If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.
Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care — an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.
A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners — Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services — dropped out of consideration.
Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.
A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.
He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.
After the Luftwaffe lost the Battle of Britain in 1940, Hermann Goering ordered an ambitious new project he called the “3×1000” fighter. Goering wanted a plane that could deliver 1,000 kilograms of ordnance to a target 1,000 kilometers and fly 1,000 kilometers per hour.
Two brothers, Walter and Reimar Horten, proposed a design that not only would satisfy the ambitious concept, but that would also be the first stealth fighter.
The Horten 229 was the first blended-wing jet fighter ever built, but it only flew a handful of times in World War II. While its body looks similar to modern stealth planes like the B-2 Spirit, the 229 was never tested against radar.
The first prototype was destroyed in a crash during testing and the second was captured by the Allies who boxed it up and sent it to the U.S.
A team of Northrup Grumman model builders created a mockup of the 229 so that engineers could test the design against the types of radar used for the defense of Britain.
The results spelled probable doom for the British if the Horten had entered full production. Its reduced cross section could have allowed it to get closer to the coast before detection, and its speed might have gotten it to its target well before it could have been intercepted.
And, even if fighters or coastal artillery did reach the Horten before it destroyed the radar station and flew off, its speed and maneuverability would have made in nearly unstoppable in a fight.
See the full story of the engineers who rebuilt the Horten body and how the plane could have reshaped history in the National Geographic video below:
The young women of North Korea’s “pleasure squad” are employees of the state whose work involves — a’hem — “entertainment” services.
In 2010, Mi Hyang, a member Kim Jung Il’s pleasure squad defected to South Korea after her family was accused of treason. She served in the squad for two years before crossing the border and spilling the beans of the group’s activities to the well-known South Korean blog “Nambuk Story.”
“They made a detailed record of my family history and school record, “Mi Hyang said, describing how she was recruited from school when she was 15 by officers in their forties. “I was also asked whether I ever slept with a boy. I felt so ashamed to hear such a question.”
Although rumors suggested that the pleasure squad had disbanded with the death of Kim Jong-Il, it was reinstated under Kim Jong-Un, according to the Independent.
There is an ebb and flow with a troop’s love, hate, and pure apathy toward eating Meals, Ready to Eat.
Either you score the new Chicken Burrito Bowl or you get stuck with a veggie option so foul no amount of salt can help cover the taste. It usually goes from the “Oh cool! MREs!” feeling, to then despising the concept of eating from the same 24 brown bags for months, and finally gets beaten into a state of pure Stockholm Syndrome where you get used to and enjoy them again because it’s technically food.
Whatever your personal experience will be, the minds at Ameriqual, Sopakco, and Wornick have all crafted a very specific meal under very specific guidelines.
Whichever meal you are tossed usually contains an entree, side, cracker or bread, spread, dessert, a beverage, Flameless Ration Heater, and accessories. Every MRE also needs to have a constant 1,250-calorie count, have 13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates, and make up one third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals.
Finally, each box of MREs must have a shelf life of at least 18 months in above 80°F conditions, three years below. This has been the constant ever since it’s inception in 1975 and standard issue in 1986.
One of the more impressive creations in the MRE is the Flameless Ration Heater. Water activated, the pouch quickly reaches heats that can warm up an eight ounce ration within minutes. Simply put the food pouch inside the bag, lean it against a rock or something, and you’re ready to eat.
Whatever you do, do not take two of the heaters, empty a tiny Tabasco sauce into a bottle of water, add the heaters and water to about the half way point, seal it, shake it, then toss it somewhere.
It’s a dick move and your squad will call you out for your douchebaggery. This is because the heat and fumes decompress within the bottle to the point of exploding.
There is also the First Strike Ration, a compact, eat-on-the-move ration that is designed to be half the size and a third of the weight while giving troops the nutritional intake of an entire days worth of food.
The Combat Feeding Directorate developed this after they noticed troops would “field strip” their MREs of unwanted and burdensome extra items, like boxes, accessory packs, heaters, and bags. The total calorie count of an FSR comes to 2,900 calories.
The actual menu changes year to year. 2017 changes are no different.
Thankfully, they’re removing “Rib shaped BBQ Pork Patty,” that fried rice thing, chicken pesto pasta, ‘Hooah!’ bars, and the wheat snack bread (which only the power of the Jalapeno Cheese Spread could make edible). The replacements actually sound delicious (like the previously mentioned Chicken Burrito Bowl) and are even more thought out.
I can see the successor of the most coveted MRE item: caffeinated teriyaki beef sticks. Julie Smith, senior food technologist at Combat Feeding Directorate of the Natick Soldier, Research, Development and Engineering Center said of the alternative to beef jerky “Typically, when we do evaluations, we get feedback from the war fighter that they want to have more beef jerky varieties. It’s such a high sodium item, however, that we have to be careful in how to include it in the menu.”
There is also the new version of the pound cake. It’s now fortified with Omega-3 fatty acids which research shows is great for muscle recovery and resiliency — all without affecting the taste of one of the better desserts in the MRE.
Far off into the future, Jeremy Whitsitt, the Deputy Director at Combat Feeding, says that one day there will be the ability to monitor an individual’s nutritional needs and -essentially- “print out a bar or a paste specifically designed for that soldier to return them to nutritional status.” He continues: “We’re laying the groundwork now through research and development to get us to that point.”
In the meantime, we can still hold out for the Pizza MRE. No timeline on its release, but it’ll be after they can work out the bread going brown after six months in 100°F.
The U.S. Army loves robots and wants its soldiers to love them, too. The U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command recently conducted its annual Joint Warfighting Assessment in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the testing at the Yakima Training Center. From late April to May 11, 2019, troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2-2 Stryker Brigade and 2nd Ranger battalion, along with U.S. Marines from Camp Lejune and Camp Pendleton, tested new weapon concepts for a Pacific war scenario set in 2028.
One of the concepts they were testing was the “optionally manned vehicle,” which would allow leaders in the field to decide to switch their systems to remote operating systems instead of putting their troops on the line.
“The idea is that the robotics could be available, so when they pick that platform you can put the robotics on it, and now you can do the manned (or) unmanned team and push the robotics out on the battlefield,” explained Lieutenant Colonel John Fursmo, the officer commanding the opposing force for the exercise.
The Assault Breacher Vehicle.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Some of the vehicles that have been brought out for testing are actually quite old, brought back to life and stuffed with robotic capabilities by engineers tinkering with them like Frankenstein’s monster. Troops and engineers explain that it’s all about testing, experimentation and soldier feedback. “These are concepts, these are not necessarily the pieces of equipment we would actually use,” said Fursmo. “The Army still has to decide what it wants for this new combat vehicle that will replace some tanks and other armored vehicles.”
Fursmo pointed to an old M58 mobile recon vehicle that’s been retrofitted with remote control capabilities. “It’s a tracked vehicle, it’s been in the Army a very long time, [and] essentially the Army stopped using it several years ago because the mission itself was so dangerous that it was just decided it wasn’t worth it,” he explained. “But make it a robot and now it’s at least conceptually worth looking at it again.”
Robotics and digital tech are already changing the way wars both big and small are being fought around the world every day. What were once science fiction dreams (or nightmares) aren’t as far away as some might think. Some are already here.
An experimental quadcopter mounted on a Stryker during JWA 19.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Eyes in the Sky
Cavalry scouts often call themselves the ninjas of the U.S. Army. Though considered combat troops, their job is more often to scope out the enemy without drawing fire and to report their findings. “A big problem we have is seeing without being seen,” explained Major Dave Scherke, a cav scout squadron leader with the 2-2 Stryker Brigade.
A scout team might move with three troops aboard a Stryker and three dismounted on the ground. They use maps, rulers, and measuring tape to take down mission critical information while conducting route reconnaissance. “It’s very time consuming and, from a security standpoint, can leave you exposed,” Scherken said.
However, at Yakima Training Center, Scherke’s men have been testing the Sensor Enabled Scout Platoon concept. They’ve tested the “Instant Eye” quad copter, an aerial drone surveillance system. “We have that all the way down to the squad level. So instead of just having one of these for each one of my cav troops, now I have six of them, and that massively increases our ability to see over the ridge and see the enemy first,” Scherke explained.
The quad copter itself isn’t particularly unique — you can buy similar models at Best Buy. Drones have already become part of the new normal for warfare. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants have used store-bought drones to help them target mortars and have even modified them to drop grenades and other improvised explosives. During the battle of Mosul, frustrated Iraqi troops started purchasing commercial drones of their own to fight ISIS. Robots are everywhere.
However, the small drones the scouts are testing are equipped with the Instrument Set Reconnaissance and Survey (ENFIRE) system that uses software and algorithms that can help measure terrain features, roads, and even calculate how much weight a bridge is capable of supporting. “There’s a bridge classification app that tells you the whole bridge classification,” said Colonel Chuck Roede, the deputy commander of JMC. “It really allows the scouts to do the job we expect them to do.”
ENFIRE connects directly to systems in the Stryker itself, which connects to a larger network. “It takes all that information, aggregates it into a computer, and creates a route overlay,” Scherke explained. “[Plugging] into our mission command systems to send very rapidly [means] our logistics planners and our other maneuver planners can get that information right away. So it speeds up what our scouts can do, and now instead of having six scouts on the ground just doing this while other guys are securing them, you can put fewer scouts on the ground to do that mission.”
Deep purple, the drone utilized by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, prepares to lift off on an NBC reconnaissance mission at the Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 training exercise at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, April 29, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
The Instant Eye has night vision, infrared, and powerful zoom and camera clarity features for checking out targets, as well as signal tracking. “We can get some eyes on there without exposing our scouts and then bring indirect fires down to win that fight first because we want to be fighting an unfair fight,” said Scherke.
Cav scout Sergeant Joseph Gaska, who was in the field operating the prototype, told Coffee or Die that he was impressed with it. “As long as you’re high enough, you won’t hear it, so it’s not going to be that buzzing sound above your head,” he said of small, nimble drones’ ability to move nearly undetected. It has other ambitious features, too, Gaska noted. For instance, he said that if they were to somehow lose their connection to the drone, it’s programmed to remember where its handlers are and will return to them.
The Joint Warfighting Assessment JWA19 WA, UNITED STATES 04.28.2019
One of the most difficult things ground troops are asked to do is breaching operations against enemy strongholds. The defending side nearly always has the advantage. Good defenders lay out layers of defense that can include walls, barbed wire, ditches, minefields, and countless other hazards and traps. “It’s a very challenging task because you have to imagine your opponent on the far side of that position ready to destroy you with every weapon system that they have,” Fursmo said. “If you can take humans out of that, you’re going to have fewer casualties — it’s really the most dangerous thing a ground force does.”
Troops in the field trained with various aerial drones for detecting chemical threats and minefields, but more of the efforts focused on ground-based systems. One of the key systems they were testing was the Assault Breacher Vehicle. Their ABV working prototype was built around the hull of an M1A1 Abrams tank armed with mine charges and a .50-caliber machine gun and equipped with plows and dozer blades.
“Basically, the concept of this vehicle is that this one vehicle with two operators can do what an entire platoon of engineers would be required to do in a breach,” U.S. Marine 1st Lt. David Aghakhan explained. “It’s not taking anything away from my capabilities — I can still manually operate it — but it gives me the option of saying ‘I don’t want to expose my Marines in this obstacle belt because it’s too dangerous,’ and I can pull them out and we can robotically operate it.”
A soldier remotely operates a humvee from inside another humvee.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Working from remote controls in command vehicles, soldiers and Marines could also remotely control other vehicles to move in and provide suppressing fire for the ABV as it worked to clear mines, smash berms, and deal with other obstacles. Captain Nicole Rotte, an Afghanistan veteran and commander of the 2-2’s engineer company, said that she was impressed with it.
“The challenge that I have is my planning factor for moving through a breach is 50 percent loss,” said Rotte. “So all these concepts, to be able to take an unmanned vehicle and bring them down the battlefield, to be able save soldiers from being lost in the breach, that’s awesome for me.”
Rotte said they only had minor technical issues that were easily solved by turning the systems off and on again. She added that if anything, she’s excited for the prospect of having more robots available to her and seeing what they can do.
Unmanning the Battlefield?
Some futurists have envisioned a world in which war was waged entirely by robots. The U.S. military and CIA have already used drones with operators in Nevada pulling the trigger to kill enemies as far away as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. However, while the vehicles are referred to as “unmanned,” they require regular maintenance — and usually have a human operator somewhere.
At times, U.S. military commanders have underestimated the strain on personnel in regard to upkeep and the long hours of operation. “The explosion in demand had created a snowball effect that never allowed the […] staff to take a pause and say, ‘Let’s normalize all the processes that we should be doing,'” the Air Force reported in one of its official annual histories from 2012. “Instead, normalization was put off to some future date after the pace of combat operations slowed down.”
But the wars continued, as did the extreme hours. Airmen working six days a week were constantly asked to work extra hours while leave got cancelled. They were never “deployed” but remained almost constantly on duty, remotely fighting wars in several countries that were continents away. “It’s at the breaking point and has been for a long time,” a senior Air Force official told The Daily Beast in 2015. “What’s different now is that the Band-Aid fixes are no longer working.”
A remotely operated humvee with a robotic firing turret.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Even without the logistical hurdles, many commanders (even those that fully embrace a robotic future for war) don’t believe grunts will ever become obsolete. “It’s technologically feasible to fly a drone from Nevada and have it circling over Iraq or Afghanistan. But the demands of the terrain, as Army soldiers we are so tied to the terrain — you need to have leaders on the ground to see and understand the terrain,” Roede said.
Col. Christopher Barnwell, head of the field experimentation division at JMC, said that while he could see a future where commanders could run a war without ever going to the field — adding that at this point communications are advanced enough that senior officers already don’t have to — he doesn’t think a good leader would choose to stay home while war is raging elsewhere.
“No commander I know would do that,” he said. “I feel like I need to be on the ground and see things with my own eyes and get a feel for what’s going. Technically possible? Yes. Likely? I don’t personally think so.”
An Alabama Army National Guard Soldier with the 690th Chemical Company inspects a “deep purple” drone at YTC at Joint Warfighting Assessment 19, May 4, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/ 302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
While they don’t see human judgement being removed from the equation, some military planners are excited by the prospect of artificial intelligence to allow vehicles to move on their own on the battlefield.
“As the concept matures, as we bring in elements of AI, as we bring in some measures of autonomy, the ratio of operators to vehicles will drop so that eventually you’ll have one operator who can control maybe a squad or platoon’s worth of vehicles,” said Roede. He suggested that AI could allow vehicles to autonomously navigate terrain and even rally into formations as they haul supplies and weapons.
Barnwell suggested it potentially going even further — he can foresee a day in the future when leaders can delegate to robotic weapons systems in combat and allow them to autonomously pick and engage targets.
“You tell these robotic vehicles, ‘You’ve got this part of the engagement area, and you are free to shoot at enemy vehicles; anything north of the niner-niner grid line is enemy and you are free to shoot it,'” Barnwell said. “And because these vehicles have AI, they know what to shoot […] on their own.”
However, the prospect of robots that can autonomously kill enemies based on algorithms or pre-programmed targets sets has potentially serious ramifications. The recent battles for Mosul and Raqqa proved incredibly bloody. House-to-house fighting and heavy bombing and artillery strikes led to untold deaths of civilians trapped in the cities, and the work of rebuilding the infrastructure since the battles ended has been slow.
Military strategists believe that urban fighting could be the norm for the 21st century. More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and that’s expected to grow. In particular, there are concerns about the challenges posed by potentially fighting in massive megacities like Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo, or Lagos. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has pointed out that the entirety of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — isn’t equal to a neighborhood in Seoul.
Conceptual prototypes at Yakima Training Center.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Heavily armed robots combing the streets of a densely populated megacity picking targets based on algorithms have the potential to cause a lot of unintended collateral death and destruction. Machines feel neither remorse nor pity.
Barnwell said that they’re already considering these potential problems. “Through programming, we would be able to figure out what are appropriate targets, what are not. What is the ROE (rules of engagement), what are we going to allow these things to shoot at by themselves, and what are we not going to allow them to shoot at by themselves,” he explained. “In a megacity, for example, we may not even employ this sort of thing — or we may, depending on what the intelligence tells us the enemy is out there.”
But Roede stressed again that fighting wars is going to remain a fundamentally human endeavor, adding, “I don’t think we’ll ever be at a place where we’ll let the machine make the final decision on anything.”
Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Some of the tech the Army and other scientists are working on aren’t quite in the realm of magic, but given the incredible nature of the work they’re doing, there are many reasons to be excited about the future if you’re a U.S. servicemember. There’s no telling how long it will take to apply these ideas to military life, but the possibilities seem endless.
The U.S. Army is working on a new airdrop system it calls JPADS – Joint Precision Airdrop System. JPADS is intended to be used to drop critical supplies to troops in dangerous locations without endangering more troops by using a truck convoy. Current systems use GPS guidance systems that are prone to the same errors as any satellite system, such as satellites being out of place and their vulnerability to hacking. The new JPADS doesn’t use GPS. It drops the pallet from 25,000 feet at distances up to 20 miles. The JPADS optical sensors analyze the local terrain and compare it to preprogrammed satellite imagery so the chutes move the cargo to its programmed destination.
2. Stealth Coating
It turns out stealth aircraft technology isn’t 100 percent fail proof. Radar works by bouncing electromagnetic waves off of objects to pinpoint their locations. Original stealth technology scrambled the returning waves using “destructive interference,” solid layers of material that would amplify the waves so that they effectively cancel out the returning waves. It doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, however. Scientists have created a polarized crystal material that absorbs radar waves to prevent them from bouncing back instead. Hexagonal boron nitride captures 99.99 percent of radar waves and prevents refraction. Researchers will now need to create a thin coating to be able to apply it to current aircraft.
3. Smart Tanks
DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s premier think-tank for future weapons, is developing a light armor all-terrain tech for vehicles called “Ground X-Vehicle Technology.” This next-gen tank is lightweight, highly mobile, and hard for the enemy to spot on any spectrum, visual, infrared, or electromagnetic. The “crew augmentation” system on the X-Vehicle gives the tank “semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions.” The external sensors on the vehicle allow for the tank not only to avoid being spotted by enemy tanks but to dodge incoming fire if they are.
4. Space Drones
DARPA strikes again. The new XS-1 space shuttle doesn’t go into space but rather boosts a payload into low-Earth orbit as it flies to the edge of space. The new shuttle has no pilots, but will be so reusable that it could fly ten times in ten days. A flight to boost something into space will still run as high as $5 million, but DARPA is working with private contractors Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, Northrop Grumman, and the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin to make the trips faster, smoother, and cheaper. DARPA already developed a space drone for military purposes, the X37-B, but few details are available, as the X37-B is classified.
5. Jetpack-Assisted Running
The Wearable Robotics Association conference opened in Phoenix last Wednesday and featured there were Arizona State University students who developed a jetpack that enhances a troop’s ability to run in combat. Using compressed air, the pack can boost running speeds up to 15 mph.
Military movies contain inspiring moments, important messages, and hilarious insults lobbed between troops. Filled with wit, wisdom, and profanity, here are 13 of our favorites.
“Have you ever been mistaken for a man?”
“No, have you?”
2. Good Morning Vietnam
“You are in more dire need of a bl–job than any white man in history.”
3. A Few Good Men
“You see, Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in that f-ggoty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some f-cking courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely.”
4. Enemy at the Gates
Nikita Kruschev while speaking to a commander who has stopped attacking: “I don’t care if you’ve lost half your men. Lose the other half, or lose yourself!”
5. The Dirty Dozen
“I owe you an apology, colonel. I always thought that you were a cold, unimaginative, tight-lipped officer. But you’re really quite emotional, aren’t you?”
6. A Bridge Too Far
“I’ve selected you to lead us, not only because of your extraordinary fighting ability, but also because, in the unlikely event the Germans ever get you, they will assume from your attire that they’ve captured a wretched peasant and immediately send you on your way.”
7. Heartbreak Ridge
“The Marines are looking for a few good men. Unfortunately, you ain’t it.”
Pfc. Bernstein while discussing disliked officers: “When you salute them two, you have to apologize to your arm.”
9. The Caine Mutiny
“If you want to do anything about, I’ll be outside. I’m a lot drunker than you are, so it’ll be a fair fight.”
10. Saving Private Ryan
“You wouldn’t shoot that Kraut son of a b-tch, now you’re gonna shoot me?”
“He was better than you.”
“What makes this woman think she can speak among men?”
“Because only Spartan women give birth to real men.”
12. Full Metal Jacket
Obviously, this whole list could be Gunny Hartman quotes, but we just picked a couple of favorites to include.
“Who the f-ck said that? Who’s the slimy, little, communist sh-t, twinkle-toed c–ksucker down here who just signed his own death warrant? Nobody, huh? The fairy f–king godmother said it? Out-f–king-standing!” (0:22 in the video above)
“It looks to me like the best part of you ran down the crack of your momma’s ass and ended up as a brown stain on the mattress!” (2:24 in the video).
“I bet you could suck a golf ball through a garden hose!” (3:14)
Look, we get it. You have an unquenchable thirst — a yearning for the trumpets and cannon-fire, but the kids have soccer practice on Tuesdays and you have bowling league on Thursdays. What is a would-be operator to do?
High-end training is seeing an incredible boom right now. Whether you’re a Global War on Terror (GWOT) veteran looking to relive some of those glory days or just a red-blooded American looking to add a little spice to your life, there are training opportunities aplenty.
But what about the serious student who wants to challenge themselves at the same level as some of our most elite warriors? We’re going to give you a rundown of some of the best private training opportunities available because this is America — and the only reason you need to drive fast, shoot stuff, and jump out of airplanes is that you want to.
U.S. Army Rangers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, helocast into the water from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, at Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii, Nov. 14, 2018.
(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy)
You can’t jump right into a high-level class though, so we’ve provided a roadmap to keep it fun and relevant. If you’re already at a high skill level, go ahead and jump right into the deep end, but don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Many of the classes and events are also physically demanding, so make sure you prepare before beginning your own special Q course. Once you’ve been training and start feeling good about yourself, amp it up and challenge yourself with our first training event:
1. GoRuck. The lads over at GoRuck have been doing their thing for a while now, and the GoRuck Challenge has evolved into a multi-event destination. As special as the Special Forces are, they’re all ground-pounders at heart, so you’ll need to be able to put weight on your back and get to the objective. If you really want to have some ruck credibility, be prepared to complete the two-day H-T-L, a combination of their Heavy, Tough, and Light events. Before you can be special, you gotta be tough. GoRuck also offers Ascent, a three-day “adventure” that will immerse you in wilderness survival, first-aid, and mountaineering — minus the granola-eating hippie garbage from your REI wilderness survival classes.
GoRuck Ascent is legit wilderness training.
(Screen grab from YouTube video uploaded by Tony Reyes)
2. Courses of Action. Leadership training is paramount in the military. Courses of Action, led by former U.S. Army Special Forces NCO Johnny Primo, offers a Small Unit Tactics course that focuses on rapid decision making, communication as a leader, and other essential skills in highly stressful situations. The four-day course is held in Texas and rotates students through leadership roles and at least 12 missions, always facing an opposing force. Regardless of the small unit you lead — family, work team, weekend softball league — you’ll learn effective skills that will impact every aspect of your life.
Land, sea, air … it doesn’t matter where! If you’re special, you take the fight wherever it shows up. The next two courses are all about that life aquatic. If you can’t swim or haven’t in years, you might want to check out the local Y to get your feet wet before diving in.
3. PADI Open Water Diver. A basic diving certificate is just the beginning — like any other skill, you have to keep improving. PADI provides classes and certifications all over the country, so don’t let a lack of an ocean get in your way. The Advanced Rebreather Diver is where all the cool kids are, so be prepared to put in the time to claim your throne as the King or Queen of Atlantis.
PADI offers courses across the country, including everything from basic diving certification to advanced rebreather diver.
(Photo by Jennifer Small/PADI)
4. OC Helicopter PADI Heli-Scuba Course. Any weekend warrior can dive out of a boat. If that’s not good enough for you, you’re, well, special. And special people dive out of helicopters. That’s right, it’s time to take your diving to the next level with helo-inserts. At id=”listicle-2641265805″,250 per person, it’s not cheap, but think of how impressed that chick over in accounting is going to be. You can’t be the office alpha if you’re not doing alpha stuff.
Well, we’ve covered land and sea — now it’s time to take to the air. Hold on to your security blanket and prepare for the airborne lifestyle. It’s not cheap or easy, but you’re up to the task. Besides, you can’t look down on the regular grunts doing grunt stuff if you’re not Airborne!
5. HALO Loft. There are great skydiving instructors all over the country, but there’s only one civilian High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jump, and that’s HALO Loft. How high are we talking? How does 28,000 to 43,000 feet sound? Honestly, it sounds terrible to me, but I’m not special. If you want to claim those bragging rights, tuck your pants into your boots and get ready to regale the world with tales of airborne glory.
You’re almost there. You’ve forged yourself into something better than you were, but now that your body and will are steel, it’s time to sharpen. These are the skills that really set you apart from the pretenders — skills that have real-world, everyday applications for the safety and security of you and your loved ones.
6. ShivWorks ECQC, Extreme Close Quarter Concepts. There are a lot of folks out there teaching great things, but Craig Douglas at ShivWorks has been teaching people how to work in close and nasty with blade work, weapon retention, clinching, groundfighting, and striking, mixed in with plenty of force-on-force. His 20-hour ECQC course has been taught all over the world to all sorts of very special folks and is one of the most refined curriculums out there when it comes to getting it done up-close and personal. It doesn’t matter if you’re a white belt or you’ve been sweeping the leg since the 1980s, you’ll learn something that will have an immediate impact on the way you live your life.
7. Jerry Barnhart Training. There are many shooting programs ranging from very good to complete crap, but there is only one Jerry “The Burner” Barnhart. Even though The Burner has been teaching deploying units since 1987, his classes have become a rite of passage in the wake of the GWOT. There are plenty of competition guys who have worked with our special warriors, but none have had an impact on the industry like Barnhart. From helping guys situate their kit to refining trigger presses, he’s next level. He doesn’t publish a training calendar (he doesn’t have to), but get a hold of him and get into a class.
8. Rogers Shooting School. This is one of the granddaddies of the tactical shooting world. Bill Rogers has been training military and police instructors from around the world for more than four decades. This school is recognized as one of the most challenging shooting schools in the world and has humbled some of the best shooters from some of the most elite units. Rogers and his cadre tolerate no crap; be ready to go out into the Georgia woods and come out a week later a whole new shooter. Focusing on targets that stay still for a maximum of one second, this advanced school is not for the easily defeated.
9. Greenline Tactical.Don Edwards spent over 20 years in the Special Operations community fighting everywhere from Operation Just Cause (Panama) to Operation Enduring Freedom. He spent this time perfecting the skill of fighting under night vision, and when he retired, he went to work consulting and teaching for TNVC, cementing himself as a go-to source for all things night vision. When it comes to getting your night-jiggling on, no one speaks with more authority than Edwards. Check him out to find out why the good guys own the night.
Tim O’Neil has won five U.S. and North American Rally Championships; he was a factory driver for Volkswagen and Mitsubishi through the late ’80s and early ’90s and drove for the official U.S. Air Force Reserve team in the early 2000s.
(Photo courtesy of Team O’Neil Rally School)
10. Team O’Neil Rally School. Cars kill far more people every year than gunfire, so one of the best things you can do as a prepared citizen is to get some advanced driver training to even those odds. The Team O’Neil Rally School has become one of the most prominent providers of advanced driver training to Department of Defense clients. Their Tactical Mobility Package focuses on skills ranging from recognizing vehicle ambushes to high-speed loose surface training to skid pads — and even high-angle ascents and descents. If you’re going to be driving a Hilux on a crappy road in the dark — or just driving your kids home from school — Team O’Neil is where you need to go.
Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe
Since World War II, the US has dominated the skies in any region in which it wishes to project power — but recent competition from countries like Russia and China threaten to erode that edge, and only a small group of elite pilots maintain the US’s edge in air superiority.
Russia has deployed powerful missile-defense batteries to Syria and its European enclave of Kaliningrad. The US Air Force can’t operate in those domains without severe risk. US President Barack Obama himself has acknowledged that these missile deployments greatly complicate and limit the US’s options to project power in Syria.
China has undertaken the breathtaking feat of building and militarizing islands in the South China Sea, outfitting them with runways and radar sites that could allow Beijing to establish an air defense and identification zone, the likes of which the US would struggle to pierce.
Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, speaking during the State of the Air Force address at the Pentagon, said of the Air Force’s dwindling dominance: “I believe it’s a crisis: air superiority is not an American birthright. It’s actually something you have to fight for and maintain.”
The US has the world’s largest Air Force, but it’s important to remember that it’s a force stretched thin across the entire globe. In the Pacific or the Baltics, smaller, more concentrated powers have reached parity or near parity with the US’s gigantic fleet.
Only one US airframe remains head-and-shoulders above any and all competition — the F-22 Raptor.
The coming F-35 Lightning II, a stealthy technological marvel in its own right, has an impressive radar cross section approximately the size of a basketball. The F-22 however, blows it out of the water with a cross section about the size of a marble.
“Typically, we’ll train against the biggest and baddest threats because we want to train against the newest threat on the block,” one F-22 pilot told Majumdar.
“We’re fighting against the most advanced operational threats we can,” said another.
Even though the stealthy F-22s hold an overwhelming advantage at long range, because they can target enemies long before those enemies can see them, the Raptor pilots train for up-close-and-personal conflicts as well. While close range confrontations hugely disadvantage the F-22 pilots, they continue to train uphill and achieve impressive results.
As the most capable plane in the world, the F-22 pilots exist as a kind of “insurance policy” against the most advanced threats in the world, according to Majumdar.
“Even when flying against the most challenging simulated threats—advanced Russian fighters such as the Su-35 and S-300V4 and S-400—it is exceedingly rare for an F-22 to be ‘shot down’. ‘Losses in the F-22 are a rarity regardless of the threat we’re training against,'” an F-22 pilot told Majumdar.
Metal fans have die-hard opinions on bands they love — and bands they hate. Regardless of which side of the line Five Finger Death Punch falls on for you, there’s one group they connect with like no other: troops of the United States Military.
Maybe it’s their firmly anti-communist point of view (Five Finger Death Punch founder Zoltan Bathory was born in Soviet-dominated Hungary and appreciates American democracy on another level). Or maybe it’s because they never forget the troops or law enforcement (Bathory even assisted a cop on the freeway one time). It might also be because of all the songs they write specifically for soldiers.
According to Stereogum, if Billboard’s Top 200 was still based purely on album sales, Five Finger Death Punch would have had the #1 album in 2016. When adjusted for streaming sales, they were still a close second. The band debuted at #2 with their three previous albums and at #3 with their 2011 album, American Capitalist.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Yarnall)
Look at their album titles: A Decade of Destruction, Got Your Six, War Is The Answer, Way of the Fist, Pre-Emptive Strike. It’s clear that the fighting men and women of the United States are never far from their minds — or their work. That might have something to do with all of the USO shows where they’ve performed for troops in combat zones like Iraq.
“When we were over in Iraq playing our USO tour, I had one soldier come up to me, and he laid a burnt iPod down on the table. He didn’t ask me to sign it. He wanted me to keep it. I looked at him a bit funny at first. He told me one of his closest friends went out on a mission and didn’t make it back. Let’s leave it at that. When they found him and his things, his iPod was stuck on ‘The Bleeding.’ The last thing he was listening to before he went was one of our songs. I literally teared up.”
Including war imagery in songs and playing for the troops is nothing new, but Five Finger Death Punch takes it a step further by employing a slew of veterans in their shows, tours, and other material.
Lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee recently released a draft of the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill that would set aside $1 million for the Army to fund the renaming of major installations named after Confederate leaders.
Calls for renaming Army posts such as Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Benning, Georgia, have gained momentum after a surge of protests against racism broke out across the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after being taken into custody by Minneapolis police in late May.
Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in early June that he was open to consider renaming these installations but backed off the effort days later when President Donald Trump said his administration would not consider such a move.
McCarthy told reporters at the Pentagon in late June that Defense Secretary Mark Esper has directed the services to look at Confederate symbols and other challenging issues involving race and “have deliberate conversations so we can make the best recommendations possible.”
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate, however, have taken steps to support removing symbols of systematic racism on military bases.
The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill would provide id=”listicle-2646370462″ million to the Army for the “renaming of installations, facilities, roads and streets that bear the name of Confederate leaders and officers since the Army has the preponderance of the entities to change.”
The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 includes a provision that would require the secretary of defense to “establish a commission relating to assigning, modifying, or removing of names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia to assets of the Department of Defense that commemorate the Confederate States of America.”
The eight-member commission would include service members, as well as members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.
The provision authorizes million to be appropriated for the effort. If approved, the committee would have until October 2022 to brief Congress on a plan to include “collecting and incorporating local sensitivities associated with naming or renaming of assets of the Department of Defense,” according to the language.