The 5 scariest things most recruits don't know about the Army - We Are The Mighty
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The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

Everyone knows there are risks to joining the Army, but there are the dangers that everyone knows about thanks to movies, and then there are the dangers that soldiers learn about during their time in service.


Most movies make it look like the only way to die is in combat. But movies like “Jarhead” and “Starship Troopers” remind everyone that there are a lot of under appreciated ways to die in the military, like being killed by your own artillery or friendly fire from a machine gunner.

Here are five relatively unknown ways to get your ticket punched in the Army

1. It’s not “Danger close” until it has a 0.1 percent chance of incapacitating you

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

“Danger close” is one of those military terms that pops up in movies from time to time. It’s usually used correctly with artillery observers yelling it on the radio when they need bombs or artillery.

What the movie doesn’t tell you is that the term “danger close” refers to fire missions where the rounds have a 0.1 percent chance of incapacitating or killing friendly troops. That may not sound like much, but the risk estimate distance, or RED, for calculating  danger close is on a per round basis. Which means you’re rolling those 1 in 1,000 dice every time a round is fired.

Danger close fires are still often a good idea since they’re only used when a U.S. position is about to be overwhelmed, but they’re super dangerous. If the artillery line is asked to fire a total of 150 rounds in a danger close situation, then they have an 8.6 percent chance of hitting an American even if they do everything perfectly.

Any mistake increases the risk.

2. Human chemical detectors

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Brian Kimball)

In the unlikely event of a chemical or biological attack, all members of the military don protective masks and suits and chemical soldiers track how the enemy agents break down until it’s safe. But someone has to be the first to take off their mask.

This moment sucks especially hard for the junior-most member of the unit since they’re usually the one who has to take their mask off first. So, good luck with that, new enlistees.

3. Every weapon malfunctions and malfunctions can kill you

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. John Portela)

The Army works hard to purchase and deploy effective and dependable weapons, but every weapon has a chance to fail even when it’s properly maintained. While soldiers usually act in training like helicopters only fall when shot at and weapons always fire until they overheat, that simply isn’t the case.

Take this artillery crew in Afghanistan that got a horrible surprise when their howitzer’s recoil mechanism gave out during a fire mission, leaving them to manually lower and raise the gun between shots. And that’s not even getting into the malfunctions that can kill soldiers outright, like when the breach or tube on a weapon gives out and it suddenly explodes when fired.

4. Everyone with a radio is a target

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Provost)

American soldiers are trained to target enemy combatants with radios in an attempt to shutdown the adversary’s command and control networks. Unfortunately, the enemy has figured this out too and uses the same tactics.

What that means for every platoon leader and sergeant, every radio telephone operator, and every artillery observer is that their antenna is a huge target painted on their backs.

5. Even in training, the weakest link can get you killed

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Steven L. Phillips)

But the scariest thing about being in the Army is when you realize that you’re life depends on everyone around you, and some of those guys are pretty stupid. In combat, these guys can get you killed by not being good at their jobs, but there are risks in training as well.

Artillery crews can miscalculate and hit friendly troops, helicopter pilots can crash, troops who have negligent discharges can send rounds anywhere. Obviously, sexier training is more dangerous. Shoot houses with live ammo and artillery ranges are more dangerous than practicing to escape a rolled over vehicle.

Articles

Watch the Navy blow up some of its obsolete ships

When most ships are decommissioned, they eventually will head to the scrapyard. Mostly, their fate is to become razor blades.


Others become artificial reefs, providing a tourist attraction for divers and a home for fish. But some vessels escape these fates for a more noble end: They are sunk as targets.

And that’s not new.

Back in the early 1920s, the United States used old battleships as targets to test how well air-dropped bombs could sink ships. In fact, since the end of World War II, ships have been sunk as targets – often to test how well current or new weapons work, or to provide crews with training that is quite realistic in using their anti-surface warfare systems.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

The 1946 Operation Crossroads was perhaps one of the most dramatic examples. In two tests, the Navy detonated atomic bombs amongst a fleet of obsolete ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato, the German cruiser Prinz Eugen, and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3). A total of 14 ships sank outright, while the Prinz Eugen sank five months later.

Perhaps the largest ship to be sunk as a target was the aircraft carrier USS America (CV 66). This ship displaced almost 85,000 tons when fully loaded, and had a 31-year career, including service in the Vietnam War, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and Desert Storm.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

On May 14, 2005, the America was sunk after the testing by controlled scuttling, which included remote systems monitoring the effects of underwater explosions that took place over four weeks.

The video below shows the sinking of a pair of Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and a Newport-class landing ship. Often smaller systems will be used before they unleash the really powerful missiles – and last, but not least, the torpedoes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPT0isrCIUE
Articles

Tina Fey plays embedded journalist in ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’

Paramount released the first trailer for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the film adaptation of war correspondent Kim Barker’s 2011 book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

Fey plays Barker, a childless, unmarried reporter who volunteers to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan, including an embedded assignment with U.S. Marines in the region. Joining her is Margot Robbie, who of all people explains the “Desert Queen Principle” to Fey’s Barker once in country.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

The film also stars Martin Freeman as a Scottish journalist, Alfred Molina (who is not of Afghan descent) as a local Afghan official, and Billy Bob Thorton as the Marine Corps commanding officer. The trailer makes the film seem like a sort of Eat, Pray, Love for reporters, which the film even outright calls “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard.”

Barker’s original book depicted her own humorous journey from hapless to hardcore. She covered stories about Islamic militants and the reconstruction efforts in the Af-Pak area, along with her fears about the future of the region.

Articles

Today in military history: The M16 comes under fire in Vietnam

On May 23, 1967, the M16 went under fire for letting troops down in Vietnam.

The Army began to issue M16s to infantry units in 1965, but the rifle routinely failed when troops needed it most. The crisis gained national attention when Congressman James J. Howard went to the floor of the House of Representatives to read a letter from a Marine in Vietnam.

The letter claimed that many of the casualties suffered during the Battle of Hill 881 were due to malfunctions of the M16 rifle.

The resulting controversy spurred a Congressional investigation. The Army soon found many of the rifles were delivered without cleaning kits and that soldiers and Marines were told that the rifle was “self-cleaning.” The rifle had also received new powder in its 5.56mm cartridges that also caused problems. 

Troops hated the M16 so much, they started calling it the Mattel 16 “because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

“We hated it,” added Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

The M16A1 fixed the problems with a chrome-plated chamber among other improvements. The new rifles were even shipped with a comic-book style manual by legendary graphic novelist Will Eisner.

The improved model proved incredibly reliable, and the M16A4 is in service with our troops today.

Articles

Exclusive interview with Pro Slackliner Spencer Seabrooke on Discovery’s new series Pushing The Line

Spencer Seabrooke is a Pro Slackliner and a cast member of Discovery’s new TV series PUSHING THE LINE, streaming on discovery+. Spencer is originally from the small town of Peterborough, Ontario. Growing up he spent his free time skateboarding, snowboarding, playing paintball and bridge jumping. At the age of 18 he founded a concrete finishing company. Always on the lookout for adventure, he searched for the next challenge to conquer.

What first attracted you to this sport?

I started rock climbing and whenever I got to the top I felt like it was missing something. I watched a movie about one of the other cast members on the show, Andy, and he had been highlining for a few years. He held a handful of the world records. I watched him and got super inspired by what he was doing. So, I went out and started doing it.

What was your scariest moment practicing the sport?

When you’re first starting, you learn to trust your gear. You’re looking back at all the knots that you’ve tied and the connections you’ve made. You look down and you see how far you’re going to fall if you mess one of those up. In the beginning, I feel like my fear was high at the night, but over time and the experience rigging, it slowly becomes more comfortable.

In the show you all refer to yourselves as a ‘dysfunctional but working’ family. How long have ya’ll known each other?

The sport of slacklining has been growing a lot in the last five years. It has been skyrocketing. It was [around that time] when we all started. We’ve been in it long enough and have done a lot of projects together. So, we kind of make a deal to get together once a year and do some rad stuff and catch up. That way we can stay at our top level. It really is like a family. When you’re rigging one of these lines and someone gets on the radio to say, ‘It’s okay for you to get on, everything is good here,’ your life is in another’s hands. You learn to trust each other.

What advice would you give to a veteran who wanted to try the sport out?

I would say get in touch with your local slackline community. Usually at a local park, kids and adults are doing it. You’ve got to start somewhere. The slackline community around the world is very inviting and everyone is welcome and are [willing] to show people the ropes. Get involved and see what your local community has to offer and see what you can put into it.

What was your favorite moment during the filming of the show?

Everything that we did was a lot of fun! I can’t ruin the show so you’re just going to have to tune-in! Watch the good stuff. I’d say the kilometer long zipline was my favorite part (laughs).

What is next for you?

For me, we’re keeping it local here in Canada. I’m trying to grow my own business, SlacklifeBC — we sell slackline products. We’re out to help the community here and teach everybody how to do it. So, tune-in! The show is premiering tomorrow, June 5th, on Discovery+! It’s really cool because I grew up watching the Discovery channel and it’s the kind of thing you watch and get stoked to go do something. It’s great that I’m going to be a part of it all now with the others. The audience will be able to get off their butts and go do it! (laughs)

Articles

19 Terms Only Naval Aviators Will Understand

Every warfare specialty has its own language, but Naval Aviators have elevated slang to an art form. Here are a few terms that only make sense when said between brownshoes ambling about the boat:


1. “Speed of heat”

To move through the sky at a rapid clip, as in “you were going the speed of heat when you came into the break.”

2. “Full blower”

When an aircraft is at max afterburner.

3. “Bust the number”

“The number” is Mach 1.0, so busting it means going supersonic.

4. “Making ‘Vapes”

Under the right meteorological conditions, an airplane in a high-G turn can disturb the air to the degree that vapor clouds (“vapes”) form around control surfaces.

5. “Pop the boards”

To deploy the speed brakes, generally used to slow an airplane down.

6. “Three in the green”

In older model airplanes the verification of the landing gear in a “down and locked” position was a green light, so if a pilot reports “three in the green” it means he has his gear safely down.

7. “Wheels in the well”

When the landing gear is raised the wheels move into the wheel well. Aviators refer to the the act of taking off as being “wheels in the well,” as in, “we’ll shoot for being wheels in the well at 1400 local.”

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

8. “Speed jeans”

Another name for a G-suit.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

9. “Zoom bag”

Another name for a flight suit, the uniform Naval Aviators pride themselves on never, ever switching out of during a deployment.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

10. “Pull chocks”

Chocks are blocks placed around the tires to ensure an airplane doesn’t roll while parked, and they’re “pulled” when an airplane is ready to launch.  In more general terms, to “pull chocks” means to leave, as in, “All right, dudes, this place is out of beer. It’s time to pull chocks.”

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

11. “FOD”

Acronym for “foreign object debris” — stuff that can get sucked into a jet engine and do catastrophic damage to the turbine blades. More generally, when something is bad, Naval Aviators might refer to it as “FOD,” as in, “that slider I just ate at midrats was total FOD.”

12. “The Dirty Shirt”

There are two wardrooms on an aircraft carrier. Wardroom One is all the way forward on the same deck level as the squadron ready rooms and is referred to as “The Dirty Shirt” because, unlike Wardroom Two where officers have to be in the uniform of the day (usually khakis), crews can wear flight suits and/or flight deck jerseys.

13. “Clue-do”

When an airplane can’t communicate because of equipment failure it is called “nordo,” which is short for “no radio.” Clue-do is short for “no clue,” as in, “Is it just me or is the skipper totally clue-do?”

14. “Nugget”

A first-tour aviator, an unpolished hunk of material waiting to be shaped by his or her surroundings.

15. “Dash Last”

An airplane’s position within a formation is annotated by a dash number — for instance, the flight lead is dash one. Aviators refer to being at the end of something as “Dash last,” as in, “I was dash last in that 5K I ran last weekend.”

16. “Severe Clear”

Great weather conditions, not just clear of clouds but severely clear of clouds.

17. “Bug out”

The act of exiting a dog fight rapidly in order to survive to return another day.

18. “Hanging on the blades”

Flying a max endurance profile to reduce fuel consumption is often described by pilots as “hanging on the (turbine) blades,” which is a reference to setting the engine power as low as possible to stay airborne.

19. “Banging off the stops”

When a pilot moves the control stick aggressively — either by design or absence of technique — he is “banging off the stops” — “stops” being the physical limits of stick movement.

Articles

Report: Flynn to recommend Trump make a big move against Russia

On Monday, Politico reported that Michael Flynn, the retired general and national security adviser to President Donald Trump, would advise the Trump administration to back Montenegro’s entrance into NATO — a move sure to infuriate Russia.


Flynn has longstanding ties to Russia — most notably, he received payment to attend a gala event for Russia Today, a Russian propaganda outlet. On that occasion, he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that US counterintelligence agents investigated Flynn’s ties to Russia. Recently, a group of top Democratic lawmakers urged the Department of Defense to do the same.

Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has repeatedly questioned the NATO alliance and the US’s adversarial relationship with Russia.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn previously led the Defense Intelligence Agency. | Photo from Defense Department

Despite that, the US backs Montenegro’s bid to join NATO, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has backed its bid for over a year. During this time, the small Balkan nation faced increasing pressure from Russia — including a failed coup in October that may be tied back to Moscow.

A special prosecutor in Montenegro said in November that Russian nationalists tried to sway the country’s October election with a plot to kill Milo Djukanovic, the Western-leaning prime minister.

“The organizers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Djukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force,” Milivoje Katnic, special prosecutor for organized crime in Montenegro, said at the time.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
NATO

Flynn’s backing of Montenegro’s entrance into NATO would seemingly fly in the face of Trump’s proposal to try to befriend Russia, as Russia sees NATO expansion as aggression against its interests.

Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow and NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, told Politico, “No NATO candidate country has ever faced such a dire attack or threat in the process of finishing its membership into the alliance.”

However, Flynn is not alone among Trump appointees in striking a more hawkish tone toward Moscow. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also signaled a hawkish approach, saying that “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” Russia officially denies a military presence in Eastern Ukraine, where fighting has recently reignited.

Before Montenegro can join NATO, it’s accession bid must be approved by all 28 current NATO states and two-thirds of the US Senate.

Articles

U.S. Navy vet and comedian Charlie Murphy has died

Charlie Murphy, a standup comedian and Navy vet known for his work on the “Chappelle’s Show,” died after a battle with leukemia. He was 57.


Murphy joined the Navy after being released from a stint in jail. His mother wanted him to get out of the neighborhood to prevent him relapsing into his old habits and he enlisted the same day. He had to lie to get in, but has told interviewers ever since that he doesn’t regret it.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
Charlie Murphy played himself in skits with Dave Chappelle dramatizing Murphy’s run-ins with Rick James. (Photo: YouTube/TV One)

“I became a man in the Navy,” he said in a PR.com release. “That’s where I got my first apartment, my first marriage, my first bank account, my first car… it all happened there. That was a good experience.”

Somehow, Murphy made it through his service without ever being issued dog tags.

“I’ll tell you something bizarre. I was never issued dog tags. It’s part of your uniform, but I never got them. I thought it was for ID. But it’s not to ID you. It’s to ID your corpse. That’s why they make them out of metal,” he was quoted as saying.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
Comedian and Navy veteran Charlie Murphy performs standup. (Photo: YouTube/Leon Knoles)

After separating from the military, Murphy became the head of security for his little brother, Eddie Murphy, before launching his own career as a writer, actor, and standup comedian. The older Murphy helped write the movies “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Norbit” which his younger brother starred in.

Charlie also played small parts in “Night at the Museum,” “The Boondocks,” and the 2012 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

Military Life

3 reasons why yelling cadences will get you through a tough workout

Service members spends countless hours stomping across the base, running in formation while yelling a repetitive song at the top of their lungs. Military cadences, or close-order drills, date back hundreds of years as a way to keep troops aligned as they march onto the battlefield. Today, it’s primarily used to keep service members in step as they run, landing their feet at the same time to create a motivating, captivating rhythm.


 

 

Not only are these repetitive songs catchy as f*ck, but they’ll also test out your creative side as you can make up the lyrics on the spot. A good cadence call will ignite your fellow troops’ morale, helping them make it through the miles and miles of running we do each time we gear up for PT.

It teaches leadership and confidence

The cadence caller has an important job when they’re running on the left side of the formation. They need to make sure the troops are in step as you emphasize each of the word being yelled out. It’s excellent practice how to lead a pack of service members toward an objective at once, and no signal-caller wants to be seen following out of a run.

You can talk sh*t to other units

The military is full of competition, and we love it. On that note, we commonly run through other areas of the base that our military rivals call home. Since we can easily control what lyrics we yell during our PT sessions, we’re sometimes guilty of creating sh*t talking ones as we move in and through those areas.

No grunt wants to be seen falling out of a run in a near a POG barracks. That just looks bad.

It helps you control your breathing

Since we commonly yell out the cadence lyrics at the top of our lungs, this act helps expel the CO2 out of our lungs and allows us to gain endurance. The more controlled our breathing becomes, the more oxygen we can deliver to our bodies. It also helps troops take their mind off the fact they are running for miles if the troop is concerning on repeating the cadences correctly.

It’s also pretty motivating, and we use that to get us through those tough runs.

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The Coast Guard and Navy just saved real-life castaways from a desert island

It’s not a movie this time.


The U.S. embassy in the Federated States of Micronesia’s city of Kolonia reported via Facebook that two castaways were rescued on the remote Pacific island of East Fayu after being lost at sea for 11 days.

The merchant vessel British Mariner reported seeing a flashlight signal them as they passed the otherwise uninhabited island on August 24.

The U.S. Navy overflew the island the next day in P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The Navy reported seeing a help message from castaways to the U.S. Coast Guard at the Guam Command Center.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
(U.S. Navy photo)

Navy observers saw “SOS” written in the beach sands by Linus and Sabina Jack, who left nearby Wenu Island on an 18-foot boat with limited supplies and no emergency equipment. They never reached their reported destination.


 

The pair left on August 17th and the Coast Guard began its search two days later when they failed to arrive at Tamtam Island. The multi-agency team searched some 16,571 square miles before the British Mariner saw their flashlight.

A patrol boat picked the castaways up on August 26.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
(U.S. Navy photo)

The international search for the couple lasted seven days and used a Coast Guard-sponsored ship reporting system designed to assist vessels under these exact conditions. Called AMVER, the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System, the network is voluntary but is used worldwide. With AMVER, users can identify ships in the area of distress and ask them to respond or assist.

popular

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

On Feb. 25, 1968, a patrol left the besieged Khe Sanh garrison — where U.S. Marines were outnumbered by North Vietnamese forces almost 4 to 1 — and was drawn into a well-executed ambush.


The patrol, conducted by two squads, was nearly wiped out and few survivors managed to crawl out of the jungle. It was later dubbed “The Ghost Patrol.”

One of the Marines listed as lost in the battle, Pfc. Ronald L. Ridgeway, actually spent the next five years in solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prison camp before returning to the family that had “buried” him months after his disappearance.

 

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
Marine Pfc. Ronald Ridgeway (Photo: YouTube/Vietnam Veteran News Podcast)

 

The Battle of Khe Sanh began when the North Vietnamese attacked one of America’s northernmost garrisons near the border between Vietnam and Laos. Army Gen. William Westmoreland had predicted the attack months before and reinforced the base with additional men and munitions and ordered repairs and upgrades to the base’s airfield.

When the North Vietnamese attacked on Jan. 21, 1968, it quickly became clear that the preparations weren’t enough. The 6,000 troops were attacked by an enemy force that would eventually grow to an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 enemies, and the carefully hoarded supply of artillery and mortar rounds were 90 percent destroyed by an enemy artillery attack that hit the ammo dump.

 

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
And the Marines needed that ammo. They went through it at a prodigious rate while trying to beat back the siege. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Westmoreland convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that the base should be held at all costs, triggering a 77-day siege that required planes to constantly land supplies on the improved airfield.

The Marines and other troops on the base sought continuously to knock the North Vietnamese off balance and to relieve the pressure on the base. The February 25 patrol aimed to find North Vietnamese and either kill them or take them captive to collect intelligence.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
F-100 strikes close to the lines while supporting the Marines at Khe Sanh on March 15, 1968. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

 

It was led by an inexperienced lieutenant who, after his men spotted three enemy fighters who quickly fled, ordered a full-speed chase to capture or kill them despite advice to the contrary from others.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
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The three enemies turned out to be bait, and they drew the Marines into a nearly perfect crescent-shaped ambush.

The Marines fought valiantly, but they were taking machine gun and other small arms fire from three sides mere moments after the fight began. Grenades rained down on their position as they sought cover, concealment, and fire superiority.

 

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
Infantry Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson is rushed behind friendly lines during a firefight in the Vietnamese jungle.(Image: YouTube/CBS Evening News)

Under increasing fire, Ridgeway and another Marine attempted to break contact and return to the base, but they came across a wounded Marine on their way. Unwilling to leave an injured brother, they stopped to render aid and carry him out.

As they stopped, bursts of machine gun fire hit the three Marines, wounding all three. One was killed by a grenade moments later, another died of wounds that night, and only Ridgeway survived despite the enemy shooting him in the helmet and shoulder. He was later captured when a Vietnamese soldier tried to steal his wristwatch and realized the body was still breathing.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

That September, his family was part of a ceremony to bury unidentified remains from the battle and memorialize the nine Marines presumed dead whose bodies were only partially recovered.

But for five years after the battle, Ridgeway was an unidentified resident of the Hanoi Hilton, undergoing regular torture at the hands of his captors.

It wasn’t until the North Vietnamese agreed to a prisoner transfer as part of the peace process in 1973 that they released his name to American authorities, leading to Ridgeway’s mother getting an alert that her son was alive.

Five years after the battle and four years after his burial, Ridgeway returned to America and was reunited with his family. He later visited the grave and mourned the eight Marines whose names shared the list with his. A new memorial was later raised with Ridgeway’s name removed.

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Army veteran and filmmaker shows a different side of war in “Day One”

Any time someone sets out to make a war film, he or she risks getting swept up into the action, the combat, the inherent drama that comes with the subject. The truly great war movies recognize the smaller elements, the ironies and subtleties of life during conflicts. Day One, a short film from U.S. Army veteran turned filmmaker Henry Hughes, is such a movie.


The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
Hughes at the 42d student Academy Awards

“We’re not having a lot of success in getting telling the soldier experience story,” says Hughes, an American Film Institute alum. “I don’t think we’ve changed much how we look at war and the stories that come out of it. Troops are portrayed as either victims or heroes. We still think war is ironic, that we go in and we’re surprised by the things that we find in war. Maybe there’s some bad things about it, and we’re like ‘oh that’s a surprise!’ But it’s not a surprise. War is a very mixed bag, but it can be spiritual and it can be fun and it can be dangerous and it can be morally wrong at times and it can also be one of the things you’re most proud of because you do some really good things.”

Day One is based on Hughes’ own experience with his translator while he was an infantry officer in 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The movie follows a new female translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit as it searches for a local terrorist in Afghanistan. Her job brings up brutal complexities as gender and religious barriers emerge with lives hanging in the balance.

“Having a female interpreter definitely changed my perspective of fighting, particularly having been on two deployments,” Hughes says. “The first time, it feels very new and romantic and exciting. The second time, you aren’t seeing a lot of impact in the way you would like and so you start wondering if you’re doing the right thing. In this instance, I had this Afghan-American woman with me at all times, and she was the person I communicated with locals to and she had access to the Afghan women in a way that I have never had before.”

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

“In my first deployment we didn’t even look at the women,” Hughes continues. “I remember that was a thing we did as a company. When we were on a trail and a woman came by, we would clear the trail, turn out, and allow them to walk by. Now all of a sudden, I mean I’m not face to face with these women but my interpreter would tell me she just spoke with a woman that would give us a very different perspective from what we would usually get. It’s interesting in that way.”

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

Hughes’ Army perspective spans more than just his time as an Army officer. He was also a military brat, following his dad with the rest of the family, living in Germany and Texas. As an officer in the 173d, he went to Airborne and Ranger School, Armor School, and Scout Leaders Course to prepare for his time in Afghanistan during 2007 and 2008 and then again in 2010.

I’m very interested in exploring the military stuff because it is such a hyperbolic life.” He says. “Things are just so condensed and so strange and powerful. It’s like the meaning of life is life hangs in balance sometimes. You get that moment in the military and most people don’t ever work in those types of absolutes.” 

Hughes has always been the artistic type. He went to a high school that had a TV studio, which inspired the creative side of his personality. He’s also come to believe that the military is the perfect place to start a filmmaking career.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

“You take so many lessons from your military experience and apply them into filmmaking because it is so team-oriented and team-based. The ability to communicate and draft up a single clear mission or objective. Those skills that I learned as a young officer are paying massive dividends now, being creative.” 

Hughes also believes a good storyteller must step out of his or her comfort zone to empathize with the characters and relate them to the audience.

“With trying to express yourself artistically, you have to be a little bit more vulnerable. ‘What is actually at play here,’ as opposed to ‘How do I accomplish this?’ I think you have to be a little bit more introspective whereas in the military, we’re very external and action-driven. It’s just analysis but we all do tons of analysis in the military too. I think it’s a good thing.”

Watch ‘Day One’ here.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army

Articles

The first battle of WWII featured one of the last cavalry charges ever

On August 23, 1939, German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov signed a non-aggression pact between their two countries. Contained within the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, was a secret protocol for the division of Poland and the Baltic states between German and Soviet “spheres of influence.”


Just eight days later, German operatives disguised as Polish saboteurs carried out a false flag operation against at German radio station at Gleiwitz. On September 1, without a formal declaration of war, German forces invaded Poland in an operation that many historians agree was the opening battle of World War II in Europe.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
Nazi Armor moves through Poland in 1939.

Polish planning did not anticipate an attack from Germany before 1942, so the Poles were still building up and modernizing their military. Without much of a defense, Warsaw relied on its British and French allies for protection in the event of an attack.

The audacity of the Nazi invasion caught everyone by surprise, and the Poles were left to fight the Germans with anything they had at hand – including World War I-era horse cavalry.

Despite the dawn of the mechanized era of warfare, the Polish army included horse-mounted cavalry based largely on its experience during the Polish-Soviet war, where it decimated Soviet lines at the Battle of Komarów. But as technology advanced, the Poles learned that cavalry could be used as mounted infantry armed with the latest weapons and able to quickly move within the battlespace. To this end, Polish cavalry carried machine guns and anti-tank rifles but still retained their sabers on the chance that they might be useful in a typical cavalry fight.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
Polish cavalry in Sochaczew (1939).

On the first day of the Nazi invasion — 77 years ago today — the Polish cavalry met the Germans at the battle of Tuchola Forest. The Germans caught the Polish army off guard and were advancing quickly through what defenses Poland could muster. In an effort to save the main Polish force, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans – a cavalry unit – were deployed to cover the retreat.

At the Tuchola Forest, the Polish cavalry spotted German infantry in a clearing. Polish commander Col. Mastalerz ordered a charge in hopes of taking the Nazis by surprise and dispersing the German unit. He ordered the 1st squadron commander, Eugeniusz Świeściak, to lead two squadrons in the charge.

Wielding modern weaponry along with their sabers, the cavalrymen surprised the Nazis and were soon in close combat. The Germans were quickly overwhelmed.

The Polish victory was short-lived. As the German infantry retreated, armored cars mounted with machine guns appeared from the woods and opened fire on the Uhlans. Caught in the open with no time to deploy their heavy weapons, the cavalrymen rushed for cover. Świeściak was killed and Mastalerz later fell to the German guns trying to rescue his comrade.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
German armored cars at Tuchola Forest in 1939.

Despite suffering numerous casualties, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans completed their mission and stalled the German advance in their sector. This allowed other Polish units to fall back to a secondary defensive line. The Uhlans’ cavalry charge on horseback would be one of the last cavalry charges in history.

When reporters surveyed the battlefield the next day, they saw numerous dead horses and cavalrymen — with their sabers — and German armor still nearby. This led one Italian journalist to the incorrect conclusion that the Poles had charged German tanks with nothing but swords and lances. German propaganda quickly took this version of the story and used it as a means to convey the superiority of the German army and its technology.

The myth was then perpetuated further by the Soviets after the war to show the ineptitude of Polish commanders. The myth continued long after the war, with some Poles even retelling it as a story of the gallantry of the Polish military.

The 5 scariest things most recruits don’t know about the Army
Polish Cavalry during World War II .

Ultimately, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans would only hold out for three more days before ceasing to exist as a fighting unit. Poland would continue to resist, though once the USSR joined the Nazi operation on September 17 to claim their portion of the country, it was all but over. Most Polish resistance was finished by the end of the month, but a brave few held out until October 6 before finally surrendering.

Many other units, as well as the Polish government, managed to escape the Nazis and take up the fight from abroad in other Allied nations. Polish troops would later return to help liberate Europe, taking part in such famous battles as Operation Market-Garden. Unfortunately, Poland would never regain most of the territory seized by the Soviet Union during 1939, greatly reducing the land area of Poland to this day.

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