Meet The 7 US Soldiers Going For Gold At The Winter Olympics

Lifestyle

Seven soldiers — four bobsledders and three lugers — are aiming for gold and glory in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


The Army athletes will join the hallowed ranks of venerated military veteran Olympians, including such noted Americans as Louis Zamperini, John Woodruff, and Leon Spinks.  

Six of the seven athletes are associated with the World Class Athlete Program, a detachment that allows soldiers to train for and participate in the Olympics, Pan American Games, and World Championships.

Comcast NBCUniversal, in partnership with the Exchange and local cable, satellite and telecommunications providers, is offering service members and honorably discharged veterans streaming of the games “free of charge.”

Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 6 A.M. EST on Feb. 9. Luge events run from Feb. 10-15. Two-man bobsled races will take place Feb. 18-19, and four-man races occur from Feb. 24-25. In the meantime, here’s a bit of background on the seven soldier Olympians to watch in PyeongChang.

Maj. Christopher Fogt

Screenshot Olympic Channel video

MOS: 35A, Military Intelligence Officer

Event: Two and Four-Man Bobsled

Position: Brakeman

Hometown: Alpine, Utah

Twitter: @christopherfogt

2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist

Maj. Christopher Fogt returns to the Olympics as a bobsled brakeman after earning a Bronze Medal in 2014. Fogt told the Associated Press that the military’s emphasis on teamwork and overcoming adversity gives the soldier bobsledders a unique perspective.

“In the Army, you have to be part of a team from your very first day of basic training. On top of that, we’ve been through worse situations,” Fogt told the Associated Press. “When you’re bobsledding and it’s minus-20 degrees on the hill and it’s snowin’ and blowin’, you remember you’ve been on the field without meals in this kind of weather, hanging out in a foxhole. So that mental toughness helps us a lot.”

Here’s an Olympic Channel documentary that follows Fogt around Fort Hood as he juggles being an officer, Olympian, husband, and father.

Sgt. 1st Class Nate Weber

Screenshot Defense Department

MOS: 18D, Special Forces Medic

Event: Four-Man Bobsled

Position: Pushman

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Twitter: @nateweberactual      

Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Nate Weber trained for being a bobsled pushman during deployments with 10th Special Forces Group to Cameroon, Niger, and Afghanistan.

“There’s not really a whole lot of opportunity to train for something like bobsled, but it’s one of those things where you make it work. You’re doing sprints in the jungle [in Cameroon] and your partner forces are kind of looking at you like you’re crazy,” Weber told the Denver Post.

During a sprints workout in Afghanistan, Weber used a brush with mortar bits torn apart by a C-RAM to get fired up and train harder.

“I’m about two sprints into this workout, and one of these C-RAMs, which are big machine guns that shoot mortars out of the sky, goes off right next to me. It’s really loud, so it kind of gets my attention. I look up and maybe 75 meters above me, it shoots a mortar out of the sky. Bits and pieces of this thing start sprinkling down, nothing that hurts, but a couple pieces hit me on the arm. I’m like, ‘Oh, wait a minute, that thing was coming right for me, I need to go stand next to a wall.’ Then it really sinks in, ‘That thing was coming after me, it was going to land really close by,’” Weber told the Denver Post.

“That got my adrenaline going. My first thought was, ‘I bet I could run really fast right now, I’m already warmed up, I don’t want to waste this,’ so I kept running sprints,” Weber said.

Sgt. Nick Cunningham

Mr. Steven L Shepard (Presidio)

MOS: 12W, Construction / Masonry Engineer

Event: Two and Four-Man Bobsled

Position: Driver

Hometown: Monterey, California

Twitter: @BOBLSLEDR  

2009, 2012, 2013, 2015 U.S. World Team Member; 2010, 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Member

Bobsled driver Sgt. Nick Cunningham compared the level of readiness expected in the Army to the preparation needed to compete on an Olympic team in an Army press release.

"The Army taught me realistic goal setting, how to set smaller goals for yourself and then work up to the biggest ones. The Army also teaches preparation and how to overcome adversity, and that plays a role in our sport, too -- readiness and being ready to go," Cunningham said.

"Success is 95 percent preparation and readiness, being in the moment, and 5 percent luck. In bobsled, your luck depends on many things: decisions made, the weather, and when a course has 20 turns ─ and you run it four times ─ that's 80 corners for each event," he added.

If you’re wondering how bobsleds are driven, Cunningham recently tweeted a video of him careening down a track in Utah.

Sgt. Justin Olsen

U.S. Army

MOS: 42A, Human Resource Specialist

Event: Two and Four-Man Bobsled

Position: Push Athlete

Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Twitter: @justinbolsen

2008-2015 U.S. World Team Member; 2010, 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Member; 2010 Olympic Champion; 2009, 2012 World Champion

Sgt. Justin Olsen returns to the Olympics for a third time after winning a gold medal in 2010. On Monday, Olsen underwent a successful laparoscopic appendectomy in Gangneung after being admitted to the hospital for acute appendicitis. He is still expected to compete as a push athlete.

In an Army press release, Olsen recalled the thrill of realizing the team had struck gold in 2010.

“I remember being at the top of the track in Whistler for the fourth heat of the Olympic Games and looking around and only seeing my three teammates," Olsen said. "We knew that if we put in another good run, the gold was ours. There wasn't any doubt in their eyes or mine. Coming across the finish line and seeing that we were in first place still, and our friends and families were going absolutely crazy, was amazing. I will never forget getting out of the sled and putting my arms around my three teammates and saying: 'We did it, boys! We won it all!'"

Here is a Whistle Sports video of Olsen and other Olympians telling terrible jokes.

Sgt. Emily C. Sweeney

U.S. Army/Joe Lacdan

MOS: 31B, Military Police

Events: Women’s Singles Luge

Hometown: Suffield, Connecticut

Twitter:@ecsluge

2012, 2015 U.S. World Team Member; 2013 Junior World Champion

After not making the Olympic team in 2014, luger Sgt. Emily Sweeney didn’t train much for six months.

"I went from being an Olympic hopeful, training at 100 percent," Sweeney said in an Army press release, "to just stopping everything.”

In the spring of 2014, the Warrior Leader Course (now the Basic Leader Course) provided Sweeney with a useful wakeup call.

"(WLC) kind of pulled me out," said Sweeney. "It gave me a schedule that I had to adhere to again. I kind of got back into the military mode and then after that I got back into my training."

Sweeney plans to bring a medal home for the team.

"Going to the Olympics isn't enough for me," Sweeney said. "I want to go to the Olympics and do something. So it's not over -- the work isn't over."

Sgt. Taylor Morris

U.S. Army/Spc. Angel Vasquez

MOS: 42A, Human Resource Specialist

Event: Singles Luge

Hometown: South Jordan, Utah

Twitter: @taylormorris91

2010-2013 U.S. World Team Member; 2-time Junior National Champion; 2014 Olympic Alternate

In December, Sgt. Taylor Morris secured his Olympian status with a fifth-place World Cup finish in men's luge singles.

Morris hugged his friends and family and then found his wife, Megan. The couple embraced for two minutes, according to an Army press release.

"It's the biggest amount of redemption that you really could ever feel when you train for so long," Morris said. "This is 16 years for me now, it means the world to have my family here -- to have my home crowd cheering me on and wishing me the best."

Sgt. Matt Mortenson

U.S. Army/Spc. Jennily Leon

MOS: 12R, Interior Electrician

Event: Doubles Luge

Hometown: Huntington Station, NY

Twitter: @mmortensenusa

2006, 2007, 2009, 2011-2013, 2015 U.S. World Team Member; 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Member

In a Newsday profile, luger Sgt. Matt Mortenson’s NCO instincts are on full display as he mentors first time Olympian Justin Krewson.

“Matt is a mentor to me. He is such a huge help. He’s been sliding for so long, and he’s such a good friend. He explains things so well. If I need help, Matt’s there and he always has my back,” Krewson said to Newsday.

Mortenson told Newsday he feels a responsibility to guide younger athletes.

“Our generation is really trying to create a culture of openness with the other athletes,” Mortensen told Newsday. “When I see a younger doubles team coming up, I do try to give them advice and steer them in the right direction.”

Last month, Mortensen posted a first person video of him and his teammate, Jayson Terdiman, whipping around a Doubles Luge track.

An Austrian Jagdkommando K9 unit conducts training (Austrian Armed Forces photo)

An Austrian soldier was apparently killed by two military working dogs that he was charged with feeding, the Austrian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday.

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Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario has seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya, and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."

Opinion

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

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Photo: ABC News/screenshot

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The ruling means the government does not recognize her a citizen of the United States, even though she was born in the U.S.

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Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Marine Corps could train as many as eight co-ed companies at boot camp each year, and the general overseeing the effort is hitting back against those complaining that the move is lowering training standards.

"Get over it," Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the head of Training and Education Command told Military.com on Thursday. "We're still making Marines like we used to. That has not changed."

Mullen, a career infantry officer who has led troops in combat — including in Fallujah, Iraq — said Marines have likely been complaining about falling standards since 1775.

"I'm assuming that the second Marine walking into Tun Tavern was like 'You know ... our standards have gone down. They're just not the same as it they used to be,'" Mullen said, referring to the service's famous birthplace. "That has always been going on in the history of the Marine Corps."

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