Norway has established the Jegertroppen, or the “Hunter Troop,” the world’s first all-female special operations unit with the goal of improving the country’s effectiveness in international operations.
“In Afghanistan, one of our big challenges was that we would enter houses and not be able to speak to the women” Capt. Ole Vidar Krogsaeter, an officer with the Norwegian Special Operations Forces, told Foreign Affairs. “In urban warfare, you have to be able to interact with women as well. Adding female soldiers was an operational need.”
The training program is extremely challenging. The Norwegian Special Operations Forces Command reported that only 88 of the 317 candidates passed the initial admissions test and only 13 trainees made it to the end of Jegertroppen‘s yearlong course. The high dropout rate is similar to male Special Operations Forces units.
Jegertroppen‘s soldiers displayed superior shooting and observational skills, Colonel Frode Kristoffersen, commander of the Norwegian Special Forces, told Foreign Affairs.
Hunter Troop soldiers do carry less weight than their male counterparts, a minimum of 60-pound rucks instead of the 88 pounds for male operators. But otherwise they complete the same training with long trips through the snow, days of limited food supplies, and operations on little or no sleep.
Former Marine Mike Farrell has enjoyed a long career in the movie industry much attributed to his work ethic, abilities and the values learned in the Marines. Farrell joined the Corps in 1957 and served initially in the infantry as a rifleman. He then transitioned over to acting post his time in the Marines where he found success across many famous TV shows at the time such as Lassie, The Monkees, Combat!, Bonanza and Bannacek. His career took off with the role of Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H starting in season four of the show. He continued working in TV and eventually formed a production company with producer Marvin Minoff to make motion pictures. One of Farrell-Minoff’s most known productions is Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.
Farrell was born in Minnesota, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. He grew up in West Hollywood in the 40s and 50s. He shared, “It was an interesting place to grow up at the time.” Farrell said he is “a fortunate recipient of things other kids may not have had, including a mother and a father at home.” His father was a big, tough man who worked hard to support the family. Though he has fond memories of childhood, he also recognizes that he was a “frightened child,” due to his father’s rough manner and hard drinking, which weighed on the family.
When asked his values, Farrell said, “You told the truth and you stay out of trouble by minding the rules, whatever they are.” He said, “…if you pay attention and don’t cross any forbidden lines then you were fine. I was very careful about where the lines were.” His parents were strict Catholics and took the family to Mass every Sunday. He attended public school where he and his brother mixed with people of other belief systems, which was good, he said, for them. He recalled, “Being good was defined by others to me, and I was trying to figure how to stay within the lines.” Frustrated, he found difficulty growing emotionally given the strictures at home.
He became a Marine for two reasons. He was “smitten” with the Marines from a very young age. And so was Pat, his best friend from grade school through high school and into married life. So they joined together. Farrell remembers, “I was alive during World War II, but it was a distant reality for me. I remember coming home, getting out of my Dad’s car in 1945 when we heard on the radio the war was over.” He recalled, “…my mother having plastic coupon-coins to go shopping during the war…we were told we couldn’t get bubble gum because rubber needed to be saved for the war effort,” and laughed at the memory.
He mowed lawns to earn money and delivered papers after purchasing a used bike. He sold papers on the corner. He always had to chip in so the family had enough to get by on. His mother took him and his brother to buy clothes at the “old store” which was probably a Good Will or a Salvation Army store. He was ashamed and embarrassed at having to wear used clothes. He remembers selling papers on the corner in Beverly Hills “…when a girl from high school drove by with her mother and saw me. Boy, was I embarrassed.”
Farrell described his father as “John Wayne” and shared he was, “big, handsome, popular, smart and I now know he was frustrated because he didn’t have an education, but he was a really smart man.” He believes his father’s tough manner stemmed from his lack of education. He describes his parents as distant and “tough” people made so by their experience of The Great Depression. He stated, “There was not a lot of touching or embracing in our family.”
He said, “My friend Pat became close to our family because he didn’t have much of a connection to his family. He bonded with us and went to church with us.” Farrell touches on his admiration for the Corps with, “Pat and I thought the Marines were just the best. We thought the Marines were the toughest, the most elite and we looked up to John Wayne in the Sands of Iwo Jima.” He didn’t understand the politics of the 40s and 50s and he shared, “We just loved the Marines.” He and Pat went to see the Jack Webb film The D.I. in the 50s as well. Once graduated from high school, they both knew they were going to be drafted so they decided to join the Corps. He stated, “We both went down and signed up at the (Marine) reserve unit in Chavez Ravine.” This unit is now gone and the reserve unit building is used for training by the LAFD.
Farrell stated, “Unfortunately, we thought we would stay together. We went in together but were put in separate platoons at MCRD. We didn’t see a lot of each other during Bootcamp.” They then came out into different units in Infantry Training Regiment (ITR). Pat had signed up for a six-month program and Farrell signed up for a two-year program. Farrell had three DIs: Technical Sergeant Kelly (E-7 at the time) was the senior DI and SSg Reyes and Cpl Stark were the other two instructors. Farrell believes Kelley identified with him and Reyes favored another recruit named Moreno.
During Bootcamp, Farrell became ill with the flu and was sent to the infirmary. This was at a critical time in boot camp. He thought he would be set back and not get the chance to graduate with his platoon. He was afraid of leaving Platoon 374 and being placed back in a later platoon of recruits. He said, “I was miserable about the idea of being set back.” Then he was awakened one morning in the infirmary by Corporal Stark, who said, “How are you doing? Kelly wants you back.” Farrell was thrilled “beyond words to hear that.” He described Kelly, “He saw something in me that made him not want to lose me and that made me want to try harder to be the Marine that he (Kelly) thought I could be.” He considers this a great lesson from the Corps.
While at MCRD Farrell went to Camp Matthews for rifle training, which was before the Corps started taking recruits to Camp Pendleton to qualify on the rifle. After that, Farrell said a fellow recruit, who was known to be rough around the edges, threatened his life. Farrell stated, “I had been in fights before and when someone says they are ‘going to kill you, you take it as talk.” But the next morning during a snap inspection live rounds were found in that recruit’s footlocker. He had stolen them from Camp Matthews. The inspection thankfully stopped anything from happening, but the incident stays with Farrell and opened his eyes to the world.
Boot camp continued. Increasingly, Farrell and Moreno, the platoon’s left and right guide, were pitted against each other. The two were being considered to be named the Honor Man of the platoon. Ultimately, Farrell got lucky, he said and was named the Honor Man of the platoon. He stated of graduating as Honor Man, “Marching in my dress blues was quite a thing.”
Farrell confided, “I wanted to be stationed in Camp Pendleton so I said I wanted to just be a rifleman. I thought I could outsmart them.” He thought if he was a grunt at Camp Pendleton, he could go home on weekends and, “strut around in my uniform.” But after the Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) he was surprised to be assigned to the 3D Marine Division in Okinawa.
Aboard the USS Gaffney on the way to Okinawa, he recalls an alert came in to prepare to go to a different station. He shared, “We had to wait for a possible change in orders and a change in destination. We stood guard on ship and periodically swabbed the deck as well.” An all-clear was sent and they continued to Okinawa. He was glad, he said because he later learned they had almost been sent to French Indochina, later known to America as Vietnam.
In Okinawa, he was sent to typing school by the Corps to become the company clerk for an Ontos Battalion at Camp Hansen, then a tent camp. He stated, “I am sure things have changed at the camp by now. But then it was like living in ‘the swamp’,” where “the swamp” is the nickname for the camp he later served at 20th Century Fox for the show M*A*S*H.
On liberty in Okinawa, he went to the Kadena Air Base because “The Air Force had everything on base. They had a malt shop, a motion picture theater. It was surprising how well the flyboys had it over there.” We laughed at the luxuries of the Air Force when compared to the thriftiness of the Corps.
Farrell said, “I had developed an issue with my foot during ITR and got orders to go from Okinawa to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan.” He fondly recalls his time in Yokosuka where he spent time with a fellow Marine. He and the Marine went out on liberty and traveled around the country. But he talks about his return, “When we got back to the ward there was tension that I could sense. I later understood that the issue had to do with my friend Tyus, a black man. In 1957/58 our friendship was not looked upon happily. This even though President Truman had desegregated the military ten years prior.” It troubled him that there was still a sense of it being inappropriate for a black and a white Marine to spend time together.
The Corps then decided to send him back to the Naval Hospital at Coronado to work guard detail. His final place was being sent back to MCRD for discharge for having “flat feet”.
Farrell states, “There is a sense of pride attached to being a Marine…you can’t avoid having that sense of pride because they just beat the crap out of you in order to make you what you need to be.” He was invited by a Force Recon Marine while on the way to Okinawa to join their unit. He declined the offer after thinking about it for a couple of days. He states, “I wonder about that Marine and you hear about all of the special ops these days where Force Recon is still a part of the Corps.” He does touch on how he became lifelong friends with fellow Marines, one of which was stationed at MCAS El Toro that he met at the US Naval Hospital Balboa. “I have made some lifelong friends through the Corps because of the shared experience.” Farrell helped fellow veterans as well when he took a car to a friend from Los Angeles that was stationed in the Army at Fort Bragg, NC. The soldier’s parents wanted Farrell to take it to NC, so he did. On the trip he drove along a southern route through the US in 1959 where he witnessed, “real nasty segregation….that was a mind-blowing experience.”
Farrell still has high praise of his service. “My proudest achievement of my time in the Corps was graduating as the Honor Man of my platoon. I still have the Dress Blues hanging in my closet. I weigh the same as when I got out of bootcamp so I probably can still fit in them.” He further elaborated, “Completing the Marine Corps boot camp itself is a hell of an accomplishment.”
He is grateful to have had such a great career in Hollywood where he has worked with many storied actors. Farrell hears from people every day from autograph requests to even more deeply meaningful connections. Some people talk about the inspiration they got from the show and its meaning. He said, “It is really thrilling to hear from people and how deeply they are touched by the shows.” He is proud of having worked with the great actor Anthony Quinn for a year on the TV show The Man and the City. Farrell has high praise for having worked with Broderick Crawford on The Interns as well. Crawford was an Oscar-winning actor and known for his talents; however, he had an alcohol problem.
A few years before working together on The Interns, Farrell had been working with a halfway house in LA that dealt with people living with various issues. On the show he confronted Crawford. “I confronted him about his drinking and said ‘you are not doing the show any good or yourself any good. We need to find a way to temper it if not control it so we can get the work done.’” Farrell shared that, “He was phenomenal… he thanked me…we did the show for a year and every New Year’s Day after that until he passed away he called and thanked me.” He was deeply touched by Crawford’s continued contact. .
Farrell has been a part of many Human Rights campaigns. He is deeply grateful for the opportunities his association with M*A*S*H has provided.
Farrell met the famous Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams on a person-to-person diplomacy trip to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s. The group initially stopped in Helsinki, Finland, for orientation before going into the USSR. He saw a man wearing a clown suit and a rubber nose at the meeting. He initially thought the man was from “Pluto”. A woman in the group made a show of her belief in the power of crystals. She stood at the front with a bag of them and urged people to take a crystal that resonated with them, suggesting they hold it near their heart and find someone in the Soviet Union to give it to. Farrell said it sounded to him a bit looney. The clown-suited man then got up, said he was a doctor and said, “he believed in clowning and that laughter is the best medicine.” The man then took out a bag and did what the woman had done, saying he believed in the power of rubber noses. He held out a bag of rubber noses and urged everyone to pick a rubber nose they resonated with. The “clown” turned out to be Dr. Patch Adams. Farrell said, “I fell in love with the man and we became great friends.”
On their way to the Soviet Union our train was stopped by Russian troops. The train was searched by armed men from the USSR. Outside of the train he saw Patch Adams giving rubber noses to the Russian troops. Farrell laughed and stated, “I knew that this guy was going to change the world.” Farrell and Adams became very close friends while in the USSR. A few years later Adams contacted Farrell about how he had written a book and movie studio executives were looking to make his book into a film. Adams wanted Farrell to produce the film because he trusted him. Through a Hollywood connection Farrell took on the project and went to a studio with it. Farrell is happy that the film made a lot of people laugh and helped get Patch Adams noticed, however he wishes it would have had more depth and focused on Adams’ heart. Patch was grateful to Farrell and thanked him for his work on the film. Farrell is appreciative of Robin Williams’ work as Patch and considers him a, “wonderfully talented person and…a really deeply sweet, good man.”
Farrell believes deeply in the inherent decency of all people. He learned discipline and a lot about life through his experience in the Corps. He said, “The Marines gave me the sense of capability that comes from surviving the circumstances they put you in.” He believes stories like those shown in An Officer and Gentleman in which Louis Gossett Jr. plays the part of a DI should be top of the list for veterans and Marines. These stories touch on the camaraderie, discipline and merits of service. Farrell shared he, “…is most proud of his children. And he’s happy his career has given him the ability to touch people’s hearts.”
But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.
And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.
To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.
You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.
The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.
First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.
Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.
ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.
An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.
The Air Force has begun experimenting and conceptual planning for a 6th generation fighter aircraft to emerge in coming years as a technological step beyond the F-35, service leaders said.
“We have started experimentation, developmental planning and technology investment,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition.
The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint StrikeFighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft. The Air Force characterizes the effort in terms of a future capability called Next-Gen Air Dominance.
While Bunch did not elaborate on the specifics of ongoing early efforts, he did make reference to the Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan which delineates some key elements of the service’s strategy for a future platform.
Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.
Some of these characteristics may have been on display more than a year ago when Northrop Grumman’s Super Bowl ad revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet.
Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right. While there are not many details available on this work, it is safe to assume Northrop is advancing concepts, technology and early design work toward this end. Boeing is also in the early phases of development of a 6th-gen design, according to a report in Defense News.
The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.
The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.
Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.
Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, artificial intelligence, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.
Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well. For instance, Northrop’s historic X-47B demonstrator aircraft was the first unmanned system to successfully launch and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”
Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained. As a result, super cruise brings a substantial tactical advantage because it allows for high-speed maneuvering without needing afterburner, therefore enable much longer on-location mission time. Such a scenario provides a time advantage as the aircraft would likely outlast a rival aircraft likely to run out of fuel earlier. The Air Force F-22 has a version of super-cruise technology.
Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefield information.The new aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.
The Air Force Chief Scientist, Dr. Geoffrey Zacharias, has told Scout Warrior that the US anticipates having hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, hypersonic drones by the 2030s and recoverable hypersonic drone aircraft by the 2040s. There is little doubt that hypersonic technology, whether it be weaponry or propulsion, or both, will figure prominently into future aircraft designs.
Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot. We see some of this already in the F-35; the aircraft sensor fusion uses advanced computer technology to collect, organize and display combat relevant information from a variety of otherwise disparate sensors onto a single screen for pilots. In addition, Northrop’s Distributed Aperture System is engineered to provide F-35 pilots with a 360-degree view of the battlespace. Cameras on the DAS are engineered into parts of the F-35 fuselage itself to reduce drag and lower the aircraft’s radar signature.
Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.
This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.
It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.
The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.
After a three-year absence, I returned to the big city a cliché, another down-and-out veteran with no job and nowhere to live. A local nonprofit helped me find a studio apartment, but a job proved more elusive.
I designed my résumé using whatever software was on my Mac. Thanks to the post-9/11 GI Bill, I was able to attend college after the military, so in the education section I proudly listed my bachelor’s degree and the fact that I’m currently enrolled in grad school, pursuing an MFA in creative writing. For work experience, I listed my military highlights: “Responsible for the accountability and maintenance of all assigned equipment,” Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, and Army Commendation Medal. I even mentioned that I was honorably discharged. I left off the small detail about how the Department of Veterans Affairs has clinically diagnosed me with PTSD. Who cares?
With my résumé complete, I went on Craigslist and scrolled through the admin/office jobs, applying to every single one. Moments later, my phone rang. A lady said she liked my résumé and that her tech company was looking to hire a veteran for an open position, which she described as 30 hours per week of light office duties. The job title was “culture coordinator,” and they needed to hire someone ASAP because the incumbent was taking time off to go to art school.
When she asked if I knew what a culture coordinator was, I told her no. She explained it was someone in charge of getting snacks for everyone, keeping the game room and lounge up to par, and scheduling company happy hours and other “super-fun team activities.”
I bullshitted her about how I had plenty of experience with all of this in the military. In the army, I said, they had us do group activities such as close-quarters hand-to-hand combat training whereby we beat the shit out of each other; road marches that felt like prep for the Bataan Death March; and six-mile unit-formation runs at six o’clock in the fucking morning that we did while singing cadences. All of this, theoretically, helped build esprit de corps. This office job would be easy.
My friend Janie has worked in tech for years. She knew exactly what a culture coordinator was and laughed when I told her I was interested. They had several such coordinators where she worked, although they called them “vibe coordinators” or the “vibe team.” Most tech companies are fighting talent wars, with many employees staying only a year, if that, before defecting to another company. So, to save money on recruiting costs — and to minimize damage to morale — these companies staff vibe coordinators to make sure employees are happy and never want to leave.
One of Janie’s good friends is a vibe coordinator. She told me all about how there’s this one vegan girl in her office who constantly sends mean emails complaining about the lunches, snacks, treats, etc. — how they’re not providing enough vegan options for after-work snack time and how there was cheese in the salad at lunch.
“I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it.”
I got a flashback from basic training. One time, while MREs (meals ready to eat) were being handed out, a private raised his hand and said, “Excuse me, drill sergeant? I can’t eat this. I’m a vegetarian.” And before this private asked whether he could switch to a vegetarian MRE, which do exist, the drill sergeant answered, “Well, I guess you don’t eat, then.”
God, I miss the military.
Janie told me about another time when someone emailed the vibe team to complain about being sunburned through the window in their office (which I’m not sure is even possible). Another time, some remote employees in North Carolina filed a request to “set up a webcam so we can all experience the company party.”
I tried to imagine how I would handle this.
To the vegan girl, I’d say, “Fine. You don’t like it; you don’t eat it. Problem solved.” The guy getting sunburned? Fuck him. I’d throw him a bottle of sunblock. The person wanting a webcam to view the office party? Yeah, sure, log onto www.gofuckyourself.com. The password is getthefuckouttahere.
I’d be perfect for this job.
Janie invited me to her office so I could meet their vibe team and ask whatever questions I had. It was a cavernous space with a contemporary open-floor plan. I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it. We passed by several employees, many of whom appeared to be cleaned-up versions of bike messengers, while others resembled adult incarnations of those shy geeks you went to high school with, kids who were in the band, the academic decathlon, or the model UN (which Janie had been in). When I stumbled across a room containing nothing more than a hammock, Janie said it was one of many break rooms where she sometimes slept off a hangover.
In the office’s open kitchen, I met three members of the vibe team. All were female; all wore leggings; all were cute and around my age; and all were frantically chopping fruits and vegetables, laying out a dessert tray, and arranging plates of finger foods loaded with various local cheeses, charcuterie, and gourmet crackers. This was happening in front of a fridge fully stocked with an insane assortment of craft beer, bottles of which a couple of techies were casually drinking mid-afternoon. One member of the team told me all about how she coordinated weekly yoga classes and periodically brought in cooking teachers because people there loved anything and everything “foodie.” I took notes in my journal. My idea of fine dining is a super burrito at El Farolito.
Janie advised me not to dress like a square at my own interview, because this would give the company the wrong impression. Dress “casual,” she said. I didn’t have time to drop 100 pounds or grow a beard, and I thought wearing fake glasses was pushing it, so I wore new Vans, Levis, and a long-sleeve, collared shirt from Ben Sherman.
I arrived punctually on the day of my interview. A receptionist didn’t greet me — an iPad did. It was cemented by the front door, and after a couple of minutes violently pressing the buttons, I gave up and banged on the door. Nobody answered. I made a phone call. Minutes later, a woman ushered me into a conference room and told me to wait. On the whiteboard was a bunch of stuff that looked like hieroglyphics. Through the window I could see people at their desks in the open-floor plan, one guy sporting a tank top and surf shorts. A few minutes later, the woman returned with the office’s current culture coordinator (who had stylish hair and a fun-looking dress). After telling me about the position and how everyone got along and loved to do group activities together, the woman asked if I’d be comfortable coordinating a game of hopscotch.
Let me pause for a biographical note: I was a 240 gunner in the army. I loved to go out on combat missions wearing gratuitous amounts of 7.62 ammunition. My job in Iraq, which I was trained to do, was pull the trigger when necessary. I worked with a gun team. I had an assistant gunner assigned to me who carried binoculars and whose job was to point out targets. I had an ammo bearer who carried a tripod and extra boxes of ammunition.
I couldn’t remember the last time I played hopscotch; in fact, I couldn’t remember how to play hopscotch, but of course I told her I had no problem Googling how that particular game worked. I could lead a damn good game of hopscotch if that’s what was needed to boost morale. A mantra pounded into my skull in the army was, “You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it.”
After this I was asked a series of questions about why I was perfect for the job. Again, with a smile — which physically hurt my face, because I hardly ever smile — I told them I loved people, I loved working with people, and I loved interacting with people. Making sure other people are happy makes me happy, I said. It makes life fulfilling.
I had come prepared with a list of fun group activities, such as boxing lessons at the gym I go to on Polk Street and happy-hour events at the 21 Club. I offered to bring in my old battalion commander to give motivational speeches, and I even offered to set up a company Twitter account where I’d Tweet stuff throughout the day like, “Hey guys! Come and get it! There’s some kick-ass dim sum in the break room popping off right now!” Or “Stick around after work today because we’ve got some Girl Scouts coming in with bomb-ass cookies to peddle!” A Twitter feed would show other tech companies just how much fun we were having.
I never got around to sharing these ideas, because the woman abruptly ended the interview and said their CEO was on vacation. We’ll call to schedule a follow-up, she told me.
I left the interview in defeat, sure I’d never hear from her again, but a couple of days later she called to schedule a follow-up. They said they liked me and that they liked my answers; I couldn’t believe it.
This time, I met with the CEO. He was about my age and dressed as if he was wearing laundry left on the floor the night before. He started the interview by thanking me for my service and said he was looking to give thanks by hiring a veteran. I knew this was bullshit — he was just looking for a tax break — but I nodded and smiled.
I expressed to this guy how there was nothing in life I wanted more than this job. Which was true. This job would have been one of the best things that happened to me. I remember when I told my mental health physician at the VA how I sometimes stayed in my room alone for days staring blankly at the wall, thinking, “What’s the point?” She advised me to get out and talk to other people, say hi to the cashier at the grocery store, ask how their day was going. Or, if nothing else, I should force myself to hang out in coffee shops and participate in group activities that didn’t include dive bars and alcohol. This job would be perfect for me because I’d be forced to socialize with people all fucking day. I had to have it.
A couple of days after this interview, I received an email from HR that read, “Thank you, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction with this position.” I understood, but for a while I always wondered, what if?
Now that I work a job where an app on my phone tells me to pick up people and drive them from point A to point B, I no longer think about that job. During my drives, I’ve realized a couple of things about the city. One is that we’re all vibe coordinators. You either work in tech, talk about tech, cater to tech, or, like me, you drive tech around town. It’s about keeping the vibe right. After all, if they’re happy, you’re happy.
Enough Ghurkas accepted the offer and the British set up the Gurkha Brigade. Over 200 years later, Gurkhas continue to serve in the Brigade of Ghurkas, and British officers are still sent to Nepal each year to grade potential recruits and decide which young Himalayan men will be allowed to join the brigade.
The selection process includes interviews and exams, but it focuses on endurance, drive, and physical health. According to the documentary below, thousands of men will come out to compete for positions in the Gurkha units — most of them aiming for the about 230 slots open in the British Army each year.
To get a slot, they have to pass physical tests, math and English exams, and outcompete their peers in races — sometimes with heavy loads on long paths up the Himalayan mountains.
This award-winning documentary from Kesang Tseten follows a group of potential Gurkha warriors through the selection process, showing how they deal with the stress as well as what they must do to even enter training. Check it out below:
The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.
A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.
The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.
A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”
Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.
Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.
The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.
On June 17, 1775, the infamous Battle of Bunker Hill began.
After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, both British and Colonial forces were anticipating another fight. Colonial troops took up positions around Boston, bottling up the British Army. Although commonly referred to as the Battle of Bunker Hill, most of the fighting occurred on nearby Breed’s Hill, where Colonial forces fortified their position.
On the morning of June 17, 1775, the British discovered the rebel’s fortifications. They carried out a full-frontal assault on the fortified positions. The Colonists, who were told “don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes” inflicted massive casualties on the British.
As the British advanced across open ground, they were mowed down by American sharpshooters. Their return volleys were ineffectual because of the American defenses. Once the British successfully stormed the redoubt on their third attempt, the Americans simply retreated, as they lacked bayonets with which to fight the redcoats.
The British ultimately took Breed’s Hill once the Colonists ran low on ammo. But the massive casualties prompted the British to change their battle tactics and no longer underestimate the ferocity of their former subjects. Furthermore, the battle provided the inexperienced Colonial forces with a confidence boost that would drive them through the Siege of Boston.
Russia has unveiled a new military base as part of its buildup in the Arctic region, and has provided a tour — albeit a virtual one on your computer.
According to a report from FoxNews.com, the base is located on Franz Josef Land — an archipelago north of Novaya Zemlya that the Soviet Union seized from Norway in 1926 — and is known as the “Arctic Trefoil” due to its tricorne shape.
The base covers roughly 14,000 square miles and can house up to 150 people for a year and a half. The National Interest has reported that Russia has developed new versions of several systems for a cold weather fight, including the SA-15 Gauntlet, the T-72 main battle tank, and an artillery system known as Pantsir-SA. A version of the SA-10 modified for Arctic conditions is also being developed.
The Arctic Trefoil is the second base Russia has opened in the Arctic. The first one, called Northern Clover, is located on Kotelny Island, north of Siberia. According to a 2014 report by the Russian news agency TASS, its runway is capable of landing Il-76 Candid cargo planes, which are comparable to the retired C-141 Starlifter, year-round.
The SA-15 Gauntlet is a short-range, radar-guided missile. According to ArmyRecognition.com, the missile has a maximum range of about eight miles and a speed of Mach 2.8. A version of this missile is also used on Russian naval vessels, like the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov as a point-defense system.
The Pantsir-SA is a modified version of the SA-22 Greyhound. ArmyRecognition.com notes that this is a truck-mounted system that holds 12 missiles with a maximum range of almost 12.5 miles and two 30mm autocannons that can hit targets 2.5 miles away. The system reported scored its first kill against a Turkish RF-4 Phantom in 2012.
Russia has been pushing to build up its bases in the Arctic in recent years, prompting the United States to carry out a buildup of its own, including the replacement of its aging icebreakers.
Two Americans were killed while fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a Kurdish militia announced.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, the Kurdish militia known as the YPG announced the deaths of Robert Grodt and Nicholas Warden during fighting near Raqqa, Syria. Their deaths bring the total of Americans killed fighting ISIS as volunteers to at least four.
In a five-minute video released by the YPG on YouTube, Grodt, who adopted the nom de guerre “Dehmat Goldman,” told his story, explaining how he had been very sympathetic to the Kurds.
“I talked with my partner and my family, and I’m like, I’m gonna go out to Syria. This is something I care about,” he said in the video.
Warden, the other American confirmed killed in the fighting near the city ISIS claimed as its capital, had adopted the moniker Rodi Deysie and was an Army veteran.
“He was very strong-willed and very strong-minded and very much against ISIS and these terrorist groups,” his father Mark was quoted by CBSNews.com as saying. “He wanted to do whatever he could to get rid of them. He said not enough people are helping so he had to help.”
In a video released by the YPG, Warden said he volunteered to fight ISIS “because of the terrorist attacks they were doing in Orlando, in San Bernardino, in Nice (France), in Paris.”
The terrorist group may have been driven from Mosul, and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has reportedly been killed, but they are still capable of carrying out heinous attacks. CBSNews.com reported that the group used children as human shields for a car bomb factory near Raqqa, preventing Coalition forces from carrying out an air strike on the facility. Instead, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices are being attacked one at a time after they depart the production line.
A US military commander said on Aug. 31 that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably still alive and hiding in the Euphrates River valley between Iraq and Syria.
“We’re looking for him every day. I don’t think he’s dead,” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the counter-IS coalition, said in a conference call with reporters.
Townsend said he didn’t “have a clue” where Baghdadi is precisely, but he believes the reclusive extremist leader may have fled with other IS militants to the river valley region after IS lost control of its former bastions in Mosul, Tal Afar, and parts of Raqqa.
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commanding general, speaks with Airmen, Marines, and coalition personnel thanking them for the many contributions in support of OIR during an all-call. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin.
“The last stand of ISIS will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” Townsend said, using another well-known acronym for the extremist group. “When we find him, I think we’ll just try to kill him first. It’s probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him.”
“I’ve seen no convincing evidence, intelligence, or open-source or other rumor or otherwise that he’s dead,” said Townsend. “There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he’s still alive.”
Sebastian Junger spent nearly twenty years writing about dangerous professions, most notably those surrounding war and other conflicts. Although he retired from war reporting after longtime collaborator Tim Hetherington was killed during the Libyan Civil War, he has a lot of experiences on which to reflect. In his new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, he contextualizes a life spent close to death and danger and provides lessons for modern societies that have struggled with the fact that technological improvements and material wealth haven’t necessarily made their populations happier.
Tribe is the 54-year-old Junger’s own homecoming of sorts. He was a Vanity Fair contributor when he spent time in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, which was also his first collaboration with photographer Tim Hetherington. That collaboration led to three films based on the pair’s time in the valley: “Restrepo,” “Korengal,” and “The Last Patrol,” as well as Junger’s book, War. After Hetherington was killed in Misrata, Libya in 2011, Junger produced “Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington” for HBO documentary films.
Junger’s lifetime of covering conflict led him to write Tribe, the theme of which is how modern society has isolated individuals and marginalized the value of groups – a phenomenon to which returning warfighters can relate. Junger notes there are positive effects of war on mental health and long-term resilience, using examples of war trauma from Sri Lanka to Israel and Liberia to Cote d’Ivoire to illustrate the effects of war. He explains the utility of the “shared public meaning” and why it’s crucial for warriors to return to a society that understands them. He argues that “honoring” veterans at sporting events, letting uniformed service people board planes first, and formulaic phrases like “thank you for your service” only serve to deepen the divide between the military and civilians by highlighting the fact that some serve and some don’t.
Junger’s main discussion about combat veterans is that they require three things: a society that is egalitarian and gives them the chance to succeed, to not be seen as victims, and to feel as necessary and productive as they were on the battlefield. According to his findings, the U.S. ranks very low on all of these because there’s no cultural perception of any shared responsibility. The shared responsibility of the whole for the one is what Tribe is all about.
The book isn’t about just veterans or victims of conflict. The recurrence and spread of individualism have an effect on all of us. Junger delves into the history of the native tribes of the United States to illustrate his points: tribal societies were more socially progressive and conscious of the suffering of its members, especially those who went to war. Collective societies tended to be happier units because they cultivated collectivized happiness. Everyone in a tribe has a role to play, and everyone feels useful.
Sebastian Junger’s newest book isn’t about veterans, but Tribe is full of lessons all veterans should heed when seeking their tribes. More broadly, Tribe’s lessons should be heeded by the entire nation, especially during this election season that seems to be more divisive with each step in the process of finding those who would lead us in bringing us all together.