NEWSROOM for May 18, 2001: To Serve a Nation
Aired May 18, 2001 - 04:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Coming up:
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think there's any greater way to live or to die, for that matter, than in service to your country.
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ANNOUNCER: The choice to serve.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did I tell you about getting behind (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember that our ultimate goal here is to transform them into Marines.
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ANNOUNCER: Inside the U.S. military.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who would ever think that you're fresh out of high school and you're monitoring the space shuttle, the International Space Station.
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ANNOUNCER: See how it happens. "To Serve a Nation," a CNN NEWSROOM special report.
Now from Robins Air Force Base in Atlanta, Georgia, here's Tom Haynes.
TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Hello and thanks for joining us for this special look inside the U.S. military. In the next half hour, we're going to show you a side of the armed forces you may have never seen before. In a moment, we'll take you on an extraordinary visit to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
First, the origins of America's fighting force. In June of 1775, the second Continental Congress approved formation of a standing military force to preserve, quote, "the liberties of America from the encroachment of King George III's government." The new country of the United States of America relied for its sovereignty on those early military skills.
Throughout the next century, as the country grew, so did its military. in peacetime, it was as few as 16,000 officers and men, the first war where the government conscripted soldiers. For the most part, the U.S. military was used to protect commerce and help with westward expansion. It was in the 1900s changes came more rapidly.
When Germany invaded France in 1940, men were required to sign up and be ready to serve if needed. After World War II, Congress wanted to repay its fighting patriots and passed the G.I. Bill of Rights, entitling ex-servicemen and women to help in finding affordable housing and paying for college.
The National Security Act of 1947 would transform the Air Corps from a division of the Army into the U.S. Department of the Air Force.
By executive order by President Harry Truman in 1948, blacks were integrated into the armed services.
After the Korean and Vietnam wars, the U.S. military turned once again to a voluntary service and offered benefits to help entice men and women to enlist. That and the training the armed services provides, as well as the knowledge that they are joining to serve a nation.
HAYNES: The Roosevelt was about 150 miles east of North Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean and there I was fast approaching in an F-18 Hornet flying Mach 1. The ship was on a training mission for Navy pilots to practice landings and takeoffs from the deck of the carrier.
In setting up the story, I was offered the chance to fly to the Roosevelt on the F-18. This is one of the most advanced, most sophisticated fighter jets in the United States naval fleet. The Navy required that I go through a series of training before I actually got to fly on the F-18. Once they determined I was physically fit to fly...
I always wanted to wear one of these, just to look cool.
I got into an outfit that I'd become very familiar with over the next few days: a flight suit and combat boots. This would be the beginning of a somewhat condensed version of flight school.
My first test of physical endurance came when I suited up to go on what's called a hypoxia chamber. Hypoxia is basically what happens to the body when not enough oxygen reaches the brain.
The ejection seat is one of those necessary components in a fighter jet, and they were very meticulous about teaching me how to safely operate the ejection seat in case anything happened on my flight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given the command, eject, eject, eject, pull on that handle and away he goes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job. If you feel no pain or discomfort, give me thumbs-up.
HAYNES: It was a complete rush.
That was great.
Just like the end of a roller coaster ride, I wanted to get on the seat and actually do it again.
Since my flight to the Roosevelt would be over water obviously, I had to go through water survival training.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do occasional hurt people doing this stuff.
HAYNES: I hooked up with a Navy class who was getting recertified at the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't fight the water.
HAYNES: I had to swim the length of the pool in the flight suit and actually stay afloat for two minutes.
That's a long two minutes.
I was totally exhausted and my day in the pool hadn't even begun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the bleachers.
HAYNES: For naval aviators, knowing how to escape from a submerged aircraft is real important. The shallow water Egress trainer is a cage-like contraption designed to simulate a ditched aircraft in shallow water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't kick your buddy.
HAYNES: You and a buddy basically swim through this thing under water and try to get out without kicking each other in the face. Unfortunately, one of the guys that went through wasn't so lucky. He got kicked right in the forehead.
If you eject from a fighter jet and parachute into the ocean, there's an actual danger that your chute will drag you several hundred feet through the water if it's a windy day. You need to be able to detach from your parachute to avoid being literally drowned to death.
And the payoff came when I was rescued by a helicopter waiting overhead. Not a real helicopter, but they actually simulate a helicopter rescue with wind and everything. It was actually pretty neat. Unfortunately, nothing could rescue me, though, from my final test of endurance: the infamous "helo dunker." It's the mother of all training obstacles in the Navy. Even people in the Navy are afraid of this thing.
The goal here is to simulate an actual helicopter crash under water. The most difficult test came when we were entering blindfolded to simulate a night crash. And they not only blindfolded us, but once we hit the water, the thing turned upside down.
I had trouble escaping the first time. I couldn't even find the buckle and I had to be rescued by one of the Navy SEALs who were swimming around the helo dunker.
MIKE HILTKE, AQUATICS INSTRUCTOR: It's very dramatic. Some people quit aviation community because of that device.
HAYNES: All the training finally paid off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's where we're going.
HAYNES: There I was on the tarmac of Oceana Naval Air Station about to go up in an F-18 Hornet. I felt like Tom Cruise. I mean, it was a beautiful day for flying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I want you to do now is to go ahead and basically put yourself in the seat.
HAYNES: Everything I learned in training seemed like a distant fog at that point. And once I got all settled in, it was time for us to fly.
It was an incredible feeling to be in this jet -- surreal, almost like a dream.
When we neared the Roosevelt, I could see the carrier out to my left-hand side. I couldn't imagine how we would land on this thing.
It was as if we crashed right into the carrier, except it was a -- actually, it was a perfect landing.
HAYNES: The choice to serve in the military doesn't necessarily mean a trip to your local recruiting office. If you want to be an officer, you can either join the ROTC at your school or you can go to a special officer school. But the best known path to a commission is through one of the military academies.
HAYNES (voice-over): Deep with the Hudson Valley in the state of New York...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now left, march. HAYNES: ... lies one of the most historic military institutions in the world. At West Point, the mission is to train America's future Army officers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're breeding officers who will leave here with a commitment to a lifetime of service to the nation. If we don't produce officers like that, then we're failing as an institution.
HAYNES: Col. Lance Bitros (ph) teaches history to West Point cadets. He says when it comes to the West Point record, history speaks for itself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think if we look at the record, West Pointers leave here in great numbers and do very important things, not just in uniform, but also even after they become civilians.
HAYNES: Unlike the average college or university, West Point cadets follow a rigorous daily schedule structured by the academy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going ashore at Normandy or fighting in North Africa...
HAYNES: A typical day includes classes, physical education, extracurricular and athletic activities, and of course study time.
Cadets even march to lunch. Traditions endure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Left, right, right.
HAYNES: Seniors carry sabers, cadets salute officers.
(on camera): West Point's role in American history dates back to the Revolutionary War. Its graduates are a testament to its reputation of excellence. And cadets who are educated here are reminded of that every day.
(voice-over): The academy traces its roots back to the late 1700s, before it was a learning institution. Then-Gen. George Washington used West Point as his central command post in the war for independence from Great Britain. After the United States won its independence, President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation converting the fort into a military academy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And by opening up West Point and creating an officer corps that would be selected, as I said, based on merit, then he would assure himself of a republican army, an army that's dedicated to the proposition that all men are equal and no one is better than anyone else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raise your hand were team captains in high school, president of the school body.
HAYNES: It's no accident that West Point graduates go on to achieve great things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feel free if, during the course of discussion, if you want to come over and join the scientific side or, conversely, come over here to our side, feel free to join.
HAYNES: In the Art of Military History class, they debate leadership skills and whether someone can be a natural-born leader.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you have to have some sort of natural ability, or else anybody could be a general. And that's obviously not true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that true?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to be born with leadership?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our intent is to have what we call a Socratic teaching experience whereby the professor will throw out an idea and then expect the students to dialogue on that idea.
HAYNES: Since Col. Sylvania Stayer (ph) began transforming the academic standard at West Point in the early 1800s, the academy has come a long way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're graduating people who we hope will be committed to a lifetime of service to this nation. And if we're successful in doing that, then we have contributed a great deal to our nation. And we're very, very proud of that.
HAYNES: As we continue, we want to shift focus now to the U.S. Air Force. When you think of the Air Force, the first thing that probably comes to mind is, well, flying. But the Air Force is about more than just planes. It's involved in aspects of your life you may have never considered.
HAYNES (voice-over): We live in a world...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1082, that was a south two vector, correct?
HAYNES: ... of fast-paced communication.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Jillian in Atlanta. Can you hear me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be the Texas call.
HAYNES: One that's connected by a complex web of technology. Much of that technology depends on the use of satellites, which relay information instantaneously around the world. We use satellites for things like banking, telecommunications...
AOL COMPUTER VOICE: You've got mail.
HAYNES: ... entertainment, weather information... (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Look out in space. Here's the low-pressure storm.
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HAYNES: ... navigation, and military operations.
The idea of a satellite orbiting the Earth was first imaged in the late 1600s. Sir Isaac Newton thought that if he could shoot an object high enough, it would orbit the Earth just like the moon. Nearly three centuries later, the first man-made satellite was launched.
Today, there are over 600 active satellites in space operated by 32 countries. In the United States, satellite technology is a billion-dollar industry...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, zero, liftoff.
HAYNES: ... with companies paying big money to have satellites built and launched into space.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ignited and burning.
HAYNES: At Vandenburg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California, they not only launch satellites, but they train the next generation of satellite operators.
MAJ. JOHN CHERRY, DIR., PUBLIC AFFAIRS: We train young people 18, 19, 20 years old to operate these multibillion-dollar systems. And then we actually give them the joy stick to let them operate these systems in a real-world environment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to talk now a little bit about what's known as a satellite ground track or ground trace.
HAYNES: In this class, young Air Force recruits learn the importance of driving a satellite once it reaches orbit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to carve out a particular path along the globe.
HAYNES: Soon they will be the ones communicating with satellites, making sure they're working properly, and in the correct orbit.
MICHAEL EICKHOFF, AIRMAN: I didn't even know there was a space field in the Air Force until I went down to pick my job or whatever. I just wanted to fly airplanes, actually.
BETHANY ANDERSON, AIRMAN: I always wanted to do something productive with my life. And being at this age and doing something this big, it makes me feel really good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the point at which it crosses the equator...
HAYNES: Once they finish training at Vandenburg, the Air Force dispatches new operators to one of several space monitoring stations across the U.S. You could be sent here, the 20th Space Surveillance Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. This is where young airmen track satellites and other man-made objects in space. Think of it this way. If an object in space, even as small as a thumb tack or a nail hits a satellite traveling 17,000 miles an hour, there's a good chance the satellite will be destroyed. Add the human element with astronauts aboard the space shuttle and the need for these space trackers becomes that much more important.
JULIAN WHITE, AIRMAN: This is where it's going to come into our coverage.
HAYNES: Twenty-year-old Julian White got his training at Vandenburg as well. He says since he's become a space tracker in Florida, he's come a long way.
WHITE: I think its a great opportunity for me to do what I'm doing now. I know a lot of my friends aren't doing anything like this back home.
HAYNES: To become a United States Marine, one must endure one of the toughest basic training programs of all the branches of the military. We wanted to find out why someone would subject themselves to such a grueling physical and emotional challenge, so we followed a group of young men and women from the very beginning as they embarked on an experience that would change their lives forever.
RASHANNA GREEN, AGE 18: After I swear in, this is what I'm going to be doing for a long time. I'm pretty sure it's going to be hard, but for some reason I'm not nervous yet. I think it's going to hit me when I get on that bus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can just feel it in my blood. We're going to be there any minute. Let me just wipe this smile off my face. Don't smile. No more smiling for us, guys. No more smiling for us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From here on, the last thing out of your mouth will be "sir." Do you understand me?
UNIDENTIFIED RECRUITS: Yes sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Louder. I said do you understand me?
UNIDENTIFIED RECRUITS: Yes sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the van, now. Get out of there now!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Head out and straight to the front.
STAFF SGT. TROY BELLE, U.S. MARINES: The minute you step off that van is business. It's time to grow up.
Do you understand me?
UNIDENTIFIED RECRUITS: Yes sir.
BELLE: You've accepted a challenge and it's time to face that challenge.
Open it. Open the door.
Hurry up. Give me a count of four now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't talk right now, but I'll get back to you later. But I'm here safe, OK?
BELLE: What we teach here is teamwork.
Sit in the chair.
It starts off with the haircuts, then moving on to hygienics where they get the first initial issue of uniforms, all the basic necessity hygiene equipment for the time that they're here at Paris Island.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go...
KURTIS WEINGARTEN, AGE 21: Never in my life had I been in a situation where it was the second your eyes opened in the morning it's just go.
CAPT. JOHN PICUDELLA, U.S. MARINES: Initially, there's a lot of shock factor in recruit training. These young men come in and they know to a certain extent that they're going to be shocked, putting them in a stressful situation. Recruit training is a highly stressful environment.
WEINGARTEN: Chow time is basically a little bit of time out of the day. It's get in there, eat your chow and get out and do what else is on the agenda for the day.
LT. COL. ROBERT CHASE, U.S. MARINES: This is actually training Day 1 for them. And today for the first time, they're out doing their organized physical training that will occur throughout the training syllabus. They're out here, they're getting constantly corrected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up the board now. Now!
CHASE: So right now they're confused, and still a little bit scared, I'm sure. The ultimate goal here is to transform them into Marines. My drill instructors take that as an ominous charter. I mean, they have to do this. This is serious to them. AQUILAS ZEPHIR, AGE 17: Since I've been here, I've found out the meaning of a Marine. A Marine is a warrior. You're trained to be a warrior. You're not trained to be this little, oh, look, I'm a Marine, I'm in a uniform, I made it. You're trained to be a warrior.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is it. This is it. Go Wade (ph). Run Wade, run. STAFF SGT. ROXANNE WALLACE, U.S. MARINES: We're doing close order drill today. All the movements that they know now they've been taught the first 10 training days. The basic that's important is discipline. So it's discipline and to follow and obey commands. the drill instructors give the commands and they have to know how to react off of it with a lot of intensity.
And when I say forward, you're going to go, column left, right.
The constant adjustment is so that they know where their arms are supposed to be, so that they know how to do the movement correctly. We do it quickly and we do it firm.
WILLIAM JONES, AGE 18: It's M-16 A-2 service rifle, the basic rifle. Every Marine is a rifleman.
WARRANT OFC. JIM FRALEY, U.S. MARINES: Any Marine, regardless of what his MOS is, needs to be able to take that rifle into combat and, number one, be able to defend himself, and, number two, be able to go on the offensive and take out the enemy objective. They're about halfway through their training evolution right now. They've been out here for a little over six weeks.
GREEN: This recruit has never shot her weapon before until now. It's invigorating, sir. It's the most fun that this recruit's had since she's been here.
GUNNERY SGT. ROBERT BROWN, U.S. MARINES: We let them explore the confidence course. The purpose for the confidence course is to build the recruit's confidence, obviously, and both physically and mentally to have them overcome the obstacles out here.
WEINGARTEN: You climb that stairway to heaven, look down at the top, you think, wow, I'm this high up. That's the biggest thing that I think this recruit's learned in recruit training, is confidence.
HANNIBAL MATTHEWS, AGE 20: This recruit's in a lot better shape than he was when he came here. This recruit's a lot more confident. Feels like he can conquer the world if he really wanted to.
HAYNES (on camera): How come you keep referring to yourself as this recruit?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While these recruits are in recruit training, these recruits refer to themselves as recruits. We're not "I"s or "me" or individuals anymore, we're together, we're a team now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Crucible is the finally event. It's basically a culminating event. Fifty-four hours long, we deprive them of rations. They're allowed four hours of sleep a day.
STAFF SGT. RONALD GEISLER, U.S. MARINES: The objective of the Crucible is to put them in an environment they're not used to and make them react to it just like in combat. It's going to challenge them. They're going to be tired, they're going to be hungry, they're going to be sore. WILLIAM JONES, AGE 18: You feel real good. It's early in the morning. We have our senior drill instructor leading us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recruits on their first day or their last hour on the Crucible, we want to keep the momentum going. We're motivating the recruits, keeping the intensity level up high so when they come on the course they attack the course.
You're going to be tearing this course apart, you understand that?
UNIDENTIFIED RECRUITS: Yes sir!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to be patient with each other. You have to learn to work together and settle your differences without arguing and wasting a lot of time and energy.
WALLACE: Puts them in a different frame of mind. It puts them under a lot of stresses that they don't really encounter on a day-to- day basis. They're going to have to have discipline, a positive mental attitude in order to accomplish this Crucible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you're seeing right now is the Event 6 of the Crucible. This is to simulate combat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Day 2. This is when they're getting hit. This is where the fatigue is getting them, the sleep deprivation is getting them, hunger is probably getting them pretty good.
HAYNES: Do you have any idea what time it is right now or what day it is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
HAYNES: What keeps you going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Knowing that I'll be a Marine tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we have to do is move the ladder to the other side. As time has been going on, it seems like the lack of sleep is getting to everyone. The teamwork is starting to break up a little.
WALLACE: They're tired, they're tired. And the only thing they have going for them right now is the motivation.
CHASE: They know that they have already made if farther than most and they're going to make it. There's some doubts, but they're not going to quit. Drill instructor's not going to let them. All their life, a lot of these kids have been given things. Now they've earned this. It's something that can never be taken away. It tells you that you have joined an elite group of people. I mean, these are average Americans doing extraordinary things. They have earned it. And to get it from their drill instructor, to get it from the person that has been their tormentor is phenomenal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made it. Good job. Good job.
You're proud. I helped train that person to become a United States Marine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Standing before you today is America's future. They have pushed, they have been prodded, they have low- crawled, drilled and double-timed all over every square inch of this island for the right to stand before you today as United States Marines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This Marine's mama's actually proud of this Marine for the first time in his life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wrote me a letter and told me he wanted to be like his grandfather, serve his country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't explain how proud you are of yourself, how everybody feels about what you've done. It's an amazing feeling.
HAYNES: This special look inside the U.S. military was a real eye opener for me: the sheer size of an aircraft carrier, the training someone goes through to become a United States Marine. I learned a lot. And I hope you learned a lot, too.
A special word of thanks to the men and women in all four branches of the service who opened their doors to us and to you for this exclusive look.
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4:30pm ET, 4/16