Special Tactics Airmen march to honor fallen brothers in arms

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151004-F-GV347-021By 1st Lt. Katrina Cheesman, 24th Special Operations Wing

After more than 800 miles on the road, 20 Special Tactics Airmen finished their journey to honor fallen teammates, crossing through the gate here with families of those Special Tactics Airmen killed in combat.

The march was held specifically for Capt. Matthew Roland, special tactics officer, and Staff Sgt. Forrest Sibley, combat controller, who were killed in action, Aug. 26, 2015, Afghanistan.

“These men walked 812 miles, demonstrating to the vast majority of the southern part of America what our country values,” said Lt. Gen. Brad Heithold, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. “And that’s people who are willing to make sacrifices.”

Special Tactics Airmen honor fallen with memorial marchThe marchers walked day and night through five states to honor the fallen special operators who gave their lives in service to their country, relaying the 812 miles in two-man teams.
Special Tactics Airmen honor fallen with memorial marchAcross the southern part of America, communities and individuals took time to cheer on the marchers, and honored the fallen with salutes and hands over hearts. Some community members even prepared home-cooked meals for the Special Tactics Airmen, who would walk a total of 90 miles with a 50-pound assault pack on their back, and a memorial baton in their hand.

While the marchers blew through anticipated timelines by completing their 12.6 mile-legs in three hours instead of the expected four, this consistent speed didn’t come without its costs. Throughout the ten-day period, they experienced large blisters, muscle tears, heat exhaustion and dehydration. One Special Tactics Airmen completed his 90-plus miles with three broken ribs.
“We are pretty tired and beat down, but it’s about telling the story of the guys who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said a Special Tactics combat controller about the march. “That’s why we do this: to remember the brothers we lost and show support to the families.”

Special Tactics Airmen honor fallen with memorial marchFor many of the Gold Star families and Special Tactics Airmen, it was a reunion. The ST Airmen had carried memorial batons engraved with the names of the fallen hallway across the country to walk alongside the families who lost their loved ones. This was not the first time they had done this; most of the families had attended all four of the memorial marches, which first occurred in 2009.

“Who’s got Argel?” one family member shouted into the chaotic crowd of hugging people, searching for the person holding their son’s baton. Eventually, the batons and their safekeepers found their way to the right family. Then the Airmen, who had so diligently carried it over 800 miles, handed it over to the family and walked the last mile with them.

At the end of the final mile, the Airmen took part in a small ceremony. The batons were solemnly saluted and returned, one by one, to a waiting Special Tactics Airmen, as the names of the 19 teammates were called.

The batons will be returned to their display case in memory of the fallen, and will only be removed for a memorial march if another Special Tactics Airmen is killed in action.
Then, as tradition in the Special Tactics community, all Airmen formed up to complete memorial pushups, honoring teamwork, fallen comrades, and Roland and Sibley.

“The fallen’s legacy will never die because we will continue to honor their sacrifices and perpetuate their excellence,” said Col. Wolfe Davidson, 24th Special Operations Wing commander, of the 19 Special Tactics Airmen killed in action since 9/11. “We aren’t ever going to quit talking about them. We will walk across this country to say, ‘we will never forget you.’”

For more coverage, visit the AFSOC Blog here: http://bit.ly/1OGniGs.

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Special Tactics Airmen march to honor fallen brothers in arms

I Am a Navy Corpsman: Saving Lives

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Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos, Marine Aircraft Group 24, was recently selected as Pacific Fleet Sea Sailor of the Year. The corpsman has deployed to combat three times — twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos.

Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos, Marine Aircraft Group 24, was recently selected as Pacific Fleet Sea Sailor of the Year. The corpsman has deployed to combat three times — twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos)

Story by Paul R. Ross, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affiars

A 16-year-old picks up a magazine and flips through the glossy pages. He stops at an article about a heroic sailor — a Navy corpsman — who ran through a minefield to save the Marines he served with during Operation Desert Storm.

For some people, the story would be something they forget about as quickly as they read it – just another news article. But for one boy growing up in Guam, it was the catalyst to his career.

Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos, a hospital corpsman, enlisted in the Navy a year after reading that article and moved to the United States in 1999 to begin what is now a 13-year life in the Navy. The corpsman, who is assigned to Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 24 stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, is a Purple Heart recipient and was recently selected as Pacific Fleet Sea Sailor of the Year.

Seeking Adventure

Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos poses with his family next to the ocean. The heroic story of a Navy corpsman during Operation Desert Storm inspired Santos to enlist in the Navy become a corpsman. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos.

Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos poses with his family next to the ocean. The heroic story of a Navy corpsman during Operation Desert Storm inspired Santos to enlist in the Navy become a corpsman. (Photo courtesy of Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos)

Santos, the youngest of nine children, was the only one of his siblings to join the military and did so because he craved something different from his life on the island nation of Guam.

“I needed a change of life,” Santos said. “I needed better job opportunities. I wanted to grow up. (Life in Guam) was simple. It was laid back. It was the same old stuff. Just a slow life style — a beach life style. But I wanted more adventure.”

While the Navy would provide the adventure he was seeking, he knew the job of Navy hospital corpsman would provide something greater than adventure.

“I wanted to help people,” Santos said. “I wanted to save lives. I thought about how much I wanted to do a job like that.”

From the Battlefield

Throughout his 13-year career he would find himself deployed beside Marines in combat three different times – twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. In 2004, while deployed to Fallujah he earned his Purple Heart.

“I received wounds and shrapnel to my hand and wrist on March 26, 2004, during an ambush in a firefight in Fallujah on the streets,” Santos said.

But it was later that same year when Santos played a vital role in doing what he became a corpsman to do — save lives.

“On Sept. 6, 2004, a large convoy got hit by a vehicle-borne IED (improvised explosive device),” Santos said. “It hit the second truck, which had the platoon commander, about 14 Marines and 12 Iraqi National Guard. The IED hit the truck and we had a mass casualty. We had about 10 mortally wounded and the rest of the guys were just scattered throughout the zone.”

Santos would be the only corpsman on-scene for the first ten minutes after the attack.

“I was in the third truck,” Santos said. “We pulled up to the scene. We started pulling our guys out. We pulled a bunch of guys out and set up a casualty collection point. We went to work. We were running out of supplies. I was using guys’ individual first aid kits and a lot of tourniquets.”

Soon, other medical personnel arrived to assist and bring more supplies.

“We saved a lot of guys that day, and unfortunately a lot of Marines didn’t make it,” Santos said. “A lot of close friends were lost.”

For Santos, the respect he has earned from serving beside his Marine brethren isn’t something he takes lightly.

“It’s a great honor to be trusted like that,” Santos said. “It’s something that’s earned from your guys and being there. It’s earned through trust.”

Mother, Mother Ocean

Outside of serving as a corpsman, Santos has another passion — the ocean. Growing up in Guam gave Santos a unique connection to the blue, salty waters that surround his childhood home, and the place he now calls home — Hawaii.

Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos, Marine Aircraft Group 24, catches a wave in Hawaii. Santos finds respite from his busy life as a corpsman through surfing and spending time at the beach. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos.

Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos, Marine Aircraft Group 24, catches a wave in Hawaii. Santos finds respite from his busy life as a corpsman through surfing and spending time at the beach. (Photo courtesy of Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos)

“Growing up around the ocean, it’s everything,” Santos said. “It’s a food source. It’s fun. It’s my happiness.”

His love of the ocean isn’t something he keeps to himself.

“I take guys out and teach them how to surf,” Santos said. “I make them understand what surfing is all about and about the ocean. I coach paddling for beginners and kids.”

Success and Respect

In order to be successful as a Navy corpsman, you have to be a leader — someone who can be trusted.

“HM1 Santos is a sailor’s-sailor,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Frank Dominguez, lead chief petty officer for MAG-24. “He shows pride in everything that he does. He leads from the front and by example. Part of what makes him a great corpsman is how he treats other. He makes everyone feel like they are family. He is well respected by both Marines and sailors.”

The sentiment is shared by the Marines he has deployed beside.

“Doc Santos is one of the best Navy corpsmen I’ve had the pleasure of serving with,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Noel, CH-53E crew chief/flightline quality assurance representative. “He always maintains a very high level of professionalism, while at the same time has a very approachable demeanor. No matter how busy he was, he would always take the time to follow-up with his patients and ensure they were receiving the care they needed.”

The Extra Mile

Part of the reason some choose careers in the medical field is because of their unrelenting willingness to help those in need. This was the case when some Marines in Santos’ unit showed signs of suicidal ideation.

Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos, who grew up in Guam, has a unique love of the ocean. He teaches others to surf and paddle board from his current duty station at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer1st Class Joseph Santos.

Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Santos, who grew up in Guam, has a unique love of the ocean. He teaches others to surf and paddle board from his current duty station at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. (Photo courtesy of Navy Petty Officer1st Class Joseph Santos)

“Doc Santos did an incredible job handling those situations,” said Noel. “I feel he went above and beyond with those Marines. As those Marines were getting separated from the unit and sent back to the States, Doc Santos gave incredible amounts of his personal time to see to it that they left Afghanistan on as much of a positive note as possible.”

There were no “working hours” for Santos as he stayed committed to his Marines — it was a 24-hour responsibility.

“He gave up his personal space, privacy and time by allowing them to bunk above him during their last days in country,” Noel said. “This enabled him to be able to be there for them at a moment’s notice and I believe it showed those Marines that there are people who care and will go the extra mile for them.”

Love of the Job

For Santos, this is the precise reason he continues to serve. The relationships he has forged are the reasons he loves being a Navy corpsman.

“It’s the camaraderie we develop,” Santos said. “It’s the friendship and the brotherhood.”

If he had it his way, his life would always be the Navy. But what else would you expect from someone who lives to serve others?

“If I can promote and stay in longer I would,” Santos said. “I’d definitely do this for my entire life.”

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I Am a Navy Corpsman: Saving Lives

Marines Conduct Basic Infantry Training

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“Through Logistics” is a video series that features the Marines and sailors of 1st Marine Logistics Group aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif. Episode 2: Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 5, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conduct basic infantry skills training aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD website.

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Leading the Way for Women in the Air Force: Jacqueline Cochran

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Story by MC2 Kayla Jo Finley

Photo: Jacqueline Cochran

A photo of Jaqueline Cochran

Just as Nazi troops began their march across Europe, Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran suggested her plans for using women pilots to fight the war. The initial suggestion was rejected, but her determination and consistency made her the first woman to pilot a bomber across the North Atlantic. Her efforts also made it possible for women to serve in what is today’s Air Force.

Never owning a pair of shoes until she was nine, Jacqueline grew up in poverty.  She was a barefoot girl who stole chickens to feed her family near a small sawmill town in West Florida.

However, poverty couldn’t stop her passion for airplanes and she was determined that one day she would fly. In 1932, she earned her pilot’s license and within a few years had already made a name for herself in the aviation community, winning several aviation awards and becoming the first woman to make a blind landing.

Years later, Jacqueline foresaw America becoming involved with war in Europe, and with that a possible need for women to assist in flying America’s aircraft.  After a suggestion from the First Lady, Jacqueline approached Gen. Hap Arnold with her vision of women pilots which he initially rejected.  Being the persistent woman she was Jacqueline did not stop with her quest for women serving in aviation.

By 1942, there was a severe shortage of male pilots.  Gen. Arnold, now faced with the shortage, asked Jacqueline to put her plans into operation and she was appointed Director of Woman’s Flying Training for the United States.  At the time there were two organizations of civilian female pilots: The Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS).  More than 1,000 women participated in these programs as civilians attached to the U.S. Army Air Corps, flying 60 million miles of non-combat military missions.

In August 1943, these two units merged into a single group, the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) program.  Jacqueline directed all phases of the WASP program, covering 120 air bases all over America.  The 1,074 female pilots of the WASP each freed a male pilot for combat service and duties.  WASP pilots flew more than 60 million miles in every type of aircraft.

Photo These four female pilots leaving their ship at the four engine school at Lockbourne are members of a group of WASPS who have been trained to ferry the B-17 Flying Fortresses. U.S. Air Force photo

These four female pilots leaving their ship at the four engine school at Lockbourne are members of a group of WASPS who have been trained to ferry the B-17 Flying Fortresses. U.S. Air Force photo

Although the efforts of WASP pilots were considered civil services, they broke ground for U.S. Air Force female pilots who would follow in their footsteps decades later.  It wasn’t until 33 years after the WASP program was disbanded, that they were granted WWII veteran’s status.

After the war Jacqueline continued her legacy in aviation, participating in air races and still holds more international speed, distance, and altitude records than any other pilot, male or female.

‘If you will open up your power plants of vitality and energy, clean up your spark plugs of ambition and desires, and pour in the fuel of work, you will be likely to go places and do things,” Jacqueline Cochran.

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD website

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