Want a sandwich? Soldiers better have a knife and fork handy — if they’re in the British army.
Sandwiches and rolls are banned from an officers’ mess in England because the way soldiers eat them is “frankly barbaric,” says an army commander, Maj. Gen. James Cowan, quoted Wednesday in The Telegraph, which cites a report in the Sun.
“Quite a few officers … seem to be under the impression that they can eat their food with their hands,” Cowan says in a three-page letter on standards at Bulford Camp in Wiltshire, home of 3 UK Division.
He also targets the use of language in the military.
“The wanton use of capitals, abbreviations and acronyms assaults the eye and leaves the reader exhausted,” writes Cowan, commander of about 20,000 soldiers and 2,500 officers.
He has a point there. Good thing he doesn’t have to read the All Army Activities messages from the U.S. Army.
But if you think Her Majesty’s armed forces may be too serious, consider this: They have Burns Night, a tribute to the poet Robert Burns. Americans who have been to Burns Night in an officers’ mess can vouch that it’s one of the British military’s most endearing traditions: Pass the whiskey, quote some Burns to your fellow celebrants. Repeat. Until, say, breakfast.
Maybe Gen. Cowan isn’t too serious, either. A British Army spokesman says the general meant the letter to be “fun.”
See more of the general’s etiquette tips for soldiers at:
Retired Staff Sgt. Travis Mills is a quadruple amputee who was critically injured by an IED while out on patrol during his third tour in Afghanistan.
On Friday, he jumped out of a freakin’ airplane at 13,000 freakin’ feet while attached to a member of the Golden Knights parachute team.
The Army documented the entire event in the skies above Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., and Mills is just fun to watch.
When the plane is climbing to 6,000 feet, the cameraman inquires how Mills is feeling.
Mills, with a huge grin on his face, says he’s ready to jump. After all, it’s not his first time leaping out of a plane. He’s a vet from the 82nd Airborne and a jumpmaster in his own right.
“You know, I really enjoy jumping out of airplanes in the Army,” Mills says with that grin. “ I hate landing planes. When they wiggle a little bit. It scares the shit outta me.”
The video is about six minutes long. If you want to jump right to the freefall, hit the 2:55 mark.
But don’t miss the landing.
Actor Harold Ramis, who died Monday at the age of 69, leaves behind a lengthy film repertoire including “Stripes,” the 1981 movie about the hollow Army years between the end of Vietnam and before the Reagan military buildup.
Ramis co-starred with Bill Murray in the film about two screw-ups who join the Army looking for some type of direction. SPOILER ALERT: The two end up invading Czechoslovakia in an experimental Army recreational vehicle to rescue their unit.
While “Stripes” is no “Citizen Kane,” it’s a classic comedy that captures how America felt about its military at the time. Most of the recruits shown at Basic Training are a level below Cat IV. One of them, Francis, is nicknamed “Psycho,” because he is anxious to kill someone – on the rifle range, he shoots at birds with his M-16. Another recruit said he joined the Army to avoid getting drafted, not knowing the draft had ended years earlier.
This was before movies like “Lone Survivor” and “Saving Private Ryan,” which portray service members as America’s best, who make up an elite fighting force. The U.S. was still in the throes of a general malaise. It had lost interest in the military and assumed those who served couldn’t get a real job.
It’s exactly the type of hollow force that senior civilian and military leaders hope to avoid returning to as the Defense Department looks for ways to cut spending. However, Mark Twain noted that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes.
Bill Murray could not be reached for comment by deadline.
Sgt. 1st Class Steven Janotta recently shared his idea for a retirement medal with the readers of Army Times, and he’s since garnered thousands of supporters. Now one soldier has gone so far as to lobby the commander-in-chief himself.
On Feb. 5, a White House petition was created compelling President Obama to consider instituting a retirement medal. The petition (which has a LONG way to go to reach the 100,000-signature threshold for actual consideration) states:
“If a Soldier continued faithful service for at least two decades or more to the US Army; then, their service and this significant event should be recognized in the same light of day as medals awards for achievement or commendation at the successful completion of a tour of duty; the only difference being this award would be a culmination of decades of successful tours of duty around the world.”
The petition, as of Monday afternoon, had only garnered 32 signatures. It needs 99,968 by March 7 to get a response from the White House.
The retirement medal has attracted a fair number of supporters, based on feedback on Army Times’ Facebook page and emails sent to Army Times editors and Janotta himself. It also, of course, has its fair share of detractors.
So, what do you think? Will you sign the petition?
The Army’s top officer, now a seasoned veteran of late-night TV talk shows, appeared on “Conan” last night and encouraged the nation’s employers to hire soldiers leaving the service.
“I believe they have so much to contribute,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, in the guest chair next to host Conan O’Brien. There are “no better employees than those who served the country,” he said to applause from the audience.
Odierno talked up the Army’s Soldier for Life program, which supports the transition of soldiers into civilian life, saying “there is still a lot of work to do” as soldiers and the Army downshift from more than a decade of war.
Conan asked Odierno how he feels about the recent events in Iraq, where Al-Qaida has torn into cities where U.S. troops fought and died.
The situation there is “frustrating and disappointing,” said Odierno who spent five years in Iraq and commanded forces there. “There are limits to what you can do with political power … but we hope it can come back.”
American soldiers can be proud of what they did there, and the U.S. military did the job it was sent to do, he said.
Conan paid tribute to the most famous soldier of the week, Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, who was applauded long and loud at the State of the Union in D.C. on Tuesday night, becoming a public face for wounded warriors.
Odierno told Conan that wounded soldiers like Remsburg often say one thing: They want to continue to serve, they want to go back to their brothers and sisters in arms. That spirit ”has kept me in for 37 years.”
“For me, it is an honor to serve beside them,” Odierno said. “Men like him make me love what I do.”
Conan and Odierno had light moments: Conan asked the general how hard it is to make fitness standards in the military.
“I try to stay fit,” said the 50-ish Conan, acknowledging it might be “tough for someone my age” to pass a PT test.
“What would I have to do?”
Odierno described the Army’s age-based standards, and gave an example: two minutes of pushups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a 2-mile run in about 14 minutes.
“And then I wake up in a hospital,” Conan replied.
State of the Union addresses are by many accounts a political kabuki play and have been for years. President Obama’s highly observed and analysed speech will feature planned applause lines and choreographed nods, all while he highlights his priorities and signature achievements.
He will do the talking, and members of Congress will clap, stand, grimace — or use their choice of guests — to speak for them. And tonight, veterans and family members of fallen service members will be among these honored guests, symbolically emphasizing legislators’ key issues.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is bringing Staff Sgt. Sandra Lee, who endured a combination of signature problems for vets. Lee, who suffers from PTSD, was injured in several roadside bomb attacks and said publicly she is a survivor of a sexual assault by a fellow soldier.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Okla.-R, is bringing the father of a Navy SEAL killed in Benghazi, Charles Woods. Bridenstine has co-sponsored legislation to create a select committee to investigate the incident.
Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., is bringing a political fellow in her office, Matt Ceccato who highlights the best wounded veterans have to offer. Ceccato returned to school after his military service, earned a master’s degree in international affairs and was named a 2013 Presidential Management Fellow.
Combining the Democrats’ focus on the economy and her commitment to veterans, First Lady Michelle Obama has invited Sabrina Jenkins, an Air Force veteran and single mother from South Carolina. Jenkins, 45, who lives with rheumatoid arthritis, faces $90,000 in student loans and lives paycheck to paycheck working for the Charleston County Housing Authority.
Mrs. Obama has also invited Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger, and his dad Craig. Cory has met President Obama three times – once overseas and twice since a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan on his 10th deployment left him in a coma for three months, partially paralyzed and brain-damaged. Remsburg joined the Army on his 18th birthday after his father refused to sign the papers for the 17-year-old Cory to join on his own.
Former Army Master Sgt. Eric Marts, a blind Iraq war vet who hosts a radio talk show about veterans issues, is going as a guest of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., next week. His program is called “Heroes of the Heartland.”
Some guests aren’t vets but the parents of fallen vets, whose presence calls attention to the deep and painful sacrifice made by many service members and their families.
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., is bringing Jeff Sexton, the father of a 21-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan vet who killed himself while on leave in 2009. Donnelly introduced a bill named for Army Spc. Jacob Sexton which would mandate mental health screenings for suicidal behaviors in service members and beefed up training for line unit commanders.
Sexton’s father, who is active in TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), contacted Donnelley–a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee– after seeing him question Hagel about the issue at a televised hearing. Donnelley called Sexton back the next day, and the two have since discussed the bill.
Veterans are disproportionately represented in the New York delegation’s guest list this year.
Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., invited retired Army Sgt. Rick Yarosh, an Iraq war veteran who was burned over 60 percent of his body, had his right leg amputated below the knee, and lost both ears, his nose, multiple fingers and most of the function in both hands as a result of the explosion. Yarosh has since become a motivational speaker.
The mother of a soldier slain in Afghanistan is going as a guest of Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y. Cherie Phillips’ son, Staff Sgt. Francis “Frankie” Phillips IV, was killed by a roadside bomb with four other Fort Bliss soldiers last May.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is bringing Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Not all of the veterans in attendance are from the current wars.
Jeff Colaiacovo, an Agent Orange victim who fought through Department of Veterans Affairs backlogs with the help of Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., will be her guest. Colaiacovo’s case inspired Frankel to push for electronic VA records and for a bill that would have combined a vet’s multiple VA claims into a single case.
Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., is bringing a 92-year-old World War II veteran and member of the Crow Tribe, Charles DeCrane. DeCrane served in the Army Air Corps.
Not everyone is pleased with this practice. J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman and conservative pundit, called for politicians to stop “using the military and veterans as mere political props,” in a Washington Times op-ed this week.
“Nothing ever good becomes of it, and they just might live to regret it,” Gordon said.
(Ironically, Gordon’s op-ed uses Sen. Joe Manchin III’s invite to Army Maj. Richard Ojeda in 2013 to score partisan points, calling out Manchin, D-W.Va., for supporting Ojeda’s rival when Ojeda ran in a congressional primary later that year.)
He’s a vet who gives a voice to other vets — and now he’s headed to the State of the Union address next week.
Eric Marts, a blind Iraq war vet who hosts a radio talk show about veterans issues, is going as a guest of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, next week. His program is called ”Heroes of the Heartland.”
Heitkamp met former Master Sgt. Marts last summer when she traveled the state to listen to the issues facing North Dakota veterans, she said in a press release.
“Each year, I ask someone special, someone who represents the very best from our communities, to be my guest at the State of the Union. This year, I am so honored that Eric will be able to join us for the President’s address to the nation,” Heitkamp said. “Eric’s story is about a man who is selflessly committed to serving our country, who has sacrificed much and overcame great obstacles. Eric continues to serve and has made it his life’s mission to make life better for those who sacrifice so much for us.”
Heitkamp says she is working to set up meetings for Marts with government officials, lawmakers, and veterans. He plans to also visit the Pentagon and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
While a member of the Army National Guard, Marts was deployed to Iraq for 22 months. He was hit by a roadside bomb while on patrol outside Fallujah. That explosion caused a deterioration of his vision which led to his now-total blindness.
Determined to continue to serve, Marts is focused on helping veterans and their families. His Saturday program on WDAY AM, provides an outlet for vets to share their experiences as well as information about resources for them.
For the 2013 State of the Union address, Heitkamp invited Adrienne Linde. Linde is the wife of Sgt. 1st Class Darren M. Linde, who was killed in action with the North Dakota National Guard 818th Engineer Company, Dec. 3, 2012.
Seventy years ago, Betty McAleenan sent her husband off to war with her high school class ring.
When Staff Sgt. Robery Greebull died in the Pacific, it was lost with him. That is, until this week.
McAleenan, 94, of Cheyenne, Wy., was reunited with the ring after it was found in New Guinea, amid the wreckage of the plane crash that killed her husband.
Greebull and the ring had made it through 38 successful missions over the South Pacific, but both lost during the 39th.
With the memento of their love in her hands, McAleenan said she finally has some closure.
[via WKOW-TV News]
The headlines about Fallujah spell gloom and doom for the Iraqi city recently taken over by al-Qaeda affiliates, raising tough questions about Iraq’s overall stability, whether the same will happen in Afghanistan after the U.S. leaves and, well, what the heck was it all for?
In a case of curious timing, the homepage of the Combat Studies Institute calls to mind a triumphant time in Fallujah: November 2004. CSI offers a four-hour virtual tour about the one-time, ahem, two-time insurgent stronghold that examines the U.S.-led coalition operation to take the city. (The tour is available by request because perhaps it contains classified material.)
ABC News describes the efforts of Marines who who fought al Qaeda-backed insurgents in two battles in 2004. “They finally eliminated the al Qaeda forces in a house by house, alleyway by alleyway battle in which Marines had to contend with booby traps, roadside bombs and insurgents who fought with near suicidal determination.”
Dozens of Marines died in the effort. In 2004, insurgents in Fallujah killed four American security contractors, hanging their burned bodies from a bridge.
“It was all for naught,” Ross Ducati, a former Marine who fought in the second battle for the city told ABC News. “Americans fought and died there — my friends died there — for the purposes of regime change and furthering business interests friendly to the Bush administration… [Now] Iraqis will die there to further the interests of [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki’s government.”
“If you think Fallujah’s fall suddenly means your Iraq service was in vain, then you’ve been oblivious for 11 years,” Brandon Friedman, who served there as an infantry officer and wrote a book about the experience, was quoted by Time. “It was always pointless.”
Maj. Charleston Malkemus, a member of the Marines’ First Battalion, the first division deployed to the city, told ABC that then, as now, al-Qaeda fighters “flocked to the city and inserted themselves to take control.”
“We can’t sustain fighting from 3,000 miles away forever,” Malkemus said. “At some point we had to turn things over to the Iraqis. Unfortunately, the Iraqi Army is struggling and needs to engage with the terrorists again in Fallujah.
The current violence evolved from a year-long, largely peaceful Sunni revolt against Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government that drew inspiration from the Arab Spring demonstrations elsewhere in the region, the Washington Post reports. But it was rooted in the sectarian disputes left unresolved when U.S. troops withdrew and inflamed by the escalating conflict in neighboring Syria.
Elsewhere in the western province of Anbar, al-Qaeda fighters have taken control of most parts of the provincial capital of Ramadi.
Unlike 2004, there will be no American boots on the ground. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the United States will support Iraq’s fight against al-Qaeda-linked militants who have overrun two cities, but won’t send in American troops.
Kerry said, “this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the president and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq, so we are not obviously contemplating returning. We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight. … We will help them in their fight, but this fight, in the end, they will have to win and I am confident they can.”
This morning, he urged residents and local tribes to “expel” al-Qaeda militants to avoid an all-out battle — remarks that may signal an imminent military move to retake the former insurgent stronghold.
Tribal fighters in Anbar Province have been battling al-Qaeda, but it is unclear whether they support Maliki’s government.
Most residents of Fallujah do not support the al-Qaeda fighters, a journalist there told the Washington Post, but they also lack the means to oppose them, and they also oppose the Iraqi government.
“It is sad, because we are going back to the days of the past,” he said. “Everyone is remembering the battles of 2004 when the Marines came in, and now we are revisiting history.”