Today is our 432nd day back in Iraq.
While there are no new military casualties, 3 contractors have been killed
in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 1, 635, 124, 300, 000 .00
I've got two contrasting stories to work with today. By now, you should be well aware that the first two female soldiers have completed the difficult US Army Ranger School and have been awarded their coveted "Ranger Tabs" along with 94 male colleagues. Of course the media covered it as a gender equality story...but I found that little was heard from their male counterparts except through the military press. This is not all about the men, but their opinion is important
- considering that the military is still male-dominated.
FORT BENNING, Georgia -- On the eve of his Ranger School graduation, 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski admitted he had his doubts about how women would perform in the physically punishing infantry course.
"I was skeptical whether they could handle it physically," he said.
Then Janowski remembered hitting a mental wall during an exhausting night movement in Mountain Phase, about half way through the two-month long school.
"I had a lot of weight on me, and I was struggling," he recalled. "I stopped and asked if anyone could take some of this weight."
The males in his platoon hesitated. "I got a lot of deer-in-the-headlight looks and guys were like 'I can't handle any more weight,'" he said.
It was 1st Lt. Shaye Haver who offered to share some of Janowski's burden.
"She was the only one who would volunteer to take that weight," he said. "She took the weight off me, and carried it. ... She literally saved me. I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now. From that point there was no more skepticism."
On Aug. 21, Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest will become the first two women in history to earn the coveted Ranger Tab, a hard-won honor that has eluded many a male soldier since the course was founded in 1952. They will do so alongside 94 men.
Griest, 26, is a currently a military police officer in the 716th Military Police Battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, but wants to pursue a job in Special Operations Command.
Haver, 25, is an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter pilot in the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Haver, Griest and a third female officer -- who is currently repeating Mountain Phase -- are all who are left of the original 19 female volunteers to go through the first co-ed class of Ranger School beginning April 20. In addition to the 19 women, there were 380 men who started the course.
Ranger School is a 62-day course that's described as the Army's premiere infantry leadership course, an ordeal that pushes students to their physical and mental limits.
Over the past two years, only about 40 percent of males successfully completed the course, according to leaders from the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade.
During the three-phase course, the students learn how to operate in three environments -- woodlands in Fort Benning, mountainous terrain in Dahlonega, Georgia, and coastal swamp at Camp Rudder in Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Spc. Christopher Carvalho's first experience with women in Ranger School was during the Ranger Assessment Phase, or RAP, week.
"One particular incident that stood out in my mind was the 12-mile ruck march during RAP week," he told a group of journalists.
Students carry a 47-pound rucksack along with other gear on the march.
"These two women finished well ahead of some of the males," he said. "Right there and then -- that validated it for me that these women are here to stay. They are carrying the same weight we are, and they are doing the same stuff we are."
Second Lt. Zachary Hagner was also skeptical of women at first.
"I was ignorant and assumed that because they were women it was going to be harder for them," he said.
His view changed on the last day of Mountain Phase, when he had reached his limit from humping the M249 squad automatic weapon.
"I had carried the SAW for about three days, and I was like somebody take this from me," he said.
His male comrades felt as tired and "broken" as he did, Hagner said.
"Griest wanted it -- she basically took it away from me," he said. "She took it from me with almost excitement. I thought she was crazy for that," he added, with a chuckle.
It was clear from watching the two females and six of their male Ranger buddies at the press conference with several news agencies that they had all bonded as a unit.
"It's pretty cool that they have accepted us," Haver said. "We ourselves came to Ranger School skeptical, with our guards up, just in case there were haters and naysayers. But we didn't come with a chip on our shoulder like we had anything to prove.
"Becoming one of the teammates -- that we could be trusted just like everyone else -- whether it was on patrol or to carry something heavy or whatever -- it was that every single time we accomplished something it gave us an extra foothold in being part of a team. I can say that without a doubt that the team that I am graduating with tomorrow accept me completely as a Ranger, and I couldn't be more proud and humbled by the experience."
Compare that, unfortunately, to the following story. Kind of a mixed message when the military celebrates women that have essentially become killing machines, but kicks out somebody that tried to do the right thing by confronting a rapist.
The U.S. Army is kicking out a decorated Green Beret after an 11-year Special Forces career, after he got in trouble for shoving an Afghan police commander accused of raping a boy and beating up his mother when she reported the incident.
The case of Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland now has the attention of Congress, with Rep. Duncan Hunter writing to Defense Secretary Ash Carter challenging the decision.
"I am once again dismayed by the Army's actions in this case," Hunter, R-Calif., wrote in a letter to Carter.
Martland is described by many of his teammates as the finest soldier they have ever served alongside.
But his Army career changed course during his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. After learning an Afghan boy was raped and his mother beaten, Martland and his team leader confronted a local police commander they had trained, armed and paid with U.S. taxpayer dollars. When the man laughed off the incident, they physically confronted him.
They were punished by the Army at the time -- but why exactly Martland is now being discharged is a matter of dispute. Army sources cited his accolades, including being named runner-up for 2014 Special Warfare Training Group Instructor of the Year from a pool of 400 senior leaders in Special Forces, in questioning the decision.
As for the incident in 2011, Hunter told Carter: "To intervene was a moral decision, and SFC Martland and his Special Forces team felt they had no choice but to respond."
Casey, a former Green Beret teammate who would only use his first name since he is now a member of a federal counterterrorism team, told Fox News, "If I was a commander, I would have given him an award. They saved that kid's life."
Martland grew up south of Boston, in Milton, Mass. An all-state football player in high school, he set his sights on playing college football after graduating in 2001. Martland went for the Florida State University team, which just finished a season ranked #4 in the nation.
He made the team, impressing legendary head coach Bobby Bowdon and famed defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. Still, he often remained on the sidelines. When Pat Tillman, a former NFL football player who volunteered for the Army Rangers, was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, he saw Tillman's sacrifice as motivation to apply for another elite program. Martland dropped out of college and graduated in 2006 from Special Forces Qualification Course, one of the U.S. military's toughest training programs. Over the years he became a jumpmaster, combat diver and sniper.
After a deployment to Iraq in 2008, he deployed to Afghanistan in January 2010 as part of a 12-man unit. He and his team found themselves fighting large numbers of Taliban militants in volatile Kunduz Province.
On one mission, one of their vehicles was struck by an IED, setting off a Taliban ambush. Fox News is told Martland rushed to the scene. He jumped in the turret of a damaged Humvee, exposing himself to enemy bullets while returning fire to help his teammates gather sensitive equipment.
"I thought he was gone, then he comes out of nowhere to save us," said an active-duty Green Beret who requested anonymity.
Martland was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions. According to one evaluation, he also was "praised" by Gen. David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
But very quickly, the Green Berets realized they had a problem with many of the Afghans they were training to become local police officers.
"We had been hearing for months about raping in our province, not just in Afghanistan," said Daniel Quinn, a West Point graduate and the team leader of the detachment sent to Kunduz.
One day in early September 2011 at their remote outpost, a young Afghan boy and his Afghan-Uzbek mother showed up at camp. The 12-year-old showed the Green Berets where his hands had been tied. A medic took him to a back room for an examination with an interpreter, who told them the boy had been raped by another commander by the name of Abdul Rahman.
After learning of the meeting, Rahman allegedly beat the boy's mother for reporting the crime. It was at this point, the Green Berets had had enough. Quinn and Martland went to confront Rahman.
"He confessed to the crime and laughed about it, and said it wasn't a big deal. Even when we patiently explained how serious the charge was, he kept laughing," Quinn said.
According to reports of the incident, Quinn and Martland shoved Abdul Rahman to the ground. It was the only way to get their point across, according to Quinn. "As a man, as a father of a young boy myself at the time, I felt obliged to step in to prevent further repeat occurrences," Quinn said.
Rahman walked away bruised from getting shoved and thrown to the ground, but otherwise OK, according to teammates. But Rahman quickly reported the incident to another Army unit in a nearby village. The next day a U.S. Army helicopter landed and took Quinn and Martland away, ending their work in Kunduz Province.
For the next few weeks, both soldiers remained in Afghanistan but were not allowed to continue their mission. They were given temporary jobs in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and later in Herat. Pending the outcome of the investigation, both men were relieved from their positions and sent home. Their war was over.
Quinn has since left the Army and started a job on Wall Street.
Martland, though, has been fighting to stay in the Army. In February 2015, the Army conducted a "Qualitative Management Program" review board. His supporters suspect because Martland had a "relief for cause" evaluation in his service record, the U.S. Army ordered Martland to be "involuntary discharged" from the Army by Nov. 1, 2015.
Culture is a difficult thing to change, as we've seen over the last decade and a half trying to win the "hearts and minds" of ordinary Afghans and Iraqis. Some of those hearts and minds that need changing still wear an American uniform.