This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer - We Are The Mighty
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This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer

Jay Gatsby is a fictional character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” “The Great Gatsby” is part of curriculums in high schools across America as one of the best novels in American literature. It offers a look into the Roaring Twenties and what it looked like to chase the American Dream during that time period. An often overlooked fact is that Fitzgerald, and the fictional Gatsby, are both World War I veterans, but that is where the similarities between their careers end.

Gatsby is a reimagined reflection of Fitzgerald’s military career – or what could have been. When one reads between the lines through the lens of military history, Fitzgerald reveals how Gatsby got his commission. Whether that is intentional or otherwise, Jay Gatsby is an officer you would have wanted during the war to end all wars.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer

Gatsby was often meritoriously promoted

Why would Fitzgerald have cared about how Gatsby made captain — and more to the point — why would he have been secretive about this information? Here it helps to know that Fitzgerald was frustrated in his own military ambitions and his Army record was an embarrassment to him. Though he made it into officer training by taking an entrance exam open to college students, he never got sent to Europe, and captain was precisely the rank he desired and had fantasies about but never achieved.

Keith Gandal, The real secret behind Gatsby

In the book, Nick Carraway explains that Gatsby was a Captain before he was sent to the war. Chronologically, He meets Daisy at Camp Taylor as a 1st lieutenant, he is promoted to Captain at the end of training and is meritoriously promoted again to Major. Officer or enlisted, if your leadership is meritoriously promoted to every rank they have ever had, that’s one hard charger. It’s impossible to brown nose all the way up.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Every once in a while, being a complete badass works, though. (National Archives)

He’s honest about his military career

Out of all the stories he tells to impress Nick, I believe the only time he was ever truthful with him is when he was recounting his military exploits. It was his finest hour. He wasn’t born with an inheritance, but he was born with courage. It was something that came from him, his own birthright that was truly him — something money can’t buy.

The Army also needed thousands of officers. Regular Army and National Guard officers were quickly promoted. The creation of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) converted college students with military aptitude into leaders.

The National WWI Museum and Memorial

Gatsby as an officer would likely have been motivated to succeed in battle and hungered for the laurels of victory. Gatsby’s war medals are authentic and he lead his troops to victory. He would likely have been able to identify with the enlisted while commanding instant obedience to orders. He fit in with the “good ol’ boys” because he successfully was able to pass himself off as a gentlemen of means.

Another little-known fact about World War I is that the military was experimenting with meritocracy. Today, a meritocracy is expected out of all branches of the Armed Services. Gatsby is given an opportunity to climb the social ladder using his military service as a springboard. During WWI, one did not necessarily need to come from a family of means or be a college graduate to become an officer. If you could pass an aptitude test you were good to go regardless of your socioeconomic background.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Phew… good thing we put a stop to that nonsense (Warner Bros.)

The Army really did promote officers quickly during WWI

Maj. Gen. Peyton March’s overarching goal was to get as many men as possible to Europe and into the AEF to win the war. To achieve this, he wanted to establish effectiveness and efficiency in the General Staff and the War Department. He quickly went about clearing bureaucratic log-jams, streamlining operations, and ousting ineffective officers.

THE U.S. ARMY IN WORLD WAR I, 1917–1918, history.army.mil

The Army deliberately set out to award competence and reduce the BS pretentiousness of decorum. So, the theory of Gatsby earning his promotions through merit rather than favoritism holds water. Before World War I, the American officer corps was more like the British class-based officer corps. The idea of an oligarch-only officer corps in today’s military is impossible to imagine. It wouldn’t work now and it didn’t work then. The U.S. Army adapted while our European counterparts clutched on to the past. That change proved dividends in the war for the United States.

Gatsby was a fearless leader

Officers in combat-related Military Occupational Specialties are trained to lead from the front. Sometimes, that is literal. Up until the war’s end, Gatsby was an honorable man and not the fraud he fabricated later in life. In Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” he shows Gatsby leading a bayonet charge across “no man’s land.” WWI had advances in technology never before seen in combat. When the tools of war evolve towards perfecting the art of death, you want an officer willing to step first on the field of battle and who earned the right to do so legitimately.

Feature image: Warner Bros.

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Here are the best military photos for the week of July 29th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, taxis on the flightline July 26, 2017, at Andersen AFB, Guam. The normal/routine employment of continuous bomber presence (CBP) missions in the U.S. Pacific Command’s area of responsibility since March 2004 are in accordance with international law are vital to the principles that are the foundation of the rules-based global operating system.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Smoot

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Josean Arce, 33rd Helicopter Maintenance Unit weapons section weapons expediter, conducts a systems post-load check on a GAU-18 50-caliber machine gun attached to an HH-60 Pave Hawk from the 33rd Rescue Squadron July 26, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Airmen in the weapons section maintain, install, remove, and safeguard all armaments and items associated with the HH-60 gun mounting and ammunition handling systems for the 33rd Rescue Squadron.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier

Army:

Paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade conduct Squad Live Fire in Cincu, Romania during Exercise Swift Response 17.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Photo by Sgt. David Vermilyea

U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to Company A, 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, load into the back of a C-130 Globemaster III assigned to the 8th Airlift Squadron during Operation Panther Storm 2017 at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 24, 2017. Panther Storm is a deployment readiness exercise used to test the 82nd Airborne Division’s ability to rapidly deploy its global response force anywhere in the world with only a few hours’ notice.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James

Navy:

Seaman Tanoria Thomas from Shreveport, La., signals an amphibious assault vehicle, attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, into the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) after the completion of Talisman Saber 2017. Talisman Saber is a biennial U.S.-Australia bilateral exercise held off the coast of Australia meant to achieve interoperability and strengthen the U.S.-Australia alliance.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Christian Prior prepares to raise the ensign on the fantail aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) during morning colors. Iwo Jima is in port conducting a scheduled continuous maintenance availability in preparation for their upcoming deployment.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin Leitne

Marine Corps:

A Marine documents a call-for-fire during a live-fire range at Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 26, 2017. The purpose of this field operation is to test and improve the unit’s capabilities by putting the Marines into a simulated combat environment. The Marine is with 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Holly Pernell

Marines with “The Commandant’s Own” U.S. Marine Drum Bugle Corps perform “music in motion” during a Tuesday Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Va., July 25, 2017. The guest of honor for the parade was the Honorable Robert J. Wittman, U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District of Virginia, and the hosting official was Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat and Development Command and deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert Knapp

Coast Guard:

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Armstrong (left), commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maple, rides aboard a Canadian Coast Guard small boat near Barrow, Alaska, after meeting with members of the Canadian Coast Guard aboard ice breaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier, July 24, 2017. The crews of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and fishing vessel Frosti, a Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans-commissioned boat, went on to lead the way through the ice east of Barrow, Alaska, in support of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maple’s transit through the Northwest Passage to the Atlantic Ocean.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nate Littlejohn

Crew members aboard a Coast Guard 24-foot Special Purpose Craft-Shallow Water boat from Station Chincoteague, Virginia, ignite orange smoke signals to mark slack tide and the beginning of the 92nd Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim in Assateague Channel, July 26, 2017. Thousands gathered to watch Saltwater Cowboys swim a herd of wild ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki

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The body of Britain’s most legendary admiral was shipped home in a cask of booze

Vice-Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson remains Britain’s most famous naval hero. It was the fear of Lord Nelson and his fleet that kept Napoleon’s armies from crossing the English Channel. He was known for his supreme understanding of naval combat tactics and his unconventional strategies.


This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Also, his legendary death… we’re getting to that.

“Something must be left to chance; nothing is certain in a sea fight” – Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson was wounded many times in his career. He lost sight in his right eye during a campaign in Corsica. He lost his right arm trying to conquer an island in the Portuguese Azores. He also destroyed most of the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile, effectively stranding Napoleon and the French Army in Egypt.

Let me alone: I have yet my legs and one arm. Tell the surgeon to make haste and his instruments. I know I must lose my right arm, so the sooner it’s off the better.” – Lord Nelson

He met his fate in another decisive fight against Napoleonic France, at the Battle of Trafalgar. He fought a combined French and Spanish fleet, sinking twenty two enemy ships without losing a single one of his own. Nelson was shot in the shoulder by a French musketeer during the battle. The bullet would make its way to his spine, and he succumbed to this wound shortly after. He lived long enough to know he’d won the battle.

Nelson’s victory secured English rule over the seas for the rest of the Napoleonic Wars, even though the Vice-Admiral wouldn’t be around for them.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Nelson’s death at Trafalgar (Wikimedia Commons)

After the battle, a storm threatened the admiral’s flagship, HMS Victory, which was missing its mainmast and would not be able to return to England quickly. The ship’s surgeon, rather than bury England’s greatest hero at sea, wanted to get Nelson’s body back home for a state funeral. His solution? Shove the Vice-Admiral’s body in a cask of brandy to preserve it during the trip home.

“If I had been censured every time I have run my ship, or fleets under my command, into great danger, I should have long ago been out of the Service and never in the House of Peers.” – Lord Nelson

After the long trip home and Nelson’s elaborate state funeral, Nelson’s body had spent 80 unrefrigerated days before his final burial. In the days that followed, people questioned the decisions of the ship’ surgeon, wondering why he didn’t use the ship’s supply of rum to preserve Nelson’s body. In his official account, the surgeon maintained that brandy was better suited for preservation, but public opinion was so strong, people just assumed he used the rum. It was so prevalent that Navy rum soon became known as “Nelson’s Blood.”

After the body was removed, it was found that the Victory’s sailors had drilled a hole in the cask, and drank from it. though some speculate the sailors drank all of the brandy, no one knows for sure. But henceforth, the act of drilling a hole in a cask became known as “tapping the admiral.”

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Nelson’s Column in London (wikimedia commons)

Nelson is so pivotal to the history of Britain that in 2002 BBC poll, Nelson still rated #8 on a list of the most important Britons. His likeness towers over London’s Trafalgar Square atop  a 169-foot-tall column surrounded by giant lions. The Victory, first laid down in 1759, is preserved as the flagship of England’s First Sea Lord, and is currently the oldest ship still in commission.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
HMS Victory docked at Portsmouth

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Copy of Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said 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.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

LightningWar1941/YouTube
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6 heroes who kept going after insane injuries

Most of us would quietly go home after losing limbs, our eyesight, or other vital capabilities while in service to our country.


But for these six badasses, grievous physical injury was just the warm up:

6. French Legionnaire Jean Danjou led one of the Legion’s most famous fights after losing a hand

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
French Foreign Legion sappers (Image: Imgur)

French Foreign Legion Capt. Jean Danjou was working as a staff officer in Mexico in April 1863 after losing his left hand while fighting rebels in Algiers. When the command needed an officer to lead a convoy of pay for legionnaires, Danjou volunteered.

His column of 65 men came under attack by 3,000 Mexican soldiers near Camerone and he led his men in a fighting withdrawal to a nearby inn. Despite certain doom, Danjou and his men held out for hours and refused repeated requests to surrender. They killed 90 Mexicans and wounded hundreds more before the last two French Legionnaires were allowed to leave the battlefield with Danjou’s body.

The Legion now parades Danjou’s hand every year on the anniversary of the Battle of Camerone.

5. At least three soldiers have returned to front line combat in the modern U.S. Army after leg amputations

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
(Photo: U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Bryan Mitchell)

Typically, amputations are career-ending injuries, and the small handful of people who go back to active service are typically restricted to desk jobs. But the Ranger Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st Airborne Division have all deployed with soldiers suffering from a leg amputation.

Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kapacziewski asked doctors to remove his leg after it failed to heal from a grenade blast, then conducted four combat deployments with his prosthetic. Airborne 1st Lt. Josh Pitcher led a 21-man platoon through a deployment to the Afghan mountains with one leg. And Capt. Daniel Luckett came back from a double amputation to earn the Expert Infantry Badge and deploy with the 101st.

4. Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez defied doctors to go to Vietnam, then kept fighting after dozens of potentially lethal wounds

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
(Photo: Department of Defense)

Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez walked onto a mine in 1965 and suffered an injury that was supposed to stop him from ever walking again. Against the orders of doctors, he rehabilitated himself in secret at night and walked out of the ward on his own power instead of accepting his military discharge.

He deployed to Vietnam again and — on May 2, 1968 — learned that a 12-man sniper team was under extreme fire and three extraction helicopters had been driven away. He rode in on the fourth and rescued the wounded while killing dozens of enemies and suffering 37 wounds, including a number of bayonet and gunshot wounds.

He was rolled up in a body bag but spit in the doctor’s face to let him know he was alive.

3. Canadian Pvt. Leo Major lost an eye, broke his back, then earned three Distinguished Conduct Medals in two wars

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)

Canadian Army Pvt. Leo Major was severely wounded during the D-Day invasions when a phosphorous grenade took part of his vision. He also could have turned back later in 1944 when a mine broke his back.

Instead, he captured 93 German troops in 1944 and was supposed to get the Distinguished Conduct Medal from Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. Major didn’t like Montgomery and refused the award, but he did get one in 1945 from King George V after he liberated a Dutch town on his own.

His last DCM came during the Korean war when he lead a group of snipers to take and hold a hill from the Chinese Army for three days.

2. Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader lost both legs in an air show accident and then became a stunning flying ace in World War II.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Royal Air Force Spitfires, like the plane Douglas Bader piloted, fly in formation. (Photo: Public Domain)

As a young pilot in 1931, Douglas Bader was a bit showy and lost both of his legs after an accident during an airshow caused him to lose both of his legs. He begged to stay in the service but was denied with the suggestion that he try again if war broke out.

He spent the next few years training on his own and re-entered the Royal Air Force in 1939. In the first two years of the war, he earned 23 kills including a victory over the beaches of Dunkirk. In August 1941, he was shot down and became a prisoner of war. He spent the rest of the conflict pissing off his captors with comedic hijinks and attempts to escape.

1. Admiral Horatio Nelson stomped multiple navies after losing an eye and an arm

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Nelson’s death at Trafalgar. (Painting: Public Domain)

The future admiral Horatio Nelson first joined the navy at the age of 12 as an apprentice, but was so skilled that he rose to captain by the age of 20. He fought in the West Indies during the American Revolution before reporting to the Mediterranean to fight French revolutionaries where he lost the use of his right eye.

Despite this handicap, he fought a massive Spanish fleet in 1797 and managed to capture two of their man-of-wars, using the first one captured to attack the second. But then he lost his right arm at the Battle of Tenerife later that year.

Luckily, that handicap didn’t stop him from annihilating the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, the Dutch at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, and the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The victory at Trafalgar protected Britain from a possible invasion by Napoleon, but cost Nelson his life when he was shot twice by snipers.

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Nick from Ranger Up on entrepreneurship, why most business books suck, & his hero Captain America

Nick Palmisciano commands an empire of apparel sales, MMA sponsorships, digital content, and social media mastery as the Founder and President of Ranger Up. Started in 2006, the company is on track this year to hit $10 million in revenue, and that’s due in large part to the former Army officer’s ability to overcome significant challenges.


Palmisciano founded the company while pursuing his M.B.A. at Duke University, after he started printing funny military-themed t-shirts for ROTC students there. Now nine years later, it’s a business that continues to grow.

WATM spoke in depth with Palmisciano about his business challenges, how he overcame them, his future plans, his heroes, and much more.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Photo Credit: Youtube/screenshot

We Are The Mighty: When you refused a promotion and went all-in with RangerUp, it was a huge risk. Do you remember what you were you thinking at that moment?

Nick Palmisciano: I was scared, to be honest. I was scared about giving up the security of the whole thing, but I also felt very free for the first time in ages, you know, because I just — I controlled my destiny, you know, and being able to control your destiny is a very American trait and it’s something I didn’t fully appreciate.

Like I thought of myself as an entrepreneur when I was doing it part-time, but you know, when poor performance means you don’t get a paycheck it hits home so much more, and I’m sure you realize that … but you know you feel alive because you kill what you eat, the company grows, you get a paycheck, the company grows, you get to continue paying employees. [If] the company doesn’t grow, it dies, and you fail. So it’s a lot more exciting and a lot more rewarding when you do well and hits a lot more than a normal job when you do poorly.

WATM: Do veterans have an advantage or disadvantage in starting their own businesses?

NP: We have both. So the statistics show that veterans do better than any other population in the country at starting their own businesses and maintaining their own businesses. I think that’s true for a couple of reasons: One, we have endured a lot, and we are used to a situation where at first we are not the best at something, [and] we have to work really hard at it and, over time we get a skill set. Those are incredibly helpful attributes. When you’ve actually done hard things several times, it makes the next hard thing easier to accomplish.

The other thing is that we genuinely like to work in teams and we are happy when other people succeed, but the military is built around [the idea that] you learn something, and then you achieve a level and then you teach other people how to achieve that level and your success is married to their success. That’s not true in the civilian world. People are a lot more self-centered — whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, they are focused on their own promotion, their own skill sets, their own growth, and they don’t think about the team as much as military people do.

So that’s the upside. The downside is that the military makes things very easy for us, and that’s probably counterintuitive because nobody looks back at their military experience and says “Man that was so easy” but they tell you “If you want to go to this next job, you go to this school. If you want to go to this next job, you need to do these things in the unit. You need to have these jobs.”

There’s a structure to the whole thing. There is no structure in entrepreneurship and when I see people [who] are trying to start business that are really sputtering, a lot of times they’re coming to me, they’re coming to other entrepreneurs and they’re saying that they’re looking for advice, but they’re really looking for me or others to do all of the work for them and they just want to knock down these easily set up targets. And that’s just not the way that entrepreneurship is. You have to go into nebulous situations and figure out a way through and there’s a lot of suffering in there and you might be great for two years and then something else comes in and changes the whole game, and you have to rethink everything that you’re doing.

So there’s good and bad. You know on the whole, I think you’re better off being a veteran, and the statistics show that, than not, but there are things that kind of bite us in the ass too.

WATM: How about in the corporate world?

NP: Um, again, it’s kind of — it’s a two-pronged answer — thinking that you are better than people, or that you are owed something, or that they all suck because they’re civilians, you are setting yourself up for failure. So if you go in with that approach, which a lot of people do, and then complain that no one wants to hire vets, you’re not going to do well, because frankly, nobody wants to be treated like sh-t. No one want to be looked down upon, so if you go in with a negative attitude, then people aren’t going to like you and you’re not going to get hired. If you go in with the same attitude that you had when you went into a new job in the military — “I don’t really know what I’m doing and I have to rely on the people around me to teach me everything I need to know, but be proactive in learning everything that you can,” — you’re going to do extremely well.

Every time I had a new corporate job, I spent most of my time for the first few weeks basically talking to everybody that was in the group — no different than somebody coming into a new unit [and] figuring out how the unit works what the SOP’s were — and then after that after I felt like I had a handle on it. Then I was going to best practices and other organizations, the internet, etc. to figure out how I could improve my job, the organization, and take it to the next level in any number of areas.

That’s the approach that you need to take to figure out what’s going on and then figure out how you can be most valuable and see what you can bring to the table, as opposed to “let me tell everybody here how things should really work, I was in the military.”

So just like anything else, going in humble with the intention of truly being helpful as opposed to trying to rise above other people is going to make you successful.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

WATM: How do we get over that “I’m better than you” military mindset?

NP: I try to flip it around for people. You know, when people get out [of the military] and go to college and college students are making gross assumptions about them, you know about how having post-traumatic stress is going to result in them doing something insane, or about killing people or about this, that, or the other thing … all the stereotypes that you hear about college students.

How much does that infuriate them? How much does that make them want to have nothing to do with these people, does that make them feel like they’re a fish out of water in this organization?

Flip it around and treat somebody like that because they don’t have the same experiences that you had, and guess what? You’re the a–hole. You know, so stop being an a–hole.

You go in and you’re walking into their organization. You wouldn’t walk in from basic training, or for that matter, walk in off the street to basic training and [say] “alright check it out drill sergeant, let me tell you how it really is.” Because they’re gonna be like who the f–k do you think you are?

It’s no different. It’s no different walking into a company. You can’t walk in one day and tell everybody how it is or how it should be or, the way that it should work or that they’re all wrong, because you don’t know what you’re doing — no matter what experience you have — you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know how that organization [operates], what they do on a daily basis, and you don’t know the constraints and you don’t know the personalities involved.

You know if you flip it around, it suddenly sounds ludicrous, right? It’s the same thing.

WATM: What do you think was your biggest challenge with RangerUp, and how did you get through it?

NP: [Sighs] There’s a new one every year, man. Honest to God. There’s a new one every year. You know, the most dramatic challenge I went through [was that] I went through leaving corporate America and literally a month and a half later I was going through a divorce, so I rapidly ran out of personal [funds]. I sold everything that I had, mutual funds and all that stuff, and I was down to $1,300.

And the key there, just like the key has been in every other time that I’ve had a crisis with the company is to focus on one thing at a time every single day and try to improve. You know, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s inventory management, whatever, because if you take a step back and you look at all of it, all the problems and all the challenges, it’s overwhelming.

So, you know, putting it in military terms, right, if you can sit back and say I want to conquer the country of Iraq, that’s an insane task that requires many people thinking and assessing and even then it’s challenging but when you break it down: The first thing I need to do is, I need to take this city, I need to take this block, I need to take this street, [and] it becomes manageable.

So sometimes, especially when everything is sh-tty, and when cash flow’s tight and when you don’t have enough inventory … when sales are down for the month and there’s a new predator or whatever it is. When things are very challenging, you’ve got to narrow them into a list, because otherwise it’s overwhelming.

You put one thing on the list at a time, you do it until it’s done, and you do it so that it’s high quality, and then you do the second thing on the list and when you knock things out like that and you go through the formula of A, B, C, you find yourself in a better position after several miserable weeks.

If you just try to solve it all at once, you get nothing done, you can’t sleep at night, and it doesn’t improve. And so, I went from being a dude that had a lot of money to a dude that had $1,300 to his name and had maxed out credit cards.

But by knocking out one thing at a time, the next month I had $1,350, and the next month I had $1,500, and you know, I’ve taken that approach with everything. So every time something goes wrong, you have to assess, what is it?

Well, this time I have too much inventory in styles that weren’t really selling, how did that happen? So you figure all that out, and what I know is that I need money right now to make a sale on this inventory that isn’t showing, even if I take a loss on it because I need to get cash into the system, then how do I figure out how to do that next time? What led me to this?

So you need to go through the steps and at some point, like right now we have a very fancy inventory management system, we use algorithms to determine that we built based on our analysis and how many of something we should order. But that didn’t happen in a day because we f–ked up, and then we fixed it, and then we f–ked up again and then we fixed it, and as long as you don’t make the same mistakes, over time you start building a business that is very efficient and very sophisticated.

But at the beginning it’s like “hey, how many of these should we order? I don’t know, 100? 150?” And now it’s… I don’t want people rounding because we found two years ago that by rounding up to the nearest 12 shirts, we added $80,000 of inventory, 3 or 4 shirts at a time, and that money needs to be working, not sitting on the shelves.

You see what I’m saying? It all kind of builds.

WATM: I’ll follow up by asking, specifically, because you brought up the thing with $1300, how did you break that up, what was your priority there? It’s daunting, you’re looking at your account and seeing that you only have $1300, and you’ve gotta make money. What were the manageable tasks that you found got you to $1350 in the next month?

NP: The first thing was figuring out where the money was going, [and] where are we spending. One of the the big things back then was we really valued things. We were a smaller company, doing what the other people were doing, and we really valued things like athlete sponsorship and trade shows, and you know all the things that all the other companies are doing that everybody tells you are critical.

[We] just kind of walked through that and asked, is this critical? What does it really cost to do a trade show? What does it really cost to have an athlete? And then you figure out what the value of having these things really is. We almost don’t do any trade shows anymore because the average trade show ended up costing around $27,000 when all is said and done, and you just don’t get that kind of return. It’s just a thing that somebody created that people do, and everyone goes, “oh you’ve gotta be involved in this or else you’re not really in the industry.”

Well that’s not true at all, but that’s what everybody says. And you know, we do sponsor athletes, but we only sponsor our kind of athlete, and we figured out what that meant.

Inventory. It was a big issue back then and I was trying to figure out why sales weren’t growing — why we were very profitable, but we had no cash on hand. So it was a simple Excel spreadsheet where I rank-ordered all of the styles by sales and then to the right I put their inventory value and then I realized that I was getting 80 percent of our sales on about 20 percent of our inventory, and the other 80 percent of our inventory accounted for 20 percent of our sales.

It was embarrassing because I knew this stuff from business school, but it’s completely different when you’re in it, day to day, and you think about things like if I only print this smaller number, it’s gonna cost a dollar something more per shirt and that’s gonna be a ton of money — and it is a ton of money — and it’s not hundreds of thousands of dollars in useless inventory, and there’s no science to that.

It’s hard to balance what’s appropriate. Is it profitability or is it cash flow? You’ve gotta strike a balance, like you’ve gotta hold some inventory or you can’t sell but if you have too much inventory you have nothing available for investment.

So we did a fire sale on that 80 percent of the inventory and much of it we took a loss or did breakeven on, and then all of a sudden we had some cash and we invested that cash into styles that sold, and we were able to then create more styles and started developing styles more routinely.

All of these things were things I was working on over several months and the low point just happened to be at that $1,300 and so I had already been working to solve the problem. And it finally started clicking that following month, like all of a sudden these new styles were coming in, we were selling more, we had a little more cash on hand. I was able to pay myself a little more, and it wasn’t a ton more — like another $100 or $150 a month — but that little amount made all the difference. So you kind of chip away at these small things and they add up to be big things very quickly.

WATM: What are the tools you use on a daily basis to be more productive and get things done?

NP: I’m not a really fancy guy even though I have an appreciation for a lot of these crazy apps out there but really at the end of the day there are three tools that I use all the time.

Excel is the lifeblood of everything I do and I am an Excel ninja. People say that they are an Excel ninja because they can do a couple of basic formulas but there is nothing I cannot do in Excel. Spreadsheets are very complicated you know, drop down menus and like it’s just … [being] able to very quickly look at data and convert that into a few possible directions that you should go and that you should look at, is invaluable. If you’re gonna start your own business and you’re one of those people that’s like “Oh I’m not good at that, or I really don’t know that much about Excel,” take courses, start figuring out how to do analysis, [because] it’s really important.

The second thing is Quickbooks; I don’t care if you’re a brand new business and you only have $400 in sales, start using Quickbooks, start figuring out how all the different sheets work and fit together and constantly be looking at your business to see what’s going on. If you don’t know, then your success is just dumb luck.

You have to know what’s going on in the company. And then the last thing is just that I use the notepad on my iPhone and Tom [Amenta, COO of RangerUp] has Evernote or whatever the hell it’s called, and a few other fancy things but I just use the notepad every day and write down what I have to do on this day, and if I don’t get these things done then I have failed.

Or, at the very least I take it and I move it on to the notes for the next day. But every single day I am trying to knock out certain things. So those are the three very simple tools that I use constantly. You open up my computer and there’s always six or seven Excel sheets open and I get a daily Quickbooks report with a list of various things that are important to me along with a scorecard that the various managers inside the business provide me on a weekly basis and I hold myself accountable with my phone which is always with me.

WATM: I’d be really fascinated to learn what your creative process is like. You guys are churning out videos, blog posts, social media, memes, all kinds of stuff. How do you decide what’s good, who’s coming up with this stuff? Can you take me through what that’s like?

NP: We have a really good creative team and that’s me, Tom Amenta, Jack Mandaville, Patrick Thomas Baker, and all of our designers. It’s just a really good group of people, but it also extends to anybody [who] wants to be involved.

So sometimes we have, I don’t know, three organized meetings about various topics in terms of creativity every week so one is the design process, one is videos, and one might just be general ideas about projects you take on.

But then also there are people like Jack, Pat and I that are literally always thinking about this kind of stuff. Like I’ll wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and jot down some stupid video idea or an article I want to write or whatever, and it hits me and I put it down.

And you know, our whole concept is we want to entertain our friends. That’s the way that we look at our business. How can we entertain, educate, or just generally amuse our friends? If we do that right everything falls into place. And if we don’t do that right, we’re just another t-shirt company.

WATM: Tell me about the movie “Range 15”.

NP: Range 15 is a post-apocalyptic comedy. Think of it as “The Hangover” after the apocalypse with veterans leading the charge to save the world. And in terms of the plot that’s kind of what I can give up right now.

The main character in this movie is going to be Mat Best. He’s got the high cheek bones and the steely blue eyes so we thought it was a no-brainer, and then the rest of the Ranger Up and Article 15 crew who I’m with, Dakota Meyer, Leroy Petry, Tim Kennedy and we just got a really interesting call that I did not expect from another well-known military celebrity that is interested in being involved.

And he has already had a very popular movie done about him, but he has never done a comedy before, and I think we’re going to be adding his seal to the mix here. But the concept here is that veterans are always portrayed in a certain way in movies, even positive movies. It’s always about sacrifice and suffering and they always end up worse off from their experiences. And that’s really just not the case. I mean it’s the case with some people, sure, but on the whole veterans are the most industrious, fun, can-do people that I’ve ever met and that I think most people will ever meet and so we just wanted to have fun with it.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer

So for example, we’ve got two Medal of Honor recipients in this thing and they’re poking fun at each other and the service. And they’re in a movie that could be described as one of the most ridiculous movies that you’re ever gonna see anywhere, and they’re doing it because they should be able to do it. Nobody should be able to tell these guys, “you can only do this type of film” or this kind of documentary.

No, because they want to do the same kind of thing that we want to do. They want to amuse our friends, they want to show them that you can do anything. I mean for all, for any negative threads that are on us doing this silly movie, at the end of the day, in 24 hours we’ve raised almost $200,000 [Editor’s note: Now it’s almost $500,000] to do a movie for our community.

I’ll be honest, the folks at IndieGoGo spoke to a mutual friend and had told them that we were going to launch and they kind of ignored it. And the president of IndieGoGo called and his question to them was “Who the f–k are you guys?” Because he didn’t understand, he did not understand how we were doing it, and it’s because people don’t understand the community and understand what these kinds of things mean to the community.

It’s gonna be a good movie. It’s gonna be really funny and it’s going to be for us, and because we’re doing it for us we don’t have to compromise the message at all. We don’t care if someone’s offended by it. We don’t care if this isn’t Hollywood appropriate, and if this isn’t gonna do well in the Asian market. We don’t care about any of that stuff.

Because we’re doing a movie that our fans want us to do. And it basically breaks all the rules. Our IndieGoGo campaign wasn’t set up the way IndieGoGo says you should set up a campaign, our marketing strategy isn’t what they say you’re supposed to employ, we’re not relying on Hollywood interviews, we’re not relying on press and we’re not relying on any of this stuff and we’re doing it hardcore, direct and social.

And we’re on pace right now to be one of the largest funded movies ever on IndieGoGo, and I think that speaks less about us and more about the community.

WATM: What about the decline of the military comedy in a post 9/11 environment? Why has that happened and were you actively trying to combat that?

NP: You should be able to have fun with it. And we saw the same kind of thing with some people with “Enlisted.”

Military veterans are not saints. And I don’t mean that in like we aren’t good people, but you do not need to bow down to the altar of the veteran. We’re regular people, and we should be able to make fun of ourselves. And if you think that veterans can’t because they have to live up to some standard or stereotype, that’s your problem, not ours.

I think  most veterans have a lot of fun, are funny people, enjoy life and don’t want to be stuck with this view that they are droids that are serious and boring people. I think it’s unfair and we want to shatter that.

WATM: It seems counterintuitive to work with Article 15 Clothing, which outsiders would view as a competitor. How do you explain that relationship? It seems antithetical to the norms of business to be friends with companies creating such similar products.

NP: With Article 15, we have a very similar ethos. Those guys genuinely care about the veteran community; it’s not just window dressing. So they’re genuine guys and I like them personally, but the second part of it is that I don’t think it’s a zero sum game. I don’t wish failure on anybody.

We grow, they grow. Grunt Style [another military apparel company] grows and it’s not a bad thing  [because] these people are employing veterans and doing good things. I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t had a single year where we haven’t had triple or double digit growth, so I’ve got no reason to complain.

When you sit around and look at competitors and worry about what they’re doing, and worry about other people, you are stagnant, you’re not improving, you’re not creating new products. You’re just worrying and you’re trying to go backwards. When you [should] look forward you grow.

That’s what we do, so I worked with Article 15, and we became friends, I gave them some advice here and there, and as a result of that mutual trust we kind of hung out and came up with the concept of doing this together and it’s been a really good partnership.

You can ask them the same questions and I’m relentless — that’s my personality — so from the moment that we decided to do this, I’m the guy who is annoying the sh-t out of everybody like “hey, we gotta do this, here’s our timetable, hey, we’ve got to get the lawyers to do this, we’ve gotta fill out this form and here’s the script notes. I need this and I need that.”

And Jarred [Taylor] is a promotional genius, Mat is a very creative dude, he’s hilarious, Jack [Mandaville] is hilarious, and everyone is kind of bringing something to the table. Individually I’m not gonna say, “could Article 15 have not done this without us?” No, I would never say that. They’re motivated guys, and they could have done it, same with us, like we could have done the same thing.

But together, we’re unstoppable. And I truly feel that way. Working together on this, we’re unstoppable. We’re putting up numbers that are shocking on IndieGoGo because the general population has no f–king idea who any of us are. But we’re still putting up numbers that are a quarter of what Broken Lizard just did with “Super Troopers” and that’s a movie that probably 20 percent of America has seen and loves, because we work great together, and have been able to kind of check egos and just work really hard.

So, for me it’s just been a win for everybody and it’s been an awesome experience.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael Maclleod

WATM: You were an Army officer, so I’m curious as to what terrifies you more: leading a unit of soldiers, or leading your own company? Or is it similar?

NP: It’s really different. And I also think it’s different because as you get older you think about things differently too. Like to think if I was this age, and if I were to take a platoon now, I would have been a lot more afraid than I was then, because when you’re 21 or 22 and just out of Ranger School, you feel like you’re unstoppable and you’re surrounded by guys who feel like they’re unstoppable.

Deploying was definitely nerve wracking because, a lot of people say this, but I was one of the guys that really loved everybody in my platoon even if they were a pain in the ass, and I really looked at them as my family. And it was terrifying to think of losing somebody. But I was fortunate that I wasn’t in a position where that happened. So, I was a young guy and felt invincible and never was faced with some of the bad things that happened to other people.

The stress is different though. The stress of a business is constant, and it’s not something where there is a clear, there’s no clear enemy right? It’s just this constant stress. Do we have the right inventory? Do we have the right ideas? Do we have the right advertising strategy? Oh crap, this thing went wrong. We need to fix this. The shirts came in wrong, the movie title headline is off because of X,Y, and Z, the lawyers didn’t get us the paperwork in time.

So now, my brain works 24/7, and it’s never over. In the nine years I’ve been doing this, I’ve basically had this constant stress in the back of my head, whereas the military, the stress has much higher peaks but shorter duration.

You get back from deployment and that stress drops significantly, then you deploy and the stress peaks. Within an entrepreneurial endeavor, the stress never goes away. It’s just always there. There’s always something you could be doing. That was a convoluted answer, but in the worst situation, [there’s] no question about it that the military is more stressful. On a day to day basis it’s more stressful to be an entrepreneur.

WATM: Living or dead, who are your top 3 heroes?

NP: George Washington is the best president we will ever have. I’ve read just about everything written on the man and people have no idea how much that dude did for the country and for our way of life.

Cheesy I know, but my father came over from Italy when he was eight years old, volunteered for Vietnam, served for six years, got out and used the GI Bill to be the first person to go to college in our family on either side, graduated valedictorian, and sacrificed significantly so that my mom and my brother and I grew up thinking anything was possible, and essentially made it so that we did make anything possible that we wanted to do.

And then third, gosh, you know the third one is a tough one, I’m not really a big hero worship kind of guy but I’m gonna go with Captain America. I’m serious. I’m going with Captain America because no matter how bad it gets, he sticks to doing what the right thing is and he never allows his principles to be shaken.

WATM: You want to start a new business instead of RU. What is it?

NP: That’s a tough one for me to answer because I have so many offers on the table right now. If I wanted to do something completely different I would do something that involved absolutely zero inventory.

So we’re kind of doing something that’s been a dream of mine for a long time, and that’s to get into the movie business. I mean, we might get into doing this movie and realize that we all hate movies. You know I enjoy doing advertising work, I could also see myself at some point disengaging from business and spending some time doing some nonprofit work.

It’s tough for me, because literally every day someone is trying to buy us, get us involved in a new business or hire me or Tom or somebody away from here. So I almost can’t even answer that.

At the end of the day, I want to work with really good people because the business almost doesn’t matter. I don’t even really like T-shirts. I tell people that all the time. But I really like my customers. And that’s what keeps me in the game with RangerUp.

If I had the opportunity to take over a $200 million business, but the focus was on football players or something, I don’t think my heart would be in it and I don’t think that I would be as good at it. Working with good people, and customers that I believe in, that’s kind of what motivates me. I need to care about what I’m doing.

I was in a position in corporate America where I was making a lot of money, I was on pace to make a bunch more money, and that taught me that I really don’t care about money. I mean obviously, I need to eat and I need to take care of my family, but I don’t need to be Kanye or Mayweather blowing 100K at a strip club. That’s not gonna make me happy. So whatever I do, the work has to be worthwhile.

WATM: What’s the #1 business book you find yourself recommending to people?

NP: I don’t really believe in business books. They’re just cheesy, they’re narcissistic, they’re people telling you how great they are, for the most part.

I would tell you that Ryan Holiday wrote a really cool book called The Obstacle Is The Way. It’s not really a business book but it is a great read and it’s founded on the principles of stoicism. And if you want to go back even further, read Marcus Aurelius. One of the great things that I learned from Ryan, and this is just from personal interaction with him, is that if you want to know something about a topic, any topic, walk into the bookstore and find the oldest book on that topic that’s still in print, because if it’s still in print, it’s because it’s a good book.

If it’s a new thing that someone famous just wrote, it’s probably a piece of sh-t, and I’ve found that to be true. And I’ve started reading older and older books, and the classics, and philosophy, because I find that to be a lot more valuable than reading about some dude that just launched an app and is 25 and trying to tell people how to run their life and run their business.

Sometimes people are really good, sometimes people are really lucky, [and] sometimes people are really good and can’t tell a story. Read old books.

WATM: What about a military-related book?

NP: That’s tough. I really like Gates of Fire, I really like Starship Troopers, the book, not the movie although the movie’s fun. The Long Grey Line, that’s a great book. Black Hawk Down. There [are] so many great books out there it’s hard to pick just one. Sean Parnell’s Outlaw Platoon, that’s a new one. I really enjoyed that book and Sean is a great guy. That probably makes that book even better for me, but to say that I have a favorite is pretty challenging.

WATM: Last thing: Where do people go to learn more about you? Besides RangerUp.com, do you have a personal website, Twitter account, Instagram, or smoke signal that you would recommend? Video you would want people to watch?

NP: @Ranger_Up is my Twitter, and that’s me tweeting 90 percent of the time. I don’t have a personal account yet but I’ve been getting kicked in the ass to start one so that’s coming soon [laughs].

Watch the “How to Get a Job” series. That’s what I care about. Just figuring out how to get people set up for success, so if the question is what am I about, that’s gonna be the best video for that.

WATM: Thanks so much, Nick.

NOW: The 9 best items deployed troops use instead of cash

MIGHTY CULTURE

A Vietnam Veteran Reflects On Service, Then and Now

As a young man growing up in the 60’s I wrestled with some of the same issues many young people did at that time. What was I going to do with my life?  What was really important to me and what were my priorities? I had difficulty narrowing it down to a specific path, so I decided to go to college. I figured I may find something that would pique my interest and give me a little more definition to my search.

Little did I realize that definition would come from negative experiences and not positive ones. I graduated from high school in June of 1967 and attended college that fall. It was a time of great protest against the Vietnam war and the nightly news showed the intensity these protestors showed towards their country. It was a confusing time for myself and some of my best friends.  On campus, I discovered the professors mostly felt the same way as the protestors and they showed favoritism towards those with the same views and condemnation towards those that differed from their own.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
John Ruehle and a buddy in Vietnam.

Having traveled out of the country some during my teenage years, I could not understand how individuals could burn the flag of their own country when that very same country provided so much more protection and freedom than others. Especially while young men were dying overseas to help protect that very freedom that seemed to be taken for granted. It turned out that one of my best friends at another college was feeling the same way, and that summer of ’68 we decided that we would quit college, join the Marines and serve our country. We felt it was our obligation as a citizen and that we needed to do our part.

The Marine Corps turned out to be everything I had hoped for and then some. In boot camp I was one of just four individuals out of 80+ in my platoon who had enlisted. The vast majority of the rest were there because they had a choice of jail time or the Marines. It made for an interesting melting pot.

Through all the training, one learned to depend on others, considering myself an independent cuss, this concept was quite difficult to grasp but once bitten, it develops a feeling of camaraderie that lasts a lifetime. I was accepted into the Scout Sniper group and we shared a building with the Recon group. Even though we were all in the Marines, we brawled with each other about once every 3-4 weeks in the common area in the middle of the barracks. But when we were outside that area, we were brothers to the core.

Regardless of whether we were enlistees or draftees, we all felt a common respect for our flag and detested those that would defile it. With no TV’s or radios allowed, conversations at night became very intense and focused. But that respect was a common thread.

In Vietnam, the respect for the flag did not change but respect for some of the leadership took different courses. In the Scout Snipers, there were only some 20-or-so of us per regiment so we were a pretty tight group. Typically, we worked in 2-man teams and were assigned to companies as needed. Those assignments rotated and so there was never much time to develop close friendships with others outside the Sniper community. But we were all Marines and that bond never goes away.

This was proven to me on many occasions but was definitely driven home to me the night I was wounded. It was a nighttime attack and bullets and explosions were coming from every direction. My partner was trying to navigate with me to an aid station and a young Marine grabbed us and pulled us into his hole for some protection. It was not big enough for the three of us so he climbed out and laid across the edge of the hole, offering us more protection while seriously exposing himself. I was evacuated to a hospital ship that next morning and never had a chance to properly thank him or get his name.  That is my only regret of the war.

Returning home, I was not prepared for the disdain I was to receive from so many different quarters of society. I proudly wore my Marine Corps patch on my favorite jacket but after so many fights and arguments that ensued, I had to finally decide to take it off. That was a tough decision. I was still proud to have served my country, but I felt a little like I was betraying my brothers by not wearing my patch.

I returned to college and started over as a freshman. (Of course, those upperclassmen, who liked to haze freshman, got a little different response this time, then they were used to) I also found that the issue with professors had actually gotten worse over time. But this time I had the foundation, confidence, and independence to fight back, and I decided to slug it out with them and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not. While attending college I wanted to still serve in some capacity, at that time the Reserve and National Guard seemed to me somewhat of a joke, so I steered clear.

After getting married and starting a family I volunteered with the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts. I also volunteered with several community agencies as my career progressed. After my children were grown and gone, I volunteered with the U.S. Forest Service, work which I still do.

Then I discovered Team Rubicon, and everything I have been trying to accomplish has seemed to come together in one organization: Volunteer work that can actually make a difference. The camaraderie of shared experiences and the desire to serve. Respect for flag, country, and individuals. All that which I have sought, from various channels throughout my career, I have found in one organization: Team Rubicon.

Editor’s Note: John Ruehle was featured in our 4th of July 2020 story “Life, Liberty, and the Freedom to Serve.”

This article originally appeared on TEAM RUBICON. Follow TEAM RUBICON on Twitter @TEAM RUBICON.

Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron conducts a night flight mission over Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 11, 2016. The C-130 provides tactical airlift worldwide. Its flexible design allows it to operate in an austere environment.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Air Force photo/Yasuo Osakabe

Airmen transport simulated patients to a MC-130J Commando II at Eglin Range, Fla., May 4, 2016, during exercise Emerald Warrior 16. Emerald Warrior is a U.S. Special Operations Command-sponsored mission rehearsal exercise during which joint special operations forces train to respond to real and emerging worldwide threats.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Logan Carlson

Staff Sgt. Henderson Anthony, a 51st Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman, stands in a cloud of decontamination powder while his mission oriented protective posture gear is decontaminated during exercise Beverly Herd 16-01 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, May 11, 2016. Dozens of civil engineer Airmen participated in the training scenario covering wartime survival skills.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Victor J. Caputo

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Reserve military police Soldier, assigned to 11th Military Police Brigade, 200th Military Police Command, fires an M249 squad automatic weapon during night fire qualification at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, May 4, 2016.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

Individual Soldier readiness is the foundation ofArmy readiness. The Army maximizes the deployability of its units by ensuring Soldiers are trained and ready to operate in a variety of environments.

Soldiers assigned to 1-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division, position a M777 towed 155 mm howitzer during Decisive Action Rotation 16-06 at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., May 5, 2016.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeffery Hagan

Soldiers, assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, row an inflatable boat across Mott Lake to recover and administer first aid to a simulated casualty on Fort Bragg, N.C., May 4, 2016.

Army support to civil authorities is a total force effort to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate property damage.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman

NAVY:

GULF OF ADEN (May 11, 2016) Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Bryan Duncan salutes an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Wild Cards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, on the flight deck of guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66). Gonzalez is currently operating with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Pasquale Sena

SAN DIEGO (May 11, 2016) The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) passes underneath the Coronado Bridge as it departs Naval Base San Diego May 11 in support of Pacific Partnership 2016. Pacific Partnership is in its 11th iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Veloicaza

GULF OF ADEN (May 9, 2016) A landing craft, air cushion, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, transits toward the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Navy Corpsmen board an MV-22B Osprey to practice treating patients while the aircraft conducts evasive maneuvers to simulate the stresses of evacuating from a hot landing zone during a casualty evacuation drill taking place as part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s MEU exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 9, 2016. MEUEX is one of the six training evolutions a MEU must go through to be ready for its final exercise, Certification Exercise, which will certify the MEU for its upcoming deployment to the Pacific and Central Commands’ areas of operation. The corpsmen are with Shock Trauma Platoon, Combat Logistic Battalion 11, 11th MEU. The Osprey and crew are with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 11th MEU. 

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

Marines with Regional Command (Southwest) (RC(SW)) exit a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter aboard Kandahar Airfield (KAF), Afghanistan, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marines transitioned to KAF following the end of RC(SW) operations in Helmand province.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dustin D. March

Marines assigned to Martial Arts Instructor Course Class 3-16, School of Infantry West (SOI-W) Detatchment Hawaii, run through the obstacle course at the Boondockers training area during the culminating event of their three week course to become Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructors aboard Marine Corps Base (MCB) Hawaii, April 21st, 2016. The mission of Marine Corps Base Hawaii is to provide facilities, programs and services in direct support of units, individuals and families in order to enhance and sustain combat readiness for all operating forces and tenant organizations aboard MCB Hawaii.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

COAST GUARD:

U.S. Coast Guard members practice shooting a 50 caliber machine gun at night during a deployment aboard Coast Guard Cutter Stratton. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Bryan Goff. Photo taken December 27, 2015.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Bryan Goff.

U.S. Coast Guard members practice shooting the M240 machine gun during a deployment aboard Coast Guard Cutter Stratton. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Bryan Goff. Photo taken December 29, 2015.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Bryan Goff.

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All stateside commissaries aim to have curbside pickup by the end of the year

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of aspects of daily life. Social distancing, restricted occupancy and wearing masks became commonplace. As these restrictions begin to lift in the summer of 2021, one COVID-driven change looks to be sticking around.

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Col. William C. Bentley, III, Marine Corps Base Quantico commanding officer, picks up his Click2Go commissary order (Defense Commissary Agency)

Implemented as a way to minimize interaction and reduce the spread of COVID-19, curbside pickup has become a convenient way for consumers to shop. Whether its your weekly groceries or a new TV, ordering online and having your purchases brought out to your car from the store is extremely convenient. For some people, it saves time in their hectic schedule. For others, it’s a workaround to prevent social anxiety. Whatever the reason for using it, curbside pickup is now offered at many grocery, retail and dining locations across the country.

For service members at stateside installations, curbside pickup at the commissary will be here by the end of the year. Called Click2Go, the online ordering/curbside pickup program has seen great success and has customers calling for further expansion. Over the last two years, Click2Go has been rolled out at 11 bases: Fort Belvoir, Fort Eustis, Fort Lee, Oceana Naval Air Station and Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey; Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; and Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Florida.

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McGuire Air Force Base Commissary assistant store manager Ashley Moats delivers a Click2Go order (Defense Commissary Agency)

In 2020, Defense Commissary Agency officials said they expected the number of Click2Go sites to grow to 60 in the next two years. After Bill Moore took over as DeCA Director and CEO, the projection changed. “I want to dramatically increase the number of stores with the service,” Moore said last fall. “I am driven on getting e-commerce to more locations, and I’m hoping we can get a lot more in a very near-term approach.” A fast-tracked rollout aims to introduce Click2Go to all 236 stateside commissaries by the end of the year. Overseas commissaries are expected to receive the program shortly thereafter.

Moreover, Click2Go itself has seen a number of improvements. To better serve customers, the commissary has added online payment options, more product information, improved user interface, featured sales and promotions, and mobile-friendly options like viewing order history. “Perhaps the most significant enhancement is online payment,” Moore said of the updates. “You place your order and pay online, and then it’s simply a matter of driving up to the curbside delivery area of your commissary to have your groceries loaded into your vehicle—that’s a streamlined process our customers expect in this information age.”

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(Defense Commissary Agency)

The Click2Go rollout schedule will be available on the Defense Commissary Agency website. Although the necessity of stateside commissaries has come under Congressional scrutiny in recent years, modernization efforts like Click2Go aim to keep the benefit on bases for the foreseeable future.

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Rushane Edwards, a Click2Go picker, moves through the Fort Eustis commissary with a collection cart (Defense Commissary Agency)

Featured photo: CLICK2GO call box stands in the parking lot of the Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, Commissary April 2, 2019. The program started in 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by D. P. Heard)

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The age of aircraft carriers could be coming to an end

Since World War II, flat-topped aircraft carriers have been the backbone of US power projection and military might at sea, but a new generation of long-range missiles being developed by the US’s adversaries could push these mechanical marvels off the frontlines.


The US’s massive aircraft carriers have a problem. The F-18s aboard US aircraft carriers have a range of about 500 nautical miles, as noted by Ben Ho Wan Beng at the US Naval Institute.

The incoming F-35Cs are expected to have a marginally better range of about 550 nautical miles.

At the same time, China’s aptly named DF-21 “Carrier Killer” antiship ballistic missile is said to have a range of 810 nautical milesand is capable of sinking an entire1,100-foot carrier with 70 aircraft and 6,000 sailors on board.

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The DF-21D rolling through China’s 2015 military parade. | William Ide via Wikimedia Commons

Such long-range antiship missiles create areas (also established in the Baltics by Russia) in which the US can’t position its most powerful assets, the aircraft carriers.

Aircraft carriers, which have been the star of the show since their emergence during World War II, may therefore end up taking a back seat to smaller vessels.

The US Navy has long been working toward achieving “distributed lethality,” or a strategy that entails arming even the smallest ship with missiles capable of knocking out enemy defenses from far away. Engaging enemies with smaller ships also helps to keep extraordinarily valuable targets like carriers out of harm’s way.

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Photo: US Navy Lt. j.g. David Babka

In fact, the Navy plans to have at least 40 littoral combat ships with a “full suite of anti-ship and anti-submarine sensors and weapons … Plus such improvements as a medium-range ‘over the horizon’ missile to sink enemy ships,” as Breaking Defense notes.

So instead of putting a carrier in harm’s way, the Navy will most likely look to use longer-range platforms, like cruiser-destroyers that carry the Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile, which have a range of about 900 nautical miles.

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The guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke

In the end, a carrier strike group would no longer lead with the carrier.

Instead, destroyers firing Tomahawk missiles would initiate the attacks, softening up enemy anti-access/area-denial capabilities before the big carriers moved in closer to shore.

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5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we all make mistakes together. And when we all make mistakes sometimes punishing us isn’t worth the time, effort and money. Depending on the severity of the crime, it might be more efficient to just give us all a mulligan and call the whole thing off.


The U.S.Department of Defense is familiar with this sort of calculus. Between Selective Service (aka “The Draft”) with civilians and the crimes unique to military personnel, problems with the application of laws involving the military are bound to happen. Sometimes they happened en masse. In those instances, the government has decided it would be better not to prosecute or the law became unenforceable because so many people committed the crime. It’s rare, but it happened. Here are five times where we were forgiven our trespasses:

1. Adultery (by the masses)

The list of email addresses released by hacktivists The Impact Group included thousands of .mil addresses. This means military members actually used their military email accounts to sign up for Ashley Madison, a site designed to facilitate adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), punishable by a year in confinement and a dishonorable discharge.

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Among these were 250 addresses from various aircraft carriers, addresses from every destroyer and amphibious assault ship in the Navy, 1,665 navy.mil and 809 usmc.mil addresses, 54 af.mil addresses, and 46 uscg.mil addresses. The Army was the most impressive, with 6,788 army.mil addresses signed up. At first, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said DoD would investigate but the Pentagon has since decided not to, since there would be no proof of actual adultery and simply signing up for a website isn’t a crime.

2. Homosexuality

After 18 years, the policy governing homosexuality in the U.S. military known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was repealed. In response to the repeal, the Army issued a statement saying simply “the law is repealed” and reminded soldiers to treat each other fairly.

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(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The thing is being gay is not in itself a crime under the UCMJ, but the way homosexuals have sex is, under Article 125. Homosexuals were simply given an “Other than Honorable” discharge. With more than 66,000 gay and lesbian men and women in uniform, trying to control the way they have sex becomes problematic after a while. Now with the DADT repeal, former service members are allowed to reenlist, but their cases will not be given priority. Officials have so far failed to address how all of this affects Article 125 of the UCMJ.

3. Dodging the draft

On January 21, 1977, newly-elected President Jimmy Carter granted a full pardon to hundreds of thousands of American men who evaded the Vietnam War draft by fleeing the country or not registering. Carter campaigned on this promise in an effort to help heal the country from the cultural rift the war created.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer

Most fled to Canada, where they were eventually welcomed as immigrants. Exempt from the pardon were deserters from the U.S. Army who met their obligation and then fled. 50,000 Americans became Canadian during the draft, facing prosecution if they returned home.

4. Seceding from the Union

In the most egregious example of getting away with flaunting the rules (to put it mildly), in 1872 Congress passed a bill signed by then-President Ulysses S. Grant which restored voting rights and the right to hold public office to all but 500 members of the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War.

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The original act restricting the rights of former Confederates was passed in 1866. The act covered more than 150,000 former Confederate troops. The 500 who were still restricted were among the top leadership of the Confederacy.

5. Illegal Immigration

This one hasn’t happened yet but the discussion is very serious. The current version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a controversial plan to allow illegal immigrants with deportation deferments to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. U.S. military veterans currently serving in the House of Representatives offer bipartisan public support for the provision.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer
(Photo: TA4.org)

The NDAA as is faces significant challenges in the entire Congress. Last year, Representatives Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a Desert Storm veteran and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran entered a similar bill, called the ENLIST Act, which would have had the same provisions but it was quickly sidelined.

 

NOW: 6 Weird laws unique to the U.S. military

OR: The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

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The best and worst Air Force uniforms, ranked

The Air Force had a number of various uniforms even before its independent inception in 1947. The evolution was a long and sometimes painful (on the eyes) one. Wear of Air Force uniforms is pretty important to airmen, and is governed by Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2903, the only AFI most airmen know offhand. It also contains uniform requirements for the Civil Air Patrol as if the Civil Air Patrol counts as the military… I mean, its nice that perfect attendance is required for your “basic training” but call us when the UCMJ applies to you.


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The Air Force officially ended wear of olive green dress uniforms in 1952, switching over to distinct blue uniforms to stand out from the other services. In the years since, those “blues” (as they came to be called) evolved as times changed and as the Air Force itself changed.

This served for most airmen, but for those who still required a utility uniform, green would be (and still is) the mainstay for those uniforms. But Air Force utility uniforms always incorporated a distinctive blue, in some way, over the years to ensure its separation from the Army and little else.

The Air Force, like the Navy, appeared to be struggling with a uniform identity crisis in recent years, but it looks like they’ve got a handle on things.

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This was almost you, Air Force.

The USAF came a long way, and so it’s good to take a look back at the best and worst of what the Air Force thought was a good idea, lest history repeat itself.

The Best

1. Flight Suits – (1917- Present)

The coolest looking and most comfortable uniform, the flight suit is easily the number one in the Air Force wardrobe. Early flight suits had the same needs as today’s flight suits. Aircrews need warm clothing with pockets to keep things from falling out. Early flight suits required jackets, usually leather, to keep the pilots warm. The need for pressurized cockpits allowed the flight suit to become what it is today: flame resistant, comfortable, practical and still cool-looking.

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Seriously. Awesome.

2. Battle Dress Uniform (1981-2011)

Maybe it’s because i’m partial to the uniform I wore every day, maybe it’s because the BDU is both comfortable and utilitarian, maybe because it’s a uniform which was worn across all branches of the U.S. military. In my mind, the only bad thing about this uniform was the M-65 BDU field jacket, which worked against the cold every bit as well as any crocheted blanket, which is to say, not at all. There’s a reason it was the longest-serving uniform.

This is why you would want Jay Gatsby as your commanding officer

3. Blue Shade 1084 & 1549 Service Dress Uniform (1962-1969)

This is the one which became the iconic Air Force blues uniform after appearing in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. An Air Force officer in the film, cigar-chomping Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper, acted and looked a lot like real life Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, who is famous for his hardline thinking. He was once quoted as saying:

“If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the sh-t out of them before they take off the ground.”

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4. Cotton Sateen Utility Uniform OG-107 (1952-1982)

Army and Air Force personnel wore this both stateside and deployed to the Southeast Asia theater. It was replaced by the Tropical Combat Uniform in Southeast Asia but outside it continued to be the work uniform of choice through the 1970s when it was replaced by the woodland BDU.

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Medal of Honor Recipient Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger

5. SR-71 Pressure Suits (1966-1999)

Its almost not even fair. They get to crew the greatest airframe ever designed AND look like an awesome alt-metal band in the process.

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Blackbird pilots ’bout to drop the most fire album of 1969

The Worst

6. Air Force PT Uniforms (2006- Present)

Have you ever gone to the gym and wondered how much greater your workout could be if you did it while wearing swim trunks? The Air Force physical training uniform combines all the internal mesh of swim trunks to keep yourself in place with all the length of 1970s tennis player shorts to ensure you’re not only uncomfortable working out but so is everyone who has to look at you.

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7. Air Force Band Drum Major

I understand military tradition requires bands, but do we still have to make them dress like they should be guarding Queen Elizabeth? I wonder what possible purpose that giant hat served, even when it was a real part of a military uniform. Did the scepter ever serve a real purpose? And that sash looks makes him look less like an Air Force Chief and more like he’s the WWE Intercontinental Champion.

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8. Air Force Command Staff Ceremonial Uniforms (2012)

In 2012, Gen. Mark Welsh III rolled out a new set of ceremonial uniforms for the Air Force Command Staff. Commenters from Air Force magazine were quick to crack jokes about the special uniforms:

“General Welsh looks like a Russian crown prince at an embassy ball. What is it? Come on, General LeMay would never wear that!!”
“It appears the general is or was a member of the Air Force Band.”
“Exactly when did the AF adopt John Phillip Sousa’s uniform as its own?”

Air Force Times offered Welsh an opportunity to talk about the uniform, but he declined.

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Chief Roy looks like he has something to say about it, though.

9. Air Force Summer Service Uniform (1956)

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This one is so bad, it’s hard to find evidence of it. It looked like your mailman earned rank and started maintaining aircraft. Yes, in the photo above even other airmen can’t believe these guys are actually wearing Khaki shorts and a safari hat. Ladies usually love a man in uniform, but these guys will be single until they ditch those ugly things.

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aka mailman starter kit.

10. Merrill McPeak Dress Blues

The uniform was criticized for looking too much like the Navy’s uniforms, like an airline pilot’s uniform, or “a business suit with medals,” it featured a white shirt and the signature clouds and lightning bolts (aka “Farts and Darts”) on the sleeves of the jacket. McPeak’s uniform was popular with absolutely no one but McPeak. These uniforms went away as soon as he did.

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UN uncovers increased reports of torture in Afghanistan

A UN report says cases of torture and mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan have increased despite promises from President Ashraf Ghani and new laws enacted to curb the widespread practice.


At least 39 percent of the conflict-related detainees interviewed by UN investigators “gave credible and reliable accounts” of being tortured or experiencing other mistreatment at the hands of Afghan police, intelligence, or military personnel while in custody, the report says.

That compares with 35 percent of interviewees who reported such ill-treatment in the last UN report, released in 2015.

The Afghan government has acknowledged that problems could be caused by individuals but not as a national policy.

“The government of Afghanistan is committed to eliminating torture and ill-treatment,” the government said in a statement.

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Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Saadabad Palace. (Photo via Tasnim News Agency)

The report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) is based on interviews with 469 conflict-related detainees conducted over the past two years in 62 detention facilities administered by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghan National Police, and other Afghan national-defense and security forces across the country.

“Torture does not enhance security,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement. “Confessions produced as a result of torture are totally unreliable. People will say anything to stop the pain.”

The UN report comes as senior Afghan officials prepare to appear before the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva late April during a review of Afghanistan’s record of implementing anti-torture laws.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is conducting a separate review of torture in Afghanistan.

“Notwithstanding the government’s efforts to implement its national plan…the present report documents continued and consistent reports of torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees, mainly during interrogation, and highlights a lack of accountability for such acts,” UN officials concluded.

The document notes a 14 percent increase in reports of torture by Afghan National Police, at 45 percent of those interviewed.

Also read: General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis got Trump to rethink his position on torture in under an hour

The report says that more than a quarter of the 77 detainees who reported being tortured by the police were boys under the age of 18.

A force known as the Afghan Local Police severely beat almost 60 percent of their detainees, according to the interviews carried out by UN investigators.

Nearly 30 percent of interviewees held by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the NDS, said they had faced torture or mistreatment.

Afghan National Army soldiers were also accused of mistreating some detainees.

Most detainees who reported being tortured said it was to elicit a confession, and the ill-treatment stopped once they signed a written confession. In many cases, they could not read the confession, the report says.

Torture methods included severe beatings to the body and soles of the feet with sticks, plastic pipes, or cables; electric shocks, including to the genitals; prolonged suspension by the arms; and suffocation.

With reporting by Reuters.

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