Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous 'Reaper' - We Are The Mighty
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Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

In boot camp, Marine recruits must endure a 54-hour training event under intense mental and physical distress.

During the exercise, recruits will hike over 45 miles while taking on several obstacles that require strong problem-solving and teamwork. Every moment of the event is highly structured, planned well in advance, and done under strict Marine supervision. Toward the end of their days-long test, each recruit must negotiate one of the toughest hikes up one of the steepest hills in Camp Pendleton, best known as the “Reaper.” This is the final test before earning the title of U.S. Marine.


Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Recruits of Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, navigate through the Weaver obstacle during the Crucible Confidence Course at Edson Range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. The event is part of the Crucible, which is a 54-hour test of endurance and team building.
(Photo by Marine Sgt. Benjamin E. Woodle)

As darkness still blankets the recruits outside their berthing area, drill instructors blare their high-decibel horns to awaken those who are about to experience the Reaper. The young troops quickly pack up their heavy gear and begin the last 9.7-mile hike of basic training as they approach the 700-foot-tall hill.

As each recruit ascends the hill, the fatigue of spending days on minimal rations and little sleep sets in. Each of the recruits must now motivate one another to overcome the struggle and make it up the tall hill. This final hike pays homage to the brave Marines who willed themselves to the top of Mount Suribachi, securing the area from their Japanese enemy.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
The famous photo of U.S. Marines placing the American flag atop of Mount Suribachi, WWII.
(Photo by Joe Rosenthal)

This final test of fortitude is just the beginning of a long career for these soon-to-be Marines, as life in the Corps is just as tough as the last 13-weeks they’ve endured. Pushed by an overwhelming amount of motivation, recruits surpass obstacles they didn’t know even existed before boot camp.

Recruits approach this final challenge, charging as hard as they can, screaming out war cries, and pushing their bodies beyond limits. Before they know it, they’ve reached their ultimate goal: becoming a United States Marine.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
The new Marines of Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, received their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor during a ceremony. This ceremony marks the end of the 54-hour culminating event of training known as the Crucible. Delta Company is scheduled to graduate Sept.
(Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Mary Ann Hill)

Overcome with emotion, the young Marines open their palms to receive their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor from a once-demanding drill instructor, who now calls them a brother.

Check out Hard Corp Cadences‘ video below to witness this impressive final boot-camp test.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZTdG2zBH7M

popular

18 terms only soldiers will understand

Soldier lingo has a tendency to reference things that only exist in the Army. Here are some terms outsiders probably don’t know.

1. Private News Network: The rumor mill or soldier gossip.

 

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith


2. Grab some real estate: This is a command to get on the ground and start exercising, usually with pushups. It’s issued as a punishment for a minor infraction. The command can also be stated as, “beat your face.”

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army by Markus Rauchenberger

3. LEG/NAP: Acronyms for any soldier who is not trained to parachute from airplanes. LEG, or low-entry ground soldier, is considered offensive. Non-airborne personnel, or NAP, is the accepted term. Most NAP are quick to point out that airborne soldiers, once they reach the ground, are little different from their peers.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army Spc. Karen Kozub

4. Fister: An artillery observer. The term refers to the soldier being part of the Fire Support Team, or FiST. These soldiers direct cannon fire. The symbol of the observers is a fist clutching a lightning bolt.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle

5. Beat feet: To move from your current location quickly.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army Sgt. Joseph Guenther

6. Don’t get wrapped around the axle: Refers to how vehicles can be halted or destroyed when something, like wire, wraps around the axle. It means a soldier needs to steer clear of the little problems and move on to the real issues.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army Spc. Daniel Herrera

7. Azimuth check: Azimuth checks are a procedure in land navigation when a soldier makes sure they haven’t wandered off course. Outside of patrols or land navigation courses, azimuth check means to stop and make sure the current task is being done right.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army

8. “Acquired” gear: Equipment that may have been, but probably wasn’t, obtained through proper channels.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Navy HMC Josh Ives

9. Good Idea Fairy: Like the tooth fairy, except it creates work for junior soldiers. It suggests to officers and sergeants that they should grab the closest soldiers and make them do something like build new shelves, clean out a storage unit, or mow grass with office scissors.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: Robert K. Baker

10. Why the sky is blue: Soldiers, even the noncombat ones, are trained starting in basic training that the sky is not blue because air particles transmit blue light. It’s blue because infantry soldiers are denoted by blue cords, discs, and badges, and God loves the infantry.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: John Rives, Wikimedia Commons

11. Fourth point of contact: A butt. In Airborne Training, future paratroopers are trained to fall through five points of contact. First, they hit the balls of their feet, then they roll across the ground on their calf muscle, thigh, buttocks, and finally torso.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army Spc. Michael MacLeod

12. Come up on the net: Communicate with your unit what is going on with your personal life or the mission.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

13. Joes: Slang term for soldiers, usually referring to the junior enlisted personnel. Can also be used as “Private Joe Snuffy” to refer to a single soldier generically.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

14. PX Ranger: A soldier who has a lot of unnecessary gear that they bought for themselves from a post exchange or other shop.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army Spc. Elisha Dawkins

15. CAB Chaser: Noncombat soldiers who try to get into a minor engagement to earn a combat action badge. They generally do this by volunteering for patrols and convoys where they aren’t needed.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army Sgt. Russell Gilchrest

16. Beat your boots: A physical exercise. A soldier stands with their legs shoulder-width apart, hands on hips. They then lower at the waist, hit their boots or shoes with their hands, return to the start position, and repeat. Generally used for punishing minor infractions.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Military Academy by Mike Strasser

17. Dash ten: The user manual. Army publications are all assigned a number. Technical manuals, the closest thing to a civilian user/owner manual, are usually assigned a number that ends in “-10.”

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army

18. Sham shield: Derogatory name for the rank of specialist. Specialists are expected to shirk some duties and the symbol for a specialist is shaped like a small shield.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Photo: US Army

MIGHTY TACTICAL

18 Air Force F-15s square off in a ‘Turkey Shoot’

The 48th Fighter Wing held an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot,” at RAF Lakenheath, England, on Sept. 26, 2019.

The Turkey Shoot is an operational competition that tests the preparation and performance of fighter pilots, intelligence professionals, aircraft maintainers, and air battle managers.

“The event takes the newest flight leads, instructors and wingmen from each squadron, puts them together into one four-ship formation to represent that squadron, and then hands them a demanding tactical problem to solve,” said Capt. Sam Wozniak, 492nd Fighter Squadron weapons system operator flight lead.


The competition is executed as a Defensive Counter Air mission. Competition planners, known as “White Forces,” set the parameters for each fighter squadron’s “blue air” team.

“The White Forces provided the special instructions, rules of the competition, and a point system matrix,” Wozniak said. “For example, successful target defense equated 20 points and achieving missile kills equated 5 points and the team with the most points at the end wins.”

The scenario pitted four blue air F-15s against 14 “red air” F-15s to defend specified targets.

In preparation, blue players had to determine the desired combat air patrol locations, distance triggers to advancing enemy forces, and inter-flight contacts for each formation to optimize mission success.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

An F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

“From the mass brief, each formation splits off for flight-specific briefs to discuss the execution plan and expectations/responsibilities for each flight member during the fight,” Wozniak said.

In this iteration of the Turkey Shoot, the squadrons had the opportunity to incorporate interoperability tactics to enhance the effectiveness of their pre-coordinated strategy.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron kicks off the Turkey Shoot competition at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, takes flight in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

“Broadly speaking, fighter pilots and fighter weapons systems officers need three things to survive and thrive … readiness, competition, and camaraderie,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th Operations Group commander.

“Turkey shoots advance our wing’s readiness by stressing our newest flight leads and wingmen in a very challenging high-end scenario, and the adrenaline rush of competing to win is the closest thing we can do short of actual combat,” Camilletti said.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

As US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s premier combat wing, complex exercises such as this ensure the 48th Fighter Wing remains ready to defend sovereign skies and deter any aggressor.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers use video games to help develop new combat vehicle

Thirty soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division recently tested new technologies in a video-game environment to provide feedback for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.

“This latest experiment will provide us with an understanding of which technologies are most critical for the robotic combat vehicle to be successful in an operational environment,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, NGCV CFT director.

Coffman will be one of the speakers Oct. 14, 2019, at a NGCV Warriors Corner presentation at the Washington Convention Center where more about the experiments will be explained.


The soldiers from 4ID’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the NGCV CFT’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

The campaign of learning is part of GVSC’s virtual prototyping process that helps the Army test new technologies without soldiers needing to start up an engine or even set foot in the field — saving valuable resources.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division support the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)

The soldiers provided feedback on vehicle crew configuration, formations, vehicle capabilities, enabling technologies — such as unmanned aerial vehicles and aided target recognition — and networked capabilities.

The experiment examined multiple questions including how soldiers dealt with constraints such as signal degradation, lack of mobility while using certain features, task organization, and which variants of the vehicles proved the most useful.

“One of the things we are looking at is if a lighter, less-protected RCV can achieve similar battlefield effect as a heavier but more protected one, while both having the same lethality package,” Coffman said.

For the five-day virtual experiment, soldiers employed RCVs in open and urban terrain against a simulated near-peer adversary. Observations and data were collected as to how soldiers use the RCVs and enabling technologies such as smoke generation, tethered unmanned aerial systems, target designator, and signal boost in offensive and defensive roles and in both open and urban environments.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)

“RCVs were able to effectively designate targets and conduct target handoff with other RCVs which executed the target using Hellfire missiles,” said an infantryman who participated in the experiment. [soldier names are withheld due to research protocol.]

These type of events will continue throughout the year with each virtual experiment increasing in capability and fidelity to support a live soldier experiment in March and April 2020. The next virtual experiment will be conducted with support from the 1st Cavalry Division Dec. 9-13, 2019, at the Detroit Arsenal.

“These soldier touch points are essential to how Army Futures Command is executing the Army’s modernization priority,” Coffman said. “Soldiers are at the center of everything we do, and their insight is crucial to developing these new technologies.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

1917 is a war film crafted with military precision

World War I, The Seminal Catastrophe of the 20th Century, hasn’t spawned nearly as many films as did the Second World War that was to follow only 20 years later. For every Warhorse, Lawrence of Arabia, and All Quiet on the Western Front, there are troves of iconic films like Schindler’s List, Dunkirk, Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Longest Day, etc…


Perhaps this is related to the good versus evil rationale on which WWII was fought, whereas WWI had a much more nuanced and convoluted reason for its existence, i.e. a series of binding treaties that exploded into a global war.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

In the newest WWI film, 1917, the overarching causes behind why the soldiers are in trenches become irrelevant thanks to an expertly-crafted, human story that envelops the viewer with a common principle found in all wars and in the films that depict it; you fight for the soldiers next to you. Along with sharp performances and thoughtful writing, the filmmakers enlist a technique as difficult to achieve as it is powerful in its reception; a simulated single camera shot following the action from mission-start to mission-finish.

The film’s use of one continuous shot (or perhaps a few hundred stitched-together shots) is designed for one specific reason; to put the audience in the shoes of two young British soldiers, tasked with carrying an urgent message of life or death to the frontlines. Effectively nullifying the safety blanket of the traditional editor where multiple shots can be combined into a film, 1917’s continuous shot leaves very little room for error with the director, cinematographer, and other crew on set. In military terms, to make this film a blockbuster, Director Sam Mendez took a chance with a 0 million sniper shot, and he nailed it.

When Mendez and cinematographer Roger Deakins (both Oscar winners) decided to craft 1917 using only one shot and rely on the edit only to mask or stitch the various sequences together, they set out to bring the audience into the world of frontline war-fighting. There are no breaks. There are no pauses between frames or shots or scenes to give your brain time to catch up. The viewer is embedded with these men from mission-start to mission-finish and thus given a proximity not often afforded to audiences. The result is a visceral and captivating glimpse into the heartbreakingly painful agonies of war; especially a war as devastating as WWI. Yet, in doing so, it also provides the audience with a heightened sense of triumph as the young soldiers conquer insurmountable odds.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

Whereas the creative choice of using one shot adds elemental gravitas and depth to 1917, it’s execution also proves the filmmakers’ dedication to this story. Due to the complexity and continuous nature of the one-shot format, the planning of every shot, performance, movement, light, wardrobe detail, effect, etc. called for the utmost military precision.

Employing the preparation, foresight, ingenuity, and assiduousness needed to lead an army into battle, Mendez and his lieutenants triumphed.

Articles

This combat controller kept taking it to the enemy after he was shot in the chest

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez had accompanied top special operators in some of the most dangerous missions of the War on Terror, including the Battle of Shok Valley. He was a combat controller assigned to Army Special Forces, calling in attack runs from aircraft supporting the Green Berets.


In 2009 he was tested like never before when, during a raid to capture a high-level Taliban leader, Gutierrez was shot in the chest. The round passed through his lung, collapsing it and ripping a chunk out of his back.

Gutierrez had seen this kind of wound before and estimated he had three minutes left to live.

“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez told Fox News while discussing the raid. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”

He stayed on the radio, calling in strikes from aircraft to help the team escape alive. At one point, enemy fighters were lined up on a wall only 30 feet from him. Gutierrez called in three A-10 danger close gun runs against the fighters. The rounds struck so close to Gutierrez that his ear drums burst from the explosions. After the first of the three runs, he allowed an Army medic to insert a needle into his lung, relieving some of the pressure that was forcing his lungs closed. It was the only time he came off the radio despite his injuries.

In fact, through all the chaos of the fight, Gutierrez remained so calm and clear on the radio that the pilots supporting the operation didn’t realize he was injured until he was removed from the battlefield.

“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin told Business Insider. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.

Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battle after nearly four hours of fighting and losing over half of his blood. No American lives were lost in the raid, a success credited largely to Gutierrez’s extraordinary actions. He recovered from his wounds and was awarded the Air Force Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for valor awards.

Watch the ceremony below

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines may have to fight all of America’s low-intensity wars

Buried nearly 500 pages into the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 , Senate Bill 2987, is an interesting directive: “No later than February 1, 2019, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report setting forth a re-evaluation of the highest priority missions of the Department of Defense, and of the roles of the Armed Forces in the performance of such missions.” Despite receiving passing attention in the media, this small section of a large bill has potentially enormous long-term repercussions.


The Senate NDAA passed by a vote of 85–10 on June 19, 2018. Much of the re-evaluation that the Senate Armed Services Committee calls for in S.2987 is justified and indeed overdue. There is a glaring need to take a new look at issues such as:

  • Future ground vehicles that are not optimized for high-end conflict
  • The advantages of carrier-launched unmanned platforms over our short-legged manned Navy strike aircraft
  • The ways in which swarms of cheap drones can impact the United States’ ability to project power
  • Our overstretched special operations forces

Alongside these necessary inquiries, the requested report also asks a much bigger question: “whether the joint force would benefit from having one Armed Force dedicated primarily to low-intensity missions.” The bill tells us which Armed Force this would be: the United States Marine Corps.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Jacob)

The Trump Administration’s National Defense Strategy rightly seeks to reorient America’s military on the most difficult task it can face: deterring or winning a large-scale modern war against a peer competitor. The Senate NDAA seems guided by that same logic.

The military and its civilian overseers have picked up some bad habits from the past two decades of low-intensity operations. At least one prominent retired general questions whether the US military still knows how to fight a major war. Counterinsurgency may be “eating soup with a knife,” but it is not “the graduate level of warfare.” No matter how vexing armed anthropology and endless cups of tea may be to soldiers, the challenges of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism do not compare to those of a high-tempo, high-casualty modern war. This should be obvious to even a casual student of military history, but the post-9/11 wars have generated an enormous amount of woolly thinking among both soldiers and civilians.

There are also justifiable concerns about the viability of forcible entry from the sea, the Marine Corps’ traditional mission. Since the Falklands invasion in 1982, we have seen that modern missiles will make amphibious power projection increasingly costly. The Marine Corps has taken note and for decades now has quietly been renaming schools, vehicles, and probably marching bands “Expeditionary” instead of “Amphibious.” However, America will always be a maritime nation, and “game-changing” military technologies have a mixed record.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Angel D. Travis)

Yet while the Senate’s requested report is asking the Secretary of Defense many of the right questions, its one attempt at an answer should be rejected outright.

A high/low mix of platforms is worth examining. Going high/low with our military services is another matter altogether.

The Army and Air Force undoubtedly want to get back to preparing to fight major wars, as they should. Relegating the Marine Corps to second-tier status as a counterinsurgency and advising force, however, is not in the national interest.

Militaries have historically understood that they must prepare primarily for the most dangerous and difficult operations they could face. It is far easier to shift a trained force down the range of military operations than up. The Israelis offer the most vivid recent illustration of this truth.

Before the 2006 Second Lebanon War with Hezbollah, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had been focused on operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, with 75 percent of training devoted to low-intensity conflict (LIC). When this counterinsurgency force confronted well-armed, well-trained, and dug-in Hezbollah militiamen, it received a nasty wake up call: the IDF took relatively heavy casualties and was unable to decisively defeat Hezbollah or halt rocket attacks into Israel, which continued until the day of the ceasefire. The IDF quickly returned to training for stiffer fights, devoting 80 percent of its training to high-intensity conflict (HIC) after the 2006 war.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
An Israeli soldier tosses a grenade into a Hezbollah bunker.

America already has a tradition of early bloody noses in major wars, from Bull Runto Kasserine Pass to Task Force Smith. Unless we want an even more catastrophic shock in our next major war, we must focus all four of our military services on major combat operations and combined arms maneuver. We should not forget the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, such as they are. But it is the height of folly to turn our most expeditionary and aggressive military service into a corps of advisors and gendarmes.

Instead of continuing to throw lives and money at the intractable — and strategically less important — security problems of the developing world, perhaps we should spend more time and effort avoiding such military malpractice. Let’s hope the Department of Defense concurs.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How medically-discharged vets can get a disability rating boost

Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.

The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.


The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.

Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.

Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.

“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “

Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.

If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.

The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.

A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.

For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.

To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.

For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.

The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.

Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.

Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.

After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.

The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.

About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.

PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.

At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”

If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Exclusive: Woman makes history by being the first to graduate Special Forces training

A female National Guard soldier is set to graduate and don the coveted Green Beret at the end of the month. SOFREP has learned that she passed Robin Sage, a unique Unconventional Warfare exercise and the culminating event in the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), earlier this week.

This marks a significant milestone for women across the force. She will be the first woman to have successfully completed a Special Operations pipeline and join and an operational team since President Obama opened all jobs within the military to women.


The graduation at the end of the month definitely will not be typical. Because of this historic milestone, graduation will be held in a closed hangar to conceal her identity. A Special Forces Engineer Sergeant (18C) with the 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, the female soldier has big hopes of going active duty. However, her warm welcome may not be as welcome as she may like.

Just over five feet tall, her walking into a Special Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) team room will not be high fives and handshakes. Culture takes time to adapt to change. There are plenty of older generations still within the Regiment that believe there’s no place for a woman on a team. However, when talking to newer graduates, they accept it, if she can pass the same standards. So did the new graduate pass with the same standards? All reports indicate yes. She did, however, have her fair of challenges, recycling at least one phase.

For personal security reasons, SOFREP is withholding her identity.

While this is an incredible feat, she won’t be the first. Captain Kathleen Wilder became the first woman to be eligible for the Army’s Special Forces in the 1980s (the selection was somewhat different back then). Captain Wilder attended the Officers Special Forces Course at Fort Bragg but was told just before graduation that she had failed a field exercise and could not be a candidate for the military’s premier Unconventional Warfare unit. She filed a complaint of gender discrimination. Brigadier General F. Cecil Adams, who investigated it, determined that she had been wrongly denied graduation. No reports were found on whether or not she ever graduated.

Additionally, in the 1970s, Specialist Katie McBrayer, an intelligence analyst, had served with Blue Light, a Special Forces counterterrorism element before the creation of Delta Force, in an operational role. She hadn’t graduated the Q Course, however.

Delta Force and other units Tier 1 units have been recruiting women for a variety of roles for decades. So what took the SF Regiment so long? Well for one, combat fields were previously closed to females. However at Group, since 2016, women have been working at the Battalion level. So to walk around Battalion these days and see women is now a very normal thing. And these roles could be right beside the operators while deployed as mechanics, SOT-As, intel, and now as actual operators themselves. So watch out Fort Bragg, you soon may see this woman wearing a long tab.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 things you didn’t know about Wyatt Earp and his famous gunfight

No doubt about it, the Wild West is an evocative era in American history. This period of frontier expansion is synonymous with rowdy saloons, cowboys, suspenseful shootouts, and of course, the ever-present tumbleweed. Within this lawless atmosphere, the infamous 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place. Although it was a real historical event, the showdown between Wyatt Earp and the Cochise County Cowboys checks off every element of a good spaghetti western film.

Here are the basic facts: Approximately 30 shots were fired in the standoff between law enforcement and the group of outlaws known as the Cochise County Cowboys. The altercation left three cowboys dead and two lawmen wounded in the mining boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. However, the passage of time has meshed fact with legend. We’re here to set the record straight. Here are seven little-known facts about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.


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1. The gunfight did not actually take place at the O.K. Corral.

Nope, the shootout didn’t happen inside or even next to the eponymous corral. Shots were exchanged in a vacant lot on Fremont Street, down the road from the corral’s rear entrance.

This common mistake can be attributed to the 1957 film, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The movie made the shootout famous, but it was rather loose with the facts. (As for why the movie-makers decided on a location change, we’re guessing it’s because Gunfight at the O.K. Corral sounds more glamorous than Gunfight at the Vacant Lot on Fremont Street.) The corral still exists today, but instead of a business renting out horses and wagons, it’s a part of Tombstone’s historic district, where people can pay to watch reenactments of the gunfight.

2. The police may not have been the good guys.

There isn’t much room for moral ambiguity in standard depictions of the Old West. You have your bad guys (violent, lawless thieves) and your good guys (law-abiding sheriffs who try to protect the town). However, historians aren’t so sure what went down during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

The Earp brothers and their friend Doc Holliday claimed afterwards that they were trying to disarm the cowboys, who were illegally carrying firearms when the cowboys opened fire. The surviving cowboys alleged that they were fully cooperating and had even raised their hands in the air when the lawmen started indiscriminately shooting them at point blank range. Alliances were strong in the small town–newspapers were not above taking sides, and witnesses of the scuffle gave conflicting testimony. To further complicate matters, the transcript of the ensuing murder trial was destroyed in a fire. All in all, we may never know for sure who provoked the shootout.

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3. Wyatt Earp wasn’t really the hero of the shootout.

Wyatt Earp went down in history as the central figure of the gunfight. In reality, his brother Virgil was far more experienced than him in combat and shootout situations. Virgil had served in The Civil War and had a long career in law enforcement compared to Wyatt, who had a shorter stint in law enforcement and was even fired from one position.

However, Wyatt gained fame when a biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, was published in 1931, two years after its subject’s death. Riddled with exaggerations, to the point that it was more fiction that actual biography, the book portrayed Wyatt as the deadliest and most feared shooter in the Old West. Another contributing factor to his notoriety was the fact that unlike his fellow lawmen in the O.K. Corral shootout, Wyatt wasn’t injured or killed. Nor was he harmed in any of the ensuing fights. His close calls in the face of death only added to his mystique. Which brings us to our next point …

4. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was only a small part of the long feud between the Earps & the cowboys.

Tension was simmering between the cowboys and the Earps long before gunfire erupted. Naturally, the fact that the Cochise County Cowboys made their living through smuggling and thievery ruffled a few feathers with town marshal Virgil Earp. The cowboys were implicated in several robberies and murders. The Earps promised justice, to which the cowboys responded that they were being persecuted without evidence. Death threats were exchanged.

The gunfight wasn’t the end of the enmity between these men either. The surviving cowboys were believed to have organized the assassination of Morgan Earp and a murder attempt on Virgil that left him permanently disabled.

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5. Wyatt Earp wasn’t always on the right side of the law.

And he definitely wasn’t the infallible hero later accounts made him out to be. Earp was apparently heavily affected by his first wife’s death and started acting out. Before moving to Tombstone, he faced a series of lawsuits alleging that he stole money and falsified court documents. He was also arrested for stealing a horse and escaped from jail before his trial. Later, he was arrested and fined for frequenting brothels. Rumors were abound that he was a pimp.

Earp tried to turn things around for himself and got a job on the police force in Wichita, Kansas. However, he was fired after getting into a fistfight. Luckily for him, it was pretty easy to wipe the slate clean for yourself in those days. He could simply pack his bags and head to a new town like Tombstone, where he could start with a fresh reputation.

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6. The gunfight only lasted 30 seconds.

Yup, the dramatic confrontation that left three men dead and three wounded lasted less than a minute. In that span, around 30 shots were fired. The movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corraldramatized the shootout, showing the men heavily armed and engaged in a fight that spanned minutes. In reality, each man carried only a revolver apiece and in the confusion, nobody could be sure who fired the fatal shots.

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7. Many of the townspeople sympathized with the cowboys.

You would think the people of Tombstone would regard the Earps as their heroes for driving out the outlaws. Not so. Public opinion was divided over the matter, especially after Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan testified in court that he witnessed the cowboys try to surrender peacefully.

However, even the sheriff had loyalties in this small town. Virgil Earp had clashed with Behan on several other occasions, claiming that he turned a blind eye to the cowboys’ illegal activities and was sympathetic to the criminals. Additionally, Wyatt Earp’s common-law wife, Josephine Earp, had lived with Behan for two years before entering a relationship with Earp. She left Behan after finding him in bed with another woman, but no doubt this contributed to the animosity betweens the Earps and Behan.

Also read: This Civil War vet was the real hero of the O.K. Corral shootout

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honest slogans for each branch of the military

Honestly, the military isn’t really what I thought it would be. Most of us, at some point, have moment of clarity in which we realize that what we expected of daily military life doesn’t match up with reality.

And that’s okay.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us also had (or continue to have) a pretty decent military experience, all things considered. But what if the branches decided to be honest for a moment and give potential recruits a real vision of what their daily lives might be like?

Feel free to suggest some of your own.


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How the Air Force checks the weather.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Basic Nathan H. Barbour)

1. Air Force

Current Slogan: “Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win”

The aiming high (actually, the aiming in general) begins and ends at the recruiter’s office for most airmen. Most new airmen will neither fly nor fight. If you consider eating chicken tendies winning, then this slogan 25 percent spot-on.

Honest Slogan: “Come in, have a seat.”

This covers everything from office jobs to the few pilots that haven’t yet left the Air Force for a cushy civilian airline. It also manages to forget the maintainers and other airmen who work on the flightline as well as Air Force special operations — just like most of the rest of the military.

More importantly, it’s the phrase you’ll hear from your supervisor every time you make the slightest mistake.

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Whoa! Two women in this photo. Slow down, Navy.

(U.S. Navy)

2. Navy

Current Slogan: “Forged by the Sea”

The more accurate version of this slogan is, “Because of the Sea.” The Navy didn’t crawl out of the ocean. It was made to tame the ocean. But “Because of the Sea” doesn’t sound nearly as cool.

Honest Slogan: “5,000 dudes surrounded by water.”

This will be your life, shipmate. The Navy wants 25 percent of its ships’ crews to be composed of women, but, in reality, that number is still a distant dream. Meanwhile, the port visits to exotic lands that you dreamed about will be few and far between. Going outside, all you’ll see is water. Terrible, undrinkable, watery death. If you ever actually go outside, that is.

Sorry, Nukes.

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All I’m saying is that if all you can be is a cook, then you might as well get the pay, benefits, and serious uniform upgrade by being all you can be in the Army.

(U.S. Army)

3. Army

Current Slogan: “Army Strong”

Even the Army came around to realizing this one wasn’t doing it any favors in the recruiting department.

Honest Slogan: “A sh*tty job for anyone and everyone.”

That’s not to say the Army sucks, it doesn’t have good gigs, or isn’t worth the time and effort, but let’s face it: It’s huge, it’ll take almost anyone, and there are so many jobs that you just can’t find anywhere else, in or out of the military. Got a bachelor’s in microbiology but you suddenly want to fly a helicopter? Army. Tired of the workaday grind and selling insurance to people who hate you? Army. Do currently flip burgers for terrible pay and then have to top it off by cleaning a toilet? You can literally do that in the Army.

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Yeah, this is not for everyone.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

4. Marines

Current Slogan: “The Few, The Proud

This is actually a pretty great and accurate recruiting slogan. The Marines put it on hold in 2016, only to reactivate it the next year – probably because this is actually a great and accurate recruiting slogan. The handfuls of people who do the crummiest jobs in the military using next to nothing are proud of it.

Honest Slogan: “Marines for-f*ucking-ever.”

The only thing more honest is telling recruits how long the decision to join the Marines will affect them. I’ve only ever known one former Marine who refers to himself as an “ex-Marine”. Meanwhile, old-timers at Springfield, Ohio, VFW post 1031 used to tell 6-year-old me that the only ex-Marine is Lee Harvey Oswald.

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The USCG Cutter “Get Out and Push”

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

5. Coast Guard

Current Slogan: “Born Ready”

The Coast Guard motto is “Semper Paratus,” but “Born Ready” was the nearest I could find to a recruiting slogan — and it’s a pretty good one, too. Still, it’s a few years old and could probably use an update.

Honest Slogan: “Find a way.”

Besides opening up possibilities to have Jeff Goldblum as a spokesman, this is a much more accurate depiction of life in a Coast Guard plagued by budget cuts and Congressional apathy. Meanwhile, the resourceful Coasties somehow pull off drug busts, ice breaking, and daring sea rescues. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are getting lasers on vehicles while 50-year-old Coast Guard cutters are breaking down 35 times in 19 days.

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Watch what happens when paratroopers jump with a GoPro

The GoPro Camera has provided us with a ton of awesome videos. But what do you think happens when paratroopers get a hold of one? Yeah, they take it on a jump.


Probably one of the best descriptors of the ethos of the paratroopers is the “Rule of the LGOPs.” The rule describes a fascinating effect that when, in battle, an Airbone plan dissolves, you’re left with something truly fearsome: Small groups of 19-year-olds who are willing to jump from a plane, armed to the teeth and lacking serious adult supervision and…well, you get the idea.

 

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Fort Bragg paratroopers in action. (Army Photo by Sgt. Steven Galimore.)

But in peacetime, if these same paratroopers want to remain fearsome, they need to keep their training up. This means lots of practice jumps from aircraft. This not only helps the paratroopers, it helps the crews.

Luckily for us, the 173rd Airborne Brigade brought a GoPro on one of these practice jumps, joined by Serbian Army paratroopers from the 63rd Parachute Brigade.

These paratroopers used a pair of C-130 transport planes during an exercise code-named Double Eagle. A C-130 can carry as many as 64 paratroopers on board, according to an Air Force fact sheet. A version known as the C-130J-30 can carry as many as 92.

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

The 173rd Airborne Brigade was part of the 87th Infantry Division in World War I, and saw some action in World War II when its headquarters company as designated the 87th Reconnaissance Troop. In 1963, it was activated, and eventually saw action in Vietnam before being inactivated. In 2000, it was reactivated, and has remained part of the active Army as a quick-reaction force based in Italy. The 173rd has generations of experience under its belt; let’s watch them put that experience to the test.

Take a look at the video below to see a first-person perspective of a parachute jump.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part seven

Da Lat, Vietnam
April, 2017

My “one night in Da Lat” was a pleasant reprieve from the war and normal combat operations that we had been conducting. I’d heard of the city, but never believed all of the stories I’d heard. Stories about the beautiful architecture, the green and lush gardens, cool weather, and about the graceful people — certainly a Shangri-La such as this couldn’t exist in the Vietnam I’d come to know. But low and behold, it did.


In stark contrast to what I had come to expect, this beautiful city, now grown into a true metropolitan area filling much more of the mountain encircled bowl, represented a softer, subtler side of Vietnam.

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Not found in Da Lat were the loud bars and crowds of rowdy people. In their place were quiet enclaves where people would meet, have a drink, and talk in a quiet atmosphere. Here couples and families would stroll down the wide boulevards and enjoy the fragrant air and quiet neighborhoods. Also included was the central market area where you could find virtually anything you needed, from sweaters to shoes to fast food.

Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’
Watch these Marine recruits take on the infamous ‘Reaper’

40 years later and none of that has changed in Da Lat, it’s only gotten bigger and it was a pleasure to see that the city and people were as I remembered them.

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Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

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