Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training - We Are The Mighty
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Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Retired US Navy Admiral William McRaven had an esteemed 37-year military career — which included leading the assassination of Osama bin Laden — but it was a night from Navy SEAL training’s Hell Week that taught him the power of a leader.


In 2014, McRaven gave the commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin, breaking down the 10 biggest lessons he learned in the six months of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) training in his early 20s, and how they were universally applicable.

Now the chancellor of the University of Texas system, McRaven has released “Make Your Bed,” a short book expanding upon these principles he spoke about a few years ago.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven makes remarks during his retirement ceremony. | DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp

In it, he recounts his night in the Tijuana mud flats, where he and his fellow SEAL candidates had virtually every inch of their bodies covered in mud, the experience made worse by a brutally cold night.

Hell Week comes during week three of the six month-long BUD/S training, and is meant to weed out early the candidates who are not ready to become SEALs. According to SOFREP, only about 25% of candidates make it through the week’s intense trials of physical and mental endurance.

One of the trials involves various exercises in expanses of cold, neck-high, clay-like mud.

As McRaven remembers, on this particular day, he and his fellow candidates had spent hours racing each other in boats, paddling through the mud. Now they were standing in it during a suddenly chilling night. To make it worse, it was only the halfway mark of Hell Week. Doubt was setting in among all the young men.

“Shaking uncontrollably, with hands and feet swollen from nonstop use and skin so tender that even the slightest movement brought discomfort, our hope for completing the training was fading fast,” McRaven writes.

From the edge of the flats, an instructor with a bullhorn tried to lure the candidates to comfort. The instructors, he said, had a fire going and had plenty of hot soup and coffee to share. Furthermore, if just five of the candidates quit, the rest of the guys would be given a break. Taking this offer meant ending your SEAL training.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
BUD/S trainees covered in mud during Hell Week. | Department of Defense photo

A student next to McRaven started walking through the mud toward the instructor. McRaven remembers the instructor smiling. “He knew that once one man quit, others would follow,” McRaven writes.

Then one of the candidates started singing. It was raspy and out of tune. Even though it sounded terrible, other students soon joined him, including the one who was on the verge of quitting.

The instructor began yelling at them, demanding that they stop. “With each threat from the instructor, the voices got louder, the class got stronger, and the will to continue on in the face of adversity became unbreakable,” McRaven writes. He remembers that behind the facade of anger, he could see the instructor smiling at the turn of events.

McRaven realized that all it took was one person to unite the entire group, when many of them were on the verge of abandoning their goal.

Interestingly, former Navy SEAL platoon commander Leif Babin writes in his book “Extreme Ownership,” that he learned a similar lesson when he was one of the Hell Week instructors. When the instructors switched the leaders of the best and worst performing boat race teams, they were amazed to see that the formerly worst team rose to the top under new leadership, while the formerly best team suddenly dropped in the rankings under its new poor leader. It was proof to Babin that, “There are no bad teams — only bad leaders.” One exceptional person can change the entire fate of a group.

The night in the mudflats stuck with McRaven during his maturation as an exceptional leader, one who would rise to the highest rank in the Navy, lead all of America’s special operations, and oversee the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

“If that one person could sing while neck deep in mud, then so could we,” McRaven writes. “If that one person could endure the freezing cold, then so could we. If that one person could hold on, then so could we.”

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Check out an inverted F-35 firing off a missile to test performance under negative G forces

As the F-35 marches closer to full combat readiness, pilots test the jet in ever more challenging environments, most recently by firing a AIM 9x air-to-air missile while flying upside-down.


“This unique missile launch is a situation we don’t expect a pilot to be in very often,” read a release. Firing a missile upside-down is nothing new. Fighters have had this capability for decades, and the stealth F-35 shouldn’t often find itself in a turning fight with adversaries.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
Photo from F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office

But now they know that if they need to fire a missile while experiencing negative G forces and inverted, they can.

“We want to provide the maximum capability of the F-35 to the fleet to get them where they need to be for training and operational use,” said James Shepherd, the flight test engineer for the missile test at Patuxent River Navy Base. “This will ensure we meet our promises to deliver the most advanced fifth generation fighter in the world.”

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This Air Force vet owns a century-old piece of California history

When Gabe Greiss graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1995, he went on to fly the C-130 Hercules as part of a career that lasted 20 years and two months. He commanded a squadron that sent advisors across Latin America, and also served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.


After he retired, his first move was to run for the State Senate in California, and while his bid failed (he finished fourth in a blanket primary), he and his family felt they won in other ways.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
Gabe Greiss as an Air Force officer. (USAF photo)

“Vets make sense in politics,” the retired lieutenant colonel said. “We’ve spent an entire lifetime putting our own interests second and still getting things done, and we need more of that.”

The Greiss family lives in the Buck Mansion, a 126-year-old icon in the city of Vacaville, California. Designed and built in 1891, it received a remodeling in the 1990s.

The Greiss family kept many of the Buck family’s furnishings, but also had to keep it contemporary to accommodate their young kids who “love their markers.”

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
A C-130J Hercules aircraft from the 115th Airlift Squadron. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

Greiss, who described himself as having a “heart of service,” admitted that being in the military meant “being present is something we lose because we’re always planning for what’s next.”

“I’ve needed to slow down and really connect with my kids,” he said.

What’s next for Greiss includes a lot of travel to teach his kids “what it is to be citizens of the world.” That means the Buck Mansion will be getting only its third owner in just under 130 years.

“We love this house, it’s been great to us, but it really fit a different chapter in our lives, albeit only 16 months,” he said.

Despite the resplendent setting and old world charm, Greiss said it’s family, rather than bricks and mortar that make a home.

“Where ever [my wife] is and where the kids are, that’s home,” he said. “It can be in a tent or a 126-year-old house.”

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Today in military history: Union Army cuts off Port Hudson

On May 21, 1863, a 48-day siege began as the Union Army cut off Port Hudson, Louisiana during the Civil War.

The Union’s “Anaconda Plan” was a strict blockade of the coast and the rivers, including the Mighty Mississippi. The fortifications at Port Hudson and Vicksburg presented a challenge, so in 1863, the Union went after both.

On May 21, Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks launched his attack on Port Hudson. Five Union divisions totalling 30,000 soldiers maneuvered simultaneously on the 7,500 Confederates in the port’s defenses, cutting them off from reinforcements or resupply.

General Banks anticipated a quick victory and ordered assaults on the fortifications on May 26. But the Confederates, firing from cover against the advancing troops, killed 2,000 Union soldiers.

A June 13 assault was also doomed as the Confederates inflicted 1,805 casualties while suffering about 200 of their own.

In the end, the Confederates were not beaten or even starved out. But Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s victory at Vicksburg made Port Hudson strategically unimportant and the defenders eventually surrendered on July 9, 1863.

Featured Image: Battle of Port Hudson by J.O. Davidson

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Recounting the death of Osama bin Laden, five years later

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza


Five years ago, I watched in the Situation Room along with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of the President’s national security team to see if U.S. Special Operations Forces could deliver the justice that every American had been waiting for for a decade.

In the three-plus months leading up to the operation, the White House’s National Security Council staff organized over two dozen inter-agency meetings to oversee preparations and consider all of the attendant issues: the evaluation of the emerging intelligence, possible operational courses of action, the consequences and implications of both success and failure.

What struck me most about that process was the absolute attention to operational security, discretion, and secrecy. Very few individuals beyond the most senior officials were involved in the policy piece of this operation. Extraordinary measures were taken to limit information flow, and those involved maintained an incredibly high degree of discipline.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
President Barack Obama talks with members of the national security team at the conclusion of one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

All possible options and potential courses of action were considered, analyzed and debated at the very highest levels. All of the potential issues were reviewed: impact of an operation on our relationship with Pakistan and with our other allies, possible reaction by al Qaeda and the potential for retaliatory action against U.S. interests, steps needed to prepare for possible retaliatory attacks, and next steps in the wake of an operation whether it was successful or unsuccessful.

Reflecting on the lead up to the raid, Director on National Intelligence Clapper said:

“As is always the case in intelligence, it wasn’t complete. Right up until the last minute, we couldn’t confirm he was there. Some argued we needed more time.” Nonetheless, he never doubted the advantages of a raid compared to alternatives, “At least with a raid, you’d have people on the ground who could make judgments.”

It was apparent that the President’s paramount concern was the safety and security of the operators. On a number of occasions, the President provided very pointed guidance to the Department of Defense and to Admiral Bill McRaven to make that very clear.

On the day before the operation took place, Saturday, April 30, President Obama placed a secure call to Admiral McRaven. The President was in the midst of his preparation for his scheduled appearance that evening at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I had the privilege of staffing the President for that phone call, which the President conducted from the Oval Office. When I came in, the President’s speechwriters were asked to step out.

In that call, the President inquired if McRaven believed the force was ready to proceed and if they had everything they needed to carry out a successful operation. McRaven affirmed that they did, and the President wished McRaven and the forces under his command Godspeed.

A very brief call, but one that would prove historic.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
President Barack Obama makes a point during one in a series of meetings in the Situation Room of the White House discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon is pictured at right. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

During the raid itself, I clearly recall the role that Admiral McRaven played from Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In addition to carrying out his command and control function with his team, he was piped in via secure video conference (SVTC) to provide updates to the CIA and the assembled officials at the White House Situation Room, including the President. As the Department of Defense operators would move down their checklist, we heard McRaven’s voice as each operational or geographical mark or milestone was hit.

As Director Clapper said:

“There was a lot of tension, and then as it became clear that we were reasonably sure that yes, it was Osama bin Laden, there was, if I can use the phrase, not only emotional closure, but functional closure, in that the operation illustrated the effectiveness of what an integrated intelligence and operational community could accomplish.”

The amazing part to me was that McRaven’s voice — at least to my memory — never changed inflection, never conveyed concern or excitement or any sense that there was something dramatic happening, and never intimated anything other than calm professionalism. That included those incredibly tense moments when things did not go according to plan with the helicopter assault. You would never have known that anything was amiss if all you were going by was his voice doing the play-by-play.

Even when U.S. Special Operations Forces successfully took out Osama bin Laden.

President Obama delivered the news to the nation on May 1, 2011.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Watch:

 

After the operators safely returned to base, McRaven noted that one way in which they had potentially confirmed bin Laden’s identity was by determining that he was in fact as tall in stature as we in the Intelligence Community knew him to be. He told the President they had had one of their taller SEAL operators, about 6’3″, lie down on the ground in the hangar at Jalalabad next to the remains and they assessed he was roughly the same height as the recovered body.

The President then noted over the SVTC with McRaven that they had all those millions and millions of dollars of Defense equipment but they didn’t have a tape measure, which obviously got a good laugh from all around the table and on SVTC. And when McRaven ultimately did visit the President in the Oval Office some days after the raid, President Obama did in fact “gift” McRaven with a tape measure from Home Depot mounted on a ceremonial plaque in case it was ever needed again.

I was recently down at Fort Bragg and saw that the gift remains prominently displayed in the Commander’s Conference Room at the Joint Special Operations Command.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Green Room of the White House following his statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

When it was all over, I still remember my shock and surprise when I walked outside of the West Wing basement across the street to return to my office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, shortly after the President had concluded his address to the nation.

I was amazed to see (and hear) the streets surrounding the White House complex were filled with what seemed like thousands of people celebrating the fact that justice had finally been done, even though it was after midnight on a Sunday night — normally about as quiet and peaceful a time on the streets of Washington as you would ever see.

Director Clapper noted the enormity of the situation:

“It is hard for me to recall a single vignette that carried with it so much importance, and so much symbolism for this country. As an intelligence professional that has spent 50 years in the business, I cannot remember an event that would approach that raid and its success in my memory.”

The most meaningful moment came days later, when President Obama visited Fort Campbell to meet with some of the operators involved in the mission. A number of senior staff members, including myself, were privileged to attend a meeting and briefing with members of the assault force. The President heard firsthand many of the details of the operation and offered his admiration and gratitude for the work that had been done.

The enormous degree of respect that the President had for the Special Operations Forces was apparent to anybody who attended.

The bravery of these men, the justice they delivered, and the legacy they leave behind — that will be remembered by all of us.

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The hero of 73 Easting explains why the US needs new tanks

Twenty-five years ago, H.R. McMaster lead Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment into battle at 73 Easting in Iraq, and kicked some Republican Guard butt.


Now, he is sounding some alarm bells.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
M1 Abrams tanks conduct live fire training. (Photo from U.S. Army)

According to an Army release, McMaster — now a lieutenant general and Army Training and Doctrine Command’s deputy commanding general for futures — gave the keynote address at a function held by the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare where he urged the development of new armored vehicles. The Silver Star recipient noted that Germany’s Puma, the Swedish CV90, and the British Ajax all featured more advanced technology than that on the M2/M3 Bradley.

Also Read: The Army went old school and named this new Stryker the ‘Dragoon’

That could put American troops at a disadvantage if the long-range precision firepower (systems like the Excalibur GPS-guided artillery round and the Joint Direct Attack Munition) is taken off the table. How might that happen? An enemy force could hide among civilians, or avoid the wide open spaces that make for easy target location.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

McMaster noted that new armored vehicles might seem expensive, but in reality, they are cheap compared to big-ticket items in the Defense budget. The $362 million price tag of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship, for example, is enough to buy about 40 M1A2 Abrams tanks. This is important since in an environment where air power and naval power won’t be factors, an armored vehicle will be needed to get in close to decide the battle.

That said, it should be noted that the M1A2SEP Abrams of today is not like the tank that first entered service. The armor is even tougher than that on the tanks that served in Desert Storm (one famous incident involved main gun rounds from a T-72 bouncing off, even though they’d been fired from less than 400 yards away). The radios are better. A planned M1A3 will be about two tons lighter than current M1A2SEPs, and will feature no loss in lethality or protection.

The Bradley, though, has outlasted two efforts to replace it. First, the Future Combat Systems’ M1206 proposal got the chop for budget reasons. Then, the Ground Combat Vehicle didn’t even get a number in the M series.

McMaster notes that if nothing is done, “the Bradley and Abrams will remain in the inventory for 50 to 70 more years.”

“We are gravely underinvested in close-combat overmatch, gravely underinvested in land systems broadly, gravely underinvested in combat vehicles in particular,” he said.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

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This is why Pakistan drives its nukes around in delivery vans

 


Pakistan is an awkward ally to the U.S., to put it mildly. The relationship hasn’t really been the same since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. routinely violates Pakistan’s airspace and strikes Pakistani nationals with drones, while the Pakistanis harbored America’s whole reason for global warfare — Osama bin Laden.

It’s a complicated relationship.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

According to the nonprofit Arms Control Association, Pakistan has at least 140 nuclear warheads and rather than secure them in fortified bunkers, Pakistan hides them in plain sight – by driving them through rush hour traffic in an unsuspecting delivery van.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

In a shocking report from the Atlantic, it seems Pakistan’s military uses civilian vehicles without “noticeable defenses” dispersed throughout the country, driving in everyday traffic. The raid on Abbottabad only increased the number of nuclear weapons driving through Pakistan like Morgan Freeman drove Miss Daisy.

When Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998, the world kinda cringed. It wasn’t only the idea of a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and its longtime enemy, India. It was the threat of terrorists getting a nuclear weapon, parts of a nuclear weapon, or even the fissile material used in them and then sneaking it out through Pakistan’s porous borders.

The Pakistani government assures you: there is nothing to be concerned about.

“Of all the things in the world to worry about, the issue you should worry about the least is the safety of our nuclear program,” an official at the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the Pakistani military spy agency, told The Atlantic “It is completely secure. … It is in our interest to keep our bases safe as well. You must trust us that we have maximum and impenetrable security. No one with ill intent can get near our strategic assets.”

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
I mean… look at their sweet moves. (Pak Army photo)

But the United States is not the kind of country that takes chances with something like that. America already showed it can make an incursion into Pakistan to do whatever it wants (see: Raid, bin Laden). Shortly after the raid, NBC News’ Robert Windrem quoted “current and former U.S. officials” who said securing the Pakistani nukes has been a priority for the national security community since Pakistan became a nuclear state.

A former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, told NBC that the United States seizing Pakistani nukes would lead to all-out war between the two countries.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

The 2011 Atlantic article recounts a number of militant attacks on Pakistan’s suspect 15 nuclear sites. The University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Index even showed a huge spike in terrorism-related incidents in the two years following the 2011 Atlantic article.

Between the attacks on their suspected nuclear sites and the looming threat of U.S. Navy SEALs coming to snatch them from secured locations the Pakistanis were at a loss for what to do with their nukes. That’s when they started using the delivery vans.

The number of attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear installations nearly doubled from around 1,200 in 2011 to some 2,200 in 2013. There are so many militant groups in Pakistan, the government and military are unable to track them all down. Maybe the delivery vans aren’t the craziest idea after all.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
This old Pakistani fight scene is the craziest thing.

If it comes down to it, the United States has a dedicated team of special operations assets standing by to capture Pakistan’s nuclear weapons  – if the Americans can find them.

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Here’s how Apache helicopters should be used when attacking dragons

The guys over at the Smithsonian Channel war-gamed how an Apache could take down a dragon because curating a museum apparently gets boring.


The dragon in their model is straight out of European mythology with huge wings, thick armor, and fire breath:

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
GIF: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel

The Apache is the same flying merchant of death everyone knows and loves from wars like Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom:

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
GIF: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel

The video goes through a couple of scenarios, looking at how Hellfires and 40mm grenades might affect a flying lizard monster. Check it out below:

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6 things troops always buy after deployment

When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.


Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”

But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.

1. A new car or motorcycle

 

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

 

The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.

That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.

2. Post-deployment booze

 

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
Photo Credit: Streetwear Deals

I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.

But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.

3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)

When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.

That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

 

Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.

4. Engagement rings

Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…

5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect

 

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.

6. Tattoos

There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.

Just make sure you get it spell-checked.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.

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This British tank could perform ‘Dukes of Hazzard’-style moves

Britain’s Cromwell tank first saw combat duty on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The British troops operating the tank fell in love in an instant. It was designed to be a high-speed tank that used a reliable Rolls-Royce engine. 

With a top speed of 40 miles per hour despite weighing 28 tons, the Cromwell crews quickly learned it could be used for more than just mowing down Nazis. They used it to escape some pretty dangerous situations in some astonishing ways. The Cromwell wasn’t the General Lee, but in the world of tanks, it comes pretty close.

It was developed in concert with a couple of other British tanks, namely the Centaur tank. But the Centaur had trouble fixing the bugs in its design and never saw action during the war. The Cromwell was the obvious favorite – and the reason was clear. 

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
Something called “Centaur” had a design flaw — yes, sometimes the jokes write themselves (Image by Ria Sopala from Pixabay)

The 3,066 Cromwell tanks that were produced for World War II were designed to shoot and move. It could fire an armor-piercing Sabot round through 100 millimeters of steel at ranges of more than 1,000 yards while driving at full speed. 

What was really unique about the Cromwell tanks is its design for speed and maneuverability. Its Rolls-Royce Meteor engine combined with a newly-designed Merrit-Brown gearbox allowed the vehicle superior steering while both tracks moved. Where American Sherman tanks and Russian T-34s tended to slow down while turning, the British Cromwell could go as fast as a tight turn would allow. 

While the original configuration of the Cromwell’s armament placed it at a disadvantage against German Panther and Tiger tanks (the standard round could not penetrate the tanks’ front-facing armor), it could easily outmaneuver the enemy. Cromwell tank commanders could also outrun and outperform their adversaries. 

In the Netherlands in 1944, three Cromwell tank commanders kicked their vehicles into high gear and used them to jump a 20-foot gap after being surprised by a large concentration of Axis troops and tanks. It stands to reason that even Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane wouldn’t have been able to catch those Brit boys. The story was recounted by an officer in the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars, Bill Bellamy, in “Troop Leader: A Tank Commander’s Story.”

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
Something like this, but probably less “Yeehaw!” and more “Jolly good!”

The speed at which the Cromwell could drive played hell on the tank’s suspension. British tankers around the theater were apparently using its speed the same way Bellamy did. It got to be so widespread that British Army authorities began to govern the tank’s tops speed, driving it down to just 32 miles per hour. 

British Army planners eventually did solve the Cromwell’s firepower problem, fitting it with the same 75 millimeter primary gun used on the American Sherman tank so the Cromwell could fire the same high-explosive and armour-piercing rounds as the Sherman. Once it did, it could easily beat the tanks fielded by the Germans. It retained its speed and maneuverability as well, moving so efficiently in combat that Wehrmacht tanks were often surprised and had little time to fire back at the British. 

After the war, the British fielded the Cromwell in Korea but retired it in 1955, in favor of the Centurion tank. But that didn’t end the Cromwell’s service. Czechoslovakia, Israel, Poland, Portugal and Greece all fielded Cromwell tanks for years after. Even the Chinese and North Koreans got a taste for the speed of the Cromwell after capturing one or two in the Korean War. 

Feature image: Imperial War Museum

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Here are 16 uniform regs you could well be violating right now

Although the military is rich with history and traditions, most of us are too busy to pay attention to the fine print of the uniform reqs. So take a few minutes to scan this list and make sure you’re not setting yourself up for an on-the-spot correction from the first sergeant or some random colonel on base somewhere:


1. While walking only a seabag or purse can be worn across the shoulder.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Guitars and surfboards have to be hand-carried.

2. Only the CMC, CNO, or CoS can authorize ceremonial uniforms other than those listed in uniform regs.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
(Photo: Warner Bros. Records)

So check with your local four-star service chief if you want to go nuts for your service’s birthday or something.

3. Synthetic hair is authorized only if it presents a natural appearance.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

We’re gonna need a ruling here, JAG . . .

4. Contact lenses must be a natural color.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
(Photo: Universal Pictures)

See bullet no. 3.

5. Unless a medically documented condition exists, white sox are authorized only with white uniforms.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

No “working uniform Buddy Holly” allowed.

6. Only one bracelet and one wristwatch may be worn while in uniform. Ankle bracelets/chains are not authorized.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

No “working uniform Flavor Flav” allowed.

7. Polishing of medals is prohibited.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Is that what they’re calling it now?

8. Women’s underpants/brassieres shall be white or skin color when wearing white uniforms, otherwise color is optional. White undershorts/ boxers are required for men when wearing white uniforms.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brien Aho)

Oh . . . color is optional. We assumed it was something else.

9. Uniforms may be tailored to provide a well-fitting, professional military bearing. They shall not be altered to the extent of detracting from a military appearance, nor shall they be tailored to the point of presenting a tight form fit.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Apparently the Blue Angels didn’t get the word.

10. Hair will not contain an excessive amount of grooming aids, touch the eyebrows when groomed, or protrude below the front band of properly worn headgear.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
(Photo: NPR.org)

All regulations are subject to change, of course . . .

11. Men are authorized to have one (cut, clipped or shaved) natural, narrow, fore and aft part in their hair. Hair cut or parted at an unnatural angle is faddish and is not authorized.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Cause we don’t do “faddish,” only “traddish.”

12. Bulk of hair for both males and females shall not exceed 2 inches. Bulk is defined as the distance that the mass of the hair protrudes from the scalp.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

There’s mass and then there’s mass.

13. Fingernails for men shall not extend beyond the end of the finger; and fingernails for women shall not exceed 1/4 inch beyond the end of the finger.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Easy with the rahnowr!, troops.

14. Non-prescription sunglasses are not authorized for wear indoors unless there is a medical reason for doing so.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
(Screenshot: Paramount Pictures)

Breaking this one is called “pulling an Iceman.”

15. Retired personnel wearing the uniform must comply with current grooming standards set forth in Uniform Regulations.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training

Read and heed, greybeards.

16. Any procedure or components, regarding uniforms or grooming, not discussed in Uniform Regulations are prohibited. (If Uniform Regulations does not specifically say it’s allowed — it’s not authorized.)

What they’re trying to say is the uniform regs conference was only three days long because of budget cuts, and they didn’t have time for every agenda item.

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These wronged WWI vets camped in DC in protest until the president had the Army throw them out

In 1932, over 15,000 veterans and their family members who were camped out near Washington D.C. were forcefully evicted by the Army from the capital grounds and saw their camps burned and children attacked by orders from President Herbert Hoover and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.


Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
(Photo: Public Domain)

But why were so many veterans sleeping and marching near the Capitol building?

At the end of World War I, service members who were released from service were given tickets home and small sums of cash, usually about $60. This was roughly equivalent to two months’ pay for a young private or one month’s pay for a sergeant major.

Though this was the traditional severance package for a soldier at that time, many in America felt that it wasn’t a fitting reward for veterans of the “Great War” and public pressure, urged on by veterans organizations like the American Legion, caused Congress to debate bills that would make life easier for veterans.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
After all, World War I soldiers had already had it pretty bad. (Photo: Public Domain)

The first major legislative push began in 1920 with a bill named for House Representative Joseph W. Fordney. The Fordney Bill called for a fund to be established that would allow veterans of World War I to choose between education grants, a cash bonus, or money towards the purchase of a home or farm.

The bill was warmly received by the public, but it’s cost was not. Implementation and payment would have cost 5 billion dollars and the Senate voted against it. The Senate voted against it again in 1921 after anti-Bonus speeches by then-President Warren G. Harding. In 1922, a new version of the bill, absent the options for an education grant or money towards a home or farm, was passed by the House and Senate but vetoed by Harding.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
President Warren G. Harding, seen here not caring if destitute veterans need money. (Photo: Public Domain)

Finally, in 1924 Congress, under pressure from leaders like William Randolph Hearst and organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, passed the World War Adjusted Act of 1924 over President Calvin Coolidge’s veto.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
President Calvin Coolidge seen here also not caring if destitute veterans need money. (Photo: Public Domain)

It was commonly known as the “Bonus Bill” and called for every U.S. veteran of World War I to receive a bonus based on their duration and type of service in World War I.

Veterans would receive a $1 for every day served in the United States and $1.25 for every day served while deployed overseas. Those entitled under the bill to $50 or less could draw their money at any time while others were issued a certificate for their payment which would come due in 1945, nearly 30 years after their wartime service.

Overall, the bill was popular despite the expected $4 billion cost that would be incurred and the long wait for most payments. The debate about a bonus for vets was seemingly over and remained quiet until 1932, almost three years after the Great Depression began.

Veterans hurting for jobs or money began discussing hopes for receiving their payments early. In Portland, Oregon, World War I veteran Walter Waters rallied a group of veterans, and they all jumped onto train cars to ride to Washington.

Radio and news reports tracked their progress towards the capital and more veterans rushed to join them on the trains or meet up with them in the city. The number of veterans who reached the city was estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000 men.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
(Photo: Public Domain)

Many Washington elite were initially shocked and frightened by the arrival of the Bonus Army. The wife of Washington Post editor, Evalyn Walsh McLean, visited the camps with her son.

There, she was surprised to find that while the men were dirty, they were also organized and visibly hungry. Some were sleeping on the sidewalks. As she began asking them when they had last eaten, she was approached by retired-Army Brig. Gen. Pelham Glassford, the new superintendent of D.C. police.

The two made a plan to get the men coffee, cigarettes, and sandwiches and began lobbying in support of the veterans. Glassford eventually became so popular with the vets that Camp Glassford was named in his honor.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
(Photo: Library of Congress)

Legislators debated the merits of paying the veterans early. Some argued that the veterans would quickly spend the money and so help re-invigorate the stagnant economy while others, supported by President Hoover, argued that the taxes necessary to raise the money would further slow recovery.

Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
President Herbert Hoover, seen here not caring if destitute veterans need money and willing to send the Army in to prove it. (Photo: Public Domain)

The House passed a bill supporting early payment but it was soundly defeated in the Senate.

Despite the fact that the camps were well-organized, self-policed, and required all residents to prove that they fought for America in World War I, Washington residents became worried that the veterans were secretly communist or that they would turn violent. The police, over Glassford’s objections, were ordered to evict squatters from the camps.

This led to a small but violent confrontation. Hoover responded by sending in the Army. MacArthur, believing the veterans really were threatening the government, overstepped his orders and launched tear gas attacks, bayonet marches, and cavalry charges into the camps.

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That time a marine was decorated for throwing an enemy off a cliff

The first Royal Marine to receive the Victoria’s Cross earned the medal for gallantry at the Battle of Inkerman during the Crimean War when he lead his men against a Russian patrol despite being completely out of ammo. Since he couldn’t fire, he wrestled the enemy leader and threw him off a ridge.


Retired US Navy admiral shares leadership lesson from SEAL training
That’s the mustache of a stone-cold killer. (Regimental oil painting)

John Pethyjohns joined the military in 1844 but, because he couldn’t read, did not know that the enlisting officer had misspelled his name as John Prettyjohns. The former farmworker slowly rose through the ranks and, in November 1854, he was a corporal helping lead a platoon against the Russians.

In the Battle of Inkerman, a large force of light infantry was holding the road that passed between the Russian forces and the town of Inkerman. The Russians had attacked during breakfast but the marines had managed to hold them. Russian sniper fire from nearby caves was starting to tip the battle back to the Russians.

So Prettyjohns’ platoon was sent to clear Russian snipers out of caves near the main battlefield. The platoon sergeant and Prettyjohns led the attacks and cleared some caves, but then they noticed Russian reinforcements approaching up the hill.

The British and Russian armies fight at the Battle of Inkerman The Battle of Inkerman by Victor Adam (Painting: Public Domain)

The Royal Marines were nearly out of ammunition and trapped on the hilltop, but Prettyjohns quickly improvised. He ordered the marines to collect stones and then to the edge of the summit to meet the Russians himself.

When the first Russian crested the hill, Prettyjohns grabbed him and executed a wrestling throw, hurling the Russian down the slope. The other marines, meanwhile, threw their rocks at the Russian patrol, fired a volley of rifle fire, and forced them to withdraw.

When the Victoria Cross was introduced, the marines chose to nominate Prettyjohns for his actions on the hill and he became the first Royal Marine to receive the award. He left the service in 1865 as a Colour Sergeant and died in 1887.

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