Explosive ordnance disposal units across the Army are struggling to train for combat operations amid both a personnel shortfall and a surge of domestic protection missions, a dangerous combination some EOD techs say has compromised their overall readiness and left their comrades burned out.

"We are burned out and it makes people not want to stay," said an active-duty senior enlisted Army EOD tech who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It makes us want to find other career options."

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From left, two former Viet Cong soldiers pose for a photo with Jim and Hattie Ford at Thon Ba in Vietnam on Friday, January 15, 2019. (Courtesy photo via Detroit News)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — When Hattie and Jim Ford went to Vietnam in January, they hoped to learn more about the death of her first husband.

Lt. Deane Taylor Jr. was fatally shot by the Viet Cong after his Army helicopter crashed during the Vietnam War in 1969.

What the Fords never expected was to be standing face to face with one of the soldiers who had attacked Taylor.

The Vietnamese soldier, found after a circuitous search, brought them to the spot where the attack had occurred exactly 50 years earlier.

It was as if the Fords had stepped into a time machine and were transported to one of the ugliest chapters in American history.

Surreal, said Hattie, 73, a retired math teacher from Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Unfathomable, said husband Jim, 73, a retired lawyer.

"It was a million to one shot," he said. "We would find this VC soldier, still alive, still in the same hamlet and willing to talk."

The former soldier didn't offer an apology, but the Fords weren't looking for one.

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Philadelphia rugby star Nasair Boston-Epps was denied entry to the Army for an old stray bullet wound. The former secretary of the army read an Inquirer column about him and got him approved. On Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, Boston-Epps meets with his recruiter Quoya Dubose at the recruiters office in North Philadelphia. (The Philadelphia Inquirer/Steven M. Falk via Tribune News Service)

The man on the phone told Quiana Boston that he had run the Army for President Obama. And that he'd like to try to help her son achieve his dream.

Boston was hopeful, but cautious. Her son, Nasair Boston-Epps, had already lost so much. A star player on his rugby team in North Philadelphia, the Nomads, and a standout cadet at the Philadelphia Military Academy, Nasair was shot last year on his way to his after-school job at McDonald's. It was a stray bullet, and it nearly killed him.

It nearly killed his dream, too: of becoming a physical therapist in the Army, following his grandfather and great-great-grandfather, Vietnam and World War II vets, and his father, a Navy veteran of the Gulf War. But, after a grueling fight to get his strength back and return to the rugby pitch, the gregarious kid built like a tank was rejected when he tried to join the Army.

They said the wounds from the bullet were disqualifying — a snap decision that surprised his doctors, teachers, and recruiters, who all knew that Nasair had recovered fully.

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RACHEL, Nev. (Reuters) - UFO enthusiasts began descending on rural Nevada on Thursday near the secret U.S. military installation known as Area 51, long rumored to house government secrets about alien life, with local authorities hoping the visitors were coming in peace.

Some residents of Rachel, a remote desert town of 50 people a short distance from the military base, worried their community might be overwhelmed by unruly crowds turning out in response to a recent, viral social-media invitation to "storm" Area 51. The town, about 150 miles (240 km) north of Las Vegas, lacks a grocery store or even a gasoline station.

Dozens of visitors began arriving outside Rachel's only business - an extraterrestrial-themed motel and restaurant called the Little A'Le'Inn - parking themselves in cars, tents and campers. A fire truck was stationed nearby.

Alien enthusiasts descend on the Nevada desert to 'storm' Area 51

(Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

Attendees arrive at the Little A'Le'Inn as an influx of tourists responding to a call to 'storm' Area 51, a secretive U.S. military base believed by UFO enthusiasts to hold government secrets about extra-terrestrials, is expected Rachel, Nevada, U.S. September 19, 2019

One couple, Nicholas Bohen and Cayla McVey, both sporting UFO tattoos, traveled to Rachel from the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton with enough food to last for a week of car-camping.

"It's evolved into a peaceful gathering, a sharing of life stories," McVey told Reuters, sizing up the crowd. "I think you are going to get a group of people that are prepared, respectful and they know what they getting themselves into."

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(U.S. Army/Capt. Adan Cazarez)

In early 2001, Ryan McCarthy was on his way out of the Army.

The Army Ranger had been in the infantry since September 1997 and his service obligation had ended. He had the option to get out, and was planning on taking it.

But that, along with everything else, changed on September 11th. His unit was called to Afghanistan, and he decided to stay. Though his former battle buddy Dan Ferris, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served alongside him in the 75th Ranger Regiment, said it wasn't even a question.

"Ryan was like, 'There's no way in heck that I'm leaving. I'm staying and I'm going with you guys.' He was just completely dedicated to getting out there and defending our country with all of us," Ferris told Task & Purpose.

McCarthy was among the first boots on the ground during the invasion of Afghanistan. After graduating from the Virginia Military Institute, McCarthy went on to serve for five years, deploying to Afghanistan from October 2001-February 2002, and earning three Army Achievement Medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Ranger Tab, and Parachutist Badge, among others.

On Monday, the 45-year-old Army Under Secretary was nominated by President Donald Trump to be the top civilian in charge of the U.S. Army, replacing Mark Esper as Army Secretary, who was confirmed as Secretary of Defense in July.

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The cast of 'The Code' (CBS Entertainment)

When CBS announced that it picked up The Code in 2018, the network clearly thought it had the next JAG on its hands. Instead, it got a disaster of a production that was cancelled after just one season.

The military courtroom drama — developed by Craig Sweeny and Craig Turk and starring Luke Mitchell, Dana Delaney, and Anna Wood — was billed as a gritty look at "the military's brightest minds take on our country's toughest challenges – inside the courtroom and out."

But over its first season, the series failed to cultivate a dedicated audience, lagged in network ratings, and, perhaps more importantly, pissed off an online army of U.S. military veterans incensed by the series' inaccuracies.

This could have been at least partially avoided, according to several sources, if Sweeny and Turk hadn't outright rejected the Marine Corps' help at every turn.

This account is based on conversations with two Marine Corps officials and a source at CBS Entertainment with knowledge of the interactions between the The Code team and the Corps. All three spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.

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