like every collector’s item, complete sets and the older coins go for much more.
A recent Navy Times article notes that the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) joined the “Order of the Blue Nose” — a distinction reserved for ships and crew that crossing the Arctic Circle.
That list includes both well-known orders and not-so-well known orders. They are for notable feats — and in some cases, dubious ones.
Perhaps the most well-known is the “Order of the Shellback,” given to those sailors who have crossed the equator. The “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been portrayed both in the PBS documentary series “Carrier,” as well as being the plot point for an episode of “JAG” in the 1990s.
But there is more than one kind of shellback.
If you cross the equator at the International Date Line (about 900 miles east of Nauru), you become a “Golden Shellback” (since those who cross the International Date Line are called Golden Dragons).
If you cross the equator at the Prime Meridian (a position about 460 miles to the west of Sao Tome and Principe), you become an “Emerald Shellback.”
Now, we can move to some lesser-known, and even dubious orders.
The “Order of the Caterpillar” is awarded to anyone who has to leave a plane on the spur of the moment due to the plane being unable to continue flying. You even get a golden caterpillar pin.
The eyes of the caterpillar will then explain the circumstances of said departure. The Naval History and Heritage Command, for instance, notes that ruby red eyes denote a midair collision.
Then, there is the becoming a member of the “Goldfish Club.” That involves spending time in a life raft. If you’re in the raft for more than 24 hours, you become a “Sea Squatter.”
Using the Panama Canal makes you a member of the “Order of the Ditch.”
Oh, and in case you are wondering, crossing the Antarctic Circle makes you a “Red Nose.”
The Air Force gets a lot of flak (see what I did there?) from all the other branches for its somewhat lax persona. Yes, sometimes, the USAF seems more like a corporation than a branch of the Armed Forces. But despite decent food and living quarters, Air Force, Inc. is still very much a military branch.
There’s more to the U.S. Air Force than the classic stereotypes of high ASVAB scores, delicious food, nice living quarters, and beautiful women. The Air Force deploys. They do see combat. They just have their own unique way about it.
1. We salute our officers before sending them into a fight.
Our pilots — all officers — are the ones putting their asses in the line of fire supporting troops on the ground (troops from other branches, most likely), but the airmen who maintain and marshal those planes are enlisted.
The video above demonstrates something known as “Freestyle Friday” marshaling and, while it may be funny, those crazy marshaling dances still always end with a sharp salute — no matter what. Those pilots may very well not come back from a combat sortie, so respect is always due.
2. We don’t know if we should salute a warrant officer.
The reason for that is the Air Force doesn’t have warrant officers and hasn’t had them since 1992 when the last warrant officer, CWO4 Bob Barrow, retired. The last airman to become a warrant officer did it in 1959.
Does your branch salute warrant officers? How will the Air Force know if no one ever tells us? Do we care? Does it matter? I know airmen who went ten years without ever encountering a warrant.
3. Enlisting in the Air Force gets you halfway to a 2-year degree.
It has its own accredited community college, one that accepts basic training as physical education credits and puts your Tech School training towards an Associate’s Degree. Once at your permanent duty station, you can either take general courses at the base education office or take free, unlimited CLEP tests to finish it off.
Getting a degree from the Community College of the Air Force is so easy that it’s now one of those unwritten rules: Airmen need to have one to get promoted.
4. We don’t have ground combat troops.
The Air Force has its Security Forces, its special operations troops, combat arms instructors, and it even lends airmen of all careers to other branches. Airmen see combat all the time. But the USAF’s regular combat force is aircraft. We don’t have an infantry or anything like it.
5. The Air Force trains hard… just not always to kill.
When you flip a light switch, the lights go on. It seems simple, but a lot of preparation, training, and work went into what happened behind your wall. A JDAM works the same way. Aircraft maintainers, ammo troops, and pilots train relentlessly for years to make sure that kind of support is there when a Marine calls for it.
Just because an airman’s deployed location is a little plush doesn’t mean they didn’t spend eight years of their life training. Watch how fast a flightline can get a squadron of F-22s in the air and tell me airmen didn’t train hard for that.
In the military, no one knows what’ll happen next — enlisted life is unpredictable and service members must always remain flexible so that they can adapt. No matter what happens, however, there are always some pretty amazing moments and, luckily, there are talented photographers across the service who expertly capture them.
Here are our favorite photos from this week:
From Left to right: Staff Sgt. Leanne Waggoner, Airman 1st Class Alexia Lewis, SSgt. Ashley Cardillo, Capt. Victoria Nicholson, Senior Airman Kaitlyn Besse, Capt. Jamie Larivee, and Capt. Nichole Evans pause for a photo after offloading cargo from a C-17 Globemaster III, March 18, 2018, Darwin, Royal Australian Air Force Base, Australia, during a Women’s Heritage Flight. The all-female aircrew conducted the mission that displayed pride in their heritage and showcased their ability to conduct rapid global mobility in today’s Air Force by transporting equipment and military passengers to Pacific Command area of responsibility.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Melanie R. Breslin, an aircraft fuel systems specialist at the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, stands fire guard before the launch of an F-16C Fighting Falcon at the Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Georgia, March 22, 2018. The 177th FW participated in an air-to-air training exercise to sharpen air combat capabilities and accomplish multiple training upgrades.
U.S. Army Paratroopers with 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade run forward during a platoon level
live fire exercise at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 21, 2018.
Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) continue their solemn duty of rendering final honors to fallen military members at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., March 21, 2018. The U.S. Army Caisson Platoon continued to execute their duty despite inclement weather.
Electronic Technician 3rd Class Justin Davis, a native of Vail, Arizona assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 3, fires a .50-caliber machine gun aboard MKVI patrol boat during a live-fire exercise as part of unit level training provided by Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 Training and Evaluation Unit. CRG provides a core capability to defend designated high-value assets throughout the green and blue-water environment and providing deployable Adaptive Force Packages (AFP) worldwide in an integrated, joint and combined theater of operations.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Emily Westfall directs the crew of an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Bounty Hunters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 2 on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is operating in the western Pacific as part of a scheduled deployment.
A Marine with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, wears an Enhanced Combat Helmet during Urban Advanced Naval Technologies Exercise 2018, March 21, 2018. Urban ANTX18 is an innovative approach to concept of operations and capability development that integrates engineers, technologists, and operators into a dynamic development team.
U.S. Marines with Force Reconnaissance Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force; British Royal Marines with J Company, 42 Commando and Sailors with Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 conduct special insertion and raids training with a section of MH-60Ss from Helicopter Sea Combat 25 on March 18, 2017, on Guam. The units are conducting joint, combined training in order to develop shared standard-of-procedures in a visit, board, search and seizure environment so they can provide a more flexible and mission-ready capability to geographic combatant commanders in the Pacific.
Two Coast Guard members assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf arrange bales of cocaine on the flight deck in preparation for a drug offload at the B Street Pier in San Diego, March 20, 2018. Bertholf is a 418-foot national security cutter homeported in Alameda.
It’s no longer just the higher-ranking, saltier NCOs and senior NCOs training young troops. In the world of military photojournalism, veterans who have been separated or retired for a decade or more are returning to teach the newest generations to capture stories on the battlefields.
Some of the military’s most surprisingly underreported jobs may be in the visual journalism fields. Every branch of the armed forces of the United States features teams of correspondents, photographers, and even combat artists and graphic designers.
They go through the same rigorous news writing and storytelling training as any student in any j-school in America. They learn the potential for every medium in visual journalism at the military’s disposal.
One problem with this is that they also have to focus on the fight. They have to learn small unit combat, urban warfare, close-quarters battle, self-aid and buddy care — the list goes on and on — and drill it into their muscle memory, not to mention learning the particulars of their branch of service.
When these young combat camera troops get into active service, they are thrown into an oft-underfunded world of retirement ceremonies, passport photos, and base change of command ceremonies.
Imagine a potentially world-class photographer working a Sears Photo Studio.
When one of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen, or Marines gets to where the action is, they need to be able to adequately show and tell the military’s story. It’s not just for history’s sake, it can literally mean life and death for their subjects.
“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” says Stacy Pearsall, an Air Force combat camera veteran, referring to the Army units she covered during the Iraq War. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”
Military photojournalists have since taken it upon themselves to train their youngest and greenest combat troops in the artistry of visual media. These veterans want to turn every one of the newbies into award-winning multimedia storytellers.
It’s not just higher-ranking active duty. Juan Femath is a veteran Air Force aerial videographer. In 2011, he and some fellow Air Force and Army veterans decided to help the military do a better job of telling its own story.
“The photographers in the military have a great culture of older guys coming back to teach the younger troops,” Femath says. “There are so many photography workshops where skilled military photogs come to speak and mentor.”
One such workshop is the D.C. Shoot Off Workshop, run by Navy Veteran and White House news photographer Johnny Bivera.
Bivera uses his professional connections to bring attention to the military photojournalism world, attracting brands like Nikon and Adobe to his training weekends.
“The best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country volunteer for this event,” Bivera says. “These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development, helping to fill training gaps for our military and civil service photographers.
The weekend-long workshop starts with a seminar portion, covering the most important storytelling and production fundamentals used by civilian media today. These lectures are given by some of the media’s most important producers — many of them veterans themselves — from companies like HBO, USA Today, NFL Films, NBC, Canon, and the Washington Post.
Participants then break into teams and go out to apply the skills they just learned. Each team produces a two to five minute multimedia piece based on a topic drawn from a hat and are given an expert media producer as a mentor to guide them through the process. There is a hard deadline: work submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for awards.
Final products often reflect the experiences and inherent creativity of military photojournalists from every branch of service. They are thoroughly judged and critiqued by a panel of experts who make themselves available to everyone’s questions.
Though the Shoot Off charges an entry fee, the most telling aspect of the Shoot Off is that no one gets paid for their time — not the sponsors, the creators, mentors, or speakers. The fees cover only the overhead costs of running the workshop.
The D.C. Shoot Off Video Workshop, now in its seventh year, will be held May 4-7, 2017. For more information and to register visit dcvideoshootoff.org. It is open to all military, civil service, government, and veteran media producers.
The still photography Shoot Off has multiple dates and is held in Washington, D.C. in the Spring and San Diego in the fall. For more information visit visualmediaone.com.
Competitors, celebrities, royalty, and spectators came together Sept. 23 to kick off the 2017 Invictus Games at the sold-out Air Canada Centre here.
Inspired by the Department of Defense Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans, Britain’s Prince Harry created the Invictus Games in 2014.
The prince, who was on hand at the opening ceremony, flew Apache helicopters in Afghanistan during his military service.
“Invictus is all about the dedication of the men and women who served their countries, confronted hardship, and refused to be defined by their injuries,” he said last night. “Invictus is about the families and friends who face the shock of learning that their loved ones have been injured or fallen ill and then rally to support them on their journey to recovery. Above all, Invictus is about the example to the world that all service men and women, injured or not, provide about the importance of service and duty.
“We made a great start in London in 2014,” he continued. “We took it to the next level in Orlando last year, and over the next week, in this year, as we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Toronto is going to put on a games that draws the attention of the world.”
More than 550 wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans from 17 nations will compete in 12 sporting events at the Invictus Games, including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair basketball. The games run through Sept. 30.
“[There are] more competitors, more sports, more nations, more friends, more families, and more people watching at home than ever before,” Harry said. “With the people in this arena tonight and those watching across Canada and around the world, we have the biggest crowd Invictus has ever enjoyed. In the days ahead, I know that many of you will be experiencing Invictus for the first time. I hope you’re ready for some fierce competition. I hope you’re ready to see the meaning of teamwork that proves that anything is possible when we work together. I hope you’re ready to see courage and determination that will inspire you to power through the challenges in your own life. I hope you’re ready to see role models in action that any parent would want their children to look up to. And I hope you’re ready to see lives change in front of your eyes.”
Camaraderie Among Athletes
Marine Corps Sgt. Ivan Sears, co-captain of the US team, said he thinks his squad will be strongest in rugby, track and field, volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and swimming. The camaraderie among the athletes from the respective service branches and other countries has been good, he added.
“I visited with someone from the Netherlands for about 20 minutes this morning,” said Sears, who said his favorite sport is wheelchair racing on the track. “Everybody’s getting along, laughing, and having a smile on their face.”
His mother, Judy Pullin, said she is proud of her son and his team.
“I’m very proud of Ivan. I’m going to be the bragging momma here. He medaled four times here last year. He medaled four golds, and it was just amazing. I was definitely crying,” she said. “These are all athletes. Yes, they may have a disability. They may have something physical or an invisible wound, but you’ve just got to be proud of them.”
Medically retired Cpl. Melanie Harris of the Canadian armed forces, who is competing in compound archery and sitting volleyball, joked that the Canadian motto is, “I’m not sorry.”
“Canadians are known for being sorry but not sorry; however I want them to know they’re always welcome back here,” she said with a laugh. Harris said Canada’s wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball will be among the Canadian team’s best events.
“It’s going to be a great competition,” she said. “We’re going to do great. We will bring some gold home. We don’t mind sharing, too, but whoever wins wins, [and] we’re going to fight for it.”
Harris said her teammates have been taking care of each other and are like family. “We’re all there for each other,” she added.
Medically retired Lance Cpl. Dennis Resell of Denmark’s special operations forces is competing in archery and sitting volleyball. He said he has confidence in his team as well. “We’re going to do great. You can’t beat the Vikings,” he said. “Team Denmark’s biggest strengths are definitely our team spirit and our brotherhood.”
Resell said he enjoys the camaraderie among the athletes and had been looking forward to the opening ceremony. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “Walking in there, people cheering — it’s going to be great.”
The Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces from Ottawa and the Royal Regiment Band from Quebec performed as the 550-plus competitors from the 17 participating countries entered the arena. Thailey Roberge of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Elliot Miville-Deschenes of Montreal represented the youth of Canada and hosted the opening ceremonies. They sang “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem, and then “Under One Sky” to celebrate the Invictus Games Flag Tour.
As Laura Wright sang the official 2017 Invictus Games song, “Invincible,” more than 200 members of the Canadian Military Wives National Choir joined her. Canadian Rangers marched in bearing the Invictus Games flag and raised it high.
Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan performed “I Will Remember You” and then spoke of the Lighting of the Flame ceremony, which began in Kabul, Afghanistan. The flame passed from Afghan security forces veteran Maj. Ahmad Shahh to retired Canadian Master Cpl. Jody Mitic, official ambassador of the Toronto Games.
Michael Burns, CEO of the Invictus Games 2017 organizing committee, said the committee is leveraging most of the infrastructure used in the Pan American Games here in 2015.
“We will be up in Scarborough for swimming. Tomorrow, we will be up at York University at their brand new stadium for athletics. The old Maple Leaf Gardens will be a massive hub of activity. We drained the reflective pool at the Nathan Phillips Square to host wheelchair tennis. We’re hosting archery at Fort York, and we’re using Hyde Park for cycling,” Burns said. “This city is going to be lit up over the next eight days. There isn’t anywhere you’re going to be able to turn and not see a banner or sign or sport competition or the competitors throughout the city enjoying themselves.”
He said the closing ceremony and almost every ticketed sporting competition has sold out.
“Over the next eight days, you will be moved; you will be inspired. You will be entertained. You will see things on the playing field you have never seen before,” he said. “These games aren’t about the finish line. These games are all about making it to the starting line. The men and women who will be competing in these games — talk to any one of them — they’ll tell you that they have been injured as a result of their service. Any one of them has been tested many, many times by faith throughout their careers, and yet they remain undefeated, undiminished, proudly and distinctly unconquered.”
Words of Encouragement
First Lady Melania Trump met with the US team before the ceremony.
“On behalf of my husband and our entire country, I want to thank you and your families for all you have sacrificed to keep us safe,” she said to the roughly 100 athletes. “I want to wish you good luck, though I know you won’t need it in these games. Take that fighting spirit that I know you have and bring home the gold.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered encouragement to the Invictus Games athletes. “You’re not just here to inspire, you’re here to win,” he said. “Through your athleticism, through your drive and your competitive spirit, you are showing the world that illness and injury can actually be a source of tremendous strength.”
Actor Mike Myers, Invictus Games 2017 ambassador, said he supports the Invictus Games because they provide the adaptive athletes the ability for rehabilitation, personal achievement and recovery through the power of sports.
“I come from a military family,” he said. “My mother, who passed away in March, was in the Royal Air Force. She’s one of those ladies you see in World War II movies. She would move the fighters toward the incoming Luftwaffe bandits — that’s what my mom would do.
“My father was a royal engineer in the British army and built bridges, cleared minefields,” he continued. “He often recited the unofficial motto of the Royal Engineers: ‘We do the impossible immediately. Miracles take a little longer.’ Mostly, my father spoke about the unbreakable brotherhood of those who served. He remembered the name of every single British soldier he served with, and for every name, [he had] a hilarious story.”
Myers said he’s grateful for those who have and continue to serve.
“Those that serve our country deserve our utmost respect, and all the [veterans] in the Invictus Games have my deepest respect, admiration and gratitude from the bottom of my heart,” he said, his voice shaking with emotion. “Thank you very much. What I do for a living is silly, and without brave people who keep us safe, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. The Invictus competitors represent the very best of the human spirit, and I know my mother and father would have wanted me to support that spirit, the competitors and the thousands of wounded warriors around the world. I want to thank all the competitors in the Invictus Games, all of the soldiers currently serving and all of the family members and caregivers. The caregivers are the unsung heroes of service to this country and to all countries. Thank you for your service.”
Helping in Recovery
Harry said he created Invictus to help veterans in their recovery. “In a world where so many have reasons to feel cynical and apathetic,” he said, “I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light and show us all that we have a role to play, that we all win when we respect our friends, neighbors and communities. That’s why we created Invictus — not only to help veterans recover from their physical and mental wounds, but also to inspire people to follow their example of resilience, optimism, and service in their own lives.”
As the prince closed the ceremony, he spoke directly to the competitors. “For the next week, we entrust you with the Invictus spirit. You have all come such a long way,” he said. “Some of you have cheated death and have come back stronger than before. Some of you have overcome emotional challenges that, until very recent years, would have seen you written off and ignored. And now you are here, on the world stage, flags on your chest, representing your countries again, supporting your teammates, and looking up into these stands and into the eyes of your families and friends.
“You are all winners,” Harry said to the competitors. “Please don’t forget to love every second of it. Don’t forget about our friends who didn’t come home from the battlefield. Don’t forget those at home who still need our support and don’t forget you are proving to the world that anything is possible. You are Invictus. Let’s get started.”