Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles about military dependents that WATM will be presenting in concert with April’s Month of the Military Child
1. Amy Adams was born in Italy while her Army father was stationed at Caserma Ederle. He moved the family around for eight years before settling in Colorado.
2. Julianne Moore was also raised in an Army home (and was born on Fort Bragg).
3. LeVar Burton was born into an Army family at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. He would grow up to be the chief engineer of the USS Enterprise under Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
4. Luke Skywalker (actor Mark Hamill) was from a Navy family and even graduated from high school on Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. Strangely, Luke fights best on the Dune Sea. There must be a SeaBee in the family somewhere.
5. Robert Duvall was born into a Navy family. His father started at the Naval Academy at 16, made Captain at 39, and retired a rear admiral. His family is descended from the family of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Duvall served in the Army during the Korean War, but “barely qualified on the M-1 rifle in basic.” Still plays a badass Air Cav Commander, though.
6. Author and Church of Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard was born into a Navy family. Much of Hubbard’s travel throughout the Pacific is due to his father’s Navy career. He later served as a Naval officer himself, although his record has major discrepancies.
7. Author of the novel Push Ramona Lofton (best known by her pen name Sapphire) was raised in an Army household.
8. The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels (born Michael Shawn Hickenbottom) was raised in Arizona, England, and San Antonio, following his father’s Air Force career. He was a linebacker on Randolph Air Force Base’s high school football team.
9. Annie Leibovitz took her first photos when living with her father, an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, while he was stationed in the Philippines. She moved frequently with him.
10. Comedian Patton Oswalt was born to Larry Oswalt, a career Marine Corps officer – and was named for General George S. Patton.
11. Stephen Stills’ military childhood in places like Florida, Louisiana, Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador was an influence on his musical style. Crosby, Nash, and Young had equally interesting childhoods, though outside of the military.
12. Bruce Willis’ dad was a soldier who married a German woman while stationed there. Two years later, he moved the Willis family back to New Jersey.
13. James Woods’ father was an Army intelligence officer.
14. Tiger Woods was born to Lieutenant Colonel Earl Woods, an Army officer and Vietnam veteran.
15. Former MLB player Johnny Damon was born at Fort Riley, Kansas to Army Staff Sergeant Jimmy Damon.
16. Legendary Doors frontman Jim Morrison‘s dad was a Navy admiral, the youngest to attain flag rank at the time.
In the 241 years since the US declared independence from the English in 1776, the uniforms of those serving in the US Army have changed drastically.
Over the years, as the nation grew, uniforms, too, have evolved to fit the times and take advantage of changes in tactics and technology. In some cases, as this paper from US Army History notes, the changes were minor affairs, while in other cases, the look of the US Army was radically changed.
Nothing excites film audiences more than seeing their favorite characters get pushed to the brink of their physical and mental limits, just to see them return stronger than ever.
It’s no secret that in the military “newbies,” “FNGs,” or “boots” tend to be treated unfairly because of their low rank and inexperience. It happens more than you think. Some call it “playing games,” while others label it as “hazing.”
Some still consider hazing a necessary evil in training as it allows service members a way to earn the respect of their brothers. Typically, this is earned during drinking games (not passing out), or being the PT stud (not falling out) — rarely does it consist of violent acts these days.
But once Hollywood got wind of the concept, they decided to use it as a tool to dehumanize the military genre.
Stanley Kubrick was a fan of showing as much mental and physical torment as he could possibly pack into 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket.” It’s been said several times that this film was as true to life for Marine boot camp as it got. So you can bet that there has been a recruit or two that has been in a Marine drill instructor deadly grasp.
Everyone likes to attend a good party in someone else’s honor. Hazing has been attributed to a way of teaching a sh*tbag a valuable lesson the hard way. In the military, when one person screws up, everyone screws up.
Hopefully, you’re not the one sleeping during the party (WB/Giphy images)
4. Code red
We don’t condone waking up anyone in the middle of the night by beating them, but that isn’t to say it hasn’t happened before.
Makes you want to sleep with one eye open (Columbia/Giphy images)
Memorial Day is a time to remember the lives lost to preserve American freedom. It’s a solemn holiday most often spent by sharing a day off with loved ones, usually around a grill with a cold one in your hand. But as you enjoy a burger and a beer and share laughs with friends and family, take a minute to remember everyone who can’t be with their loved ones.
It’s really astonishing just how many people celebrate Memorial Day in America by having a cookout, watching a parade, and enjoying a frosty beverage. In fact, a staggering sixty percent of American households will spend one day during the Memorial-Day weekend at a barbecue — second only to Independence Day. Memorial Day is the second biggest period for beer sales in America and $1.5 billion will be spent on meat and seafood.
Even more astonishing is the number of volunteers that go out to cemeteries to plant the Stars and Stripes on the graves of fallen troops and veterans. While 1.5 million people watch more than a thousand active duty service members in the National Memorial Day Parade and 900,000 people gather for the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle rally in our nation’s capital, over 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery will be adorned with flags by volunteers.
More than 45 million men and women have served the United States in a time of war (you know, doing that thing we all got our National Defense Service Medal for) and more than 1.35 million American men and women have died fighting in armed conflicts around the globe. So, with all these numbers in your head, remember that the most important of all is “three.” At 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Americans everywhere will put down the burger, turn off the TV, and take a moment in silence.
The National Moment of Remembrance is where we forget our personal and political differences for and come together as a nation to remember those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, freedoms, and privileges as Americans — so we can enjoy that burger, watch that TV, and ride our motorcycles.
So, take a moment. 3pm, Memorial Day. Be there.
Here are a few more interesting numbers surrounding Memorial Day.
Iran has made waves announcing new weapons, like the Bavar 373 and Qaher 313 in recent years, and they’ve been conducting a lot of tests. Iran even claimed to have copied the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” reconnaissance drone after one of the American spy planes made a forced landing in Iran.
But are these systems paper tigers? According to the National Interest, the Iranians may not have thought through their Qaher 313 very well. In fact, the Qaher 313 may be in the pantheon of “most useless combat planes” that includes such luminaries as the Boulton-Paul Defiant and the Brewster F2A Buffalo.
In fact, when Iranian-made versions of the Chinese C-802 missile were fired at American ships on multiple occasions this past October by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, they failed to score any hits, and drew a retaliatory strike.
The Qaher 313 is touted as Iran’s fifth-generation stealth fighter, capable of carrying 2,000-pound bombs, Chinese PL-12 missiles, and other weapons. That’s the hype. But what is the reality?
The claim drew skepticism, with the National Interest reporter recalling a comparison of the Qaher 313 to a GI Joe toy. One of the reasons is that the Iranians appear to only have the option of using reverse-engineered versions of the J85 engine, which is used on their inventory of F-5E Tiger fighters.
The aircraft’s size has also caused some discussion, with some believing that the Iranians displayed a small-scale mock-up. Others, though, have claimed that the plane is just a propaganda exercise — and a poorly executed one, at that. Haaretz.com called the plane a “glorified mock-up” that “won’t cause any panic in the Israeli Air Force’s intelligence wing.”
This isn’t the only such dispute. Iran’s claims to have copied the RQ-170 also drew skepticism, with some claiming the Iranians had built a static mock-up. It should be noted that Iran has successfully built naval vessels, notably the Jamaran-class frigates and the Peykan-class missile boats, as well as an indigenous coastal submarine.
An Iranian semi-official news agency says the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has built a third underground facility designated to produce ballistic missiles.
On May 25th, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted the chief of paramilitary’s airspace division, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, as saying the force will “continue to develop our missile capacity” and that U.S. concerns over the country’s ballistic program are of no significance to Iran.
According to the report, the site is the third underground production facility for ballistic missiles in Iran. The report did not provide more details, say where it’s located and if and how many missiles have already been produced there.
Iran has long boasted of having missiles that can travel 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), placing much of the Middle East, including Israel, within range.
The regular NFL season is over now. Twelve teams are preparing for the postseason while twenty more are going back to the drawing board.
For most of our teams, the season will not end well. For some of us, our teams will be merely disappointing. Some will go down in flames. Others may even inexplicably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The NFL has a lot in common with the military. Like a battle, football requires discipline, endurance, and teamwork. Each team has its own culture, fan base, trials, and tribulations. To celebrate the crowning glory of what is the most American of sports, we decided to make sense of the 2015-2016 season’s ups and downs by comparing the teams to military film and television characters.
Arizona Cardinals – Lt. Dan Taylor, Forrest Gump
The Cardinals are one of the NFL’s longest continual franchises who still don’t have a Super Bowl win. It’s like Lt. Dan’s family tradition of fighting in every major war: none of his ancestors lived long enough to see the big win. Maybe this time will be different?
Atlanta Falcons – Anthony “Swoff” Swofford, Jarhead
Everything started off so promising. A 5-0 start, the best since 2012. But it never really went anywhere. Like Swoff going through hell to become an elite Marine: When it came down to it, it was all for naught. Swoff never got to fire his rifle. The Falcons lost 8 of their last 11 games. Just… disappointing. But like the Marines returning to Iraq in 2003, there’s always next year.
Baltimore Ravens – Sgt. Barnes, Platoon
This unit lost man after man until everyone watching was filled with dread and a sense of pathos soured their crab cakes. After so many player losses went down, everything else went downhill too. Unit cohesion became a disaster and no one outside of Maryland shed a tear when they died. The Ravens are also notoriously paranoid.
Buffalo Bills – Chief Casey Ryback, Under Siege
If a team were represented by their fans at home games, the Bills would be Jeff Portnoy from Tropic Thunder. Luckily (and surprisingly) the Bills 8-8 season was much better than anyone expected, thanks in no small part to ex-Flacco backup Tyrod Taylor. Taylor’s performance can be likened to the ship’s cook of the USS Missouri, who was actually a Navy SEAL.
Carolina Panthers – Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, We Were Soldiers
The Panthers had the second oldest average age of any team in the NFL, edged only by the Colts. Unlike the Colts’ geriatric gameplay, the Panthers’ translated into solid veteran status, going 15-1 and earning the #1 seed in the playoffs. No one is looking forward to running into Carolina in the postseason, nor should they be.
Chicago Bears – Pvt. Mellish, Saving Private Ryan
I’m only guessing here, but I bet this scene perfectly illustrates the experience of being a Bears fan and/or player throughout the 2015 season.
Cincinnati Bengals – Sgt. Nicholas Brody, Homeland
Are you really good? Is everything what it appears to be? It’s been so long. Can we tell for certain? There’s only one thing Cincinnati fans know for certain: No one trusts you. Also: Ginger. Also: Nice reg haircut.
Cleveland Browns – The Cast of Tropic Thunder, Tropic Thunder
Other teams have had worse records, other teams have their messes, but the Browns keep doing the same thing year after year: new coach, new QB, new outlook, same outcome. It’s like the Browns aren’t even an NFL team anymore. They’re more of a parody of football, skewering the entire culture of the NFL and its fandom. Unlike Tropic Thunder, there’s no happy ending.
Dallas Cowboys – PFC William Hudson, Aliens
A once-awesome team whose season started off with solid wins fell apart at the first sign of despair. And “despair” was the word of the season. Quarterback after quarterback would come to Dallas and meet their fate while the team struggled to keep it together long enough to pull in four total wins.
Denver Broncos – John Rambo, First Blood
The Broncos were quietly awesome in 2015. Not a lot of flair, the Broncos just went about their business trying to get to a Super Bowl. They weren’t amazing on offense for much of the season but like Rambo taking on some know-nothing cops in the woods, the defense demolished offenses one-by-one, losing only four games with three of those by one score or less.
Detroit Lions – Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump
No one really dislikes the Lions. We don’t really understand them either. For many of us, they’re like a family member, in that we see them once in a while and they always show up to Thanksgiving. They definitely aren’t stupid and they show us all the time the amazing things they’re capable of doing. And just like Forrest Gump, they aren’t winning a Super Bowl anytime soon.
Green Bay Packers – Capt. Jimmy Wilder, Independence Day
Jimmy had confident leadership with an obvious record of success. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have what it takes to survive til the end. The Packers are much the same way. They have a chance to be Capt. Hiller if they can just keep their mask on, but they’re looking at a formidable wall of alien spaceship shaped like a giant Carolina Panther.
Houston Texans – Jean Rasczak, Starship Troopers
Maybe it’s just J.J. Watt, but the Texans always seem angry to me. Like if a Texan doesn’t play hard enough, Watt will hurt them himself. This might explain all their QB injuries.
Indianapolis Colts – Pvt. James Ryan, the beginning end of Saving Private Ryan
As of September’s cut down day, the Indianapolis Colts were the oldest team in the NFL, meaning oldest average age of its players, (and it’s not just because of Adam Vinatieri, age 43). And they played like it at times, going 8-8. Those eight wins were against teams with a losing record and within one score against teams with a winning record. Extra points awarded for never giving up.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Blame this on ownership. When owners change, the team should change a bit. Owner Shahid Khan has had years to get something going for the people of Jacksonville, who paid $63 million in upgrades for the stadium in 2013 only to receive a Jacksonville team with a record of 3-13. Everyone should be screaming about this.
Kansas City Chiefs – John Rambo, Rambo III
They seemed reluctant at first but around week seven the Chiefs decided they had enough. With the gusto of Rambo going to rescue Col. Trautman, they demolished the perennial favorites Broncos and Steelers and trounced a resurgent Bills. This team who started 1-5 very nearly won the conference championship.
Miami Dolphins – Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg
Because no one lives in the past like the Miami Dolphins.
Minnesota Vikings – Sgt. 1st Class Sanderson, Black Hawk Down
Just as skilled and capable as Norm “Hoot” Hooten, but not nearly as interesting. The Vikings were able to beat the Chiefs once this season, but really spent Sundays taking down Chargers, Lions, and Bears most of the time. Still a winner, but not a Hoot.
New England Patriots – Chris Kyle, American Sniper
Some people love you, some people hate you. None of that matters, because you’re among the best there is whether they like you or not.
New Orleans Saints – The entire cast of The Alamo
It turns out defense is pretty important. No one proves that more than the Saints.
New York Giants – Col. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now
Watching the Giants’ 2015 season was like watching a once-formidable force just begging to be put out of its misery.
New York Jets – Capt. Virgil Hilts, The Great Escape
Being the only team with a winning record to not make the playoffs is like escaping from a Nazi prison camp on a motorcycle, only to be captured on the Swiss border. They were so close, only to be sent back to the cooler.
Oakland Raiders – Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator
An old man dies and now once great team is surrounded by people rejected by the everyone else and all they can think about is moving to the Coliseum.
Philadelphia Eagles – Capt. Dave “Captain America” McGraw, Generation Kill
No team’s on- and off-field behavior draws more head shaking than Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Animal Mother, Full Metal Jacket
Full of guts, but no ideals: The Steelers snuck into the playoffs after a lucky Jets loss gave them the edge. You have to respect Animal Mother, though. He’s there because he knows how to do what he’s been trained to do and he’s good at it. Just like Pittsburgh.
St. Louis Rams – Nick, The Deer Hunter
St. Louis fans have seen seasons like this so often, they must be mentally broken by now. Every year, the talk of the Rams moving to LA has to wear on both the fans and the team. If they don’t move this year, spin the barrel for another 7-9 season and see what happens when you pull the trigger.
San Diego Chargers – Capt. Herbert Sobel, Band of Brothers
It’s not that the Chargers lack the will to succeed. It’s just that they lack the skill to succeed. So they’ll be moved somewhere which might be a better fit. Currahee!
San Francisco 49ers – Sgt. Elias, Platoon
The days of the 49ers being a “nice” team are over, and probably have been for a long time. Like the death of everything Sgt. Elias represented in Platoon, we can probably count on the 49ers becoming more and more desperate to do whatever it takes to win as time goes on.
Seattle Seahawks – Maverick, Top Gun
Seattle is eminently likable despite a few personality flaws, flaws which led the them through the team’s ups and downs this season. Despite those few losses, the Seahawks are still among the best there is.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Pvt. Timothy Upham, Saving Private Ryan
The ultimate letdown. Sure, they have a much-talked-about leader but they also have all the skills they don’t need. When the time came to do or die, Upham didn’t even have the nerve to die. There’s always next year, but some of the guys on their roster won’t be around for it. Whose fault is that?
Tennessee Titans- PFC Blackburn, Black Hawk Down
You fell out of a helicopter before the fighting even started and you stayed down the whole time. You brought a lot of people down with you. A new QB made everyone feel like the Titans were a new, fresh team. There was hope. Then it all became a mess. Also, all the football references in Black Hawk Down are great reminders of the Titans’ most famous one yard line play.
Washington Redskins – The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, Glory
No one expected much from Washington this year. Despite every bad thing said about them, the Voldemorts of the NFL showed up to play every game of the season, finishing 9-7 and winning the NFC East. In their next battle, they’ll be mercilessly thrown at a formidable opponent and their leader will probably be taken down with them.
While the F-35 Lightning II continues its turbulent march to combat readiness, the jet’s manufacturer posted better than expected quarterly revenue earnings on Tuesday.
Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, also lifted its 2016 revenue and profit forecasts for a second time — despite significant snags in developing America’s most expensive arms program.
Considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, Lockheed Martin’s stock also posted a record high of $261.37 in early trading on Tuesday. What’s more, the world’s largest defense contractor’s shares were already up approximately 18% this year.
And all of this is great news for the troubled fifth-generation stealth fighter jet.
“(The) consensus expectations are finally positive for the F-35 and for improvement in the defense budget, which has led to a higher valuation,” Bernstein analyst Douglas Harned wrote in a note, according to Reuters.
The now nearly $400 billion F-35 weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16, and F-18 aircraft.
Lockheed Martin’s “jack of all trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all while using the most advanced available stealth capabilities.
Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.
The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.
As it stands now the Pentagon expects to buy 2,457 of these supersonic warplanes.
According to Lockheed Martin, sales in its aeronautics business, the company’s largest, rose 6% in the past three months due to delivery of 14 F-35s.
The company has said it plans to deliver 53 F-35 jets in 2016, up from 45 a year earlier.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles believed to have been fired by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen Oct. 9. Both missiles missed the 9,200-ton vessel and landed harmlessly in the waters of the Red Sea.
The latest near miss comes eight days after HSV-2 Swift was attacked and hit by at least two RPGs. The U.S. Navy reported that the Mason used “onboard defensive measures” as soon as the first missile was launched.
The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)
While the Mason carries a variety of weapons to address incoming aircraft and missiles — including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun, and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which take out the incoming aerial threats physically, or achieving a “hard kill” — the Navy says the ship used so-called “soft kill” systems to avoid a hit.
Soft kill systems work by fooling the inbound threat and getting it to hit where the targeted vessel isn’t.
The Mason has two such spoofing systems on board, the AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite, and the Mk 36 Super RBOC chaff system. The AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite is on virtually every Navy surface ship. The system works by jamming radar seekers of anti-ship missiles, causing them to either pursue phantom targets or by reducing the effective range of the seeker, enabling the ship to evade the missile.
The Mk 36 Super RBOC system usually works with the AN/SLQ-32, and works by firing rockets that dispense chaff (essentially aluminum foil), creating false targets to confuse the seeker of an incoming missile. These “foil packets,” to use Chappy Sinclair’s term from the original Iron Eagle, were first used in World War II to confuse German radar.
Chaff was heavily used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. In one incident, a British frigate successfully decoyed a missile using chaff, but the missile then locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, sinking the merchant vessel, which was carrying helicopters to reinforce the British forces trying to re-take the Falklands from Argentina.
The Mason was one of three vessels sent to assist HSV-2 Swift after the 1 October attack that damaged the vessel and started fires. Houthi rebels, surrogates for the Iranian regime, claimed to have sunk the vessel. Iran has been known to export anti-ship missiles like the Noor (a knock-off of the C-802 anti-ship missile). One exported missile damaged the Israeli corvette Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.
Yemen has been a risky place for U.S. vessels in the past. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole was damaged while refueling in Aden in October 2000. Despite having a 40×60-foot hole punched in her hull, the Cole returned to active service.
When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March of 2016, the thought of two colossal superheroes clashing on the big screen brought out huge box office numbers for its opening weekend. But despite the initial hype, the pedestrian offering saw a huge drop-off in enthusiasm the following week, as poor word-of-mouth reviews plagued it: the final product, as usual, not living up to expectations
Batman versus Superman, on its face, seems such an intriguing construct though. We are unabashedly drawn to comparisons like Willie v The Mick, the US Government v John Gotti, et al, and iPhone v Android.
But what if we were to compare two REAL superhero castings? Let’s say, the US Army’s Rangers and the US Navy’s SEALS. And just for sh*ts and giggles, what if we compared their individual crucibles — their selection processes — and attempted to discern which was the harbinger for guaranteed future toughness or success? Let’s attempt to glean which selection program applied the most pain to its candidates. Is graduating from Ranger School a more daunting task than making it through the Navy’s difficult Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training? And is earning a Ranger tab easier or more difficult than being awarded a SEAL Trident?
And, which course actually results in more drop on requests–a fancy term for quitting? And how can we compare completion rates?
The comparative analysis is difficult. To my knowledge, I haven’t heard of any former Rangers or SEALS transferring service branches and then embarking on the pursuit of their new branch’s most elite distinction. Maybe there does exist the unique American stud — or committed glutton for punishment — who chose this path of dual misery, and accomplishment. But I haven’t come across any stories chronicling some. With this in mind, I am going to share my reflections on some unique experiences I was privileged to have been afforded during my thirty-three years of government service.
That professional service began when I graduated from West Point in 1987 and was branched as an officer into the Infantry. During the course of my four-year military career, I attended Army Ranger school and graduated with class 4-88. I turned 23 while incarcerated in the mountain phase, endlessly trekking up and down the formidable peaks of the Tennessee Valley Divide. While I wasn’t the class Honor Graduate, I did fairly well throughout the demanding course of instruction and was lucky enough to graduate with my tab, on time, and without being recycled to repeat a phase.
I served during the Cold War Era and the American military buildup precipitated by President Reagan’s stare-down of the Soviets. The 10th Mountain Division had just been reconstituted in 1985, following its long dormancy beginning when WWII ended. Officers and non-coms were selected for the unit’s rebirth only if they possessed the coveted tab. Division brass was intent on modeling the 10th after the Ranger battalions. My assignment to the 10th was contingent on my graduation from Ranger School. Failure to graduate meant a reassignment to the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), and the embarrassing stigmatization that would assuredly follow that failure.
From those fledgling days of (re)existence, the 10th Mountain Division has now distinguished itself as a solid and repeatedly deployed war-fighting machine in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it’s mid-1980’s formation with Ranger leadership was critical to its early success and reestablished prestige as a unit. So, in mid-March of 1988, I arrived at 2-14 Infantry battalion headquarters in my starched BDU’s with freshly attached Ranger tab.
The tab carries with it a certain distinction. And that respect for its woven black and gold threads stems from the hardship endured to earn it — the US military being one of the last bastions of meritocracy in this new 21st century era of everyone-gets-a-trophy.
Historically, the failure rate at the US Army Ranger School fluctuates between 50% – 65%. A portion of those failures, DORs, are self-inflicted. There doesn’t appear to be available statistical data that highlights just how many of those failures are related to DORs.
So, after ETSing from the Army on February 1, 1991, I packed up my quarters at Ft. Drum, NY, loaded my then-wife, newborn son, and two rescue dogs into my ’88 Chevy Blazer, and headed south to the FBI Academy at Quantico, VA, where I began the 20-week course to become an FBI Special Agent. In June of same year, I posted to the FBI’s New York City Office’s Brooklyn-Queens Metropolitan Resident Agency, and began a proud 25-year career as a Fed.
Along the way, I was selected for the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, where I served as a counter-terrorist operator on Echo Assault Team from 1997 – 2001.
And in the Fall of 1998, while serving as one of Echo Team’s divers, and recently returned from deployments to Africa (US Embassy bombings) and North Carolina’s Nantahala Forest (search for ’96 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph), I was suddenly tapped to deploy to Coronado, California, with three of my fellow HRT diver teammates, for a once in a lifetime experience.
I was an “old man,” all of 33 years. And though I was in peak physical condition, having spent almost a year and a half lifting, and running, and training at a HIGH level … I was in for a rude awakening.
It was September of 1998, and Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I checked into the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and were officially informed we’d be joining BUD/S class 220. We had just offloaded our rental cars and strode across the sand dunes separating the BUD/S compound from the Pacific Ocean. Worst thing we could have done was to time our arrival with the conduct of Hell Week for BUD/S class 221. Long before casual observers had been treated to Discovery Channel documentaries on the course of instruction to become a SEAL, the four of us took in the spectacle.
Exhausted youngsters — many between 18 – 20 years old — slogging along at the water’s edge, ferrying inflatable RHIBs, lifting massive logs over their heads, performing a staggering amount of “corrective actions” — flutter kicks, crunches, push-ups, and bear crawls. All accompanied by the monotonous, annoying, and ever-present Instructor “motivationals” echoed through a hand-held loud-hailer.
After we’d ingested all the observed pain and misery we could and signed in at NWSC, my HRT colleagues and I made our way over to the Second Phase HQ, a low-profile, nondescript group of single-story military buildings, and introduced ourselves to the cadre.
“All good,” the congenial class proctor stated. Get over to the BOQ on Mainside. Drop your gear off, change into UDT shorts and your yellow HRT PT shirts, and we’ll meet you at the pool for your qualifying PT test — 500 meter swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and mile and a half run in Bates brand combat boots. We even rolled our wool socks down over our boots exactly the way the SEALs did.
When in Rome…
And so it began. After easily completing the fit test required of all BUD/S aspirants, we joined class 220 as they began the initial stages of Phase Two. The classroom portions on Dive Physics weren’t too daunting — the four of us had the benefit of college degrees — but the daily regimen of early morning PT was an eye-opener. Yes, the four of us were quite fit. But we were also in our thirties, and didn’t take part in the same skill-specific training one receives in the BUD/S preparatory course the Navy offered its young sailors interested in becoming frogmen. And we didn’t have the benefit of true youth. If we were professional athletes, we’d be desperately trying to find an organization to sign us, so we could come off the bench, with a head coach “managing our minutes.”
We also didn’t have the benefit of having taken part in the first phase of BUD/S; that unforgiving crucible that weeds out the weak and strengthens the committed. The relationship between the USN and HRT was a long and durable one. Many of the early generation FBI-HRT operators had been SEALs (as well as former Rangers, Green Berets, and Marines). Compared to the military’s special operations units, HRT was an infant, having come on line in 1983, as a civilian counter-terrorist option for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The ’72 debacle in Munich was a not-so-distant memory. And US law precluded the military from acting as law enforcement inside the United States.
So, here’s the thing: While I was certainly younger and my body more resilient as a 23-year-old when I completed Ranger School, ten years later, when I attended the Dive Phase of BUD/S — open circuit (SCUBA) and closed circuit (LAR-V rebreather) — with my HRT colleagues, I was certainly more experienced, savvy, and skillful at my craft. But that didn’t aid in the recovery time my body desperately needed between evolutions at BUD/S. Every night, the four of us limped back to our BOQ and attempted to “heal” before the fun began again the next morning, bright and early.
On the ground (or in the sand), we were the BUD/S students equals. We four were strong runners and could complete the grinders of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, and crunches as well as any of the kids in 220. On the beach, during timed four mile runs, we were more than their equals, often having to hold back so as not to bring the SEAL Instructors’ wrath down upon our classmates, as in:
“Hey, you pathetic pieces of human filth and fecal matter, why are you letting these old-ass FBI-HRT guys beat you on a timed run? You’ll all be ‘paying the man’ if you allow this to happen again!”
Yes, the typical SEAL Instructor was wicked smart and imbued with a great sense of wit and timing.
We reined in our run times, not wanting to cause any more pain to the young men who so graciously accepted us into their fraternity — despite the fact we hadn’t shared the excruciating pain of First Phase and Hell Week with them.
One of the most special gifts I’ve ever received in the course of my life was to be afforded a Hell Week t-shirt from BUD/S class 220. This class-specific attire made us feel a part — if only for a moment — of their exclusive club. It was truly an honor and I cherish the now tattered shirt emblazoned with the class motto that borrowed from William Ernest Henley’s short and powerful Victorian poem Invictus:
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
During the course of our “internment” at BUD/S, we also participated in the required weekly SEAL Obstacle Course completion. It was an ass-kicker. And again, as I reminisced about my days at Ranger School and tangling with the infamous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, I have to give this round to the SEALs, as well. In the summer of 1998, we HRT guys were fit, relatively young, nimble, agile, and strong. We had all the necessary tools required to excel at the SEAL Obstacle Course. But it was still a daunting task to make the required times. We did so, narrowly, and aided by the Instructor allowance for us to use a rope traversing technique that wasn’t available to the BUD/S students in Second Phase. [Full disclosure: we were also permitted to discreetly utilize calculators for the long division and multiplication required in the classroom on the dive physics exams]
Well, as proficient as we HRT guys found ourselves in PT, on the sand dunes and while partaking in the dreaded “soft sand runs,” we quickly ascertained that the water, however, was a different story altogether. Here’s where those same young kids flat-out kicked our assess. On the weekly open-water two-mile swims, Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I were “competent.” We were all notably strong swimmers who had been hand selected by HRT Dive Team cadre to “represent” at BUD/S.
While we consistently barely made the required times, we were often the last, or next to last teams to come in.
But we were in no condition to compete with the damn dolphins that BUD/S students typically morphed into by Second Phase. The water became our Waterloo of sorts.
But it was pool competition, or pool comp in SEAL shorthand, that really cemented for me what the BUD/S experience was about, and just why SEALs are a cut above all others in the Special Operations community.
And, yes, we four HRT guys participated in pool comp.
And, again, it was another eye-opener.
SEAL Instructors had their own comically dreadful names for the knots they would tie in your hoses underwater. As a BUD/S student, your job was to diligently cycle through a sequence of trouble-shooting procedures to untangle the mess of knotted hoses and restore your air supply…while on a breath-hold. And you had to do so without exhibiting any signs of panic. We were treated to the Matlock and the Babilock — two impossibly difficult and deviously conceived knots named after two particular SEALs on the cadre. Failure to extricate your gear from the wicked devices of the seasoned knot-tying instructors OR failure to work through the prescribed sequence for trouble-shooting your crippled gear led to a failure. Two failures in the same event and you earned a rollback — just like the nefarious recycle at Ranger School — to the next class, if you were lucky not to be dropped from the course.
There’s a reason that, as Rob O’Neill, former SEAL Team Six counter-terror operator — the man who killed Bin Laden — stated to Howard Stern recently, on his eponymous Sirius radio program, that some 85% of BUD/S attendees don’t graduate.
BUD/S is tough — even the teensy-weensy taste of it that I experienced. It’s REALLY tough. And it sucks.
Ranger School was “uncomfortable” and difficult for all the reasons that include sleep deprivation, starvation, and relentless physical overexertion. It was a grind. And reports from recent graduates confirm it’s STILL a grind.
At BUD/S, however, they fed you lots of chow, and in Second Phase, getting eight solid hours of sleep was never an issue. But just as in Ranger School, you had to perform, to make sound decisions, to accomplish critical military tasks and objectives when your body was futilely attempting to heal, and always with the overzealous instructors omnipresent in your ear…
…but you did it at depth.
Whether at the bottom of the 15-foot pool, on the Coronado Bay side, or in the unforgiving waters of the Pacific Ocean, performing at depth takes special operations training to another level entirely. We were forced to conduct doff and don procedures, and buddy-breathing exercises — you know, like sharing the same oxygen supply at depth and while performing tasks like an equipment exchange. There were insanely long breath-holds, while enduring the Instructor-assaults associated with the dreaded pool comp. Then there was the archaic (by design) and cumbersome Jacques Cousteau era twin 80’s tanks and leaky two-hose regulators which made for a purposeful panic-induced set of pass/fail evolutions. Yes, I believe the experiences to be the closest thing to waterboarding — sanctioned “almost-drowning” — that there is. And it’s legal!
Learning to dive with the Dräger (or Draeger) closed circuit rebreather gear — the LAR-V — was the purpose behind sending HRT divers to BUD/S. So, no, in a civilian law enforcement capacity, there’s no need to learn the craft of placing limpet mines on enemy ship hulls. However, learning the advanced system of transit-diving that allows an operator to approach a target underwater, bereft of telltale bubbles is a key skillset for HRT to have at its disposal. That was the purpose behind the relationship we had with the Navy and is how we ended up enrolled in the Second Phase of BUD/S.
The advanced dive skills we learned were necessary. The voluntary participation in PT and mild hazing — being dropped for push-ups or forced to become “wet and sandy” — the “sugar cookie” punishment — was part of earning our stripes and being accepted as outsiders within the close-knit SEAL and BUD/S community.
Make no mistake about it — we weren’t to become SEALs and weren’t subjected to a fraction of what the Navy candidates endured, but we certainly gained a modicum of appreciation for the process.
And again, as difficult as Ranger School was to complete, the 8 weeks I spent at BUD/S proved that there’s a clear distinction between difficult and difficult-at-depth.
Apologies, fellow Rangers, but this round goes to the Navy’s SEALs. I’ve been up close and personal with both Selection processes. 81 torturous days at Ranger School did not compare to the tiny portion of the year of misery available to BUD/S candidates that I experienced.
Rangers, can I get a Hooah!
And SEALs, while we’re at it, how about a Hooyah!
And let’s forever remember that we’re ALL part of the same team!
God bless the United States of America and God bless and protect our brave Special Operators who continue to confidently stride into places full of wrath and tears, and do so bravely, selflessly and willingly.
World War II has given the video game industry plenty of material, but a good World War I game is pretty hard to find.
Not anymore. A recently-released game set on the early 20th century battlefields puts players into the trenches, and it’s surprisingly good.
The first World War was a very different kind of war. Soldiers often served in long stalemates between trench lines, or “went over the top” to attack the enemy. It was often a battle for just inches of more ground, and not allowing game players to move very far seems a bit counterintuitive in a game.
With the game “Verdun,” the developers took an innovative approach to this problem, and made a World War I game actually worth playing. The developers went to great lengths to use historically accurate equipment, uniforms, and weapons, and they used reconnaissance photos — and in some cases walked the ground — to recreate the landscape of 1914-1918 France.
Still, a game that looks realistic could still turn out to be terrible. The gameplay is important, and “Verdun” excels in this area. While it’s a first-person shooter game, “Verdun” requires players to work along with their squad, much like they would if they really were in an infantry unit.
What makes Verdun so different from other first-person shooters is the way battles ebb and flow. Some players are instructed to assault individual enemy strongpoints, while others are told to defend. Anyone who disobeys an order by moving outside the engagement area is killed — effectively shot on the spot for cowardice.
“The maps are a composition,” Hoebe said. “This imagery can all be found through Google. There are large collections of postcards on Flickr, but also Belgian towns post their historical collections online. I pretty much went through the extent of what could be found … and compressed this into on overall image.
The gameplay is unlike your typical World War II shooter or, any modern shooter for that matter. If you enjoy running around blasting the bad guys in “Call of Duty” while enduring quite a few hits, the realism of this game will certainly be a surprise.
“If you’re going into Verdun with a mind to cut about the place, emptying hot lead into the faces of all and sundry with reckless abandon, then you can quite rightly expect to be put into the ground very quickly. And many, many times, too,” writes Game Watcher.
There are three game modes: Frontlines, Attrition and Rifle Deathmatch. Deathmatch is the multiplayer slugfest you’d come to expect from most first-person shooters, except this one features no rocket launchers (sorry Doom fans) and only bolt-action rifles.
Frontlines is the game’s “campaign mode,” where you team up with your squad, ordered to capture or defend your ground. Attrition is centered around a single battle, with each side’s manpower levels being depleted as the player is killed and re-spawns.
“If nothing else, Verdun‘s given me an excellent understanding of what a mess World War I was,” Hayden Dingman wrote at PCWorld. “The game doesn’t have the best graphics, the best sound, the best character models, or what have you—and yet few games have so consistently stressed me out like Verdun.”
There has been a lot of web chatter over the last few months about whether the F-35 Lightning II is an ace maker or a total grape. Most of the discussion has centered around a 1v1 test hop that pitted an F-35 against an F-16, and the outcome of that event varies by URL.
One thing is true: In spite of the fact the post-9/11 wars haven’t featured anything in the way of air-to-air engagements (Google “Aces of the Taliban” and see what you get), dogfights aren’t necessarily dead. If the F-35 ever goes up against an enemy with a real air force, eventually it will be forced into the visual arena. And regardless of how much stealth and other high-tech gee-wizzery the program hangs on the airframe, the airplane will always be subject to the laws of physics. (Okay, that’s two true things.)
In spite of the variety of opinions, several common themes have emerged that suggest the best way to fight the F-35 in the event stealth and BVR weapons don’t do the trick.
1. You’re going to be pulling Gs, so make sure your helmet fits
The F-35 is designed with a super-Gucci helmet (that costs $500,000) that’s supposed to do all kinds of cool stuff that basically makes a heads-up display old news. But it won’t work right if it doesn’t fit. Reports indicate that the F-35 pilot in the 1v1 with the F-16 was wearing a helmet that was so big that his head spun freely inside of it, which probably didn’t help with the accuracy of the symbology or, for that matter, just keeping sight.
Also remember the F-35 helmet works with cameras throughout the airframe to give the pilot the ability to see through the fuselage (like Space Ghost), although if you’re looking at your opponent through the bottom of your jet you’re probably getting your ass handed to you.
2. Drive your opponent ‘one-circle’ and get him slow
Web wisdom indicates that the F-35 is a ‘bleeder,’ which means it dissipates airspeed in a hurry when in a hard turn, so it would be a bad idea to try a two-circle power fight against an airplane that doesn’t have that problem — like a well-managed F-16. After the merge the F-35 pilot should mirror the direction the opponent turns and work hard to keep the ranges close. The ultimate goal is to get the opponent beat down so the fight turns into one where the guy who can maintain the highest alpha wins — because that guy on paper is the F-35.
Word on the streets is the F-35 has great pitch authority at low airspeed, and this makes sense when you consider the shape of the airplane and how much the horizontal stabs deflect at full throw.
3. Use your sensor and missile superiority to get the first shot
If you complete the previous steps well, you will be the first guy to get nose on. Don’t pass up a valid shot.
4. Be careful when you try to bug out
The F-35’s energy addition rate is average, and it’s top end speed is below average, so bugging out can’t be an afterthought. Remember: you only have one engine, and old fighter pilots have a saying about stealth technology — it doesn’t work against bullets.
If this weapon was your sibling, it would be the rude, crude, and socially unacceptable little brother who helped you curb-stomp the neighborhood bullies.
It was so cheaply made it looked like a mechanic’s tool rather than the product of advanced American industrial know-how.
Nobody really loved the M3 submachine gun dubbed “the Grease Gun” by GIs. But nobody really hated it, either.
“By the Korean War, the M3 and M3A1 were used in greater numbers than the Thompson,” said Alan Archambault, former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History and former director of the Fort Lewis Military Museum at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash.
It was supposed to serve as a replacement to the iconic and expensive Thompson submachine gun, but developed a reputation of its own that kept it in the U.S. military inventory from World War II all the way through Desert Storm.
“Although unattractive and cheaply made, it was a practical weapon,” said Archambault, a U.S. Army veteran who is also an artist and illustrator who specializes in military subjects. “The weapon did have close-range stopping power: A visitor to the Fort Lewis Museum once told me the story of shooting a Chinese soldier at close range and knocking him out of his boots like in a cartoon or a Three Stooges movie.”
During World War II, there was almost a desperate urgency to manufacture vast quantities of weapons as quickly and cheaply as possible – particularly submachine guns.
In the 21st century, we are used to weapons made from exotic materials and possessing high-technology features that maximize killing power. Back then, the materials used for these hastily produced SMGs looked like they were purchased on sale at the corner hardware store.
The British did it by producing the Sten Gun, a 9 x 19-mm submachine gun made of steel tubing and sheet metal that bears a similarity to a piece of plumbing. In fact, one of its nicknames was “the plumber’s nightmare.”
So did the Russians when they made the PPSh (pronounced “puh-puh-shaw” because of the sound of the Cyrillic letters in the weapon’s name), a 7.62 x 25-mm submachine gun that was often produced in auto shops by unskilled labor.
The United States was no different when it came to producing a quick-and-dirty alternative to the Thompson. The M3 is an ugly hunk of metal – words like “crafted” or “elegant” simply are not applied when discussing the looks or pedigree of the weapon.
Made of stamped metal parts like a General Motors car – not surprising when you remember it was produced by the same division that made metal automobile headlights – the M3 is not a submachine gun noted for its fine tolerances and sleek design.
It has no adjustable sights, no selector switch, no fine-grained wood furniture, and few milled-steel components. It was welded together, and the user could see the welds on the weapon’s exterior.
Even the butt stock is simply a bent, U-shaped length of heavy wire.
“The advantage was that the M3 was easy to manufacture and much cheaper to make than the Thompson submachine gun,” said Archambault, who said only the barrel, breech block and parts of the trigger mechanism were made of machined steel. Yet, that simplicity allowed the manufacture and distribution of more than 600,000 M3s during World War II alone.
Besides, it saved the government money. The iconic Thompson submachine gun – a sleek, well-made weapon highly prized by any GI who could get his hands on one – cost Uncle Sam about $225 each.
That is about $3,000 a weapon today when you adjust for inflation. A new Grease Gun cost the government about $20 each, or about $260 a weapon in today’s dollars.
It is a beast to carry. It weighs nearly 11 pounds when it has a full 30-round magazine inserted, and the extra magazines weighed several pounds each when loaded.
But it spewed .45-caliber ACP bullets at 450 rounds per minute, was simple to operate, compact because the butt-stock collapsed, and it was disposable.
Yes, disposable: Until 1944, soldiers and Marines who had M3s that had been damaged during battle simply threw them away and drew a new weapon from the armory because no one who made supply decisions thought it was worthwhile to manufacture spare parts for the gun.
No wonder it was also nicknamed “the poor man’s Tommy Gun.”
However, soldiers didn’t embrace it at first. The M3 had some initial problems with an awkward cocking handle, but in 1944 the cocking handle was eliminated and a flash hider added – the M3A1. Once they discovered its stopping power and the weapon’s kinks were worked out, GIs and Marines developed a sort of grudging affection for the gun.
It was not only used during the Korean War but also by both U.S. and South Vietnamese troops during the Vietnam War. U.S. helicopter pilots often carried one in their cramped cockpits because it was smaller than an M16 and offered more firepower than a pistol.
It even developed a kind of “bad boy” reputation because of its prominence in the popular film “The Dirty Dozen.” In one famous scene, Lee Marvin‘s character fires a Grease Gun at the criminals and misfits he is transforming into a fighting unit while they train on an obstacle course. Throughout the movie, the M3 is carried by most of the cast members.
The reality is the M3 was probably the easiest and least expensive weapon for the movie’s armorers to obtain. Yet, the image stuck.
The last time the Grease Gun went to war as an official member of the U.S. inventory was 1991 during Desert Storm. Tank crews carried them as a backup weapon – nearly 50 years after it was first introduced to save money and kill Nazis.