4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy - We Are The Mighty
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4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

Wars are never fought fair and square.


In order to win, militaries try to beef up their own numbers, acquire better technology, or in some cases: totally bullsh-t the other side into thinking they are going to do something they aren’t really doing.

It’s called a feint. In a nutshell, a military feint is a tactic employed in order to deceive the other side. A military might feint that it’s going to attack Town A so the enemy shifts all its forces there, only to later attack Town B.

Here are four times the U.S. military pulled it off to great effect:

1. Both sides made fake guns out of painted logs in the Civil War.

Since photography wasn’t as widespread and there weren’t any reconnaissance planes, feints were arguably easier to pull off during the Civil War. That was definitely the case for the both sides, which sometimes used fake guns to trick each other into thinking they were going to attack somewhere else, or the place they were defending was heavily-fortified.

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

Known as “Quaker Guns,” soldiers would take wooden logs, paint them black, and then prop them up on a fence or in a mount, making them look like artillery pieces from a distance. From the official US Army magazine:

When Confederate forces advanced on Munson’s Hill after the first Battle of Manassas, they held the hill for three months, but when Federal troops gained the hill in October of 1861, they discovered they had been tricked. There was nothing on the hill except Quaker guns.

Quaker Guns were used before and after the Civil War. But the tactic saw extensive use by the Confederates, to make up for their lack of actually artillery.

2. The Allies misled the Germans so well in World War II, Nazi leaders thought the real D-Day invasion was a feint.

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy
Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.Photo: Wiki Commons

In what is perhaps the best feint ever, Allied forces during World War II confused the Nazis so well that they didn’t even know what was happening when the real D-Day landings began.

The deceit goes back to a plan developed prior to the June 6, 1944 landings called Operation Fortitude. Split into two parts — North and South — Fortitude had the goal of convincing the Nazis that the Allies wanted to invade occupied Norway, and Pas de Calais in France. They really wanted to invade Normandy, but the Germans had no clue.

The Allies literally created a fake army consisting of inflatable tanks and trucks, and broadcast hours-long transmissions about troop movements that the Germans would intercept.

When the landings finally came at Normandy, German commanders thought it was a smaller force, and the much larger attack was happening later.

“North of Seine quiet so far. No landings from sea. Pas de Calais sector: nothing to report,” a German message on June 6 reads. Then about a day after invasion, forces were warned: “Further enemy landings are to be expected in the entire coastal area. Enemy landings for a thrust toward Belgium to be expected.”

The Allies were pretty awesome at this deception game. Just one year prior, they fooled the Germans using a uniformed corpse with “top secret” documents into preparing for an invasion in the wrong place, when the Allies instead invaded Sicily.

3. The US Army built a fake base to fool Saddam Hussein, and it worked.

The ground war of the Persian Gulf War was over pretty quickly, thanks to Gen. Schwarzkopf’s extensive planning and leadership. Schwarzkopf wanted to use a “left hook” or “Hail Mary” play of his forces, effectively cutting off Iraqi forces in Kuwait by going behind their lines.

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy
Photo: US Army

But in order to achieve it, Schwarzkopf needed to trick the Iraqi Army. Instead of Iraq thinking they would get hit with a “left hook,” Army planners wanted them to think the U.S. would invade near Kuwait’s “boot heel.” FOB Weasel was how they did it.

It was eerily similar to Operation Fortitude. From a previous article by our own Blake Stilwell:

FOB Weasel was what Rick Atkinson, author of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War called “a Potemkin base… giving the impression of 130,000 troops across a hundred square kilometers.” Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.

The U.S. army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. They set up a network of small, fake camps with a few dozen soldiers using radios operated by computers to create radio traffic, fake messages between fake headquarters, as well as smoke generators and loudspeakers blasting fake Humvee, tank, and truck noises to simulate movement. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.

As Stilwell notes, even well after the Iraqi Army was expelled from Kuwait on Feb. 21 1991, Iraqi intelligence still thought American forces were near the “boot heel.”

4. The insurgents knew US troops were coming before the Second Battle of Fallujah, but they had no idea of when or where.

Before the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, insurgents were well aware that an attack was on the horizon. The city had become completely lawless, swept up by a large number of insurgents, who were spending their time building up defenses in the city.

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy
Photo: USMC

On the outskirts, Fallujah was completely cut off by U.S. troops surrounding it. Insurgents inside the city knew they would eventually be attacked, but a series of feint attacks made it hard to pinpoint from where or when. And beyond deceit, the feints allowed troops to test out enemy capabilities before the main effort.

From the Marine Corps Gazette:

Marine battalions manning vehicle checkpoints (VCPs) or participating in feints were extremely successful in targeting fixed enemy defenses and degrading insurgent command and control capabilities. A series of feints conducted by 1st Marine Division (1st MarDiv) deceived the insurgents as to the time and location of our main attack. They knew we were coming, but they didn’t know when or from where. The feints also allowed us to develop actionable intelligence on their positions for targeting in Phase II. The Commanding Officer, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, whose Marines manned the southern VCPs around Fallujah, described this period as a real-world fire support coordination exercise that provided a valuable opportunity for his fire support coordinator and company fire support teams to work tactics, techniques, and procedures and to practice coordinating surface and air-delivered fires.

In an interesting example from a grunt on the ground, a feint attack from Lima Co. 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines tested enemy defenses and helped planners realize the spot they feint attacked wasn’t the best for the real thing.

“Had we decided to attack from the south, the battle would have been hellacious from day one,” one Marine recalls in the book “We Were One.” “The thing we discovered after the battle was they oriented a lot of their defenses to the south.”

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The National Museum of the USAF is filled with the stuff of airplane buff dreams

The National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio is airplane heaven. From prop planes to drones and decommissioned nuclear bombs, if it was flown or used by the U.S. Army Air Corps or the U.S. Air Force, it is probably here.


Related: The most important guy in military aviation history you’ve never heard of

With more than 360 exhibits, the U.S. Air Force’s official museum is the oldest and largest collection of aircraft and missiles in the world. The museum historically draws over 1.3 million aviation fans every year, making it one of Ohio’s most visited tourist attractions in the state.

There was a 25 percent decline in attendance during 2015, which museum officials suspect was caused by people holding out until the June 8th opening of building four. Now open, the 224,000-square-foot expansion houses more than 70 aircraft, including Presidential, Research Development, Space and Global Reach, according to the museum’s official website.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is a must-see destination for aviation lovers and military history fans. The best part about this one-of-a-kind attraction is its free admission, but the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber and SR-71 Blackbird displays are reason enough to make the pilgrimage.

This video by TechLaboratories shows what you can expect when touring this incredible aviation gem.

Watch:

TechLaboratories, YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch shipbuilders use massive crane to complete Navy’s next supercarrier

The shipbuilders tasked with constructing the US Navy’s next supercarrier have finished installing the flight deck, using a massive crane to place the final 780-ton piece.

The USS John F. Kennedy will be the Navy’s second Ford-class aircraft carrier after the USS Gerald R. Ford, which has been delayed due to unexpected problems and increased maintenance demands. The installation of the JFK’s upper bow at Newport News Shipbuilding early July 2019 completed the carrier’s main hull, which, at a length of 1,096 feet, is longer than three football fields.

The final piece weighed nearly 800 tons — as much as 13 main battle tanks — and took a year and a half to build. Huntington Ingalls Industry (HII) released a video of the installation.



John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) Upper Bow Lift

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More than 3,200 shipbuilders and 2,000 suppliers are involved in the construction of the Kennedy, which will, if everything goes according to plan, be launched later this year.

“The upper bow is the last superlift that completes the ship’s primary hull. This milestone is testament to the significant build strategy changes we have made — and to the men and women of Newport News Shipbuilding who do what no one else in the world can do,” Mike Butler, the program director for the Kennedy construction project, said in a HII statement.

While the US is not the only country to field aircraft carriers, no other country has built anything that even comes close to the new nuclear-powered Ford-class supercarriers.

China’s only operational carrier, for instance, is a previously-discarded Soviet ship that China transformed into the country’s first flattop. Russia’s situation is even worse: It’s only carrier is out of action and the foreign-made dry dock used to repair it.

While the US force of 11 carriers is much more modern and capable, the Ford-class carriers have certainly had their share of problems.

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

June 2019, US lawmakers expressed concern after learning that the Ford and the Kennedy would not be able to deploy with the stealthy fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters when the carriers are first delivered to the Navy. A congressional staffer told reporters that it’s “unacceptable to our members that the newest carriers can’t deploy with the newest aircraft.”

And, in May 2019, the Navy admitted that the advanced weapons elevators on the Ford, systems required to quickly move ordnance to the flight deck to increase the aircraft sortie rate and the overall lethality of the ship, will not be working properly when the carrier leaves the shipyard to rejoin the fleet in October 2019.

Maintenance on the Ford was expected to wrap up in July 2019, but problems with the ship’s propulsion system, elevators, and a few other areas resulted in unplanned delivery delays.

HII says that it has leveraged the lessons learned from its work on the Ford and insists that the Kennedy is on schedule to launch in the fourth quarter of this year; the JFK’s construction is estimated to cost at least .4 billion.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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This Blackwater shootout in Baghdad might not have gone down like the prosecution claimed

Four contractors with the security firm formerly known as Blackwater may have come under fire before they shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqis in 2007, federal prosecutors admitted in a hearing before the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.


According to a report by Circa.com, the government lawyers’ admission could result in the convictions of the contractors over the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians being overturned by the appellate court. The contractors had claimed they opened fire in self-defense during their 2014 trial.

The incident drove a deeper wedge between the American and fledgling Iraqi governments over the perception of trigger-happy security contractors running roughshod over Iraqi civil rights. Five Blackwater contractors were involved in the incident, which took place in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Three were given 30-year sentences, one was given a life sentence and one had the charges dropped.

The prosecution’s main witness, Jimmy Watson, testified during the trial that there was incoming fire, according to an August 2014 report by Bloomberg News.

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy
A Blackwater contractor in Afghanistan (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“In fact, what [Watson] thought he heard was enemy fire,” Demetra Lambros, the federal prosecutor arguing the case in front of a three-judge panel, allegedly admitted during the oral arguments. “[Watson is] very clear about it. Those first shots did not come from the convoy.”

The contractors had been sent to secure the area in Nisoor Square where an employee of the Agency for International Development was holding a meeting after an improvised explosive device, or IED, had been detonated nearby. A vehicle that approached a convoy under their protection may have reinforced the perception that they were under attack, reports say.

“So for all these years the federal government has been painting this case as cold blooded, a cold-blooded shooting,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince told Circa.com. “Here they are acknowledging, yes indeed, there is incoming fire. We’ve known that all along.”

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. A similar bombing in 2007 lead to the incident that resulted in Blackwater contractors facing charges of manslaughter. (USAF photo)

“This could be a major boon to the defense,” Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s Law School, told Circa.com. “The appellate court could throw the entire conviction out based on that alone.”

This would not be the first time that claims of an unprovoked massacre were debunked.

Eight Marines faced charges in the aftermath of a Nov. 15, 2005, firefight in Haditha, Iraq that resulted in civilian casualties. Then-Democrat Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine, claimed the killings were “cold-blooded murder,” according to CNN.

In the end, Reuters reported that one Marine plead guilty to negligent dereliction of duty. The Associated Press reported that the other seven Marines charges had their cases dismissed or were exonerated.

Military Life

Veterans can win cash in this new competition

Salsa dancing and the military…it’s so crazy it just might work.

In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, Univision Communications Inc. and We Are The Mighty are teaming up to create a Salsa #InVETational, a dance competition for active duty servicemembers and veterans.

There are three reasons why this is actually pretty cool:


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1. Cash prizes

Servicemembers and veterans will be the main event as they compete alongside their dance partners, showcasing their best Latin dance moves for Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata and vying for 1st place prize of id=”listicle-2565272073″,000 in each category and 0 for 2nd place.

Also, this event is totally free for active duty military and veterans.

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2. Dancing is awesome AND YOU KNOW IT

Watch this video of Army vet and double amputee Noah Galloway performing and don’t get choked up. I dare you.

“Salsa dancing nights have long been enjoyed by active duty military and veterans alike not only for therapeutic purposes, but as a cultural connection within the military community,” noted David Gale, CEO Co-Founder, We Are The Mighty.

The arts are a powerful way for vets to heal after military service, and dance in particular adds the physical element we grew accustomed to on active duty. Dancing puts us back in our bodies, pushes our comfort levels, and connects us to music in very intense ways.

Plus, it’s fun. And sexy. ?

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh5OgNtlevc/ expand=1]

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3. It celebrates Hispanic culture

Hispanics have a longstanding tradition of military service to our country. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs 2014 Minority Veterans Report, Hispanics comprise 12.4% of Post-911 veterans with more than one million Latinos currently in uniform.

Learning about our American mixing pot makes us stronger, united, and worldly.

Plus, we’re talking about a culture that knows how to flavor its food, baby — and there will be plenty of it at the event.

The event will take place on May 12, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.

Military and veterans interested in participating with a partner must be at least 21 years of age. The next qualifying round is May 6, 2018, at Arjon’s International Club. Registration starts at 8 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Five couples from each category will advance to the finals on May 12.

For anyone who cannot attend, you can help veterans in the San Antonio area by supporting the Lackland Fisher House, a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill or injured patients receiving treatment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center or other medical facilities in the San Antonio Area at no cost.

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Mr. T’s military career is more awesome than you imagined

 


Before he nearly pounded Rocky Balboa into submission in Rocky III, and went on to fame as B.A. Baracus on the hit TV show A-Team, Mr. T was a member of the biggest team of them all — the U.S. Army.

In the beginning Mr. T was just plain old Laurence Tureaud, a kid from the projects in Chicago, part of a large family (four sisters and seven brothers) just struggling to get by. His physical abilities were evident from an early age, when he became the city-wide wrestling champion two years in a row at high school. Unfortunately, he also didn’t have much motivation for academics, and ended up getting expelled from Prairie View AM University after one year on a football scholarship.

After leaving school Tureaud enlisted in the United States Army in the mid-70s, and served in the Military Police Corps. In November 1975 he was awarded a letter of recommendation by his drill sergeant, and in a cycle of six thousand troops he was elected “Top Trainee of the Cycle” and promoted to Squad Leader.

In July 1976 his platoon sergeant punished him by giving him the detail of chopping down trees during training camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, but the sergeant did not specify how many trees that were to be cut down — so Tureaud single-handedly chopped down over 70 trees in the span of three and a half hours before being relieved of the detail.

After his discharge from the Army, Tureaud tried out for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers but failed to make the team because of a knee injury. However, his Army police training served him well in his next job, as a bouncer at Chicago nightclubs, where he began cultivating his ultra-tough “Mr. T” persona (the famous gold chains he wears were a result of picking up discarded jewelry from the nightclub every night). Perhaps the first “celebrity bodyguard,” and certainly one of the most famous, Mr. T would charge more than $3,000 a night for his services, protecting stars such as Steve McQueen, Diana Ross, and Muhammad Ali.

When he appeared on a televised bouncer competition, he caught the eye of director and actor Sylvester Stallone, who decided to cast him as the formidable, outrageous boxer Clubber Lang in Rocky III (1982), which turned out to be his launchpad to super-stardom. Fittingly enough, Mr. T’s Army roots came back into play when he was cast as Sgt. B.A. Baracus, Army Special Forces vet, in The A-Team (1985). Still as colorful as ever, Mr. T currently lives in L.A., and as you would expect from a tough guy, is healthy even after a 1995 bout with T-cell Lymphoma.

More from Military.com

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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US general concerned about Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic

A U.S. commander in Alaska has expressed concern about Russia’s recent military buildup in the Arctic, saying it threatens the historically peaceful region.


“What concerns me about Russia is not that they have icebreakers and not that 25 percent of their economy is based in the Arctic. It’s the offensive military capability that they are adding to their force that’s Arctic-capable,” Air Force Lieutenant General Ken Wilsbach told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on May 25.

“If you really want to keep the Arctic a peaceful place where heretofore it has been, then why are you building offensive capabilities?” he asked. “My question is, are the Russians taking a page out of the Chinese playbook…whereby they declare an area is now Chinese sovereign territory [and] have overwhelming military force in that area?”

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy
Lt. General Ken Wilsbach (left) – DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Litke

Wilsbach defended Russia’s five recent military flights near Alaska’s coast, however, saying they were legal and never entered U.S. airspace.

On the growing threat from North Korea, he said that while Pyongyang had been test-firing missiles that have an increasing capacity to reach parts of Alaska, the United States had “strong defensive capabilities” to deal with them.

Based on reporting by AP and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner

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Here are Hillary Clinton’s answers to 11 questions posed by the military community

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy


Editor’s note: Earlier this summer, Military One Click devised a military/veteran-centered questionnaire and sent it out to the Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump campaigns as part of #militaryvotesmatter. As they receive responses from those campaigns, WATM will publish them, unedited and in their entirety.

This questionnaire was devised and compiled by Bianca Strzalkowski, a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Follow her on twitter, @BiancaSki.

1. What key policy positions does your party hold that make you choose to be affiliated with it?

Though I have been a Democrat for decades, I grew up in a Republican household in Illinois. Regardless of who I vote for, many of my guiding principles have come from my Methodist faith—including the idea that you should “do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

These values make me proud to be the Democratic nominee, and to fight for policies that will create good-paying jobs, economic security and fairness for working families, and equality for all Americans. We will raise the minimum wage, remove the barriers to higher education, ensure working families have paid family and medical leave, protect and expand health care—especially for our veterans—defend American workers, and encourage innovators and small businesses. We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of

These values make me proud to be the Democratic nominee, and to fight for policies that will create good-paying jobs, economic security and fairness for working families, and equality for all Americans. We will raise the minimum wage, remove the barriers to higher education, ensure working families have paid family and medical leave, protect and expand health care—especially for our veterans—defend American workers, and encourage innovators and small businesses. We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of

We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of e Pluribus Unum: “out of many, we are one.” I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

2. In your opinion, what do you think are the leading issues facing today’s military members?

My father was a World War II veteran, having served as a Navy chief petty officer. Growing up, I learned from his experiences, but I understand that our service members, veterans, and their families experience many different challenges today. The issues facing our service men and women are vast and varied, but we will take important steps to ensure that our country is aligning the demands of a military career with the realities facing 21st-century families. We must not only recognize the sacrifices that our service men and women make but how their efforts keep us safe and allow us to prosper at home.

In an era of uncertain budgets, we need to ensure our military has the resources and support they need to cope with the nearly two decades of conflict they have faced. While I am all for making sure we are stretching our dollars and cutting the fat out of budgets, we cannot impose arbitrary limits on something as important as our military. We will work to end the sequester and get a budget deal that supports our military, our families, and our country.

We need to ensure we are modernizing all branches of service and investing in new technologies, so that we remain an agile force, ready to meet all challenges be they land, air, space, or cyber.

We must ensure that we are not only caring for our service men and women physically but that they have access to the mental health care they needed. I will ensure we enhance Defense Department programs to help remove the stigma of mental health issues. With this expansion in services, we must also provide our veterans the support they need when it comes to battling homelessness and addiction, and the far too many instances of veterans attempting and committing suicide.

We must do more to support military families as they prepare for deployment or care for a wounded warrior. That is why I am committed to extending paid family and medical leave policies. For families that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country—our Gold Star Families—we must also ensure that they have ongoing access to benefits, and enhanced gratuity payments for surviving spouses.

3. What experience, if any, do you have with the military and veteran communities?

In addition to my experience being raised by a proud veteran, I have had the privilege of working with and on behalf of our military members, veterans, and their families throughout my career in public service.

As First Lady, I fought to have Gulf War Syndrome recognized, to ensure our service members received the care they required.

As a senator, I served on the Armed Services Committee, which allowed me to opportunity to continue those efforts to improve care and expanding military health benefits. During my tenure, I fought to make affordable health insurance available to more National Guard and Reserve members and their families and to expand services for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries . I worked across the aisle to expand benefits for our service members, increase survivor benefits and pass the post-9/11 G.I. bill. I worked with Senator McCain to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. These funds were critical in building the Center for the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility in San Antonio.

I also lead a successful effort to block the Department of Defense’s plan to close schools on military bases in the middle of wartime. I continued to fight for our bases and the military communities they supported. I fought to protect Fort Drum, securing continued funding and support for its community. In 2005, the base was supporting over 110,000 people and, given the human and economic impact, I knew the people of New York could not afford to lose this important resource.

Finally, as Secretary of State, I worked alongside President Obama, offering advice and support as he made decisions regarding our military personnel. I had the privilege of meeting and working alongside service members in our embassies and bases around the world.

4. In 2014, it came to light that veterans were facing dire issues in trying to navigate the Veterans Administration’s system, to include long wait lists to access healthcare. What actions would you take to find solutions to these problems?

I was outraged by the scandals at the Veterans Administration. Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices for our country, and we must ensure they have access to a system that puts their needs first. We must reform veterans’ health care to ensure that all our veterans have access to care that is both timely and high quality. The Veterans Health Administration must be a veteran-centric provider of service-connected care. We must ensure our veterans receive care from providers who understand the unique challenges they face. This includes improving care for our female veterans and expanding care for our Native Veterans, many of whom live far away from existing medical centers. We must tackle the epidemic of veteran suicide, and expand services for mental health issues. Far too many former servicemen and women face addiction and homelessness. I will encourage states to require licensed prescribers to have a minimum amount of training so that our veterans can benefit from better prescriber practices.

As president, I will also ensure that we streamline efforts between the Department of Defense and the VA when it comes to coordinating inpatient services across federal health delivery programs, synchronizing procurement, and ending the delay in developing a fully functioning electronic health record system.

We must take these important steps to improve care, while blocking the efforts to privatize the VA. Privatization will not solve the problems facing the VHA, and our veterans deserve better. Health care is only part of the reforms we must make across the federal government to modernize our veterans’ benefits. We must improve the processing of disability claims, secure veterans’ educational benefits, and strengthen tax credits and programs that help veterans transition into new careers. Finally, we must provide the VA with the budgetary certainty it needs to provide consistent and quality care for our veterans, and encourage a culture of accountability.

5. Unemployment among military spouses continues to be a financial readiness issue for service members’ families with reported jobless rates being between 12-26 percent. What resources would you devote to lowering those numbers?

While we fight to ensure no person should have to choose between serving their country and preserving their family, military families often make amazing sacrifices alongside their service members. In addition to the impact moves have on the careers of military spouses, military children often face numerous moves throughout their school careers.

The unemployment and underemployment of military spouses is not good for our country and costs our economy up to $1 billion per year. To help support military families, I will promote policies that help break down the difficult state credentialing processes that often serve as barriers to job opportunities for military spouses.

I will also work with states to standardize licensing requirements and reduce barriers for those looking to work across state borders. I will fight to expand public hiring preferences and engage industries to favor spousal hiring, as they have done with our effort to hire veterans. We must also devote resources to help expand work-from-home positions. We will promote financial readiness by expanding consumer protection and prohibiting bill collectors from contracts that service federal loans. We will also expand financial training initiatives targeted at military spouses to ensure they have tools to prepare for their future and the future of their families.

Further, for those families with two service members, we will work to reform the assignment process, not only increasing tandem assignments but ensuring that we are allowing these partners to continue to progress in their careers. All Americans deserve a good-paying job, and the opportunity to succeed in their careers—our military spouses and service members are no exception.

6. Many veterans choose entrepreneurship as a post-military career option because of the skills they learn in leadership. How will your administration support small business ownership for this population?

Small businesses across the country are growing and hiring, creating nearly two-thirds of new American jobs. As president, my administration will take steps to ensure it is easier to start a business and make that business profitable. For businesses that safeguard public health and safety, I will dedicate federal funding to support innovative programs and offset forgone licensing revenue. I will expand the efforts of the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development to ensure that we are providing entrepreneurship training, counseling, and small business loan guarantees for our veterans.

I will ensure that entrepreneurs in our underserved communities have access to training and mentorship programs, partnering with local business leaders, community colleges, and minority-serving institutions. I will fight to streamline regulation and cut red tape for our community banks and credit unions to ensure our veterans have the capital they need to start their business. Far too many dreams die in the parking lots of American banks. We will also expand and streamline the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company program—providing lenders the low-cost capital they need to invest in small businesses in their communities.

We will also make it cheaper and easier to file taxes and pay for tax relief, allowing small business owners to focus on growing their company instead of spending large amounts of time on paperwork. We will make it easier for these entrepreneurs to work with the federal government by guaranteeing faster response time when they inquire about federal regulations, help them loan support, and increase federal contracting opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses. We need to encourage our veterans to harness the skills they learned in leadership and apply them to civilian life. These reforms are only the start of ensuring we are providing them the tools they need to succeed following their service.

7. Military kids move on average every 2-3 years, and the average child may relocate 6-9 times during an academic career, according to DODEA. In turn, they face issues such as losing credits upon transfer or transitioning into a curriculum that varies from their previous schools. What policies could your administration explore to help military children have a more successful foundation for their education?

I strongly believe that when our families are strong, America is strong—and when military families are strong, our military is strong. To ensure we have strong military families, we must take steps to remove any barriers to a good education for our children. I will ensure that Defense Department schools are strong and focused, that we are candidly assessing where we need to improve these schools, and that we take the concrete steps to correct any problems. For those attending public schools, we will fight to enhance their experience—elevating public schools with high numbers of military children. As president, I will direct the Departments of Education and Defense to ensure that we are tracking and continually striving to improve education for children of military families across the country. We must also ensure service men and women with exceptional needs children are receiving the support and accommodations they need both personally and professionally.

For those attending public schools, we will fight to enhance their experience—elevating public schools with high numbers of military children. As president, I will direct the Departments of Education and Defense to ensure that we are tracking and continually striving to improve education for children of military families across the country. We must also ensure service men and women with exceptional needs children are receiving the support and accommodations they need both personally and professionally.

For military families looking to pursue higher education, I will ensure that we are protecting the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, especially the provision that allows these educational benefits to be transferred to spouses and children of military personnel. I will also continue efforts to crack down on for-profit schools that have exploited tens of thousands of students, including our veterans.

8. What in your professional experience has prepared you to take on the role as Commander-in-Chief?

I have held a variety of roles that gave me important insight into the role of Commander-in-Chief. As a Senator from New York, I served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which allowed me to develop relationships and work alongside leaders in our military. I also stood with the people of my state as we reeled from the tragedy of the September 11 terror attacks and worked to rebuild. While these experiences were vital, my understanding was truly shaped by my experience as Secretary of State. During my tenure under President Obama, I was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice on the gravest decisions he would make as Commander-in-Chief—the decisions to send our military personnel into harm’s way and to go after Osama bin Laden. Though I do not believe one can ever be fully prepared for these difficult decisions, the insight I have gained from both my time in the Senate and the Senate Department have prepared me for the tough choices a Commander-in-Chief must face.

While these experiences were vital, my understanding was truly shaped by my experience as Secretary of State. During my tenure under President Obama, I was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice on the gravest decisions he would make as Commander-in-Chief—the decisions to send our military personnel into harm’s way and to go after Osama bin Laden. Though I do not believe one can ever be fully prepared for these difficult decisions, the insight I have gained from both my time in the Senate and the Senate Department have prepared me for the tough choices a Commander-in-Chief must face.

9. Military families entrust the Commander-in-Chief to make critical decisions that dictate the fate of their service member. What do you want them to know about what kind of leader you will be for their service member?

The responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief are not ones I take lightly. I want military families across the country to know that if elected, I will ensure that our country honors and respects them throughout their service, and beyond. As president, I would make a solemn oath to ensure our military is the best trained, best equipped, most capable fighting force in the world. Through the Republican presidential candidate may be saying otherwise, we have the world’s strongest military—one that is prepared to defend our country’s vital interests. I also understand that we must not only provide our military the resources they need—including a stable and predictable defense budget—but that I will ensure we are providing

Through the Republican presidential candidate may be saying otherwise, we have the world’s strongest military—one that is prepared to defend our country’s vital interests. I also understand that we must not only provide our military the resources they need—including a stable and predictable defense budget—but that I will ensure we are providing high-quality care for our veterans.

Most importantly, I want our military families to know that I will listen. I will not only listen to your needs, and the needs of your service members—I will also listen to my advisors and the military leadership with whom I will work closely. The decisions of a Commander-in-Chief must be made with careful consideration, and I promise to be thoughtful and deliberate in all my efforts—especially those that impact our military personnel and their families.

10. Under the Obama Administration, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces—an initiative focused on the employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families. If elected, will your administration continue this program? Why or why not?

As president, I will make Joining Forces a permanent part of the Executive Office of the President. This initiative has done too much good work—building partnerships across sectors to better support our military and veterans—to allow it to discontinue. The Obama Administration has made great strides to lift up and support military families, and I will ensure that if elected, my administration continues and builds upon this important work.

These efforts will include creating a standing President’s Council on Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families. I will also direct White House and Defense Department leadership to conduct town hall meetings across the country—allowing us to hear directly from a diverse set of military families about their needs and where our government can better serve them. Based on these town halls, I will ensure we develop an implementation plan to focus on the areas they have highlighted as needed for improvement. By engaging federal, state, and private sector resources, we will ensure that we are best meeting the needs of our military families.

11. What is the most effective way for voters to get to know you before Election Day?

I have had the immense privilege of spending many years of my life serving the American people. I have traveled across the country and around the world from my time as First Lady of Arkansas, to First Lady of the United States, to Senator, to Secretary of State, and now as the Democratic Nominee for President. On these trips, people have allowed me into their homes and introduced me to their families. It is important for me to listen to these stories, and I draw my motivation and understanding from what is going on in people’s lives.

And I have tried to share my life in return. Before anything else, I am Chelsea’s mother and Aidan and Charlotte’s grandmother. Though I have dedicated my career to the American people, my family will always remain my priority and greatest accomplishment.

Articles

Turkey claims US will disarm Kurdish allies after ISIS defeat

The US has told Turkey that it will take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.


The United States has told Turkey that it will take back weapons it supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.

President Donald Trump approved arming fighters from the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units in May – which is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces – drawing strong condemnation from Turkey.

Ankara said on June 22nd that US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised to provide his Turkish counterpart with a monthly list of weapons handed to the YPG, with the first such inventory already sent.

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy
General Mattis. Photo courtesy of the DoD

In a letter to Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik, Mattis said that a detailed record of all equipment provided to the YPG was being kept and that all the weapons would be taken back after Islamic State was defeated, according to Turkish defense.

Mattis also said that Arab fighters would form 80 percent of the forces which will recapture Raqqa, the Islamic State’s main urban base in Syria.

Once the mainly Sunni Arab city is taken, it will be held by Arab forces, the defence sources said he told Isik.

Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the YPG, a Syrian armed faction that acts as the main ground force in the Pentagon’s plan to defeat the Islamic State group but that Turkey deems a front for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy
A Turkish ACV-15 operated by Free Syrian Army. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Turkey’s concerns about the YPG were significant enough for Ankara to launch its own military operation inside Syria in August 2016, dubbed Euphrates Shield.

The operation had the dual goals of targeting IS and the Kurdish militia, particularly to prevent the YPG from controlling a contiguous strip of territory along the Syria- Turkey border.

The SDF – an Arab-Kurdish alliance formed in 2015 – spent seven months tightening the noose on Raqqa city before finally entering it last week.

An estimated 300,000 civilians were believed to have been living under IS rule in Raqqa, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria.

Thousands have fled in recent months, and the UN humanitarian office estimates about 160,000 people remain in the city.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch as a massive ammunition depot blows up in Ukraine

Massive explosions at an  in central  have prompted the evacuation of more than 30,000 people and the closure of airspace over the region, the country’s emergency response agency has said.


The blasts late on Sept. 26 sparked a blaze at the depot near Kalynivka in the Vinnytsya region, some 270 kilometers west of Kyiv, the September 27 statement said.

 military prosecutor’s office said investigators were treating the explosions and fire as an act of sabotage, Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) spokeswoman Olena Hitlyanska said on September 27.

National Police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said in a statement on September 27 that hundreds of police officers from the Vinnytsya, Zhytomyr, Khmelnitskiy, Kyiv, and Chernivtsi regions were providing security and safe evacuation of people at the site.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, who arrived in Vinnytsya hours after the blast, said that “external factors” were behind the incident.

Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to the head of the Interior Ministry, said on Facebook that he was “convinced that this is a hostile Russian sabotage,” and said it was the seventh fire at military warehouses in Kalynivka.

He said a state commission of inquiry will be set up to investigate the cause of the explosions.

Some 600 National Guard troops were deployed to the area to assist with the evacuation of the residents and to ensure the protection of their property from looters, the National Guard said in a statement. Some 1,200 Ukrainian firefighters were working to contain the blaze, UNIAN reported.

Witnesses said that after an initial loud explosion, bright flashes were visible in the night sky. Some residents said they feared the smoke and fire from the explosion might produce toxic gases.

Local media reported that the explosive wave knocked out the windows in the Kalynivka district state administration, where an emergency headquarters for teams seeking to put out the explosions and fire was later gathered.

Witnesses said the sound of explosions could be heard as far away as Kyiv. Local media said that in Kalynivka, officials turned off the lights and disconnected gas and electricity supplies.

Shortly after the explosions, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of , General Viktor Muzhenko, arrived in Vinnytsya, authorities said.

A volunteer of the Avtoevrozile organization of Vinnytsya, Ihor Rumyantsev, told RFE/RL that he saw about 10 buses arrive to evacuate people. He said he was helping to evacuate residents, giving priority to women and children.

Early on September 27, Rumyantsev said the explosions started to increase, doubling in size, prompting people to hide in their cellars.

Rumyantsev said the railway connection in the area had completely stopped. Ukrzaliznytsya reported a change in railroad routes due to the explosions.

An employee of the Vinnytsya Oblast Council, Iryna Yaroshynska, confirmed the rerouting of trains going through Kalynivka.

Ukraerocenter closed the airspace within a radius of 50 kilometers from the zone of explosions in the military warehouses, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Yuriy Lavrenyuk said on Facebook.

Residents posted video online showing what appeared to be a fire burning, lights flashing, and smoke billowing into the night sky.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 7th

The beginning of December is a wonderful time in the military. We all get to watch those from the southern states lose their minds as they watch a little dusting of snow settle on the pavement, nobody’s sure if it’s time to switch over to winter PT uniforms, and troops express extreme pride in their respective branches with the Army-Navy Game on the horizon.

All the while, everyone starts mentally clocking out because block leave is quickly approaching and no one wants to do sh*t until then. It’s a sweet, sweet waiting game.

So, here’re some memes to enjoy as you’re sitting around the training room, just waiting to finally take your happy ass home.


4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme by Ranger Up)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme by WATM)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Articles

Remembering Black Hawk crew chief Jeremy Tomlin

Specialist Jeremy Tomlin was afraid of heights but his fear fell away when he was in a Black Hawk helicopter, his mother said April 19.


Tomlin, 22, was killed this week when the helicopter he was on crashed into a Maryland golf course during a training mission. Two other soldiers on board were critically injured.

“Jeremy loved to hunt and fish,” grandfather Ronnie Tomlin said. “Growing up, he never caused anyone trouble. All he wanted to do was play video games. He was just an average kid.”

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy
A UH-60 Black Hawk. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

Tomlin, the helicopter’s crew chief, grew up in the Chapel Hill, Tennessee, area. He was assigned to the 12th Aviation Battalion and stationed at Davison Airfield in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

He started playing video games at age 3 or 4, Jenny Tomlin said.

After graduating from high school in Unionville and turning 18, he headed off. He married his high school sweetheart, Jessica, before shipping off to Germany and they spent two years there, Jenny Tomlin said.

“He loved working on those helicopters and he loved flying,” Ronnie Tomlin said. When Jeremy Tomlin spoke to his grandfather recently, he said he was interested in getting into special operations.

Tomlin was aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed in Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Washington, D.C., the Army said. The helicopter was one of three on a training mission, the Army said.

Tomlin died at the scene and two others aboard, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Nicholas and Capt. Terikazu Onoda, were injured and taken to a Baltimore hospital, the Army said.

Related: An Army Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland

Nicholas was in critical condition the evening of April 19 and Onoda had been upgraded from critical to serious condition, said Col. Amanda Azubuike, director of public affairs for the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. One witness described pieces falling from the aircraft and another said it was spinning before it went down.

A memorial service for Tomlin is scheduled for April 21 at Fort Belvoir.

“He was scared of heights, but in the helicopter he felt safe,” Jenny Tomlin said. “Not a lot of people can say they died doing what they loved.”

Military Life

‘Operation Cure Boredom’ is a funny, unrepentant look back at life in the 1990s Air Force

The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it’s a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin’s 1990-1994 enlistment in the world’s best Air Force.

This chapter, called “Guest on the Range,” is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief:


One of the things I learned while holding a loaded semiautomatic rifle was that I shouldn’t “goof around.” Apparently it’s distracting and unnerving to the other participants at the firing range. The angry sergeant on duty pointed this out, adding that it was irresponsible and unsafe. But everyone was so serious, so uptight, so concentrated.

4 times the US military won by tricking the enemy

Colton continued making the rest of us laugh, lightening the mood. We only managed to annihilate the dirt mounds behind the paper people. At the end of the session, when I learned that I had failed the firing range test and had one more chance to pass it or be discharged from service, I stopped goofing around.

In order to maintain a good standing with the U.S. Air Force, one must complete the annual firing range test. If you fail the retest, pack your bags because you’re heading home on an early discharge. Not wanting to go back to Long Island so soon, I concentrated and passed the retest, barely. For the following annual firing range test, I made arrangements to get help, mostly by ensuring that I was out of the country on assignment, whereupon the test was lost to bureaucracy and ultimately waived. But the year I got married and stopped going on so many TDYs was the year the test came back to haunt me.

I had taken a second job at this point, working in a liquor store not far from the Louisiana Downs racetrack, not because I was saving to buy a house and raise a family, but rather to help pay off all the loans. We had financially backed ourselves into a corner between the cars, furniture, and vacations we simply charged on credit cards. We had to have them because we were a responsible adult married couple. In my third year of military service, now that I was no longer on TDYs, I was unable to escape the firing range.

At the time I had enlisted in the Air Force, it is key to note that nobody, with the exception of the security police, the special ops guys, and maybe a few fighter pilots, had a useful knowledge of weapons, let alone were able to locate the safety. For the rest of us, the firing range seemed to only serve the purpose of reminding us what weapons looked like. I hit my targets by mistake, and self-defense skills were measured by how fast I could run a mile. Although the chow hall on the base displayed a sign upon entering that read “Those Carrying Automatic Weapons May Go to the Head of the Line,” I can guarantee that had my base ever been attacked, it would have been captured within minutes. A massive army of children riding atop Saint Bernards and wielding broomsticks could have charged the main gate and I’d have to think twice about holding my ground. Broomsticks hurt.

Now faced wit having to take the firing range test, I came to the conclusion I needed someone to help teach me how to pass it. Unfortunately, asking for help within the military community was not exactly the option I wanted to exercise. I was all too aware that I had joined the one branch of the military that didn’t require you to use handheld weapons. But asking for help was like a plumber you hired asking you to show him what a pipe fitting looked like.

We were supposed to at least pretend we knew what we were doing. There were a few guys in my squadron who grew up hunting the small animalsI always associated with my local park or the garbage cans on a trash night. But even one of them managed to book himself a trip to the emergency room. Firing a hand cannon with one hand and a large ego, he managed to adorn his forehead with a welt the size of a grapefruit, the recoil smacking him with the pistol hard enough to make him forget the date. Knowing that I was proficient in neither accuracy or emergency room small talk, I decided to search for a teacher who was not in the military.

I knew I could find someone, I had done it before.

My brother piqued my interest in firearms when he shot our father with a flare gun. To be fair, it was a misunderstanding. My father had explained to Peter that he was grounded for some infraction of the rules. Peter said no, then shot him. From the moment my father stepped into his room to confront him, he should have take notes of Peter’s nautical emergency rescue kit, now open on his desk. Normally tucked away on his lobster boat, the flare gun was now strangely instead in Peter’s hand. Moments later, the flare bounced off my dad’s chest and zipped around the carpet, finally coming to a halt near the hamster cage, melting a small hole in the synthetic rug the size of a potato.

The room immediately turned a blindingly bright white color only the Coast Guard could love, and by the time my father regained his vision and looked through the smoke, presumably to grab Peter’s neck and snap it, my brother had used the diversion to jump out the window, eluding punishment for yet another night. Peter was not the best communicator, nor was he ever considered a good candidate for “negotiator,” but I quickly learned by observing his actions that perhaps I didn’t need to learn to communicate with words. Being a shy teenager who was also lacking command of a large vocabulary, talking problems out and reasoning with each other just seemed time-consuming. That night, I came to understand the power of a gun and realized aloud, “Guns are awesome.”

I wanted to test it out for myself. So I found an instructor who chose as my first target the happy, winged creature symbolizing love that perched outside my bedroom window each morning. It was just sitting there on the branch, singing, ruffling its feathers like most swallows do. I was seventeen. My instructor was twelve. The BB gun was pumped with enough pressure to launch a kitten into space. Then I aimed and pulled the trigger, sending the bird reeling over backward in a cloud of feathers and guilt. When it was all over, Jason explained it was normal to feel nauseated:

“It’s okay. You’ll be fine. But I gotta go. My mom’s taking me to see The Little Mermaid.

That would be the last time I let a twelve-year-old whisper “kill it now” in my ear. While I learned that it was an amazing feeling to hold an object that has the ability to sway opinions, after the incident with the swallow, I decided guns weren’t really for me. Though committing arson on my father’s vegetable garden was acceptable, a gun was just taking things too far.

Now face with the firing range test, my search for a weapons instructor finally came to an end the day I met Barry, the assistant manager fo the liquor store where I worked nights. The day I walked in and inquired about a job, he was sitting behind the manager’s desk. I explained that I was looking for employment. He regarded me for a moment, then asked if I’d mind working with a fat pig name Clarence, pointing to the skinny guy behind the register. I said I thought this would be fine. He then led me on a tour through the massive walk-in refrigerator to show me where all the different beers were stacked. He asked me if I had any back problems preventing me from lifting boxes. I said no, then noticed his back brace and realized this was the best possible answer I could have given. Barry nodded his head up and down, seemingly trying to decide if I was going to work out, then wrenched open a bottle of Boone’s wine and washed down a handful of unknown pills. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Then he pulled a .22-caliber, long-barreled pistol out of his pants. It was fitted with some sort of custom-made silencer and he asked me if I’d ever seen such a thing of beauty. I said I hadn’t. Then he aimed it at a can of Milwaukee’s Best and fired, leaving a fountain of amusement in his wake.

I accepted the job on the spot.

It wasn’t until a week into the job that I learned that Barry hadn’t been the assistant manager at all. He was just an unstable employee whom the actual manager was afraid to fire. He called himself the assistant manager, and nobody argued with him. Although, looking back, it should have occurred to me, since Barry had given me a bonus one day for a job well done with a case of Miller Lite. But this guy could handle a weapon, even while hallucinating and mumbling, so who was I to question it?

Initially, I was a little nervous about taking a second job because the supervisors in my squadron tended to frown upon moonlighting, even though many of the enlisted guys I knew did it anyway. I had reached out to may coworker Tony Coloccini, who had confided in me that he also had a second job at a liquor store chain and would put in a good word. A week later, I was standing in this rundown liquor store. Needing money, and not wanting to be seen, this was the perfect job. Barry, the firearms expert, was the gift I was looking for.

Barry would walk up and down the aisles with an aimless purpose to do nothing but strut. Occasionally, he’d say he was going to take inventory or stock the shelves. But there was always some condition that prevented him from doing any actual work. He could never bend over to reach the bottom two shelves because of a bad back, nor could he stand on small ladder, claiming he once fell off one and preferred to avoid them. He couldn’t ever read inventory lists or do the ordering because he always forgot his glasses and, I suspect, couldn’t write.

This always left me wondering what Barry’s function in the store actually was until one night some suspicious-looking guys walked in and were greeted by Barry stroking a .44 magnum long barrel. This is a gun more commonly used to take down a helicopter or a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I imagine. They immediately turned and walked out. In short, the story had never been robbed since Barry started working there two years prior. And in a neighborhood where crime seemed to be the gross domestic product, Barry’s value went a long way.

As a result, the place became kind of a safe hangout for Barry’s friends who all lost their money at the track and would come in and shoot the shit with him for a while. This eventually led to the question of could have a bottle of Thunderbird or Mad Dog 20/20 and pay him back tomorrow. Barry always said yes, and, of course, would always forget that he did. In fact, unsurprisingly, Barry forgot a lot of things. He forgot to shower and shave. He forgot that you couldn’t scratch off twenty-five instant-win lotto tickets and not pay for them. And once he even forgot his gun was loaded and shot out his own windshield, or so Clarence, who had witnessed the incident, told me.

The store closed each night at midnight and by the end of the first month, Barry, Clarence, and I found ourselves on the same schedule. We got to know each other pretty well and enjoyed each other’s company and displayed our newfound friendship by developing a routine after locking up every night that involved petty theft, drinking, and soon enough, firearms practice.

Anyone else, I think, would have been alarmed by the double holster he wore to work every day, accompanied by a different set of pistols. Or, perhaps, the cocktail of pharmaceuticals, vodka, belligerence, and the dash of hallucinations that housed this human being. But one night, as we were leaving, he quick-drawed his pistols and unleashed a few rounds on the speed sign on the side of the road, hitting it perfectly without aiming and I knew I found my instructor.

The first problem with asking Barry about being my sharpshooting mentor was just trying to catch him in a moment when he was actually visiting Earth. I timed my approach carefully, since Barry was known to spend the first part of each night shift with his head down on the manager’s desk, occasionally snapping awake with a look of fear behind his milky eyes. Some nights, because the desk was located behind a small wall, his abrupt and frightening rise from the ninth circle of hell would cause a customer to drop a bottle of alcohol.

“Barry, I was wondering if you could teach me to shoot a gun and possibly–”

“Absolutely. Grab a case of beer and meet me at the trunk of my car.”

I can only assume that in the event that the local police force, the National Guard, and the entire US Army found themselves overmatched, Barry was their red phone emergency call. to find that Barry possessed a lot of weapons was not a surprise. To find that each of his weapons came with its own quick-release latch, strapped into the truck of his car, was. Barry, who stood at about five feet, two inches, drove a 1973 four-door Lincoln Continental. I t had a trunk big enough to carry a pond stocked with trout.

What should have worried me most was that somewhere over the course of his life, he came to the conclusion that it was a good idea to haul around enough ammunition to take out Shreveport, just in case he had to. Also worrisome was the stun gun he had as a “back up” in case all else failed. But honestly, what concerned me most was not passing the firing range test.

“What is that?” I asked, pointing at a weapon only Arnold Schwarzenegger could handle.

“Needed something for a crowd. Made it myself. Fully automatic.”

“Oh.”

We stared by setting up in front of what appeared to be a fenced-off electrical power station. It was located a short distance behind the liquor store and far away from the road. I inquired it if seemed troubling that, essentially, we were shooting at a potential eleven o’clock news story, but Barry explained that it was metal and would not explode, so no need to worry.

“No one’s gonna lose power,” he added.

“I meant the ricocheting bullets.”

“What about them?”

“Won’t they ricochet into us?”

“Unlikely. Now, do you want my help or not?”

Before we began, I tried to explain that there were no moving targets on the firing range, to which Barry explained that I was a woman. I said it wasn’t necessary, but that maybe we should start with something easy like a Coke can. But Barry insisted these were the basics and handed me a contraption that resembled a howitzer. Then he switched it to automatic and yelled, “Pull!”

Clarence lobbed a bottle of Bartles & Jaymes strawberry wine cooler into the sky. The weapon was so heavy that aiming it wasn’t really an option. I just sort of heaved it up, like throwing a heavy rock, and squeezed the trigger as best I could. The recoil forced me to the ground like a cannon blast. All the while, as I kept my finger on the trigger, I could have sworn I heard the faint but distinct sound of my mother crying.

It’s safe to assume that the Air Force was the right branch for me. Placing a wrench or a screwdriver in my hands at least ensures that any pain inflicted will be minimal and blunt and kept within the radius of me. Putting a loaded weapon in my hand is like strapping sharp knives to a small boy and sending him off to play tackle football with the other kids.

As expected, I missed everything, except for the power grid, a line of cypress trees, a storage shed, and the planet below our feet, which really took a kick in the balls that night. Also in the line of fire was human safety.

“F*ck this,” Clarence said, “I’m out of here.”

“Calm down,” Barry yelled. “Just stand behind him.”

“But that’s where the shed was!”

This is how it happens, I thought. This is how morons die. You always read in the paper, or hear on the news, about a couple of friends from a basement in Colorado Springs, just hanging out with a bottle of Jameson when one best friend shoots the other. There’s never any great detail about the incident. One buddy “accidentally” shoots the other. But the news anchor always includes that one fatal clue: “He thought the safety was on,” “He didn’t know it was loaded,” “He didn’t think that doing shots from the barrel was that big of a deal.” As a viewer, you sit eating your bowl of cornflakes at one o’clock in the morning, thinking to yourself, f*cking morons, and then turn the channel back to TMZ to find out what the latest Disney starlet thinks of terrorists.

But there we were, throwing a few back, shooting wildly at fast-moving wine coolers with automatic weapons and talking about how awesome it would be if Lynyrd Skynyrd could come back from the dead and play one more time. We deserved nothing more than a really stupendous obituary in which the editor would mercifully, thinking about our families, substitute the word “manslaughter” for “accidental.” The caption under the picture in the newspaper would read: “One man arrested after shooting his two best friends.” Then I realized the scariest part was that Barry and Clarence would be forever connected to me as “best friends.”

“You know what. I’ve got to get going,” I announced suddenly.

“What? But you haven’t even tried the sniper rifle yet.”

As I drove away from the scene of tomorrow’s headline, I watched Clarence crack open a bottle of something, then rummage through Barry’s trunk, reappear with the stun gun and chase him around the car, laughing.

The following week, I took the firing range test. I was really sweating hard, as this retest was a make-or-break moment – a few misplaced shot was all the difference between being able to stay in the Air Force and pay my bills and a less-than-honorable discharge, leading to financial ruin and divorce. I hit a few dirt mounds but managed to place a few on the paper target. Upon finishing, I approached the sergeant in charge of the scoring. I handed him the paper enemy that had clearly gotten away with only a few scratches.

“Huh,” he said, looking at the target. “Not great,” he observed.

“Yeah.”

I began to panic a little there. I saw my life as it truly was: a meager existence in a sham marriage, depressed and held down at twenty-one years of age by my own rash stupidity. I would have to call my parents and see if they were cool with the Stranger and I living in my old bedroom. I would have to get a minimum-wage job to pay off a mountain of debt. I began hyperventilating, seeing this whole terrible near-future play out when I suddenly heard the sergeant ask me:

“What’s your job again?”

“Crew chief.”

He rolled his eyes, and in a gesture of exasperation, made a check mark next to my name.

“F*ck it. You passed. See you next year.”

––––––––––

“Told in a collection of vignettes, Operation Cure Boredom is a coming of age story in camouflage. From dodging alligators, to surfing the inside of a plane at 30,000 feet, to being taken hostage by a Frenchwoman, and sex education in church, this absurdist portrait of life in the military is both an iconic look at listlessness in wartime, and the whirlwind journey of a young man getting the adventure he didn’t know he needed.” – Amazon

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