On Patrol

Until every one comes home | The Magazine of the USO

Helo-cast

February 5, 2016, 10:05AM

A Marine with 1st Raider Battalion, Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT), climbs a ladder into an MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 as part of a helo-cast off the coast of Guam, January 6. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chelsy AlaminaA Marine with 1st Raider Battalion, Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT), climbs a ladder into an MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 as part of a helo-cast off the coast of Guam, January 6. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chelsy Alamina

Nordic Frost

February 4, 2016, 1:05PM

Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, conduct their final exercise of Nordic Frost on Army Mountain Warfare Center in Ethan Allen, Vermont, January 13. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Kimberly AguirreMarines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, conduct their final exercise of Nordic Frost on Army Mountain Warfare Center in Ethan Allen, Vermont, January 13. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Kimberly Aguirre

Clearing the Deck

January 26, 2016, 2:05PM

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Clarke III shovels snow off the deck of a 25-foot Coast Guard boat on Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, N.J. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Ty Coulter Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Clarke III shovels snow off the deck of a 25-foot Coast Guard boat on Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, N.J. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Ty Coulter

Muddy Waters

January 12, 2016, 10:54AM

U.S. soldiers test the capabilities of the MRZR4 LT-All Terrain Vehicle in the Boeblingen Local Training Area, Germany, Jan. 5. Army photo by Jason Johnston U.S. soldiers test the capabilities of the MRZR4 LT-All Terrain Vehicle in the Boeblingen Local Training Area, Germany, Jan. 5. Army photo by Jason Johnston

Over Turkey

January 8, 2016, 1:03PM

U.S Air Force Major Steve Briones, left, and 1st Lt. Andrew Kim fly a KC-135 Stratotanker over Turkey, on Jan. 6. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook U.S Air Force Major Steve Briones, left, and 1st Lt. Andrew Kim fly a KC-135 Stratotanker over Turkey, on Jan. 6. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

No Pain, No Gain

December 28, 2015, 9:34AM

A soldier navigates an obstacle on Fort Benning, Georgia. The soldier is assigned to the 316th Cavalry Brigade, U.S. Army Armor School. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright A soldier navigates an obstacle on Fort Benning, Georgia. The soldier is assigned to the 316th Cavalry Brigade, U.S. Army Armor School. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright

Guardsmen Prepare for Christmas

December 21, 2015, 8:00AM

A New Jersey National Guard Soldier carries a tree at the Christmas Trees for New Jersey Military Families event at the Joint Military Family Assistance Center, Bordentown, New Jersey, December 14. Air National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Mark C. OlsenA New Jersey National Guard Soldier carries a tree at the Christmas Trees for New Jersey Military Families event at the Joint Military Family Assistance Center, Bordentown, New Jersey, December 14. Air National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Mark C. Olsen

Paratrooper Proficiency

December 17, 2015, 9:00AM

Army paratroopers descend to the ground at the Sicily drop zone on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, November 21. The soldiers were participating in the Saturday Proficiency Jump Program, which aims to allow paratroopers to build additional proficiency and confidence for airborne operations. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Charles CrailArmy paratroopers descend to the ground at the Sicily drop zone on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, November 21. The soldiers were participating in the Saturday Proficiency Jump Program, which aims to allow paratroopers to build additional proficiency and confidence for airborne operations. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Charles Crail

On a crisp early December morning with a hint of winter to come in the air, hundreds of soldiers wait patiently in line at Pope Field’s Green Ramp, each of them bearing gifts for children they would never meet. All of them are there for at least one reason: to participate in this year’s “Lottery Day.”

For one soldier, this would be his second morning spent outside waiting for what has become a Fort Bragg tradition.

Army Staff Sergeant Micheal Tkachenko, a military police officer with the 65th Military Police Company, arrived for the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop Lottery Day at 7:30 a.m. on December 3 -- a full day before the actual event. He and five other soldiers from his unit obtained their commander’s permission to attend Lottery Day early as an exercise of esprit de corps, as well as an opportunity to give back to the community, he said.

“It’s not just about yourself,” Tkachenko said.

Army Staff Sergeant Micheal Tkachenko waits in line to donate at the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, hosted by U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, December 3 at Pope Field, North Carolina. Army photo by Specialist Angela LordenArmy Staff Sergeant Micheal Tkachenko waits in line to donate at the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop, hosted by U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, December 3 at Pope Field, North Carolina. Army photo by Specialist Angela Lorden

Largest Combined Airborne Op

Operation Toy Drop, hosted annually since 1998 by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, collects toys to be distributed to children in need during the holiday season. Operation Toy Drop is the largest combined airborne operation in the world. Since its inception, it has collected more than 100,000 toys for the community.

In addition to Lottery Day, Operation Toy Drop collects toys in a variety of ways, including the annual Operation Toy Trot 5k race and via donation boxes at the post exchanges. Almost 1,000 paratroopers came out for Lottery Day, which offers airborne soldiers a chance to win one of 500 opportunities to jump with a partner-nation jumpmaster and earn foreign jump wings.

“If we get wings, it’s an extra bonus,” Tkachenko said. “But it’s more or less about just being able to participate and give back.”

Operation Toy Drop impacts the community in a lot of different ways, he said. It not only gives toys to underprivileged children, it also shows the community that the military is motivated about giving back.

“The community supports us and we support them,” he said. “We’re there to help them, not just collect a paycheck.”

More Than a Paycheck

Army Specialist Andrew Wood, an MP with the 65th MP Company and a soldier in Tkachenko’s squad, agreed that, for his squad leader, it has never been about the paycheck.

“He really cares,” Wood said. “He’s one of the [non-commissioned officers in charge] that would honestly catch a bullet for his [troops]. And he takes care of them anyway he can.”

A self-proclaimed family man, Tkachenko’s devotion to his soldiers and the military are derived from this title.

“I know some say the Army comes first, family second, but in my mind, Army is family,” Tkachenko said.

Tkachenko waited almost 26 hours to receive a blue lottery ticket. The enthusiasm shown by the first 10 people in line led Army Major General Daniel R. Ammerman, commander of U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, to bestow the first 10 people in line with certificates of appreciation and reserved seats on a plane that will give them an opportunity to earn their foreign jump wings.

Wings or no wings, Tkachenko had no regrets about attending lottery day, he said.

“I don’t come here for the wings,” he said.

For Tkachenko and the rest of the soldiers who brought gifts and waited in line in anticipation of a Fort Bragg tradition, this time of year was an opportunity to bond with their fellow soldiers, give back to the community that has supported them and share in the spirit of the holidays.

Coin Toss

December 16, 2015, 9:15AM

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, center, prepares to toss the coin before the start of the 2015 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, December 12. Department of Defense photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. GodbeeDefense Secretary Ash Carter, center, prepares to toss the coin before the start of the 2015 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, December 12. Department of Defense photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee

Exit Effort

December 10, 2015, 9:00AM

Marine Corps Captain Ericka Johnson conducts egress training on the Quantico Reserve Support Unit Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, November 20. The training replicates the effort required to exit an overturned vehicle. Johnson is a Legal Service Support Section defense attorney. Marine Corps photoMarine Corps Captain Ericka Johnson conducts egress training on the Quantico Reserve Support Unit Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, November 20. The training replicates the effort required to exit an overturned vehicle. Johnson is a Legal Service Support Section defense attorney. Marine Corps photo

Thumbs Up

December 9, 2015, 9:00AM

Navy Captain Christopher Bolt gives a thumbs up out of an E-2C Hawkeye during a safety check aboard the USS Ronald Reagan before takeoff in waters south of Japan, November 22. Bolt is the commanding officer of the Ronald Reagan. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan McFarlaneNavy Captain Christopher Bolt gives a thumbs up out of an E-2C Hawkeye during a safety check aboard the USS Ronald Reagan before takeoff in waters south of Japan, November 22. Bolt is the commanding officer of the Ronald Reagan. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane

Under the Wire

December 8, 2015, 9:00AM

Army 1st Sergeant Ricardo Gutierrez low-crawls under a wire obstacle during the assessment phase of the Best Ranger competition on Fort Jackson, South Carolina, November 24. Gutierrez is one of three Fort Jackson soldiers fighting for a position on a two-soldier team that will represent the post during the 33rd annual competition on Fort Benning, Georgia., in April 2016. Army photo by Sergeant 1st Class Brian HamiltonArmy 1st Sergeant Ricardo Gutierrez low-crawls under a wire obstacle during the assessment phase of the Best Ranger competition on Fort Jackson, South Carolina, November 24. Gutierrez is one of three Fort Jackson soldiers fighting for a position on a two-soldier team that will represent the post during the 33rd annual competition on Fort Benning, Georgia., in April 2016. Army photo by Sergeant 1st Class Brian Hamilton

On this day 74 years ago, the Japanese flung aerial torpedoes and bombs at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Thousands lost their lives and many others were injured during the attack. Today, we remember and honor those who sacrificed their lives and those who fought to preserve our nation’s freedom.

No one was expecting the first wave of bombs that came over the island of Oahu. The Japanese were dropping bombs into the ocean and watched them travel to the bottom of many ships followed by massive explosions.

The day Oahu was attacked, there were many losses. The attack had killed 2,390 people, left 1,158 Americans wounded, killed 49 civilians by friendly fire, destroyed 188 planes and sunk 21 vessels.  

Just before the attack, “Target is 33 miles, 330 degrees” could be heard over the radio. Following this, the Japanese successfully destroyed eight battleships, three cruisers and three destroyers. The first telegraph that came through that morning to all military personnel said, “Air raid, pertinent air power, Hawaii.” That’s when everyone knew to prepare.

Jack DeTour, a retired Air Force colonel and World War II veteran, speaks at a Blackened Canteen ceremony as part of the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration Anniversary at the USS Arizona Memorial, Hawaii, December 6. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Christopher Hubenthal Jack DeTour, a retired Air Force colonel and World War II veteran, speaks at a Blackened Canteen ceremony as part of the 74th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration Anniversary at the USS Arizona Memorial, Hawaii, December 6. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Christopher Hubenthal

During today’s 74th commemoration celebration of the Pearl Harbor attack, reconciliation was the recurring theme.

“We began walking the path to reconciliation on the USS Arizona 74 years ago,” said Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., Commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

Another thing the commemoration touched upon was the sense of community. It is not only a friendship we have with Japan, but also a sense of family.

“Here in Hawaii, we understand the importance of family, ‘Ohana’,” said Rear Admiral John Fuller, Commander of Navy Region Hawaii.

Guests from across the globe showed up to today’s commemoration. The governor of Alabama was present as well as representatives from India and Japan. Unmistakably, World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors were also in the audience today getting recognized by each guest speaker.

“A grateful nation applauds you today, as well as everyone here,” said Bob Sandla, the emcee of the event.

The USS Preble sailed across the harbor to honor the fallen, the survivors and all veterans at the ceremony. The destroyer also blew her horn rendering another form of honor for those who served during this time, 74 years ago.

The keynote speaker for today’s ceremony was professor and Pulitzer Prize winner David Michael Kennedy. He said he wanted to talk about the memories associated with “this place and this date.”

Sandla finished the ceremony with introducing a reverend for the benediction and a Marine Corps rifle salute.

We honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on this day and we recognize survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Motion in the Mediterranean

December 7, 2015, 9:00AM

Sailors conduct small boat operations in the Mediterranean Sea, November 30. The sailors are assigned to the USS Ross, which is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin StumbergSailors conduct small boat operations in the Mediterranean Sea, November 30. The sailors are assigned to the USS Ross, which is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Stumberg