Navy SEALs: Pressure on standards?

San Diego Union-Tribune Online, Sept. 27 | Jeanette Steele

As SEAL leader recommends opening to women, former SEALs discuss issues facing elite branch

In the Navy SEAL world, “standards” is the word of the hour.


As momentum builds for the elite Navy branch to open its doors to women, former SEALs are concerned there will be pressure to subtly change the training process that molded them — even as some agree that the time has come for gender equality.

On Friday, news broke that Rear Adm. Brian Losey, commander of the Coronado-based SEALs, has recommended that the elite branch open to women.

The top SEAL wrote that there are “no insurmountable obstacles” to integrating women.

But, he added, they may be more prone to injuries and probably won’t enhance the fighting effectiveness of SEAL teams, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Losey’s memo was to the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, who is expected to soon make his own recommendation about admitting women to the special-operations brotherhood, which includes Army Rangers and Green Berets.

All of this is precursor to an upcoming decision by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter about whether any part of the U.S. military will remain closed to women.

Losey’s leaked recommendation is particularly noteworthy because it differs from the Marine Corps, whose then-commandant recently asked to continue excluding women from some direct-combat jobs.

Former SEALs point to various possible pitfalls ahead — all related to what they predict will be an inherent pressure to see a woman pass SEAL training.

Ed Hiner was training officer at the Coronado Naval Special Warfare Command before retiring in 2012.

He said SEALs probably won’t touch the written standards, such as timed swims and runs throughout basic training conducted in Coronado.

That training is a 21-week ordeal known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, or BUD/S. At least 70 percent of the men who try out fail.

It’s the stuff not on paper that might yield to pressure, said Hiner, who lives in La Jolla.

For instance, BUD/S candidates run a mile each way to meals. That’s six miles a day that aren’t part of the official standard.

He said SEAL leaders might be coaxed into cutting those runs to lessen stress fractures among women, for example.

“Those type of in between the standards, as I call it, those type of things have been such a part of training for so long … those things are part of what has produced probably the best fighting force in the world,” Hiner said. “At the end of the grinding process, we came out with what we wanted. If you undo the grinding, it’s not going to be the same training — not even close to the same.”

If there’s a perception that the rigor has lessened, the SEALs will no longer attract the best of the best, he added.

Another former SEAL, Brandon Webb, said he hopes there won’t be spoken or unspoken quotas to fill.

He pointed to missteps when women first became Navy fighter pilots in the 1990s.

Famously, Lt. Kara Hultgreen fatally crashed her F-14 Tomcat while trying to land on the aircraft carrier Lincoln in 1994. Later, an inspector general probe determined that the Navy botched the initial placement of female combat pilots aboard the carrier.

The investigation found that women weren’t given preferential treatment. However, it concluded that instructors didn’t give the female pilots the help they deserved and that enormous media attention on the issue stigmatized the women and made it hard for them to be accepted in squadrons.

The report admonished the Navy not to “accelerate” the training of female aviators but to put them in the fleet after adequate and complete instruction.

Webb, who served from 1993 to 2006, said he hope the SEALs learn from aviation’s mistakes.

“Lives were lost as a result of ‘push through,’” Webb said. “This ultimately defeats unit morale, gets people killed and diminishes the accomplishment of those women who actually meet the standard.”

Losey, the Naval Special Warfare boss, addressed this issue in his memo, acknowledging there may be “external” pressure.

“With the recent female graduates from the Ranger course, there may be an expectation that there will soon be female graduates from BUD/S,” he wrote. “We will welcome any candidate who meets standards.”

Despite their concerns, both former SEALs said it’s right for women to get a shot.

Hiner said that he has personal reservations, which he admits are based in notions such as chivalry. But, he added, “Intellectually, as a leader who says ‘let’s be fair to every human being in this society,’ we have to open it up.”

Webb said women have earned the chance to try.

This echoes Losey’s memo, which noted that about 500 women already serve alongside SEALs in support jobs. They have been deploying with units for more than a decade, in wars where the “frontline” is blurred by guerilla-style fighting.

“We live in the 21st century where women have proven they can compete on the same level as men,” Webb said.

Still, in the tight-knit circles of former SEALs, people said the chief emotion in the active-duty ranks is dread.

That mirrors a recent RAND Corp. survey of special-operations troops that reflected doubts about whether women could meet the overall job demands. It also found concerns that sexual harassment or assault could increase, and cited worries about “unequal treatment” of special-operations candidates and personnel.

SEAL teams are known to be a rough-and-tumble environment full of high-octane personalities. One retired SEAL officer said heated arguments and even fistfights occur. Will SEALs feel compelled to treat women with a lighter touch, he wondered?

Losey addressed some of these issues in his five-page memo, which has not been released publicly.

He downplayed the risk of women wrecking team cohesion, saying that while some may not want women serving alongside them, “acceptance is expected to increase over time.”

The Coronado SEAL command has spent the past year examining its standards.

Currently, just to enter BUD/S, candidates must be able to do 10 pull-ups in two minutes and 50 push-ups in the same amount of time, among other swimming and running tests.

The people who survive training usually score well above the minimum, according to people familiar with the process.

In addition, the SEAL command looked at how both genders might be accommodated in regards to living conditions and how women might be incorporated into training command staffs.

Unlike the Marine Corps — which released the results of its study earlier this month — the SEALs have done this quietly, without sharing their conclusions.

Until now.

In his memo, Losey said officials expect higher injury rates for women during training. He called for more education and study on the issue, according to the Associated Press.

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Compass and a Camera, A Year in Vietnam

With a compass to direct him in his job as a forward observer and a personal camera to document his experiences and keep him connected to his creative side, Vietnam veteran Steven Burchik was lucky enough to make it home and years later decided to write about the most challenging year of his life.

compass-cameraLike any experience, his year spent with the First Infantry Division stationed in the rice paddies near Saigon included good times as well as bad. He candidly recalls how, although he believed communism to be a serious threat in the world, he soon learned that a guerrilla war is a difficult one to fight, and survival rather than victory quickly became his focus. But he also remembers the exhilaration of helicopter rides over serpentine rivers and the time he introduced village kids to a gumball machine.

A unique memoir of the war, Compass and a Camera pulls not only from Burchik’s memories, but also from the daily letters he wrote to his fiancée and includes numerous photographs from his collection of over four thousand. The images alone make this book a must-have for any history buff or fellow veteran.

Available on Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/Compass-Camera-Vietnam-Steven-Burchik/dp/0692276297

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The Making of a Navy SEAL by Brandon Webb

The Making of a Navy SEAL: My Story of Surviving the Toughest Challenge and Training the Best Hardcover – August 25, 2015
by Brandon Webb (Author), John David Mann (Author), Marcus Luttrell (Foreword)

Brandon Webb is a former U.S. Navy SEAL; his last assignment with the SEALs was Course Manager for the elite SEAL Sniper Course, where he trained some of the most accomplished snipers of the twenty-first century including Marcus Luttrell and Chris Kyle.

The Making of a Navy SEAL is a guts and glory tale of an American boy pursuing an American dream. Having literally grown up at sea, Brandon was an experienced boatsman and rescue diver by the age of sixteen. Searching for a purpose and path in life, Brandon learns about the SEALs one day by some fellow divers and from that moment on, he knew what he wanted to do.

Overcoming one obstacle after another, Brandon’s grit and perserverance kept him on point with his goal of becoming a SEAL. Brandon does a fantastic job of describing the struggles and challenges of SEAL training, fleet operations, and mission deployments.

This book is as much about leadership as it is a window into the life of military special operations. I was particularly interested in his experiences with the implementation of mental management with his students and continuous improvement with his courses. Brandon raised the bar and made significant contributions to America’s strategies, preparedness, and fighting men and women.

The challenges, stories and insights are of value to any audience, whether military, business, or other. Once again, character and competence surface as the two most important ingredients in the excellence recipe.

Grab this book, read it, and pay it forward.

The Making of a Navy SEAL will be released on August 25, 2015.
http://www.amazon.com/Making-Navy-SEAL-Surviving-Challenge/dp/1250069424

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Corpsmen Celebrate 115 Years of Service

By MC1 James , Naval Hospital Pensacola Public Affairs
PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) — Hospital corpsmen have a long and proud tradition of excellence, honor, bravery and sacrifice as the Navy’s enlisted Medical Corps.

On June 17, 2013 the Navy’s Hospital Corps celebrated 115 years of service.

Wings of Hope

Hospital corpsmen perform their duties as assistants in the prevention and treatment of disease and injury and assist health care professionals in providing medical care to DoD personnel and their families. They may function as clinical or specialty technicians, medical administrative personnel or health care providers at Medical Treatment Facilities. They also serve as battlefield corpsmen with the Marine Corps, rendering emergency medical treatment to include initial treatment in a combat environment.

Since the inception of the Navy in 1775, the need for Sailors dedicated to the caring of the sick and injured has been a priority. There were surgeon’s mates in the late 1700’s, loblolly boys in 1841, male nurses in 1861, baymen in 1876 and finally the establishment of the Hospital Corps in 1898. The hospital corpsmen have a long and proud tradition of taking care of those in their charge.

Read the entire story here

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Tribute to Navy Corpsmen

Thanks to Ben Cascio for passing this along…
A TRIBUTE TO THE F.M.F. CORPSMAN…….

For those of us who heard and used the term ”Corpsman Up,” it is a term that remains everlasting in both our hearts and our minds. The truth is that we ask and expect far too much from these young men and women who are called Corpsmen, and who like most young Marines were first exposed to the horrors of war in ways most will never forget. Those assigned to the Fleet Marine Forces Marines (FMF) lived the way we did and that of the units to which assigned, and they endured and participated in every hardship and disappointment, as well as the praise and glory awarded their units.

The truth is many in Vietnam were 18 years old and upwards, and were just as fearful of being hurt or killed as the rest were and like the rest failed to receive mail for extended periods of time. Like every other Marine in the ground combat units, Corpsmen dug their foxholes with other Marines, ate the same C-rations as the rest, felt the stings of ants, leeches, bees, and scorpions, and they also dug their own toilets like the rest of us and they also buried their cans, papers, etc., after cooking and eating their meals. They were Just as tired as the rest and at times just as afraid of the unknown as was anyone else. However, Corpsmen still had to check on the sanitation of our locations, as well as tending to the minor and major injuries and ailments suffered sooner or later by all. And those aliments and injuries ran the gamut from diarrhea to coughs and colds, and from Elephant grass cuts which usually festered into very large and ugly sores, to the usual heat related issues such as heatstroke, and on to more serious mental and physical issues to include VD and other issues of that nature.

Our Navy Corpsmen did all that while still carrying the gear needed to care for a platoon or company sized unit as well as carrying their own gear and weapons. And often times they were told to help out the locals with their illnesses, injuries, or wounds, and that in turn meant using up precious bandages and medications, which the Corpsman had carried in his pack and medical bags for his fellow Marines. That then caused the Corpsman to pray or ask help from somewhere that he would not run short of needed medications and supplies, and just in case and when the next firefight, or mine explosion, or enemy mortars or artillery might happen upon his unit.

To ask the above of a young 18-22 year old FMF Corpsman, is asking much more than many in the field ever realized until much later and after the fact. After all, that Corpsman is thought by many to be an “expert” on wounds, or how to handle other major injuries, in addition to which medication might be needed and requested to be used for everything from fleas or hair lice to trench foot or crotch rot or pink eye. While every Corpsman that our units had in Vietnam might not have been quite as astute, courageous, gifted, and the logically- minded individuals we make them all out to be, I would love to have just one more time to shake their hands and hug them all, and to thank them all for that which they did for so many over the years, and especially for those units I was honored to be a part of.

For you DOC, THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE, BRAVERY AND CARING

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Band of Brothers Day

Brother, life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forgive the ones who don’t, just because you can. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands – those of you who served in Viet Nam know this. If it changes your life, let it. Take a few minutes to think before you act when you’re mad. Forgive quickly. God never said life would be easy, he just promised it would be worth it.

Today is Band of Brothers’ Day; send this to all your brothers, fathers, sons and fellow veterans you know. Happy Brothers’ Day!

To the cool men that have touched my life: Here’s to you!! I was never a hero, but I am thankful I served among them.

A real Brother walks with you when the rest of the world walks on you.

~Author Unknown

And Sisters!
DRIVE ON!

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Honoring the Sacrifice of SFC Benjamin Wise

SFC Benjamin Wise gave his life in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Senator Boozman honored his service and sacrifice on the Senate floor.

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Navy Corpsmen: A Marine’s Best Friend

Here’s a great excerpt from ABOUT.COM regarding Marines and Navy Corpsmen. Photo courtesy of popasmoke.com
~Cpl. Beddoe

While Corpsmen are expected to be cure-alls for whatever ails a Marine, they know that their medical expertise only comes into play when it’s needed. Otherwise, they’re Marines in every sense of the word.

Navy Corpsman treats a Marine (Vietnam)

“Corpsmen need to know hand-to-hand combat skills because when they go out with Marines they might have to get down and dirty during a fire fight,” said Sgt. Michael Belliston. “They might have to fight their way to a hurt Marine, or fight his way out with that Marine.”

So the Corpsmen learn. They learn how to fight hand-to-hand, how to fire MK-19 grenade launchers, drive Humvees, rappel, take point on a patrol, etc. And they do it on the front lines, not just during training exercises back in the states.

The Sailors hold their own.

“I’ve always been impressed with the level of skills they possess from the relatively short amount of training they go through,” said Morse. “My Corpsmen can jump on any weapon out here and perform as well as any Marine. Heck, I’ve met some docs who could outshoot every Marine in his platoon.”

Still, the Marines would rather the Corpsmen not have to prove their battle readiness during a firefight.

“A good Corpsman will put rounds downrange if we need him to,” said Morse, “but we try to keep them in the rear so they are around to save us.”

Read the ENTIRE ARTICLE

CORPSMAN RANK
HR – Hospital Recruit (E-1)
HA – Hospital Apprentice (E-2)
HN – Hospitalman (E-3)
HM3 – Hospital Corpsman Third Class (E-4)
HM2 – Hospital Corpsman Second Class (E-5)
HM1 – Hospital Corpsman First Class (E-6)
HMC – Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-7)
HMCS – Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-8)
HMCM – Master Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-9)

See also: http://www.usmc81.com/2010/12/casevac-corpsman-shannon-dittlinger/

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I Will Never Quit

A quote from Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell; Brother Texan and American Patriot!

“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

~Marcus Luttrell
http://marcusluttrell.com/
http://www.lonesurvivorfoundation.org/
http://twitter.com/MarcusLuttrell

See my review of “Lone Survivor”
http://www.usmc81.com/2008/07/lone-survivor/

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CASEVAC Corpsman Shannon Dittlinger

Bruce Williams-Burden, former Navy Corpsman (RVN), wrote a book earlier this year year titled “Luminous Base”. The book is a well-researched collection of respectful and caring stories of Corpsmen killed in action. In April, I posted a review of the book here on my blog.

With Bruce’s permission, I am posting a chapter from his book which you will find very inspiring…

~Wally

CHAPTER ELEVEN: “SHAY”

In the middle of February of 2010, I had received a copy of the “Proof: for this book from a firm that was helping me to self-publish my work.

Eager to find ways to market the book, I contacted Wally Beddoe who is the webmaster for popasmoke.com. He was on a business trip to Switzerland, and e-mailed me that he would read through my manuscript after he got back. I had sent this copyrighted material to him because I felt if he didn’t think it was something the website could or would want to advertise, then I had to rethink my marketing strategy.

Several days later I received his e-mail filled with an unexpected enthusiasm for the book which pretty much surprised me. In his letter he wrote:

“Howdy Bruce,
What a fantastic job you did! As I read through the pages, I kept thinking “It can’t get any better than this”, but it did! It kept getting better and better… You really have a talent Sir! YOU NAILED IT! What you did for those Corpsmen is nothing short of heroic in itself. I will help promote this book in a big way. I really loved what I’ve read and I have more stories to go through. You have a gift in capturing the meaningful bits of a story. I’m very proud of you!

Semper Fi Doc!
Wally Beddoe”

This was a very welcome endorsement to say the least. But what happened next brought my self-publishing process to a screeching halt. In my original manuscript I had commented on how my only regret in writing the book was my inability to connect with and write about a female corpsman who had flown MEDEVAC or CASEVAC missions.

Wally must have read this part as he immediately wrote to me and asked if I wanted to write to a friend of his currently serving in Afghanistan who just happened to be a female and a corpsman and had her Combat Aircrew Wings! My fingers could not write to her fast enough.

Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Shannon Dittlinger

I have to admit that I am not one who is prone to believe that something’s in life are just random and not because of a higher purpose. In this case I felt that Shannon was meant to be in this book mostly because she knew Petty Officers Minjares and Ruiz, the two corpsmen who died in Iraq. They would have wanted not only their own story to be told, but also those of their teammates in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. What makes me believe this to be true was that I was introduced to Shannon three years to the month that they were killed.

In order for this chapter to be written we had to rely on e-mails. Early on I sent her a customized questionnaire which I devised so that I could learn about her and what it was like flying missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At first it was hard for her to face what she called “the demons” inside as they caused her to face some of her feelings, especially about the loss of MJ and Manny. This is very understandable. What helped her I think was that as we wrote to each other and she learned more about me and my time flying MEDEVAC in Vietnam with the PURPLE FOXES (HMM-364) her trust in me grew. Besides, as she wrote, how can you not trust a fellow Fox?

Within two weeks, Shay had provided me with more insight, personal perspective, and trust with her personal story than I thought she would or could for that matter.

Along the way I had to learn new phrases and colloquialisms, one which would temporarily interrupt our communications train. This occurred when after 36 hours of not knowing why my e-mails were failing to get thru to her she wrote back that she was “Out of River City.” This communications shutdown takes place whenever someone is KIA and before the family is notified. Letter from the war zone that today only takes seconds, took four days in Vietnam.

As I put together all the pieces of the mosaic that makes up her story I realized that it would be best for her to tell her own story as often as possible. The funny part to me, which on the other hand I very much respect and understand, is that she is so very humble and does not see herself as anyone or anything very special to be written about. To me, she is a patriot and a hero.

HER PERSONAL SIDE:

Shannon’s nickname is “Shay” which was given to her by her sister Sherry. Her father was a door gunner on a Huey and served in Vietnam with the 1st Air Cavalry and is her hero in life. There are two other men in her life who she loves that have a connection with the military. One of them is her grandfather who served in the Navy and was at Pearl Harbor on ‘The day of Infamy”.

The other man is her husband Timothy. He is an Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC) who was deployed over to Afghanistan with the 2nd MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command), INDIA Company. They worked in and around Herat, Afghanistan from September of 2008 to March of 2009.

This is her response to a question where I asked her to provide any information she wanted to about herself her and or her family. Her words I feel, exemplify the spirit and character that it takes to be a mom, a wife, and someone who is willing to sacrifice the good life for her country, her flag, and for all who live in he United States:

“Where to start… so as you know my dad is my hero, serving our country, and when he got out he started working for UPS and he retired not to long ago in upper management. He was gone a lot but showed me how to respect a job well done, and that things don’t come easy and you have to work for the things you want, and that there is a certain amount of sacrifice that has to be made to take care of your loved ones. He taught me that the work I produce is a direct reflection of my name, and asked me what kind of name do I want to have.

He showed me so much and taught me about motorcycles and hot cars! Particularly anything MOPAR! My very first car was a ‘67 Plymouth Barracuda fast back, German jet black high glass paint she was sweeeeet! (that was the car that we built.)

But my mom took care of us, showed us love, and discipline, and how to be young ladies. She taught us to be respectful of others and of ourselves; she taught us right from wrong and trusted that we would choose right. She showed us that a successful family is more than 4 people in a house. IT took someone to pull it all together.

I remember one thanksgiving we had just moved to California and she cooked all day to make it special for us, and we wanted to use paper plates and sit in front of the couch… we were not being appreciative at all. But we set the table and had a wonderful dinner in the dining room that to this very day I remember. I am thankful for the things she did for us.

I have mentioned us a couple of times, and a family of 4, so I have talked about my Dad my Mom but now the best one is my Sister, Sherry or “Bear” as I call her. We were standard sisters growing up her the big sister and me the pesky little sister. I looked up to her and wanted to be her; she was so smart and had the cool clothes and was talented; she played the flute and could draw and was a majorette. She went away to college when we moved to California and I had to get used to being without her.

When Tim and I moved from Okinawa back to North Carolina she knew we would be deploying. So she packed up her house and they moved 4 miles down the road from me to help with the girls. Now there is a sacrifice! She works on base now as a dental hygienist.

The unit she is assigned to is 2/8 and they were out here with me for the first half of the deployment. She went to her first memorial for the lost souls of 2/8; she said it was the most humbling moment of her life that the average American would never know!

So as we grow so does our family. I have mentioned my Husband a few times in our previous conversations, He is one of my strongest supporters, (my dad is a close rival on that one) but he is also a Corpsman. He is a Chief Petty Officer who is currently assigned to 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion, part of Marine Special Operations Command in Camp Lejeune. He is the leading Chief Petty Officer. He was here in Afghanistan right before I came out. He is an amazing father and a wonderful husband, who for the last year has had the glorious job of being both mom and dad. It’s hard being dual active but we have managed! Having my sister right down the road has been a God send!

Now for the light of my life the reason I breath… my children Halie Renee who will be 15 on the 22nd of this month, and my daughter Victoria Ann who will be 9 on the 13th of April.

Halie is the socialite of the 9th grade who loves to read and help people. She is tall and skinny with big blue eyes and would save the planet one animal at a time, and just may do it!

Victoria or “Birdie” as we call her, is my little dancer, just won their first trophies for placing first in a dance competition, she is on cloud 9, long brown hair big hazel eyes and all the love and hugs anyone could ask for! Truly the perfect match and both are the most beautiful children in the world.

Of course there is one other special little girl that is just as beautiful as those two; that would be my niece Madeline named after our grandmother! Little Maddie is my princess, loves anything sparkly and pink, and following in her big cousins footsteps she loves gymnastics. Her and the girls are so close that Maddie has no idea that her Halie and Birdie are not sisters, and that’s the way Bear and I want it!

HER PROFESSIONAL SIDE:

Shannon Dittlinger is a Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman which is an E-8 or the equivalent to a Master Sergeant in the Marines. This is a far climb from when she first enlisted in the Navy in 1993 while in Omaha, Nebraska. Her recruit training took place in Orlando, Florida and was quickly followed by Hospital Corps School at Great Lakes. Training to be an FMF corpsman though, did not happen until 1998.

Her many duty assignment have included the Naval hospitals in Orlando, Camp Lejeune and on Okinawa. She also served with the 2nd Force Service Support Group (FSSG) on Camp Lejeune, and the 2nd Marine Air Wing (MAW) at MCAS New River also at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

In May of 2005 Shay was selected as the Chief of Naval Operations’ Shore Sailor of the Year and in July was meritoriously advanced to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. This selection afforded her the opportunity to travel with the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.

From January to August of 2007 she deployed to Iraq to serve as the Leading Chief Petty Officer for the Casualty Evacuation Team attached to both HMM-364 (PURPLE FOXES) and with HMM-161 (GREYHAWKS) which were located at the time at Camp Al Taqaddam which is often simply called “TQ” by those serving there.

Shay is one of those who like to lead from the front so she flew MEDEVAC/CASEVAC missions while she was deployed to Iraq. But in order to fly, she first had to “earn her wings” by going through very extensive training which she explained to me in the following:

“….There was an entire syllabus that we had to complete; just a few of the things covered were aerial safety, NATOPS, night vision lab, swim qualifications for helicopter egress, common injuries found in combat and overcoming the distinct difficulties in caring for the wounded while going 100 knots and banking hard right.

The Course I attended was not only educationally demanding but was physically demanding as well with rigorous daily physical training and many litter movement drills.

Upon completion of the course we were awarded the CASEVAC Course Identification Number (CIN) Code B-300-5000, which entitled us to be awarded our Combat Aircrew Wings. We then had two additional courses added on which were focused on Critical Stress Incident Management and on Operational Emergency Medicine with live tissue training. All together the best training I have received yet.”

IRAQ:

The Al Taqaddum Airbase is located in central Iraq approximately
74 kilometers West of Baghdad. It has two runways 12,000 and 13,000 feet long respectively. In August of 2004, Marines dedicated the airfield at TQ to Lt. Col. David S. Greene who was a reserve Marine AH-1W Super Cobra pilot flying with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, MAG-16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. He had been killed in action on July 28, 2004 while flying in support of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force by small arms fire.

At TQ, there were approximately twenty-six corpsmen who were assigned. They each had a job, especially when it came to flying or regulating the care of casualties in their TAOR.

I asked Shay to provide me with an idea just what the process was that took place when they were tasked with a MEDEVAC mission. One of the first things I had to decipher was what the meaning of a “9-line” was. Once she explained it I realized it was yet another example of how much more organized and regulated things were today than when we flew in Vietnam.

A 9-line in simple terms were the nine critical lines of pertinent information given to the CASEVAC/MEDEVAC pilots and crew regarding the mission they are about to undertake. This written information includes:

Line 1: The grid where the casualty is located
Line 2: The radio frequency of the ground unit
Line 3: The type and number of casualties
Line 4: Any special Equipment such as extra litters, special extraction gear, etc. that may be needed
Line 5: Whether or not the patient will be litter-bound or ambulatory
Line 6: Defines the security at the LZ
Line 7: How will the LZ be recognized (pyro, smoke, panel)
Line 8: The nationality of the patient(s)
Line 9: Are there any terrain hazards in or around the LZ

There was another explanation I needed to learn and that was in regards to the terms DASH-1, DASH-2, and DASH-3. These three terms were the designations given to the order in which MEDEVAC aircraft would be launched. Such as if DASH-1 and its crew were ready to go but had an engine issue, then DASH-2 would go in its place. DASH-2 backed up DASH-1 and in turn DASH-3 backed up DASH-2.

That being said Shay wrote me the following description of a MEDEVAC:

“From the MEDEVAC stand point, you have a watch in the ready room, monitoring all the communication devices and waiting while everyone else is going about their daily business. Then without a second’s notice a MEDEVAC 9 – line is received.

A “runner” would then run to our signaling system (the FOXES and GRAYHAWKS used a traditional ships bell) and would ring the bell.

Then everyone would sprint to the flight line where everyone has a job to do, from pulling the dust covers off the bird, to firing her up. Those not on the schedule to fly, line up at the edge to make sure that nothing is needed; the Corpsmen to make sure the ground unit isn’t requesting any additional gear, the mechs in case they had to trouble shoot, the comm to ensure we can talk, everyone had a purpose.

We spun two and sometimes three birds. As everyone is getting ready to roll, the watch scribes (writes) the 9- line on two papers, the runners in unison run to the two primary aircraft, standing at the end of the “shoot” right before the flight line. Yet another integral part of the operation is the Marine who directs the runners to the two primary birds. The crew chief would normally receive the 9- liner and report to the pilots the grid and location, then he would relay to the Corpsman how many and how bad.

DASH-1 would then roll to the edge of the helo pad. I remember looking out the back to find our escorts; you see if there was only one Cobra, it was as safe as combat flight can be, but if there were two cobra’s, well we were about to go play in Hell’s backyard.

If for any reason DASH-1 can’t launch, DASH- 2 is all ready set, as they were ready to roll at the same time as DASH-1. They would move into the primary position with DASH-3 now spinning and preparing to go just in case luck is not on our side and something would happen to DASH-2.

I wish I had a way to get it to you, but I have a great video you hear the bell, then the buzzer, and you see everyone run to the flight line, then you see the runners go out and the director telling them which bird, and the pass of the 9- line and the roll out. It was better orchestrated than synchronized swimming, but it wasn’t rehearsal, that’s how it was done every time for every bell that rang, less than 4 minutes.

In flight, you review your gear, make sure everything you need based on the 9-line is accessible and easy, and you make sure you have the gear the ground unit requested ready to be tossed out as soon as you land.

The pilots get you as close as they can and then you wait for your signal that it’s safe. My partner and I had an every other turn process; one time I would run out, the next time he would. So as soon as you land, you break ICS and run to the patient. Your partner would go to the end of the aircraft and keep eyes on you and the surroundings and relay what you are doing to the pilots.

While on deck you get the turn over from the ground unit, just as quickly as you can; a lot of times this is happening while you are running back to the bird. They make very large targets, and are much harder to hit when not sitting still. Your partner helps get the patient (s) into the litter stanchions, as you toss the ground unit that helped you move them on, off the bird, which was sometimes easier said than done.

Then you begin your primary assessment. If there is only one casualty you and your partner work together, one taking half of the body and the other partner the other half; you work together as a team. You treat and document depending on the severity, sometimes you only have time to treat. The admin will come later.

Some things in life just never changes, start the breathing and stop the bleeding… that’s still true today. Once those have been accomplished, you continue to assess and treat then reassess and treat. Normally before you know it your there, and your moving them off the bird, into the medical facility. While giving them the Cas during the turn over, you let them know what the ground unit told you and what you did for them en-route.”

As a side note, in September of that year, HMM-161 returned from Iraq along with their CASEVAC bell which best symbolized their mission in the area. They took the bell with them rather than leave it for the next squadron because the CASEVAC missions temporarily were going to be turned over to the soldiers of an Army Blackhawk detachment at Al Taqaddum.

The casualties on the MEDEVAC are flown, based on the extent of their injuries or illness, to the specified level of care they require. In MEDEVAC/CASEVAC terminology a “Role II” would be the same as a site that can provide Level Two care to the patient.

This is better explained in the response I received after one of the questions I put to the Chief in an e-mail was asking her to briefly discuss the kinds of medical facilities to which they deliver their casualties. In her reply she said:

“A main one is an FRSS which is called a Role II medical facility; this is a life or limb type facility.

In Iraq that was the normal first place for concentrated medical treatment, but in Afghanistan if you can overfly the FRSS to get to the Role III without risk of life or limb, then you overfly.

Role III is a more robust medical treatment facility with sterile surgical suites, emergency department, intensive care unit, and holding wards with an enhanced ancillary capability. Anything over that, we Evac them out of the theater and both areas go through Lundstuhl, Germany.”

I asked her response to whether or not she felt prepared enough for the war and what she had to contend with to which she said:

“I felt prepared both mentally and physically. But really, can you ever receive enough training to know that you have enough to go into combat? There is risk in everything we do, you plan and train to mitigate the risk, but can you ever be fully prepared to be shot at?”

The next line of questioning dealt with that very subject; her risky and dangerous missions.

“ ….. My first flight in Iraq was in mid-January. We lifted off and went out for operational engine checks and functional checks on all of the equipment. I think the final count that day was that we took 7 rounds into the aircraft; multiple through the front windshield, one through the floor and out the top, one bounced off the stub wing and thank God it was armored since that was by where I was sitting. We also had one in the back skin up and out through the transmission and rear engine.

We also landed in a couple of hot zones where my flight partner would grab me as I ran back onto the bird yelling at me because he could see the rounds striking the ground around me. We have had to egress quickly out of the LZ for Close Air Support to come in and drop 500-pound JDAMs….. You know normal combat stuff.”

(The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is a guidance kit that converts existing unguided gravity bombs, or “dumb bombs”, into all-weather “smart” munitions.)

“On 24 February 2007 a massive IED Attack occurred in the town of Habbaniya causing a 175- patient mass casualty. The entire section for both day and night was activated as it happened right at sunset. The obvious overflow at TQ’s Role II was apparent and we were moving 8 urgent/ urgent surgical per bird to other facilities in our AO. Each section and every aircraft that night saw bursts of small arms fire, and several reported single rocket attacks; but due to the fast and evasive maneuvers of the pilots, all aircraft returned safely to base. Each of us knew that was the same kind of attack they utilized just weeks prior when they took down MORPHINE 1-2 with Petty Officer Minjares (MJ) and Petty Officer Ruiz (Manny) on board.

In Iraq as the LCPO for the CASEVAC team; I took the first flight out, and got shot up! We switched aircraft, then went out again to the IED Blast and picked up 3 Urgent Cas and 2 Angels (KIA)) We made a routine flight from the Role II to the Role III… then took one last flight where we had to switch to night vision goggles on the way back. Although it was a long day I was confident that I could then ask my Sailors to do what I had done; Lead from the front!

My HAC all day was none other than Colonel Sean Killeen, so when we shut down the final time on the flight line I looked at him and said, “Sir, I know I asked you to show me the ropes, but did you have to do it all in one day?” He smiled.

Colonel Killeen is a great leader! In fact before the Foxes left theater (we still had 3 months to go) I wrote him a note in which I told him that in all my years of serving, I had finally found a CO (Commanding Officer) that I wanted to emulate. He is kind and fair, firm and approachable, and thrived by taking care of those he leads. A good Man. I’m proud to have served under his leadership.”

As to how many missions did she fly in Iraq, Shay, in her humble and simple way said:

”Too many to count and without my flight log here I couldn’t even begin to tell you, I can tell you that in a period of 7.5 months my team of 26 Sailors responded to and evacuated over 1200 patients. I don’t count my time there as what I did but what we did.

On the aircraft we flew as a pair, we had specific partners for the entire time. My flight partner was HM1 (FMF) Jerry Blankenship, who in addition to being an outstanding Corpsman, was a qualified aerial observer (AO) on the CH-46 which was an added bonus for our team. He has just recently retired from the Navy.”

When I asked about flight rotations the corpsmen flew, I got back the following:

“In Iraq, we had a rotation; one day you started on DASH-1, the next was DASH-2, the next was DASH-3 and the next was admin. When you were not flying you were doing maintenance on your equipment, checking your supplies and doing inventory. When you are not doing that, you are studying for advancement or your Fleet Marine Force warfare qualification. If all of that is done then you are PT’ing, playing spades, dominos or Halo. (that was Manny’s favorite) or just hanging with your friends.

In my team, I took the most females that had gone out for that mission and there were 8 including me. That caused some pain as I paired each of us with a male, since there are physical restraints and safety concerns; I wanted to make sure each team member was as safe as they could be. Please keep in mind I could have paired two females together but I chose not to. I didn’t think it was a smart thing to do based on the mission. Some of those guys with full “battle rattle” (battle gear) on, were very heavy!

I then brought up the politically sensitive topic of her being a female and how, if at all, it made any difference to those around her. She only seemed to discuss her time in Iraq.

”Yes and no… By the crew, absolutely not; being a female had zero impact on my ability to be an effective member of the crew but by the civilians, yes.

The way some of the local national men looked at me made me feel uncomfortable at best, but for the most part, it was my partner that was treated more different by the Locals than me. One day in mid-March we responded to a young lady who had been to the market to get groceries with her husband, and who was 5 months pregnant when she was shot through the abdomen. My partner being a male was not allowed to touch her; her husband would rather have had her and the baby die than be touched by another male. But since I was there, I was able to examine her and provide the life saving treatment that allowed both her and their baby to live. So being a female made a big difference that day.”

Being a corpsman, especially a female corpsman, may provide a significant source of comfort to Marines as well. I had asked Shay to tell me about any other missions that stood out from the others:

“Saving that mom and baby was absolutely amazing! There was one other one that sticks out pretty well. I can’t remember the date but it was in April 2007, when my partner and I responded to an urgent MEDEVAC for a US Marine. it was my partners turn to run off the bird; as I watched him run back, I grabbed the litter with him and helped set the patient into the litter stanchions. We lifted off, I was handing my partner stuff and as we moved his flak jacket so we could do our assessment, his religious medallion that he fastened to the inside of it, sparkled a little and caught my eye. Anyway he had a gunshot wound to the leg, and my partner had the bleeding under control and was dressing the wound. I raised my visor so I could talk to him. I leaned over to ask him to squeeze my hand, as I wanted to see if he comprehended what was going on. As I reached for his hand so he could, I noticed how scared he looked. He then squeezed my hand and smiled a little and took a deep breath. When we got to the Role II he did not want to let go and almost took my flight glove with him! I reassured him they would take great care of him at the TQ surgical unit and he let go.

The best part about it was that our home base was on TQ, so after shift I was able to walk over and check on him. He was fast asleep, but the Doc’s told me he was going to make a full recovery. I guess that fact that even at his most scared moment, I was able to make him smile, and even if just for a second to a deep breath and relax.”

AFGHANISTAN:

The airwing element where Shay is currently deployed is made up of squadrons from MAG-40. A composite aviation unit out of MCAS Cherry Point, MAG-40 is the combat aviation element for the Marines supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Dittlinger and LT Loffgren with PEDRO our Air Force medical evac bird!

This group is composed of two CH-53 squadrons, along with one light attack helicopter squadron, one AV-8B Harrier squadron, one Osprey squadron, one KC-130 tactical aerial refueling squadron, one unmanned aerial vehicle squadron, and an aviation logistics squadron. MAG-40 deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2009 and falls under the command of the 2nd MEB.

Because a squadron of Osprey helped make up its composition, I had to ask her if she had flown on one yet or if any had been used in a MEDEVAC/CASEVAC mode. She wrote:

“In one of the e-mails you asked about the V-22 (Osprey); it’s a neat aircraft with unique capability and could, if assigned, provide a CASEVAC mission. Currently we do not use the V-22 in that manner, not to say we haven’t, because we did launch the V-22 one time out here with a CASEVAC HM on the back. HM3 Matzke went down south and picked up a small child who had been severely burned; it was a non-battle injury, but we transported the child and a family member to our Role II for care. He said he didn’t have to do much as the ground Corpsman cleaned and dressed it nice and the flight was extremely quick.”

I also asked Shay what her mission was and their role as it stood in Afghanistan;

“Here my job is a little different; I run the Patient Evacuation Team. They sit at the Command Element and run the watch station for MEDEVAC. They work with the ground unit and ISAF/ NATO Forces to get the aircraft launched and out to the grid and to the right location for care, then they follow the Marine/ Sailor through the medical facilities until they are released back to duty.

“My primary mission here is not flying but patient tracking and working with ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) and NATO forces on patient regulating. My team receives the 9-lin, then processes it, works with Regional Command (South) as they source the aircraft, and then assign the medical facility all the while my team is communicating to the ground unit that help is on the way.

Then they follow the patient all the way back to Return to Unit whether its here in Afghanistan or back home with their parent command.. To date we have tracked over 1100 Active Duty, and over 400 ANA (Afghan National Army), LN (Local National), ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) and EPW (Enemy Prisoners of War).

We answer any questions the higher headquarters has and we ensure the ground unit knows help is on the way. My other half of the job out here is the Assistant Health Service Support Officer. We sit in planning meetings that are planning all of the major operations in Helmand Province and ensure that the right medical facilities are where they need to be and the right medical staff is available.

My current team is exactly 50/50, but because it’s a watch floor, (big computers and techno-war fighting) gender does not come into play. I say techno-war fighting but a lot of important things happen on the watch floor as they coordinate everything in the AO. They can see what’s happening here in this position and divert aircraft for assistance or re-route a convoy based on a situation or launch HIMAR’s (High Mobility Artillery rocket System) in support of a fire fight in this section. This is “Big Picture Orchestrating” with focusing on all the things that we can do to help the warfighter on the ground and get them what they need to succeed.”

Although her role is quite different from the one she had in Iraq, she still flies on the heavies” (CH-53’s) at times. As part of her job, as the Assistant medical planners she has to ensure the right care is available wherever they are doing operations.

POPASMOKE / SSgt Terrance Clark

Shay travels throughout her AOR doing what she does. She recently went to Forward Operating Base Delhi which is located in the Helmand Province of Southern Afghanistan near the town of Garmisir. It’s in an area that was made famous by the UK’s Prince Harry who served there from late to 2007 to early 2008.

Shay sent me a photograph that was taken of her while she was flying on a CH-53 resupply mission in Marjah during Operation MOSHTARAK. In the photo she is intently looking down thru the hellhole as they are offloading much needed water and food. In her flight goggles one can see the reflection of the tail gunner.

In regards to flying CASEVAC in Afghanistan: “Out here in Afghanistan, we fly solo as we are out here in a tertiary billet so we don’t waste Corpsmen or fly people unnecessarily, it’s just not safe! If called upon to provide medical care and I need help, then the AO or rear gunner would be able to assist. As for the kinds of patients we evacuate there are all kinds: Urgent, Urgent Surgical, Priority, Routine; US and UK Active duty, and all other coalition forces, Local National, and Enemy prisoners. That is for both Iraq and here.

In March of 2010 I read a story about a British pilot who was struck in the head by a bullet during a firefight and still managed to safely land a helicopter full of casualties, medical personnel and troops. After being wounded, he refused to give up control of his Chinook (C-47) and flew the twenty or more souls on board back to Camp Bastion.. I e-mailed her the interesting article and she wrote back the following:

“Very true.. this happened not too long ago. In fact, they were able to land safely at the helo pad at the hospital we call Nightingale. The only down point was that the Chinook was so big it took up the majority of the helo pad, so we had to shut it down for a few hours before we could get it out so that other birds could land.

Camp Bastion is about 2 minutes away from my base… we are all connected and that’s where our injured go as well. It’s a great hospital! It’s the Role III that I was telling you about that we have here.

Oh, as a side note,

As we were doing our drill for our insert into Marjah I used that scenario for our training.”

The discussions turned to her flying MEDEVAC missions once again and I asked her if she could discuss her worst mission. I knew for her it might not yet be possible and from her reply I guess I was right.

“I really don’t think I can. Not because of the demons, but every time we flew it was because someone was hurt. We saw a lot of bad things, just like you did, we took rounds to my aircraft on my first flight out, suddenly sun light where there was none, to crawling into blown up humvee’s to pull out the wounded because at 5 foot 3, I was the smallest one and could wiggle my way to the wounded. I remember so many that I don’t think singling one out would be fair to the memory of the crew, the ground unit, or the member that we picked up. We landed in farmers fields, where the gunner said one second he could see me and the next he couldn’t then I would pop up again and he could see me then he wouldn’t, only to get the wounded out just before Close Air Support came in and dropped some serious fire power that rocked the ground and the Phrog. We landed on roads and moved multiple casualties from IED’s and car accidents. Any time we launched it was trauma and trauma was bad.”

Not everything that happens in war is negative, even in the war in Afghanistan. Shay had sent me a picture where she is surrounded by Locals and is holding the hand of a little girl. I did not understand the significance of the photo she had sent me until I receiver her answer to my question

Shannon and Hilya in Nowzad after the MEB cleared it!

“What has been your biggest eye-opening experience since you arrived ?

“You are so going to think its a cliché but remember that little girl I sent you a picture of? That was Hilya she is 8. When we first got here Now Zad was one of the worst areas in our AO. It was a guarantee to have amputees from that area whenever there was a 9-liner from a unit. In November we did an operation called COBRA’S ANGER, and about a month later that picture was taken. As you can see I wasn’t wearing any Personal Protective Devices… She ran to me, held my hand and pointed out the store her father was able to open and about the dinner she had the night before, but her eyes lit up when she showed me her school that she was allowed to go too. (I had an interpreter with me) For me it’s all about the kids and the ability for them to have just the basics, food and the option to go to school and learn.

Even in Iraq one of the most significant memories I have, was one of our last flight, We were out to get a Iraqi Policeman and we were flying low and there they were, just outside playing with a ball. It was the first time I had seen kids outside playing. So many of the things people take for granted, like walking down the street without the fear of being blown up, being able to have the option of going to school, being able to go outside and kick a ball, so many of the freedoms that come natural to most of us just don’t exist here, at least they didn’t until we came to help. I told you it was cliché! “

The last question I put on all of my other questionnaires was in regards to what advice would you or do you give to someone who wanted to fly MEDEVAC?

“Wow! What to tell someone who wants to do this mission… get assigned to the MAW, and go for it. IT is by far the most rewarding experience I have ever had. I spent the day with HM2 Wenck last week on Friday when I went down to COP (Combat Outpost) Dehli located on the edge of Darvishan (Helmand Province). After his two tours with Manny in Iraq as CASEVAC HM’s, this is his first time as a VICTOR unit Corpsman (Grunt Doc). All he could say was how different it was. You have to love to fly, have the desire to help and the courage to go in when everyone else wants out.”

End.


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Mock Prison Riot in Iraq

From my cousin, a civilian contractor, working with the military in Iraq. Now, don’t get me wrong, we Marines love our Sister branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, but the rivalry is strong..
~Wally

====
Wally here is an incident that I saw it’s a funny story concerning the Marines and Air Force. I had received a request to go to the small port town of Umkasar in southern Iraq.

To assist in the construction of a new prison camp (Camp Bucca), this place is what comes to mind when you think of the Middle East on one side hot with miles and miles of sand as far as you can see and on the other the gulf.

Well one afternoon we were sitting in the DFAC enjoying lunch when two young Airmen sat down at the table across from us and were involved in a heavy conversation when I noticed that they looked very upset, not knowing what was or may have been happening being civilians we began to listen to their conversation and to our ease they were discussing a training exercise.

The first Airman said to his partner that this was not going to be a good idea and you could tell from his voice and the look on his face that the kid was scared to death; about this time 3 US Marine Stallion helicopters touched down full of troops to participate in the exercise, which was to be a mock riot in the prison yard and the Marines were the detainees. I thought to myself this is going to be good and inquired as to what time this is going to take place so I could be there, and as the rest of the afternoon passed you could feel the tension in the air building.

Finally around 16:30 the Air Force showed up in full riot gear shields and all… meanwhile you could see the young Marines ready to tear them apart just like their name sake Devil Dogs and you could hear the Marine commander giving the order not to hold back but to attack and use any means necessary to obtain their objective. Then the carnage began and it did not take long for the Marines to unarm the Airmen.

Wally, it was brutal, the Marines put an ass beating on them like I have never seen, Airmen were being carried off the field and taken to the hospital there was fighting, biting, bleeding and eye-gauging not to mention the broken bones it was great they total destroyed them and I was proud to have been there.

Allen Mayer

photo: defenseimagery.mil

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R.I.P. Petty Officer Neil Roberts

http://www.navyseals.com/neil-roberts

Navy SEAL
BUD/S Class: 184
SEAL Service: 10 years
Rank: Petty Officer First Class
Age: 32
Home: Woodland, CA
Assigned: Naval Special Warfare Development Group
Died: March 4, 2002
Operation: Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)

Details:

Roberts was killed in combat during a clandestine insertion, when the MH-47 Chinook helicopter he was readying to exit made a rushed take-off from a 10,000 foot mountain after it was hit machine-gun fire.

The Chinook helicopter was about to set down when machine-gun fire ripped into the fuselage, cutting a hydraulic line. The chopper jerked and swayed as the pilot struggled to regain control. Intelligence for Operation Anaconda had indicated that this particular mountain top landing zone was unoccupied. The ambush opened the curtain on the bloodiest fight in the Afghan war, a battle that unfolded in the frigid mountain region of Gardez, Afghanistan, in the dead of the winter. The pilot managed to gain a little altitude, and then veeredoff. Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts was standing in the rear by the open exit ramp when the first rounds struck. With the severed line spraying hydraulic fluid everywhere and the chopper jerking this way and that, Roberts lost his balance and fell to the snowy ground below. Roberts collected himself, activated his emergency beacon, and then took stock. His only weapons were a pistol and two hand grenades. Unfortunately his light machine gun had not fallen out of the chopper, too. Three al-Qaeda fighters began moving in. Roberts crawled toward better cover, engaging the terrorists with the pistol and grenades. He soon ran out of ammunition. Nobody knows what happened next. Images broadcast by a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle showed three men dragging him away. A rescue team later recovered his body. Roberts had been shot to death.

On 7 October 2001, the United States had embarked on Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan with the deadliest and most technologically advanced armed force the world had yet seen. No other conventional opponent could match it in combat. From the war’s opening day, Navy and Air Force bombs rained down on Taliban and al Qaeda targets with the highest level of accuracy achieved to that time in military history. The enemy, however, behaved like ants. When the bombs started falling on the anthills, many enemy fighters simply scattered, switched sides, or melted away into the mountains to regroup and fight another day. Although the U.S. arsenal boasted the most sophisticated technology in the world, it couldn’t help Neil Roberts. In the end, he fought alone on a frigid snow-covered mountaintop against enemies he could see and hear yards away. Even in the 21st century, war pits man against nature and man against man.

“Although I sacrificed personal freedom and many other things, I got just as much as I gave,” he wrote his wife in an “open in the event of my death” letter. My time in the Teams was special,” Neil Roberts, 32, wrote. “For all the times I was cold, wet, tired, sore, scared, hungry and angry, I had a blast.”

To his last action, Petty Officer Roberts was true to his SEAL ethos and to the unconditional commitment he made to the Navy when he enlisted. His moment of truth came when he was utterly alone, surrounded by a ruthless enemy deep in hostile territory and undoubtedly knew there was no chance of escape or rescue. Never forget that it is Sailors like Petty Officer Roberts and his shipmates currently engaged in the fight who we are serving.

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