In the military, it’s impossible to say what the next week will bring. Thankfully, the ranks are chock-full of talented photographers that are always capturing what life as a service member is like, both in training and at war.
These are the best photos of the week:
Airmen from multiple aeromedical evacuation squadrons treat a patient during a mock emergency scenario in route to Jackson, Mississippi, Feb 14, 2018. Airmen from multiple aeromedical evacuation squadrons formed teams to coordinate and work together for the PATRIOT South exercise.
A competitor in the 2018 Best Warrior Competition – Japan takes aim and fires his M4 rifle at his target during a weapon qualifying round held on Feb. 12 aboard MCB Camp Hansen.
Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Andy Blessing, from Katy, Texas, assigned to the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, surveys the waters surrounding the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) from an MH-60S Sea Hawk during a routine flight to support Exercise Cobra Gold 2018. Bonhomme Richard is participating in CG18 alongside Royal Thai Navy ships and personnel, conducting a range of amphibious operations that will enhance tactical expertise of participants and flex combined capabilities to respond to contingencies. Cobra Gold is an annual exercise conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand held this year from Feb. 13-23 with seven full participating nations.
Lance Cpl. Matthew Yaw and Military Working Dog Bbutler practice “out” drills Feb. 13 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific K-9 kennels on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. Out is a command that military dog handlers give their MWD to release an object. Handlers and their dogs practice training through the obedience course to consistently instill instant, willing obedience. K-9 units are a visual and psychological deterrent which helps keep military installations narcotics and explosive free. Yaw is a military police officer and a dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCIPAC- Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. Bbutler’s unique name came from Lackland Air Force Base’s signature doubling of the first letter of the MWD’s name.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Richie Salinas demonstrates a tire flip during the Force Fitness Instructor (FFI) Course culminating event at The Basic School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., February 12, 2018. The FFI course is made up of physical training, classroom instruction, and practical application to provide the students with a holistic approach to fitness. Upon completion, the Marines will serve as unit FFIs, capable of designing individual and unit-level holistic fitness programs.
Five boaters sit on a capsized 26-foot pleasure craft while a Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet crew and good samaritans approach the vessel to assist the boaters Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, 3 miles east of Lake Worth Inlet. The Coast Guard rescue recovered all 5 boaters from the water and transferred them to awaiting emergency medical services at the Lake Park Marina near Lake Worth.
Getting in trouble while you’re a young private, airman, or seaman is extremely disheartening. The first time you get hemmed up by your superior feels like you’ve let your entire squad down.
But there’s an old saying in the military that rings true with experience: “No one stays in without getting a few Article 15s.” Sure, maybe this doesn’t apply to everyone, but you can take a bit of solace knowing that even your crusty first sergeant was once a young, dumb kid.
In fact, we think that being on the receiving end of a few ass-chewings makes you a better leader later on in your career. Now, this all depends on the severity of the infractions, of course — if you’re constantly getting MP involved, then you might not see the rank of first sergeant, but a slap on the wrist can be a learning experience that our brown-nosing comrades are missing out on.
There’s a plethora of mistakes a troop could make, but let’s use being late to movement for the sake of picking a relatable example. It’s something serious enough to warrant discipline and something sincere enough to be a genuine mistake. Word moves up the chain of command that you messed up and, at the moment you finally arrive, you’re greeted by an ass-chewing.
If the NCO chews you out properly, you won’t ever be late again. You’ll feel the pressure of everyone else waiting on you. The disappointment of your peers is palpable. They’ll let you know, with or without words, that this is your fault and it is completely avoidable next time.
Minor mistakes like these show a young troop that sloppiness has its consequences. You’ll learn early on that failure is met with discipline — and this isn’t nearly as bad as what could happen if the stakes were higher.
Another reason it benefits troops to get their stupid out of the way early is that they’ll have first-hand knowledge of what to do with their eventual troops. It brings a sense of perspective that many of the goodie-two-shoed leaders don’t have. You’ll remember what is and isn’t a punishable mistake and act accordingly.
Now, years later, you have to deal with your own troop who is late to movement. If you hadn’t been late and suffered the consequences all that time ago, you might drop the hammer on the poor fool — or you could scuff them up like your NCO did and teach them the same lesson.
Not to sound all sappy, but everything really is a learning experience. It may take years to play out, but the perspective that getting discipline brings can actually help can make a great leader.
Today, the modern soldier wakes up, eats chow, goes through a day of training with his or her squad before resting up. They follow this schedule every day from Monday to Friday. If the troop is on a deployment, they could work anywhere from 12 to 18 hours (if not more) per day, seven days a week, for nearly a year.
It’s a tough lifestyle.
Once a troop fulfills their service commitment, they can be honorably discharged or reenlist — the choice is theirs.
Now, let’s rewind time to around 15 C.E. The Roman Empire is thriving and you’re an infantryman serving in the Imperial Roman army under Emperor Tiberius. In many ways, life was quite different for the average sword-wielding soldier when compared to today’s modern troop. In other ways, however, things were very much the same.
Many young Romans joined the army at the age of 18. Of them, most were poor men with little-to-no life prospects due to being born into a family of low standing. Once they became soldiers, Roman troops had to overcome 36 kilometer (22 miles) marches in full battle rattle.
For these ancient troops, a full loadout consisted of body armor, a gladius (sword),a scutum (shield), and two pilum (spears). This gear weighed upwards of 44 pounds. To add to that weight, troops carried a scarina (backpack), which contained rations and any other tools needed to serve the Roman officers.
At the end of each grueling march, soldiers set up camp to get some rest. Men were assigned to stand watch and look over the others, the gear, and the animals hauling the heavy equipment. Being ambushed in the middle of the night was a constant possibility.
Like most troops, they feared the unknown. At any given moment, they could encounter a fierce battle, contract sickness from other soldiers or the environment, or be left to endure the elements. It was a consist struggle to survive in a cutthroat world that was all about expanding the Roman Empire.
In their downtime, most men would gamble, play instruments, or talk about future plans. If the soldiers served for their full 25-year commitment, they would receive several acres of land on which to retire — but surviving to the end was considered a longshot.
So, in many ways, the typical Roman infantryman was a lot like the ground pounders of today — only they were stuck in the suck for longer.
This article originally appeared in The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
I get a lot of questions from young men and women about what they should do about joining the Military. Most of which are about joining Special Operations or how to become a Marine Raider. So, here are my top 5 “Tips” that every young recruit should know.
1. Stay Out Of Freaking Trouble!
It might sound like a simple thing, but if I had a dime for every time I heard of a good kid doing something stupid I would be flying to Bali every other weekend for vacation. All it takes is one night out with some friends to turn your whole life upside down. Having a good time is one thing, but it’s another to get caught drinking and driving or caught carrying some dank, mary jane, molly, dope, ganja, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Getting caught stealing, doing or carrying drugs, or even getting into a physical alteration and having assault charges can put a roadblock between you and you achieving your goals.
I had two felonies between the ages of 11-13. While I still made it through, my decisions at that young of an age affected me for a couple decades of my life. I had to work 10 times harder than the next guy to even qualify for enlistment. I could have saved so much time, money, and energy if I would have focused on bettering myself and the ones around me.
2. Stay In School!
When I finished the 10th grade, I was working 2 jobs making 4k-7k a month. As you can imagine that is an astronomical amount of money for a 16-year-old. When it came time to go back to school it just seemed stupid for me to go back, so I got my GED and kept tracking on putting cash in my pocket. Once I tried to join, they laughed (for several reasons, one of which was my GED). I had to go back to school and get 12 college credits, which put my enlistment date another 6 months in the future at a minimum.
Needless to say, stay in freaking school! Study the ASVAB and get a GT Score of 110 or higher. If you do this, you will qualify for some of the top positions in the military, including Marine Recon and Marine Special Operations Command.
3. Don’t Do Drugs!
I know what you are saying.. “But Nick, It’s just a little weed or a beer or two.” Yea, I hear you, I was that age as well. What it comes down to is it worth you losing the opportunity you have worked so hard for? If it is, then you are not ready for the commitment of being a United States Marine. Hate it, disagree with it; your personal beliefs don’t matter: The Marine Corps has a strict policy on drug use. If you have used in the past then you can get a waiver for “experimental use” that is if they already know about it, if you catch my drift… Stay focused on your goals and what your future has to offer you. Don’t let a little peer pressure ruin your life.
Wait until you are a salty, seasoned veteran to experience those things (in a state that it is legal of course).
4. Be In Phenomenal Shape!
This is the foundation of everything. If you are not physically fit, just turn around and go home to your mommy. When I was young, I read an article in Men’s Health Magazine that you could start lifting weights at 14 years old. So on my 14th birthday, I got a membership to a local gym and bought Arnold’s Bodybuilding Bible then got to work! Now, of course, knowing what I know now, I would have trained completely differently and become a motherf’n beast! I did good at the time, but I would have pushed to have a 300 PFT prior to even going in the service.
Being physically fit is the cornerstone of being a Marine. Not only does it affect your promotions, job, billets, and even your friendships, but it can also affect a life or death situation. I can not stress this enough! This is not a video game, there is no respawn, start-over, or return home. We only get one shot at this life and being physically fit can mean the difference between you or your best friend losing their life. I would not be able to look my best friend’s parents and wife in the face and say your son is dead because I was not physically fit enough to save them. This is not a joke, make no mistakes in your head, the Marine Corps is a warfighting machine and when you’re in it, you are either supporting the war effort, training to go to war, or fighting a war. There is zero excuse for not being as physically fit as you can be because your life and those around depend on it.
5. Know Your History!
George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is truer to me now after serving what seems a lifetime in the Marine Corps. If I could do it again, I would’ve read every military campaign book starting with the early Spartans, the rise and fall of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire — all the way up to current events. As I said, the Marine Corps is America’s fighting force and if you are going to be a professional in that organization, then you need to apply yourself as a professional would.
My favorite MSgt Phil Thome always said the most important trait for a leader was knowledge — not knowing was not an excuse! That being said, I would recommend knowing as much as you can about military warfare, asymmetrical operations, conventional and unconventional warfare. As MSgt Thome said, not knowing is not an excuse and if knowing can give you a slight leg up against your enemy, then that is what you need to do! We, as warfighters, take every advantage we can take because, at the end of the day, it’s us against them — and I’m going home to have a steak and beer when this is done.
The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. –George S. Patton
Now, you might say, “yea, yea, yea, Nick. That’s all simple stuff.” Well, then I say to you, “why is it that all of the questions I get revolve around these five things.?” Truth is, common sense is not a common virtue. I fell subject to every one of these 5 things, so I speak from the heart and from my own experiences and struggles in hope that you might learn from my mistakes. Then learn and be even better and more badass than I could have ever been!
In April of 1948, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment took on the unique responsibility of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Being a Tomb Sentinel isn’t as simple as walking back and forth while keeping a close eye out; it’s an extremely high honor that requires immense professionalism and commitment.
Each year, Arlington National Cemetery receives around four million visitors who come from across the globe to pay their respects to heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. At the The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, visitors watch solemn, powerful ceremonies that take place to honor the dead. If you plan on visiting this historic site, you’ll want to carefully read over the rules and regulations before stepping foot on those hallowed grounds. It is the job of Tomb Sentinels to protect this sacred place from all four million of those visitors — you don’t want to screw up and get yelled at like this unlucky visitor.
During a wreath-placing ceremony, a crowd gathers and two children are selected to lay the elegant decoration at the center of the tomb for all to see. The chosen children are assisted by a Sentinel in order to ensure the wreath is properly placed as the other soldiers render a perfect hand salute.
Once the wreath is laid, the Sentinels move to their assigned area as Taps is played, showing ultimate respect.
After the hymn ends, the participants march away with extreme military bearing. This time around, however, something interesting happened.
On the other side of the crowd, a woman wearing all white decided it was a good idea to walk up and slip past the barrier that keeps spectators from making physical contact with the tomb. As she made her way closer, the guard did precisely what he’s supposed to do — man his post.
“It is requested, that all visitors stay behind the chain rails at all times!” the guard sternly instructs.
Without thinking twice, the woman in white quickly squeezed her way back through the barrier and pretended like it never happened. Once she was secured in the designed visitors’ area, the ceremony resumed.
Check out the video below to watch a Tomb Sentinel protect the sacred ground from a curious trespasser.
Before troops enlist in the military, they often find themselves preparing for the hellfire that their soon-to-be Drill Sergeant/Instructor is going to rain on them. Hate to break it to you, but there’s no escaping it — everyone gets bit in this shark attack. And remember, while they still have their brown round, you’ll never get the chance to grab a beer with them.
That doesn’t mean that your Drills are hate-filled robots. The point of basic training/boot camp is to break the civilian out of new recruits and turn them into moldable clay by the time they get to their first duty station. You won’t ever be friends with them while they’re your Drill Sergeant, but you can get on their good side. Here’s how:
5. Lose the civilian attitude
For some reason, after recruits sign on the dotted line, say goodbye to mom and dad, and are ready to defend this great nation of ours, they still show up and think it’s like working at Starbucks.
You see those other troops? Act like them and you’ll be just fine.
4. Learn everything you can
Basic training is just that — it trains you in the basics of what it takes to be a soldier. This is why the focus is on military customs and courtesies, Drill and Ceremony, and the proper wear and appearance of your given uniform.
The more you learn, the quicker you learn it, and the less you have to be told twice the better.
3. Shoot and PT better than everyone else
If there’s one thing that makes a Drill Sergeant/Instructor giddy, it’s seeing their recruits shoot better than the other Drill Sergeants’/Instructors’.
Be the guy that your Drill is willing to pit against the other recruits.
2. Don’t f*ck up
If the Drill Sergeant tells you to do something, do it. If they say not to do something, don’t you dare do it.
Drill Sergeants have an expectation that they’re teaching a bunch of idiots, so they’ll tell bark orders at you for everything shy of common sense.
1. Most importantly, don’t suck up
Drills are used to damn near everything they put up with from new recruits. You can just barely pass your PT test, shoot just well enough to qualify, be as quiet as a ghost, and they’ll still talk highly of you after you graduate.
This goes hand-in-hand with dropping the civilian mentality: suck-ups don’t make it in the military, well, on the enlisted side anyways. They don’t need some kid telling them how great they are — they have a mirror. Suck-ups don’t make it far because it goes against the one rule of military life: one team, one fight.
The moment a troop gets his or her DD-214, they start to feel that bittersweet freedom settle in. Sure, they can enjoy the little things in life, like sleeping in until 8 am, and go more than a single day without shaving, but life is never the same. Saying your goodbyes to the brothers and sisters you’ve earned is the hardest.
Every now and then, however, a troop won’t find themselves alone — a comrade will join them in the civilian world.
It’s a true sign of friendship when those veterans who fought together are now cruising the local bars as a unit, just like they did when they were still in.
It’s not uncommon for veterans to make friends with other veterans, but this one goes out to the buddies that endure the suck and venture into the civilian world, shoulder to shoulder.
It’s always good to have someone to embrace the new suck with.
Their goals and interests are aligned
Friendships in the military are formed by sharing suffering, but brotherhood is formed when two can talk to each other about things outside of work.
If both veterans share plans of doing something, like attending college to get a degree in criminal justice, they’ll do it together. They’ll probably be roommates through it all, too.
You’ll need someone with a tolerance for BS as low as yours.
They can’t relate to civilians
The civilian-military divide is real. Not only do civilians have a hard time understanding what being in the military is really like, the troops also lose touch with what civilians are up to.
Trends in pop culture don’t have any real effect on people who’ve been in a desert for 12 months without internet access. The only people veterans can relate to are the other troops who also skipped whatever viral joke is currently big.
No one will lie for you like the guys that covered for you when you were “at dental.”
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Their friendship circle is closed enough
There’s an upper limit on good will for most veterans. Keeping track of all the niceties you’re socially obligated to upkeep gets exhausting. The only thing you need to do to maintain a strong bond with another veteran is show up with beer.
An easy test of a friendship is if both can sit and drink a beer in silence without feeling awkward.
It’s hard to impress veterans when sh*t like this was just called “Tuesday.”
They know how to keep things interesting
Veterans are rarely boring. A civilian friend may come over for a beer and talk about mundane crap, but veteran stories are always filled with foul, disgusting, and down-right hilarious details.
This isn’t even a skill that’s shared among the troops that served together. Veterans have mastered the art of enjoying the little things in life — you’ll never find a better storyteller.
Get out with your brother and you’ll never have to bother the prior service recruiter.
They promised each other they would
The military has bred us to be creatures of commitment. If we say something in passing, we’re going to keep our word — no matter how insignificant or nearly impossible it seems.
Years down the line, one veteran will turn to the other and say something along the lines of, “I promised you that I would, didn’t I?”
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Chase, Tim, and O.V. discuss what role we’d like to serve in during any war.
Many veterans today are so intrigued by military history, they’ve considered what war they feel like they missed out on. Although when (hypothetically) given the opportunity to change from their real life MOS to whatever occupation they wanted, the podcast crew surprisingly decided to stick to their original area of expertise.
There aren’t many jobs in the military where your sea-duty station consists of serving with another branch. But for the Navy rate of an “HM,” or Hospital Corpsman, that’s exactly where you can expect to find yourself.
After you graduate Field Medical Training Battalion, expect to get orders to the Marine Corps side of the house or what we call, the “Greenside” — sooner rather than later.
We call it the greenside because you’re going to wear a sh*t ton of green for the next three years.
Marines love that sh*t when you manage to work a line or two into a conversation. Oh, make sure you have a copy of the movie on your hard drive when you deploy; it’s the “unofficial” movie of the Marine Corps.
Any line will do, as long as it fits the conversation. (giphy)
5. Know your ranks
Marine ranks are different than Navy ones. A Marine Captain is an O-3, compared to a Navy Captain who is an O-6. Big difference.
“Do I look like I’m in the Navy to you!” (giphy)Learn to count chevrons. Senior NCOs’ collar devices can blend into their uniform, making it tough to make out their proper title. Find an alternate way to greet them properly, or you can just take the less populated walkways (aka the long way).
Face it, the Navy has only given you officially 12-16 weeks worth of medical training. No one is going to ask you to perform open-heart surgery on your first day.
Marines are going to get sick and injured, and that’s your time to shine. When you’re working in the B.A.S., or “battalion aid station,” you’re going to have to explain why your patient is in sick call to the Independent Duty Corpsman or the doctor on staff. Knowing the medical terminology will earn you respect from the Navy doctor to the point they aren’t going to waste their time doing the second examination.
Getting your Marine a day off work or light duty is key. Impress your Marine and your life, and your heavy pack will seem lighter on a hike — it’s a beautiful thing.
Kaleth Wright is the incumbent Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. He is the 18th CMSAF and only the second person of color to hold the rank. In the 27 years preceding his appointment, Chief Master Sgt. Wright (obviously) lead an illustrious career. But in late November of 2016, something miraculous happened.
One day, in a manger, a legend was born. It was nearly Thanksgiving in the cold, far-away land of the District of Columbia when the story of the man who come to be known as “Enlisted Jesus” first took root. On the following Valentine’s Day, Chief Master Sgt. Wright took the helm and, almost instantly, began to rain down blessings upon the world’s greatest airpower.
There are countless reasons airmen shower Enlisted Jesus in praise, but here are three very real, very specific justifications for his quickly-spreading moniker.
Come o’ ye little children
Enlisted Professional Military Education overhaul
Rumor has it that one of the first items on the agenda of Enlisted Jesus was to free up the time and energy of his airmen so that they could better serve this great nation. His first, well-known, crack at freeing up that time? EPME 21.
The new system did not get rid of the requirement, but it did get rid of the Time-in-Service bit that automatically signed up service members according to how long they’ve been in uniform, regardless of rank, and too often stripped them of the chance to attend EPME courses in-resident.
Have you heard of his goodness?
(Air Force Nation)
EPR? Not for E-3 and below!
One of the most dreaded moments in many an airman’s career is Enlisted Performance Review time! Even if you’ve been blessed with a sharp supervisor and have recorded all of your accomplishments meticulously, it’s still going to give you a spike in cortisol. They get easier to do as time goes along, but those first few can be downright scary.
For the supervisor — especially the young supervisor — this time is a fiery trial of skill and fortitude. You have your supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who’s getting sh*t from the 1st Sgt, up your ass to get this done on time, even if you’re early.
Now put together a new supervisor and a green troop. What does this combination yield come EPR? A stressed out, ineffective set of airmen.
Enlisted Jesus decided to kill that noise by removing the requirement for anyone who is promotion-eligible.
No, Enlisted Jesus likely didn’t make the call to bring the OCP and move away from that sage grey, tiger stripe getup so many of us loathe. Hell, he probably didn’t even have too much of say in that decision at all.
He has, however, been very vocal in support of them and is largely seen as the face and force behind them finally becoming the official duty uniform of the Air Force.
The Pentagon announced yesterday that they had met Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s deadline of January 1 to set up a streamlined system to recover bonuses they had accidentally paid to thousands of California National Guardsmen several years ago.
Late last year, Carter ordered the suspension of efforts to recover the funds from soldiers until a system could be set up to fairly recover the bonuses.
Peter Levine, acting as the undersecretary for personnel and readiness, headed up the team to develop the recovery system. Levine spoke to reporters during the press conference, admitting that, though some of the Guardsmen might have made mistakes, “sometimes the service does” as well.
Levine said he had worked with the National Guard Bureau, the Army Audit Agency, the Army Review Boards Agency, and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to develop the system, and that part of that system involved screening each case to determine if there was even enough information to pursue a resolution.
Cases that are determined to have enough information will go before the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, and Guardsmen will have an opportunity to make their cases then.
There are currently about 17,500 cases up for review which have been separated into two categories.
Well into the attack, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.
Due to the events of that traumatic day, 1,177 Sailors and Marines lost their lives, but the numbers of those men buried at the historic site continue to increase.
Master Chief Raymond Haerry (ret), served as a Boatswain’s Mate on the Arizona as it was bombed by enemy forces in the pacific fleet, which threw him from the ship and caused him to land in the oil and fire covered water.
Haerry had to swim his way to Ford Island — then got right back into the fight by firing back at the enemy. He was just 19 years old.
75 years after the attack, Haerry returned; his ashes were laid to rest inside the sunken ship’s hull, rejoining approximately 900 of his brothers. More than 100 people gathered at the USS Arizona Memorial for the symbolic funeral in his honor — a ceremony only offered to those who survived the deadly attack.
The retired Master Chief became the 42nd survivor to be placed at the site out of the 335 men who survived.
The smell of crisp pine in the air and the peaceful quietness of nothing but the rushing of emerald green glacial rivers as they flow down the side of a mountain describes most of the state of Washington. However, this heart-stopping landscape has a potentially lethal side that can claim even the most experienced hikers. But, luckily for those in northern Washington, there’s a highly trained group of Sailors ready to answer the call.
Video produced by Jonathan Snyder, Defense Media Activity
From the frigid waters of the Puget Sound to the dense tree canopies of the Olympic forest to the towering rock facades of the Cascade Mountain Range, Sailors from the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Search and Rescue (NASWI SAR) team provide 24-hour SAR for the fixed winged assets in the area, as well as the civilian population. While most squadrons in the fleet have multi-mission platforms, Whidbey Island SAR’s one focus is rescue.
“Generally, helicopter squadrons around the fleet, whether they’re a Romeo or Sierra Squadron, they’re going to have a multi-mission platform. Those helicopters, pilots and flight crews need to be able to do a multitude set of missions, from the Romeo side, which is hunting subs and possible rescues, where the Sierra side could go from rescue, logistics and anti-mine warfare. Unfortunately, they don’t get to really ever focus on one,” said Lt. Chris Pitcher, NAWSI SAR operations officer. “Our job is to go out and save people, whether it’s pulling them out from the water or from the side of a mountain, and we train almost every day for those different scenarios. So when those scenarios do pop up, we’re not surprised, and we can get the job done and get that person to a higher level of care.”
Because of this, NAWSI SAR is the only squadron in the fleet that is outfitted with an advance life-support helicopter platform. It allows crews to not only save pilots in case of emergencies, but also work with local hospitals and emergency rooms to provide care for anyone in need of medical attention.
“We are a fully outfitted, advance life-support helicopter platform,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Wayne Papalski, NAWSI SAR’s flight paramedics lead chief petty officer. He explained that the team operates the same way as first responders who save lives after someone calls 911 for a family member. “We strive to mirror ourselves with the civilian community, so that way we can have that continuum of care that started in the civilian community and continue to a local hospital.”
With the millions of visitors the Pacific Northwest sees every year, NAWSI SAR has not only performed rescues in the Cascades and Olympic National Parks, but also in Idaho, Oregon and even Canada. This has made the Sailors learn to quickly adapt to changing environments.
“The terrain here is pretty diverse. You have the ocean that can range from mid 50s to high 40s. You have mountain ranges that can have some of the densest forest with 200-foot firs to some the rockiest sheer rock cliff faces that you can imagine. And once you get past the other side of the Cascades, it turns from this nice coastal 60 degrees here in Whidbey Island into this dry desert that reaches 110 to 112 degrees,” said Pitcher. “It just depends on what the mission calls for, and to be ready to be able to respond to any kind of situation, because, obviously, if the jets go that far, we need to be able to respond.”
The unpredictable landscape has made Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Francisco Toledo learn to be uncomfortable, he said. But he also said that the only way to become comfortable is by constant training.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, we kind of check your ego at the door. We have our own training syllabus, so when you check in, you start from scratch using what you learned previously in the fleet to come up here to make yourself a better aviator or crewman,” said Papalski. “We have a pretty robust training syllabus that takes you throughout the entire state to all of our local working areas. Pretty much any situation that you will probably face as a qualified crewman or pilot, we try to put you in.”
Because of the level of difficulty and danger of the job, Sailors said it leaves a lasting memory. Most believe that when they look back at their careers someday, they will consider their time at Whidbey to be some of the best years they have had.
“Looking back at my four years here, I’ll tell you this is the best command I’ve been at. It’s just been an amazing and humbling experience, getting to do what I got to do up here, and what some of my brothers and sisters in the other room got to do to help people,” said Papalski. “When you look back at your career 20 or 30 years from now and know that you actually did something that was giving more than you were taking, it means a lot.”