Battle Rattle

Viral video shows Marines confronting apparent military faker

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A video showing two Marines confronting a man dressed as an Army sergeant major is making the rounds on Facebook.

The video, posted on Sunday from Florida, shows two Marines on funeral detail questioning a man claiming to be a battalion sergeant major, military policeman and special operator. The two catch up with him in a parking lot and begin asking him questions about his uniform — including why he’s wearing medals and ribbons at the same time.

The Marines ask the man who his commanding officer is, and he replies, “Lt. Col. Smith.” They also ask him for his official business card, but the man is unable to produce one.

Later, the man claiming to be a top enlisted soldier told the Marines he doesn’t participate in physical training because he’s an officer.

The man was wearing a Silver Star and a Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device. When one of the Marines asked how he got the Bronze Star with combat “V,” he replied that he got it for “saving lives up in Baghdad.” He went on to say he saved three of his troops and his “staff sergeant from killing his own self.” 

He then tells the Marines he can’t give them further details about what happened.

“I don’t know if y’all kids have been over there,” he said. “But over there … it’s classified — it’s a good story.”

When one of the Marines asked him what the Army uniform regulation code was, the man replied, “Do my best, do my duty to serve my country.”

“That’s the uniform regulation?” one of the Marines replied. “Are you sure it’s not AR 670–1?”

When one of the Marines accuses the man of stolen valor, he tells them to get out of his face because he’s a military policeman. When they ask to see his badge, he replies that it’s in his car.

“I ain’t fake,” the man tells the Marines.

Once it becomes apparent the Marines aren’t going to let up with questions about his service claims, the man walks off to his car.

Florida-based NBC affiliate WPTV reported that the man identified himself as 44-year-old Cornelius Davis. He told the station he was angry about the video that was posted on social media.

A spokesperson for the Army told WPTV that there is no record of a Cornelius Davis with the date of birth he provided having served in the Army since 1999. The spokesperson also said the items on the uniform are not correct and “don’t make sense.”

Public speaker apologizes to Marines for wearing DI uniform

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A man who runs public speaking seminars faced severe backlash on social media from Marines and veterans groups after he dressed up as a drill instructor during one of his recent engagements.

Marines took to Facebook and Twitter to launch a social media campaign to stop Marc Accetta, the founder of a company that provides seminars and training programs, from donning official Marine Corps uniform items during his engagements.

The photo, which showed Accetta dressed as a first sergeant with the classic DI smokey cover, appears to have been removed from Facebook. And just hours later, Accetta issued a public apology on his Facebook page.

Marine Corps Times reached out to Accetta for more on what was behind his initial decision to dress like a Marine drill instructor. He said occasionally holds business training seminars that are “theatrical in nature.” For that particular event, he said the theme was “boot camp.”

“In the very beginning of the event, I address the group as a drill instructor and instill them with parallels and analogies from all U.S. military that are helpful in building their entrepreneurial business,” Accetta said. “I never claim to be an actual soldier.  The audience is totally aware that they are being addressed by civilians using a boot camp theme to teach them great principles.” 

Accetta said he was surprised by the backlash he received after a photo of him wearing the uniform was posted to Facebook. As a public speaker for the past 25 years, he said he has honored the military on many occasions by drawing attention to their sacrifice and service. Veterans who’ve attended his events over the years have been thankful for that message, he said.

“I would never knowingly do anything that was disrespectful to anyone in the U.S. military,” Accetta said. “I now understand why it was offensive, but it was very unintentional.”

Marines have, for the most part, accepted his Facebook apology, Accetta said.

“My father is a WWII veteran and I was raised to have the utmost respect for our armed forces, so this has been a very difficult experience for me,” he said. “I appreciate you asking for the proper context this all occurred in, and asking me a few questions allowing me to express myself more clearly.”



Recruit: Should I tell my DIs it’s my birthday?

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A Marine recruit — or soon to be recruit — took to the Internet to ask for some advice about whether drill instructors care if your birthday falls during boot camp.

Here’s the question that was posted to Yahoo! Answers on Wednesday:

“What if I tell the drill instructors it’s my birthday? What if the platoon was lined up and I stepped out of line to announce to everyone it’s my 19th birthday. What’ll happen?”

One Army veteran responded that it would go down as one of the “Worst Birthdays Ever.” Another user who goes by the name Goose said, “Please do it!”

Having spent some time at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, reporting on how drill instructors make Marines, my guess is that it would land this recruit in the sand pit. The recruit would likely receive the gift of some incentive training.

The result might look something like this:

Sgt. Justin Glenn Burnside motivates a recruit with Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. (Lance Cpl. David Bessey/Marine Corps)

Sgt. Justin Glenn Burnside motivates a recruit with Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. (Lance Cpl. David Bessey/Marine Corps)

What’s your advice for this young recruit? Should he or she step out of line to tell the DIs it’s a special day?

Video: Marine held in Mexico gets day in court

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As Marine veteran Andrew Tahmooressi appeared in a Mexican courthouse in Tijuana today for an evidentiary hearing, a host of lawmakers and a movie star are voicing their support for him.

Tahmooressi says he missed his exit at the San Ysidro border crossing March 31, entering Mexico with three firearms and dozens of rounds of ammunition in his truck before being arrested by Mexican authorities. His court proceedings were delayed by a series of legal hiccups: he has fired his attorney twice before hiring lawyer Fernando Benitez to represent him.

While the results of the hearing, which began at 11:30a.m. local time, have not been released yet, Fox News has this good primer on the action:

So far, thousands of members of the public have come to Tahmooressi’s support, with more than 100,000 people signing a White House petition asking the president to intervene on the veteran’s behalf.

On the eve of today’s hearing, Tahmooressi got one more fan: Gary Sinise, best known for playing “Lieutenant Dan” in the 1994 classic Forrest Gump.

Sinise, a longtime advocate of troops, took to Twitter to blast his support for Tahmooressi.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of 74 lawmakers, led by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Lee Terry, R-NE, have sent letters to Benitez and the Mexican circuit court judge, Victor Octavio Luna Escobedo, asking them to take Tahmooressi’s character and service into account and render a fair verdict.

Read the letters below:



Analysts say there’s a slim chance that Tahmooressi may be released at today’s hearing, but for now, it’s a game of wait-and-see.


“Outpouring of love” after 12-year-old Honorary Marine dies of brain cancer

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Last year, 12-year-old Ethan Arbelo earned his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor when he was made an Honorary Marine, joining a group of fewer than 100 who have received that title. Last week, Ethan’s family said he had earned his angel’s wings.

Ethan Arbelo

Diagnosed with Anaplastic Astrocytoma Grade III, an aggressive brain cancer, in Feb. 2012, Ethan embarked on a mission to make the most of the time he had. His mom, Maria Maldonado Arbelo, herself a Marine veteran, created “Ethan’s Bucket List,” a tally of her son’s dream adventures. With donor support raised in online fundraisers and through various charitable organizations, Ethan swam with dolphins at Sea World, took a trip to Disney World, and made a cross-country road trip.

But one of the most memorable moments on the bucket list came Oct. 31, 2013 when Ethan visited the headquarters of 4th Marine Assault Amphibian Battalion in Tampa, Fla. to be made an honorary Marine. Presented by Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, the honor was not lost on the 12-year-old.

From The Tampa Tribune:

During a rest break Thursday at the Marine reserve center near the foot of the Gandy Bridge, Master Sgt. Will Price tried to coach Ethan through some Marine swagger.

“Repeat after me,” Price said. “Once a Marine … ”

The sergeant didn’t need to finish his instructions.

“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” Ethan fired back.

On July 3, Ethan’s loved ones posted tragic news to the Facebook page Ethan’s Journey.

“To all my military Brothers and Sisters, as you start your celebration tonight, lift a shot up in honor of our Fallen Brother, Eman… he passed at 1831 tonight, in my arms. He was the baddest m-fer in the land. Extraction date: July 3, 2014.”

Image via the Facebook Page Ethan’s Journey

Since then, hundreds of well-wishers have posted on the page, including friends and family and members of the Marine Corps community.

In the months preceding Ethan’s death, Maria Arbelo wrote that she had been overwhelmed by support during that difficult time.

“We have had such an outpouring of love and support from our military family…all across the globe, each phone call, text, email or comment wishing us a good fight and offering words of support,” she wrote. “Many have asked if we need anything and said we need only ask.”

In the wake of Ethan’s death, there’s still an opportunity to help the family: they’ve launched another online fundraiser to help cover funeral expenses.


Lieutenant colonel uses Marines’ “Frozen” video to open the dialogue on sexual assault

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A Marine Reserve officer is taking some heat for an opinion piece he wrote analyzing the reaction to a viral video in which Marines filmed themselves belting out the lyrics to the girl-power anthem, “Let It Go.”

In a piece for The Daily Beast titled “Why these Marines love ‘Frozen’ and why it matters,” Aaron B. O’Connell — a lieutenant colonel in the Reserve and history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy — said the public’s reaction to the video is flawed. Those who were calling it “adorable” missed the point, he wrote.

Instead, he says the Marines’ performance is a glimpse into how the military treats sex and violence. The video wasn’t about their love for Disney sing-alongs, he wrote. Instead, it highlighted the Marines’ lust over the the sexy cartoon princess who let down her hair and got a new dress with a slit up her leg, his piece stated.

“That most of the Marines’ millions of online admirers confused lust with a love of sing-alongs is a comic misunderstanding,” the piece states. “It reveals just how unaware most Americans are of how their military prepares young people to do violence in defense of the nation.”

Those who commented on O’Connell’s piece suggested he was over-analyzing the video that was simply meant to be funny. But he said there needs to be a conversation about the chemical connection between violence and sex, since both stem from the same hormone: testosterone.

While military life does a good job of allowing Marines to channel testosterone on the violence side through teaching them how to kill, it doesn’t always provide room for a healthy sex life, he wrote.

“Testosterone is the critical ingredient of molding young people into violent instruments, and while there are ample tools for directing soldiers’ impulses on the battlefield, barracks life and base demographics give young people few opportunities for healthy adult sexual relationships,” his piece states.

O’Connell told Marine Corps Times that those who interpreted his piece as critical of the Marines in the video were wrong.

“There’s nothing wrong with young Marines finding the Elsa character sexy — after all, that’s how Disney drew her,” he said. “In fact, the piece didn’t criticize those Marines at all.  It criticized the many civilians who can only seem to think of Marines as G-rated super heroes or X-rated predators.”

In his piece, O’Connell said it’s important to stop viewing Marines between those two extremes.

“Military life is not a Disney film, but neither is it X-rated,” he wrote. “And yet, the national conversation on sex and violence seems stuck between these two extremes — presenting troops as either fairy tale heroes or out-of-control predators. Let’s elevate the dialogue.”

Whether people understood his point or not, O’Connell said it’s good that there’s increased attention on the issue of sexual assault.

“It is a serious problem for our Corps and for the armed forces in general,” he said. “But another major point of the article was to demand that people use evidence when they make claims.  Politicians and news pundits alike speak of an ‘epidemic’ of military sexual assault, but they have no idea if there is more or less sexual assault in the military than there is in civilian society.  I think that’s irresponsible.” 

Retiring Marine master sergeant surprised with $70,000 home makeover

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Marine Master Sgt. Jacinto Bernardo and his family bought a fixer-upper in California before deploying to Okinawa, Japan. But when he returned from his deployment, the fixing-up part was complete — a surprise orchestrated by an old boot camp buddy.

Bernardo and his wife returned to Suisun City, California, on Tuesday — their final homecoming as the master sergeant completed his 21-year career in the Corps, according to ABC7.

Before leaving for Japan, Bernardo asked his friend, Jeremy Epperson, to look after his new place, according to ABC7. But Epperson decided the retiring master sergeant rated a better house after more than two decades in the Marine Corps.

So he set out gathering donations, eventually giving the house a $70,000 upgrade, ABC7 reported. Volunteers helped put in new floors and carpeting, a new kitchen and a lawn, according to the station.

“We did it for you brother,” Epperson told Bernardo, according to the report. “Twenty one years in the Marine Corps, retiring, you don’t deserve to come back to a house where you have to spend a lot of your savings and time fixing it up.”

Check out the complete story here.

Watch: MOH recipient Kyle Carpenter classes up the Letterman show

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Retired Marine Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, 24, recipient of the Medal of Honor, talked with host David Letterman during a taping of “Late Show with David Letterman,” Wednesday in New York. The segment featuring Carpenter, who lost an eye after taking a grenade blast in Afghanistan to save a fellow Marine in 2010, aired on Thursday. Photo: John Paul Filo/CBS/The Associated Press

Retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor at the White House last week, entered the home stretch of a week on the road with an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman in New York last night.

Carpenter, who showed up sharp in his dress blues with his medal at his collar, revealed to Letterman that he had driven home from class to receive the call from President Barack Obama congratulating him on his award. Then, he had gone back to class.

“I’m sorry I’m late, professor, I just got a call from the president,” Letterman teased.

“I’m not saying it was easy to focus,” Carpenter responded.

Watch the whole segment above.


Hey, Marines, the commandant of the Guatemalan marine corps rolls his sleeves better than you

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Col. Medardo Monterroso Suarez, commandant of the Guatemalan marine corps, probably rolls his sleeves better than you. (Mike Morones/Staff)

Col. Medardo Monterroso Suarez, commandant of the Guatemalan marine corps, probably rolls his sleeves better than you. (Mike Morones/Staff)

I wasn’t the best at rolling sleeves in my time, wasn’t the worst either, probably right around the middle of the pack. Leading that pack from Guatemala, though, is their marine corps commandant. Seriously, those rolls are so sharp, they probably outmatch half the Marines in the Corps.

Col. Medardo Monterroso Suarez is so pumped about U.S. Marines training his troops that he not only wants to completely adopt their doctrine, but apparently their uniform presentation as well.

Recently, we sent Marine Corps Times reporter Gina Harkins and staff photographer Mike Morones down into the heart of Central America to cover the Marine Corps’ contribution to fighting the drug war. There, they visited Marine outposts in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

All the troops were enthusiastic about the opportunity to train with Marines, including Monterroso Suarez .

“We’re a newborn force and we have our own doctrine, but it’s still very important for us to get the experience and expertise from the other forces that have learned it through operations,” he told Harkins. “We recognize the tradition and prestige of the American Marine Corps.”

Read the full story in this Monday’s issue of Marine Corps Times, or online on Marine Corps Times Prime.

“The enemy is … on the run:” Afghan National Army declares victory amid fighting in Sangin

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Just last month, the Marine Corps executed a carefully planned pullout from Sangin district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a region best known as one of the most deadly battlegrounds of the war. I was on the ground with some of the units for the final withdrawal.

Less than two months on, the news out of Sangin isn’t good: AP reports that some 27 people, including five civilians, have been killed since Sunday, when the Taliban launched an attack on police checkpoints in the district, swarming the region with between 800 and 1,0o0 enemy fighters. The fighting has also spread the nearby Kajaki and Now Zad districts, a spokesman for the Afghan ministry of defense said. The good news, according to NATO officials, is that no checkpoints have been overrun so far in the fighting.

ANA 215th Corps commander Maj. Gen. Sayed Malouk after voting in Afghanistan April 5

ANA 215th Corps commander Maj. Gen. Sayed Malouk after voting in Afghanistan April 5

Amid the fray, the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps–the unit responsible for all of Helmand province–fired off a statement from Corps commander Maj. Gen. Sayed Malouk declaring victory and saying the Taliban were on the run.

215th Corps release

“Unfortunately, media outlets have broadcasted news that we have been defeated, but this is false,” the release reads. “…120 Taliban have been killed and 200 wounded, many of which have been captured. The enemy has failed and they are on the run, leaving behind heavy and light weapons, ammunition, and vehicles and have left many of their dead on the battlefield.”

The statement closes with a promise that “life will return to normal” with the Afghan National Security Forces in control.

It’s hard to know exactly how to interpret this release. A BBC report from today quotes “local officials” saying more than 100 Taliban have been killed in the five days of fighting in Sangin, but acknowledges no independent confirmation exists for this figure.

The statement from the 215th Corps also seems strangely optimistic given the reports from the ground in Sangin. That said, Afghan officials emphasized to Marine Corps Times the importance of a robust information campaign as an element of warfighting, noting that the Taliban have relied heavily on propaganda to maintain authority. To that end, the 215th Corps public affairs office set up a Facebook page, with the help of public affairs Marines aboard Camp Leatherneck, during the time I spent in Helmand.

The reality of the situation in Sangin has yet to be made completely clear. But will life “return to normal” within the district in the near future? Consider me skeptical.