This is why Cossacks are Russia's legendary fighting force - We Are The Mighty
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This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

For centuries, friends and foes of Russia marveled at the fierce fighting skills of their Cossack Warriors. The Cossacks fought to defend the Russian Czar against any manner of enemies – from Ottoman Turks to Napoleon’s Grande Armée, through a World War, and even against the Bolshevik Red Army.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
The last one had admittedly mixed results.

They expanded the borders of the Russian Empire, conquering Siberia and the Caucasus regions for the Czar, all the way to the Bering Sea – capturing one-sixth of the Earth’s land area. Their martial prowess was unmatched in the region for a long time and they refused to be tied to any master. Even the name “Cossack” in the Turkic languages of the time and area meant “free,” “adventurer,” or “wanderer.”

Cossack loyalty to the Russian Czar was earned over centuries of fighting to maintain that independence. Many Czars were faced with Cossack uprisings and were forced to deal with them in their own ways, from putting down the rebellion or forcibly moving the population to another area of the Russian Empire.

From a young age, Cossacks raised their children to be elite warriors and ethnically Cossack in every way possible. Training could begin in infancy and only ever stop in an actual pitched battle.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
Keep your head down!

Eventually, the Russian nobility came to accept the Cossacks, endowing them with certain rights and privileges in the Empire for their continued service in defending Russia’s borders. And they earned those rights, too. After his Grand Armée was forced out of Russia, the Cossacks harassed them all the way back to France. It was the Cossacks who captured Paris and unseated the French Emperor.

When the Empire fell during World War I and the Czar abdicated, the Cossacks were divided between the Red and White factions of the Russian Civil War. They fought primarily for the White (anti-Communist) Russians, which earned them persecution when the Bolsheviks won the war and founded the Soviet Union.

The persecution got so bad, many Cossacks fought for Nazi Germany during WWII.

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These Coasties were tougher than your first sergeant

The Coast Guard is typically more worried about life jackets than L-shaped ambushes, so they often get a reputation for being bad-ss free, but it’s actually not true.


A bunch of the oft-mocked “puddle pirates” are actually tough as nails. Here are six Coasties from history who weren’t afraid to put life and limb on the line so that others may live:

6. A rescue swimmer personally saved half a crew in the middle of a hurricane

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, shown submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski)

When the HMS Bounty, a replica ship based on a 1780s design, sailed into the Atlantic ahead of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it was pretty much doomed. Few people on the crew of 15 had any real experience on tall ships and the captain failed to account for how much damage high winds could do to his wooden masts and hull.

So the Coast Guard had to attempt a rescue in severe conditions. Petty Officer Third Class Daniel J. Todd, a rescue swimmer, dove into the waters and braved 30-foot waves for an hour to rescue nine crew members, many of them one at a time.

Five other members of the Bounty crew were rescued by other helicopters. The captain and one crew member died.

5. A pilot twice braved volatile ice to pull out stranded allies

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
First Lt. John A. Pritchard gets ready to take off on what will be his final rescue flight. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

Coast Guard Lt. John A . Pritchard was assigned to duties on the USCGC Northland in 1942 when the ship was operating near the Greenland Ice Cap.

On Nov. 23, he led a motorboat crew through the ice, under a shelf liable to collapse at any moment, onto the shore, and across a dangerous glacier in the middle of the night to rescue three Canadian airmen. He would posthumously receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.

Later that same month, he flew onto the ice cap to rescue downed American airmen. On Nov. 28, he landed on the ice and then took off with two Army fliers, saving them both.

He returned the next day and picked up a third flier but never made it back to his ship. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously for his November 28-29 actions.

4. The crew of the USCGC Campbell, which rammed a German submarine

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
The USCGC Campbell while in Navy service in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

On Feb. 22, 1943, the USCGC Campbell was escorting other ships when a German submarine suddenly appeared in the ocean nearby. The Campbell immediately turned towards the enemy craft and rammed it, damaging both vessels but failing to sink the enemy sub.

Despite a large hole in the Campbell’s side, it stayed in the fight and engaged the sub with direct fire and depth charges, eventually destroying the enemy. The Campbell took a few prisoners on board, but its commander, Commander James Hirshfield, had been wounded by shell shrapnel.

Hirshfield remained in command and had the Campbell brought into port for repairs.

3. The coxswain who navigated an exploding ship to rescue survivors

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

When the USNS Potomac caught fire in 1961 while discharging aviation fuel, the sea quickly became a hellscape. Explosions on the ship repeatedly sent shrapnel across the surface of the water and burning fuel heated the surrounding air and filled it with noxious gasses.

Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate First Class Howard R. Jones piloted a lifeboat under the stern of the Potomac and rescued five crew members. He delivered those to a nearby hospital and then returned to the still-burning vessel where he searched for other survivors, finding another missing crew member.

The reserves of fuel on the ship kept it burning for five days before it sank.

2. Three Coasties volunteer to rescue over 30 survivors in a horrendous storm

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
(Photos: U.S. Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard often refers to the events of Feb. 18, 1952, as their “Finest Hours,” and a movie based on the events came out in 2016. Two 520-foot ships, the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton, broke apart in a massive nor’easter. The Pendleton broke first, but a short circuit stopped it from reporting the damage.

The Fort Mercer crew was rescued and the crews finally spotted the beleaguered Pendleton. A crew of four volunteers motored past the sandbars off Massachusetts and made it to the bow section of the Pendleton.

Despite massive waves, freezing temperatures, and a broken compass, the four men were able to rescue 32 of the 33 men still alive on the Pendleton and get them back to shore.

1. Two signalmen save Marines under fire at Guadalcanal

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
(Painting: U.S. Coast Guard)

Chief Signalman Raymond Evans and Signalman First Class Douglas Munro were attached to the 1st Marine Division in 1942 when they were sent to Guadalcanal as part of the invasion. The two men were there on different missions, but both were asked to pilot boats to land Marines on another part of the island.

The initial landings were uneventful, but soon after the Coasties returned, they heard that the Marines were under heavy fire and were signaling for help. They both volunteered to return in Higgins boats, a few panels of slapped together plywood filled with gasoline and ammunition, and rescue the Marines.

They even volunteered for service in the boat designated to draw Japanese fire.

Miraculously, the Coasties were able to suppress many of the Japanese guns as the Marine withdrew to the boats, but Munro was tragically hit in the head by a Japanese machine gun burst while helping a beached craft en route back to the beach.

He survived just long enough to famously ask, “Did the Marines get off?” before succumbing to his wounds.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

Today, Sutton Bonington campus, part of the University of Nottingham, houses the schools of bioscience and veterinary medicine. But a century ago, during World War I, it was home to a prisoner of war (PoW) camp for German military personnel captured by the British on the Western front. And it was the site of a great escape, when Germans managed to flee the camp on Sept. 25, 1917.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 the government took over buildings and sites around the country to convert into PoW camps. Sutton Bonington was a group of buildings completed in 1915 for the Midland Dairy Institute, an agricultural college, but it was taken over by the War Office before the institute’s staff and students could move in. Barbed wire fencing and some additional huts were added to the site and around 600 German military officers moved in.


German officers who were made prisoners of war, by contrast with ordinary soldiers and sailors, were not allowed to work. Many became extremely bored, and sought to relieve the tedium by playing sports such as football and tennis, putting on concerts and plays, and planning how to escape. The preferred escape option was to tunnel under the barbed wire, and to disappear into the countryside beyond.

Two attempts to tunnel out at Sutton Bonington failed, but the third succeeded, and at 1.30am on Sept. 25, 1917, 22 men slipped, slithered and pulled their way along a tunnel, which was less than a metre high. They emerged into a field of turnips, and were hidden from the guards in the sentry posts by a ridge running through a nearby field. It helped their cause that the moon had set before they started, that the search lights were out because of concerns about Zeppelin raids, and that it was not raining.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

The main administration block at Sutton Bonington campus. It was used as a prisoner of war camp for German officers between 1916-19.

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

In terms of simple numbers, no other breakout was as successful. Usually only two or three men were involved with a tunnel project. The 22 from Sutton Bonington made it the largest breakout in Britain of World War I.

Best laid plans

The men planned to split into groups of four, preferably with an English speaker in each one, and to head for different ports along the east coast. They had maps and a compass with them, as well as food supplies which had arrived in the camp from Germany the previous day. The absconders hoped to stow away on board a vessel passing through the English channel, and return to Germany, re-join their regiment and re-engage with the war.

The breakout was discovered at 4.30am when a policeman patrolling the village of Plumtree came upon Herman Genest walking alone but wearing a German officer’s uniform. He arrested him, took him to the nearest police station, and from there saw him returned to the camp at Sutton Bonington. Genest had been free for approximately three hours.

His arrest led to a roll call at Sutton Bonington which confirmed that 22 men were missing. All police, special constables, and other groups concerned with law and order in the area were ordered from their beds to find the Germans.

Within hours they were reeled in. My own research into the episode has uncovered that three of the German men, claiming to be seeking work in one of Nottingham’s munitions factories, were arrested at Trent Bridge. Two more, including the leader Otto Thelan, were arrested at Tollerton at 11am, and two others later in the day. Also arrested that day was Karl von Müller, a German naval hero from the early days of the war, who was found by children when he was blackberrying at Tollerton.

The rest were picked up over the ensuing days with the last four German officers captured at Brimington Woods, near Chesterfield. A police sergeant found them on September, 30, “and immediately upon being challenged they admitted their identity”, according to a report a few days later in the Derby Daily Telegraph.

Getting out was unlikely

The experiences of these men were typical of other German prisoners who tried to escape during World War I. They were expected to wear their uniforms in camp, but this made them conspicuous if they managed to escape. They had to walk because catching trains was too problematic, and they normally travelled at night and hid in barns and hay stacks during the day. They carried food, but could struggle to find enough liquid, and if they reached the coast there was no guarantee of a passage across the Channel.

Escape was a romantic ideal rather than a rational expectation. Gunter Pluschow, who escaped from another PoW camp at Donington Hall, in Leicestershire, was the only German to make it home in World War I, largely because he managed to adopt a disguise and stow away on board a cargo ship at Harwich.

The Sutton Bonington camp was used for PoWs until February 1919 when those remaining were moved to Oswestry in Shropshire. The site was then cleared and cleaned, including the removal of the huts and barbed wire, and returned to the Midland Dairy Institute, which formally opened in October 1919. In 1946 the institute joined the University of Nottingham as the faculty of agriculture.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

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This is what happened when Japan gave the F-16 steroids

When Japan was looking to replace aging F-1 fighters (dedicated anti-ship aircraft), they were thinking about an indigenous design. The F-1, based on the T-2 trainer, had done well, but it was outdated.


According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Japanese eventually decided to go with a modified version of the F-16C/D, giving Lockheed Martin a piece of the action.

However, Japan didn’t go with a typical F-16. They decided to give it some upgrades, and as a result, their replacement for the F-1 would emerge larger than an F-16, particularly when it came to the wings – gaining two more hardpoints than the Viper.

This allowed it to carry up to four anti-ship missiles — enough to ruin a warship’s entire day.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
A Mitsubishi F-2A taxis during a 2009 exercise. Note the dumb bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It was also equipped from the get-go to carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow and Japan’s AAM-4. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the F-2 was delayed by issues with the wings, and eventually sticker shock hit the program when the initial versions had a price tag of $100 million each.

In the 1990s, that was enough to truncate production at 98 total airframes, instead of the planned 140.

AirForce-Technology.com reported that F-2s deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for joint exercises in 2007. In 2011, 18 of the planes suffered damage, but most were returned to service. In 2013, the F-2s saw “action” when Russian planes flew near Japanese airspace.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
A comparison of the F-2 (in light blue) and the F-16 (in orange). (Wikimedia Commons)

For its long development and its truncated production, the F-2 has proved to be very capable. It has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and it carries over 17,800 pounds of ordnance.

By comparison, an Air Force fact sheet notes that the F-16 has a top speed of 1,500 miles per hour, and MilitaryFactory.com credits it with the ability to carry up to 17,000 pounds of ordnance.

In essence, the F-2 paid a visit to BALCO, and got some good steroids, going a little faster and carrying a bit more than your normal F-16. Japan has also improved the plane’s radar.

Articles

This Canadian liberated a Dutch town on his own

Canadian sniper Pvt. Leo Major could have taken a ticket home after the Normandy invasions when he lost part of his vision to a phosphorous grenade blast or later that year when his back was broken in a mine strike. Instead, he stayed in theater and went on to single-handedly liberate a Dutch town from the Nazis by convincing them that a massive Canadian attack was coming.


Major’s unit approached the town of Zolle in the Netherlands in April 1945 and asked for two volunteers to scout for enemy troops, an easy observe and report mission. Major and his buddy, Willy Arseneault, volunteered to go.

Léo_Major,_Libérateur_-Canadian sniper liberated Zwolle Netherlands Canadian sniper Leo Major liberated a Dutch town on his own during World War II. (Photo: Jmajor CC BY SA 3.0)

They were told to establish communications with the local Dutch resistance and warn them to take cover if possible, since the morning’s attack would open with heavy artillery and the Canadians wanted to limit civilian casualties.

Arseneault and Major moved forward but quickly ran into trouble. They were caught by a German roadblock and Arseneault was killed in the ensuing confrontation. Arseneault killed his attacker before he died and Major used a fallen soldier’s machine gun to kill two and chase off the rest.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
The German troops in Zwolle numbered in the hundreds but they were scared off by a single Canadian on a rampage. (Photo: German Bundesarchiv)

Major could have turned back at this point and reported the loss of his friend, or he could have carefully completed the mission and carried news of the German strength back to his command. Instead, he decided to go full commando and sow terror in the hearts of his enemies.

He captured a German driver and ordered his hostage to take him into a bar in Zwolle. There, Major found a German officer and told him that a massive Canadian attack was coming.

The Canadian then gave the German hostage his weapon back and sent him into the night on his own. As the rumor started to spread that Canadians were in the town and preparing a massive assault, Major went on a one-man rampage.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
A U.S. Army Ranger candidate fires the Carl Gustav submachine gun. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. David Shad)

He tossed grenades throughout the town, avoiding civilians and limiting damage to structures but sowing as much panic as possible. He also fired bursts from a submachine gun and, whenever he ran into Germans, he laid down as much hurt as possible.

At one point, he stumbled into a group of eight Germans and, despite being outnumbered, killed four of them and drove off the rest.

He also lit the local SS headquarters on fire.

Major’s campaign of terror had the intended effect. The German forces, convinced they were under assault by a well-prepared and possibly superior force, withdrew from the city. Hundreds of Germans are thought to have withdrawn from the town before dawn.

German-SS-Troops World War II It took a lot to get SS troops to run, but Canadian Pvt. Leo Major turned it into a one-man job. (Photo: German Bundesarchives)

A group of Dutch citizens helped Major recover Arseneault’s body and the sniper returned to his unit to report that little or no enemy troops were present in Zwolle.

The Canadians marched into the town the next day and Major was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He is the only Canadian to receive DCMs for two wars.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
A U.S. infantryman receives the Distinguished Conduct Medal from King George V. The DCM is second only to the Victoria Cross in British Valor Awards. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

He was nominated for a capturing 93 German troops in 1944 but refused it because he though Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was too incompetent to award medals. But Major received the DCM for capturing Zwolle. In the Korean War he received another DCM after he and a team of snipers took a hill from Chinese troops and held it for three days.

He became an honorary citizen of Zwolle in 2005 and died in 2008. Soon after his death, Zwolle named a street after their Canadian liberator.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

We’ve talked about British officer John “Mad Jack” Churchill before. He waded ashore on D-Day with his trademark Scottish claybeg sword, he killed at least one Nazi with his longbow, and he was an all-around BAMF having served in World War II, Israel, and Australia.

Today, we want to talk about that time he took approximately 42 German soldiers captive in World War II.


This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

Churchill leads a simulated assault during training for the D-Day assaults.

(Imperial War Museum)

The insane capture took place in 1943 during the invasion of Italy. Churchill, then the commanding officer of Britain’s No. 2 Commando, had taken part in the capture of Sicily and then landed at Salerno with other British troops. He and his men fought for five straight days, grinding through mostly German defenders. They were even lauded for defending a rail and road hub from a determined counterattack at Vietri, Italy, until U.S. armored vehicles arrived to relieve them.

The commandos were granted a short rest and the time for showers and bathing, though they had to avoid enemy mortar fire while enjoying it. Even that rest was short-lived, though. They were serving in reserve for the U.S. 46th Infantry Division, and German forces managed to grab three hills overlooking the division area, imperiling the American forces.

So the British soldiers of No. 41 Commando and No. 2 Commando were sent in to secure two of the three hills in two attacks. Churchill, as the commander of No. 2, was in charge of that second attack.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

Col. John “Mad Jack” Churchill after World War II.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

The logistics of the assault were daunting. The men would have to attack uphill across terraces covered in vines and rocky terrain at night while trying to flush out and engage the enemy. Typically, commando attacks at night like this are conducted as silent, stealthy raids. But Churchill decided to bring nearly all of his men, broken into six columns so each column could support those to either side of it.

Churchill himself marched just ahead, spaced evenly between the third and fourth column. To ensure the columns didn’t drift apart or accidentally maneuver against one another in the darkness, he ordered them to yell “Commando!” every five minutes.

For the German defenders in the darkness, this created a sort of stunning nightmare. First, they heard No. 41 Commando take the nearby hill under heavy artillery bombardment as night was falling. Then, as pure dark set in, an unknown number of assailants began churning their way through the vines and across the terraces below, yelling to each other every few minutes. Whenever the Brits found Germans, they’d open up with Tommy guns, rifle fire, and grenades.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

Churchill examines a captured 75mm gun during World War II.

(Imperial War Museum)

It caused confusion in the German ranks, and the columns were able to take dozens of prisoners. Churchill, meanwhile, grabbed one of his corporals and went to hunt out those Germans still attempting to organize their defenses.

First, he and the corporal found an 81mm mortar crew and took them prisoner. Churchill led this attack with his trademark sword, a Scottish claybeg. Then, Churchill and the corporal began moving from position to position, grabbing all the German soldiers they could find. By the time the two men made it back to the rest of the commandos, they had taken over 40 Germans prisoner (Reports vary between 41 and 43, but the more authoritative books on the Salerno invasion typically agree on 42, so that’s the number we’re using.)

The rest of the commandos had grabbed plenty of prisoners, and the total for the night between No. 41 and No. 2 Commando was 135, more than the 46th had taken in the five previous days of fighting.

This was a big coup for the intelligence folks who suddenly had access to all these prisoners. More importantly, two of the hills over the 46th were now clear of potential attackers just hours after German forces had staged there to attack.

Churchill would fight through the rest of the war, earning new accolades despite being captured once in Italy and later in Yugoslavia. After World War II, he served in Palestine and then Australia before retiring from the military.

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Top 10 things to know before BUD/S

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
First Phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs (BUD/S) candidates use teamwork to perform physical training exercises with a 600 pound log at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Log physical training exercises are one of many physically demanding evolutions that are part of first phase training at BUD/S. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle-Lymas


Every week, most of my emails are from young sailors and civilians who wish to become SEALs one day. Though I try to focus more on fitness, I thought it was time to answer the several emails with my top ten things you need to know before going to BUD/S – SEAL Training.

1. Arrive Fit!

Not just able to do the minimum scores but the above average recommended PFT scores:

– 500 yds swim – under 9:00

– Pushups – 100 in 2:00

– Situps – 100 in 2:00

– Pullups – 20

– 1.5 mile run – under 9:00 in boots and pants

If you need letters of recommendation from SEALs, most SEALs will not endorse you unless you can achieve the above numbers. Sometimes it takes a solid year of training before you are physically capable of reaching these scores. You WILL have to take this PFT before going to BUD/S and on the first day at BUD/S.

2. Run in Boots and Swim with Fins

At least 3-4 months prior to arriving at BUD/s get the legs used to swimming with fins and running in boots. They issue Bates 924s and UDT or Rocket Fins at BUD/S. The fins are difficult to find, so any stiff fin that requires you to wear booties will do.

3. Officers at BUD/S

Go there ready to lead and get to know your men. Start the team building necessary to complete BUD/S. You can’t do everything by yourself, so learn to delegate but do not be too good to scrub the floors either. Be motivated and push the guys to succeed. Always lead from the front.

4. Enlisted at BUD/S

Be motivated and ready to work as a team. Follow orders but provide feedback so your team can be better at overcoming obstacles that you will face. Never be late!

5. BUD/S is Six Months Long

Prepare for the long term, not the short term. Too many people lose focus early on their training and quit. It would be similar to training for a 10K race and running a Marathon by accident. You have to be mentally focused on running the Marathon – in this case a six month “marathon.”

Learn More About Navy SEALs

6. Weekly Physical Tests

The four mile timed runs are weekly and occur on the beach – hard packed sand next to the water line. They are tough, but not bad if you prepare properly. The 2 mile ocean swims are not bad either if you are used to swimming with fins when you arrive. The obstacle course will get you too if you are not used to climbing ropes and doing pullups. Upperbody strength is tested to the max with this test.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
A U.S. Navy SEAL candidate swings to an elevated cargo net at a Naval Special Warfare elevated obstacle course. SEAL candidates use the obstacle course in preparation for attending the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/s) course. | U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Les Long

7. Eating at BUD/S

You get three great meals a day at BUD/S, usually more than you can eat. During Hellweek, you get four meals a day – every six hours! The trick to making it through Hellweek is just to make it to the next meal. Break up the week into several six-hour blocks of time. In a couple of days, you will be on “auto-pilot” and it will be all downhill from there. And if you need any help with dieting before you go to BUD/S, I developed a new dieting aid that may help you:

Place This on Your Refrigerator

8. Flutterkicks

This seems to be a tough exercise for many. Practice 4 count flutterkicks with your abdominal workouts and shoot for sets of at least 100. There may be a day you have to do 1000 flutterkicks. By the way – that takes 45 minutes!

9. Wet and Sandy

Jumping into the ocean then rolling around in the sand is a standard form of punishment / motivation for the class at BUD/S. It is cold and not comfortable, so you just have to prepare yourself for getting wet and sandy every day at BUD/S. On days that you do not get wet and sandy, it will be the same feeling as getting off early at work on a three day weekend!

10. Did I Mention Running?

You should be able to run at least 4 miles in 28 minutes in boots with ease. If not, you will so learn to hate the “goon-squad”. The goon squad is to motivate you never to be last again or fail a run again. You only get three chances to with most events. If you fail three of anything – you will be back in the Fleet.

Related Navy Special Operations Articles:

Navy SEAL Fitness Preparation

How to Prepare for BUD/S

Getting Fit for SEAL Training

The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness

Joining Naval Special Operations

Navy SEAL Fitness Test

All Navy Special Operations Fitness

Find Available Special Operations Opportunities

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle – check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him atstew@stewsmith.com.

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The hater’s guide to the US Marine Corps

This is the second in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.


The military branches are like a family, but that doesn’t mean everyone always gets along. With different missions, uniforms, and mindsets, troops love to make fun of people in opposite branches. Of course when it counts in combat, the military usually works out its differences.

Still, inter-service rivalry is definitely a thing. We already showed you how everyone usually makes fun of the Air Force. Now, we’re taking on the U.S. Marine Corps.

The easiest ways to make fun of the Marine Corps

One of the quickest ways to make fun of Marines is to call them dumb. Plenty of acronyms and inside jokes have been invented to harp on this point, like “Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential” or even referring to them as “jarheads.”

The interesting thing about calling Marines names however, is that somewhere along the line they just decide to own that sh-t. Many terms used in a derogatory fashion — jarhead, leatherneck, and devil dog — eventually morph into terms that Marines actually call themselves. It’s like a badge of honor.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
Don’t give people excuses now. (Photo: Screenshot/Youtube)

The thinking that Marines are not intelligent often stems from it being the smaller service known more for fighting on the ground, and the thinking that shooting at the bad guys doesn’t take smarts. There is some truth to this — they don’t call them “dumb grunts” for nothing — but the Marine Corps infantry is actually a very small part of the overall Corps, which also has many more personnel serving in admin, logistics, supply, and air assets.

In a head-to-head battle of ASVAB scores (the test you take to get into the military), the Air Force or Navy would probably come out on top, due to these services having many more technical fields. But plenty of Marine infantrymen (this writer included) know that being in the Marine infantry — or at least being really good at it — takes plenty of brainpower paired with combat skills and physical fitness.

Other common ways to make fun of the Corps are to go after their gear or barracks, since they usually get the hand-me-downs from everyone else, or to focus on their insanely-short and weird-looking haircuts.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
Stop trying to make the horseshoe happen. It’s not going to happen. (Photo: YouTube)

Then there are people who tell Marines they aren’t even a branch, they are just a part of the Navy. To which every Marine will inevitably reply, “Yeah, the men’s department.”

This brings us to an important point to remember that in every insult on the Marine Corps, there is at least some truth behind it. But Marines are masters at spinning an uncomfortable truth into something positive, a point not lost on a Navy sailor writing a poem in 1944 calling them “publicity fiends.” Here are some examples:

When a new Marine comes to the unit, he or she might be told, “Welcome to the Suck.” Basically, a new guy is told that his life is going to suck and that’s a good thing.

“Retreat hell! We just got here!” and “Retreat hell! We’re just attacking in another direction.” — Even when the Marines are pulling back from the front, they aren’t retreating. They are attacking in a different spot, or conducting a “tactical withdrawal.”

“If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, you’d be issued one.” — Forget about married life. Just focus on shooting and breaking things.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

But if you want a real taste of the Marines, this quote from an anonymous Canadian (via The Marine Corps Association) just about sums it up:

“Marines are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it was some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts to ungentlemanly lengths, worshiping their Commandant almost as if he was a god, and making weird noises like a band of savages. They’ll fight like rabid dogs at the drop of a hat just for the sake of a little action, and are the cockiest SOBs I have ever known. Most have the foulest mouths and drink well beyond man’s normal limits, but their high spirits and sense of brotherhood set them apart and, generally speaking, of the United States Marines I’ve come in contact with, are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have had the pleasure to meet.”

Why to actually hate the Marine Corps

The Marine Corps is the smallest branch of the military, and it has a reputation for getting all the leftovers. This means everything: weapons, aircraft, and gear have traditionally been hand-me-downs from the Army.

Let’s start with the barracks: Usually terrible, though for some it’s getting better. There’s a rather infamous (thanks mostly to Terminal Lance) barracks known as Mackie Hall in Hawaii, which most Marines refer to as “Crackie Hall,” since it’s in a dark, desolate part of the base that’s right near a river of waste everyone calls “sh-t creek.” While the Corps has been building better housing for Marines, it’s still nowhere close to what the other services can expect.

Then there are the weapons and gear. Go on deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan and you’ll see even the lowliest Army private with top-shelf uniforms, plenty of “tacticool” equipment, and the latest night vision. And on their brand new M4 rifle, they’ll have the best flashlight, laser sights, and whatever brand new scope or optic DARPA just came up with. But here’s the plot twist: That soldier never even leaves the FOB.

All of this “gee-whiz, that would be awesome if I had that” equipment will usually end up in the hands of Marines eventually. It’s just going to be a few years, and only after it’s been worn out by the Army.

That’s not to say the Marines don’t have their own gear specifically for them. The MV-22 Osprey aircraft was designed with the Corps in mind, along with amphibious tractors and others, like the Marine version of the F-35 fighter.

Despite their sometimes decrepit gear and weapons, Marines also spin this as a point of pride — they are so good at this — rationalizing the terrible by saying they can “do more with less.” But if an airman or sailor is thinking this one through, they are saying to themselves, “but I’d rather do more with more” from the comfort of their gorgeous barracks rooms that look like hotel suites.

There’s also the Marine language barrier. Especially in joint-command settings, service members from other branches might be scratching their heads when they hear stuff like “Errr,” “Yut,” or “Rah?” in question form.

And as for what Marines hate about the Marine Corps: Field Day. Everyone can all agree on field day being the worst thing in Marine Corps history. The top definition of what “field day” is in Urban Dictionary puts it this way:

“A Thursday night room cleaning to prep for a inspection Friday morning that is required to go way beyond the point of clean to ridiculous things like no ice in your freezer, no water in your sink, no hygiene products in your shower. Most of the time you truly believe that someone woke up one morning, sat down with a pen and paper and just came up with a bunch of ridiculous things to look for in these “inspections”. Basically Field day is just another tool used by Marine Corps leadership to piss off and demoralize Marines on a weekly basis.”

That’s basically all true. Which leads some to count down the days until they get out, the magical, mystical day of E.A.S. (End of Active Service):

Why to love the Marine Corps

There are many reasons to have pride in the Marine Corps, and it usually comes down to its history. Since 1775, the Marine Corps has had a storied history of fighting everyone, including pirates, standing armies, and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
Photo by Pfc. Devan Gowans/USMC

And knowing history and serving to the standard of those who came before is a big part of what it means to be a Marine. A Marine going to Afghanistan today was likely told at boot camp about the Marines who were fighting in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam — with the idea that you definitely don’t want to tarnish the reputation they forged many years ago.

While there were many negatives aspects highlighted about the service here, many Marines see these instead as ways the Marine Corps operates differently. Marines see the bad as a way of thinking that “we don’t need perks” to do our job, which comes down to locating, closing with, and killing the enemy. The Marines even have a longstanding mantra to “improvise, adapt, and overcome.”

Other things to be proud of: Marines can get stationed in some pretty awesome spots like Hawaii and southern California for example, although some are sent to the dark desert hole that is 29 Palms. And besides the combat deployments, peacetime Marines enjoy awesome traveling and training in places the Army usually doesn’t go: Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, or the famous and beloved “med floats.”

And hands down, the Marine Corps has the absolute best dress uniforms and the best commercials.

For male Marines (as far as what your recruiter tells you), the dress blue uniform is like kryptonite to females in a bar. Interestingly enough, that same uniform is like kryptonite to young impressionable men who are interested in being among the “Few and the Proud.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Civil War infantrymen slaughtered one another

If you think that troops marched at each other with muskets and rifles in the Civil War because they were too dumb to maneuver, you’re dead wrong. Civil War formations were the pinnacle of strategy at the time, allowing commanders to bring maximum force to bear at a crucial moment as long as they could think far ahead of their enemy.


Infantry Tactics: The Civil War in Four Minutes

www.youtube.com

Infantry in the Civil War typically marched in lines or columns, quite similar to their forebears in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. This technique is sometimes ridiculed since it gives the enemy a long warning that attackers are headed for them. But these massed formations usually worked better for attackers than small groups, like those we use today.

Typically, unless there was particularly valuable terrain or cover nearby, troops that marched in small groups against an enemy were destroyed by the enemy’s concentrated fire.

So, instead, troops marched in large blocks that would be recognizable to George Washington or Andrew Jackson. But warfare and the necessary tactics had changed a lot in the decades between those men leading armies and the Civil War.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

“Let’s get into a straight line and walk slowly forward to attack.” A good idea, surprisingly.

(Thure de Thulstrup, Library of Congress)

The biggest surprise for Washington or Jackson would come when an attacking force drew within 400 yards of their target. That was when defenders would raise their rifles and deliver their first volley at the attacking force, 300 yards further than was typical for earlier soldiers.

Remember the old saying from the Battle of Bunker Hill, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”? That’s a bad adage for the Civil War thanks to the increase in rifled weapons.

Rifling dated back to before 1500, but rifled weapons feature a spiraling groove down the barrel that increases accuracy but greatly increased load time. Most commanders and procurement officers went with cheaper, smoothbore muskets that could be fired much more quickly.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

Minie balls feature a small cavity on the bottom that would fill with hot gasses and expand when fired. This allowed the rounds to be small enough to be quickly loaded but then become large enough to grip the barrels of rifles.

(Mike Cumpston, public domain)

But improvements in manufacturing and metallurgy had made it much easier and cheaper to produce quality rifles and, probably even more important, French inventor Claude-Étienne Minié figured out how to create quality ammunition for rifled weapons that could be quickly loaded.

The Minié ball was slightly smaller than the barrel it would be loaded into, allowing it to easily slide down the barrel without getting caught on the grooves. But it had a small opening in its base, not unlike the small opening on the bottoms of most cans and bottles you see today. When the weapon was fired, the hot gasses would push into that little cavity and expand the bottom of the round, making it grip the grooves and spin as it left the barrel.

So, suddenly, infantrymen could fire rifled weapons just as fast as smoothbores while still enjoying the massive improvements in accuracy and range. For troops in defensive positions, this meant that they could launch multiple volleys while attackers were marching up. If there were walls, fences, or ditches in the way, like during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, each obstacle gave a chance for defenders to launch an additional volley.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

Reenactors during a rifle firing demonstration.

(National Parks Service)

The only way an attacker could survive these volleys is if they arrived with a large enough force to absorb multiple volleys until they closed the gap, then attacked with the survivors of the charge. When possible, there was a way for attackers to turn the power balance back in their favor: flanking.

Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson made his career partially thanks to his ability to drive his men to conduct quick and sometimes covert marches during battles, like those at Chancellorsville and Second Manassas. These marching skills allowed his men to flank the enemy, attacking them from the sides.

Formations in combat were typically quite wide and could not change their overall direction of fire quickly or easily. If a formation was able to hit its enemy from the side, the flanking force could bring all of its guns to bear while the soldiers who had been flanked could respond with just a few shooters on the edge of the formation.

The best way out of this was a well-organized retreat or, rarely, an advance past the flanking force. Attempting to stand and fight was nearly always a recipe for disaster.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

You don’t want to end up in bayonet range, but you want to be ready if you do.

(Kurz and Allison, Library of Congress)

But of course, with skilled infantrymen firing about 2-4 shots per minute, it was still quite common for competing forces to fire their weapons while in short ranges and then have to defend or attack with no time to load another round. Then, it was time for rifle and bayonet combatives.

The butt of the rifle was a great club, and the bayonet at the front was a slashing and stabbing weapon. If attackers and defenders closed into bayonet range, men would swarm one another and attempt to fight in small teams that would slash their way through enemies.

But there was one technology, deployed in limited numbers during the Civil War, that changed all of this. Repeating rifles could fire anywhere from six to 15 rounds without reloading, allowing them to hit rates of fire of 15 or more per minute. Like rifled muskets, they were typically accurate to 400 yards or more.

When employed, this allowed the men with repeating rifles to inflict severe losses on their enemy even when outnumbered. In some cases, a force with repeating rifles could even ward off a flanking attack since each rifleman at the edge of the formation could fire as fast as 10 musket-wielders.

Articles

US Air Force Veteran Caught Trying To Join ISIS

An Air Force veteran has been caught and charged with trying to provide support to ISIS.


Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, an American citizen, was a former avionics specialist and Air Force veteran.

“Pugh, an American citizen and former member of our military, allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” Assistant Attorney General Carlin said in a press release from the Department of Justice.

“Identifying and bringing to justice individuals who provide or attempt to provide material support to terrorists is a key priority of the National Security Division.”

“As alleged, Pugh, an American citizen, was willing to travel overseas and fight jihad alongside terrorists seeking to do us harm,” said Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez.

“U.S. citizens who offer support to terrorist organizations pose a grave threat to our national security and will face serious consequences for their actions.  We will continue to work with our partners, both here and abroad, to prevent acts of terrorism.  This investigation demonstrates the importance of law enforcement coordination and collaboration here and around the world.”

Pugh flew from Egypt to Turkey in order to cross the border into Syria; however, Turkish authorities denied him access to the country and he was forced to return to Egypt. He was subsequently deported from Egypt back to the US.

In the US, Joint Terrorism Task Force agents conducted a search of Pugh’s electronic devices on January 14, 2015. On his laptop, the agents found internet searches for information pertaining to how to cross into Syria, parts of the Turkish border controlled by ISIS, and downloaded ISIS propaganda videos.

Pugh was arrested on January 16, 2015 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He has been in custody since his arrest.

The US has been leading a military coalition against ISIS since August 2014. The anti-ISIS coalition has carried out airstrikes against the militant organization in both Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has recorded brutal execution videos of its captives since it conquered vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in June 2014. In August 2014, ISIS released a video showing the execution of US journalist James Foley. This was the first video the group released of the execution of a western hostage.

SEE ALSO: Lockheed Just Built A New Laser That Can Fry Large Targets From A Mile Off

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

WATCH

The largest naval battle in history happened during a different war than you think

World War I is commonly thought of as soldiers fighting across trenches that stretched along the entire European continent, but there were major clashes on the oceans, as well. The largest was the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916, the only time that the famous “Dreadnoughts” of Britain and Germany actually faced off in battle.


 

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
The HMS Dreadnought sails soon after its launch in 1906. Photo: US Navy Historical Center

 

Fought between 249 ships and 100,000 men, it is the largest naval battle in history (in terms of tonnage of ships involved).

“Dreadnoughts” were massive battleships named for the HMS Dreadnought, a British ship launched in 1906. Dreadnought was a feared battleship. It was massive, fast, and lethal. Its launch triggered an arms race that saw major navies of the world, especially Britain and Germany, race to create the largest and most technologically advanced battleships.

After World War I broke out, the people of each country eagerly awaited the chance for their navy to prove itself the most capable in the world. But the admirals on each side wanted to avoid this, fearing that a single major defeat in a battle between dreadnoughts could cripple their navy and leave the country vulnerable to attack.

But, by 1916 the British had forced Germany’s hand. An effective blockade of Germany’s coast had limited the ability of the German Navy to put to sea. Worse, German ships that made it into the North Sea couldn’t make it to the Atlantic Ocean because of British ships operating both in the English Channel and off Britain’s northern tip.

The German fleet was sent to draw out the British in late April and they did so by attacking British coastal towns. The British responded by launching the Grand Fleet. Twenty-eight of the fleet’s 32 Dreadnought and Super-Dreadnought battleships took to the waves with another 122 ships supporting them. They were coming for the 99 ships of the German fleet.

 

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
The SMS Seydlitz limps home after the Battle of Jutland. Photo: Naval Historical Center

The scouting parties of each force found each other at 4:48 p.m. on May 31 and began trading blows. The British party then managed to draw the Germans into the British main fleet.

The British Admiral John Jellicoe waited until the Germans were fairly close before initiating his attack, giving up his advantage in range. But, he was able to maneuver against the German fleet effectively, three times “capping their T,” meaning he was able to get his battle line at the head of the German line.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
The HMS Queen Mary sinks during the Battle of Jutland. Photo: Public Domain

The Germans, with the British line directly in front of them, could only engage with their forward-facing guns while the British, with their sides facing the Germans, could fire broadsides into the German ships.

Still, superior armor and ship design combined with excellent gunnery skills allowed the Germans to sink more British ships than they lost themselves. The British suffered 14 ships and 6,784 lives lost to the Germans’ 9 ships and 3,058 men.

The Germans claimed victory because of their advantage in ships sank, but the British retained control of the North Sea and had managed to cripple the German fleet. Because of the ships lost and extensive repairs needed to the rest, the Germans never again attempted a breakout from the North Sea. For the rest of the war, Germany’s naval efforts were limited mostly to submarine operations.

While the Battle of Jutland is known as the only clash between the world’s major dreadnoughts, in an ironic twist the actual HMS Dreadnought wasn’t present. It was undergoing refit at the time.

See the battle play out in the amazing animation below:

The Battle of Jutland Animation from NIck on Vimeo.

(h/t Argunners Magazine)

Articles

Vet organizations rally behind the Khans

Khizr Khan came to national prominence after his impassioned speech at last week’s Democratic National Convention. His remarks touched on the value of his son’s sacrifice for the country and why he believes Muslim immigrants should be allowed to take part in the American process.


This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
Khizr Khan, father of fallen U.S. Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan, next to his wife Ghazala, speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Thursday, July 28, 2016. | YouTube

Some of Khan’s remarks were aimed directly at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, including asking whether Trump had ever read the Constitution. In response, Trump fired back in a way that has offended many in the veteran community. Trump specifically addressed the silence of Capt. Khan’s mother, Ghazala Khan, and implied that she likely didn’t speak because her husband (and the Muslim faith) wouldn’t allow it. She later addressed his comments in a Washington Post op-ed and told him it was a mother’s grief, not her religion, that rendered her incapable of speaking.

In a joint letter, seven veterans organizations have asserted that the Khan family’s right to question the intentions and actions of presidential candidates and other potential elected officials should be respected.

The full letter is embedded below:

Other Gold Star families released their own letter to Trump today, calling him out for attacking the Khan family and for comparing the sacrifices of Gold Star families to the work he did building his company. The letter begins as follows:

We are all Gold Star Families, who have lost those we love the most in war. Ours is a sacrifice you will never know. Ours is a sacrifice we would never want you to know.

Your recent comments regarding the Khan family were repugnant, and personally offensive to us. When you question a mother’s pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us. When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice.

You are not just attacking us, you are cheapening the sacrifice made by those we lost.

Capt. Khan was an ordnance officer inspecting troops on guard duty on Jun. 8, 2004. When an orange taxi approached the soldier’s position in a suspicious manner, Capt. Khan ordered the rest of the soldiers to “hit the dirt” and moved forward alone to confront the driver. The driver set off an IED in the vehicle and killed Khan. Khan posthumously received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his actions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This German general told Hitler off in the most satisfying way ever

Known as the Lion of Africa, General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was one of the most respected military minds of World War I and, reportedly, he never suffered a defeat in battle. Born in 1870 to a military family, Lettow-Vorbeck started his military career at the age of 11 by joining the cadet corps in Potsdam, Germany.

By 18, the future officer finished school as valedictorian and was appointed lieutenant of the 4th Footguards. After that, he began working with the U.S. during the historic Boxer Rebellion, where he polished his guerrilla warfare tactics. Through outstanding performance, Lettow-Vorbeck quickly worked his way up in rank.

Lettow-Vorbeck was next sent to German South-West Africa (which is known as Namibia today) to put down a rebellion fueled by Herero and Namaqua tribesmen. After suffering injuries, he was moved to South Africa to recover. In his absence, the quelling of the local insurrection devolved into what’s now considered the first instance of 20th-century genocide — nearly 100,000 locals were killed.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (middle) with two other Germans, 1919.

Afterward, the Prussian officer spent a few years back in his homeland of Germany until 1914, when he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command over colonial troops in German East Africa.

Then, World War I broke out. As war raged, the German governor of the African colony, Heinrich Schnee, was determined to remain neutral. Lettow-Vorbeck had other ideas. Knowing full-well that the African theater was a sideshow to the real war, the Lieutenant Colonel set out to entangle as many British troops as possible.


Although highly outnumbered, Lettow-Vorbeck and his men successfully held a front using guerrilla tactics and avoiding fighting out in the open — a smart move when you have fewer troops than the opponent. Lettow-Vorbeck’s maneuvers helped defeat the British, Belgian, and Portuguese armies. For his actions, he was promoted to the rank of major general. The new general was well-respected by all of men, including the Askari troops he commanded due to the fact that he was fluent in Swahili, their native tongue.

Once the war had ended, he returned to Germany and received a massive, hero’s welcome from his countrymen.

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force
Lettow-Vorbeck reaching a heroes welcome.

Although the general was a known anti-semite, he wasn’t a faithful member of the Nazi party. Because of this, Lettow-Vorbeck maintained a great distrust of Adolf Hitler. In letters he wrote, he expressed a thorough distaste for Hitler’s racist rhetoric.

In fact, when Hitler offered him the ambassadorship to the Court of James in 1935, he told Hitler to go f*ck himself.

Some literature suggests that Lettow-Vorbeck didn’t use those exact words — in fact, his words weren’t so kind.

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