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You can't see Bobby Grey's scars.
On the surface, he's just an ordinary 35-year-old husband. FedEx driver. Racing fan. Philadelphia Eagles diehard. Dog owner.
He's also a former Marine, 2003 to 2007 — a mission that has given him great pride and great anguish. Twelve years later — anguish or not — he still loves the Corps to the core. Semper Fi — always faithful.
Grey acknowledges, though, that that's where the scars originated.
As a young devil dog, a PFC scarcely six months out of boot camp, Grey deployed to Iraq and got his first taste of combat when he was only 20 years old. One day, Marines in his convoy — guys he knew — died when a roadside bomb blew up beneath them. On another day, during a firefight with Iraqi insurgents, bullets whizzed over Grey's head, close enough that he could hear them. Seconds later, when the bullets shattered the windows behind him, a shower of glass rained down on his head.
But those days were nothing compared to Dec. 3, 2004, the day a suicide bomber rocked his unit's base with an explosion so violent that it literally blew him out of the chow hall where he'd been dining. He suffered a concussion and a mild traumatic brain injury — as if anything traumatic could be mild — but several comrades fared worse, suffering broken bones and dislocated hips. Two of his buddies died in the blast, and Grey had to put them in body bags himself.
"It's like losing a brother," he says softly. "No, it is losing a brother."
His son died fighting the Taliban. The Afghanistan Papers confirmed what one Gold Star father already knew
PHILADELPHIA — It would not be accurate to say that Charles Strange felt a surge of anger when he read a newspaper report this week of evidence that U.S. military leaders misled the public about the war in Afghanistan.
No, for the Montgomery County father, the anger's always there, like a tiny earthquake rumbling below the surface. The intensity changes daily, but it never really goes away.
It's been more than eight years since his son, Navy Petty Officer First Class Michael J. Strange, was killed alongside 29 other U.S. soldiers and eight Afghan security forces on America's deadliest day of the war in Afghanistan. The crew, which included the 25-year-old Michael, were killed when Taliban fighters shot down their helicopter, Extortion 17, while they were carrying out a mission in a valley southwest of Kabul on Aug. 6, 2011.
Michael was a cryptologist and part of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6, the unit responsible for killing Osama bin Laden. At his core, though, he was a Wissinoming native, a graduate of North Catholic High School, and a "Philly boy" through-and-through.
This week, Charles Strange and his wife, Mary Ann, Michael's stepmother, sat in their home in Hatboro, parsing through the Washington Post's reporting on the Afghanistan Papers, which said what the Strange family has long thought: Military leadership can't always be trusted.
"This is what you get when your son dies: a pin and a flag," he said, his Gold Star pinned to his chest. "And lied to."
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.
(Reuters) - Four months before a swarm of drones and missiles crippled the world's biggest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia, Iranian security officials gathered at a heavily fortified compound in Tehran.
The group included the top echelons of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite branch of the Iranian military whose portfolio includes missile development and covert operations.
The main topic that day in May: How to punish the United States for pulling out of a landmark nuclear treaty and re-imposing economic sanctions on Iran, moves that have hit the Islamic Republic hard.
With Major General Hossein Salami, leader of the Revolutionary Guards, looking on, a senior commander took the floor.
"It is time to take out our swords and teach them a lesson," the commander said, according to four people familiar with the meeting.
Hard-liners in the meeting talked of attacking high-value targets, including American military bases.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on ProPublica.
It was 10 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2018, when the phone rang in Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson's home tucked into a wooded corner of Northern Virginia.
Benson had just gotten into bed, and his chest tightened as he saw the number was from Japan. It was his Navy attorney calling. The lawyer said he wished he had better news, but he'd get right to the point: The Navy was going to charge Benson with negligent homicide the following day.
Benson, 40, stared at the ceiling in the dark, repeating the serenity prayer as his feet pedaled with anxiety. Next to him, his wife, Alex, who'd followed him through 11 postings while raising three kids, sobbed.
Seven months earlier, Benson had been in command of the destroyer the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a massive civilian cargo ship off the coast of Japan, ripping open the warship's side. Seven of his sailors drowned, and Benson was almost crushed to death in his cabin. It was then the deadliest maritime accident in modern Navy history.
Benson, who'd served for 18 years, accepted full responsibility. Two months after the crash, the commander of the Pacific fleet fired Benson as captain and gave him a letter of reprimand, each act virtually guaranteeing he'd never be promoted and would have to leave the service far earlier than planned. His career was essentially over.
Then, days later, another of the fleet's destroyers, the USS John S. McCain, collided with a civilian tanker, killing 10 more sailors. The back-to-back collisions exposed the Navy to bruising questions about the worthiness of its ships and the competency of the crews. Angry lawmakers had summoned the top naval officer, Adm. John Richardson, to the Hill.
Under sustained fire, Navy leaders needed a grand, mollifying gesture. So, in a nearly unprecedented move in its history, the Navy decided to treat an accident at sea as a case of manslaughter. Hastily cobbling together charges, the Navy's top brass announced — to the shock of its officers — that the captains of both destroyers would be court-martialed for the sailors' deaths.
The Navy told ProPublica that “given the tragic loss of life, scope and complexity of both collisions," it had an “obligation to exercise due diligence" and its investigation had “informed charges against" Benson and the captain of the McCain.
To many officers, the Navy had gone too far. “There was a deflection campaign," one admiral said recently, likening the Navy's response to shielding itself from an exploding grenade. “It was pretty clear Richardson wanted to dampen the frag pattern."
Even then, no one, least of all Benson, could have predicted how relentless the Navy's pursuit of him would be.
‘A huge morale hit’ — Army EOD techs are stuck between plummeting recruitment levels and skyrocketing workloads
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."