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9 weapon systems that troops absolutely love

Troops in contact with the enemy have a few awesome weapons that they like to hear firing in support. Any weapon firing on the enemy is a good weapon, but these 9 have become hallowed in military culture.


1. M2 .50 cal machine gun

Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Melissa Wenger

Quite possible the favorite weapon of troops from World War II to today, the .50 Cal is largely unchanged after over 90 years of service. It fires half-inch rounds at up to 550 rounds per minute, taking down low-flying aircraft, hostile infantry, and light vehicles.

It’s so reliable that after the Army began overhauling M2s in 2011, they found a weapon that served for more than 90 years and still fired perfectly.

2. AH-64 Apache

Photo: US Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton

One of the world’s premier attack helicopters, the AH-64 Apache can fly at over 173 mph, climb at 2,000 feet per minute, and carries Hellfire missiles, 30mm grenades, and 70mm rockets. Designed for an anti-tank role, Apaches are also great at covering and supporting infantry on the ground.

3. TOW Missile

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided or wireless-guided missiles are great against armored and fortified targets at a range of nearly three miles. There are portable launchers that can be carried by infantry, and the missiles can also be mounted on helicopters and vehicles.

4. Carl Gustav

Photo: US Army Sgt. Justin Morelli

The M3 Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle can fire a number of different rounds to destroy tanks, bunkers, or infantry formations. Originally fielded in the U.S. by Special Operations Command, the Army bought it for conventional units because it had better range and firepower than the more common AT-4.

5. A-10

BRRRRRT Forthcoming. (DARPA Photo)

Seriously, troops love the Warthog. This flying tank-buster operated by the Air Force was built around a 30mm gatling gun, but it can also carry and precisely deliver bombs, mines, rockets, and missiles. The A-10 is so popular that airmen secretly made a video praising it to help save it from the Air Force chopping block.

6. Mortars

Photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo/US Army

When infantry soldiers are under attack, they don’t want to wait for close air support or artillery strikes. Mortars give infantry units the opportunity to drop 60mm and 81mm rounds directly on the enemy without calling for help. Army efforts to reduce mortar weight are making them even more popular.

7. Mk. 19

Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Edward G. Martens

The Mk. 19 automatic grenade launcher fires 40mm grenades at targets nearly a mile away. Against infantry, each grenade kills targets within 5 meters of its impact and wounds people within 15 meters. It can even punch through some armored personnel carriers and many light vehicles.

8. M-134 minigun

Adopted during the Vietnam War, the M-134 fires between 2,000 and 6,000 7.62mm rounds per minute through six barrels. It was designed for helicopters to use in suppressing enemy troops, and it still chews through infantry formations today.

9. M1 Abrams

Photo Credit: US Army Gertrud Zach

The M1 Abrams is the main battle tank of the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army. It carries a 120mm smoothbore main gun and can be fitted with machine guns from 5.56mm up to .50 cal. The almost 70-ton tank can race across the battlefield at over 40 miles per hour.

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How to sham out of work and get promoted while doing it

So, you’re a high-speed, low-drag new trooper who wants to have a successful and rewarding military career. The only problem is that you’re lazy.


Not “I can’t get out of bed without a personal pep talk from Richard Simmons” lazy, but more, “I’m not going to make my bed because I’m just going to ruin it tonight” lazy.

In the civilian world, that’s fine. But in the military, you can actually get demoted for not making your bed. So how do you get ahead in Uncle Sam’s Rifle Club with minimum effort? Easy. You learn to sham (or if you joined the sea services, “skate”).

It’s a lot like this, but with less work. (Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Vallee)

Shamming and skating are the fine arts of doing little to no work while avoiding friction and punishments from command.

The trick is to pace yourself throughout the day, doing work only when necessary but also giving the perception of constant activity.

A top-shelf sham day starts with not doing physical training. The most obvious way to get out of this is a pass from the medics. WATM does not encourage this…but here’s our guide. If you can get a full-day pass to stay in the barracks, your shamming is now in easy mode.

But sick call slips and chits are rationed, and remaining on quarters for too long can get you kicked out for “malingering.” If you want to get promoted, you’ll have to get more creative.

First, always know who is instructing PT in the morning and what the planned activity is. If Spc. McMuffin is leading the platoon on a slow jog down the main strip, just bite the bullet and do PT. But if Sgt. Creatine is leading a ruck-run and circuit-training Crossfit extravaganza, then you need to volunteer for a work detail.

These aren’t exactly fun. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

But wait, wait, wait! I thought you said I wasn’t going to have to actually work?

Sure, volunteering for work may seem counterproductive. But pulling a 12-hour guard shift on some ammo in a field while you’re playing the newest Candy Crush level and taking turns napping with the other guard is way better than playing log throw with Capt. America and then spending all day at a desk.

Speaking of desk work, there are ways to sham through that if you get stuck in it. If you permanently work in an office, the best thing you can do is create the impression that you’re always working way too hard to be interrupted.

Getting someone to take photos of you from interesting angles can only help your cause. (Photo: U.S Army Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor)

This can be achieved with multiple little green notebooks, legal pads, and an endless number of browser windows. Spread the legal pads and notebooks around the desk and fill the open pages with illegible writing. Draw lots of arrows between areas of text.

If anyone asks what you’re doing, start talking a lot about guidance from headquarters and how it affects 3rd quarter mandatory training. There’s not an NCO in the world that will stick around.

When you’re only working the office for the day, the best thing you can do is offer to shred things and take the trash out. No one is timing these tasks, so there’s plenty of time to joke around with buddies or check your phone. You should take the trash out at least three or four times in a regular duty day.

And, once you volunteer to take the trash out enough times or to run other errands, people will start thinking that you must be doing said errands when they can’t see you.

Now you’re in business. Once they stop checking up on you, start adding a 20-minute nap to each errand and trash run that you do.

Another place you can work constant naps into the day is the motor pool. Avoid emptying and reloading connexes by volunteering to PMCI vehicles. At each vehicle, open the front doors and raise the hood, then rack out in the back seat for a few minutes. Finally, declare the vehicle ready to go, close everything up, and move on to the next one.

This guy is inspecting the inside of the gas tank. Instead, look inside the gas tank when you refill it and use the time you save during inspection to nap. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. James Dutkavich)

At the end of the day, there’s always the risk that a pleased platoon or first sergeant will want to inspect the room of such a squared-away individual.

Fear not — passing room inspections is easy. The trick is to get the barracks super clean one time. We’re talking perfection here. No dust anywhere, scrub the backs of the appliances, secure the bedspread with bungee cords and glue the hospital corners into place. Tie up your roommate and hide him in the woodline.

Place neatly organized study cards next to your computer, which should have exactly one browser window open to whatever your branch’s promotions and accessions guidance is.

The platoon and first sergeant will not believe their eyes. They’ll praise you in front of the formation and talk amongst themselves for days about how polished you are.

Then they’ll become complacent and they won’t inspect you anymore. They might come by for payday inspections and the company change of command, but that’s about it.

The rest of the year you can walk around in your room dripping marinara sauce onto the floor, and no one will know or care.

Photo: Terminal Lance/Facebook

That barracks will become your palace of filth, and no one will be the wiser. In fact, they’ll be so impressed by that one inspection and all those guard details you volunteered for that they’ll promote you ahead of your peers until you get paid to move out of the barracks — you won’t even have to get a contract marriage to the first person you meet off-base.

Congrats, shammer. You have arrived.

 

(Also, maybe retrieve your roommate from the woodline at some point. He could legitimately die).

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Exclusive excerpt from quadruple amputee Travis Mills’ new book ‘As Tough As They Come’


The following is a WATM exclusive excerpt from Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ forthcoming book, As Tough as They Come, which will hit shelves on October 27:

We hiked only about 400 yards to the village. In addition to my weapons’ team, there were other squads along on the patrol, a total of twenty-eight soldiers. My lieutenant, Zachary Lewis, went to the left with the first and second squads, heading to meet with the village elders, while the rest of our men went with me around the village on the outside to offer support in case of an attack. Along with my gun team, I had my platoon sergeant and a medic, Sergeant Daniel Bateson. All looked calm. It seemed like just another day in Afghanistan. Another normal patrol.

We approached an abandoned ANA security post (two portable buildings), and stopped near the buildings to establish a security perimeter. I called for Fessey to bring the minesweeper. It’s a wand that goes up and around his arm, and it looks like a metal detector a guy would use at the beach. If the minesweeper makes a noise, that means something’s in the soil. Typically, we’re always listening to hear a beep. If we hear one, then we mark the spot, go around it, and have the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys dig out and dispose of whatever’s under there. Whenever we found an IED, we’d never mess with it ourselves. Mines can be unpredictable, and you want the experts to handle them. Some IEDs aren’t even made of metal, just plastic and glass, which can sometimes fool a minesweeper. But even then, the minesweeper is designed to have ground-penetrating capability. It can usually detect if something’s in the ground and it’s not soil.

“Check this area,” was the only order I gave.

Fessey walked up a path used by villagers and scanned all around the area. He went up and back, and all was clear. No beeps. There was no reason to question anything. Fessey finished his minesweeping duties and went to set up on the far flank.

I called Riot up to me and asked him where he thought we should put up the gun. I knew where it should go, but I wanted to let him decide, making sure he knew his stuff. He motioned to exactly where I thought we should put it, a good spot, and I said, “All right. Go get Neff and bring him up here.” That was it. Riot left to go get Neff, and as he did, I set my backpack down. The backpack touching the dirt was all it took.

Such a simple act of war. My world erupted.

I saw a flash of flame and heard a huge ka-boom. Hot jagged pieces of explosives ripped through me. I cartwheeled backward end over end, hit the ground, and slammed my face hard against the compacted earth. Instantly I felt my left eye starting to swell shut. I smelled burning flesh—my own. I tasted dirt, and I was wet with sweat and moisture like I’d just walked out of a hot shower.

Dirt fell everywhere through the air. It rained down and clung to my eyes, nose, and mouth. I don’t remember rolling over but I must have because I glanced to the side and saw that my right arm was completely gone. I caught a glimpse of my left arm, covered in blood and tattered. The arm trembled as if it had a will of its own. I looked down and saw that my right leg was also gone. The stump looked like a piece of raw meat. The bottom of my left leg was still attached but held on by only a few strands of skin. I saw all this in a flash, an instant.

I felt confusion but no panic. My first thought was of my guys. I flopped my remaining arm toward the microphone clipped to my plate carrier and somehow managed to push the button. “I hit a bomb,” I said. “I need help.”

Excerpted from TOUGH AS THEY COME by SSG Travis Mills with Marcus Brotherton; foreword by Gary Sinise. Copyright © 2015 by Travis Mills. Excerpted by permission of Convergent Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Editor’s note: Travis Mills will be speaking at the Veterans Institute Heroes Work Here Conference in Chicago on November 3.

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13 funniest military memes for the week of Aug. 4

Congrats to everyone who ETSed this week. For the rest of you, here’s a little soul-balm to get you through any weekend duties you got assigned.


13. It’s fine. All that yelling is just part of your life now (via ASMDSS).

The good news is that you’re not going through the worst yet. It gets WAY worse.

12. Boots are gonna boot (via Coast Guard Memes).

I mean, being nerdy in uniform is hardly the worst thing that guy could be getting into.

ALSO SEE: This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

11. For instance, he could be giving into his newfound alcoholism (via Decelerate Your Life).

Don’t fall, branch. Only 15 more years until retirement.

10. It’s really the only proper way to greet a career counselor (via Decelerate Your Life).

CS also works well if you happen to have access to it.

9. Junior enlisted have lots of idea (via Decelerate Your Life).

It’s just that they’re mostly about how to best play screw, marry, kill.

8. The Marine Corps pays you to drive, not to think (via Military World).

Now hit the gas,. I’m about to run out of oxygen.

7. Why are Marines so cranky? They got all them nice sketches and no crayons to color them with (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Bon appetite.

6. To be honest, you only think she looks that good at homecoming (via Sh-t my LPO says).

And the reintegration thing is her fault. We bought an extra controller and co-op games for a reason.

5. “Driver” and “passenger” sides aren’t good enough for you Navy? (via Sh-t my LPO says)

4. Any unit that lets you wear that to work is worth a second chance (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

3. This isn’t going to end well for anyone (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

There are so many better ways to get crackers, man.

2. With that haircut and those tan lines, the ID is pretty superfluous anyway (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

Pretty sure those sailors sat down after their neighbors on the beach. No way the girls chose to sit next to them.

1. So, this one’s not technically a joke (via Air Force Nation).

Just really great advice. D-mnit, finance.

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The 6 most-secret units in military history

Secrecy is one of the best currencies in war, so it’s sometimes best for commanders to keep their best assets hidden from the enemy and the public. While the military has admitted that most of the units on this list existed at some point, a lot of their missions were classified for decades before being disclosed to the public. For the units that are still operating, America still only gets glimpses into their activities.


1. Task Force 88/Task Force Black

They may or may not be the same group and they may or may not still be in operation. Task Force Black and Task Force 88 are names floating around the media for the unit that conducted raids against terror organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the height of the wars. The unit was commonly described as being a joint U.S.-U.K. force made up of the best that SEAL Team 6, Delta Force, and the British SAS had to offer. Controversy erupted when they were blamed for a cross-border raid into Syria. There is speculation that Task Force Black may be back in operation to destroy ISIS, if it ever stopped.

2. 6493rd Test Squadron/6594th Test Group

Photo: US Air Force

These Air Force units existed from 1958 to 1986 and were tasked with catching “falling stars.” They would fly out of Hawaii and catch film canisters falling from America’s first spy satellites. The satellites, part of the Corona program, orbited the Earth and took photos of Soviet Russia. Then, the satellites would drop their film canisters over the Pacific ocean where these Airmen would try to snatch the canisters out of the air.

The recovery process was surprisingly low-tech. A plane with a large hook beneath its tail would try to catch the canister’s parachute as it fell. When the planes failed to make the grab or the weather was too bad to attempt it, Coast Guard rescue swimmers in the unit would fish the film out of the water. The unit boasted a perfect record with more than 40,000 recoveries in 27 years. When its airmen weren’t snatching film from the air, the unit supported rescue missions near Hawaii. It was credited with 60 saves.

3. Delta Force/Combat Applications Group/Army Compartmented Elements

Photo: Department of Defense

Like many of the units on the list, Delta has gone through a few name changes over the years. Formation of an elite counter-terrorism unit had been proposed multiple times in the 1970s and Delta Force is widely believed to have been formed in late 1977. Its operational history got off to a horrible start with the failed Operation Eagle Claw in 1980. Since then, Delta has distinguished itself in combat from the invasion of Panama to the Gulf War to hunting Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora Mountains. Since the unit is still operational, many of their missions remain classified.

4. SEAL Team 6/DEVGRU

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eddie Harrison

SEAL Team 6 specializes in counter terrorism, special reconnaissance, hostage rescue and close protection missions. Since 9/11, their budget and responsibilities have expanded to where they are now thought to have over 1,800 members, including some women who serve in intelligence roles. Perhaps most famous for both killing Osama Bin Laden and rescuing Captain Phillips from Somali pirates, it has been conducting combat operations since 1981.

READ MORE: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

5. 7781 Army Unit/39th Special Forces Operational Detachment

Photo: Bob Charest

Operating in Berlin from 1956 to 1984, this team of green berets went through a few names during their history. They worked to keep West Berlin safe from communist incursions but also prepared to foment resistance if the city was taken over. Trained in classic spy craft skills, they were equipped with Bond-like gadgets such as cigarette-lighter guns and C-4 filled coal.

Master Sgt. Bob Charest, a retired former member of the unit, wrote for WATM about the unit.

6. The OSS

Photo: US Office of Strategic Services

The Office of Strategic Services was formed in 1942 with the very broad mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information and conducting “special operations not assigned to other agencies.” Since few agencies had special operators in World War II, this gave the OSS a lot of room to run. Under Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the tiny agency conducted raids, smuggled weapons and spies, supported resistance groups in Axis territory, and collected intelligence. The OSS even employed the first “sea, air, and land” commando in U.S. history.

NOW: The secret Air Force program that his an even more secret program

OR: This is the FBI’s dream team of elite counterterrorism operators

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Marine Corps wants to put silencers on entire infantry battalion

In a series of experiments this year, units from 2nd Marine Division will be silencing every element of an infantry battalion — from M4 rifles to .50 caliber machine guns.


The commanding general of 2nd Marine Division, Maj. Gen. John Love, described these plans during a speech to Marines at the Marine Corps Association Ground Dinner this month near Washington, D.C.

Also read: These are 10 of the longest-serving weapons in the US combat arsenal

The proof-of-concept tests, he said, included Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, which began an Integrated Training Exercise pre-deployment last month at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.

U.S. Marines with Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines (BLT 2/1), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct a Table 3 combat marksmanship course of fire. | U.S. Marine Corps photos by Gunnery Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus

“What we’ve found so far is it revolutionizes the way we fight,” Love told Military.com. “It used to be a squad would be dispersed out over maybe 100 yards, so the squad leader couldn’t really communicate with the members at the far end because of all the noise of the weapons. Now they can actually just communicate, and be able to command and control and effectively direct those fires.”

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the division’s gunner, or infantry weapons officer, said the Lima companies in two other battalions — 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines — now had silencers, or suppressors, on all their rifles, including the M27 infantry automatic rifles. All units are set to deploy in coming months. The combat engineer platoons that are attached to these units and will deploy with them will also carry suppressed weapons, he said.

Suppressors work by slowing the escape of propellant gases when a gun is fired, which drastically reduces the sound signature. Used by scout snipers and special operations troops to preserve their stealth, the devices are also valuable for their ability to minimize the chaos of battle, enabling not only better communication but also improved situational awareness and accuracy.

“It increases their ability to command and control, to coordinate with each other,” Wade told Military.com. “They shoot better, because they can focus more, and they get more discipline with their fire.”

A U.S. Marine with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment utilizes a suppressor while providing security on a company attack range in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Oct. 21, 2016. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sarah N. Petrock

The noise of gunfire can create an artificial stimulus that gives the illusion of effectiveness, he said. When it’s taken away, he explained, Marines pay more attention to their shooting and its effect on target.

“They’ve got to get up and look, see what effect they’re having on the enemy because you can’t hear it,” he said.

He added that suppressors were already in common use by near-peer militaries, including those of Russia and China.

Wade said he is working on putting suppressors on the Marines’ M249 light machine gun and M240G medium machine gun, using equipment from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The third and final objective will be the suppression of the .50 caliber heavy machine gun, he said.

As the units conduct training and exercises with suppressors, 2nd Marine Division is collaborating with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to collect and aggregate data. Weapons with suppressors require additional maintenance and cleaning to prevent fouling, and the cost, nearly $700,000 to outfit an infantry battalion, might give planners pause.

But Wade said he will continue to gather data for the next year-and-a-half, following the units as they deploy. And he expects the idea to have gained significant traction among Marine Corps leadership by then, he said.

“When I show how much overmatch we gain … it will have sold itself,” he said.

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Here’s what would happen if modern Marines battled the Roman Empire

What would have happened if a Marine Expeditionary Unit found themselves up against the combined strength of the Roman Empire? Encyclopedia writer and two-time “Jeopardy!” winner James Erwin, who writes on Reddit as Prufrock451, may have the answer.


Photos: US Marine Corps and Wikimedia Commons/Jan Jerszyński

Erwin wrote a series of short stories called “Rome Sweet Rome” back in 2011 that looked at the scenario day-by-day if an MEU were suddenly transported from fighting in Kabul, Afghanistan to ancient Rome.

At first the Marines, a small detachment of Air Force maintainers, some Afghan soldiers, and a few U.S. civilians are confused about what has happened to them and where they are.

As the story wears on, day-by-day, the Marines figure out what has happened. After an accidental clash between the Marines and the Roman soldiers triggers a war, the initial battle goes as most people would expect.

The Marines annihilate the first ranks of the Romans, killing 49 men and 50 horses in the first volley.

The commander of the Marines immediately seeks peace, and the story ends with the senior Roman and American commanders reaching a shaky truce at the end of the first week. This is good for the Marines, since other scholars have weighed in and said the Romans would win any protracted conflict.

In an interview with Popular Mechanics, historian and novelist Dr. Adrian Goldsworthy said a lack of re-supply would make the tanks, helicopters, and modern weapons of the MEU useless within days. The unit simply doesn’t carry enough ammunition and fuel to fight to fight the 330,000 men of the Roman legions in 23 B.C. without strong supply lines.

Meanwhile, the Romans would be able to recruit and train new infantrymen by the thousands.

“Rome Sweet Rome” was wildly popular on Reddit and a subreddit was created by the fan base. The story was then optioned as a movie, but progress has been slow.

The subreddit remains active as members speculate on the movie and other potential “Rome Sweet Rome” stories. Some fans have even made mash-up trailers for the film.

NOW: 5 insane military projects that almost happened

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Wing commander praises crew of wrecked B-52 for averting a larger catastrophe

The seven crewmembers of a B-52 that crashed at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, during a takeoff on May 19 were applauded by their commander for their actions in the crisis.


“We are thankful that the air crew are safe,” Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox, 36th Wing commander, told Pacific Daily News. “Because of their quick thinking and good judgment in this emergency situation, the air crew not only saved their lives, but averted a more catastrophic incident.”

A B-52 takes off successfully. Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman

The plane was taking off on a routine training mission and was carrying only inert munitions, which limited the potential danger to nearby civilians or to emergency responders. Still, it had a full load of fuel and both Air Force and local firefighters had to quickly cordon off the area and battle the flames.

The mission was part of the Department of Defense’s continuous bomber presence in the Pacific. Guam is a small island but has played an outsized role in U.S. Pacific strategy because of its placement near both important sea lanes as well as areas of the Pacific that are claimed by multiple countries, including China.

The Air Force is now working to investigate the crash while also limiting the environmental effects of the spilled fuel and oil from the wreck.

B-2 Spirits have also had mechanical issues while flying out of Guam. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

This is the second B-52 crash at the base in eight years. A 2008 incident tragically claimed the lives of six crewmembers. In addition to the B-52 incidents, a B-2 Spirit was damaged in Guam due to sensor failures and a B-1 was damaged when it struck emergency vehicles during an emergency landing in 2008. In 2010, another B-2 was damaged when a fire broke out in an engine compartment.

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The Army Wants to Know About Your Athlete’s Foot And Jock Itch


Army officials admitted the service doesn’t know as much as it should about its soldiers’ personal hygiene in the field even after Army programs have created antimicrobial treatments for socks and shirts.

The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center wants to change that. In response, the center’s Consumer Research Team issued a survey for soldiers to figure how soldiers combat common afflictions in the field like jock itch, athlete’s foot and body odor.

The Army wants to know what works and what doesn’t so it can better develop future solutions for items like sleeping bag liners, t-shirts, socks and boots.

Here is a link to the survey although a computer connected to a CAC identification is required to open and fill it out.

“Currently, the military doesn’t have any requirements for (antimicrobial treatments),” said Wendy Johnson of the Consumer Research Team. “And so the question is, should the military have requirements? What should they be? How do we know that this stuff is good enough, is doing what it’s supposed to do?”

Johnson did make a puzzling comment later in the survey announcement.

“We think that some of these things are going to get very low incidence rates, so we want thousands of Soldiers to answer this questionnaire for us,” Johnson said in the press release.

Also at Military.com:

Volunteers Bring Santa To Remote Alaska Village

2015 Military Pay Pinch Could Become 2016 Punch

New Spouse’s Group Tailored To Men

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A dog’s love can cure anything — including PTSD

This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.


Phil Ruddock had trouble adjusting when he returned home to rural Louisiana, disabled by a traumatic brain injury he received during an Air Force tour of duty during Desert Storm. He had all the classic symptoms of PTSD: “I drank all the time, I couldn’t get along with anyone, I kept checking every room in the house to make sure it was clear every time I came home, I got up and checked the locks on the doors and windows too many times to count, I was always depressed and pissed at the world, and I never slept. I drove my family so crazy that they wanted to leave,” he says with a country twang. “I still do some of those things,” he adds, “but it’s getting better.”

Sit. Stay. Lie down. They’re the words that helped him through his recovery.

Ruddock’s now assisting other veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan the same way he survived his night terrors and flashbacks — with service dogs. His nonprofit Brothers and Sisters in Arms is a boot camp of sorts based out of central Louisiana, where he’s teaching veterans to train their own service dogs, all adopted from shelters. The repetitive learning of commands works like physical therapy for disabled vets and gives them something to work towards. Once they’ve completed the program, they gain a loyal companion and a sense of accomplishment, “a pride that you can’t imagine,” Ruddock says.

“When a soldier is deployed or on base, they feel secure because they have all the other soldiers there watching their back. But when they are out of the military, when their spouse goes to work, their kids go to school and they’re left alone, they have nobody watching their back,” Ruddock says. “It makes them very anxious, paranoid. A dog turns out to be their battle buddy and watches their back. It never leaves them, it never judges them, it never asks questions that they don’t want to answer. It gives them unconditional love,” Ruddock explains.

Photo: Sergeant Rex

A program connecting veterans and rescue dogs may sound cutesy, almost saccharine, but for Ruddock, it’s serious — vital even. He asks the veterans to list Brothers and Sisters in Arms as the primary contact associated with the animal’s microchip, rather than the owner’s home phone. “The suicide rate for veterans is 22 per day,” Ruddock says, about 8,000 every year. “If that dog would show up at a shelter and they ran the microchip, chances are that veteran is not going to answer his phone.”

Ruddock started the nonprofit in November 2012 after his personal experience with an abandoned pit bull. Following a nervous breakdown, he lost his job as lead clerk at the local VA outpatient clinic. His spent his days walled alone up on his remote property, until a friend arrived with a pit bull for him to train. “She was as beat up and as messed up as I was,” he remembers of his white-faced, brown-eared dog, Mia. “She kind of rescued me.” The dog sat in the passenger seat of his truck on rides into a nearby village and eventually gave him confidence to travel farther.

Within the past couple months, Ruddock logged more than 20,000 miles in his sojourns across the Sugar State, from Slidell, a town across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans that butts up against Mississippi, all the way out west to Fort Polk, an Army installation near the Texas border. Last year, he certified 31 service dogs, which are specially licensed after 120 hours in public, and 15 companion dogs.

At the pound, Ruddock seeks out the calmest dogs. “We look for dogs with a good disposition. We don’t want the ones that jump and bark and get with the other dogs,” he says. He generally avoids puppies — too much added stress — and certain breeds like German shepherds that can become overprotective if they’re not socialized regularly, but otherwise he’ll take every breed from a 20-pound Jack Russell terrier to a 200-pound mastiff.

Training sessions run one hour a week for roughly eight weeks, though he’s come to expect a few absences. “A veteran may have problems one day. Some demons may come up and he may not be able to show up. It may take a little longer,” he says.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock

Besides the essentials — what Ruddock calls good citizenship for canines (think: table manners for children) — the service dogs learn three main commands that are unique for handlers who still carry wounds from the battlefield. The dog learns to “block,” inserting itself into the space between the owner and somebody else so that a person keeps their distance. “Cover” sends the pup to its owner’s back or side, facing away as a kind of lookout that allows a vet to relax at, say, a counter or cash register. The last is “grounded.” If the soldier faints or has a nightmare, the dog lays on top of the owner and licks his face, prompting a welcome (if wet) return to reality.

Brothers and Sisters in Arms is different from many other groups that provide service dogs. For one, Ruddock doesn’t charge for his services or the animal. His operation is funded entirely by donations; the bill from other groups can run as high as $25,000. (“These guys get out of the military, and they’re just above poverty level. They can’t afford that,” he says.) His classes are all one-on-one, making it easier for vets who can be skittish around crowds, nervous about competition and failure. And every instructor is a former soldier, because, as Ruddock says, “There’s no better therapy than a veteran talking to another veteran.”

Ruddock wants to see the program expand across Louisiana. He’s already processing five to 10 applications a week, and he’s starting to get referrals from VA psychiatrists who can’t officially recommend a service dog but still send warriors his way. “It’s not about the fame or fortune. It’s about that feeling you get when you help somebody. The warm fuzzies, the goosebumps, whatever you want to call it,” he says of his motivations. “It’s about doing what’s right.”

It’s for the men and women, his brothers and sisters, that Ruddock keeps trekking across the bayous, working with soldiers, like the young man he met last month. “You can tell he’s had it rough,” Ruddock says. “He couldn’t even stand the sound of a loud car going by. He kept moving around and shaking. He couldn’t look you in the eye. He constantly looked down, and if he did catch your eye, it was a white stare like he could see right through you.” The man expressed no emotion, until Ruddock brought out a puppy. As if he was emerging from a daze, the man started petting the dog. He smiled, and Ruddock knew another soldier was safe.

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This article originally appeared at NationSwell Copyright 2015. Follow NationSwell on Twitter.

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Royal Navy bringing Dreadnought back to their fleet

HMS Dreadnought. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)


Bringing back classic names has been discussed before, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer will be named for John Basilone this past August. Now, the Royal Navy has gone to a traditional name for the first of its new class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to a release from the Ministry of Defense, the lead ship’s name will be HMS Dreadnought.

The new Dreadnought will be the tenth to bear that name – and the last two were both groundbreakers for the Royal Navy. The eighth was the first all-big gun battleship – so influential that all battleships from then on became known as dreadnoughts. The ninth was the Royal Navy’s first nuclear attack submarine – which served for 17 years.

The new submarine will be almost ten feet longer than the Vanguard-class submarines currently in service with the Royal Navy and will displace 1,300 more tons. The sub will have new features not seen before in submarines, including a dedicated gym, a “dedicated study space” for the crew, and quarters for female crewmembers.

The Dreadnought will carry 12 UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles – albeit these missiles use warheads of a British design with a maximum yield of 100 kilotons (about six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima). The Vanguard-class subs they will be replacing carried 16. The subs will also have torpedo tubes to carry the outstanding Spearfish torpedo for self-defense.

The first Dreadnought-class submarine is expected to enter service in 2028. The Vanguard-class submarines they are replacing entered service in 1993.

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Here’s why most Americans can’t join the military

U.S. Army soldiers in May 2011, wearing the ACU in the Universal Camouflage Pattern, along with its replacement Multicam pattern (second from left) in Paktika province, Afghanistan. (Photo: Spc. Zachary Burke)


The military has embraced openly-gay members within its ranks, and now squabbles over combat roles for women and whether to accept transgender troops, but the future may require the Pentagon to accept whomever it can get.

At the height of the Iraq War, it seemed like the standard for service was so low, even convicted felons could get into the Army and Marine Corps. But today, more than two-thirds of America’s young people wouldn’t qualify for military service because of physical, behavioral, or educational problems.

The services have long required at least a high-school education as a prerequisite for joining. The Army used to offer GED assistance for recruits who wanted to join. These days, having a felony conviction is out of the question, but so are some tattoos, gauged earlobes, and taking hyperactivity medication. The Pentagon says 71 percent of America’s 34 million 17-24 year old population would fail to qualify for enlistment.

Of those eligible for service, the Army estimates only one percent even have an interest.

The U.S. Army’s major enlistment requirements include:

  • Ages between 17 and 34 years old
  • Must be U.S. citizen or legal foreign national
  • Must have high school diploma or equivalent
  • Minimum 33 score on Armed Forces Qualification Test
  • No tattoos on fingers, neck or face
  • No ear gauges
  • No ADHD medication win the past 12 months
  • No felony convictions
  • No persistent illegal drug use
  • No insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Meet height weight requirements

The biggest single reason for failing to meet the requirements is obesity. Maj, Gen. Allen Batschelet, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, says obesity is becoming a national security issue.

“The obesity issue is the most troubling because the trend is going in the wrong direction,” he said. “We think by 2020 it could be as high as 50%, which mean only 2 in 10 would qualify to join the Army.” He paused. “It’s a sad testament to who we are as a society right now.”

Lt. Gen. Mark Phillip Hertling, the Commanding General of US Army Europe and Seventh Army, discuseed the issues he faced while overseeing the Army’s initial training, and the economics involved with keeping soldiers fit to fight, in this TED talk:

This isn’t recent news, however. In 2009, a similar study was conducted which had similar results. It was so disturbing back in 2009, it led 550 retired admirals, generals, and other retired senior military leaders to form Mission:Readiness, a nonprofit advocacy group to urge lawmakers to expand high-quality early childhood education programs, increased access to healthier food at school, and improved quality and quantity of Physical Education.

NOW: Here’s why Gen. Stanley McChrystal only eats one meal per day